Tag Archives: Barley Barber Swamp

The FPL Reservoir’s Catastrophic Dike Failure, 1979, Part 2 of 2, SLR/IRL

 

Todd Thurlow, http://www.thurlowpa.com

      “The FPL Reservoir’s Catastrophic Dike Failure”

                       Barley Barber Swamp, the FPL Reservoir and its 1979 Catastrophic Failure             (Part 2 of 2), Todd Thurlow, SLR/IRL

An empty reservoir after the breach of its dike, USDA 1980. Courtney Todd Thurlow

Video link “The FPL Reservoir’s Catastrophic Dike Failure” (https://youtu.be/2r1hgFqgIK8)

 

IMG_7013 FPL
FPL revoir, Google Earth

On Halloween eve, October 30th 1979, the southwest side of the dike embankment at Florida Power & Light Company’s Martin Plant suddenly, and without warning failed catastrophically.

It was the dead of night and certainly the creatures of the nearby Barley Barber Swamp sensed more than their human masters. No person saw the incident. There were no cameras, no guards, no witnesses. It was the 1970s.

We can imagine, though, even though the final report said “not,” that for months sands had been slipping, eroding underground, perhaps led by connection to the old borrow pits dug for the railroad that came through in the 1920s.

My brother Todd’s latest spectacular time capsule flight takes us through this fateful night that by the time Halloween arrived, derailed a southbound train. The conductor reported the incident to his superiors as a “flash flood.” It was eventually realized that this flash flood was part of something much larger in scope!

Even if you know the story, the numbers are staggering…

As Todd notes, when the dike let loose, 100,000 cfs of water (cubic feet per second) blew into L-65, the canal on the edge of the FPL reservoir, and into the C-44 canal connected to the reservoir at S-53. The biggest numbers we hear these days in cfs is about 5000.

Facing west, a wave surged over the sugarcane fields and overtop US 441, traveling north seven miles in the rim canal. S-308 at Port Mayaca flowed backwards, and 4000 cfs entered Lake Okeechobee.

The finally alerted ACOE maxed S-80 at St Lucie Locks and Dam at 15,800 cfs, (over twice  the highest amount of the Lost Summer of 2013 at 5700+/-). Crazy! Todd says the max for S-80 into the St Lucie River is 16,900 cfs. Not too far off were they.

Of course, these peaks would have only been for a few hours, but nonetheless, as is often the case, these kind of numbers mean “instant death for the St Lucie.”

This FPL event traveled much further north than the C-44 canal though; the last paragraph of the SFWMD 1980 report’s “failure section” notes:

“The Rim Canal reached a peak the next day (November 1) at the north end of the basin, 17 miles from the St. Lucie Canal. The flood was contained at this northerly point by the Nubbin Slough Tieback Levee along Canal 59. The maximum area flooded, was about 14,100 acres.”

What a story!

Well, it’s only history, right? But then history has a strange way of repeating itself in one form or another doesn’t it?

WATCH Todd’s VIDEO HERE: “The FPL Reservoir’s Catastrophic Dike Failure” (https://youtu.be/2r1hgFqgIK8)

Cattle take to high ground in Port Mayaca as egrets fly overhead after a Florida Power and Light dike broke, causing heavy flooding in the area. (UPI)

Links:

Interim Final Draft Report on Embankment Failure FPL’s Martin Plant Cooling Reservoir, SFWMD, 1980: http://damsafety.hostguardian.com/media/Documents/DownloadableDocuments/MartinPowerPlantFailureReport.pdf

Palm Beach Post, Post Time, FPL 1979 Dam Collapse Hit Martin County, Elliot Kleinberg :
http://www.mypalmbeachpost.com/news/local/post-time-1979-fpl-reservoir-dam-collapse-hit-western-martin-county/2BU5WcnUVTz9GGNAhTSEGK/

Read part 1 of this FRL series below:

Part 1, Barley Barber Swamp, the FPL Reservoir and its 1979 Catastrophic Failure (Part 1 of 2) Todd Thurlow/JTL: https://jacquithurlowlippisch.com/tag/barley-barber-swamp/

Barley Barber Swamp, the FPL Reservoir and its 1979 Catastrophic Failure (Part 1 of 2)

 

Video above and also available here by link: (“Barley Barber Swamp, the FPL Reservoir and its 1979 Catastrophic Failure, Part 1 of 2,” by Todd Thurlow: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FZvkvCEblfE&feature=youtu.be)

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From the air, Barley Barber Swamp is distinctive. Like a thimble, it sticks out into Florida Power and Light’s reservoir in Indiantown, Martin County. The 6700 acre “man made lake” can hold more than 80,000 acre feet of water. It lies just north of the C-44 canal, and east of the dike from a once sprawling Lake Okeechobee. Barley Barber is the “crown jewel.”

“This jewel of a swamp” is a popular tourist destination and considered to be one of the finest remaining old-growth cypress communities in the country. In 1972, FPL purchased the swamp and surrounding lands to build their 6700 acre cooling reservoir that it operates in agreement with the South Florida Water Management District. An intake canal connects to the C-44 and S-153 to the northwest, contains and drains waters that once naturally flowed into Lake Okeechobee.

It is a wonderful thing that FPL saved the remaining 400 acre swamp! Today it is teeming with plant and wildlife species, including ancient bald cypress tress, one qualifying as the largest in the United States. My brother, Todd, notes that some estimates put that tree at 1,000 years old.  The Wikipedia entry says its 88 ft. tall with a circumference of 33 ft., while the “Lady Liberty” tree in the same park as the late “Senator” is 82 ft. tall and 32.8 ft circumference – and is claimed to be 2,000 years old?

Hmmm? Maybe in south-central  Florida we are really in first place!

Giant cypress tree, Barley Barber Swamp as shared by Modern Mississauga Magazine, 2016.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barley_Barber_Swamp

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lady_Liberty_(tree)

http://championtrees.freshfromflorida.com/home.mvc/Index

Cypress are valuable and majestic water trees. It’s so nice to have what’s left, but one can’t help but wonder what the swamp looked like before its ancient branches were cut for lumber, and its massive stumps burned to make way for agriculture?

Well, we can can know…almost… I asked my brother, Todd, historic map expert, if he could show us, and he has created yet another “time capsule flight” video to take us there!

Using 1940 United States Department of Agriculture aerials, a 1953 USGA topographical map, and 1974 Florida Department of Transportation map juxtaposed to Google Earth images from today, we see the swamp in all its glory stretching east with forks, like a “river of trees.” What a beautiful, beautiful swamp it must have been!

Before it was cut down, Todd calculates it at  3076 acres, or 14.81 square miles. Amazing! I wonder what animals lived there? We can imagine alligators, and owls as the images fade in and out. And then we see the swamp’s stately trees replaced by the shape of the reservoir; we see the tree stumps burning, and smoke rising the sky. An offering perhaps…

….as humans we seem determined for the theme of our lives to be “Man over Nature.” Well, sometimes we win, and sometimes we lose…

Today, Todd’s video focuses on the structure and size of the former Barley Barber Swamp, but in Part II, he will share yet another story, the 1979 catastrophic failure of the FPL reservoir that burst through its dike like a tidal wave…


Links:

Todd Thurlow, http://www.thurlowpa.com

To view all of Todd’s incredible Time Capsule Flights of Martin County featured on my blog: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLDaNwdmfhj15bmGNQaGhog9QpkQPAXl06
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Take a tour of Barley Barber Swamp with the Treasured Lands Foundation. Ex. Dir. Charles Barraclough gives great tours!

Barley Barber Swamp/Tours: http://www.barleybarber.org

Animals in the Swamp! https://www.fpl.com/environment/wildlife/barley-barber-wildlife.html

Barley Barber? Where does the name come from? Who was Barley Barber? Alice and Greg Luckhardt: http://www.tcpalm.com/story/specialty-publications/your-news/martin-county/reader-submitted/2017/04/14/historical-vignettes-martin-countys-barley-barber-swamp/100118178/

FPL/Barley Barber Swamp: https://www.fpl.com/environment/wildlife/barley-barber-history.html

Florida Rambler, Barley Barber Swamp: http://www.floridarambler.com/florida-bike-hike-trails/barley-barber-rare-cypress-swamp-re-opens-for-tours/

FL Museum cypress trees: https://www.floridamuseum.ufl.edu/index.php/southflorida/habitats/cypress-swamps/about/

IFAS, Cypress:http://solutionsforyourlife.ufl.edu/hot_topics/environment/cypress.shtml