Category Archives: canals

Understanding Lake O’s Historic Flow; What were Transverse Glades?

 

South Florida’s southern Everglades, 1850 vs. 2003 similar to 2019. Image courtesy of SFWMD, based on the book Landscapes and Hydrology of the Predrainage Everglades, McVoy, Said, Obeysekera, VanArman, Dreschel, 2011.

Today I share a familiar set of images. Although we have seen many times, they remain mind-blowing. Don’t they?

~Yellow lines outlining Florida’s original Everglades’ River of Grass contrasted to today’s highly human impacted, managed system.

What one may not notice, are the “Transverse Glades” labeled on the lower right area of the Pre-Drainage image? There are two types: “Peat Transverse Glades” and “Marl Transverse Glades.”

So what are they? Or better said, what were they? And what do they mean?

“A Transverse Glade is a surface-shallow groundwater drainage pathway moving water out of the main Everglades Basin and controls the Everglades water table.” (Ogurcak, https://conference.ifas.ufl.edu/GEER2008/Presentation_PDFs/Additions/THURSDAY/Meeder-Thursday-Transverse%20Glades%20Karst.pdf)

These transverse glades would have been moist in the dry season and could be totally inundated during the wet season as they allowed the waters of the Everglades Basin to slowly seep/flow out.

Following Nature’s hand, the first canals built to Lake Okeechobee from the coast were started or ended in these areas. The early settlers used the canals not just for drainage, but also for transportation to and from the Lake and surrounding areas.

The first canals constructed were the North New River Canal  (1906-1912) connecting to today’s  Ft Lauderdale in the area where the peat transverse glades were located; and the Maimi Canal (1910-1913), in the area where the marl transverse glades were located. Both the New River and Maimi River were neighbors of the transverse glades. Makes sense doesn’t it?

Early Post-drainage 1910, Harshberger image, 1913.

Today?

One would never even guess the transverse glades ever existed thinking all the water flowed out of Shark River Slough and Taylor Slough. Not the case when we look back far enough; we can see Mother Nature’s design. Interesting isn’t it?

Facility & Infrastructure Map, SFWMD 2019
Plate 5, Landscapes of the pre-drainage Everglades and bordering areas, ca. 1850. Courtesy: Landscapes and Hydrology of the Predrainage Everglades, McVoy, Said, Obeysekera, VanArman, Dreschel, 2011.
Figure 11.12 Landscapes of the pre-drainage Everglades and bordering areas, ca. 1850. Courtesy: Landscapes and Hydrology of the Predrainage Everglades, McVoy, Said, Obeysekera, VanArman, Dreschel, 2011.

Google Earth 2019

See for explanation of peat and marl soils: https://www.nps.gov/ever/learn/nature/evergeology.htm

See Chapter 10, peat and marl transverse glades: https://www.academia.edu/13200912/Landscapes_and_Hydrology_of_the_Predrainage_Everglades-Overview

What if the EAA had Become “The Promised Land, “Okeechobee Fruit Lands Company… SLR/IRL

“Eager salesman from the Florida Fruit Lands Company crossed the country, promoting the Everglades as a “Garden of Eden”, a “Tropical Paradise,” “The Promised Land”. These “swamp boomers” enticed potential buyers with sales literature quoting government officials who extolled the possibilities of the Everglades…” 

Okeechobee Fruit Lands Co., early 1900’s map, ~Museum of the Glades.

For years, Ed and I have flown over the Bolles Canal, just south of Lake Okeechobee in the Everglades Agricultural Area, and for years, I wondered who the east/west canal in the EAA was named for…

Just goes to show, even if you become famous, or even “infamous,” over time, chances are, even people who should know your name may not have a clue…

Like Hamilton Disston, Richard “Dicky” J. Bolles was a millionaire of the late 1800s and early 1900s set up to help Florida get out of debt and grow an empire out of this “swamp.”

We get the picture here:

“Bolles founded the first of his Florida enterprises, the Florida Fruit Lands Company, to dispose of 180,000 acres in Dade and Palm Beach Counties. The company divided the lands into 12,000 farms of varying size and designated a townsite, ‘Progreso’, with plans for streets, factories, schools, churches, and public buildings. For the price of $240, a buyer could purchase a contract from Florida Fruit Lands Company, entitling them to bid on a farm and town lot through a scheduled auction. This same scheme was employed by other sales ventures pitching swamp land in Florida, including Okeechobee Fruit Lands Company, which dealt in Bolles’ remaining 428,000 acres around the shores of Lake Okeechobee….

Eventually, Federal prosecutors initiated a case against Bolles and his cohorts, producing a 122-page indictment and more than 100 witnesses from across the country. Bolles was arrested on December 18, 1913 and tried the following March — he was found to be “an honest man”… ~Library of Congress, http://everglades.fiu.edu/reclaim/bios/bolles.htm

Florida Fruit Lands Co. Map ca. 1907, Museum of the Glades.

 

Okeechobee Fruit Lands plat map once again.

It’s fascinating to look at the Okeechobee Fruit lands map and imagine what would have happened, what could have happened, if Dicky J. Bolles had been successful in his underwater private swampland “scheme.” Look at his plan for this multicolored plat map!

Instead over time, the Great Depression set in, and the Federal Government, ACOE, came in just over a couple of decades later to help save us from Mother Nature and from ourselves, creating unified protections of the EAA under the 1848 Central and Southern Florida Plan, House Document 643.

And we all know the rest of the story…

What coulda, woulda, been?

HOUSE DOCUMENT 643 – 80TH CONGRESS (00570762xBA9D6)

Image up close, Museum of the Glades~although I see no date was obviously created prior to the 1914-1923, the dates of the  first digging of the St Lucie Canal which has been worst part of  the  St Lucie’s River’s complete and total destruction. This canal has been deepened and widened many times, reinforced by the CSFP of 1948. Interesting to note penciled in blue line to Jupiter, perhaps this was a possible canal never built.

Links to story of Richard “Dicky” J. Bolles, Reclaiming the Everglades, 1884-1934, U.S. Library of Congress: http://everglades.fiu.edu/reclaim/bios/bolles.htm

Special Edition Everglades Presentation by Fritz David 2004:
http://people.sc.fsu.edu/~pbeerli/BSC3052/restricted/slides/04-11-everglades.pdf

ACOE Central and Southern Florida Project:http://www.saj.usace.army.mil/CFS-CSFC/

Hamilton Disston, UF:http://www.uflib.ufl.edu/spec/ingraham/expedition/DisstonDrainage.htm

Historic Photos of Mosquito Control Along the Indian River Lagoon

Mosquito Ditch Digging, c.1920

The photograph above is one of those rare images that tells you everything even without a caption. This photo, shared by my mother, historian, Sandra Henderson Thurlow, (http://www.sandrathurlow.com) was given to her by Mrs. Elizabeth Early, a pioneer of Stuart, “Stuart on the St Lucie.” The photo is entitled “Mosquito Ditch Digging,” and the subjects are unidentified. My mother believes the photo was taken in our region around 1920.

Mosquito truck, Florida Memory.

Mosquitos…such an integral part of Florida ~as is our war against them. Some have even gone as far to call the mosquito our “state bird.” As a kid, growing up in Sewall’s Point, in the 1970s, I remember having to run in place at the bus stop so as not to be attacked. Forever it seemed, I had white scars covering my tan scrawny legs. Another classic mosquito tale is gleefully riding my bike, along with my friends, behind the fog of the mosquito trucks. When we heard the trucks coming  we ran from our houses, meeting in the street, quickly negotiating who got to be first behind the blower.

In any case, the mosquito ditches, the mosquito control districts, and the small green and white metal markers along Indian River Drive reading “MC” for Mosquito Control are not something we think too much about anymore, but for the old timers, mosquitos, and our war against  them, and thus against Nature, defines this place.

My mother’s photos from her “Mosquito Control” file tell part of our local Martin County tale below. The lands are almost unrecognizable. In 1948 when the “Bridges to the Sea” were constructed over the Indian River Lagoon onto Hutchinson Island’s beaches – everything changed. The wetlands, the scrublands, and the old bean farms from early pioneers were ditched and diked, laced through and through like a pearl necklace. The government and owners organized with the goal to control those pesky mosquitos so the land would be fit for fill and for sale.

Over time, the mosquitoes lessened, and more and more people came to replace them.

According to my mother,  some of the very early mosquito control worked by allowing fish  into ditches to eat the larva; this not-so-intense mode was later replaced by other more stringent methods, including chemical means using DDT. As so often is the case in Florida, we are “successful,” successful at the expense of the environment.

Today we drive over the the Indian River Lagoon and forget the wars we’ve waged to live here, and instead, we wage a war to put our environment back into place.

Like little pearls, dragline scoops of white sand are deposited along the sides of freshly dug mosquito ditches, the idea being for the fish to come in from the lagoon and eat the mosquito larva. In this photo the Stuart Causeway is being constructed form Sewall’s Point to Hutchinson Island. This area is where the Marriott’s Indian River Plantation and Marina are located today. (Thurlow collection, photo by Arthur Ruhnke, Ca 1948.)
10-16-57 photo Aurthur Ruhnke, Thurlow Collection.  Athough one cannot see the piles of sand as well, they are there. This broad aerial shows all what is today’s Marriott, Indian River PlantationMarriott along Ocean Boulevard, Stuart Beach, The Elliott Museum, Florida Oceanographic and Publix.
Mosquito ditches Hutchinson Island, 1952, (Thurlow Collection, Aurthur Ruhnke) In the 1980s this area was developed by Mobile Corporation as Sailfish Point. Note natural ponds. After the mosquito ditches dug were, over the years, red mangroves already growing along the shoreline would move into the interior of the land via the dug canals. Note visible lush seagrass beds inside of Indian River Lagoon, this area was the epicenter of our SLR/IRL being the most diverse estuary in North America. This information is rooted in a conversation my mother had with, Grant Gilmore, an expert in area fisheries and in the IRL itself.
Mangroves -1956, Hutchinson Island, Thurlow Collection, Aurthur Ruhnke. Note straight lined mosquito ditches. Today this area is in Jensen Beach just north of Jensen Beach Blvd., were a large swath of mangroves has died that inspired my mother to share these photos today.

Links:

“Large Swath of Dead Mangroves, but Why?” Blog that inspired toda’s post: https://jacquithurlowlippisch.com/2018/09/11/large-swath-of-dead-mangroves-but-why-slr-irl/

“Human Eradication of Mosquitoes, San Francisco, and the Destruction of the Indian River Lagoon: ” https://jacquithurlowlippisch.com/tag/mosquito-stuart-history/

UF/IFAS: http://mosquito.ifas.ufl.edu/Florida_Mosquito_Control.htm

Smithsonian: http://www.sms.si.edu/IRLSpec/Impoundments.htm

Martin County: Mosquito Conrol:https://www.martin.fl.us/MosquitoControl

Dept of Ag. & Consumer Services: https://www.freshfromflorida.com/Consumer-Resources/Health-and-Safety/Mosquito-Control-Directory

Irma’s Waters Ravage the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon, SLR/IRL

Hurricane  Irma may be gone, but her waters are not. Our now black river and the giant plume off the St Lucie Inlet attest to this. Clean rain that fell in our region during the hurricane is now filthy “stormwater” discharging, unfiltered, through manmade canals C-23, C-24, C-25, and C-44.  Nature did not design the river to directly take this much water; this much water kills.

Every plume looks different, and this one is multilayered with no clear border. Sediment soup, black-brown in color, yesterday it extended out about 2/3 of a mile into a stirred up Atlantic and flowed south, in the rough waves not quite having made it to Peck’s Lake.

Since Hurricane Irma’s rains, area canals dug with no environmental foresight in the 1920s and 50s for flood control, and to facilitate agriculture and development, have been flowing straight into the river. On top of this, in anticipation of the hurricane, three days prior to IRMA the Army Corp of Engineers began discharging from Lake Okeechobee. During the hurricane they halted, and then started up again at high discharge levels reaching over (4000 cfs +/-) this past Friday, September 15th. As Lake Okeechobee rises and inflow water pours in from the north, and is blocked by the Everglades Agricultural Area in the south, we can expect more Lake O discharge on top of the canal releases themselves.

As advocates for the St Lucie River we continue the fight to expedite the building of the EAA reservoir and to create a culture to “send more water south.” In the meantime, we, and the fish and wildlife, and the once “most bio diverse estuary in North America,” suffer…

Links to lake O level and canal flows are below.

Lake Okeechobee level, 9-18-17: 15.50, http://w3.saj.usace.army.mil/h2o/currentLL.shtml

S-308 Lake O:http://w3.saj.usace.army.mil/h2o/plots/s308d.pdf

S-80 C-44 Canal:http://w3.saj.usace.army.mil/h2o/plots/s80d.pdf

C-23/S-97; C-24/S-49, & C-25/S-50: (click on highlighted S # arrow corresponding to canal to see discharge into river; for instance, C-23 is released through “S,” structure 97, so click on S-97 to see flows for C-23 canal) http://my.sfwmd.gov/portal/pls/portal/realtime.pkg_rr.proc_rr?p_op=FORT_PIERCE

My brother Todd, has complied many other links on his website’s favorites under St Lucie River and ACOE/SFWMD: http://www.thurlowpa.com/news.htm

Post Irma flight over St Lucie River/IRL 9-17-17

SFWMD canal and basin map. C-44 canal is the canal most southerly in the image. All canals shown here discharge into the SLR/IRL.
The confluence of the St Lucie River and Indian River Lagoon at Sewall’s Point, an area once full of seagrasses and fisheries and formerly considered the heart of “the most bio diverse estuary in North America.”
Waves in plume breaking over offshore reefs; looking north to Hurchinson Island.
Southern edge of plume along Jupiter Island and Jupiter Narrows south of St Lucie Inlet.

Looking south off St Lucie Inlet.
South edge of plume looking south towards Jupiter Island.

JTL 9-18-17

Goforth Graph Showing C-44 Basin Runoff into Lake Okeechobee, 2017, SLR/IRL

In recent years we along the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon have been screaming because the ACOE and SFWMD have been discharging water from Lake Okeechobee and the C-44 basin into our waterways causing destructive toxic algae blooms and other issues to our area …

This year some are screaming because C-44 basin runoff water in southern Martin County is being pumped back into Lake Okeechobee. Yes, C-44 is “running backwards.” It’s a crazy world here in South Florida even through the water managers are working hard at “getting the water right…”

So two odd things are going on right now. First, water is being sent into Lake O from the C-44 canal as we were in a long-time drought, and also, now, water is being back-pumped into the lake from the south to help alleviate flooding in the Water Conservation Areas— as it has rained so much recently “down there.” This whole situation is exacerbated because the EAA,  in the middle, “is kept dry to protect the property of the agricultural industry and safety of communities south of the dike.”

SLR basins. C-44 and surrounding man-made basin is in pink. This is the area that is being back pumped into Lake O as the lake has been low due to drought. But area rains in southern Water Conservation Areas are so full water “cannot be sent south…” South Florida Conundrum…SFMWD, 2017.
The graph and short write-up below are from friend and engineer Dr Gary Goforth. The graph “shows” the C-44 basin runoff (see image above) being sent to Lake Okeechobee in 2017 compared to other years since 1980 (other than ’81) “is at 100%.”

I have also included some articles and images on the other “back into Lake O” subject. Back-pumping was made illegal in the 1990s, but is allowed under certain circumstances such as endangering communities and agriculture in the EAA, and danger to wildlife in the conservation areas due to flooding…All of this is “back-pumping” not good for the health of the lake. In all cases, it is helping one thing while hurting another…

One day we will have to truly get the water right. Images below may help explain things.

ISSUE OF BACK-PUMPING:

This satellite photo shows water on lands in 2005. One can see the lands in the EAA are devoid of water. This water has been pumped off the lands into the Water Conservation Areas, sometimes back pumped into the lake, and also stored in other canals. *This slide is similar to what is going on today in June of 2017. Wildlife is drowning in the Water Conservation Areas (south of EAA) while the Everglades Agricultural Area is pumped dry to protect agriculture. (just south Lake O) Crazy. (Captiva Conservation 2005.)
ISSUE OF C-44 CANAL BASIN WATER BEING SENT INTO LAKE O RAHTER THAN TO SLR:

” For the period 1980-2016, about 32% of the C-44 Basin runoff was sent to the Lake, while 68% was sent to the St. Lucie River and Estuary. Historically (i.e., before 1923) virtually none of the C-44 Basin runoff went to the St. Lucie River and Estuary: some went to the Lake, some went to the Loxahatchee River and some went north to the St. John’s River. So far in 2017, virtually all of the basin runoff has been sent to the Lake.”

Gary Goforth (http://www.garygoforth.net)

6-28-17 JTL

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ARTICLES ON C-44 INTO LAKE O & BACK-PUMPING INTO LAKE:

Why is C-44 flowing backwards, JTL: https://jacquithurlowlippisch.com/2017/06/13/why-are-c-44-and-s-2-flowing-backwards-into-lake-okeechobee/WPTV Back Pumping Concerns: http://amp.wptv.com/2248571360/lake-okeechobee-back-pumping-concers.html

TCPalm:  Back-pumping into L.O. http://www.tcpalm.com/story/news/local/indian-river-lagoon/health/2017/06/27/south-florida-water-management-district-backpumping-into-lake-o/431280001/

CBS12: http://cbs12.com/news/local/water-managers-begin-back-pumping-to-address-high-water-emergency

Map south of Lake O. showing EAA, STAs, and WCAs. (Map Everglades Foundation, public)

WPTV’s “Changing Seas” Features St Lucie River’s Toxic Algae Saga, SLR/IRL

The day before yesterday, I received an email from my mother. It read:

“I was watching TV and it looked like “our” toxic algae is going to be in the Changing Seas program tomorrow night on PBS at 9.”

She was right! So glad she let me know as I may have missed it. If you did, you can view on link below.

CHANGING SEAS
Toxic Algae: Complex Sources and Solutions:

http://video.wpbt2.org/video/3002101897/

There is incredible footage of the 2016 toxic algae event caused primarily by forced discharges by the ACOE and SFWMD from Lake Okeechobee into the estuaries, St Lucie and Caloosahatchee. South Florida locals such as Mary Radabaugh, Dr Edie Widder, Dr Brian LaPointe, Mark Perry, Phil Norman, Dr Larry Brand, Dr Steve Davis, and Col. Jennifer Reynolds are prominently featured. Edie Widder’s political commentary at the end is priceless.

CHANGING SEAS
Toxic Algae: Complex Sources and Solutions.
Aired: 06/21/2017

Water releases from Lake Okeechobee periodically create putrid mats of blue-green algae. Scientists think water pollution is to blame, and if something isn’t done about it there could be irreparable damage to the environment, the local economy and people’s health.

You can Like Changing Seas on Facebook and attend their DIVE IN Summer series on this topic June 28th, 2017. See link:

https://www.facebook.com/changingseas/?hc_ref=PAGES_TIMELINE


Please use link, not arrow to access video again: http://video.wpbt2.org/video/3002101897/

Thank you Changing Seas for covering this important topic!

6-22-17

JTL

“Go West Young Man! Go West?” St Luice River/Indian River Lagoon

Poppleton Creek and St Lucie River, April 17, 1952, courtesy archives Sandra Henderson Thurlow.

This remarkable 1952 historic aerial photograph shows Poppleton Creek and what were once pioneer Hubert Bessey’s lands near Downtown Stuart. Within the bucolic photograph early stages of C-23’s white sands, as seen piled on the land in the upper right hand corner of the photograph, foreshadow the river’s future. This canal divides Martin and St Lucie County and is considered the “most polluting,” excluding C-44 when open for Lake Okeechobee.

Looking across the beautiful St Lucie River we see in the distance the virgin pinelands and wetlands of parts of today’s Palm City. Interestingly,  if one continues west one will stumble upon the proposed lands to be developed by the Kiplinger Family, Pineland Prairie.

Go west young man, go west?

Time shall tell…

If we do, we may have more regard for the land than we did in 1952 and bring relief to the river that brought development and love of our area here in the first place.

You can use Poppleton Creek on the right as a reference point, Google Earth 2017
Google Earth image 2017.

 

C-23 Canal: http://www.dep.state.fl.us/southeast/ecosum/ecosums/c23.pdf

Palm City History by Alice Luckhardt: http://archive.tcpalm.com/news/palm-city-celebrates-100-years-with-look-back-at-history-events-at-floridian-photo-gallery-ep-382954-343392342.html

Kiplinger’s Pineland Prairie website: https://pinelandprairie.com

Palm City Chamber: http://www.palmcitychamber.com/history-of-palm-city.html

“Go West/Manifest Destiny: “https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Go_West,_young_man

6-21-17 JTL

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6-22-17

I am adding additional photos to this blog post for reference to questions posed. The Fairchild photos below are dated 1925 and in them you can see the white sands of the C-44 piled on the land connecting to the South Fork of the St Lucie River. The C-44 canal was built between 1915 and is documented to have opened in 1923. Dates vary by a few years depending on sources and it too was enlarged/deepened in the 40s and thereafter.


“What is that huge white stripe on the horizon??” I said. It’s looks like a giant 20-mile-long spaceship runway.

Well, it’s the spoil from the freshly-dug Okeechobee waterway. See it in the attached comparison from Google Earth.” Todd Thurlow

 

1925 Fairchild aerial, note white sands from C-44 canal in upper right area of photo. (Courtesy Thurlow Archives)
Another perspective showing white sands more clearly of C-44 canal linking with South Fork of St Lucie River.
My brother Todd’s Google Earth comparison showing C-44 and South Fork today. (Google/Todd Thurlow)