C-23 and its Destruction of the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon

Bessey Creek in 1965, is the exiting point for C-23 into the St Lucie River. The canal was  built between 1959 and  1961.
Bessey Creek and a newly constructed C-23 photographed in 1965. The creek  is the exiting point for C-23 into the St Lucie River. The canal was built between 1959 and 1961. As development of the surrounding lands has increased so has the pollution from the canal. (Photo archives of Sandra Thurlow)

There are three destructive canals that empty into the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon, C-44 built in the 1920s, and  C-23 and C-24, built later, between 1959 and 1961. They all over time have destroyed the health and integrity of the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon.

C-23 is the canal that boarders northern Martin and southern St Lucie Counties. It was built by the Army Corp of Engineers as part of the Central and and South Florida Flood Control Project that came into being in a “second” gigantic  round of federal funds invested in Florida after a hurricane and extreme flooding in 1947 because, basically, people had built and started farming in areas throughout south Florida that were wetlands or swamps.  The goal of the canal was to divert waters that would have “gone south,” and possibly even north into the St John’s River to the eastern, coastal waters.  As usual, the ACOE  was very successful at the complete cost of the environment.

Thus the C-23 canal drains a 175 square foot basin that includes parts of Okeechobee and St Lucie Counties that originally did not run into the St Lucie River. Once drained, these lands were primarily developed into citrus groves and other agriculture . According to the Department of Environmental Protection, the “urban land use, at the eastern end of the basin, includes solid waste disposal; light industrial, and golf courses.”

C-23 is a filthy canal. It delivers suspended solids, nutrients, fertilizers, and pesticides such as ethion, norflurazon, simazine, bromacil. Metals such as copper and  lead have also been found in the surrounding sediments with concentrations high enough to “constitute toxicity” to fish, seagrasses,  and other animals. You may recall even recently in the news,  a sheepshead, with a huge pink tumor caught right in this area. DEP (http://www.dep.state.fl.us/southeast/ecosum/ecosums/c23.pdf); Tumored fish(http://martincountytimes.com/fish-with-large-tumor-on-head-found-in-palm-citys-bessey-creek-near-st-lucie-estuary)

My middle school aged niece, Mary, lives across the canal in North River Shores;  she chose to do her science fair project on the C-23 this year and found that the canal had the highest level of phosphorus of the three canals. As she grows up, her generation will be working to fix our and our grandparents’ over zealous accomplishments and mistakes. Although our federal, state and local government claims that we’re “working on getting the water right,” it seems like we could do more and a little faster to help them… 

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