Journey Back in Time to See the Creation of C-44, the Greatest Negative Impact to the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon

Image created by Doc Snook, 2013
Image created of structure S-80 along C-44 canal. ACOE web cam and  Doc Snook, 2013.
Ca. 1920s, looking west one sees the straight C-44 canal then known as the St Lucie Canal, and its connection to the South Fork of the St Lucie River. (Aerial  Thurlow Archives)
Ca. 1920s, looking west one sees the straight C-44 canal then known as the St Lucie Canal, and its connection to the South Fork of the St Lucie River. (Aerial Thurlow Archives)
S-80, Connecting Lake Okeechobee to the St Lucie Canal or C-44
Looking west towards Lake Okeechobee above the C-44 canal over S-80 structure, St Lucie Locks and Dam,   connecting Lake Okeechobee to the South Fork of the St Lucie River. (Photo Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch and Ed Lippisch, 2013.)

Link to video: Where “did” the St Lucie Canal connect with the South Fork of the St Lucie River?
(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gYI34XZUNYs&feature=youtu.be)

I share a video today that I believe to be my most “insightful” blog post since I began writing in 2013. The video above by my brother, Todd, who is an expert in historic map overlays merged with images from today’s Google Earth, communicates and educates in a manner no one map or document could do independently.

The video’s journey shows exactly where the C-44 canal was connected to the South Fork of the St Lucie River.  An historic Hanson Grant map reveals the “Halpatiokee River, meaning “alligator river;” with a basis in multiple Indian languages. Because the St Lucie Inlet was not opened, the forks and river were “fresh,” thus alligators lived there. Then flying over a 1910 plat map of St Lucie Inlet Farms,  you will see the South Fork of the St Lucie River mapped out. As the image changes over “time” you will see the construction of the C-44 canal, and how it was built right through the middle of South Fork’s north-western prong. In fact, those prongs today on the northerly side, are “gone” as sections 32 and 33 show. Those lands today are agriculture fields. As the journey continues, in the developed areas of St Lucie Farms you will see a very large lake “disappear” near section  25. I find all of this fascinating and kind of depressing… My brother said it best: “Wealth created at the expense of the environment…” Maybe we could create more wealth today going in the opposite direction?

The canal was built by the Everglades Flood Control District and later the Army Corp of Engineers, at the request of the state of Florida and Stuart Chamber of Commerce head Capt. Stanley Kitching and other “leaders.” (From conversation with historian Sandra Thurlow).

According to the Department of Environmental Protection’s Eco-Summary from 2000, the C-44 canal was begun in 1916 and completed in 1924. The document states:

“Next to the permanent opening of the St Lucie Inlet which changed the St Lucie River from a freshwater river to a brackish estuary, the construction of the C-44 has had the greatest impact on the St Lucie Estuary….Records show people have been complaining since the 1950s and there are numerous problem associated with the C-44 Canal…

UThe article discusses the prevalence of fish lesions due to too much fresh water, sediment smothering benthic communities, seagrass destruction, and the continued heavy nutrient and pesticide loading from agriculture and development in light of a tremendously enlarged basin coupled with massive periodic releases from Lake Okeechobee.   (http://www.dep.state.fl.us/southeast/ecosum/ecosums/C-44%20Canal%20.pdf)

The DEP  Eco Summary also states:  The canal..“was originally designed to enter Manatee Pocket instead of the South Fork of the St Lucie River.

Hmmm?

IInteresting isn’t it… to ponder what would have been different if the canal had gone through the Manatee Pocket instead? Certainly the St Lucie River would have been spared but the Pocket, near shore reefs, and inlet surrounding perhaps full of even more contaminated silt and high impact nutrients. Best of all the canal would have never been built but that reality we cannot change…or can we?

Most important today is to know where we have come from so we can redirect where we are. Please take a look at the very short video, put your thinking cap on, and let’s get the state, federal and local governments  delivering on what they have documented as problematic for Florida’s waters since the 1970s. Only the people will change this problem, not the government.

Left side of map shows C-44 canal's abrupt diversion north the a branch of the South Fork of the SLR. Original plans had the canal continuing its easterly  direction to connect with the Manatee Pocket. (DEP Eco Summary/Google Maps 2015.)
Left side of map shows C-44 canal’s abrupt diversion north towards a branch of the South Fork of the SLR. Original plans had the canal continuing its easterly direction to connect with the Manatee Pocket. (DEP Eco Summary/Google Maps 2015.)
Another aerial, ca 1920s, looking at the connection of C-44 and South Fork. (Thurlow Archives.)
Another aerial, ca 1920s, looking at the area of connection of C-44 and South Fork. (Thurlow Archives.)

Video creator: Todd Thurlow, P.A. (http://thurlowpa.com)

ACOE, Army Corp o fEngineers, Lake Okeechobee: (http://www.saj.usace.army.mil/Missions/CivilWorks/LakeOkeechobee/OkeechobeeWaterway(OWW).aspx)

16 thoughts on “Journey Back in Time to See the Creation of C-44, the Greatest Negative Impact to the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon

  1. There is trouble brewing. A few weeks ago while walking the flats I had a 6 foot bull shark make a run at me . Almost all preditors do this to get a reaction to determin weather you are prey or another preditor. I talked to some fishermen yesterday and they said. 2 blacktip sharks were circleling them. Yesterday a 10 year old boy had his leg allmost sliced of by a 5 foot shark in knee deep water.(in our surf).The iceing on the cake was when a woman(on TV) said everybody saw the shark swimming in the shallows and it must have got scarred and attacked. Why is it people you trust to tell you the truth are always lieing and trying to manipulate everybody.A sharks skin is like bodyarmor and its teeth are like razor blades . when its belly is hungry it has no fear and will try to eat anything it can get hold of. Compitition with other sharks only increases its boldness.The root of the problem is nobody waunts to eat them because they are full of ammonia(a shark does not pee) When you get millions of fishermen all cutting the line and throwing the shark back you get a scenero straight out of hell for all the other creatures in the ocean and probably for people too. If you waunt to see how out of touch with reality the State is read the fishing regulations on sharks

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  2. Some good history, Jacqui, but you leave out all mention of the sugar industry’s reclamation projects, which are the main reason, by far, for the discharges into C-44. This was planned in order to protect the EAA’s extreme over-drainage. The discharges have swelled as the sugar industry grew from 50,000 acres in 1960 to more than 400,000 acres nowadays.
    That’s an EIGHTFOLD INCREASE. And that’s the reason for the degradation of the estuaries, all with the help of key politicians.

    We must have new leaders with new thinking.

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  3. If you get a chance visit your local fishing marina and ask what fishermen do when they catch a shark. Your area is(or was) also an important sailfish sponing area. 2 weeks ago I saw a spotted eagle ray that had its wing bit half off. It was still able to survive.

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  4. What I am trying to bring across is situation is not normal when millions of people all release sharks. Ecosystem is way out of balance and all the creatures suffer because of this man made disaster.It is the same with gators. When there is an occasional gater or shark everything is fine . He will take the weak and sick and ensure a heathly population of other creatures . But when the balance is out gaters and sharks are both skilled enough to kill everything . The whole attitude of these large preditors changes. Healthy prey like sailfish that could escape 1 or 2 sharks are no match for 100 or 200.Everytime I went to the beach in your area I could sit and watch thousands of sharks busting the water close to shore.

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  5. Very impressed with the vintage maps with aerial of present day locations for the video put together by Todd. — ‘thumbs up’

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  6. The ammount of wind that blows over Stuart is not a problem and I think the amount of water that flows through the c-44 locks should not be a problem either. The violent action should be increasing the reaction of acids in the water with calcium ,releaseing massive amounts of desolved oxygen. The trees should be white with birds and schools of menhaden and mullet should stretch for miles behind the spillway.

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