Enhancing our water resources through FDOT mitigation projects

Dec. 17, 2020

heavily forested Halfmile Creek area

Mitigation for a road project will help to restore or enhance property surrounding Halfmile Creek at the District’s Silver Springs Forest Conservation Area.

I’d like to shine a spotlight today on our environmental support for the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT). The District provides mitigation for FDOT projects that have unavoidable impacts on Florida’s wetlands and surface water bodies, such as lakes and ponds.

Last week, our Governing Board approved the District’s 2021 FDOT mitigation plan and now the plan goes to the Department of Environmental Protection. The annual plan reflects those projects where private mitigation bank credits are not available to FDOT or cannot provide the type of mitigation needed. This is where we come in.

Our dedicated staff offer FDOT options that focus on land acquisition, restoration or enhancement, and Surface Water Improvement and Management (SWIM) projects where that option represents the best mitigation option.

Over the past 24 years, we have provided more than 47,000 acres of mitigation to offset more than 1,675 acres of wetland and other surface water impacts. This total includes more than 41,000 acres of property that we have acquired and acreage where we have enhanced or restored the native habitat.

Here are two exciting projects that illustrate how this work with FDOT is benefitting the environment in significant ways.

  • The first project, the First Coast Expressway, is a 32-mile-long beltway located in both Clay and St. Johns counties. The new roadway bypasses the downtown area of Jacksonville and provides a faster route from Interstate 10 to Interstate 95 south. The new roadway and proposed bridges have impacts to non-tidal and tidal freshwater forested wetlands (TFF) and submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV). The impacts for the non-tidal areas were offset by bank credits. The TFF impacts were offset by the purchase of 73 acres of tidally influenced freshwater forested wetlands, which will be enhanced through reconnection to the adjacent floodplain. The SAV impacts will be compensated by the restoring of the old Shand’s causeway along the St. Johns River to create submerged aquatic vegetation habitat. This will include removing portions of the old causeway, shoreline stabilization, harvesting submerged aquatic plants from impacted areas and replanting them in the restoration areas. Monitoring and controlling invasive species will continue for the duration of both projects. This mitigation will provide direct benefits to the St. Johns River, which provides significant resources and recreational value to the state of Florida.
  • The second highlighted project is Halfmile Creek Mitigation Area (HCMA) in Marion County. This mitigation area will offset forested and herbaceous wetland impacts associated with State Road 40 roadway improvements. HCMA includes 485 acres of preservation, restoration and enhancement on basin swamp, hydric hammock, mesic hammock and mesic flatwoods communities. Enhancement and restoration will include controlling invasive and exotic species, site preparation, planting, filling ditches, installing low-water crossings where appropriate, and managing flatwoods with prescribed fire. Monitoring will continue for the duration of the project. HCMA is part of the Silver Springs Forest Conservation Area. This site has significant ecological benefit to the Ocklawaha and Silver rivers and was acquired to directly benefit the watershed as part of a corridor between the Marjorie Harris Carr Cross Florida Greenway and Indian Lake State Forest. Both the Ocklawaha and Silver rivers areconsidered Outstanding Florida Waters with special regulatory protections. The site improvements done on HCMA will have a direct benefit to significant water resources in Florida.

We are proud to provide support for these projects to enhance Florida’s water resources and provide value to FDOT projects, enabling that agency to carry out its mission in the most environmentally conscientious manner possible. I invite you to review our 2021 FDOT Mitigation Plan to see our complete list of projects.

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