Max Chesnes / Treasure Coast Newspapers

FL - 'We Are Restoring History': Allapattah Flats Wetlands Restored in Martin County

ALLAPATTAH FLATS — The little blue heron, once snared in a glue trap and covered in sticky debris, was now nestled between the hands of Amy Kight. It was a snowy white bird and had a bill that faded from gray to black.

Kight, executive director of the Busch Wildlife Sanctuary, slowly hoisted the heron into the air. A quick glance at the animal and you might not realize it had endured rehab at the Jupiter refuge. An elegant bird, here to get a second chance.

Kight turned to the wetlands behind her and counted to three. In an instant, the heron took flight and disappeared into the flats. The crowd of government officials and environmental advocates cheered in unison.

The heron's release concluded a ribbon-cutting ceremony Thursday announcing the completion of the Allapattah Flats Wetland Reserve Project in western Martin County.  About 13,000 acres of land were conserved, an area roughly the size of Manhattan.

About 51% of that land — 6,700 acres — is restored wetlands, according to the South Florida Water Management District. The marsh can clean and store about 3.7 billion gallons of water per year.

"Today, we are restoring history," SFWMD district board member Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch said before the ribbon-cutting. "It will cleanse water of high nutrients benefiting our St. Lucie River."