Paynes Prairie Restoration Project
It's a $20 million dollar project. Gainesville city leaders are happy about the half million dollars they got from the state budget.
The problem is that there's too much nitrogen leaving the wastewater treatment plant via the Sweetwater Branch and entering Payne's Prairie.
"Nitrogen in the water feeds into the plant life to create algae blooms, proliferates growth of plant life and throws the ecosystem off balance," said GRU Wastewater Engineer Alice Rankeillor.
The canal built 75 years ago for agricultural reasons is part of the problem. The clean up project will fill in the canal, and restore a sheetflow. In effect, this creates a manmade enhancement wetland that will filter the nitrogen out of the water.
Currently, the city of Gainesville has 30 acres of sheetflow distribution.
Rankeillor says the $20 million project is the cheapest option to put the Sweetwater Branch in line with Clean Water Act standards. Plus, it will restore 1300 acres of wetlands and the Alachua Sink.
"We believe it will be money well spent," said Rankeillor.
Gainesville officials were hoping to get more money, along the lines of $2 million. But with the budget crunch, they are pleased with the half million they got with hopes they can get more money in the future.
For now, the project is in the initial design stages. The full sheetflow restoration will not be complete for another four to five years.
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