Today’s Canal Point is easy to drive right through on one’s way to Pahokee, but the little town has an important past and seeded a great future. As we learn about it, we learn about ourselves, all part of South Florida’s giant drainage and development scheme that continues today. In the future, together, we must work to improve water quality that has been destroyed by development of the Everglades. In studying this area, one thing is clear, almost all has fallen away except the USDA Department of Agriculture Sugarcane Station still standing today, almost 100 years later: https://www.ars.usda.gov/southeast-area/canal-point-fl/sugarcane-field-station/
So how did Canal Point get on the map?
According to the book, Black Gold and Silver Sands, by James D. Snyder, Gilbert A Watkins, an expanding lumber dealer from “nearby” West Palm Beach, acquired lands in the area after 1896 when Hamilton Disston, (the man who first drained Florida’s swamp) died. The lands purchased by Watkins included 4,337 acres near the eastern lakeshore of Lake Okeechobee. Disston’s Southern States Land and Timber owned all the even-numbered, square mile sections east of Lake Okeechobee to the then Broward County line.
In 1917 when the West Palm Beach Canal was dug at the determination of the state’s Internal Improvement Fund, the board developing the state, it was decided to go through Mr Watkin’s property. He became more than a timber owner but a developer as the little town grew. Sugarcane sprouted up as well, and laid the foundation for the success of today’s largest EAA sugarcane cooperations.
The little town that came to be known as Canal Point eventually outpaced Pahokee, Okeechobee and Moore Haven. Tomorrow we will learn more about the United States Department of Agriculture’s Sugarcane Reasearch Center, and the road that got it there….Connors’ Highway. “Fingy” Conners– as his finger had been cut off.
The photos below of a severe algae bloom were shared yesterday by Rick Solvenson and Brenda Brooks who live on the Caloosahatchee River near Olga. This is on the south side of Caloosahatchee River near Fort Myers’ shores, just downstream of the Franklin lock. There is a second set of photos taken last Sunday and yesterday by Michael and Michelle Connor of Martin County along the side of Lake Okeechobee and at Port Mayaca.
So far in 2016, algae blooms have been reported in Lake Okeechobee, the St Lucie Canal, Palm City, (C-44) and the Caloosahatchee (C-43). The ACOE continues to discharge these algae filled waters from the lake into the estuaries St Lucie and Caloosahatchee with the support of the South Florida Water Management District, the Department of Environmental Protection, the Florida Department of Health, and the knowledge of the Governor and Florida State Legislature.
From what I have read to date, the cyanobacteria toxic algae blooms reported thus far have not yet tested “high enough” to warrant concerns at the level of the World Health Organization…not yet, but if they do, —-expect some information, but don’t expect protection. Florida is not providing such these days, not to us anyway.
If you ever drive the easterly location of Indian Street in Martin County, you are in the historic subdivision for the proposed Town of Port Sewall. According to the “History of Martin County,” in 1910, Hugh Willoughby and Captain Henry Sewall established the Sewall’s Point Land Company which developed Port Sewall–of which Golden Gate is part.
I was taken by these old aerials from 1954 showing the straight roads of the Golden Gate section of the development with Sewall’s Point and St Lucie Inlet in the distance; I wanted to compare the photo to a cool old plat map and a Google map of today.
I love this old area of Martin County. So much history. It is fun to drive along Old St Lucie Boulevard and through Golden Gate. There are still remnants of the past. To visit the old Golden Gate building on Dixie Highway now getting a new life as the office of House of Hope—that was once a real estate office…..an awesome old Whiticar Boatworks from a bit later…
One of the long forgotten thing about this area is that Sewall and Willoughby’s vision for this development was a deepwater port off of Sewall’s Point. According to historian Sandra Thurlow, “The port was to be established at the junction of the waterways known today as the Crossroads. It would be called “Port Santa Lucia” and would handle the vast amounts of produce that would be shipped out of the interior of Florida via the cross state canal.”
The cross-state canal in this reference? Yes, the cross state canal of the 1920s was the dreaded St Lucie Canal or more lovingly know today as C-44…the canal that connects Lake Okeechobee to the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon.
Willoughby and Sewall’s development and the Port of Santa Lucia never succeeded as the Great Depression of the 1920s killed that dream. But unfortunately part of the dream of that era lived on. Today the cross state canal or since named “Okeechobee Waterway” (C-44 in Martin County) does not transport vast amounts of fresh produce, but rather is used to “manage” the waters of Lake Okeechobee and to send sediment and nutrient filled Agricultural run off to feed algae blooms and destroy the property values of Sewall’s Point, Port Sewall, Golden Gate, and the rest of Martin County.
The following was written by Dr Gary Goforth as a response to U.S. Sugar Corporation’s months long ad campaign in the Stuart News. http://garygoforth.net
· The health and economies of the St. Lucie River and Estuary, the Caloosahatchee Estuary, and Florida Bay have been sacrificed for decades by the management of Lake Okeechobee for the protection of US Sugar and other agricultural lands south of the Lake.
The recent ad blitz by US Sugar appears to be an attempt to divert the public’s attention away from this preferential treatment and from an egregious betrayal of south Florida taxpayers perpetrated by US Sugar, the Florida legislature and the Governor’s administration – the failure to exercise the willing seller contract to purchase US Sugar land south of the lake. Failure to secure needed land south of the Lake is the single biggest obstacle to long-term protection of the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries from destructive Lake discharges, and providing Florida Bay and lower east coast wellfields with needed water.
· Water storage necessary to reduce high flows to the estuaries by about 90% will require about 10% of the land in the EAA – not complete elimination of farming in the area. The recent UF Water Institute study reconfirmed what scientists have been saying for decades – additional storage and treatment beyond what is currently planned in CERP and CEPP is needed south of the Lake: “If this required storage were to be provided strictly though deep 12-ft reservoirs, new land area between approximately 11,000 and 43,000 acres would be required south of Lake Okeechobee.” The upper limit – 43,000 acres – is less than ¼ of the amount of land US Sugar was willing to sell to the state (187,000 acres).
· Regarding the numbers in the ads – some are accurate, some are completely fictitious (e.g., the distribution of water from Lake Okeechobee), and many critical numbers are missing, e.g.,
-millions of pounds of nitrogen and phosphorus from lake Okeechobee that feed algal blooms and wreak havoc on the ecology of the river, estuary, lagoon and near-shore reefs. (million off pounds of nutrients that the State of Florida ignores in their BMAP progress reports for the St Lucie River.) – the hundreds of millions of pounds of Lake Okeechobee sediment that turned a once sand-bottom clear water estuary into a muck-filled lagoon that belches blackwater every time it rains. – the hundreds of millions of dollars of economic impact to local businesses, tourism and real estate values attributable to poor water quality If you’re interested go to the SFWMD’s (or my) website.
· Most of the area that the ads calls “local waterways” did not flow into the St. Lucie River (SLR) until after the major agricultural drainage canals (C-23, C-24, C-25 and C-44) were dug, connecting more than 250,000 acres to the SLR. Historically these areas flowed north into the St. Johns River watershed, south into the Loxahatchee and Everglades watersheds, evaporated or recharged the groundwater.
· The ads ignore the fact that more than half of the “local watershed” is agriculture, and that more than half of the flows and nutrient loads to the St. Lucie River and Estuary come from agricultural land use.
· Nutrient loads from septic tanks along the Indian River Lagoon need to be addressed in cost-effective ways based on good science. Nevertheless, nutrient loading and sediment from Lake Okeechobee and agricultural runoff constitute a far greater threat to the health of the St. Lucie Estuary than does loading from Martin County septic tanks. The loading from septic tanks in Martin County have been overstated by upwards of 200-300%.
· The 2016 Florida Legislature was an unmitigated disaster for the environment of Florida, with misappropriations of Amendment 1 funds for the second year in a row and the passage of a water bill that rolled back environmental protection for the benefit of agricultural interests. What role did lobbyists for US Sugar and other agricultural interests play in this debacle? —–Dr. Gary Goforth
*Dr. Goforth has more than 30 years of experience in water resources engineering encompassing strategic planning, design, permitting, construction, operation and program management. For the last 25 years, his focus has been on large-scale environmental restoration programs in the Kissimmee-Okeechobee-Everglades ecosystem. He was the Chief Consulting Engineer during the design, construction and operation of the $700 million Everglades Construction Project, containing over 41,000 acres of constructed wetlands. He is experienced in public education, water quality treatment design and evaluation, engineering design and peer review, systems ecology, statistical hydrology, hydrologic modeling, hydrodynamic modeling, water quality modeling, environmental permit acquisition and administration, hydrologic and water quality performance analyses. (Website: http://garygoforth.net)
Florida is like Africa. We have a wet season and a dry season. This dry season has been very wet!
In today’s blog, I will share the most recent update by Dr Gary Goforth sent to Martin County on 3-13-15 entitled: “Summary of Dry Season Flows, November 1, 2015 – February 29, 2016.” Dr Goforth gives a summary and provides wonderful visuals. The “pages” he mentions in his summary for this post have been converted to slides. (Please view slides from left to right.)
Thank you Dr Goforth. (http://garygoforth.net)
Are are an integral part in helping us understand why we must sent the water south…
Thought you might be interested in this comparison of dry season inflows to, and discharges from, Lake Okeechobee. Inflows to the Lake were 79% higher this dry season (Nov. 1 2015 – February 29, 2016) compared to a year ago, but Lake discharges have only been 1% higher due to the inability to send water south. Hence Lake stages have increased more than a foot above the level it was at this time last year.
The basins with the biggest increases in Lake inflows are those along the north and northwest shores of the Lake – but not the Upper Kissimmee, which exhibited a 50% reduction in flows to the Lake compared to last year.
As we’ve seen, because of the heavy rains south of the Lake and the agencies delay in moving water out of the Water Conservation Areas, WCAs, the estuaries have taken the brunt of Lake releases this year.
The flow estimates on the first 5 pages are in acre feet and in billion gallons on the second 5 pages.
It is important to know how to “speak the language” of the ACOE and SFWMD.
The St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon is once again under siege. The Army Corp of Engineers and the South Florida Water Management District are doing the will of the reigning powers and discharging tremendous amounts of water and pollutants from Lake Okeechobee and altered surrounding lands (basins) into the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon.
We must learn how to interpret this destruction and how to use their language of “cubic feet per second,” (cfs), when talking about discharge amounts from Lake Okeechobee and area canals into the SLR/IRL.
I am not good at this interpretation, but someone I know is….
As in most families, each chid in my family was born with different talents. My brother, Todd Thurlow, got all the number and sharp analytical skills that I did not. I am very thankful to him for helping with my St Lucie/Indian River Lagoon educational efforts.
Todd has created a VERY EASY way to convert cubic feet per second (the language of the ACOE/SFWMD discharges) into gallons. All you have to do is click on this link below and put in the numbers. Seriously.
For instance if you click on the link today, it will show that S-80 is last reported to be releasing approximately 6800 (cfs) cubic per second, down from just under 7600. Just enter 6800 in the top box and it will be converted to 1. gallons per second; 2. gallons per day; and 3. “olympic size swimming pools” (in honor of Stuart News reporter Tyler Treadway’s common example for communicating with the public.)
Go to this link now, and try it! You will be amazed at how east this is. To win this war, we must be able to speak “their” language and to understand.
Click on chart below to get started. Save the link to have it handy for this year. It is going to be a difficult one and we are going to need to know what we are talking about in order to negotiate and to communicate.
Today’s blog is a full expansion of the 1925 aerial photo I wrote about last Friday.
My brother Todd took this photo creating a time line flight of 1925 and 1940 views of the Sailfish Flats, the Indian and St. Lucie Rivers, and the St. Lucie Canal (C-44).
Todd’s video is a history lesson in “dredge and fill” which was very common throughout all south Florida and the United States until national laws in the 1970s required more scrutiny and often no longer allow such due to heavy impacts and damages on waterways and the natural environment.
Our Martin and St Lucie County canals dug by the ACOE and water management entities C-44, C-23, C-24, C-25 are dredge and fill. Sailfish Point, Sewall’s Point, and Indian River Plantation, just to name a few, have large portions that are dredge and fill. The dike around Lake Okeechobee and the work abound the FPL plant in Indiantown by Barley Barber Swamp are dredge and fill. At the time, it was “how it was done.” People did not foresee the ramifications to the environment or to people living in these areas in the future.
The land was our Play Doh…
I know you will learn a lot and enjoy watching Todd’s video. The link is above.
—My questions to Todd after I saw the video included:
Jacqui: “So Todd, what are the white lines on the edge of Stuart, Rocky Point etc…more piled white sand? Looks like Jupiter Island was smaller at one point…across from Sailfish…
So how in the world did they dig out the Sailfish Point Marina and what about the straight marina of Sailfish Point that was already there from the days of Mr Rand? Also what about the FPL Pond in Indiantown? Where do you think they put that fill? Holy cow! That’s a lot of fill!
(I have adapted Todd’s words after checking concepts with him so I could present info in a simple manner.)
Todd: “The lines on the edge of Rocky Point were probably a beachy shoreline. With it being more open water at the time and more exposed to the inlet; I’m sure there was more of a beach there. That shoreline matches perfectly the shoreline shown on the early NOAA maps – even before the inlet was there.
With respect to Jupiter Island, you are probably referring to all the spoil that was piled up at the entrance to the Great Pocket – some of that was put there when I was in middle school. The main part of Jupiter Island is more to the east and is now gone – and earlier connected to Hutchinson Island. The old Gilbert’s Bar Inlet was south of that point.
The marina on Sailfish Point was dredge fill. We have some aerials of it in the making. As was the case in areas of Sewall’s Point, the sand dug to build small marinas or subdivisions was piled on the land (Archipelago, Isle Addition) to make the land higher or to create completely new lands.
As far as the giant FPL pond, they probably just dug with a dragline and used the fill to make the dike around the outside of the pond and also to build up the land around FPL.”
So we live in an environment altered by our forefathers, and now we are experiencing unintended consequences to the health of our St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon. We must assist the next generation in understanding the past so that we and they can create a better water future. And that we can!