The Polk County Commission Tuesday approved hiring a $199,822 contract with Inwood Consulting Engineers to come up with a plan to restore the Crooked Lake West property that is jointly owned by Polk County and the Southwest Florida Water Management District and is protected by a conservation easement purchased by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resource Conservation Service.
The plan is to restore wetlands that were drained to accommodate cattle ranching and to block ditches that send runoff from the property directly to Crooked Lake, an Outstanding Florida Water.
Some future mitigation also may occur in connection with the Florida Department of Transportation’s plans to six-lane that section of U.S. 27, which bisects wetlands connected to Crooked Lake. Some of the property is at the headwaters of Bowlegs Creek, a tributary of the Peace River. Other water from Crooked Lake itself is periodically released into a series of drainage paths that eventually reach tributaries of the Kissimmee River.
The section of U.S. 27 between U.S. 17-92 in Haines City and State Road 17/Alternate 27 south of Frostproof was not constructed until sometime In the 1960s, possible because of extensive wetlands along the highway’s path here and in the Waverly area.
The work approved this week is expected to be completed by late this year. The project is being funded with the county’s stormwater tax.
Implementation of the engineering plan to consultants devise will be the next step. No date has been set for consideration of that phase of the project.
Meanwhile, public access to the property is planned through the completion of a management plan for the property.
The plan is to submit a draft management plan to Swiftmud officials for review this spring.
The next step after the review will be the formal approval of the management plan by the Polk County Commission and by Swiftmud’s Governing Board. The process will also include a series of public meetings to get input on possible activities on the site that would be compatible with its restoration.