Tag Archives: Central and South Florida Project

The Heart of the 1947 Central and South Florida Project, the SFWMD

Everglades National Park, JTL

Sometimes the history of the Everglades is really confusing.  Why, with all of the environmental advocacy, since the 1970s, does the health of our environment remain crippled?  One way to simplify it is to think in terms of before and after the 1947 U.S. Central and South Florida Plan. Of course there is extensive history before 1947, but it was after 1947 that things in South Florida’s water world became culturalized, compartmentalized, and legally defined. Before we talk about this 1947 Central and South Florida Plan, let’s review some important highlights pre-1947.

1. Hamilton Disston begins the drainage of Lake Okeechobee (1881)

2. Governor Napoleon Broward hires U.S.D.A. scientist James Wright who determines that “eight canals would indeed drain 1,850,000 acres of swampland” (1904)

3. The U.S. Congress’ Rivers and Harbors Act  includes significant funds to deepen  the manmade Hamilton Disston connection of the Calooshahatchee River to Lake Okeechobee (ca.1910)

4. The scandal of James Wright (from #2 above) who was deemed “a fraud” for the failure of the land to drain as expected ~causing the slump in swampy real estate sales (1914)

5. The resurgence of confidence in sales and a 1920s real estate boom fueled by advances in soil science, and the success of agricultural start-ups located in Moore Haven, Belle Glade, and Clewiston south of Lake Okeechobee

6.  Land in a defined “Everglades Drainage District” more fully being systematically cut into sections for development with canals draining agricultural fertilizers and other chemicals into the waters of the state (1924)

6. Two very powerful hurricanes causing thousands of deaths and the destruction of property, and thus the state’s “call for a higher dike” (1926 and 1928)

7. The state’s reaction to the hurricanes, the 1929 establishment of the “Okeechobee Flood Control District” for the “Everglades Drainage District” as well as the Federal Government’s Army Corp of Engineers taking over “field operations”around Lake Okeechobee ~including the building of a thirty-five foot earthen dike and ingeniously using navigation funding to build the cross-state-canal, connecting the Caloosahatchee and the St Lucie Estuaries to Lake Okeechobee ~conveniently working as discharge-escapes through those estuaries when “necessary”

So, as we can see, a lot happened pre-1947, but it was what happened after, were things really changed…

In 1947 it rained and rained, and there were two hurricanes. From Orlando to Florida Bay the agricultural and developed lands, that had been built in drained, once marshy, swampy areas, really flooded, and in some places a foot of water sat for months. There was great economic loss.

The crying cow booklet, above, was sent to every member of the U.S. Congress.

The country as a whole was empowered with its post World War II success and prosperity, and with that same determination, the U.S. Congress came to Florida’s rescue…

To fight Florida’s destructive “flood waters” the 1948 U.S. Congress adopted legislation for the CENTRAL AND SOUTH FLORIDA PROJECT, a twenty year flood plan from Orlando to Florida Bay that included the formal creation and protection of the Everglades Agricultural Area south of Lake O, the Water Conservation Areas, intertwined with thousands of miles of canals and structures to control the once headwaters and River of Grass. HOUSE DOCUMENT 643 – 80TH CONGRESS (00570762xBA9D6)

Next, mirroring the same terminology the United States Government had used (the Central and South Florid Project) the state of Florida created the “Central and South Florida Flood Control District” to manage that CENTRAL and SOUTH FLORIDA PROJECT. A bit confusing huh? A tongue twister. And in a way one could say, at that time, the Central and South Florida Project and the  Central and South Florida Flood Control District “became one.” The overall goal above all other things was flood control. And this marriage of the Central and South Florida Project and the Central and South Florida Flood Control District was successful at controlling the waters, but it also killed the natural environment, thus Florida herself.

This embedded cultural philosophy of “flood control only” was challenged in 1972 with the birth of the national environmental movement, and a consciousness that the natural system that supported Florida’s tourism, quality of life, agriculture, not to mention valuable wildlife,  was in tremendous decline.

As Florida matured came Governor Claude Kirk, a republican,  in 1968, who was advised by environmentalist Nathaniel Reed. Then came Governor Reubin Askew, a democrat. The Florida Legislature, seeing the destruction of the state’s natural resources, passed a very important piece of legislation, the “Florida Water Resources Act,” today’s Chapter 373 in Florida Statures. (http://www.leg.state.fl.us/statutes/index.cfm?App_mode=Display_Statute&URL=0300-0399/0373/0373ContentsIndex.html)

This law created five Florida water management districts with expanded responsibilities for regional water resources management including environmental protection not just flood control.

Accordingly, the Central and South Florida Flood Control District changed its name, but not its heart, becoming the South Florida Water Management District, we know today…(https://www.sfwmd.gov)

Everglades National Park, JTL

Rainy Today? Na! Remember 1947? Holy Cow! SLR/IRL

My husband tells me I shouldn’t consider myself NOAA, but I am certain that since May 13th my rain gauge has documented over 34 inches of rain in south Sewall’s Point.

Crazy!

I have had cabin fever, trapped inside, but happy my roof is not leaking. And to think, hurricane season doesn’t officially start until Friday!

It has rained hard in Florida before; we just might not remember…

Crying Cow image along with report, sent to Washington to promote C&SFP.

The  South Florida Water Management District describes the most memorable of rains like this:

“In 1947, after years of drought, the state is deluged by rainfall averaging 100 inches per year. This “Crying Cow” cover illustration from a 1947 flood drainage report becomes the symbol of the devastating effects of South Florida’s weather extremes. Floridians ask the federal government to step in with a flood protection plan.”

That flood protection plan was named the Central and South Florida Project, or C&SFP and it did indeed help tremendously with the flooding, but unfortunately came along with serious side effects that destroy our ecosystem, especially our waters. This is why there is CERP, “The Restudy,” or Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan, consisting of 68 major projects that the EAA Reservoir (https://www.sfwmd.gov/our-work/cerp-project-planning/eaa-reservoir)
is part. CERP’s goal is to try to undo, or ameliorate, some of what was done in 1948 and onward due to 1947’s rain.

SFWMD, C&SFP: http://141.232.10.32/about/restudy_csf_devel.aspx

Everglades Restoration: https://www.evergladesrestoration.gov

Sun Sentinel Article on 1947 rains: http://articles.sun-sentinel.com/1990-09-09/features/9002130092_1_lake-okeechobee-water-hurricane

River of Interest, ACOE, C&SFP: http://141.232.10.32/docs/river_interest/031512_river_interests_2012_chap_02.pdf

When I was trapped inside during the deluge this past weekend, I started wondering what the land looked like back then, in the 40s, when the federal government made so many changes. I wasn’t born yet, but my father’s parents would come to Stuart in 1952, not too much later. Since then through agriculture and development most of these lands have changed.  All those little ponds should have been a clue. You can drain them, but you can’t take them away.

View Florida’s early landscapes: UF Smather’s Library, Dept of Ag. Aerial Surveys: 1938 onward : http://ufdc.ufl.edu/aerials/all

UF Library 1940 aerials, Dept. of Agriculture. Border Palm Beach and Martin County
Close-up Palm Beach/Martin border 1940. Note ponds/wetlands.

“Paradise and Hell,” June 2015/June 2013, St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon

Contrast June 21, 2015 and June 28, 2013. St Lucie Inlet, Martin County, Fl. (Photos JTL and EL)
Contrast June 21, 2015 and June 28, 2013. St Lucie Inlet, Martin County, Fl. (Photos JTL and EL)

I hope you and your family had a happy Father’s Day. The water was beautiful this weekend,  so I thought today I would compare some aerial photos my husband Ed and I took this weekend to some we took in June of 2013 during the “Lost Summer.” No wonder we all fight for clean water and fewer discharges from Lake Okeechobee and area canals. What a difference!

Of course other than “history,” rain has a lot to do with discharges into the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon, and it has not been raining too much lately— thus the blue waters rather than the ugly dark brown plumes. It is important for all of us to understand why our paradise sometimes turns into a disgusting toxic mess so we can keep working for policy to change this problem.

The first and worst part of the problem lies in southern Martin County—the C-44 canal built by the Flood Control District of the era and later the Army Corp of Engineers to connect Lake Okeechobee to the South Fork of the St Lucie River. This canal was connected in 1923 for agriculture and transportation. So now, not only is there the agricultural lands’ runoff from the C-44 basin that pours into the river, but also the periodic often huge releases from Lake Okeechobee. In spite of claims that this lake water is “only 30%” of total discharge water coming into the estuary, when it comes it is tremendous, filthy, and always a killer.

I think a decent metaphor would be that one could drink alcohol all time (from the C-23, C-24, C-25) and have problems like an alcoholic but function, however, if one downed two bottles of gin in a short period of time, one would kill oneself. Lake Okeechobee and its periodic huge slugs are death each time for our St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon.

Canals in Stuart, C-23, C-24, C-25 built in the 50s and 60s. C-44 connected to Lake Okeechobee constructed in the 1920s.
Canals in Stuart, C-23, C-24, C-25 built in the 40s, 50s and 60s. C-44 connected to Lake Okeechobee constructed in the 1920s.

Next we must recognize the other problem-part of our canal system in the northern region…

After a tremendous hurricane/storm and flooding (because we are a swamp….)  in 1947 the state of Florida and the federal government worked to appropriate monies for the Central and South Florida Flood Project  which created the plumbing system we know today for all South Florida.

The part “we got” was the building of canals C-25, C-24 and C-23. The state and federal government acted like this was “just for flooding” but it wasn’t. It was also to allow for more agriculture and development in the region by draining the lands. (Mostly citrus and development of Port St Lucie).  These canals were built and “improved” throughout the 50s and 60s and expanded the water being drained into the St Lucie River by about five times!

So now water from Okeechobee and St Lucie counties, and even water that had been flowing north into the St Johns River, through Indian River County and beyond— drains into the St Lucie River! (The headwaters of the St Johns River started flowing north in the marshes west of Sebastian and Vero—they have been directed to the SLR…)

Crazy isn’t it?

You know these “guys” —these politicians and business people, knew they were killing the river. They were just so driven by the pay-off of citrus/agriculture and cheap lands to sell….that they didn’t care…The river dies slowly so many of them did not see the “close to total death” —what we see today…but they knew what they were doing.

There were those who objected trying to protect the river’s  fishing industry and wildlife….But their voices were not enough to stop the train….sound familiar?

Drainage changes to the SLR.
Drainage changes to the SLR. Green is the original, natural, watershed,. Yellow and pink show the expanded drainage to the SLR/IRL. St Lucie River Initiative, Letter to Congress 1994.

The map above shows the “expanded watershed” in yellow and pink going into the St Lucie River. This is why I very much object also when I hear “how 70-80%” of the water polluting the St Lucie “is from our local watershed.”

Like we are supposed to feel responsible?  Most of it’s  not local!!!!! Plus it is the SFWMD’s job to oversee these canals. FIX THEM!

The moral of the story though is that the “local watershed” does not exist anymore….

“Wealth (agriculture and development) at the expense of the environment….” The story of our state.

Of course the grand irony is that we all came here for the “environment” ….the water, the fishing, the wildlife, the beauty…..

So here we are in Martin County living in a world where the pendulum swings between “paradise and hell.”

Paradise is not what it used to be, but it is still here. We saw some of it this past weekend…And we could bring back more if we really tried….If we want it, our job is to get more of the water coming into the St Lucie River/IRL back onto the land, going south, and returned or held north, and not draining or being released  into our watershed.

Sounds reasonable doesn’t it? Well, the problem is we don’t have 30 years….or 50 years….like “the plan” (CERP) calls for now….(http://www.evergladesrestoration.gov)

There is alway hope we could do it faster. We must make hope a reality….all of us.

As newspaper man and famed environmentalist Ernie Lyons said: “What men do, they can undo…..and the hope for our river is in the hundreds of men and women in our communities who are resolved to save the St Lucie…” (Ernest Lyons, Editor and reporter, Stuart News)

This weekend I think we were all inspired! 🙂

Comparison 2015 and 2013 Atlantic shoreline with nearshore reefs, Jupiter Island south of St Lucie Inlet. (JTL)
Comparison 2015 and 2013 Atlantic shoreline with nearshore reefs, Jupiter Island south of St Lucie Inlet. (JTL)

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September 2013
September 2013–plume as it exits St Lucie Inlet.
Another aerial 2013- plume along Jupiter Island.
Another aerial from September 2013- plume along Jupiter Island that had exited the St Lucie Inlet.

 

Understanding the Water Conservation Areas, St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon

This image shows the Everglades' three water conservation areas (WCAs) just under the storm water treatment areas (STAs) south of the EAA. (Image courtesy of (http://sofia.usgs.gov/virtual_tour/controlling/wca.html
In red, this image shows the Everglades’ three water conservation areas (WCAs) just south of the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA.) (Image courtesy of (http://sofia.usgs.gov/virtual_tour/controlling/wca.html)

Yesterday, reviewing Everglades/IRL history, we learned about Storm Water Treatment Areas (STAs) that clean Lake Okeechobee water going to the Everglades; today we will take a look at their “older brother and sisters” the Water Conservation Areas ( WCAs),changed but remaining parts of the Everglades, that deliver water to Everglades National Park, and are protected as part of the Everglades themselves…

The Water Conservation Areas, the three large red images in the photo at the beginning of this blog post, comprise 900,000 acres. For reference, the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA) is 700,000 acres. As we learned yesterday, the STAs were built in 1994; the WCAs are were  developed/created in 1948.

According to United States Geological Survey, (USGA,) the WCAs were developed as part of the (1948) Central and Southern Florida (C&SF) Project.

To me, this is ironic, as I consider the C&SF the nail in the coffin for Central and South Florida. (http://www.evergladesplan.org/about/restudy_csf_devel.aspx)

It followed tremendous flooding  in 1947, and inspired the widening and deepening of the C-44, (St Lucie) C-43, (Caloosahatchee) canals, the building of C-23, C-24, C-25 in Martin and St Lucie Counties, as well as many, many, other projects around and south of Lake Okeechobee. The Army Corp of Engineers did what they were charged to by the state and the US Congress, and as usual they did it “too well,” over draining the state with the continued destruction of the northern estuaries.  On top of that, today we waste on average 1.7 billion gallons of valuable water to tide every day. (Florida Oceanographic Society, Mark Perry.)

So anyway, the WCAs were also “created”during this time; they on the other hand are a good thing…

According to the USGA web site:

They were designed for use as storage to prevent flooding, to irrigate agriculture and recharge well fields and as input for agricultural and urban runoff. 

They are also recharged by rain, but leeves were built around the WCAs so water flows into them and then slowly streams into Everglades National Park by the hand of man, not Nature…

The USGA also states that:

Historic flow of water and the quality of water through the WCAs have been greatly reduced. These conditions have resulted in decreased wading bird populations due to shortened hydroperiods, invasion of the native environments by exotic plants and fish, and conversions of sawgrass communities to cattail/sawgrass mixes.

Recently, Martin County’s Dr Gary Goforth (http://garygoforth.net), formerly of the SFWMD, and one of the primary creators of the STAs, has been revealing publicly at River Coalition meetings and SFWMD meetings  that although more STAs have been built since 1994 to bring and clean water into the WCA/Everglades, less water is actually getting there!

2014 was the first year in ten years that a substantial amount of water (over 250,000 Acre Feet) was sent south. (See chart below.) This is odd isn’t it? And until last year, most of that water was EAA water used to water their crops, not “overflow” Lake Okeechobee water.

Dr Goforth's chart showing amount of Lake O. water sent south to the STAs from 1995-2014.
Dr Goforth’s chart showing amount of Lake O. water sent south to the STAs from 1995-2014.

I believe it was the public outcry that inspired the ACOE and SFWMD to send more water south last year through the STAs and WCAs.. .The problem lies with the SFWMD and ACOE mostly because in 1994, by law, phosphorus was limited into Everglades National Park. This is understandable, but adds to our St Lucie/Indian River Lagoon continued destruction.

Even with all of the STAs and the WCAs nature cannot take up all of the man-made phosphorus and nitrogen from farming and development. So what can we do?

We must return more of the EAA land to nature or at least “man-made” nature…we must purchase the option lands….

Option Lands Map SFWMD River of Grass, Option 1 is 46,800 acres and shown in brown. (SFWMD map, 2010)
Option Lands Map SFWMD River of Grass, Option 1 is 46,800 acres and shown in brown. (SFWMD map, 2010)

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USGA: (http://sofia.usgs.gov/virtual_tour/controlling/wca.html)

STAs: (https://jacquithurlowlippisch.com/2015/01/20/learning-about-storm-water-treatment-areas-st-lucie-riverindian-river-lagoon/)

Purchasing option lands:

(https://jacquithurlowlippisch.com/2015/01/12/what-are-our-options-for-sending-it-south-st-lucie-riverindian-river-lagoon/)

(https://jacquithurlowlippisch.com/2015/01/15/water-water-everywhere-st-lucie-riverindian-river-lagoon/)

(www.jacquithurlowlippisch.com)