Since 1995, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, in cooperation with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection's Bureau of Mine Reclamation, has been working to restore the Upper Saddle Creek Basin at Tenoroc. Funding for the project comes from the Florida Department of Transportation's wetlands mitigation fund, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection's non-mandatory reclamation fund, and the Commission's Aquatic Habitat and Restoration Enhancement fund.

photo of forests and wetlands

Tenoroc's Saddle Creek Tract surrounds a portion of Saddle Creek, a tributary of the Peace River. Saddle Creek was once a major water source for the Peace River. The natural drainage patterns of the watershed were disrupted by mining operations in the 1960s. Unreclaimed ponds, overgrown with vegetation and filled with clay sediments, now retain rainwater that once flowed through Saddle Creek and into Lake Hancock. Rain not captured in Tenoroc's lakes and ponds flows into and through old mining ditches, bypassing land once cleansed by wetlands.

Biologists and engineers are working to convert 400 to 600 acres of mined areas into functional wetlands. These wetlands will provide ideal habitat for waterfowl and wading birds and will substantially increase the discharge of clean water into Saddle Creek, thereby helping to remedy the water shortage in the Upper Peace River basin. The enhanced habitat conditions will also increase the recreational opportunities for both bird watchers and anglers. During restoration, invasive exotic plant species will be removed and replaced with native vegetation.

Tenoroc's 986-acre Bridgewater Tract was opened in 2006. Located within the city limits of Lakeland, this tract is the site of an ambitious project to reclaim a significant portion of its wetlands and upland habitats. The project is a cooperative venture with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, the Department of Transportation, the Southwest Florida Water Management District, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Two mitigation wetlands, totaling 39.9 acres, provide important water quality treatment to Lake Parker. Wetland construction activity was designed with public access in mind. A new road system, boat launching facilities, and other habitat restoration efforts add to the available recreational opportunities.

A second restoration projct designed to restore a portion of the headwaters of Saddle Creek was completed in 2008.  The goal of this project was to create an ecological landscape that improves water quality and quantity discharges from a settling area.  This watershed restoration project created 55 acres of forested and herbaceous wetlands and 23 acres of stream channels needed to feed the created wetlands.  A total of 118,096 herbaceous plants and 21,352 forested wetland trees were planted.  Sand removed during wetland construction was used to create 38 acreas of planted gopher tortoise habitat.

The largest restoration project to date is the creation of a wetland/lake system on the eastern side of Tenoroc.  So far, the project has created a 161-acre waterfowl area with manageable water control structures and a 1.5 mile stream to provide water to the wetland.  A 131-acre mined site was reclaimed, and a drainage ditch through an existing bayhead was removed and restored.  Total native plants re-established in these restored areas included 5,191 trees, 92,782 shrubs and grass plants, and 167,705 herbaceous aquatic plants.  Only partially completed, the project is still under construction.  Additional restoration activities under contract include construction of additional wetlands and water flow way through five lakes.  The project is expected to be finished by 2015.

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