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Water-Related News

Bringing phosphate mines back to nature in southeast Hillsborough CountyEngineers working to return

Engineers working to return phosphate land to nature in southeast Hillsborough County are recreating an old stream though a new process called hydraulic carving. The method is similar to the kid’s game of using a garden hose to form a river in the sandbox, only on a life-size scale.

“That definitely was the inspiration,’’ said John Kiefer, principal water resources engineer at Lakeland-based Wood Environment & Infrastructure Services, Inc., who came up with the process. Kiefer was watching his then-4-year-old son, Nolan, create a hose-powered mini-river in his sandbox, he said, and it triggered thoughts about using water instead of excavating equipment to build streams.

Later, he led a research team that studied the dynamics of Florida streams, crediting a colleague, Kristen Nowak, with developing a method for quantifying the flow needed for hydraulic carving designs. That helped him design the system that is being used at the Balm Boyette Scrub Preserve. Engineers are recirculating surface water and pumping 2,000 gallons per minute from a pipe to recreate a 1.500-foot long stream that ran through the property before the 1960s, when the area was mined for phosphate. It’s a project of the Southwest Florida Water Management District’s Surface Water Improvement and Management program.