Tag Archives: flow way south

SFWMD Recommends Against Approval of Sugar Hill, An Aerial Tour, St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon

Water Structure
Flying west towards Clewiston and the proposed Sugar Hill development, along the southern rim of Lake Okeechobee, looking north, one sees wet lands inside of the lake, the rim canal, a water structure, a southerly canal, agriculture lands, and highways…(All photos, Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch.)
Black Gold.
An open field exposes the land’s black gold. Pahokee area heading to Clewiston.

On Sunday, a beautiful day, Dr Shawn Engebretsen flew my husband and I, in his Piper Lance, to get a “higher view” of the  proposed Sugar Hill Sector Plan around the area of Clewiston in Hendry County and to get a shot of its heart, Airglades Airport.

I decided to continue this planned trip even though on Friday, October 3rd, the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) sent a letter to the state land planning agency “recommending against approving the proposed Sugar Hill Sector Plan, DEO #14-3SP, as it does not provide sufficient information to show that future Everglades restoration efforts will not be harmed…” The letter goes on to give additional comments on flood protection, pollutant loading , irrigation sources, and ecosystem restoration.

Kudos to the SFWMD!

Nonetheless, we must keep a close eye on this the project as it still has other state reviews and could resurrect itself at any time depending on timing, politics, and money.

So let’s go!

The most interesting way to fly to Clewiston from Witham Airfield in Stuart is to follow the C-44 canal from the St Lucie River to Lake Okeechobee and then fly to the southern edge of the lake. In doing so one sees the towns/cities of Canal Point, Pahokee, Bell Glade and South Bay on the easterly and southern side of the lake and Clewiston and Moore Haven further west.

It is a huge place out here and time and space somehow seem enlarged, like in the American West. The distances are vast and it takes a while to get one’s bearing.

After about thirty minutes, passing Pahokee and Bell Glade, hugging the southern edge of Lake Okeechobee and looking out toward the horizon one finally one sees, emerging out of the smoke of its processing plant, the historic city of Clewiston.

Lake Okeechobee.
Lake Okeechobee, cities and agricultural lands.
Circling over the city of Clewiston, the headquarters of US Sugar.
Circling over the city of Clewiston, the headquarters of US Sugar.

In the photo above one sees the sugar processing plant (smoke), the old Clewiston Airport which is no longer functioning, parts of the city and the agriculture lands south. The sector map below shows this same area but looking straight on. Clewiston is the gray square at the edge of the lake.

Sugar Hill Sector Plan map, Clewiston area. Courtesy of Miller, Legg.
Sugar Hill Sector Plan map, Clewiston area. Courtesy of Miller, Legg.

Continuing, the next landmarks out in this open agricultural land, one sees the Airglades Airport and Highway 27 turning north. This area would be the “heart” of a Sugar Hill development. Right now there is just the air strip and miles and miles of agricultural lands. I believe many in this area are citrus.

Airglades Airpot
Airglades Airport and surrounding agricultural lands.
Looking south to Highway  27 turning north.
Looking south to Highway 27 turning north-miles of agricultural fields.
Map of Airglades Airport and surrounding proposed development. (Courtelsy of Miller /Legg.)
Map of Airglades Airport and surrounding proposed development. Note curve in highway 27 at top left side quickly turning north. Courtesy of Miller /Legg.

The third area on the far western edge of the proposed Sugar Hill development has Lake Hipochee as a landmark. Lake Hipochee was the headwaters of the Caloosahatchee River that Hamilton Disston put a canal through and dynamited its waterfall in order to lower Lake  Okeechobee in the late 1800s.  Although the lake appears as “a lake” on maps it has been destroyed by drainage and is now a sprawling wetland.

Lake Hipochee
Lake Hipochee with canal to Lake O.
Lake Hipochee with encroaching agriculture lands.
Lake Hipochee wetlands area with encroaching agriculture lands.
Lake Hipochee and agricultural lands south
“Lake Hipochee” and agricultural lands south into proposed SH sector lands.

So hopefully this little tour has helped you get your bearings and not totally confused you.

Why do we need to know about this?

Basically many of these option lands need to be purchases by the state by October, 2015 for Everglades restoration and or trading for other lands, to create a “flow way south.” Otherwise certainly, in time, there will be one more sprawling city in the area of the historic Everglades blocking it regaining a healthy future and water supply for south Florida. Personally I believe the way to build an economic future for the people south of the lake is through Everglades restoration not development.

But presently, the state does not want to buy these lands as they say there is not enough money to manage them and the purchase would impede on the continuation of projects already in progress.

I believe this to be true, but sometimes you’ve got to take advantage of an opportunity before its gone. Sometimes you just have to “do it,” or you never get another chance.

Entire map of proposed Sugar Hill area.
Entire map of proposed Sugar Hill area. Lake Hipochee is the blue dot in the very upper left corner that is cut off.
Key.
Key.

 

 

 

 

 

Where Do We Draw the Line on Water? St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon

West of the red lines shows the edge of what was once the Everglades in South Florida. Development has crept and continues to creep over this edge. (Photo/map courtesy of Chappy Young,/GCY Surveyors, 2014.)
West of the red line shows the edge of what was once the Everglades in South Florida. Development has crept and continues to creep over this edge. (Photo/map courtesy of Chappy Young,/GCY Inc. Surveyors, 2014.)

We in Martin and St Lucie Counties make up what is referred to as the “Northern Everglades.”  Before the Army Corp of  Engineers, (ACOE), changed the course of Lake Okeechobee’s waters in the 1920s and directed it to go east and west through canals to the estuaries, Lake Okeechobee’s water would slowly crest over the southern edge of the lake and flow south. For many, myself included, the long term goal of saving our St Lucie/IRL and Caloosahatchee estuaries  includes recreating  a type of “flow way, or floodway south” to Everglades National Park. The parched park needs our water just as Nature intended.

There are many challenges to this scenario but the most visual are the following.

The first is the Everglades Agricultural Area, (EAA), 700,000 acres located just south of the lake; the second is east coast development that has crept in over the years “into the Everglades.”

The red colored blocks south of Lake O. are the EAA-700,000 acres of sugar lands and vegetables. South of the EAA are the water conservation areas.(SFWMD map, 2012.)
The red colored blocks south of Lake O. are the EAA,700,000 acres of sugar lands, vegetables, small historic agricultural communities, and infrastructure. South of the EAA are the water conservation areas in purple and green. (SFWMD map, 2012.)
The red line shows the designated "Everglades." As we can see humankind has filled a lot of it in. (SFWMD map, 2012.)
The red line surrounding Lake O. shows the Everglades wetlands that historically filtered the water before it got to Florida Bay. As we can see humankind has “filled in” a lot of this. (SFWMD map, 2012.)

I have written before about the “seepage barrier” an underground permeable wall  that runs along the east coast to keep the water out of these developed areas through pumps that send the seeping water back inside the Everglades. Crazy. If needed, the EAA also pumps its ground water and surface water off its lands to keep the level as needed for the crops. They are assisted by the SFWMD. This is a historic relationship. It is how our state was “built.”

This satellite photo shows water on lands in 2005. One can see the lands in the EAA are devoid of water. This water has been pumped off the lands into the Water Conservation Areas, sometimes back pumped into the lake, and also stored in other canals. (Captiva Conservation 2005.)
This satellite photo shows in blue the water on lands in 2005. One can see the lands in the EAA just south of the lake are devoid of water. This water has been pumped off the lands into the water conservation areas, sometimes back pumped into the lake, and also stored in other canals. The water would flood the crops if it were on the lands. (2004-2005 SFWMD aerial photography.)

The above photo shows the EAA dry while surrounding lands are wet.

I really do not have an answer of how to build a flow way through all this agriculture, infrastructure, and development as I am not a scientist. But I have not given up the idea. I have faith one day there will not be another choice.

What I confidently can say is that we all know water is valuable, “the new oil.”  Water issues whether they be pollution or the need for water usage in a growing state demand attention and we know with  the future coming we should not build anything else inside those red lines. No port, no windmill farms, no more development, no more agriculture.

FWC map for 2060 projected population growth, state of Florida, 2011.
FWC map for 2060 projected population growth, state of Florida, 2011.

If the the Florida Wildlife Commission’s map is right and Florida’s population in 2060 is around 36 million,  (today it is 19 million), we are going to need more fresh water.  Also if we are to save the northern estuaries and the Everglades so our children have some semblance of what the planet once was, we must redirect more water to go to where it once did, south.

Let’s draw a new line for water. A line that clearly shows we know its value not just to agriculture and development, but to the environment, and the children of the future. 

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1000 Friends of Florida 2060 Population: (http://archive.tallahassee.com/assets/pdf/CD52924126.PDF)
Northern Everglades DEP: (http://www.dep.state.fl.us/everglades/neepp.htm)
SFWMD/Natural Systems Model: NSM-4.5 (http://www.sfwmd.gov/portal/page/portal/xrepository/sfwmd_repository_pdf/nsm45.pdf)