Tag Archives: Bell Glade

Postcard Perfect Day, Motorcycle Ride Around Lake Okeechobee, SLR/IRL

 

The attached photo was taken on a post card perfect day in 2009 at Port Mayaca – the wind was calm, the Lake was still and the air was so clear you could see all the way across to Moore Have, some 30 miles to the southwest! I love how the water and sky blend together on the horizon. (Gary Goforth)
Looking at Lake Okeechobee from Port Mayaca in Martin County-sky and lake are one. (Gary Goforth)

Today I am going to share an adventure of engineer and St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon advocate Dr Gary Goforth. I will tie in his Lake Okeechobee experience with a few wonderful historic postcards from my mother, historian Sandra Henderson Thurlow. Although you couldn’t get my mother on a motorcycle if you paid her, there is a common thread. The lone cypress…

“The Lone Cypress…” You may have heard of it? As we know, cypress trees live for thousands of years. There were large forest of these magnificent trees prior to their being cut down around the turn of the last century. But a few still stand. Like this one in Moore Haven.

Dr Goforth’s account of his ride around the lake is inspirational. I have done it a couple of times by car, most recently during the final session of my UF Natural Resources Leadership Institute in Clewiston. During Dr Goforth’s ride, he visits the ancient cypress tree–the one in my mom’s historic post cards. I find this really cool. I hope you do too!

Historic map from 1948 book "Lake Okeechobee" written in 1948 by Alfred Jackson and Kathryn Hanna as part of the Rivers of America Series.
Historic map from 1948 book “Lake Okeechobee” written in 1948 by Alfred Jackson and Kathryn Hanna as part of the Rivers of America Series gives some idea of where the many cypress tree forests and others natural systems were once located.

OK. Here we go! Lake O—–

From Dr Gary Goforth (http://garygoforth.net) 3-17-16:

“Hi Jacqui – I know you’re very busy as always – in fact more so these days I imagine. I got around to reading a recent blog of yours entitled “Taking the Emotion out of “Clewiston”-UF’s Natural Resources Leadership Institute, SLR/IRL.” I enjoyed it so much I thought I would share a trip I took on Sunday afternoon – a motorcycle ride around Lake Okeechobee.

It started out as a leisurely Sunday afternoon ride around the Martin County countryside. When I got to Port Mayaca I decided to head south for a couple of mile to the trailhead of the Lake to Ocean Trail – a 55-mile hike I’ll get around to tackling during cooler weather. When I got to the trailhead, I said what the heck – might as well circle the Lake. I’ve done the route before, and love to roll through the small towns that we are linked to primarily because of the Lake releases. Probably my favorite stretch is along the eastern shore of the Lake where the old-growth linear forests still remain – the magnificent cypress, bay, and others. My companion for the entire way around the Lake was the Herbert Hoover dike – almost always in sight off to my right along the small roads I took. Before I knew it I was passing through Sand Cut and Pahokee on my way to Belle Glade with their motto “Our Soil is our Fortune.” I thought of my Dad’s cousin Jack Fullenweider who was a general manager of the old Talisman sugar mill (bought by the State prior to construction of STA-3/4), and whose son, Jack, Jr. was a sheriff’s deputy in Belle Glade. I thought of Fritz Stein – a former District Board member from Belle Glade and all around good guy.

The traffic was light and the weather was beautiful. Before long I was riding along US 27/SR 80 with the big dike/dam to my right. The site of the 1928 breach and untold deaths. Along this stretch the ground level is the lowest of the entire lake’s perimeter; the Lake’s water level that day was a foot or two above ground level, which has subsided more than 6 feet since records began decades ago due to the drainage canals and ag practices. Around the rest of the Lake, the actual lake level is below the surrounding ground level.

Soon I was in Clewiston where the banners were hung announcing the upcoming Sugar Festival (today through Sunday). I thought of the many good folks who worry about the State purchasing US Sugar lands with the purported 12,000 people who would be out of a job – the folks that get angry at the estuary folks – and wonder who they turned their anger toward when US Sugar announced they had struck a voluntary deal to sell the land to Gov. Crist. What a missed opportunity, and to think the Legislature and Gov. didn’t go through with the deal – likely out of spite towards Gov. Crist – they didn’t want anything to do with extending his legacy. Deplorable. I put that out of my mind as I rode through Clewiston – a lovely little town.

 

Lone Cypress as it appears today.
Lone Cypress as it appears today.
Picture taken in 1917 showing Lone Cypress tree as it appeared during the construction of Lock No. 1 in Moore Haven. (via Gary Goforth)
Picture taken in 1917 showing Lone Cypress tree as it appeared during the construction of Lock No. 1 in Moore Haven. (via Gary Goforth)

Before long I was in Moore Haven and thought about the big history of that small town – the early Indian canal excavations, the early dredging/draining activity of Hamilton Disston connecting the big lake to the Caloosahatchee, the farming community, the devastating hurricanes and the Lone Cypress Tree which has stood as a sentinel along the Caloosahatchee Canal since the days of Disston. The Lone Cypress Tree! I have always wanted to find that tree! So I rode around till I found it along the banks of the river/canal. It was beginning to send out the bright green needles and was remarkable in its majesty!

A few more miles on US 27 and I turned north onto SR 78 – a pleasant ride along the west side of the Lake. Pretty soon the road drops onto the floodplain of Fisheating Creek – the only unregulated tributary feeding Lake Okeechobee. I was reminded how the flows into the Lake from Fisheating Creek increased 6-fold this dry season compared to last year. All along the west side of the Lake are small mobile home and RV communities enjoying the good life!

Before long I crossed the Kissimmee River and was into the south side of Okeechobee. White pelicans ushered me along the road lined with hotels filled with seasonal fishermen and women. On around the lake and passing J&R Fish camp – busy with Sunday afternoon bikers. Many days I’ve enjoyed the free hot dogs and music. Before long I passed alongside of the FP&L cooling reservoir – site of the levee failure that occurred just before midnight in October 30, 1979.

Then I crested the bridge over the C-44 Canal with Port Mayaca off to the right. The calm water belied the massive and destructive discharges that were occurring, sending tons of sediment, algae and nutrients on their way to the troubled St. Lucie River and Estuary.

A quick turn back to the east onto SR 76, past DuPuis (my favorite public land to hike), past the sod and cane fields where once there was citrus and before long I parked the bike in the garage – it was a good ride.

Enjoy!
Gary

The attached photo of me on the motorcycle was taken on a post card perfect day in 2009 at Port Mayaca – the wind was calm, the Lake was still and the air was so clear you could see all the way across to Moore Have, some 30 miles to the southwest! I love how the water and sky blend together on the horizon.

The attached photo was taken on a post card perfect day in 2009 at Port Mayaca – the wind was calm, the Lake was still and the air was so clear you could see all the way across to Moore Have, some 30 miles to the southwest! I love how the water and sky blend together on the horizon. (Gary Goforth)
…..
Dr. Gary Goforth ready to tour Lake Okeechobee.
Dr. Gary Goforth ready to tour Lake Okeechobee.

_______________________

After reading Gary’s account I kept thinking about that lone cypress standing like a sentinel as all has changed around it… I wrote my mother to see what she had in her history files. She sent the following four postcards from her historic collection:

We should all go ride and see it and make post cards or Facebook posts of our own!

1
1. Postcards courtesy of historian Sandra Henderson Thurlow.
2.
2.
3.
3.
4.
4.

Blog post JTL: “Taking the Emotion Out of Clewiston” 3-9-16 (https://jacquithurlowlippisch.com/2016/03/09/taking-the-emotion-out-of-clewiston-ufs-natural-resources-leadership-institute-slrirl/)

“Backpumping 101”, SLR/IRL

 

"S" Structure south of Lake Okeechobee. (Photo JTL, pilot Shawn Engebretsen 2014)
An “S” structure south of Lake Okeechobee as seen on flight to Clewiston passing Bell Glade.  (Photo JTL, pilot Shawn Engebretsen 2014).
S-2 Image SFWMD
S-2 Image SFWMD image showing piled up vegetation against structure.
SFWMD map. Notice the S-structures south of the lake.
SFWMD map. Notice the S-2 structure south of the lake, near Bell Glade. The SFWMD oversees the S-structures south of the lake. The ACOE oversees the structures going into the SLR and Caloosahatchee.
Close up
Wider view of SFWMD map.
S-80 releasing at StLucie Lock and Dam.
S-80 releasing at StLucie Lock and Dam.

After much controversy, today the South Florida Water Management District has halted its recent “backpumping.”

“Backpumping” —kind of an odd word isn’t it? What does it mean? And why in spite of multiple law suits, some changes, appeals, and  “back and forths” on what is allowed is it still going on?

Basically, in reference to Lake Okeechobee, backpumping means that water that would normally be flowing south is pumped north—Pumped back into Lake Okeechobee to keep it out of the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA).(https://nicholas.duke.edu/wetland/eaa.htm)

The satellite/GIS image below gives one an idea. This image is from 2005, also a rainy year. Through this satellite image shared by the Captiva Conservation Organization one can see how the EAA remained dry(er) and yet southern and central parts of the state are wet. This is basically what the EAA is trying to achieve now.

My explanation and example is certainly oversimplified but gives an idea to those who may not quite understand all the controversy surrounding backpumping.

Let’s continue…

Many do know that when Lake Okeechobee is “too high” the ACOE and SFWMD work together to dump the water into the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon and the Caloosahatchee estuaries usually with devastating effects. Thus locals are protesting again.

....
….
Satellite image 2005
Satellite/GIS image 2004 /2005. Blue is water.

So why does the ACOE and SFWMD dump?

People, property, and farmlands are south of the lake. In 1926 and 1928 there were horrific hurricanes that killed thousands of people and destroyed property. We live in fear of this happening again, and oh yes, we need those sugar fields dry…don’t we?

So what is the answer for not destroying the estuaries and not flooding Bell Glade and other communities south of Lake Okeechobee?

That is for the experts to work on, and the “we, the people” to encourage….

One thing is for sure, there has to be a better way. We must have vision.

 

The Belle Glade Everglades experiment station after the hurricane of 1928. Palm Beach Post file photo BELLE GLADE --- An undated photo taken in the aftermath of the 1928 hurricane shows the damage done to a cluster of scientific work stations. Thousands drowned on Sept. 16 that year when hurricane-force winds blew a wall of water from Lake Okeechobee through a makeshift dike. The official death toll is 1,836, but historians and hurricane researchers say it's probably closer to 2,500 or 3,000. ORG XMIT: MER0503211643572784 ORG XMIT: MER0705171719342077
The Belle Glade Everglades experiment station after the hurricane of 1928. Palm Beach Post file photo BELLE GLADE — An undated photo taken in the aftermath of the 1928 hurricane shows the damage done to a cluster of scientific work stations. Thousands drowned on Sept. 16 that year when hurricane-force winds blew a wall of water from Lake Okeechobee through a makeshift dike. The official death toll is 1,836, but historians and hurricane researchers say it’s probably closer to 2,500 or 3,000. Palm Beach Post online.

Please note this correction to this blog post from Mark Perry. My post originally read under the first and second photos: “An “S” structure south of Lake Okeechobee as seen on flight to Clewiston passing Bell Glade. (Photo JTL, pilot Shawn Engebretsen 2014). These structures can pump forward (downhill) into the EAA to water fields or backwards (up hill) into Lake O when there is “too much” water.”–These pumps can work in both directions.”

Mark Perry, Florida Oceanographic,  kindly corrected my mistake and I am thankful for the correction. We all learn from each other as we try to understand things. Thank you Mark!

“Hi Jacqui,

Thanks for you post of “Backpumping 101” but I need to offer a correction.

Below your aerial photo of the S2 pump station you stated that “These pumps can work in both directions”. This is incorrect as the S2 and S3 pumps only go in ONE DIRECTION, from the EAA canals INTO the Lake. The gate structures next to the pumps (S-351 & S-354) can flow both ways depending on which side has higher water elevation. (See Attached Photo- Note Blue Arrows for flow). As of yesterday, 1-31-16, the Lake was at 16.16 feet and the canals were at 11.11 feet (at S-354see below) so if the gates were opened, the water would flow from the Lake into the canals that is why they are keeping them closed. You can see the pump flows in cfs for S3 (745) and S2 (856) as of yesterday.

S3 Pumps: 11.11 16.16 745 118 615 12 (cfs)
S354: 16.16 11.11 0 0.0 0.0
S2 Pumps: 10.52 16.12 856 0 685 171 0 (cfs)
S351: 16.12 10.52 0 0.0 0.0 0.0

Hope this helps to make it clear. Backpumping in not good for the Lake or eventually the Estuaries where the water will go.

Call me if you want to discuss this.

Thanks for your posts.

Mark

Mark D. Perry
Executive Director
Florida Oceanographic Society
890 NE Ocean Blvd.
Stuart, Florida 34996
772-225-0505 x103
772-486-3858 (Cell)
772-225-4725 (Fax)
http://www.FloridaOcean.org

Florida Oceanographic’s mission is to inspire environmental stewardship of Florida’s coastal ecosystems through education and research.

Please consider the environment before printing this e-mail. Reduce, Reuse & Recycle”

____________________________________________________

The amazing and complex SFWMD Structure Location Map: http://www.fortlauderdale.gov/home/showdocument?id=1330

SFWMD Press Release to halt backpumping. 1-31-16: http://www.sfwmd.gov/portal/page/portal/xrepository/sfwmd_repository_pdf/st_2016_0131_emergency_pumping_update.pdf

Earth Justice Backpumping Fact Sheet: http://flcoastalandocean.org/fcoc/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/lake-okeechobee-backpumping-fact-sheet.pdf

Captain Backus’ 1838 Map of Lake Okeechobee, SLR/IRL

Gleason
1838 Captain E. Backus map of Lake Okeechobee.

This week we will take a look back at Lake Okeechobee, a lake that since 1923–via the C-44 canal,  has been  connected to the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon.

Information for these posts is made possible through a book entitled “Environments of South Florida–Past and Present,” by Patrick J. Gleason. This text was lent to me by Dr Gary Goforth. I will transcribe portions of this rare and amazing text in order for us to contemplate the changes that have occurred and how those who first documented this once remote area experienced our region.

It continues to amaze me—the ability of the early map makers and surveyors who functioned without today’s technology.

For me it is noteworthy to notice how the original map of the lake “veers off to the south-east.” Looking below one can see that today this area is today’s Bell Glade and South Bay. These lands are the richest in “black gold” as they have the accumulation of thousands of years of muck. Now we can see why. Tremendous amounts of sugar and vegetable products are produced in this area. Also, I believe these lands are most valuable because they are less likely to freeze due to their proximity to the lake.

As we can see, although we must take the Captain’s map with a grain of salt–interestingly enough—this area was once the lake…

Today's Google map, 2016.
Today’s Google map, 2016.

Here are the words of Captain Backus for us to ponder as I transcribe:

In 1838 map produced by Captain E. Backus had produced a map of Lake Okeechobee, which for a long time remained buried in the national archives records of the Seminole War. It reveals the knowledge of the lake that time, and his version of the lower Kissimmee River shows graphically how that crooked meandering stream flowed thirty-five miles from Fort Basinger to reach the lake only eighteen miles away– as the crow flies…  In a brief statement in the lower left portion of the map, Captain Backus writes: “Many small streams flow into the Okee-cho–bee on the North-East and West side and also on the South- East side, but it is not known that it has any outlet, and probably has none, except at the high water when Grassy Lake (The Everglades) and Okee-cho-bee are united, and probably empties thought some streams into the Atlantic. This is corroborated by the statements of different indians and negroes who profess to have crossed from one side to the other in a canoe at high-water, and to have carried and dragged a canoe many miles over the portage at low tide.”

I wonder how we would have seen the lake had we been there? Would you have crossed it in a canoe? What would you have dreamt it to become?

 

....
….The handwritten text
....
….Book information and inside cover.

(http://garygoforth.net/index.htm)

Russian Roulette, the Herbert Hoover Dike and the Indian River Lagoon

Statue in honor of the dead of 1928 Hurricane, Bell Glade,  Public Library. (Photos public files, artist not mentioned.)
Statue in honor of the dead – 1928 Hurricane, Bell Glade’s Public Library. (Photo public, artist unmentioned.)

I have written before about the Hurricane of 1928 and the mass grave in its  honor located in Martin County, but today I wish to share my thoughts on a book entitled: Killer Cane: the Hurricane of 1928 by Robert Mykle. (http://www.robertmykle.com/index.html)

The book was written in 2003 and won the Florida Historical Society’s Library Foundation  award for “Best Popular Book.” Mykle interviewed numerous old timers who had been children at the time of the storm and survived. He weaves a  tale of their large poor but honorable families, their struggles, loyalties, dreams, incredible work ethic, and the final disaster. He is able to create characters that resonate. The reader is completely drawn in witnessing the accounts of the dream of Everglade’s riches and then the storm. In the end, Lake Okeechobee’s earthen dike breeches and  its waters rise like a black, vengeful evil,  choking  the splintered homes that have been lifted off their foundations,  while suffocating and drowning the terrified and the praying…

Mykel’s book focuses on the the white families of the tragedy; it is important to note that during this Jim Crow era of American History the rights of black farm workers were close to non-existent. They lived in the isolated  shanty low-lands of the fields.  According to the book, in the storm, three quarters more blacks died than whites. The total for both whites and blacks is estimated now at “at least 2500-3000.”

One of the telling  things for me about reading this story is that it documents the early famers planting their crops inside the lake. Yes, “inside the lake.” The richest soil was there.  In dry times the lake would retreat and the farmers  would play a game of “Russian Roulette,” planting in the richest soil.  If they won, the pay off was huge; if they lost,  and the waters came forward covering their plants, they lost everything.

Today, Lake Okeechobee is one third smaller than it originally was and this is one reason the St Lucie/Indian River Lagoon and the Caloosahatchee are destroyed in times of rain when the ACOE directs water that wishes to go south and fill a lake that is “no longer there.” (Conversations with Engineer, Mr. Tom MacVickars, SFWMD, ACOE)

We took nature’s storage area, diked northward of it and then turned it into the Everglades Agricultural Area, (EAA.)  Obviously, economically we benefit from this today, but ecologically and on a safety level, we do not. Living along the coast is an enormous danger; living south of the lake is  a death sentence.

The Herbert Hoover Dike was built in 1933, after the Hurricane of 1928. Agriulture south of the lake expanded. People got rich and we “feed the world.”  But after Hurricane Katrina, dikes of the US were prioritized, and frighteningly, the Herbert Hoover was listed in the top 10 dikes most likely to fail.

Since that time, the Army Corp of Engineers has been reinforcing many miles of the dike with concrete drilled deep down in the earth and repaired many culverts. Billions of dollars have been spent. Will the dike hold if another hurricane like the one of 1928 visits?

We continue to play “Russian Roulette” and only time will tell…

Original Map/Size of Lake Okeechobee: (http://www.floridamemory.com/items/show/143906)

Historical Photos Hurricane 1928:

(https://www.google.com/search?q=tedder+1928+huuricane+photos&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8&hl=en&client=safari),

(http://www.tommymarkham.com/Hurricane/AListPage.htm)