Tag Archives: Herbert Hoover Dike

The False Edge of Lake Okeechobee, SLR/IRL

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Road trip series:

Today we continue our road trip in the Glades atop the Herbert Hoover Dike.

In the short video below you can see my Glades tour-guide, former mayor JP Sasser, driving, –in his hometown of which he knows so much about–Pahokee. On the right lies the city, and on the left is Lake Okeechobee. A precarious position indeed!

Pahokee is actually unusual in that this little town is “high-ground.” According to JP, about 13 feet above ground. This is not the case for most of the Glades.

Interestingly, in the video, JP discusses how the Army Corp recently decided where to strengthen the dike in Pahokee, because if they had extended it out 500 feet as was done along the rest of the eastern shore, the town of Pahokee would have been covered up as it is located right beside the dike.

Video: Driving along dike:https://youtu.be/fQILKYeQbeU

Lake Okeechobee’s dike and its history are fascinating just as is all our area of the Northern Everglades including the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon that in 1923 became the primary exit point for waters that could no longer flow south after the Herbert Hoover Dike was built.

According to historian and Gladesman Lawrence E. Will:

“…following the floods of 1923 and 1924 water stood over farm lands nearly the entire winter. To protect the farms, the state of Florida had then constructed an earthen dike along the whole south shore. It was some five to eight feet above ground level but this dike was never intended to withstand a hurricane.”

Regarding the expansion of the dike, as the “Herbert Hoover,”after the horrific hurricanes of 1926, ’28 and again in again in ’49, Mr. Nathaniel Reed notes in his writing “Lake Okeechobee and the Everglades: “The Corps of Engineers studied the average size of Lake Okeechobee and designed a dike around it…”

Now this is where things get very interesting.

“The average size of the lake….” what’s that?

Now if we look at this slide taken from a 2016, presented by Jeff Sumner, who was at the time Office Chief State and Agricultural Policy, SFWMD, it shows the size of the lake pre-development. One can see it was about once about 1000 square miles in size and today it is 750.

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The checkered fields were once lake bottom. L. E. Will, “Okeechobee Hurricane”
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L.E. Will Swamp to Sugar Bowl. The Glades area, today’s Everglades Agricultural Area has  become one of the most productive agricultural areas in the world…

Of course the size expanded and contracted based on rainfall, but one still gets the point…this lower area was nature’s shoreline, a boggy marsh with rivers leading into a sawgrass “river of grass” bordered by a forest of over 30,000 acres of Custard Apple trees that functioned like mangroves extending up to five miles or more south into what is today’s Belle Glade. As Mr Lawrence Will would have said: “Who wudda thought!” (http://museumoftheglades.org)

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Pahokee is in upper right. Map Laurence E Will
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The lake once went further south here and there following the rivers to  Hwy. 80
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Land ownership today
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Sen. Joe Negron’s map for land purchase

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The Tidal Waves of Lake Okeechobee, “Seiches,” St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon

NASA aerial Lake Okeechobee, Florida, with text, JTL.
NASA aerial Lake Okeechobee, Florida, with text, JTL.

A tidal wave….always a scary thought, and usually associated with the ocean, however, tidal waves or “seiches,” can occur in enclosed bodies of water as well, such as a lake— like that of “big water,” or Lake Okeechobee.

As we have entered hurricane season and live in Florida, the most vulnerable state in the nation for strikes, it is important that all of us in the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon/Lake Okeechobee region know our evacuation plan should one be necessary….

(http://floridadisaster.org/PublicMapping/index.htm)

A while back, I wrote about my frightening experience with a storm in the proximity of Lake Okeechobee and my friend, Dr Gary Goforth, wrote me back. Today I will share his thoughts on the subject of “tidal waves” in Lake Okeechobee.

Since “we” first walled the lake for agriculture in the 1920s, “white man” has changed the dynamics of both water and of storms….Recently, the ACOE has spent over 65 million dollars to repair the aging dike. As you know, nature evolved so Lake Okeechobee’s overflow waters would slowly flow south to the Everglades. This is no more, and her overflow waters are directed with great destruction through the Northern Estuaries…

So now about seiches…..or tidal waves…..

EAA below Lake Okeechobee, public image.
EAA A.K.A. Everglades Agricultural Area, below Lake Okeechobee, public image.
S-308 as, the structure that allows water from Lake Okeechobee to enter the C-44 canal, SLR/IRL.
S-308 as, the structure that allows water from Lake Okeechobee to enter the C-44 canal, SLR/IRL.(JTL, 2015)
Lake Okeechobee is tremendous in size. One cannot see across to the other side. (Photo Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch, S.Engebretsen pilot, 2014.)
Lake Okeechobee is tremendous in size, 730 square miles. It was once closer to 1000 aware miles before it was diked for agriculture use around and south of the lake. When looking across, one cannot see across to the other side. (Photo Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch, S. Engebretsen pilot, 2014.)

History & Today/Herbert Hoover Dike: (http://www.saj.usace.army.mil/Missions/CivilWorks/LakeOkeechobee/HerbertHooverDike.aspx)

Tidal wave art public domain, altered JTL.
Tidal wave art public domain, altered JTL.

 

FROM DR GARY GOFORTH (http://garygoforth.net)

Jacqui–

Your comments on the “tidal waves” within the Lake inspired me to chart the fluctuations in water levels in the Lake resulting from the 2004 hurricanes Frances and Jeanne…

The attached images below show two charts and a reference map.

The first chart shows the fluctuation in Lake stage as Hurricane Frances slowly moved through the area and the 2nd is a similar chart for Hurricane Jeanne. An interesting feature is that as the storm approached the Lake, strong north winds blew the water to the southern rim against the HHDike (as reflected by the rising red line: water level along the south shore) and simultaneously moved water away from the northern sections of the Dike (as reflected by the descending blue line: water level along the north shore). This phenomenon contributed to the catastrophic flooding south of the Lake in the 1926 and 1928 storms as the muck dike failed. For Hurricane Frances, the water level along the south shore rose by more than 5 ft as the eye approached!

As the eye of the storms passed over the Lake, the wind quickly changed direction and the water that was piled up along the south shore moved to the north rim of the Dike (rising blue line). For Hurricane Frances, the water level along the north shore rose by 10 ft or more when the winds shifted! For Hurricane Jeanne, which was moving faster than Frances, the water level on the north shore rose by more than 4 ft per hour – I suspect it looked like a slow-moving tidal wave coming towards the Dike!

For both storms, the water levels overtopped the stage gauges at both stations – so the fluctuations were actually greater than depicted in the charts!

For more information, you can read up on Lake seiches  (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seiche) which are large waves sloshing back and forth in large bodies of water. 

—Gary, Dr Goforth 4/15

 

Chart Dr Gary Goforth, 2015.
Chart 1 Dr Gary Goforth, 2015.
Dr Gary Goforth chart,, 2015.
Dr 2 Gary Goforth chart, 2015.
Dr Gary Goforth 2015.
Dr Gary Goforth, 3. 2015.

Thank you Dr Goforth for an interesting lesson. Let’s all be safe and smart this hurricane season.

My niece Evie stands at the manicured edge of the east side of Lake Okeechobee at Port Mayaca. (Photo Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch 2013)
My niece, Evie, stands at the edge of the east side of Lake Okeechobee at Port Mayaca. (Photo Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch 2013)

Drainage, Lake Okeechobee, the Everglades, St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon

Historic 1913 postcard of canal in  Miami, Florida. Courtesy of the Thurlow Collection.
Rare historic 1913 postcard is titled: “Drainage canal and Everglades, Miami.” Courtesy of the Thurlow Collection.

My theme this week has been “that which is south of the lake.” The big lake that is, Okeechobee–big waters. The Everglades.

We must always keep in mind that we are all connected, and to fix our water problems with the St Lucie River /Indian River Lagoon we have to understand the rest of south Florida’s drainage system as well.

Last night my mother sent me the fabulous colorized historic 1913 post card above. It is titled “drainage canal and the Everglades, Miami. “So idyllic. So beautiful.  Except for the giant gash in the land to the right of the card that foreshadows the future we are all now living: over-drainage.

Canal ca. 1920 pubic photo,  "west of Ft Lauderdale."
Canal ca. 1920 pubic photo, “west of Ft Lauderdale.” Gunter Herman, 1885-1972. Florida Memory Project.

Drainage in Florida began as early as the mid 1800s and was the goal of Florida’s first government admitted to the United States on March 3, 1845. It remains the goal of our government today, as 1.7 billion gallons of fresh water a day goes to tide through south Florida canals.  I must say the state may be starting to catch on. Water farmers, the “latest rage,” will tell you that we spent the last 100 years taking the water off the land, and we will spend the next 100 years putting it back on….

As we know, the ACOE is directed through Congress as to what it is to do. “The State,” meaning Florida, plays a huge role in this “ask.” Today, I have a Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council meeting. This council plays a role as far as “intergovernmental coordination and review,” of coordinating between local governments and the federal government. (http://tcrpc.org)

The last two images of this blog show the photos included from the TCRPC packet. I found it rather ironic and “civilized” sounding that the areas around the lake are named “Herbert Hoover Dike Common Consequence Zones.” I assume the consequence is that if the dike breaks, there is death and destruction of property and people. Maybe it would help if there were an outlet south of that lake to relieve some of the pressure on the dike? A flow way perhaps?

Anyway, I can’t help but wonder, looking at the 1856 Military Map of Florida, if it wouldn’t have been better to work with nature, with the lake, instead of so against it?

War map of the Everglades created during the Seminole Wars, 1856.
War map of the Everglades created during the Seminole Wars, 1856.

The first video below is of the reenforcing the Herbert Hoover Dike in 2009. In 2005, after Hurricanes Francis and Jeanne, it was decided to reinforce basically the entire southern area of the dike as it is listed as one of the most dangerous and unstable in the United States. Reenforcement? I get it; nonetheless, what a crazy place to build an empire….

 

Take a look and see: ACOE’s building of dike: (https://youtu.be/BpgN8c2M1lg); History of dike and Lake O. according to ACOE (https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=KpkhJgV_mLo)

EAA below Lake Okeechobee, public image.
EAA below Lake Okeechobee, public image.

 

 

Canal and basin map SLR/IRL. (Public)
Canal and basin map of our area -SLR/IRL. (Public)

 

Surface drainage water map of south Florida,
Surface drainage water map of south Florida,
HHD Common Consequence Zones and Projects Area, CCZ from Belle Glade to Lake Harbor, ACOE 2015.
HHD “Common Consequence Zones” and Projects Area, CCZ from Belle Glade to Lake Harbor, ACOE 2015.
"HHD original destination of reaches" ACOE 2015
“HHD original destination of reaches” ACOE 2015.

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The National Environmental Policy Act (http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Environmental_Policy_Actrequires the ACOE to do an Environmental Assessment for the Herbert Hoover Dike’s Rehabilitation Reports. This is the latest: (http://www.saj.usace.army.mil/Media/NewsReleases/tabid/6071/Article/580496/environmental-report-on-proposed-dike-repairs-available-for-review.aspx)

Herbert Hoover Dike, Lake O. ACOE: (http://www.saj.usace.army.mil/Missions/CivilWorks/LakeOkeechobee/HerbertHooverDike.aspx)

Good visuals of HHD rehab here: (http://www.news-press.com/story/news/local/2014/10/04/herbet-hoover-dike-region-risk/16737395/)

Agriculture’s Eradication of the Mythical Pond Apple Forest, Lake Okeechobee, SLR/IRL

Photo of pond apples in Big Cypress, a shared flicker photo by Mac
Photo of pond apples in Big Cypress, a shared Flicker photo by Mac Stone, 2014.
Pond apple also known as custard apple--this is the custard apple forest as depicted by artist Julia Kelly in the River Kidz second edition workbook, 2015.
Pond apple is also known as custard apple–this is the custard apple forest as depicted by artist Julia Kelly in the River Kidz second edition workbook, 2015.

In Florida, the pond apple is also known by many locals as the “custard apple,”(http://www.regionalconservation.org/beta/nfyn/plantdetail.asp?tx=Annoglab)

The mythical pond apple forest….Imagine, for a mile or two back from the water’s edge the trees grew, and like God’s magic sieve, their colossal roots strained the water of Lake Okeechobee before it inched its way south through the river of grass to the Everglades. Over thousands of years, the lake’s muck built up inside, around, and under, their gigantic roots, a forest grew, until one day the farmer came, the engineer came, the “white man” came, and took it all.

“We are chosen!” they said. “We are chosen to have dominion over the earth! Strip it! Cut it! Burn it! Tear it out! Expose the muck, the precious muck, and let us build an empire. Let us lift ourselves from poverty, feed ourselves, and become rich!”

Pond apple
Pond apple public photo.
Pond apple blossom. Photo by Lisa Jefferson, 2015.
Pond apple blossom. Photo by Lisa Jefferson, Stuart, Florida, 2015.
Pond apple blossom opening, photo Chuck McCartney.
Pond apple blossom opening, photo Chuck McCartney.

And many of today’s generations have become rich from this soil.

The story of the explosion of agriculture, and the sugar industry below the great lake known as “big waters,” or “Okeechobee,” as the Seminole people called it, is a not a tale for the weak. It is the story of the nature of man, and his destruction of the environment of which he is part. It is the story of “success,” and the difficult  journey of a culture to define what “success” really means.

Lawrence E.  Will, in his book, “Swamp to Sugar Bowl,” writes in his cracker style in 1968:

“That part of the woods along the south shore and half way up the eastern side, was a dense forest of tropical custard apple trees. For a mile to two miles back from the water’s edge they grew, and on all the islands as well. About 33,000 acres of solid custard apple tress there were, and that’s a heap of woods.”

33,000 acres of custard apple trees destroyed. Gone. Forever.

Today, the Everglades Agricultural Area is 700,000 square miles south of the lake. It produces sugar and vegetables.  The growth of the area is the reason why the overflow waters of Lake Okeechobee are directed thorough the northern estuaries killing local economies, rivers, and wildlife. Thus the story of the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon.

Once during a conversation with Mr Tom MacVicar, a respected engineer who works with the agricultural and sugar industry, I was told that Lake Okeechobee used to be about “30% bigger.” At the time, I wondered what he was talking about, but over the years through reading and study I have come to understand.

Let me explain. In the late 1800s when the early farmers planted their crops they would do so in winter when Lake Okeechobee’s waters had “receded back” as it was the “dry season.”  This would be after the back-breaking work in some areas of tearing out the pond apple trees in order to get to the rich muck, “black gold,” that lies underneath. Over the years the edge of the southern shore of the lake was pushed back and then the “smaller” lake was entirely diked. This is one reason why the lake can’t hold its historical water level. Through Florida and Congress, the history of the South Florida Water Management District and the Army Corp of Engineers is linked to this history of pushing back the lake and building the agricultural empire, although now their mission includes environmental restoration.

Hmmm?

I think it would be fitting to replant some pond apple trees each year until one day, perhaps, we can regain part of the soul of that lake that was ripped out at the roots.

Old military map from 1846 shows how the fingers of water south of Lake Okeechobee that are no longer there today as the lake is diked.
Old military map from 1846 shows the fingers of water south of Lake Okeechobee that are no longer there today as the lake is diked. This would have been one area where the pond apple grew.

 

EAA below Lake Okeechobee. (Public map.)
EAA below Lake Okeechobee. (Public map.)
Today's black gold south of Lake Okeechobee. (Photo JTL, 2014)
Today’s black gold south of Lake Okeechobee. (Photo JTL, 2014)
Photo from Swamp to Suagrland, showing pond apple with moon vines around Lake O. (Lawrence E Will)
Photo from Swamp to Sugarland, showing pond apple with moon vines around Lake O. Lawrence E Will, 1968.
Close up of small pond apple on Torry Island, by Lawrence E Will.
Close up of small pond apple on Torry Island, by Belle Glade , by Lawrence E Will, 1968.
Florida Memory Project, photo by John Kunkel Small 1869-1938.
Florida Memory Project, pond apples in a creek of the  Lake Okeechobee area photo by John Kunkel Small 1869-1938.

 

History of EAA: (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Everglades#Everglades_Agricultural_Area)

Nature for Your Neighborhood, A Program of the Institute for Regional Conservation: (http://www.regionalconservation.org/beta/nfyn/plantdetail.asp?tx=Annoglab)

Mr Tom MacVicar: (http://www.macvicarconsulting.com)

ACOE Herbert Hoover Dike around Lake Okeechobee: http://www.saj.usace.army.mil/Missions/CivilWorks/LakeOkeechobee/HerbertHooverDike.aspx

The History, the Future, of Plan 6 and “Sending Water South,” St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon

 

plan 6 prototype
Map for the “Performance Configuration” co-authored in 2009, incorporating Plan 6 ideas for sending more water south.

First thank you to Dr Gary Goforth for providing much of this historical data.(http://garygoforth.net)

There is a lot of controversy surrounding the idea of “sending water south,” mostly because in order to do so privately owned lands would be taken out of sugar productivity. This post is meant to share some of the history of ideas over the years to do so, not debate it.

As we all know, before the lands south of Lake Okeechobee were drained for the budding agriculture industry in the late 1800s onward, when Lake Okeechobee overflowed, ever so gently its waters ran over the southern lip of the lake through a pond apple forest, creating a “river of grass” that became the Everglades.

In the 1920s at the direction of Congress and the State of Florida the Army Corp of Engineers (ACOE) redirected these overflow waters that had functioned as such for thousands of years through canals C-44 to the St Lucie River and C-43 to the Caloosahatchee.

This achieved better flood control for agriculture and development but has caused an environmental disaster for the northern estuaries and for the Everglades.

The environmental destruction and safety issues of the Herbert Hoover Dike were noted early on.  As far as the destruction of a local industry, the fishing industry in the St Lucie River was the poster child.  This and many other reasons caused many people over the years to seeks “improvements,” to the  overall ecological system.

One of the first was the 1955 ACOE Central and Southern Florida Project Part IV. It was a proposal evaluating different options (plans) for “increasing lake outlet capacity.  One component was “Plan 6,” a one mile wide floodway extending from the Herbert Hoover Dike to one mile into Water Conservation Area 3. For this report, Plan 6  was  the recommended improvement.  Dr Gary Goforth notes discharges to the St Lucie would have been lessened about by half,  but “not eliminate lake discharges to the St Lucie River.” In the end, the entire plan was not acted upon as many tax payer paid plans are not…but Plan 6 was not forgotten…

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Photos taken of 1955 ACOE CSFP Report courtesy of Dr Gary Goforth.
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Floodway 1955

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Various references to Plan 6 and a floodway.
Various references to Plan 6 and a floodway.

Dr Goforth also notes a “more robust plan,”a plan co-authored in 2009 by Karl Wickstrum, Paul Gray, Maggy Hurchalla, Tom Van Lent, Mark Oncavgne, Cynthia Interlandi, and Jennifer Nelson. (See first photo in this blog.) This plan is referenced by Mark Perry in his well known “River of Grass” presentation.

Plan 6
Mark Perry’s drawing in his presentation for “River of Grass,”used today, 2014.

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The Art Marshal Foundation (Art was one of the great conservationist of the early 1960/70s environmental movement and has a wildlife preserve named after him) also notes in their literature that Plan 6 is traceable to the Marshall Plan-1981.

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“Marshall Plan 1981 to Repair the Everglades, Why Plan 6 Will Work.” Marshall Foundation publication 2013, Version 2.2.

Most recently in 2013, the Rivers Coalition published on its website “Plan 6 Flowway, River of Grass, Missing Link.”

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Rivers Coalition Plan 6, the Missing Link, River of Grass, 2013.
Rivers Coalition Plan 6, the Missing Link, River of Grass, 2013 (http://riverscoalition.org/the-solution/)

You can learn more about this version of the plan by clicking on the above link.

All of these plans, I believe, are one way or another based upon the 1955 ACOE Report. it may not have come to fruition but it certainly provided a lot of inspiration!

Also last year, Senator Joe Negron was able to secure $250,000 for a University of Florida study that should occur in 2014 for “Sending more water south.” Wonder what their plan will recommend?

If history repeats itself, even more Plan 6 versions will be created. In any case, let’s keep pushing for change to save the estuaries and find some way to move more water south. And thank you Army Corp of Engineers for the inspiration…