RUSKIN, Fla. (TBO.com) — Over the next two years, more than 1,000 acres of former farmland along the Tampa Bay shoreline will be transformed into a flourishing lagoon and freshwater wetlands, flanked by oak and pine trees.
The project, which sits just north of the Manatee County line, will be the largest coastal ecosystem restoration project undertaken along the banks of the bay and will likely be the last large-scale reclamation of its kind. In its entirety, the property is 2,500 acres.
There just aren’t any more massive chunks of property like that available right along the water, said Brandt Henningsen, the project manager for the Southwest Florida Water Management District’s Surface Water Improvement and Management program, or SWIM.
As if on cue Monday morning, a flock of white pelicans soared overhead as dignitaries from the state, county and the water management district kicked off the Rock Ponds Ecosystem Restoration project.
Once completed, it will link nearly 20 miles of conservation lands to the north, most of which has been restored through partnerships like this one, between Hillsborough County and the water management district, known as Swiftmud.
The project is expected to cost $11.9 million, with half of the money coming from the state and half from Swiftmud and from various grants.
The partner agencies spent about 20 years restoring Cockroach Bay Preserve to the north, a spot now rife with butterflies, wading birds, raptors, game fish like snook and redfish and even the occasional bobcat.
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