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.
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.
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.
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!
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 D. Perry
Florida Oceanographic Society
890 NE Ocean Blvd.
Stuart, Florida 34996
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