Drainage, Lake Okeechobee, the Everglades, St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon

Historic 1913 postcard of canal in  Miami, Florida. Courtesy of the Thurlow Collection.
Rare historic 1913 postcard is titled: “Drainage canal and Everglades, Miami.” Courtesy of the Thurlow Collection.

My theme this week has been “that which is south of the lake.” The big lake that is, Okeechobee–big waters. The Everglades.

We must always keep in mind that we are all connected, and to fix our water problems with the St Lucie River /Indian River Lagoon we have to understand the rest of south Florida’s drainage system as well.

Last night my mother sent me the fabulous colorized historic 1913 post card above. It is titled “drainage canal and the Everglades, Miami. “So idyllic. So beautiful.  Except for the giant gash in the land to the right of the card that foreshadows the future we are all now living: over-drainage.

Canal ca. 1920 pubic photo,  "west of Ft Lauderdale."
Canal ca. 1920 pubic photo, “west of Ft Lauderdale.” Gunter Herman, 1885-1972. Florida Memory Project.

Drainage in Florida began as early as the mid 1800s and was the goal of Florida’s first government admitted to the United States on March 3, 1845. It remains the goal of our government today, as 1.7 billion gallons of fresh water a day goes to tide through south Florida canals.  I must say the state may be starting to catch on. Water farmers, the “latest rage,” will tell you that we spent the last 100 years taking the water off the land, and we will spend the next 100 years putting it back on….

As we know, the ACOE is directed through Congress as to what it is to do. “The State,” meaning Florida, plays a huge role in this “ask.” Today, I have a Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council meeting. This council plays a role as far as “intergovernmental coordination and review,” of coordinating between local governments and the federal government. (http://tcrpc.org)

The last two images of this blog show the photos included from the TCRPC packet. I found it rather ironic and “civilized” sounding that the areas around the lake are named “Herbert Hoover Dike Common Consequence Zones.” I assume the consequence is that if the dike breaks, there is death and destruction of property and people. Maybe it would help if there were an outlet south of that lake to relieve some of the pressure on the dike? A flow way perhaps?

Anyway, I can’t help but wonder, looking at the 1856 Military Map of Florida, if it wouldn’t have been better to work with nature, with the lake, instead of so against it?

War map of the Everglades created during the Seminole Wars, 1856.
War map of the Everglades created during the Seminole Wars, 1856.

The first video below is of the reenforcing the Herbert Hoover Dike in 2009. In 2005, after Hurricanes Francis and Jeanne, it was decided to reinforce basically the entire southern area of the dike as it is listed as one of the most dangerous and unstable in the United States. Reenforcement? I get it; nonetheless, what a crazy place to build an empire….


Take a look and see: ACOE’s building of dike: (https://youtu.be/BpgN8c2M1lg); History of dike and Lake O. according to ACOE (https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=KpkhJgV_mLo)

EAA below Lake Okeechobee, public image.
EAA below Lake Okeechobee, public image.



Canal and basin map SLR/IRL. (Public)
Canal and basin map of our area -SLR/IRL. (Public)


Surface drainage water map of south Florida,
Surface drainage water map of south Florida,
HHD Common Consequence Zones and Projects Area, CCZ from Belle Glade to Lake Harbor, ACOE 2015.
HHD “Common Consequence Zones” and Projects Area, CCZ from Belle Glade to Lake Harbor, ACOE 2015.
"HHD original destination of reaches" ACOE 2015
“HHD original destination of reaches” ACOE 2015.


The National Environmental Policy Act (http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Environmental_Policy_Actrequires the ACOE to do an Environmental Assessment for the Herbert Hoover Dike’s Rehabilitation Reports. This is the latest: (http://www.saj.usace.army.mil/Media/NewsReleases/tabid/6071/Article/580496/environmental-report-on-proposed-dike-repairs-available-for-review.aspx)

Herbert Hoover Dike, Lake O. ACOE: (http://www.saj.usace.army.mil/Missions/CivilWorks/LakeOkeechobee/HerbertHooverDike.aspx)

Good visuals of HHD rehab here: (http://www.news-press.com/story/news/local/2014/10/04/herbet-hoover-dike-region-risk/16737395/)

21 thoughts on “Drainage, Lake Okeechobee, the Everglades, St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon

  1. That video was very informative and completely amazing, too. Holy Mackeral. I had wondered for a long time how the Hoover Dike was reinforced. Do you know if this enormous underground wall was built only on the south end of the dike?

    Thank you so much, JTL; once again your work here is an invaluable resource for those of us trying to understand the complexity and dynamics of Everglades mismanagement.

    Your direct link for the video did not work for me (I was able to cut and paste), so here it is again:

    1. Miz Pea thank you for letting me know the link did not work! I fixed it because of your comment. So appreciated. I do think the entire dike is done in such a way but I am uncertain. You could email John Campbell of the ACOE and ask. He is very nice and handles PR and interface with the public :John.H.Campbell@usace.army.mil (904) 232-1004 Don’t hesitate. Our taxes help pay for this! 🙂

  2. When I lived next to dike at south bay camp ground I allways thought why could they not put wind turbins on top of the dike—they could anchor them to the concrete. Perhaps 4–or 5 familys could pool their money togather and once the meter said enough power was produced to pay for everything then these familys would never have a power bill again.It is depressing to know power companys giveiing politicians bribe money would never in a million years let something like this happen

  3. It is sad Brent that our government does not actively pursue the free energy of wind and sun of which so many families could benefit from. —Carefully not to kill the birds of course. 🙂 Thanks always for your insightful and honest comments.

  4. You would not have to worry about birds getting killed. If forrest fires produce nitogen monoxide that turns to nitric acid when it rains imagine how much nitric acid has been running into lake O from all these years of burning sugar cain. I doubt their is enough calcium in Lake O for even little birds to make their eggs.

  5. If there was half the calcium lineing the shore that the Indians took out you would see thousands and thousands of birds. You should see whats going on here and I only have small buckets. Sand is much better than shell because there is more surface area for algie to grow Then comes all the little creatures the big creatures eat. But then fhe wind mills would not have a bird free environment.

  6. I feel there should be a class action law suit—-fishermen vs. —- It is hard to pin the tail on the donkey but a whole generation has definatly been robbed .

  7. The Kennidy Space Center has a group of people whos job (for many years)has been to protect the environment there. Missle launchs release many chemicals and the next one will be realseing tons of HCL—hydrochloric acid. These people talked at our lagoon house this month. I got the feeling they would like you to believe the reason they have grass flats everywhere is because there are no people living around that area. I think that this is not true.Thier causeways are pure calcium and the waves churn the calcium. The h2o2 would burn up any chemicals.

  8. I just came back from the lagoon and where I saw a dad was teaching his boy to fish. This is what has been lost. I for sure am NOT talking about a bunch of (all for me and none for you) former gillnetters who think it is their right to get even.

  9. Yesterday I read a big sign on the Idianlantic fishing pier(on the IRL beachside)It said Fishing contest 9-11 on founders day.I found out founders day is may 2. I went to the beach and put 4 buckets of sand in. This morning it was calm and foot long mullet would come in in schools of about 100. when they got to where I put sand in they would go to the bottom in circles and eat sand–then they would come to the top in bunchs and poop out sand. I have seen this behavior many times before but not in such organized sequence. After a few minutes of going to bottom and coming to top to poop out sand they would leave at the same time another school would arrive.I have put sand here before so they may have been doing this for a while. I think they may be adding slimy gastric acid from their stomach to sand to desolve calcium so tha algie will grow on it.For a long distance you could see schools of mullet coming on top of water toward fishing pier.

  10. You may have guessed what I have been up to—-mullet are like birds in that they have a gizzard. A gizzard uses sand and pebbles to grind up food before it goes into the stomach. I cut the gizzard in half and put it in vinager,YES a steady stream of bubles came up. Mullet are using calcium sand to make H2O2 (hydrogen peroxide) One main characteristic about hydrogen peroxide is it reacts vigorously with organic material.So I now believe no calcium sand in the lagoon equils NO mullet in the lagoon.A while back the front page of our newspaper said the most important fish and there was a picture of a big mullet. I cut the rest of mullet up and threw it by the fish cleaning table. One thing I see in the lagoon is nothing goes to waste. I am sure little fish had eaten it before I had got off the pier.Sometimes when mullet are eating sand you can see them spit it out if it is not the sand they waunt.

  11. I am going to have lunch at the Outrigger bar and grill. About 5 or 6 very small commercial kingfish boats have been going out sebastion inlet for as long as I can remember.The outrigger is also the marinia where they dock. The main food of the king mackeral is the menhaden. I am not against commercial fishing but laws have to be the same for everyone.

    1. I just read a book about the net ban of 1995. The fish man writer was furious with the sport fisherman community. Every one has their perspective…like you said, laws must apply to everyone but it is hard when you were there before the law….

  12. About 3 or 4 years ago I was walking the flats on the east shore between the EauGallie and Melbourne causeway. I stopped and talked to a guy fishing . I found out we had both worked on gill net boats and we had both sold our fish to the same fish house. He said he had a sister who worked for Fish and Game FWC. There was allways a redish brown liquid near to shore and it looked nasty. Before I could get out of the water the police were checking me out. There is no way the police would know where I was unless he called them. I thought hard on why would he call the police on me.I e-mailed the DEP about this nasty red stuff and was pretty much Ignored.Finally a Robert Day said it was natural plant oils. I took a bucket of it home and it stunk up my whole house. I heard from someone who worked for the city that someone had left a valve open at the sewage treatment plant for a year. I checked the PH of this shore and for 20 miles it was as acidic as viniger.When I walked the shore I would look under rocks. Under calcium rocks was all sorts of creatures and under everthing else was dead. All churchs preach about heaven because heaven is somewhere everyone waunts to go. But there is another side that is seldom preached about in church. A place where their are no excusses for all the evil things mankind as a whole has done. A place of suffering and torment that will continue for millions of years. And that is why I have fear of the power of this God who created all living things. I try not to judge the evil done by other people . I try to not be a part of ALL the evil in this world. For me anyway doing bad comes natural—its doing good that I have to continualy work hard at.

  13. I have worked as a pipe fitter / welder about all of my adult life. Construction workers useually drink hard—can curse in Spanish or English. Are useually in some sort of trouble and dealing in situations where lot of money can be made or lost.Not to mention hurting someone or being hurt.Our reputation useually proceds us. In the issue of protecting our environment I think many who are supposed to be pillers of the community are starting to make construction workers look like saints

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