Part I of the restoration of the Kissimmee River basin. Unimpeded, southerly river flows in a sinuous, winding pattern, ultimately draining into Lake Okeechobee, were essential in maintaining a unique subtropical ecosystem that had existed for centuries. This ecosystem helped maintain the diversity of wildlife in the region as well as the health of Lake Okeechobee.
A series of heavy tropical storms and a particularly rain-soaked 1947 hurricane persuaded policy makers to channelize or straighten unwisely the once tortuous Kissimmee River. Channelization or straightening of the Kissimmee disrupted this century’s old ecosystem, drying up wet areas and lakes. Birds and other animals from the smallest microorganisms to the Florida panther dependent on the pre-existing ecosystem soon died off, destroying a functioning ecosystem. Agriculture also introduced phosphorus and fertilizer products that sped up the population of cat tails and other invasive plants, drying up over time clean water and leaving “dirty” water behind.
In recent years, the Army Corps of Engineers and the South Florida Water Management District have joined together to restore the traditional flows of the river and clean water in one of the largest federal-state-industry cooperative construction projects in American history. This film illustrates the beginning stages of restoration.