Channelization of the Kissimmee River transformed a 167 km meandering river into a 9 metre deep, 75 metre wide, 90 km drainage canal (C-38) that is compartmentalized with levees and water control structures into a series of five stagnant pools. Channelization dramatically changed water level and flow characteristics, drained 21,000 hectares of floodplain wetlands and severely impacted fish and wildlife populations. A $500 million dollar restoration project will restore the ecological integrity of the river-floodplain system by reconstructing the natural river channel and reestablishing hydrologic processes. Sixty expectations have been established to quantify the ecosystem's recovery. The first phase of reconstruction was completed in February 2001 and included movement of 9.2 million cubic metres of earth to backfill 12 km of C-38, the explosive demolition of one water control structure, construction of two sections (2.4 km) of new river channel, and reestablishment of 24 contiguous km of river. Numerous social, political, and technical challenges have been encountered during the project's evolution. Recommendations are provided for future restoration projects.

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