The Kissimmee River Restoration project is tantalizingly close to completion. Once finished in 2020, more than 40 square miles of river floodplain will flood seasonally, and the river will meander again. After restoration, Lake Kissimmee will rise 1.5 feet deeper each year, storing water to feed the river during the dry season and rehydrating another 30 square miles of dried marshes around it.
Flashes of what’s to come have already appeared:
• Wading bird numbers have surpassed restoration goals,
• Waterfowl and shorebirds are seasonally abundant,
• Bass and sunfish have increased, and
• The green, blue, and flowery beauty of the river marshes has returned.
This project’s primary goal is to restore the Kissimmee’s ecosystems, but it benefits everyone downstream as well. It will store more water during wet periods, provide more flow during dry periods, and the water in the river will be cleansed by the plant communities. Natural restoration in action.
Celebrating the project’s success, Congressman Darren Soto filed legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives to designate the Kissimmee River as a National Wild and Scenic River. Audubon believes the restored river will richly deserve this recognition.