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MEDIA CONTACT: Gisele Galoustian
561-297-2010, ggaloust@fau.edu

FAU Researcher Receives $2.1 Million for a Cooperative Agreement Contract from the South Florida Water Management District for Kissimmee River Restoration

BOCA RATON, FL (February 10, 2009)Florida Atlantic University researcher Dr. Leonard Berry, distinguished professor and director of the Center for Environmental Studies in the Charles E. Schmidt College of Science, has received a $2.1 million cooperative agreement contract from the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) to support ongoing research into restoring the ecosystem of the Kissimmee River. The project is titled “Environmental Outreach, Field Support and Riverwoods Site Maintenance.” FAU has entered into a five-year contract with the SFWMD for onsite management, general site maintenance and field operations support for the Riverwoods Field Laboratory, a 15-acre property located on a remnant run of the Kissimmee River approximately 23 miles north of the city of Okeechobee under the onsite leadership of Riverwoods Field Laboratory Director Loisa Kerwin.

“The South Florida Water Management District is very excited to maintain the good working relationship with Florida Atlantic University’s Center for Environmental Studies for the management of the Riverwoods Field Laboratory.  Because this facility serves as the base for field operations, it is vital to the continued success of the comprehensive Kissimmee River Restoration Evaluation Program,” said Lawrence Glenn, director of the Kissimmee Division at the South Florida Water Management District.

 Among the vital research and support services that will be provided by FAU include on-site presence, major storm preparations and recovery, grounds maintenance, technical and scientific support, group tours for river restoration inspections, and assistance with field emergencies. In addition, funding will ultimately support a team of two environmental scientists and two field technicians who will assist senior scientists with field data collection, laboratory processing and administrative duties.   

“The Kissimmee River restoration is one of the success stories of the Everglades restoration,” said Berry.   “The stretch of the Kissimmee River that has been restored is reforming the flood plain ecosystem in a dynamic way, and our Center for Environmental Studies has played a small but continuing part in this effort, from early identification of the viability of dormant native seeds in the fill to ongoing education about the progress and impacts of restoration at the Riverwoods Field Laboratory site on the river.”

The grant will enable FAU to support the SFWMD with ongoing research into restoring this ecosystem, and with additional funds from a series of smaller grants, will enable the Center to work with the SFWMD to educate a wide range of stakeholders about the restoration, including underserved schools, teachers, graduate students and the general public.

Since 1994, the Riverwoods Field Laboratory has been operated as a staging area in support of field operations associated with the Kissimmee River Restoration Evaluation Program (KRREP). The facility also functions as an environmental education and outreach center for secondary students and adults. The KRREP is a structured program designed to evaluate ecosystem response to restoration and determine progress towards reestablishing ecological integrity to the Kissimmee River and associated floodplain. The restoration program is part of the SFWMD’s cost share with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as defined by the Project Cooperation Agreement executed in March 1994.

The historic Kissimmee River flowed 103 miles from the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes into Lake Okeechobee. Its 1-2 mile wide floodplain offered a large patchwork of wetland habitats for many unique species, including more than 35 species of fish, 16 species of wading birds, 16 species of waterfowl, river otters, many species of invertebrates, amphibians, reptiles, and other plants and animals. In the 1960s, the river was channelized by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as a result of public pressure to provide more adequate flood protection. The 103-mile winding path of the Kissimmee River was transformed into a 56-mile long, 30-ft. deep, 300-ft. wide canal, known today as the C-38 canal.  

The Kissimmee River Restoration Project will backfill 22 miles of the C-38 canal, reestablish approximately 45 miles on contiguous river channel and provide hydrologic connectivity to over 20,000 hectares of adjacent floodplain wetlands.  Over 320 fish and wildlife species are expected to benefit from the restoration. Scientists from the South Florida Water Management District and FAU continue to monitor interim ecological response within the Phase I area.  Ultimately, targets established for 25 abiotic and biotic performance measures will be evaluated to determine if the ecological integrity goal has been met.  

 For more information, contact Loisa Kerwin at 863-462-0025 or lkerwin@strato.net or visit http://riverwoods.ces.fau.edu.

- FAU -

Florida Atlantic University opened its doors in 1964 as the fifth public university in Florida. Today, the University serv es more than 26,000 undergraduate and graduate students on seven campuses strategically located along 150 miles of Florida's southeastern coastline. Building on its rich tradition as a teaching university, with a world-class faculty, FAU hosts ten colleges:  College of Architecture, Urban & Public Affairs, Dorothy F. Schmidt College of Arts & Letters, the Charles E. Schmidt College of Biomedical Science, the Barry Kaye College of Business, the College of  Education, the College of  Engineering & Computer Science, the Harriet L. Wilkes Honors College, the Graduate College,   the Christine E. Lynn College of Nursing and the Charles E. Schmidt College of Science.  

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