The dams, first built in the 1930s by local families, control and regulate upstream flow stages of the Northwest Fork of the Loxahatchee River, the state's first designated "wild and scenic" river. The dams also maintain the hydrology of the riverine floodplain ecosystem. Modeling has shown that without the two dams in place, the upstream water levels would be about 1.5 feet lower, draining the freshwater swamp and allowing saltwater intrusion.
"We are thrilled to have these carefully designed and constructed renovations on the Wild and Scenic Loxahatchee River honored,"
said Governing Board Vice Chair Melanie Peterson, a Palm Beach County resident and former member of the Loxahatchee River Management Coordinating Council. "One of SFWMD's primary missions is the protection of natural systems and these dam renovations are crucial to ensuring the future of the Loxahatchee River. These dams are not only living parts of Palm Beach County's history, but are essential to protecting the cypress swamp floodplain that makes the Loxahatchee so unique."
In February of 2017, the SFWMD Governing Board approved $2.5 million worth of restoration work for the two historic dams.
Work began in March 2017 and was completed in January, approximately six months ahead of schedule.
The repairs, which came after extensive public input and thorough review, minimize any impact to the river's natural resources and preserve the historical integrity of the dams. Areas of the dam that have decayed were repaired and soil under and around the dams were stabilized to reduce seepage.
In addition to protecting the unique river ecosystem of the Loxahatchee River, the dam restoration work also included reconstructing the canoe and kayak portages to improve recreational access for all users.
SFWMD received the award for the project in a ceremony on Thursday.