The History, the Future, of Plan 6 and “Sending Water South,” St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon


plan 6 prototype
Map for the “Performance Configuration” co-authored in 2009, incorporating Plan 6 ideas for sending more water south.

First thank you to Dr Gary Goforth for providing much of this historical data.(

There is a lot of controversy surrounding the idea of “sending water south,” mostly because in order to do so privately owned lands would be taken out of sugar productivity. This post is meant to share some of the history of ideas over the years to do so, not debate it.

As we all know, before the lands south of Lake Okeechobee were drained for the budding agriculture industry in the late 1800s onward, when Lake Okeechobee overflowed, ever so gently its waters ran over the southern lip of the lake through a pond apple forest, creating a “river of grass” that became the Everglades.

In the 1920s at the direction of Congress and the State of Florida the Army Corp of Engineers (ACOE) redirected these overflow waters that had functioned as such for thousands of years through canals C-44 to the St Lucie River and C-43 to the Caloosahatchee.

This achieved better flood control for agriculture and development but has caused an environmental disaster for the northern estuaries and for the Everglades.

The environmental destruction and safety issues of the Herbert Hoover Dike were noted early on.  As far as the destruction of a local industry, the fishing industry in the St Lucie River was the poster child.  This and many other reasons caused many people over the years to seeks “improvements,” to the  overall ecological system.

One of the first was the 1955 ACOE Central and Southern Florida Project Part IV. It was a proposal evaluating different options (plans) for “increasing lake outlet capacity.  One component was “Plan 6,” a one mile wide floodway extending from the Herbert Hoover Dike to one mile into Water Conservation Area 3. For this report, Plan 6  was  the recommended improvement.  Dr Gary Goforth notes discharges to the St Lucie would have been lessened about by half,  but “not eliminate lake discharges to the St Lucie River.” In the end, the entire plan was not acted upon as many tax payer paid plans are not…but Plan 6 was not forgotten…

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Photos taken of 1955 ACOE CSFP Report courtesy of Dr Gary Goforth.
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Floodway 1955

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Various references to Plan 6 and a floodway.
Various references to Plan 6 and a floodway.

Dr Goforth also notes a “more robust plan,”a plan co-authored in 2009 by Karl Wickstrum, Paul Gray, Maggy Hurchalla, Tom Van Lent, Mark Oncavgne, Cynthia Interlandi, and Jennifer Nelson. (See first photo in this blog.) This plan is referenced by Mark Perry in his well known “River of Grass” presentation.

Plan 6
Mark Perry’s drawing in his presentation for “River of Grass,”used today, 2014.

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The Art Marshal Foundation (Art was one of the great conservationist of the early 1960/70s environmental movement and has a wildlife preserve named after him) also notes in their literature that Plan 6 is traceable to the Marshall Plan-1981.

“Marshall Plan 1981 to Repair the Everglades, Why Plan 6 Will Work.” Marshall Foundation publication 2013, Version 2.2.

Most recently in 2013, the Rivers Coalition published on its website “Plan 6 Flowway, River of Grass, Missing Link.”

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Rivers Coalition Plan 6, the Missing Link, River of Grass, 2013.
Rivers Coalition Plan 6, the Missing Link, River of Grass, 2013 (

You can learn more about this version of the plan by clicking on the above link.

All of these plans, I believe, are one way or another based upon the 1955 ACOE Report. it may not have come to fruition but it certainly provided a lot of inspiration!

Also last year, Senator Joe Negron was able to secure $250,000 for a University of Florida study that should occur in 2014 for “Sending more water south.” Wonder what their plan will recommend?

If history repeats itself, even more Plan 6 versions will be created. In any case, let’s keep pushing for change to save the estuaries and find some way to move more water south. And thank you Army Corp of Engineers for the inspiration…


5 thoughts on “The History, the Future, of Plan 6 and “Sending Water South,” St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon

  1. Tyvm. Your posts are doing so much. Did you know the Miccosukee and the Love the Everglades movement had no idea what plan 6 actually was other than a “cool” slogan? I am forwarding this on because, honestly, it deserved an open presentation, not MY twist. And I believe every option deserves a fair representation. Odd as that might sound. We only want it fixed without hurting anyone or if not possible, a fair shared adversity compromise. Not a debate, just grateful for all you are bringing to the public with this blog.

  2. Actually, the current idea of a Plan 6 comes from a response by the ACOE to a presentation I made to both the incoming Corps Col. “Rock” Salt and the SFWMD Board in which I proposed the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Twin Rivers of Grass. This consisted of schematics showing flow ways drawing on the Miami River Canal and Loxahattchee basins to reconnect to the upper portions of the Water Conservation Areas to the south. The proposal allowed for the use of levees and weirs (conceived by former Corps hydrologist Jim Hartwell) to retain water for nutrient bio-uptake and sedimentation, while allowing for gravity fed overflows in time of excess. No pumps, minimal cost of operation, run with sunlight and gravity.

    This proposal stirred the Corps to produce their trademark analysis which proposes “bookends,” proposals that are designed to be thrown out as being too far out to be seriously considered, and then between them would be found the alternatives the Corps really wanted to be considered. The Plan 6 Flow Way was a bookend, labeled impossible and ineffective by the Corps’ analysis at the time. This all took place in the 80’s and 90’s.

    Conveniently this judgement served the desires of the EAA interests and those who represented them on the WMD board. Decades since, of fiddling around on paper and politically, led to the diversity of alternatives that occupied the Feds and the State agencies with studies, proposals, and no significant actions. It took an unnatural disaster and the loss of two of Florida’s greatest natural resources, the Indian River Lagoon and the Caloosahatchee estuaries, to wipe the political film from our eyes and see the obvious solution in front of us.

    That is the history of the modern Flow Way proposal, created by myself as inspired by Art Marshall, and championed by us both, along with Marjory Stoneman Douglas, Johnny Jones, and a host of others over the ensuing years. The success of the Kissimmee River’s early repairs proved to us that to find a solution you need only look at what originally worked successfully. The Everglades needed a bypass operation for the same reason that anyone does: to live. And live it must if we are to survive in Florida.

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