Babcock Ranch


Babcock Ranch was a 91,000-acre piece of original Florida land found at the headwaters of the Telegraph Cypress Swamp, which spans from Charlotte to Lee County.  In 2006, the ranch was acquired by a private developer who then sold 73,000 acres to the State of Florida and Lee County as preserve land and retained 18,000 acres for development.

Johnson Engineering has been involved with the operation, maintenance, and now development of Babcock Ranch since the 1960s. The friendship between Johnson Engineering former president Archie Grant and Babcock Ranch owner Fred Babcock cultivated a business partnership with the Babcock family that has endured and grown, playing a major role in the ranch’s prosperity and wise stewardship.  Through his field reconnaissance, Archie found the solution to restoring water levels within Telegraph Cypress Swamp and recommended reinforcing the Big Island Dike and designed the four major water control structures on the 91,000+ acre ranch. This important discovery provided drainage during the wet season and allowed for closing of the water control structures during the dry season to maintain desired water levels in the swamp to ease drought conditions.

Johnson Engineering was part of the original project team engaged in August 2005 by Kitson & Partners, LLC, shortly after they secured a contract for the Babcock Ranch. The Johnson Engineering team was responsible for the initial conceptual designs, surveying, preserve, trail, and greenway locations, facilitating public meetings, conducting feasibility studies, permitting, stormwater management, and environmental services. Our team collaborated with governmental staff, officials, and community stakeholders to prepare documentation and feasibility studies to support zoning, land development, and code writing. We have worked with the developer through this transition period and still, today are the lead environmental consultant, providing a wide range of permitting, environmental, mitigation, hydrological, and planning services.

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What We Provided

Johnson Engineering has been the lead environmental consultant for the 23,600-acre Babcock Ranch Community (BRC) since 2005. As part of the permitting process, our environmental team was responsible for habitat mapping, wetland delineations, listed species surveys, permitting and the design of a 12,704-acre mitigation plan.  As each phase of development is planned, the environmental team continues to assist with gopher tortoise permitting/relocation, biological monitoring, construct and operate permit modifications, conducting pre-construction listed species/species-specific surveys, implementation and oversight of the wetland and listed species mitigation plan, and mitigation compliance monitoring.

Babcock Ranch – Water Use Permit & ERP Compliance Monitoring

Our team built a land management and invasive species ArcGIS geodatabase to allow Babcock Ranch staff to view and utilize various land management activities such as exotic plant treatment and prescribed burning activities, as well as incorporating geospatially referencing and digitized hard copies of historic burn data for the past decade.

Johnson Engineering served as the overall civil consultant for the design of the 3+ acre trailhead at Babcock Ranch Preserve located at CR 74 and SR 31 intersection in Charlotte County. This day-use trail head facility is to allow access to the State of Florida purchased preserve lands. It included access drive, parking and marking of this facility.  Our team permitted through South Florida Water Management District, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Charlotte County.

Our landscape architects collaborated with our engineers and ecologists in the conceptual design of filter marshes that will act as multi-functional systems to improve water quality, provide natural habitat, and support wildlife. We reviewed the overall watershed and flow ways for the property to understand how the individual filter marshes, which cover approximately 28% of the site, would contribute and connect to the entire system. The hydroperiod information provided was utilized with grading techniques and knowledge of suitable planting zones to enable our surface water team to conceptually design filter marshes that mimic natural wetland, marsh, and upland habitat. We also had to ensure the design would enable the filter marshes to connect to existing upland and wetlands. In addition, the planting design for the filter marshes utilizes 100 percent native plantings to maintain and enhance the natural habitat of the site and improve water filtration.

Our planners prepared the first vision for the Babcock Community and created the monitoring system for plan implementation. This project exemplifies our team’s capacity to analyze and integrate the many components required to balance a community plan. From our role in the initial Development of Regional Impact (DRI) approval for Babcock, to our ongoing efforts on comprehensive plan amendments, re-zonings, DRI Amendments, the Babcock Overlay land development code and the Babcock Community Pattern Book, our planners and other specialists in ecology, surveying, GIS, transportation, and water resources have been integral in the planning and advancement of this new community.

The late 1960s was the beginning of Johnson Engineering’s water management work on the Babcock Ranch.  We worked with the landowner to establish a Chapter 298 District to manage surface water flows on the Ranch.  The district was named Telegraph Cypress Water Management District and exists today in a modified form.  Johnson Engineering prepared the original Engineers Report to support the bond validation for the Babcock Ranch Community Independent Special District.  This district was originally over 13,000 acres located in the southeast portion of Charlotte County.  It is now over 17,000 acres with adjacent lands in northern Lee County added to it. As one of the district engineers, we provide engineering, environmental, and surveying services for the community.  We also worked on a revised Engineers Report for bond validation for the expanded District boundary with additional services.

Johnson Engineering has been the stewards for this watershed management plan from the beginning. Our team introduced a total management system from modeling to cutting edge Low Impact Design (LID), including wetland filter marshes to increase water quality and improve the local ecosystem. These wetland creation areas provide a system that met all stormwater retention requirements while enhancing the local ecosystem and increasing native habitat.  Separate areas of upland, prairie, wetland and open water work together to maximize water storage, attenuation, and filtration through these systems.

As part of the stormwater permitting, team members have modeled the existing watersheds for an area spanning over 90,000 acres.  This information was used to ensure that post development flow rates did not exceed the pre-development flow rates.  As part of the conceptual design the team has also designed the surface water management system for the 18,000 +/- acre community including wet detention ponds as well as a system of filter marshes.  The marshes were incorporated into the stormwater management system to increase water quality, improve the local ecosystem, create additional native habitat, and meet all stormwater detention requirements.

Our surveying and mapping team prepared the boundary survey and description for the Lee County portion on the Babcock Ranch development area to be used during their comprehensive plan amendment process in 2016.

As part of the offsite infrastructure improvements required to support the initial phase of Babcock Ranch, Johnson Engineering was retained to develop conceptual design alternatives, construction plans, specifications, cost estimates, contract documents, bidding assistance, and post design support associated with Babcock Ranch Phase 1A development entrance connection from SR 31 to the future four lane right-of-way limits. This effort included FDOT access and drainage permitting. Additionally, subsurface utility engineering (SUE) location and mapping, FGT encroachment agreements, and coordination with many existing utility owners was also a very important aspect of the design efforts. Existing utility owners within the SR 31 corridor included Level 3 Communications, TECO Peoples Gas, Florida Power & Light (FP&L), Lee County Electric Coop (LCEC), and CenturyLink.

Our utility team provided assistance with certification of Town and Country Utility as a water and wastewater provider through the PSC.

A water quality monitoring program for the Babcock Ranch Community (BRC) was designed and implemented by Johnson Engineering in 2006. Baseline water quality sampling was conducted at 18 locations across the ranch, including each of the major streams. Due to our past history, our team had detailed knowledge of local ranch conditions which facilitated access to these remote sampling locations during difficult, wet season conditions. Large volumes of water quality data were managed in-house and uploaded to EPA’s STORET master water quality data warehouse per Florida Department of Environmental Protection requirements, where they are available and used to this day. Our team continues to collect limited water quality data to assist with post-permit compliance for the BRC’s water use permit.

Our team performed a hydrogeologic investigation at Babcock Ranch Preserve for development of a public water supply wellfield for Charlotte County Utilities. This project included design, testing, and construction of an Upper Floridan aquifer test well completed to a depth of 1,200 feet, an Intermediate aquifer well, and a Surficial aquifer well. Data collected from this investigation were analyzed and used to design and permit a 3 MGD public water supply wellfield through the South Florida Water Management District. As a result of the testing program, the SFWMD issued Charlotte County a permit with a 20-year duration in December of 2011. Our team continues to perform numerous hydrogeologic drilling and testing programs.

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