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News Release  
SFWMD and USACE Celebrate Major Milestone for Key Everglades Restoration Project  
Picayune Strand Restoration Project Will Restore Surface Water Flow to Vital Wetlands
and Support Numerous Environmental Benefits

Pictured from L-R: Project Manager Amanda McKenzie, SFWMD; Environmental Project Manager Mary Fesmire,
SFWMD; Brenda Stelzer, Florida Forestry Service; Michael Weston, Florida Forestry Service; Chief Communica-
tions and Public Policy Officer Taniel Koushakjian, SFWMD; Executive Director Drew Bartlett, SFWMD; Board
Member Charlette Roman, SFWMD; Deputy Engineer for Programs and Project Management Howard Gonzalez,
Jr., USACE; Project Manager Stephen Baisden, USACE; Biogeochemist Paul Julian, Everglades Foundation;
Chief, Ecosystem Branch Eva Velez, USACE; Chief Programs Officer Michele Arquette-Palermo, Conservancy
of Southwest Florida; Director Keith Laakkonen, Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary; Executive Director Andy Wells-
Bean, Audubon Western Everglades; Board Member Meredith Budd, Audubon Western Everglades; Vice-Chair
Ellin Goetz, Everglades Foundation; Project Engineer/Superintendent, Operations Division Felix Colon Car-
dona, USACE; Southwest Florida Program Administrator Jeff Carter, Rookery Bay National Estuarine Re-
search Reserve; and South District Public Information Officer Brooke Keck, DEP at the Stewart Bridge to
celebrate the completion of the plugging of the Faka Union Canal

COLLIER COUNTY, Fla. – The South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) and
the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) along with many state officials and stakeholders
celebrated the completion of an important component of the Picayune Strand Restoration
Project in Southwest, Florida. The plugging of a major canal is now complete, marking another
milestone on this project.  

“The Picayune Strand Restoration Project has been many years in the making, and the plug-
ging of this canal marks a significant milestone for this massive project. Under the direction
of Gov. Ron DeSantis to expedite Everglades restoration, the water management district con-
tinues to work with its partner, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to accelerate the filling of
canals,” said SFWMD Governing Board Member Charlette Roman. “We are so close to
completing this important Everglades project which will restore the hydration and ecosystem
of this incredible national treasure. The Picayune Strand Restoration Project is near and dear
to my heart, and I am so proud of the progress we are making on this project and all of the
projects in South Florida.”

“Today’s celebration is about the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers completing the plugging
of the Faka Union Canal,” said Howard Gonzales, Jr., U.S. Army Corps of Engineers,
Jacksonville District. “This project has been the essence of our partnership with the SF-
WMD. Working together, we are successfully advancing Everglades restoration and look
forward to the completion of the Picayune Strand Restoration Project in 2025.”

The plugging of the Faka Union Canal marks one of the final components needed to accomplish
the Picayune Strand Restoration Project’s goal of restoring the natural hydrology of over 55,000
acres of native wetlands and uplands on Florida’s Southwest coast. Three out of the four canals
are now plugged. The restoration project is expected to result in improved flows of water into
Collier Seminole State Park, Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge and the Rookery
Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve.

The project has numerous environmental benefits including:

-Restoration of wetlands that are already making a significant contribution to the landscape of
Southwest, Florida

-Restored and enhanced habitat for fish and wildlife including the Florida Panther

-Reduced drainage of adjacent sensitive ecosystems

-Improved aquifer recharge to protect underground water supplies and prevent saltwater

-Reduced freshwater releases/improved health of downstream estuaries

In January 2023, Governor Ron DeSantis signed Executive Order 23-06 in Bonita Springs to sup-
port Everglades restoration and protect Florida’s water resources. The order built on the success
of Executive Order 19-12, which was signed in 2019, and also expedited Everglades restoration
and water quality improvements. The SFWMD has celebrated over 70 ribbon cuttings, ground
breakings and major milestones on Everglades restoration and resiliency projects across Central
and Southern Florida since 2019.

The Picayune Strand Restoration Project is a partnership between the USACE and the SFWMD.
In 2009, it was the first Project Partnership Agreement that the USACE executed with the SFW
MD as part of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP). The project is expected
to be complete by the end of 2025. 

Media Resources
Download Photos of the Picayune Strand Restoration Project Photo Opportunity

Media Contact: 
Jason Schultz | [email protected]   |  Office: 561-682-2508  |  Cell: 772-214-7445

The South Florida Water Management District is a regional governmental agency
that manages the water resources in the southern part of the state. It is the oldest and
largest of the state’s five water management districts. Our mission is to safeguard and
restore South Florida’s water resources and ecosystems, protect our communities from
flooding, and meet the region’s water needs while connecting with the public and stake-
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