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LA-MSID celebrates completion of West Marsh

By MELISSA BILL - | Mar 31, 2021

PHOTO PROVIDED

news@breezenewspapers.com

The Lehigh Acres Municipal Services Improvement District’s Board of Commissioners and staff hosted a micro-event last week to celebrate the ribbon cutting for the district’s long awaited West Marsh Preserve Stormwater Treatment Project.

The project marks an historic milestone for the District and is the culmination of more than 10 years of cooperative work by district staff and several partner agencies. The West Marsh Project was broken up into a multi-phase plan, which began In December 2008, when Lee County’s 20/20 Program purchased the property now known as the West Marsh Preserve–adjacent to LA-MSID’s Harns Marsh Preserve.

“This is a big improvement to this property. The West Marsh project has been a true cooperative effort and labor of love and devotion by the board, its staff, and our partners over the past 10 years. We have many of our partners here today. The West Marsh cost $13.2 million to restore to a more natural habitat for both the animals and our residents to enjoy. Out of the large ticket number, the district contributed $350,000 of our non ad valorem taxes. All other costs were covered by grants, services and fees for this wonderful projects,” said Ken Thompson, chair, LA-MSID Board of Commissioners.

Thompson also took time to recognize LAMSID’s partnerships including representatives with Lee County Parks and Recreation, Southwest Florida Water Management, state legislators and the FDOT, which used the dirt excavated from the site as fill dirt for State Road 82.

The West Marsh project was broken into three phases. The final phase, Phase III, involved the construction of water control structures, a newly-built flow meter station, a pedestrian bridge connecting the West and North Marshes, and the planting of more than 10,700 native trees and 147,000 native wetland plants.

“We now operate and maintain this 205 acres of the land stewardship plan that took some time to design. Believe it or not, we were busy from the time the county bought this in 2008 all the way until today. There’s been a process going on. Part of that was negotiating an agreement with FDOT to help us excavate this area,” District Manager David Lindsay said.

Lindsay discussed how the West Marsh Preserve and Stormwater Project ties into the district’s South and North Marsh.

“What is next to us is the South Marsh and North Marsh, and that’s another 600 acres so, in its entirety, we have 800 acres. That property was bought in 1982 and developed because we were not regulating the water going down the Orange River at that time. Sometimes in the summer, there was entirely too much water , which caused overflow and the flooding of nearby properties,” Lindsay said.

In total, LA-MSID’s joint effort projects resulted in the creation of 800-plus acre feet of water storage, which will help reduce flooding in the Orange River Basin. The design has utilized the best water management practices, created water quality and monitoring features, and incorporated the removal of exotic plants while planting native plants on the site, officials said.

The water control structures have helped create a lush habitat for snail kites, limpkin and more than 140 species of animals.

Following the ribbon cutting ceremony, LA-MSID Commissioners and project partners planted the final 14 native trees to celebrate the successful and innovative multi-agency partnership.

The event held on Wednesday observed CDC guidelines to protect against the spread of COVID-19.

Lee County has future plans to turn the West Marsh Preserve into a public park with a pavilion and public restrooms. Lee County and AMSID are also in the development process of another local conservation project called GS-10.

Lehigh Acres MSID manages and maintains a water management system comprising 311 miles of canals, 20 lakes, 1298 preserves acres, several parks and a variety of infrastructure such as 360 culverts, 22 bridges, and 66 water control structures within 70,000 acres of land.

The district is governed by a five-member, publicly elected Board of Commissioners: Ken Thompson, Chair; Julie Camp, Vice-Chair; Mike Bonacolta, Treasurer; Julie Hollingsworth, Secretary; and Katy Hoover, Immediate Past Chair.