Concerns-Overfull WCAs & Lake O Discharges

Yesterday, I listened to the South Florida Water Management District’s Governing Board meeting via Zoom. The overriding issue, besides the fact the St. Lucie River system’s  C-44 Reservoir is not working, Lake O is over 16 feet and discharges could soon be imminent, was “high water in the Water Conservation Areas.”

What are WCAs anyway?

They were built as part of the giant drainage system of Florida that “over did it.”

The Water Conservation Areas were built to hold water because we had over-drained, but now sometimes they get too full…

In 1947 there was “the great flood,” that destroyed lands and properties in the seventeen counties of the Everglades Drainage District. This led to the U.S. Army Corps building the monstrosity named the Central and Southern Florida Project for Flood Control and Other Purposes (C&SFP.) The S.F.W.M.D. is the local sponsor. The two agencies work together.

United States Geological Survey explains:

“Historically, water flowed slowly southward through the Everglades in a wide swath. Record floods in 1947 and 1948 led to the construction of a massive flood control project. It served to prevent flooding and store water during dry periods. It also allowed for further development of the growing urban area on the Atlantic coastal ridge.

The project established three Water Conservation Areas (WCAs), one of which is the Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge. These areas are delineated in the Landsat images, clearly divided by the levees and canals. Also visible are the Big Cypress National Preserve, Everglades National Park, and Everglades Agricultural Area.Another part of the project is the 100-mile-long eastern perimeter levee, a 3- to 6-meter high earthen berm built to prevent flooding of farmland and urban areas. It runs along the eastern edge of the WCAs, marking a clear separation between the WCAs and urban areas such as Miami, Fort Lauderdale, and Coral Springs.

Along with facilitating the further growth of the urban areas of greater Miami, the other upshot of the project was that the natural flow of water was interrupted, changing the hydrology of the region. The gradual sheet flow of freshwater is diminished, and instead sudden pulses of water are delivered by the canals. These sudden releases caused decreases in the numbers of fish species.”

The bottom line is that when there has been significant rain, like now, the WCAs overfill and the fur bearing  animals are seriously at risk, unnaturally surrounded by rising water with no access to their habitat. Deer and other mammals have to take refuge on sacred Native American tree islands or on levees. Often, many species are desperately standing together. Friend and foe. All stressed, all scared, and all hungry.

In 1982 there was a so called “mercy-killing” of over 700 deer that were “starving” in the flooded Water Conservation Area 3.   There are concerns that this year a similar situation could arise. I recommend watching the SFMWD meeting under section 28 and all public comments and more if you have the time. This is a very serious issue and no way to treat God’s creatures. How we treat humans during Lake O discharge events is bad enough. It is time to undo the past.

16 thoughts on “Concerns-Overfull WCAs & Lake O Discharges

  1. There is only one reason the WCAs cannot be drained and the excess water flow south towards Florida Bay. The US Dept. Of Interior blockage of water flowing south under the Tamiami Trail to protect the nesting of the Cape Sable Seaside Sparrow, endangered species. This means Lake O water cannot be sent south. So the Lake is now overfilled and it will only take a moderate rain event and the damaging discharges to the St. Lucie will begin. LOSOM is a disaster for the Lake and sooner or later the St. Lucie. Until the USDOI blockage of natural flow south under the Trail is eliminated, the damaging discharges will continue.

  2. Jacqui,
    Thank you for posting this info message. The SFWMD must finally begin to address these high water concerns and issues. Your time that you served on the SFWMD Board was much appreciated by all who truly care about these on-going
    water “management ” issues.
    Keep up the good works, know you will.

    Franklin Adams

  3. You all are not doing your job. Prioritizing agriculture and the sugar industry is just plain wrong. These deer should not be suffering. No more discharges. Get your act together.

    1. The agriculture has nothing to do with the high water in the WCAs. In fact the EAA farmers need the WCAs to be lower to move water south off their fields. The high water in the WCAs occurs when the U S DEPT OF INTERIOR restricts flows south under the Tamiami Trail.

      1. Thank you so much for commenting and I agree with your comment that the US Dept of the Interior is key in sending water under the Tamiami Trail however the Everglades Agricultural Area’s legal requirement for water coming off their lands to be cleaned through the Storm Water Treatment Areas creates a traffic jam for other waters that also need to go south. That traffic jam causes those other backed up waters to get discharged into the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee Estuaries.

        1. There is no ‘traffic jam” for Lake water…..most Lake water goes into canals and directly to the WCAs…..there is no need for Lake water to go to the STAs, except the original plans to keep the STAs hydrated during a dry time…if there is any Lake water available….That rule was broken about 8 years ago and Lake water was dumped into the STAs, damaging the vegetation (and now millions of dollars are being spent to recover from that damage)…..incidentally, Lake water used to irrigate the EAA crops does go to the STAs as run off from the EAA. Lake water is very dirty…can be over 200 ppb P……the STAs are not constructed to take that, the STAs are constructed to take EAA runoff….normally about 80 ppb P. That is why running Lake water directly into the STAs will ‘blow them out”….

    2. The Everglades Agricultural Area was built by the Federal Governmentas part of the Central and Southern Flood Control Project of 1948 and then the state (SFWMD) is the local sponsor maintaining. For its function to be changed it must be brought down by that which created it – the Federal Government. The state could assist but of course it does not as the EAA is a cash cow. The whole thing is so frustrating. Thanks for commenting! I too ache for the deer and other animals.

  4. Jacqui, Thank you for all you do and sharing the meeting. As far as the letter and the actions that SWFWM is going to try to change COP, or open (or shut) doors; is there anything the Captains of Clean Water or Everglades Trust can do (or set up) or have their followers (like me) sign, respond to DOI as support to any action the Board may try?

  5. Thank you. This is info the general public (me) would never know. You are a true warrior for the public good.

    John Moffitt

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