The Kracker Avenue Fish Farm Hydrological Restoration project is a cooperative project between the Hillsborough County Conservation & Environmental Lands Management Department (CELM), Hillsborough County Public Utilities Department, the Surface Water Improvement and Management (SWIM) program of the Southwest Florida Water Management District, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) funding through Ecosphere Restoration Institution, a non-profit entity. The Bonefish & Tarpon Trust is also providing design consultation.
The project entails the restoration of a 25-acre former tropical fish farm back to coastal wetlands and native upland habitat. The project is located just north of Kracker Avenue on the west side of U.S. 41. The current condition consists of more than 220 small linear ponds overgrown with Brazilian pepper and other invasive non-native species, as well as native species such as oaks, pines and cabbage palms. The restored condition will include freshwater wetlands, salt marshes, and a tidal lagoon channels.
The project is anticipated to provide valuable nursery areas for recreational and commercially important species such as seatrout, redfish, mullet, tarpon, shrimp and crabs. There will also be a one-acre butterfly garden and simple public amenities (short trail and picnic table and/or benches). Fencing is also anticipated.
Purpose and Need for the Project:
The Kracker Avenue parcel was acquired through the Jan K. Platt Environmental Lands Acquisition and Protection Program (ELAPP) for the purpose of hydrological and coastal ecosystem restoration.
The project will consist of:
- clearing the existing non-native vegetation
- backfilling old fish farm ponds
- removing dilapidated buildings
- re-contouring the landscape to create intertidal lagoons and islands, freshwater wetlands, and coastal upland habitat
The restored landscape will provide valuable wildlife habitat for wading shorebirds and other coastal wildlife species. Additional benefits include easier public access, reduced mosquito habitat, and improved visual aesthetics.
Project Cost & Funding:
The $1.328 million project is being funded with $128,000 from ELAPP and $1.2 million from the Southwest Florida Water Management District Surface Water Improvement and Management Program (SWIM). Ecosphere has provided $5,000 for an environmental assessment and also secured additional funding of $24,000 to enhance the site for butterflies, with a focus on Monarch butterflies.
Construction is expected to begin in Fall 2018 and is anticipated to take 6-8 months. Site maintenance by an independent contractor will occur for a 3-5 year period. Hillsborough County ELAPP staff will then be responsible for long-term management.
- Project Manager – Mary Barnwell, Conservation and Environmental Lands Management Department. Desk: (813) 671-7754. Cell (if applicable): (813) 853-1166
- Construction Management – Brandt Henningsen, Southwest Florida Water Management District, SWIM Department (813) 985-7481/800-836-0797 ext. 2202
- Construction Company - TBD
What To Expect During Construction
- Construction will take place Monday – Friday between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., and may include weekend work.
- The work will involve heavy equipment and excavation, and will generate normal construction noise.
- Access to businesses and residential units will be maintained throughout construction.
- Equipment will be mobilized to the site and in most cases will remain on site until construction is completed.
- All vegetation cleared from the project site will be physically removed or buried on-site, or piled and burned on-site in compliance with Florida Forest Service statutes and County ordinances. If nuisance smoke becomes an issue, an air curtain incinerator will be utilized to minimize air quality impacts.
- No impacts to private property are anticipated; however, if it becomes necessary to work on or impact private property, prior approval will be obtained before work begins. All areas affected by the construction will be restored.
- Most construction access will be from U.S. 41, but Kracker Avenue may be used for ditch-cleaning or construction and repair of collapsed side drains. Kracker Avenue will be video-taped prior to equipment being mobilized and work proceeding. Any substantive damage to the road caused by construction of the project will be repaired following completion of construction. Damage caused by the project that prevents residents from accessing their property will be repaired immediately.
Purpose of the Public Meeting:
A public meeting is scheduled for Sept. 21 at 6:30 at the Suncoast Youth Conservation Center.
Residents of Hillsborough County, particularly those who live in the immediate vicinity of the project, will have the opportunity to review the hydrological and coastal ecosystem restoration plan, and comment on the proposal. Staff will be available to answer questions about the project. Engineering and environmental constraints on the project limit flexibility to modify the design concept.