The Kissimmee River Restoration project, authorized by Congress in 1992, is sponsored by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) and the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD). When the project is completed in 2020, more than 40 square miles of river-floodplain ecosystem will be restored, including nearly 20,000 acres of wetlands and 44 miles of historic river channel.
The Kissimmee River once meandered for 103 miles through central Florida. Its floodplain, reaching up to two miles wide, was inundated for long periods by heavy seasonal rains. Wetland plants, wading birds and fish thrived there.
Because prolonged flooding caused severe impacts to human habitation, Florida officials asked Congress for assistance. Congress tasked the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers and, between 1962 and 1971, the Corps cut and dredged the Kissimmee River into a 30-foot deep straightaway called the C-38 canal. The project achieved flood reduction benefits, but it also harmed the river-floodplain ecosystem.
After extensive planning, construction for environmental restoration began in 1999. The project is now more than halfway complete. In the lower Kissimmee River Basin, Phase1 construction was completed in 2001 and Phase 4 was completed in 2010, restoring continuous water flows to approximately 19 of 44 miles of the Kissimmee River. Phases 2 and 3 are now underway and includes backfilling the C-38 canal, and restoring flow to 9 miles of the river. Approximately 99 percent of lands needed to complete Kissimmee River Restoration have been acquired — a total of 102,061 acres. More than 15 of 22 miles of canal have been backfilled and 6,500 acres of floodplain wetlands have been restored. The response of the natural system has greatly exceeded expectations. Many species of ducks and wading birds—including the ring-necked duck, American avocet, and black-necked stilt—are now present. These species were not present during pre-construction surveys.
Additional information is available on the Kissimmee River Restoration Project fact sheet and placemat .