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FWC and partners work on restoring the Peace River

Over the past nine months, biologists from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) teamed up with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Panama City Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office to restore two severely eroding riverbanks along the Peace River in southwest Florida.

The FWC completed an assessment of the Peace River, evaluating over 300 miles of stream. Through that assessment, the FWC identified locations for several critical projects including a 450-foot bank just south of Zolfo Springs and a 1,000-foot stretch of riverbank south of Arcadia.

On both sites, the riverbanks were recontoured with machinery using Natural Channel Design methodology. This technique uses layers of logs and other woody debris as a foundation to build out the eroded shoreline. The new riverbank was then modified to create a floodplain bench that will reduce stress and help prevent future erosion. The rebuilt riverbank was covered in grass seed and coconut fiber matting, and planted with more than 1,500 native plants to help stabilize the new bank and promote biodiversity.

This technique provides a more aesthetically-pleasing, natural result than traditional river stabilization techniques and it also provides great habitat for fish and wildlife. Over time the coconut fiber matting will deteriorate as the plants continue to grow and mature, creating natural stream conditions.

Rivers and streams serve as important habitat for fish and wildlife, and provide recreational opportunities for people. The Peace River also is a corridor between wetlands that connect Florida’s terrestrial habitats to its marine habitats. 

Streambank erosion and associated channel sedimentation are the leading causes of habitat degradation and biodiversity decline in Florida rivers and streams.  Erosion and sedimentation are accelerated by changes to flow rates and patterns, often caused by development within the river’s watershed, and loss of shoreline vegetation.

For more information about the FWC’s Aquatic Habitat Conservation and Restoration projects, visit MyFWC.com/wildlifehabitats, click on “Habitat,” then “Aquatic Habitat Conservation and Restoration.”

For general waterbody information, fishing forecasts, virtual tours, plant control operation schedules and annual workplans, boat ramp information, and more, visit the “What’s Happening on My Lake” website at MyFWC.com/Lakes.