Tag Archives: Kissimmee

What’s Happening at the “Gun Club?”

Historic Photos of Palm Beach County, Seth Branson 2007

It’s fun having a mother who is the “history lady” because if I ask a question, it’s answered. Recently I ask her why the address of the South Florida Water Management District was 3301 Gun Club Road, West Palm Beach, Florida, 33406. It always kind of hits me as I exit from I-95 onto GUN CLUB ROAD before our governing board meetings. Mom answered: “That’s of course because the Gun Club used to be located in the western lands after it was moved from its original location two miles north of the famous Royal Poinciana Hotel. So originally it was located along the Lake Worth Lagoon. In those early days, all revolved around Henry Flagler’s creations.” “Were they hunting animals? Killing them all?” I asked. “Jacqui I think it was more ground birds and skeet shooting. As seen in the photo, there was an audience. All was part of the extensive social life of the wealthy during the Florida boom of the early 1900s.”

Dolph’s Atlas showing location of Gun Club Road, undated but people were also traveling to Havana, Cuba, c.1940s.

Interesting! So what’s going on today along Gun Club Road? The Gun Club is long gone, the airport has expanded and now the SFWMD sits on this road.

SFWMD 2021, Gun Club Road

A lot is happening that is helping Nature, not shooting at it. Today I’d like to share some photos of recent Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Projects as the SFWMD is the local sponsor to the Army Corp of Engineers. They share the costs 50/50.

1.~Picayune Strand: July 9, 2021, water flowing south to restore thousands of acres of land in Collier County for the very first time. Photo SFWMD. This project was pushed forward with the help and passion of Governing Board member Col. Charlette Roman.

2.~Kissimmee River Restoration Completion, Lorida, Florida, July 29, 2021. Photos. Watch ACOE Col Kelly lead ceremony.

Ribbon Cutting The Destruction of the Kissimmee River, an Historic Flyover. This day was based on decades of work from those before us.
Mike Connor, Indian RiverKeeper bright the shovel from the first groundbreaking in the 90s. Mike’s wife’s grandfather was the great Johnny Jones who was key in getting Kissimmee River Restoration supported my state and federal policy makers.

3.~Old Tamiami Trail Removal, August 3, 2021. Photos.

Governor Ron DeSantis has expedited restoration through his leadership and the map for this is Executive Order 19-12.
Restored! Clean water flowing south.
Road bed 100 years old acted like a dam. It was removed for 6 miles. This road was located in Everglades National Park.

A lot more is happening along Gun Club Road than in the early 1900s! Thank goodness we’re not just shooting little doves anymore! And there is much more to come : Indian River Lagoon South C-44 Reservoir, Martin County will be operating by 2021 and getting “filled up” in October 2021; Design of the C-23 & C-24 Storm Water Treatment Areas in St Lucie County will be underway in 2021 to ameliorate the effects of canals 23, 24, and 24 on the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon; ACOE’s Groundbreaking for the EAA Reservoir is expected this year in 2021- the SFWMD is already ahead building the Storm Water Treatment Areas; projects in Miami-Dade and for Biscayne Bay are underway. The C-111 spreader canal and aligned projects will continue to be improved in order to send more water south and protect agriculture and coastal communities from flooding.

These are incredible times of progress for a better water future along historic Gun Club Road! Making history! 

The next Governing Board meeting of the SFWMD is August 12, 2021. Link here to most recent information updates.

Why Restoring the Kissimmee River is not Enough to Fix Lake Okeechobee and Save the Estuaries, SLR/IRL

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. One cannot see across to the other side. (Photo Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch, S. Engebretsen pilot, 2014.)

The first time I ever saw Lake Okeechobee, I was fourteen years old. I was visiting River Ranch, at Yeehaw Junction, with my friend Vicki Whipkey, and her family. Jay Brock, who was by far the smartest of any of us kids there that summer vacation, and my first real “crush,” recommended we go see sunset on the lake. I don’t remember how we got there, but we did.

Once we arrived, the sun was starting to fall. The horizon was miles away, and the water went as far as the eye could see in all directions.

“It looks like the ocean, not a lake.” I said, taken aback.

Jay, spouted off some statistics saying something like: “The lake is about 730 square miles; 35 miles long; and up to 25 miles wide. It is the largest lake entirely within a state in the United States of America; it is half the size of Rhode Island.”

I wondered how he know all this stuff, and we sat there watching the sunset.

I wondered if I would have my first kiss at this beautiful, but almost eerie, “ocean of a lake.” It never happened…

I never really forgot Jay Brock, and we remained friends throughout our lives.

I never, never, ever, forgot Lake Okeechobee.

Years later,  an adult, I started going back to Lake Okeechobee in my forties when I started to become concerned about the releases from the lake into the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon. I wanted and needed to see it through “adult eyes.”

—-I have flown over the lake with my husband and his friends many times;  I have entered the lake by boat; and I have driven 30 miles west with my niece Evie, on Highway 76, until arriving at Port Mayaca.  No matter how I have gotten there, every time I see the lake, I have the same experience I had at fourteen years old, I am completely “overcome by its size.”


At the edge of Lake Okeechobee, 2015. (Photo by Ed Lippisch.)
At the edge of Lake Okeechobee, 2015. (Photo by Ed Lippisch.)

Lake Okeechobee by plane. (Photo JTL.)
Lake Okeechobee by plane 2014. (Photo JTL.)

Lake Okeechobee by boat. (Photo Ed Lippisch 2009.)
Lake Okeechobee by boat. (Photo Ed Lippisch 2009.)

Yesterday, Governor Rick Scott pledged Amendment 1 monies to the Everglades, but not for buying the US Sugar option 1 lands south of Lake Okeechobee,

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.)

stressing the completion of projects C-44, C-43 and the Kissimmee River. (http://www.flgov.com/2015/01/27/gov-scott-announces-5-billion-over-20-years-to-restore-the-everglades/)

Aerial photo of positron of restored Kissimmee River. Note discolored filled in C-38 canal juxtaposed to winding restored oxbows. (Photo Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch, 2014).
Aerial photo of portion of restored Kissimmee River. Note discolored filled in C-38 canal juxtaposed to winding restored oxbows. The  Kissimmee is long but in its altered state, cannot hold all the extra water now stored in Lake Okeechobee and then released into the SLR/IRL and Caloosahatchee Estuaries. (Photo Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch, 2014).

I am thankful for this, but disappointed; I am thankful Governor Scott has the Everglades and local projects in his budget recommendation for the 2015 Legislative Session. Nonetheless, I recognize that our St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon problems will never be fixed until there is land and eventually a reservoir south of the lake to store, clean, and convey water south— a flow way of sorts to move that water south….

Simply put, the Kissimmee cannot hold all the water; and the C-44 STA/Reservoir will not hold lake water, but rather local runoff. (http://www.tmba.tv/broadcastanimation/everglades-restoration/everglades-restoration/)


Let’s think a minute. Let’s review, and contemplate about what we can still do to politely convince our governor and legislature. There is still time.

Florida Oceanographic Society quotes 1.5 or so million acres feet coming out the Kissimmee River into Lake Okeechobee in 2013, (not our worst of years), with approximately 300,000 acre feet being released to the St Lucie/IRL and 660,000 acre feet being releases to the Caloosahatchee. The rest going to sustain the Everglades Agriculture Area south of the lake, and a smaller portion yet trickling to the dying Everglades.

So even if the Kissimmee holds more water, it won’t hold enough water. The water is meant to go south….

I wonder if the governor or Adam Putnam have any grandchildren who might be able to explain this? 🙂

Remember that the Governor’s recommendation is just that. It must be approved by the legislature. We still have time to make our voices heard and to ask for one thing to be added. ——one thing that would really help hold the tremendous and over-pouring waters of Lake Okeechobee, —-a lands purchase and a reservoir south of the lake. Then the senate, the house and the governor can duke it out….it’s not over yet!

What did Winston Churchill say? “Never, never, never, —-never give up!” 🙂

Senate Site for Comments on Amd. 1 monies: (http://www.flsenate.gov/media/topics/wlc)


EAA below Lake Okeechobee. (Public map.)
EAA below Lake Okeechobee. (Public map.)

Historic flow from lake Okeechobee. (Map Everglades Foundation.)
Historic flow from lake Okeechobee. (Map Everglades Foundation.)

Today's flow from Lake Okeechobee. (Image Everglades Foundation.)
Today’s flow from Lake Okeechobee east and west through the estuaries.  (Image Everglades Foundation.)

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

Lake O. 730 square miles and was once 1000 square miles....
Lake O. 730 square miles and was once 1000 square miles….


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. These option lands could store some of the water now stored in Lake Okeechobee and released to the estuaries. (SFWMD map, 2010)


Lake Okeechobee: (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lake_Okeechobee)





The Far Reaching Hand of Hamilton Disston/Our Savannas, and the Indian River Lagoon

Aerial photo over the Savannas, a mosaic of color comparable to one of Monet's most beautiful.
Aerial photo over the savannas.(Photo Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch/Ed Lippisch 2013.)

I learned something recently that surprised me…

Hamilton Disston, the titan-developer and “drainer extraordinaire” who bailed Florida’s “Internal Improvement Fund” out of debt in 1881 owned land right here in St Lucie and Marin Counties. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hamilton_Disston)

My first thought upon realizing this, was “what if he’d started draining here? “

Disston instead started along the Kissimmee River and Lake Okeechobee and was the impetus and inspiration for draining south and central Florida which has led to our state’s development but also our environmental destruction.

Disston 4,000,000 acres from the state of Florida in 1881, which included much of the land within the savannas. ( Public map, 1881.)
Disston purchased 4,000,000 acres from the state of Florida in 1881, which included much of the land within the savannas. ( Public map, 1881.)

The above map shows in pink the 4,000,000 acres of land that Hamilton Disston purchased which although hard to see  included much of the land within our savannas.

Plat map of St Lucie Gardens originally part of Disston's lands in the savannas, 1911. (Courtesy of historian Sandra Thurlow)
Plat map of St Lucie Gardens originally part of Disston’s lands in the savannas, 1911. (Courtesy of historian Sandra Thurlow)

Another wild thing I recently realized in relation to Hamilton Disston is that my friend Sam Henderson, of Gulfport, is the mayor of Disston’s first founded city. Gulfport is in Pinellas County near Tampa. Sam is certainly one of the most environmentally oriented mayors in the state; we know one another from our work on the Florida League of Cities’ environmental committee.  (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gulfport,_Florida)

Mayor Gulfport, Sam henderson and I at a recent Florida League Cities meeting, 2014.
Mayor of Gulfport, Sam Henderson and I at a recent Florida League of Cities meeting, 2014.

So for some reason, before my epiphany last week, I had no idea that Disston’s drainage machine went so far north beyond Tampa, to where Sam lives on the west coast, and so far east, to my home area near the savannas, along the Indian River Lagoon. You’d think I’d know such a thing!

Savanna State Park, Martin and St Lucie Counties. (Photo from their website.)
Savanna State Park, Martin and St Lucie Counties. (Public photo.)

The Savannas today are located  between Jensen Beach Boulevard to Midway Road.
The Savannas today are located  between Jensen Beach Boulevard to Midway Road. (Public map.)

Well my mother Sandra Thurlow did know, and when I ask her about it she told me that in her book  Historic Jensen and Eden on Florida’s Indian River, I could read all about the savannas ecosystem that was once almost 200 miles long and has been reduced to 10 ecologically intact miles between Ft Pierce and Jensen Beach, and how the railway running along its eastern edge ironically protected it.

She also noted that in 1854, a Florida state engineer/geologist proposed cutting a canal from the “Main Savanna” into the St Lucie Sound. This did not happen, but some of the land was developed as St Luice Gardens and development certainly has encroached…

What if they’d drained it all…..

To close, we are fortunate that Hamilton Disston did not start draining around the SLR/IRL and that we have a small remnant of the savannas left. Let’s continue building  friendships with other environmentally water-oriented people our across our state and put the drainage spirit of Hamilton Disston on the shelf where it belongs.


Many thanks to those who worked to create Savannas State Park like former Martin County commissioner Mrs Maggie Hurchalla.

Savannas State Park website: (http://www.floridastateparks.org/savannas/)


Central Florida Water Initiative, Running Out of Water, What Could This Mean to the SLR/IRL?

The Central Florida Water Initiative is an area of Florida that "does not have enough water." Could they use ours?
The Central Florida Water Initiative is an area of Florida around Orlando that “does not have enough water.” Could they use ours?

We keep hearing: “Water is the new oil.”

This is hard to believe when one lives in Martin County and watches the destruction from too much fresh water into the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon from canals C-23, C-24, C-25, C-44 and releases from Lake Okeechobee. According to the Florida Oceanographic Society, 1.7 billion gallons of fresh water per day is sent/wasted to the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico through the St Lucie, Caloosahatchee and other South Florida canals.

Well, there is one area of our state, not too far away, that is running out of water. Today, these counties are part of what is called the “Central Florida Water Initiative,” CFWI. They include:  Seminole, Orange, Osceola, Lake, Polk, Brevard and Volusia.

I must divert for a moment because this is really something as this area holds the “headwaters of the Everglades.”

“Shingle Creek,” in Orlando’s Orange County, is generally considered to be the northernmost headwaters of the Everglades’ watershed. This is an area you probably drive right past upon a visit to Disney World. It was named after the cypress trees that were used to make roof shingles in the pioneer era and beyond.

In the 1960s and 70s, after the cypress trees were cut for the shingle industry, Shingle Creek and the other surrounding streams and lakes’ water-levels were “brought down” in order to allow more development.  One of the ways this was achieved was through the Army Corp of Engineers’ canalization of the once long, serpentine, Kissimmee River. Canalization of the Kissimmee not only helped lower the lakes so they could drain, but also created lands along the now straight canal  for ranch and real estate development.

Today, as we know, all that now dirty, unfiltered, water shoots down the Kissimmee into Lake Okeechobee and then is redirected to the St Lucie and Caloosahatchee so the sugar and vegetable farmers south of the lake have “dry feet,” as well… Thankfully, parts of the Kissimmee have been restored and society recognizes the canalization of the Kissimmee River as an environmental disaster. Our disaster.

Nonetheless, there is no way to completely undo what we have done, so now south of Lake Okeechobee and north of Lake Okeechobee often does not have enough water, while the Northern Estuaries sometimes HAVE TOO MUCH.

Where am I going with all this?

So fast forward, it is now 2014, and as I mentioned the “headwaters of the Everglades” and the counties surrounding it are literally “running ” out of water.

This is why the Central Florida Water Initiative, mentioned at the beginning of this write up, was formed.

An excellent article entitled “Central Florida Water Initiative,  “A Regional Response to Avoid a Pending Crisis” written by attorneys  Michael Minton, Laura Minton, and John Wharton, of Dean Mead for the Florida Engineering Society succinctly explains the history, goals, and future for the CFWI. I would like to share some of this article.

The article notes how from 2007-20012, the St Johns, South Florida, and Southwest Florida water management districts undertook an assessment of available groundwater for the seven counties listed at the beginning of this blog, noting insufficient quantities for the area’s projected growth— projected to be 6.6 million by approximately 2050. This would include an addition of  3,000,000  people to the population today.

Thus over time and through much coordination and work the CFWI was born.

After deep explanations, the article explains that the CFWI’s conclusions  and recommendation include the following concepts: water is undervalued; continued use of just groundwater sources would cause unacceptable environmental impacts to the Floridan aquifer; the importance of conservation; the importance of alternative water sources, its expense and the coordinated regional effort that would be required to achieve such for the future.

The CFWI is obviously a complex effort thus I will not attempt to go into too great of detail. If you are interested, you can read more about it here:

(http://cfwiwater.com); (http://floridaswater.com/watersupply/CFWIinitiative.html ); (http://cfwiwater.com/pdfs/CFWI_RWSP_FinalDraft_Vol1.pdf)

What I must mention is that on  the final page of the Dean Mead article something very interesting is stated:

“The Solutions Planning Team’s (STP) report is scheduled to be made public in Fall 2014. Once the findings of the SPT are approved by the Steering Committee, it is anticipated that the findings will be made available to the Central Florida Legislative Delegation. The collection of uniquely talented individuals who have volunteered their time and effort to serve on the committee has yielded many novel and creative concepts. Some of the creative opportunities look beyond the CFWI’s geographic boundaries and contemplate transmission of surface water from regions with excess water supply, to the detriment of their environment, to Central Florida to supplement the existing supply. These creative and innovative options are the type of out of the box thinking that long-term solution Florida’s water strategy and policy will require…”

I wonder and I hope they are talking about “us…”


The Article, Central Florida Water Initiative,  A Regional Response to Avoid a Pending Crisis by Dean Mead, was published in the JOURNAL of the Florida Engineering Society, to access this article you must be a member: (http://www.fleng.org/pubs.cfm)



Aerial Tour of the Kissimmee River/Inspiration for the Indian River Lagoon

Aerial photo of positron of restored Kissimmee River. Note discolored filled in C-38 canal juxtaposed to winding restored oxbows. (Photo Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch, 2014).
A portion of the restored Kissimmee River. Note discolored and filled C-38 canal juxtaposed to winding restored, greener oxbows. (Photo Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch, 2014).

Last week, on a hazy smoked filled afternoon, Ed and I flew over Lake Okeechobee and the once mighty Kissimmee River. There was the normal stress involved with me giving Ed directions and the fun of an adventure. It went something like this:

“Oh there it is, the Kissimmee’s opening to the lake, over there!”

I can’t fly north of “over there,” it’s off limits; it’s a near a bombing range or air force base…” says Ed, shooting me a serious glance.

“What a bombing range-air force base? You’re kidding, close to of some of the state’s richest wildlife habitat? How symbolic…”

Ed rolls his eyes, I can feel it. But he tries harder…

Somehow, Ed talks to Miami Air Traffic Conrol and we get lucky.  It is  a Sunday and we are allowed to fly over at least part of the area I wish to see.

On the way, we fly over the southwest area of the lake’s agricultural lands. The hand of humankind is reflected in organized, perfect sized boxes of agriculture and straight canals.

SW Lake O. Ag

We veer off to the northwestern area of the Lake Okeechobee where earth and water meet; on this side of the lake the hand of the Creator still evident. Little specks of light blend together in a blinding symphony of light.

Fish-eating Creek

We near the area in Okeechobee County where the mouth of the once great Kissimmee meets Lake Okeechobee. The straightened canal looks out of place among the lush greenery and  a small town is evident. There are people here. Flooding is an issue.


It is great seeing “it all” from above as I have never really been able to figure out on a map where the Kissimmee River restoration is happening. It starts about 20 miles north of the lake.

The Kissimmee river was once 103 miles of wildlife/fish filled meandering oxbows, but it was canalized to a depth of 30 feet as C-38 from 1962-71. This was  part of the Army Corp of Engineers and the Central and South Florida “Flood Control Project” of 1954. The state had asked for help after two back to back hurricanes and wide spread flooding and destruction  in 1945. The state got help but with untended consequences…

The Kissimmee River that once meandered south to Lake Okeechobee as part of a two mile wide flood plane now shot down to the lake with grave environmental effects that included the destruction of the estuaries, St Lucie/Indian River Lagoon and Caloosahatechee.

Since 1994, around 23 miles of the now 56 mile long  canal, C-38,  from Lake Kissimmee to Lake Okeechobee has been/is being backfilled and considered part of “the” most ambitious environmental restoration project in the world.


Recently, the ACOE and SFWMD  have been in a dispute over the completion of the restoration project.  The project is tremendously expensive requiring federal and state funding which has not come easy since 2008. The two agencies “cost share” in its completion. Word is they are “working things out…”

The long term goal is to continue the restoration of at least 20 miles more of the 56 miles of the canal.

In light of the dying Indian River Lagoon, it is important to see that restoration can be accomplished. Mother Nature is quick to rebound once given the chance.

The Kissimmee’s restoration is critical, as the polluted waters coming from Orlando south carry sediment, and urban and agricultural runoff  into the lake. As we know, when the lake gets too full the water is diverted to the estuaries because the water is not presently allowed to flow south, as the EAA (Everglades Agricultural Area) is located there along with cities of people.

So we here along the St Lucie Indian River Lagoon, are fighting a two front war. One north and the other south of the lake.  We are winning in the north because the ACOE and SFWMD recognized their/our mistakes, and have been working since 1994.  We are also getting closer in the to finding a safe way to “move the water south…” CEPP (Central Everglades Planning Project) is not looking good right now,  but the pressure is on, and even Tallahassee  is saying “move the water south!”

We must have inspiration or we will never complete our goal of saving the estuaries. The  Kissimmee River is a place to look and find hope.


2014 Google Earth map of restored area of Kissimmee River.



SFWMD (http://www.sfwmd.gov/portal/page/portal/xweb%20protecting%20and%20restoring/kissimmee%20river)

Great write up on Kissimmee from  2006 SFWMD: (http://www.sfwmd.gov/portal/page/portal/xrepository/sfwmd_repository_pdf/krr_exec_summary.pdf)

Sun Sentinel photos: (http://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/local/orl-kissimmee-river-photos,0,460375.photogallery?index=orl-kissimmee-river-rend20100103202823)DEP ( http://www.protectingourwater.org/watersheds/map/kissimmee_river/)