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Lake Hicpochee Shallow Storage and Hydrologic Enhancement

Rehydrating a historic lakebed helps restore a degraded South Florida waterway to its original splendor.
  • Aerial view of Lake Hicpochee showing water surface and aboveground areas.

    A controlled water flow into Lake Hicpochee will rehydrate a portion of the historic lakebed.

  • Long view of narrow man-made canal bordered by grading activity.

    A new spreader canal enables a managed freshwater flow into the Caloosahatchee River.

  • View of excavation and construction of the foundation of a pump station.

    A pump station will pull water from an existing canal to fill a flow equalization basin.

  • Aerial view of 670-acre green basin area outlined with red line overlay.

    Natural filtration in a 670-acre basin, outlined in red, will reduce harmful nutrient levels.

Client
South Florida Water Management District
Partner(s)
RADISE International, Burns & McDonnell

Location
Glades County, Florida

Our Role
Construction Management.

Data
Size
670-acre basin, 6,527-foot canal
Construction Cost
$11.3 million
Completed
In progress
Type
New Construction
Outcomes
  • Restored wetlands and enhanced wildlife habitat over 1,279 acres
  • Improved water quality and freshwater flows in the Caloosahatchee River
  • Additional water storage capacity for the Caloosahatchee Basin
  • Sustainable water resources for South Florida communities and economy.

An ambitious hydrologic enhancement project aims to reverse decades of damage to Lake Hicpochee in South Florida triggered by human influence. Bisected in the 1880s by an artificial canal from Lake Okeechobee to the Caloosahatchee River, the lake gradually shrunk to an estimated 25 percent of its original size. The receding shoreline left behind low-quality marsh, dry grassland, and invasive trees. Other canals have caused similar devastation in the area, jeopardizing the health of the Caloosahatchee. Today, the river suffers from toxic algae blooms, unnatural salinity, and undesirable freshwater levels and flows.

The project will allow a controlled water flow into Lake Hicpochee from a new flow equalization basin (FEB) that will rehydrate a portion of the historic lakebed, increasing natural wetland vegetation and improving approximately 1,279 acres of freshwater wetlands and habitat. It will also create 1,500 acre-feet of shallow water storage. Gannett Fleming is providing full-time, on-site construction management services to the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) for the project. The agency manages the water resources in 16 Florida counties and serves 8.1 million residents.

What We Did

Partnering with subcontractor RADISE International and designer Burns & McDonnell, our firm is ensuring that all aspects of the project are in alignment with SFWMD’s budget, schedule, and quality goals. The project will capture a portion of the surface waters from the C-19 Canal, which extends through the northern portion of Lake Hicpochee. Water will be held in a new 1.5-foot-deep, 416-million-gallon FEB north of the lake. In this shallow storage feature, water will be naturally filtered through new wetlands before a new 6,527-linear-feet spreader canal funnels it to the northwest lakebed.

The ability to manage the timing and volume of water releases through the spreader canal will improve water quality as it flows from the lake to the Caloosahatchee River and its 25-mile estuary on the Gulf Coast. Returning the Caloosahatchee to a more natural state will encourage aquatic vegetation and improve wildlife and estuary habitats. The hydrologic enhancement project is the first of three SFWMD initiatives aimed at breathing new life into Lake Hicpochee and providing sustainable water resources to South Florida’s environment, economy, and residents.

Key Features

  • Pump station with a 165-cubic-feet-per-second capacity pulls water from the existing C-19 Canal to hydrate the Hicpochee lakebed
  • FEB collects water from the pump station and facilitates natural filtration through new wetlands
  • Spreader canal and outflow structure enable controlled water sheet flow into the lake to encourage vegetation growth and enhance wildlife habitat.

Sustainability Features & Outcomes

  • Balanced system adds 1,500 acre-feet of shallow water storage to the Caloosahatchee Basin, providing a sustainable water resource for the region
  • Improved freshwater flows reduce salinity in the Caloosahatchee River
  • Natural filtration removes harmful nutrients, decreasing the risk of algae blooms.

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