December 16, 2016
South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) Land Management teams have begun a series of prescribed fires that will last throughout December 2016 and into January 2017. Burning activities associated with the Southern Corkscrew Regional Ecosystem Watershed (CREW) restoration project will occur on SFWMD lands located north of Bonita Beach Road, east of I-75 in Bonita Springs. Working with Florida Forest Service, SFWMD will cut 17 miles of trees and then burn the remains, all in an effort to restore the natural hydrology of the Southern CREW and open up the area for public access in Lee and Collier counties. Prescribed fires will only be permitted during daylight hours and on weekdays.
CREW is the largest intact watershed in southwest Florida. SFWMD owns 4,000 acres of land that is being used for the CREW restoration project to provide significant benefits to the Southwest Florida ecosystem, including:
- Restoring wetlands and the historic sheetflow of water
- Improving regional flood protection and drainage
- Increasing water storage and aquifer recharge capability
Water once flowed freely across the pristine landscape of what is now Bonita Springs in Lee County. Historic water sheetflow in the Corkscrew Regional Ecosystem Watershed was later blocked by dirt roads, agricultural ditches and several home sites. This altered the ecosystem and contributed to flooding in residential and other areas. Floods in 1995 led the District to develop the Southern CREW Restoration Project to restore the ecosystem while protecting area residents and their properties. During the last 10 years, the District has acquired approximately 4,000 acres for this project, cleared exotic vegetation from 2,560 acres, removed roads and plugged agricultural ditches on 640 acres.