Where Do We Draw the Line on Water? St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon

West of the red lines shows the edge of what was once the Everglades in South Florida. Development has crept and continues to creep over this edge. (Photo/map courtesy of Chappy Young,/GCY Surveyors, 2014.)
West of the red line shows the edge of what was once the Everglades in South Florida. Development has crept and continues to creep over this edge. (Photo/map courtesy of Chappy Young,/GCY Inc. Surveyors, 2014.)

We in Martin and St Lucie Counties make up what is referred to as the “Northern Everglades.”  Before the Army Corp of  Engineers, (ACOE), changed the course of Lake Okeechobee’s waters in the 1920s and directed it to go east and west through canals to the estuaries, Lake Okeechobee’s water would slowly crest over the southern edge of the lake and flow south. For many, myself included, the long term goal of saving our St Lucie/IRL and Caloosahatchee estuaries  includes recreating  a type of “flow way, or floodway south” to Everglades National Park. The parched park needs our water just as Nature intended.

There are many challenges to this scenario but the most visual are the following.

The first is the Everglades Agricultural Area, (EAA), 700,000 acres located just south of the lake; the second is east coast development that has crept in over the years “into the Everglades.”

The red colored blocks south of Lake O. are the EAA-700,000 acres of sugar lands and vegetables. South of the EAA are the water conservation areas.(SFWMD map, 2012.)
The red colored blocks south of Lake O. are the EAA,700,000 acres of sugar lands, vegetables, small historic agricultural communities, and infrastructure. South of the EAA are the water conservation areas in purple and green. (SFWMD map, 2012.)
The red line shows the designated "Everglades." As we can see humankind has filled a lot of it in. (SFWMD map, 2012.)
The red line surrounding Lake O. shows the Everglades wetlands that historically filtered the water before it got to Florida Bay. As we can see humankind has “filled in” a lot of this. (SFWMD map, 2012.)

I have written before about the “seepage barrier” an underground permeable wall  that runs along the east coast to keep the water out of these developed areas through pumps that send the seeping water back inside the Everglades. Crazy. If needed, the EAA also pumps its ground water and surface water off its lands to keep the level as needed for the crops. They are assisted by the SFWMD. This is a historic relationship. It is how our state was “built.”

This satellite photo shows water on lands in 2005. One can see the lands in the EAA are devoid of water. This water has been pumped off the lands into the Water Conservation Areas, sometimes back pumped into the lake, and also stored in other canals. (Captiva Conservation 2005.)
This satellite photo shows in blue the water on lands in 2005. One can see the lands in the EAA just south of the lake are devoid of water. This water has been pumped off the lands into the water conservation areas, sometimes back pumped into the lake, and also stored in other canals. The water would flood the crops if it were on the lands. (2004-2005 SFWMD aerial photography.)

The above photo shows the EAA dry while surrounding lands are wet.

I really do not have an answer of how to build a flow way through all this agriculture, infrastructure, and development as I am not a scientist. But I have not given up the idea. I have faith one day there will not be another choice.

What I confidently can say is that we all know water is valuable, “the new oil.”  Water issues whether they be pollution or the need for water usage in a growing state demand attention and we know with  the future coming we should not build anything else inside those red lines. No port, no windmill farms, no more development, no more agriculture.

FWC map for 2060 projected population growth, state of Florida, 2011.
FWC map for 2060 projected population growth, state of Florida, 2011.

If the the Florida Wildlife Commission’s map is right and Florida’s population in 2060 is around 36 million,  (today it is 19 million), we are going to need more fresh water.  Also if we are to save the northern estuaries and the Everglades so our children have some semblance of what the planet once was, we must redirect more water to go to where it once did, south.

Let’s draw a new line for water. A line that clearly shows we know its value not just to agriculture and development, but to the environment, and the children of the future. 

_____________________________________________________________

1000 Friends of Florida 2060 Population: (http://archive.tallahassee.com/assets/pdf/CD52924126.PDF)
Northern Everglades DEP: (http://www.dep.state.fl.us/everglades/neepp.htm)
SFWMD/Natural Systems Model: NSM-4.5 (http://www.sfwmd.gov/portal/page/portal/xrepository/sfwmd_repository_pdf/nsm45.pdf)

2 thoughts on “Where Do We Draw the Line on Water? St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon

  1. Great post, Jacqui. Every time I drive back south to the Keys, I am astounded at how many housing developments are built in the Everglades in the Fort Lauderdale/Miami area. They are built right up to (and on top of) the sawgrass, yet some complain that they have alligators and water moccasins in their backyards. It’s crazy.

    Like

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