Hydro-carving: Crews restore Hillsborough stream the natural way

Engineers call it hydro-carving. It's using water to carve a path in the earth, and they're using the method to restore a stream that was destroyed by phosphate mining decades ago in southern Hillsborough County. 

"It accelerates the process that would take decades to complete by recirculating at a high flow rate," explained Janie Hagberg, an environmental engineer with the Southwest Florida Water Management District.

The process uses water from old mining pits which is recirculated over and over again. It naturally finds  its way to where a stream once flowed before the area was mined. 

Bulldozers sit idle as the circulating water does the work.

"Finding the natural path, the chances of erosion and future problems are decreased because it's naturally creating within the footprint," continued Hagberg. 

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Hillsborough County owns the land in the Balm Boyette Scrub Preserve. Water Management District engineers are using a $2.5-million grant from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. 

"We'll run it up to six weeks with the recycled, pumped water and then come in and plant vegetation," said Hagberg.  

She says the stream will  eventually flow into the Alafia River as it did more than 50 years ago and will help improve water quality in the river.