Tag Archives: 2020 Kissimmee River Restoration

Learning About What Killed Lake Okeechobee and is still killing it

Today I am including notes from: Draft, A Summary of Progress of the Special Project to Prevent the Eutrophication of Lake Okeechobee, 1975, inspired by my last post. This draft report eventually led to de-chanalizing a substantial portion of the Kissimmee River, the halting of backpumping by the Everglades Agricultural Area, the beginning of Best Management Practices for Agriculture, and conservation for drinking water.

It must be noted that it was the Central and Southern Florida Plan of 1948, after the great flood of 1947, implemented by the Army Corps of Engineers that channelized the Kissimmee River and created the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA). It took me years to understand this.  The EAA and its flood protections were created by our federal government. Then acting in lockstep our state government morphed the Everglades Drainage District into the Central and Southern Flood Control District to manage the Central and Southern Florida Flood Control District-which included the Everglades Agricultural Area. In 1975, around the time of the Draft publication, the Central and Southern Florida Flood Control District was been renamed the South Florida Water Management District. The intensions of the Draft were good, but conflicts of interests continue today with management of the EAA, on both the state and federal level.

Think about it.

So once it was decided the Everglades Agricultural Area could no longer back pump into Lake Okeechobee due to the lake’s eutrophication, the EAA’s government sponsored pollution led to the law suit that now requites all Everglades Agricultural Area “runoff” to go through the Storm Water Treatment Areas to be filtered before it gets to the Conservation Areas thus Everglades National Park. “Lake Okeechobee water” on the other hand sits cooking toxic algae in the still sick lake, before it is sent polluted, unfiltered  to the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries and residents of those estuaries have no legal standing.


The Everglades Agricultural Area south of Lake Okeechobee was created and is protected as part of the ACOE and SFWMD’s C&SFP, c. 1948-61.

Begin quotes from text, 1975:

Water back pumped from the Everglades Agricultural Area contributes significantly to the cultural eutrophication of Lake Okeechobee. (pg. 23)

The major causative factors of the present cultural eutrophication of Lake Okeechobee are:

  1. Canalization of the tributary rivers of streams (especially the Kissimmee River).
  2. Backpumping of highly enriched waters from the Agricultural Area, south of th lake , into the lake during the wet season.
  3. Upland drainage practices in the lake’s watershed.
  4. Inadequate nutrient conservation, livestock management, and other agricultural practices in the watershed.
  5. Management and regulation of the lake and its tributaries which diminish their ability to absorb nutrients. (pg. 5)

In view of the fact that the cessation of back pumping would result in a reduction of the lakes present water budget by some 12-14 percent and that water conserving is one of the over-riding management objectives for the South Florida region the committee recommend further that “runoff water from the Everglades Agricultural Area be stored in or near the EAA for subsequent re-use as irrigation water.” This will alleviate the present need to use an average of 350,000 acre feet of water for the lake for irrigation in the EAA and balance the loss of the present 330,000 acre feet contributed to the lake by back pumping. (pg. 10)

Legal and Administrative Aspects of Management have been created and charged with managing various aspect of the region. The present management structure evolved in piecemeal response to growing management problems. Agency responsibilities often overlapped and conflicted and there is no balanced, integrated, or well directed management program for the region. (pg. 11)

Since 1948, the major resource management agency in South Florida has been the Central and Southern Florida Flood Control District which was created to manage the Central and Southern Florida Flood Control Project constructed by the U.S. Army  Corps of Engineers. (which includes the EAA.) 


Aerial Photo Explanation ~Kissimmee River Restoration

Aerial, Kissimmee River restoration, Gary Goforth, 2-9-20

My most recent blog post included the above photograph of Kissimmee River Restoration north of Lake Okeechobee taken by Dr Gary Goforth. My mother, Sandy Thurlow, commented: “ I would so like for Dr. Goforth to explain what we are seeing in his aerial of the restoration of the Kissimmee River.”

I wrote Gary on behalf of my mother and he provided such comprehensive and helpful insight that today I am sharing not just for my mother, but for everyone! Please read below.


~Dear Gary, 

When time allows my mother was hoping to get an explanation of the wonderful Kissimmee River restoration photo you shared in my blog post. Could you please write something? Thank you so much. 


~From Gary

Hi Jacqui,


The Kissimmee River Restoration (KRR) Project is one of my favorite projects on the planet!  In the 1960s, the historic 105-mile meandering Kissimmee River was transformed into a 56-mile ditch by the Corps of Engineers at the request of the State of Florida to help relieve flooding upstream.  Public activism convinced Gov. Bob Graham to support restoration of the River in the 1980s, and as a US Senator he was instrumental in having Congress authorize the Corps to proceed with restoration.  The SFWMD was way out ahead of the Corps (again) and had completed several phases of engineering design and prototype testing.  The initial backfilling of the C-38 Canal was begun in 1999, and when completed later this year, the project will re-establish flow in 40 miles of the old river and rehydrate about 12,400 acres of former wetlands that were over-drained by the canal.


There are many reasons I love the picture taken Sunday as Ed was flying Mark and I north of the Lake:

·        In the foreground of the photo you see a section of the meandering restored Kissimmee River!  The construction work in this section of the river consisted of backfilling the 300-ft wide and 30-ft deep canal.  It also included “re-carving” some sections of river channel that were destroyed during C-38 canal construction.  This work has routed water to the native channel and floodplain of the Kissimmee River, and reestablished hydrologic continuity between the river and floodplain for the first time since the C-38 canal was completed in 1971!  How amazing!


·        The photo also shows smaller secondary river channels and a colorful mosaic of wetlands on their way to restoration!  What has been amazing is that despite almost 50 years of over-drainage, there are tens of thousands (maybe millions) of resilient seeds of the former marsh vegetation in the soil that have regenerated upon reflooding!  This is truly amazing!


·        The photo shows the restoration area known as Phase II, located roughly in the middle of the KRR project.  This phase is almost complete, with the remaining canal backfilling to be completed later this year.  By the way, the balance of the restoration project should also be completed this year!!!


·        The left hand side of the photo, where the road crosses the floodplain, shows the location of what was the water control structure and navigation locks known as S-65C.  As part of the restoration project, structure S-65C was demolished in 2017.  For spatial reference, the old structure was located about 5 miles upriver from the Hwy 98 bridge and about 23 miles upstream of where the C-38 canal empties into the Lake.  About 30 miles to the north (left in the photo) is where the C-38 Canal exits Lake Kissimmee.


·        A Google Earth image taken in 2017 is attached below.  This image shows the S-65C structure prior to demolition.


·        In the photo taken on Sunday you can see the footprint of the backfilled C-38 canal in the center of the photo – on either side of the rectangular open water. You’ll need to zoom in to make out this detail since the inundated floodplain has almost covered up the former canal footprint!

A map of the project and a summary table are attached. Additional details are found in Chapter 9 of the SFWMD South Florida Annual Report. https://www.sfwmd.gov/science-data/scientific-publications-sfer

Hope this helps!

Gary Goforth http://garygoforth.net


~To say the least my mom was thrilled. Hope you are too! So interesting! So inspiring! Thank you Dr Goforth!