Tag Archives: Gary Goforth

Water Quality Assessment of the St. Lucie River Watershed – Water Year 2017 – DRAFT- Gary Goforth, P.E., PhD. SLR/IRL

Dr. Gary Goforth ready to tour the SLR & Lake O.

It is a journey the state, federal, and local agencies don’t always wish to take–a journey to face the numbers of our watershed…

Today, Dr Gary Goforth (http://garygoforth.net) shares his most recent report, “Water Quality Assessment of the St Lucie River Watershed, For Water Year 2017, DRAFT.”

Mind you, for non-scientist people like myself, a “water year” is reported from May of one year, through April the next year, as opposed to a calendar year.

The full report is linked at the bottom of the post and contains numerous helpful charts. I have just included the key findings below.

Dr Goforth wanted to get the draft assessment out before the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s  Basin Management Action Plan workshop scheduled for this Friday Aug. 25th at 10:00 am at Martin County Building Permits Office, 900 Southeast Ruhnke Street, Stuart, FL 34994, Conference Rooms A & B because this is where the rubber hits the road! FDEP: (http://www.dep.state.fl.us/central/Home/Watershed/BMAP.htm)

Reflections in the St Lucie River, JTL

Water Quality Assessment of the St. Lucie River Watershed –Water Year 2017 – DRAFT Gary Goforth, P.E., Ph.D.

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? (Who watches the Watchers?)

Key Findings:
1. Over the last water year (May 2016 – April 2017), the surface water entering the St. Lucie River and Estuary (SLRE) in general was of poor water quality. The best water quality entering the SLRE was from the highly urbanized Tidal Basins. The largest source of phosphorus, nitrogen and sediment pollution to the SLRE was Lake Okeechobee discharges. The C-44 Canal Basin contributed poor water quality, and was the only basin demonstrating a worsening in water quality over the last ten years.

2. It was estimated that stormwater runoff from agricultural land use contributed more flow and nutrient pollution than any other land use, even contributing more flow than Lake Okeechobee discharges.

3. The annual Basin Management Action Plan (BMAP) progress reports produced by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection continue to indicate water quality conditions in the tributaries of the SLRE are better than they actually are. Examples of flaws in the BMAP assessment process include the omission of Lake Okeechobee pollution loads, the use of simulated data instead of observed data, the inability to account for hydrologic variability, and the inability to assess individually each of the major basins contributing to the SLRE.

4. An alternative to the assessment approach presented in the BMAP progress reports was developed and used to evaluate water quality conditions of major inflows to the SLRE and to assess progress towards achieving the Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) load reduction goals. This alternative approach uses observed data, includes Lake discharges, accounts for hydrologic variability, and is applied to each of the major basins contributing pollution loads to the SLRE. For WY2017, observed nitrogen loads to the SLRE exceeded the Phase 1 BMAP target loads (adjusted for hydrologic variability) by 77 percent. Observed phosphorus loads exceeded the Phase 1 BMAP target loads (adjusted for hydrologic variability) by 53 percent.

5. The largest single source of total nitrogen, total phosphorus and sediment load to the SLRE was Lake Okeechobee discharges. In addition, total phosphorus concentrations in Lake Okeechobee discharges to the SLRE remained almost four times the lake’s TMDL in-lake target concentration of 40 parts per billion (ppb). In 2017, the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) reported that phosphorus loading to the lake from surrounding watersheds was almost 5 times the Lake’s TMDL of 105 metric tons, yet staff acknowledged the agency does not enforce permits that set numeric limits on phosphorus discharges to the lake[1] (SFWMD 2016, SFWMD 2017). Unfortunately, despite the continued and well-publicized pollution of the lake, the Florida legislature in 2016 enacted a water bill that pushed back deadlines for achieving the lake’s TMDL by decades (Ch. 2016-1).

6. The best water quality entering the SLRE during WY2017 was observed in the highly urbanized Tidal Basins, with concentrations of 97 ppb and 819 ppb for TP and TN, respectively. Each of the remaining source basins, except the C-44 Canal Basin[2], exhibited a slight improvement in nutrient levels compared to their base periods, however, collectively these WY2017 loads did not achieve the alternative BMAP Phase 1 load target (Figures ES-1 and ES-2). The C-23 and Tidal Basins met the alternative BMAP Phase 1 target for TP, while the C-23, C-24 and Tidal Basins met the alternative BMAP Phase 1 target for TN. The predominantly agricultural C-44 Canal Basin exhibited poor nutrient conditions, and in fact, continued a trend of deteriorating nutrient conditions compared to its 1996-2005 base period. As a whole, the water quality entering the SLRE remains poor, although a slight improvement over the 1996-2005 period was observed.

FULL REPORT below: the complete report can be seen/downloaded from Dr Goforth’s website under “Estuaries and Lake Okeechobee:” http://www.garygoforth.net/DRAFT%20-%20Water%20Quality%20Assessment%20of%20the%20SLRW%20-%20Water%20Year%202017.pdf

Dr Goforth’s website:(http://garygoforth.net)

Army Corp of Engineer Structure S-80 releases water from Lake Okeechobee in the the C-44 Canal that leads to the St Lucie River. JTL
Lake Okeechobee.
basins of SLR/IRL SFWMD


Goforth Graph Showing C-44 Basin Runoff into Lake Okeechobee, 2017, SLR/IRL

In recent years we along the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon have been screaming because the ACOE and SFWMD have been discharging water from Lake Okeechobee and the C-44 basin into our waterways causing destructive toxic algae blooms and other issues to our area …

This year some are screaming because C-44 basin runoff water in southern Martin County is being pumped back into Lake Okeechobee. Yes, C-44 is “running backwards.” It’s a crazy world here in South Florida even through the water managers are working hard at “getting the water right…”

So two odd things are going on right now. First, water is being sent into Lake O from the C-44 canal as we were in a long-time drought, and also, now, water is being back-pumped into the lake from the south to help alleviate flooding in the Water Conservation Areas— as it has rained so much recently “down there.” This whole situation is exacerbated because the EAA,  in the middle, “is kept dry to protect the property of the agricultural industry and safety of communities south of the dike.”

SLR basins. C-44 and surrounding man-made basin is in pink. This is the area that is being back pumped into Lake O as the lake has been low due to drought. But area rains in southern Water Conservation Areas are so full water “cannot be sent south…” South Florida Conundrum…SFMWD, 2017.
The graph and short write-up below are from friend and engineer Dr Gary Goforth. The graph “shows” the C-44 basin runoff (see image above) being sent to Lake Okeechobee in 2017 compared to other years since 1980 (other than ’81) “is at 100%.”

I have also included some articles and images on the other “back into Lake O” subject. Back-pumping was made illegal in the 1990s, but is allowed under certain circumstances such as endangering communities and agriculture in the EAA, and danger to wildlife in the conservation areas due to flooding…All of this is “back-pumping” not good for the health of the lake. In all cases, it is helping one thing while hurting another…

One day we will have to truly get the water right. Images below may help explain things.


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. *This slide is similar to what is going on today in June of 2017. Wildlife is drowning in the Water Conservation Areas (south of EAA) while the Everglades Agricultural Area is pumped dry to protect agriculture. (just south Lake O) Crazy. (Captiva Conservation 2005.)

” For the period 1980-2016, about 32% of the C-44 Basin runoff was sent to the Lake, while 68% was sent to the St. Lucie River and Estuary. Historically (i.e., before 1923) virtually none of the C-44 Basin runoff went to the St. Lucie River and Estuary: some went to the Lake, some went to the Loxahatchee River and some went north to the St. John’s River. So far in 2017, virtually all of the basin runoff has been sent to the Lake.”

Gary Goforth (http://www.garygoforth.net)

6-28-17 JTL



Why is C-44 flowing backwards, JTL: https://jacquithurlowlippisch.com/2017/06/13/why-are-c-44-and-s-2-flowing-backwards-into-lake-okeechobee/WPTV Back Pumping Concerns: http://amp.wptv.com/2248571360/lake-okeechobee-back-pumping-concers.html

TCPalm:  Back-pumping into L.O. http://www.tcpalm.com/story/news/local/indian-river-lagoon/health/2017/06/27/south-florida-water-management-district-backpumping-into-lake-o/431280001/

CBS12: http://cbs12.com/news/local/water-managers-begin-back-pumping-to-address-high-water-emergency

Map south of Lake O. showing EAA, STAs, and WCAs. (Map Everglades Foundation, public)

Stay on the Ride! The Many Roller Coaster Configurations of Senate Bill 10, SLR/IRL


Senate January 11 2016 – Goforth (PDF of Dr Gary Goforth’s presentation to the Senate NRAC)

Gary Goforth, PhD

Florida Channel 1-11-17 video (go to time 1:08-1:32 to see Dr Goforth’s presentation) (http://thefloridachannel.org/videos/11117-senate-appropriations-subcommittee-environment-natural-resources/)


Senate Bill 10, the bill associated with Senate President Joe Negron and his goal to stop the damaging discharges of Lake Okeechobee to the St Lucie River and Caloosahatchee… my gosh, up and then down, and then up again…Why such a roller coaster ride?

The last time I went on a roller coaster ride was many years ago when I in my twenties and teaching German at Pensacola High School. I took my IB high school students and 14 visiting German exchange students to Six Flags. I got so sick on the ride that I had to sit on a bench the remainder of the day. The students? They loved it and went multiple times! Roller coasters are not fun for everyone. But one thing’s for sure, if you’re on the ride, and you feel sick, be assured that it will end, but when it hasn’t, hold on! This bill, this ride, won’t end for another month plus, as it has to be voted on by the full Senate and achieve a matching bill in the House….

Thus far, the bill has really gone “double-full-circle-upside down-roller-coaster” in that Stuart’s Dr Gary Goforth ( http://garygoforth.net) mentioned the many configurations available to achieve “the goal” during the January 11th 2017 meeting of the Senate Natural Resources Appropriations Committee. At this time he pointed out that some of those “loopy configurations” on his visual went back to CERP’s birth year of 2000 and the first goals the state and federal government had for an EAA reservoir!

You can watch Dr Goforth’s presentation and see his handout linked at the top of this post. Gosh, I kind of feel sick, yes, there have been so many changes and so many numbers… 60,000, 14,000, 360,000, 240,000, A-1, A-2, my head is spinning! There is so much back and forth! Yes there is, but goodness, you can’t say this isn’t exciting! The St Lucie River and Indian River Lagoon a roller coaster for the whole world to see! Personally, I am going to try NOT to sit out on the bench this time, how about you?  🙂

maverick-roller-coaster-cedar-point-ohio.jpg.rend.tccom.1280.960 2.jpeg

Here is a Senate staff summary of what part of the rollercoaster ride the bill is on today:

CS/SB 10:
 Establishes options for providing additional water storage south of Lake Okeechobee, including the:
o Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA) reservoir project with the goal of providing a minimum of 240,000 acre-feet of water storage; and
o C-51 reservoir project with the goal of providing approximately 60,000 acre-feet of water storage.
 Authorizes the Board of Trustees of the Internal Improvement Trust Fund (TIITF) and the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) to negotiate the amendment or termination of leases on lands within the EAA for exchange or use for the EAA reservoir project.
 Requires lease agreements relating to land in the EAA leased to the Prison Rehabilitative Industries and Diversified Enterprises, Inc., (PRIDE Enterprises) for an agricultural work program to be terminated in accordance with the lease terms.
 Requires the SFWMD, upon the effective date of the act, to identify the lessees of the approximately 3,200 acres of land owned by the state or the district west of the A-2 parcel and east of the Miami Canal and the private property owners of the approximately 500 acres of land surrounded by such lands;
 Requires the SFWMD, by July 31, 2017, to contact the lessors and landowners of such lands to express the SFWMD’s interest in acquiring the land through the purchase or exchange of lands or by the amendment or termination of lease agreements.
 Requires the SFWMD to jointly develop a post-authorization change report with the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) for the Central Everglades Planning Project (CEPP) to revise the project component located on the A-2 parcel for implementation of the EAA reservoir project.
 Requires that if, for any reason, the post-authorization change report does not receive Congressional approval by October 1, 2018, unless the district has been granted an extension by the Legislature, the SFWMD begin the planning study for the EAA reservoir project by October 31, 2018, and proceed with the A-2 parcel project component of CEPP in accordance with the project implementation report.
 Requires the SFWMD to give preference to the hiring of former agricultural workers primarily employed during 36 of the past 60 months in the EAA, consistent with their qualifications and abilities, for the construction and operation of the EAA reservoir project.
 Establishes the Everglades Restoration Agricultural Community Employment Training Program within the Department of Economic Opportunity to provide grants for employment programs that seek to match persons who complete such training programs to nonagricultural employment opportunities in areas of high agricultural employment, and to provide other training, educational, and information services necessary to stimulate the creation of jobs in the areas of agricultural unemployment. The program is required to include opportunities to obtain the qualifications and skills necessary for jobs related to federal and state restoration projects, the Airglades Airport in Hendry County, or an inland port in Palm Beach County.
 Establishes a revolving loan fund to provide funding assistance to local governments and water supply entities for the development and construction of water storage facilities.
 Revises the uses of the Water Protection and Sustainability Program Trust Fund to include the water storage facility revolving loan program.
 Prohibits, beginning July 1, 2017, the use of inmates for correctional work programs in the agricultural industry in the EAA or in any area experiencing high unemployment rates in the agricultural sector.
 Beginning in Fiscal Year 2018-2019, appropriates the sum of $100 million from the Land Acquisition Trust Fund (LATF) to the Everglades Trust Fund for the purpose of implementing the water storage reservoir projects, with the remainder of such funds in any fiscal year to be made available for Everglades projects.
The bill provides the following appropriations for the 2017-2018 fiscal year:
 The sum of $30 million in nonrecurring funds from the LATF is appropriated to the Everglades Trust Fund for the purposes of acquiring land or negotiating leases pursuant to s. 373.4598(4), F.S., or for any cost related to the planning or construction of the EAA reservoir project.
 The sum of $3 million in nonrecurring funds from the LATF to the Everglades Trust Fund for the purposes of developing the post-authorization change report pursuant to s. 373.4598, and the sum of $1 million in nonrecurring funds from the LATF to the Everglades Trust Fund for the purposes of negotiating Phase II of the C-51 reservoir project pursuant to s. 373.4598, F.S.
 The sum of $30 million in nonrecurring funds from the LATF to the Water Resource Protection and Sustainability Program Trust Fund for the purposes of implementing Phase I of the C-51 reservoir project as a water storage facility in accordance with ss. 373.4598 and 373.475, F.S.

Image 4-9-17 at 11.29 AM

Full bill with changes, Senate Bill 10 version #3, 4-6-17 https://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2017/10/Amendment/920390/HTML

History of bill in Senate: https://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2017/00010

“Multiple combinations of location, configuration, land area and water depth can achieve the storage and flow objectives of the EAA Storage Reservoir.” Dr Gary Goforth


Image 4-9-17 at 11.34 AM
Stay on the ride!

Updated Lake O Discharge Information, Dr Gary Goforth-8/16, SLR/IRL

Thank you Dr Goforth for allowing me to share this update. Through knowing our subject, we shall prevail! Jacqui


Subject: Updated Lake discharge information, August 23rd, 2016

Updated flows and loads attached.

Since January 1:
· 178 billion gallons of polluted Lake water has been discharged to the St. Lucie estuary, equal to 24% of all Lake discharges. This foul water dumped millions of pounds of pollution into the estuary:
o 247,000 pounds of phosphorus
o 2.4 million pounds of nitrogen
o 47.5 million pounds of sediment
· 372 billion gallons of polluted Lake water has been discharged to the Caloosahatchee estuary, equal to 50% of all Lake discharges. This foul water dumped millions of pounds of pollution into the estuary:
o 325,000 pounds of phosphorus
o 4.7 million pounds of nitrogen
o 19.3 million pounds of sediment
· 21.4 billion gallons of polluted Lake water has been discharged to the Lake Worth Lagoon, equal to 3% of all Lake discharges.
· 45.4 billion gallons of treated Lake water has been discharged to the Everglades, equal to 6% of all Lake discharges, and 60% less than last year at this time.
· 12.6 times more Lake water has been sent to the estuaries than to the Everglades

Despite the high pollution load from the Lake to the St. Lucie estuary in 2016, agricultural runoff has contributed about 70% more phosphorus pollution, and almost as much nitrogen pollution.

More info at:

Gary Goforth

(Please click on images to enlarge)

Updated Lake Flows and Loads to the Estuaries July 2016, Dr Goforth, SLR/IRL

Today I am sharing Dr Gary Goforth’s most recent update from July 26, 2016,entitled:

“Updated Lake Flows and Loads to the Estuaries”

This information is disturbing. Please take this information and fight for change in whatever way you can. Thank you. Jacqui


Dr Goforth:

Some observations for the period January 1 – July 25, 2016:
· Inflows to Lake Okeechobee are more than twice what they were this time last year
· Approximately 20 times more Lake water has been sent to the estuaries in 2016 than has been sent to the Everglades; unbelievable…
· Only 20% of Lake releases have been sent south this year, including irrigation for the EAA and other users; only 5% of Lake releases have made it to the Everglades through the STAs this year
· Lake releases to the Caloosahatchee (1.1 million acre feet or about 360 billion gallons) have been about twice the Lake flows to the St. Lucie (0.5 million acre feet, or about 167 billion gallons)
· The duration of the 2016 Lake event for the St. Lucie (178 days) has now exceeded the durations of both the 2013 and 1997-1998 events. Fortunately the Lake discharges in 2016 has been about half the flow that occurred during the 1997-1998 event.
· Lake releases to the St. Lucie have carried more than 8 times the phosphorus TMDL for the entire C-44 Canal, and more than 9 times the nitrogen TMDL … yet FDEP refuses to include the Lake loadings when they assess the C-44 Basin for compliance with the TMDL – unbelievable …
· An estimated 37 million pounds of suspended sediment has been dumped from the Lake to the St. Lucie River and Estuary; much of this accumulates on the bottom as muck.
o Because of the filtration effect of the marsh along the western shore of the Lake, the sediment load to the Caloosahatchee Estuary has fortunately been less – about 20 million pounds.
· More than 220,000 pounds of phosphorus and 2.2 million pounds of nitrogen from the Lake has been dumped to the St Lucie Estuary
o Phosphorus loads from agricultural lands in the watershed have amounted to about 390,000 pounds – 75% MORE THAN FROM THE LAKE
o Nitrogen loads from agricultural lands in the watershed have amounted to about 1.5 million pounds
o Septic tank loading of nitrogen from Martin and St. Lucie counties is roughly 5% of the total nitrogen loading to the St Lucie
· More than 340,000 pounds of phosphorus and 4.8 million pounds of nitrogen from the Lake has been dumped to the Caloosahatchee Estuary.

All brought to you by our leaders in Tallahassee and Washington …
Dr Gary Goforth

More sobering details available on my website:http://www.garygoforth.net/Other%20projects.htm

Year to date flows and loads:

2016 Lake event SLR:

2016 Lake event CE:


How We See the World–Maps For the Past, Maps for the Future, SLR/IRL


1866 map shared by Jim Davis
1866 map shared by Jim Wilson.

I don’t know about you, but I love maps! As a visual person, a map helps me understand  more than words…

In his “Student Guide to Map Making” Ralph Ehrenberg writes:

“Maps are one of the most important types of documents associated with exploration. A map is a graphic representation that facilitates a spatial understanding of things, concepts, conditions, processes or events in the human world. They are used by explorers to help find their way. They are also prepared by explorers to document or record what in fact they discovered.”

It may not be the 1800s, but we are still explorers. We are trying to find a way for a better water future. One of the best ways to achieve this is to study the past. Over the weekend Facebook friend, Jim Wilson, discovered a very interesting 1866 map of Florida and the Everglades:

You can view the 1866 map in full here: http://www.mapofus.org/_maps/atlas/1866-FL.html

I emailed Dr Gary Goforth about it and this is what he said:  “Portions are accurate, but feel that other portions are not accurate, e.g., the southern shore of Lake Okeechobee. Regardless, it is an amazing compilation of “known” information from 1866!”

In spite of perfection or imperfection, the map has the ability to inspire and give us a visual of what the lands and area south of Lake Okeechobee may have looked like—-I have studied many maps, but I had never had a way to envision the rivers/rivulets running south to the Everglades—–yes, the multiple “fingers” so often reported by early explorers. For me the 1866 map, in one form or another, was an “ah-ha” moment. Thank you Jim!

Maps give “vision…”

We are still explorers…

—I think we should create a “map” of what we would like to see in the future for the waters of our state, particularly south of Lake Okeechobee. Not a drawing, or a satellite, but a good-old map.

You can view other old cool Florida maps from 1800-1849 here: http://fcit.usf.edu/florida/maps/1800/1800.htm

Portion of 1845 Florida Military map showing around south of Lake Okeechobee but no rivulets.
Portion of 1845 Florida Military map showing “fingers” south of Lake Okeechobee but no continuing rivulets as the 1866 shows.


Thank you Jim Wilson for sharing the 1866 map and inspiring this blog post. jacqui

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.


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. Postcards courtesy of historian Sandra Henderson Thurlow.

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/)