The C-43 Reservoir is also known as the “Caloosahatchee Reservoir,” as it will help manage water from the river’s basin and from Lake Okeechobee. The reservoir’s construction began in 2015; it will be over twice as large as the recently completed St Lucie Reservoir, or C-44 Reservoir, in Martin County. The Caloosahatchee is a much larger system!
~The C-44 Reservoir stores 50,600 acre-feet of water; the C-43 Reservoir will hold 170,000 acre-feet of water
~The C-44 Reservoir is about 15 feet deep; the C-43’s depth will range from 15 to 25 feet
~Looking across the C-44 Reservoir is about three miles; the C-43 is is approximately six miles!
These reservoirs, along with the EAA Reservoir, once complete, will give greater flexibility to the Everglade’s system in many capacities and help offset damaging discharges and algae blooms from Lake Okeechobee.
Enough talk. Let’s go!
-Jared Ross of welcomes us-On the ground, we get a safety lesson and review a diagram of the project-Pre-helicopter driving tour, with John, SFWMD, our guide
-Atop the dam-Workers at a giant culvert I had seen the C-43 before, at its major groundbreaking in 2019. It was exciting to see it almost three years later and note the progress that has been accomplished thus far. Today, I will share my photos and videos so you too can see. It is hard to grasp it all as it is so sprawling, but from the air you will get a good idea.
-With Jennifer Reynolds, Ecosystem Restoration SFMWD, and Jennifer Smith, Chief of Staff, SFWMD. My helicopter mates!-Time to fly-Following diagram below, going around the reservoir counter-clockwise, starting middle bottom above my thumb-Townsend Canal allows water to be delivered from Calosahatee to reservoir. Water supply to surrounding agricultural fields will be also met.
-Perimeter Canal, further away and closer up-James our pilot-Back on the ground, a follow up. Wow, impressive! Let’s get it done! I will write more about the C-43 in the future, but today I just wanted you to have an opportunity to see it by air!
Tales of the Southern Loop, Cape Sable, Marco Island, Ft Meyers, Moore Haven, Clewiston, Stuart, Part 7
I’m a bit late in getting this final Southern Loop published. Between the presidential election, Tropical Storm Eta, seemingly endless overcast skies, ACOE discharges from Lake Okeechobee, and resurging Covid-19, I have had a hard time keeping myself on track!
This post is split into seven sections for dates 9-17-20 though 9-22-20. It shares highlights of the second half of the Southern Loop along the waters of Cape Sable, Marco Island, Ft Meyers, Moore Haven, Clewiston, and back to Stuart. A fantastic trip!
Well before the era of high rise resort hotels, the island’s beach was surrounded by mangrove forests, and the Calusa Indians thrived here for possibly thousands years. Docking at Marco Island Marina was one of Ed and my most difficult experiences with the winds tearing along the seawalled canal as we struggled for direction. Once there, it was paradise. We wish to go back.
-Approaching Marco Island in the Gulf of Mexico-Marco Island is part of 10,000 Islands
II. FT MEYERS, CAPE CORAL, CALOOSAHATCHEE
The following day, after running just offshore in the Gulf of Mexico, Adrift arrived at Tarpon Point Marina, and docked with out issue- a familiar spot as this is where Ed and I had taken trawler classes in 2018. We had reached the Caloosahatchee!
That afternoon, Ed and I arranged a visit with Cape Coral resident, friend, and long time River Warrior pilot, Dave Stone. Also joining us was advocate and west coast fishing expert, Captain Chris Wittman, Captains for Clean Water.
Dave and Chris reminisced their history together documenting the blue-green algae discharges from Lake Okeechobee that exacerbated the horrific red tide in the Gulf of Mexico in 2018. Dave and Chris’ Facebook Live images helped turn the tide with the election of Governor Ron DeSantis and Executive Order 19-12.-
-Dave Stone and Chris Wittman visit Adrift In the following days, Ed and I made our way to Moore Haven. The channelized Caloosahatchee is 67 miles long with quiet, rural towns “Olga” and “Alva,” and two locks (Franklin and Ortona), along the way. During the course of this lasting and beautiful day, I actually heard Ed say: “I think I could retire here.” That was a first!
Of course like everything else, although there remains great beauty, from an ecological view, the story of the Caloosahatchee is a bit depressing . In the late 1800s, it was the first water body altered as Hamilton Disston plowed through the oxbows to change its course and blew up the rapids to drive the river through the sawgrass marsh at Lake Hipochee and then on to Moore Haven. This unnaturally connected the Caloosahatchee to Lake Okeechobee. Like the St Lucie, the Caloosahatchee has been plumbed to drain diked, and polluted Lake Okeechobee. This drain the swamp “progress” of the time, affects Florida’s waters today at great cost.
-The Caloosahatchee connects the Gulf of Mexico to Lake Okeechobee-The Olga bascule bridge-A lovely home along the channelized Caloosahatchee River-Cows cooling off. Hey! What about Best Management Practices? 🙂-Ed talking to the ACOE at Franklin Locks -Historic swing bridge at Fort Denaud, near La Belle; prior to dredging and drainage, just north of here were the rapids of the Caloosahatchee-Ed and I hold the ropes, Ortona Locks and Dam, near Ortona Prehistoric Village
III.MOORE HAVEN AT CALOOSAHATCHEE & LAKE OKEECHOBEE
By the time we reached Moore Haven at the mouth of Lake Okeechobee, the sun was getting ready to set over the Moore Haven Bridge. Hospitality was in the air and Ed and I were immediately assisted to dock by fellow travelers John and Susan Brady of Kemah, Texas, who now live on their boat Sunset Drifter. We had a delightful visit and got great tips for “living aboard.”
As I looked out towards the lake, I was ecstatic to see the famous “Lone Cypress” tree was only a stone’s throw away. This tree has been a Lake Okeechobee landmark for hundreds of years. I found it rather ironic that it now has a sprinkler next to it! Considering it was living in a sawgrass marsh in more than a foot of water 140 years ago, this is the ultimate metaphor for Everglades’ change.
-Visiting with the Bradleys at the Public Docks of Moore Haven-Sunset over the Moore Haven Bridge, also known as, Highway 27-Me standing with the Lone Cypress today, 2020 -A sprinkler!? -Historic marker-Post card of the Lone Cypress at mouth of Lake Okeechobee ca. 1880, Florida Memory.
In the morning Ed and I waved goodby to the Lone Cypress and to the Bradleys. Then the craziest thing happened. We were going through the locks at Moore Haven and there was substantial floating vegetation. To my surprise, I saw many marsh rabbits floating on water hyacinth or actually in the water literally up to their ears. We have marsh rabbits at home along the Indian River Lagoon, but I have never seen them in deep water. My emotions got the best of me and I did the unthinkable. I abandoned my post.
“Where is the net?” I shouted as I climbed the stairs leaving the rope hanging against the lock’s tall cement wall. “Ed I’m going to save the drowning rabbits!“
Ed was not pleased, yelling, “Jacqui, rule number one, never abandon your post!”
The trawler banged against the lock, the waters rushed in, and I could not reach the bobbing rabbits, so finally I gave up and re-grabbed the line. We passed through the lock into the rim canal of Lake Okeechobee. I silently watched as the rabbits floated by. Ed gave me that look that means he is “not happy.”
-Marsh rabbit with only ears and face above water -Video of marsh rabbits trapped on floating vegetation below, hit arrow
-After the fiasco at the Moore Haven Locks, Ed and I continued towards Clewiston. We didn’t speak for hours. I actually sat on the bow and cried thinking about how much humankind has altered this planet. But I got ahold of myself. The wind was picking up and many birds were flying overhead -a sign of changes to come.
I checked to see if there was cell service. There was, so I looked up marsh rabbits and to my chagrin, I learned that they are “excellent swimmers.” I looked towards the helm.
“Marsh rabbits can swim!”
His laugh echoed over the water. “Good thing you didn’t pull them onto the boat!”
“I guess so. But nonetheless, that was NOT NORMAL! ”
-The rim canal
V. CLEWISTON RIM CANAL/LAKE O
When Ed and I arrived in Clewiston it was very stormy, we took refuge at Roland Martin Marina. Captain Sam, a war veteran with feathers in his cap, helped us dock. I knew with this weather we’d be here for a few days so I got out my phone and called Clewiston Mayor, Mali Gardner who I’ve known for many years. Over the coming days, she and her husband displayed the warmest hospitality taking Ed and I on a tour of the area. So nice!
-After docking with the help of Captain Sam, Roland Martin’s Marina, Clewiston-Tour with Mayor of Clewiston, Mali Gardner. We sometimes have different interests, but we have great respect for one another.
Welcome to Clewiston! -Famous Clewiston Inn with wildlife mural-Mayor Gardner shows us the original shoreline of Lake Okeechobee where today many beautiful houses sit-Historic Clewiston homes and drainage system-Ed at the Clewiston Museum that houses the mind blowing fossil findings of Mark Renz from LaBelle-With Mary Anne Martin owner of Roland Martin Marina in Clewison. Ms Martin is a huge advocate for Lake Okeechobee. For years she has voiced against spraying of chemicals on floating vegetation, and works for the burning of lands when lake levels are low to regenerate Lake Okeechobee’s ecosystem. Lake Okeechobee is famous for its bass fishing. -Merchandise for sale and for display at Roland Martin Marina
VI. LAKE O
-After three days the wind died down and the S-310 lock to Lake Okeechobee was opened. It had been closed for high water for the first time in years. Ed and I headed home to Stuart. Lake Okeechobee was wild and windy, like an ocean itself. A flock of seagulls followed us 25 miles ! I threw bread from the upper helm and the talented birds, like acrobats, caught pieces in mid air. It was so much fun.
-S-310 to Lake O-Ed on open Lake O! -Flock of seagulls followed us all the way home across Lake Okeechobee!
This Google Earth image shows our path from Clewiston, across Lake O to the C-44 canal adjacent to Indiantown. The C-44 connects to the St Lucie River bringing us home to Stuart, Florida, in Martin County.
VII. STUART, C-44 Canal, ST LUCIE RIVER
S-308 Port Mayaca locks at Lake O to C-44 canal -Trees along the banks of the C-44 CanalS-80 St Lucie Locks and Dam, continuing C-44 to St Lucie River-C-44 is very impaired from Lake O, and basin agricultural and development runoff -After a long journey, a familiar sight, the Roosevelt Bridge opens to welcome us home to the Harborage Marina. Much of the C-44 Canal and upper St Lucie River were under water due to King Tides. This salt infusion is healthy for the St Lucie River as like the Caloosahatchee it is unnaturally connected to Lake Okeechobee.
-Roosevelt Bridges, Stuart, home sweet home back at the Harborage Marina After the almost three week trip, it was wonderful to be home. Ed and I had accomplished our goal and our promise to each other. Working together and experiencing our state’s waters first-hand was a life changing experience.
When we docked with out a hitch like pair of old pros, we both became strangely quiet. Home is wonderful, but somehow, we knew from here on out, there was nothing that could compare to being Adrift.
The sun’s first light rose over a gigantic crane that was displaying both the American and Florida flags. Gusts burst through the C-43 construction site as the earth slowly warmed, the giant banners flapping loudly in the wind. I smiled to myself thinking, “it really is a new day for the Caloosahatchee.”
~Confusing for those of us on the east coast, unlike the St Lucie, the Caloosahatchee sometimes needs water. The idea of the C-43 Reservoir is to both reduce the amount of water released from Lake Okeechobee that makes it to the estuary during the wet season and to store water to be released during dry season in order to help maintain an ideal salinity in the upper estuary. Right now, it is often the case that the Caloosahatchee has to “compete” with other interests for water.
With this in mind, on his second day in office, Governor DeSantis called for expediting the important long-awaited reservoir as well as adding a water quality component. People on the west coast are bold to say that DeSantis has done great things for the Caloosahatchee since day one.
Knowing I would be traveling in lands unfamiliar, I drove a day early to the C-43 site with Sean Cooley, Communications Director, South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) and his assisting, Mr. Carter. Thus I was able to tour before and during Governor DeSantis’ visit. It was rare opportunity to learn more about Florida’s west coast.
How would I describe the expericence?
Let me explain…
Video of going driving up the 45 foot mound to view the site of the C-43 Caloosahatchee Reservoir, 10-25-19.
On Thursday, Mr Phil Flood -SFWMD West Coast Regional Representative – was the first to give me a tour. We drove a truck up a huge mound that was weighing down clay to be used in the reservoir’s surrounding dike. When we got to the top of the 45 foot hill, Mr Flood pointed in every direction: “See that tree line? See the horizon? See the edge of that old packing house? All this all will include the reservoir…”
The wind whipped by; I held my hair out of my face, eyes squinting. I thought about the once natural flow of water from Lake Okeechobee to Florida Bay. I though about how much things have changed in a hundred years.
“Just like my friend Mr Haddad told me,” I shouted across the way,” we spent a hundred years taking the water off the land and we’ll spend the next hundred years putting it back on…”
Mr Flood broke into his wonderful smile directing my eyes, again, to the horizon.
“The C-43 will be huge! The lands consists of 10, 500 square acres of former orange groves, will have 19 miles of dam embankment, 15 miles of perimeter canal, 14 major water control structures, 3 pump stations, and 3 bridges.”
“And most important, it will help save the Caloosahatchee!” I replied. We drove back down the giant mound watching the excitement as all prepared for the Governor’s arrival.
These photos in this post are from both Thursday, October 24 and Friday, October 25, 2019. They were taken as SFWMD staff along with Lane Construction Corporation, a U.S. subsidiary of Salini Impregilo prepared for the groundbreaking ceremony. The was great fanfare! We all know it’s time to fix the water!
It’s now October 25th, waiting for the Governor and First Lady to arrive!