Why Aren’t the Historic Canals Draining too? Miami/New River …SLR/IRL

Map of Canals 1924 Florida Archives.
Map of earliest canals built in 1911. The SL Canal was built in 1915-1923  and was then widened and deepened in the 1940s. Florida Archives.
Close up
Close up of SFWMD map today showing S-structures south of LO. See rim of lake.
South Florida and WCAs
South Florida has many “S” structures and S-333 is one of a few furthest south, south of WCA 3, allowing water to enter the Everglades and other areas.

Today’s blog will feature a common sense question. The question is basically why isn’t the dumping into the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon being alleviated by the large canals south of Lake Okeechobee, specifically the Miami and New River? Those two rivers were used before for drainage before our St Lucie canal  was even constructed. The Miami River naturally had rapids before they were blown up with dynamite…Mother Nature had her way of dealing with the some of the spillover waters of Lake Okeechobee. Why aren’t we following that model?

I think a recent exchange between my brother Todd and Dr Gary Goforth gives insight into this question.  I learned from it and the conversation is not yet over, thus I am posting it today.

By the way, just in case you don’t know, “S” means “structure” for water releases…. There are hundreds of structures that allow water to drain Lake Okeechobee and thus South Florida. The SFWMD deals with the structures south of the lake and the ACOE deals with the larger structures that go east west to the our northern estuaries.

Here we go:

TODD: http://www.thurlowpa.com/news.htm
“Right now…  I am looking at the status map asking: “Why are the WCAs rising while very little water, if any, seems to go out to the New River (S-34) and the Miami River (S-31), which are historical tributaries of the Everglades (they even had rapids!) ?— all while we are getting dumped on because the Water Conservation Areas (WCAs) are over schedule?”

Recently, S-34 flowing into the New River was at 0 cfs. Now I see that it is at 233 cfs. A drop in the bucket compared to the 7523 cfs that has been hitting the St. Lucie for days.

That S-333 doesn’t seem to flow to the Park but instead to the Miami River also. (Someone correct me if I am wrong.) It was at 0 cfs on the 4th and is now at 1200 cfs. Even if that water isn’t going to the Park, at least it is going south and not east/west – but why the wait? The system is more complex than we will ever understand but the more we understand the better. Thank you, Gary, Mark Perry and others for keeping everyone informed.


DR GOFORTH:http://garygoforth.net
Todd – you’re absolutely correct – the New River and Miami Canal were historical tributaries of the Everglades.

“Why are the WCAs rising while very little water, if any, seems to go out to the New River (S-34) and the Miami River (S-31)?”

The short answer is that flood protection for the suburbs of Ft. Lauderdale and Miami takes precedence over conveyance of floodwaters from the water conservation areas. The intervening canals are operated to provide flood protection to the urban areas between S-31/S-34 and the tidal structures (S-26/ – similar to S-80 in the C-44). When heavy rains occur in the suburbs, the canal capacity is primarily devoted to moving the stormwater out of the basin. After the storm events and water levels in the canals subside, S-31 and S-34 can be opened to move so-called “regulatory releases” out of the water conservation areas. This is similar (although not exact) to how S-308/S-80 and the C-44 Canal is operated – flood protection of the local basin takes precedence over Lake releases.

“why the wait?”

Opening S-333 allows water from WCA-3 to move into the Tamiami Canal (aka L-29 Canal); the one-mile bridge along Tamimi Trail allows water from the Tamiami Canal to enter Northeast Shark River Slough (see the map). S-333 couldn’t open without special authorization from the Corps to allow the water level in L-29 Canal to rise, which Gov. Scott requested in his letter last week, and the corps granted this week.

Gary Goforth
Gary Goforth S-333.


Interesting  to think about…maybe there is more to explore here….


Miami River history/rapids: http://www.miamirivercommission.org/river3.htm

Undated SFWMD S-333 regulation schedule info:http://www.sfwmd.gov/portal/page/portal/xrepository/sfwmd_repository_pdf/wca_schedules_082604.pdf

Contact the SFWMD should you wish to get a Facility and Infrastructure Location Index Map: (561) 682-6262. The person at this number should be able to direct you.



10 thoughts on “Why Aren’t the Historic Canals Draining too? Miami/New River …SLR/IRL

  1. Wow! This is an amazing cache of information that I am sure needs to get out into the local community. Thanks, Jackie. I certainly hope it isn’t too late to get some action on this very serious problem with lake releases.

  2. Jacqui – I commend you again for the educational nature of the information that you continue to furnish via this blog concerning the extremely complex nature of the water management being “controlled” in attempting to satisfy the competing interests of people & flood protection for our use, both for residences and for agricultural use, and the resultant concentration of “pollutants” resulting from those uses vs historic “nature” of water flow through Central and South East Florida. It IS a very complex issue, and you have a great knack for presenting it.

  3. If you really waunted to stop the C-44 discharge all it would take is 2 dumptrucks of fine calcium sand, This would immediately turn to liquid and roll across the bottom from lake O all the way to the spillway, In a few months there would be so much vegetation the ducks could walk across it, This would make a 20 mile long ‘plug’

  4. I operate the busiest charter boat in S E Florida based out of Jupiter inlet In the last three years discharges have killed every oyster and barnacle in the Loxahatchee estuary there are no plants growing on the bottom. Although I have a BS in Marine Science you don’t need one to understand bad things are happening
    Capn Bill
    F/V. Black Dog

  5. Capn Bill—my comments on this blog go way back, I think if you read them you will know what to do.

  6. Thank you so much Jacqui for keeping us educated on so much. I keep writing letters to Congressman Murphy and Sen Nelson asking them to stop the flow of water into Indian River Lagoon, to do whatever they can and to really push. All of my neighbors are disgusted by the water and no one wants to fish anymore and people keep whispering about flesh-eating bacteria being in THAT GROSS water!

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