“Backpumping 101”, SLR/IRL

 

"S" Structure south of Lake Okeechobee. (Photo JTL, pilot Shawn Engebretsen 2014)
An “S” structure south of Lake Okeechobee as seen on flight to Clewiston passing Bell Glade.  (Photo JTL, pilot Shawn Engebretsen 2014).
S-2 Image SFWMD
S-2 Image SFWMD image showing piled up vegetation against structure.
SFWMD map. Notice the S-structures south of the lake.
SFWMD map. Notice the S-2 structure south of the lake, near Bell Glade. The SFWMD oversees the S-structures south of the lake. The ACOE oversees the structures going into the SLR and Caloosahatchee.
Close up
Wider view of SFWMD map.
S-80 releasing at StLucie Lock and Dam.
S-80 releasing at StLucie Lock and Dam.

After much controversy, today the South Florida Water Management District has halted its recent “backpumping.”

“Backpumping” —kind of an odd word isn’t it? What does it mean? And why in spite of multiple law suits, some changes, appeals, and  “back and forths” on what is allowed is it still going on?

Basically, in reference to Lake Okeechobee, backpumping means that water that would normally be flowing south is pumped north—Pumped back into Lake Okeechobee to keep it out of the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA).(https://nicholas.duke.edu/wetland/eaa.htm)

The satellite/GIS image below gives one an idea. This image is from 2005, also a rainy year. Through this satellite image shared by the Captiva Conservation Organization one can see how the EAA remained dry(er) and yet southern and central parts of the state are wet. This is basically what the EAA is trying to achieve now.

My explanation and example is certainly oversimplified but gives an idea to those who may not quite understand all the controversy surrounding backpumping.

Let’s continue…

Many do know that when Lake Okeechobee is “too high” the ACOE and SFWMD work together to dump the water into the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon and the Caloosahatchee estuaries usually with devastating effects. Thus locals are protesting again.

....
….
Satellite image 2005
Satellite/GIS image 2004 /2005. Blue is water.

So why does the ACOE and SFWMD dump?

People, property, and farmlands are south of the lake. In 1926 and 1928 there were horrific hurricanes that killed thousands of people and destroyed property. We live in fear of this happening again, and oh yes, we need those sugar fields dry…don’t we?

So what is the answer for not destroying the estuaries and not flooding Bell Glade and other communities south of Lake Okeechobee?

That is for the experts to work on, and the “we, the people” to encourage….

One thing is for sure, there has to be a better way. We must have vision.

 

The Belle Glade Everglades experiment station after the hurricane of 1928. Palm Beach Post file photo BELLE GLADE --- An undated photo taken in the aftermath of the 1928 hurricane shows the damage done to a cluster of scientific work stations. Thousands drowned on Sept. 16 that year when hurricane-force winds blew a wall of water from Lake Okeechobee through a makeshift dike. The official death toll is 1,836, but historians and hurricane researchers say it's probably closer to 2,500 or 3,000. ORG XMIT: MER0503211643572784 ORG XMIT: MER0705171719342077
The Belle Glade Everglades experiment station after the hurricane of 1928. Palm Beach Post file photo BELLE GLADE — An undated photo taken in the aftermath of the 1928 hurricane shows the damage done to a cluster of scientific work stations. Thousands drowned on Sept. 16 that year when hurricane-force winds blew a wall of water from Lake Okeechobee through a makeshift dike. The official death toll is 1,836, but historians and hurricane researchers say it’s probably closer to 2,500 or 3,000. Palm Beach Post online.

Please note this correction to this blog post from Mark Perry. My post originally read under the first and second photos: “An “S” structure south of Lake Okeechobee as seen on flight to Clewiston passing Bell Glade. (Photo JTL, pilot Shawn Engebretsen 2014). These structures can pump forward (downhill) into the EAA to water fields or backwards (up hill) into Lake O when there is “too much” water.”–These pumps can work in both directions.”

Mark Perry, Florida Oceanographic,  kindly corrected my mistake and I am thankful for the correction. We all learn from each other as we try to understand things. Thank you Mark!

“Hi Jacqui,

Thanks for you post of “Backpumping 101” but I need to offer a correction.

Below your aerial photo of the S2 pump station you stated that “These pumps can work in both directions”. This is incorrect as the S2 and S3 pumps only go in ONE DIRECTION, from the EAA canals INTO the Lake. The gate structures next to the pumps (S-351 & S-354) can flow both ways depending on which side has higher water elevation. (See Attached Photo- Note Blue Arrows for flow). As of yesterday, 1-31-16, the Lake was at 16.16 feet and the canals were at 11.11 feet (at S-354see below) so if the gates were opened, the water would flow from the Lake into the canals that is why they are keeping them closed. You can see the pump flows in cfs for S3 (745) and S2 (856) as of yesterday.

S3 Pumps: 11.11 16.16 745 118 615 12 (cfs)
S354: 16.16 11.11 0 0.0 0.0
S2 Pumps: 10.52 16.12 856 0 685 171 0 (cfs)
S351: 16.12 10.52 0 0.0 0.0 0.0

Hope this helps to make it clear. Backpumping in not good for the Lake or eventually the Estuaries where the water will go.

Call me if you want to discuss this.

Thanks for your posts.

Mark

Mark D. Perry
Executive Director
Florida Oceanographic Society
890 NE Ocean Blvd.
Stuart, Florida 34996
772-225-0505 x103
772-486-3858 (Cell)
772-225-4725 (Fax)
http://www.FloridaOcean.org

Florida Oceanographic’s mission is to inspire environmental stewardship of Florida’s coastal ecosystems through education and research.

Please consider the environment before printing this e-mail. Reduce, Reuse & Recycle”

____________________________________________________

The amazing and complex SFWMD Structure Location Map: http://www.fortlauderdale.gov/home/showdocument?id=1330

SFWMD Press Release to halt backpumping. 1-31-16: http://www.sfwmd.gov/portal/page/portal/xrepository/sfwmd_repository_pdf/st_2016_0131_emergency_pumping_update.pdf

Earth Justice Backpumping Fact Sheet: http://flcoastalandocean.org/fcoc/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/lake-okeechobee-backpumping-fact-sheet.pdf

6 thoughts on ““Backpumping 101”, SLR/IRL

  1. Great post friend. Martin County should apply for a permit to “back pump” C44 water back into the Lake, too. I think our estuary’s demise is an “emergency” much greater than soggy sugar cane fields. I wonder if the S308 lock and dam is indeed a “both ways” pump? I emailed Kevin Powers last night about it, and to thank him and his “team” for once again ruining my charter fishing business. I took a big-spending doctor out yesterday and since my spots in the lower IRL are back again, I let him off the hook and cancelled his three day trip. Besides my loss of three days fishing at $1,400, Martin County merchants just lost: 2 nights lodging at $225, restaurant meals at about $300 for three days, car gasoline and other things the gentleman planned to spend while here.

    Martin County is going to bleed more money this year so that ag stays dry.

    Like

  2. Reblogged this on Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch and commented:

    Correction to my blog formerly stating that S-structures deliver water/pump “in both directions.” I am thankful for this correction. We are all learning together as we try to make sense of things. Thank you Mark Perry.

    “Hi Jacqui,

    Thanks for you post of “Backpumping 101” but I need to offer a correction.

    Below your aerial photo of the S2 pump station you stated that “These pumps can work in both directions”. This is incorrect as the S2 and S3 pumps only go in ONE DIRECTION, from the EAA canals INTO the Lake. The gate structures next to the pumps (S-351 & S-354) can flow both ways depending on which side has higher water elevation. (See Attached Photo- Note Blue Arrows for flow). As of yesterday, 1-31-16, the Lake was at 16.16 feet and the canals were at 11.11 feet (at S-354see below) so if the gates were opened, the water would flow from the Lake into the canals that is why they are keeping them closed. You can see the pump flows in cfs for S3 (745) and S2 (856) as of yesterday.

    S3 Pumps: 11.11 16.16 745 118 615 12 (cfs)
    S354: 16.16 11.11 0 0.0 0.0
    S2 Pumps: 10.52 16.12 856 0 685 171 0 (cfs)
    S351: 16.12 10.52 0 0.0 0.0 0.0

    Hope this helps to make it clear. Backpumping in not good for the Lake or eventually the Estuaries where the water will go.

    Call me if you want to discuss this.

    Thanks for your posts.

    Mark

    Mark D. Perry
    Executive Director
    Florida Oceanographic Society
    890 NE Ocean Blvd.
    Stuart, Florida 34996
    772-225-0505 x103
    772-486-3858 (Cell)
    772-225-4725 (Fax)
    http://www.FloridaOcean.org

    Florida Oceanographic’s mission is to inspire environmental stewardship of Florida’s coastal ecosystems through education and research.

    Please consider the environment before printing this e-mail. Reduce, Reuse & Recycle”

    Like

  3. —-Sweet Pea Jones
    mizpea@tampabay.rr.com
    70.127.249.153
    We drove down to Fort Meyers yesterday from St. Petersburg. The water in the Fort Meyers harbour (going over the bridge on I-75) was a deep dark brown, ugly color. Not normal. When we arrived at the marina on the Intracoastal it was the same. I was thinking about your post last Friday about the sludge being discharged from Lake O into the Caloosahatchee. Then I thought about our Legislature recently voting to allow fracking in Floriduh. It struck me that my beloved home state has turned into a third-world country.

    Like

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