Last Thursday on November 16, the ACOE reported they will reduce the amount of water they are releasing from Lake Okeechobee. The Corp had been releasing at a high rate, on and off, since September 20th. New targets are 2800 cfs east and 6500 cfs west.
Photos below were taken yesterday, 11-19-17 by my husband, Ed Lippisch. We will continue to document the discharges from Lake O, and area canals.
As Thanksgiving approaches, we are thankful the discharges are lessened and that the SFWMD and the public are working hard to plan the EAA Reservoir Senator Negron fought for… We the people of Martin County, will not be satisfied until these discharge stop. The river has its hands full with unfiltered discharges draining agriculture and developed lands from C-23, C-24, C-25 and C-44. All must be addressed.
“And where the river goes, every living creature that swarms will live, and there will be very many fish. For this water goes there that the waters of the sea may become fresh; so everything will live where the river goes…” Ezekiel
Today we continue our road trip in the Glades atop the Herbert Hoover Dike.
In the short video below you can see my Glades tour-guide, former mayor JP Sasser, driving, –in his hometown of which he knows so much about–Pahokee. On the right lies the city, and on the left is Lake Okeechobee. A precarious position indeed!
Pahokee is actually unusual in that this little town is “high-ground.” According to JP, about 13 feet above ground. This is not the case for most of the Glades.
Interestingly, in the video, JP discusses how the Army Corp recently decided where to strengthen the dike in Pahokee, because if they had extended it out 500 feet as was done along the rest of the eastern shore, the town of Pahokee would have been covered up as it is located right beside the dike.
Lake Okeechobee’s dike and its history are fascinating just as is all our area of the Northern Everglades including the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon that in 1923 became the primary exit point for waters that could no longer flow south after the Herbert Hoover Dike was built.
According to historian and Gladesman Lawrence E. Will:
“…following the floods of 1923 and 1924 water stood over farm lands nearly the entire winter. To protect the farms, the state of Florida had then constructed an earthen dike along the whole south shore. It was some five to eight feet above ground level but this dike was never intended to withstand a hurricane.”
Regarding the expansion of the dike, as the “Herbert Hoover,”after the horrific hurricanes of 1926, ’28 and again in again in ’49, Mr. Nathaniel Reed notes in his writing “Lake Okeechobee and the Everglades: “The Corps of Engineers studied the average size of Lake Okeechobee and designed a dike around it…”
Now this is where things get very interesting.
“The average size of the lake….” what’s that?
Now if we look at this slide taken from a 2016, presented by Jeff Sumner, who was at the time Office Chief State and Agricultural Policy, SFWMD, it shows the size of the lake pre-development. One can see it was about once about 1000 square miles in size and today it is 750.
Of course the size expanded and contracted based on rainfall, but one still gets the point…this lower area was nature’s shoreline, a boggy marsh with rivers leading into a sawgrass “river of grass” bordered by a forest of over 30,000 acres of Custard Apple trees that functioned like mangroves extending up to five miles or more south into what is today’s Belle Glade. As Mr Lawrence Will would have said: “Who wudda thought!” (http://museumoftheglades.org)
Published on Oct 16, 2015
This overlay flight shows the following maps:
– 1907 Official Map of the Everglades Patent 137 conveyed to Florida on January 2, 1905
– Map of the Everglades Patent 137 re-recorded in Plat Books of Broward County, originally recorded in Plat Book B, Page 131, Dade County Florida
– 1924-1925 USCGS Maps of the Airplane Survey of Lake Okeechobee
After taking a counterclockwise lap around the shoreline of Lake Okeechobee while viewing the 1925 surveys, we return to South Bay.
Section 2 of Township 44 South, Range 36 East, north of the town of South Bay, was originally under the waters of South Bay. On 12/31/1888 that section was conveyed by TIFF to the Pensacola and Atlantic Railroad Company. The area of the Lake is now sugarcane farms.
Lake Okeechobee used to be a much larger lake. It crested at about 21 feet to fall over an undefined edge of sawgrass and in some areas a pond apple forest.
Since the late 1800s the lake has slowly had its undefined edge pushed back and dammed. The lake perhaps holds about 30% less water than it originally could. Those overflow waters today are plumed to drain into the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon and the Caloosahatchee so that the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA) can exist. Watch this amazing historic map/Google Earth video created by my brother Todd Thurlow and see for yourself!
South Bay, for instance…Todd explains: “You can see on Google Earth where the canals and levees follow the old shoreline of South Bay, now 5.8 miles from open water, but 2 miles from the rim canal. That Section 2, which was under the bay, was conveyed to the Pensacola and Atlantic Railroad Company by TIIF deed on 12/31/1888. It looks like there is a little town there called South Bay…”
I imagine if there is a dream of the roseate spoonbill, it would be for more water to be on the land…The recent heavy rains and local flooding have been a smorgasbord and reminder of better days for our local shore bird communities.
Last week, while driving by the county jail on Willoughby Boulevard , I witnessed a variety of shore birds in the flooded grasses behind the barbed-wire fence: great egrets, white egrets, blue herons, little blue herons, wood storks, a menagerie of ducks, and four beautiful pink roseate spoonbills! I got out of my car and peered through the fence….Amazing I thought…”was this area too once wetlands?”
In Sewall’s Point, a group of as many a ten were reported foraging both along North and South Sewall’s Point Roads. What a sight! People stopping in their cars to see…taking pictures and posting on Facebook.
In the past few years, it has been reported by Martin County and Audubon that the spoonbills are nesting on Bird Island just off the Archipelago in Sewall’s Point. This was never reported before. Nancy Beaver of Sunshine Wildlife Tours documents their progress…
We humans complain when there is flooding; the shore birds love it, as this was their habitat before we drained the lands for agriculture and development. “Couldn’t there be a way to have both?”
This I think would be the dream of the roseate spoonbill…
0:34 – Roosevelt Bridge 0:39 – Note the Old 1934 two-lane drawbridge in use. The current drawbridge was built in 1964 1:05 – Palm City Bridge 1:22 – Indian Street Bridge 1:27 – Note the increase in width of the river — in some places from approx 225 feet to 460+ feet. 3:24 – Halpatiokee Park 3:24 – Note the old Gaines Highway “Humpback” Bridge (SR-76) in use in 1940. 3:42 – Okeechobee Waterway (C-44) 4:00 – St. Lucie Lock and Dam (—timetable from Todd Thurlow)
I continue to take great pleasure in featuring the “time-capsule flight” historic map and Google Earth work of my brother, Todd Thurlow.(http://thurlowpa.com)
Today’s short video focuses on our beloved South Fork area of the St Lucie River. This video visually juxtaposes 1940s U.S. Government maps to Google Earth images of today. The video begins over an undeveloped Horseshoe Point, Sewall’s Point, and St Lucie River proper and then travels in a southern direction to the wide fork of the St Lucie River and deep along its wild, winding, and African-looking curves. One sees the old Palm City and new Veteran’s Memorial bridges come and go, and notices the build up over time of sand in the fork (maybe some from dredging and some from sediment build-up from Lake Okeechobee releases.) This serpentine and beautiful section of the South Fork is southerly of Highway 76 that runs out to Lake Okeechobee alone the C-44 canal. Today’s I-95 exchange is also visible.
And the little ponds! My favorite! Just everywhere!This is most incredible to me as today they are “gone.” These hundreds, if not thousands of little ponds, once slowly increased and decreased in depth and size based on rainfall, overflowing at times, into the winding South Fork. One can still see the lush vegetation surrounding some of these areas. Can you imaging the wildlife that used to be in our area? I so would have loved to have seen it but this trip is better than nothing!
As the flight continues, “today’s” development is neatly stacked right up to the winding edge of the fork on the south side in particular…makes me think of septic tanks???
I have to say it nice that there is some land around the areas of the fork and I am sure local environmentalist have fought to keep this over the years. Nonetheless, if we had it to do over again, I think we would decide to leave a much wider birth around these important watersheds.
In the final minutes of the video we travel over the dreaded C-44 canal built in the 1920s, known in its early years as the “St Lucie Canal.” This canal of course, connects Lake Okeechobee to a section of a second prong (fork) in the winding South Fork. The canal itself is wider and apparently the “connection is just “above” today’s Four Rivers which lies beyond the I-95 bridge and exchange and All American Marina.
Zooming in and out in time and place, one can see the cleared lands around St Lucie Locks and Dam and white sand piled high from dredging on the north side of the canal….The picture fades in and out as we view the old locks structure compared to its “new and improved” version today….
I just love this stuff. It makes it all so easy to “see.”
The environmental destruction that is…I guess for others it is the sight of money and making a swamp “useful.” How ever you view it, the journey is an education.
Thank you to Todd for opening my eyes and for allowing me to travel in time and “place.”
To see more of Todd’s work on my blog, search his name on my blog’s front page, go to my blog’s “About Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch” page or just google Todd Thurlow bluewatertt3 on You Tube.
It is an amazing thing to fly through time and space, and this is exactly what I did yesterday with my brother, Todd. He took me on a “flight” over a 1958/Today St Lucie River, North Fork, and Ten Mile Creek. All the while, the images flashing in and out of past and present….Please watch this short video yourself by clicking the link or image above.
At one point along our armchair journey, I said to myself, “Wow, I don’t feel so great,” –just like sometimes when I am with Ed, my husband, in the airplane. I actually got motion sickness having plastered my face right up to the screen to see every moving detail!
A few deep breathing exercises put the feeling off, but next time I’ll take my Dramamine!
This flight, as the others you may have experienced on my blog with Todd, is amazing. It allows one to really see what the lands were originally like and how they have been developed as residential homes and endless agriculture fields.
Towards the end of the video, you can even see algae growing in the agriculture canals, off of Ten Mile Creek, St Lucie County–“bright green,” for all to see on Google Earth. I have witnessed these green canals too from an airplane.
Due to drainage canals— leading to drainage canals—leading to drainage canals, this water from the ag fields, and from all of our yards, ends up in the now sickly St Lucie River. This problem is exacerbated by ACOE/SFWMD releases from Lake Okeechobee and the basin area of C-44 in Southern Martin County. These canals and the expanded engineered runoff from the lands is what is killing our river.
It is my hope that with visuals like the video above, future generations will find a way, and want to be a part of a new water and land management generation “seeing” how to improve St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon. Our generation seems stuck in a quagmire….
Like they say: “seeing is believing,” and seeing provides insight for change.
*Thank you to my brother Todd, for this incredible journey using overlays of aerial photographs taken in 1958 by the United States Government, and marrying these aerials over images from today’s Google Earth. (http://thurlowpa.com)