The Remarkable Restoration of the Kissimmee River, a Modern Flyover
Recently, I featured my brother Todd Thurlow’s extremely popular time capsule flight, “The Destruction of the Kissimmee River.” Today, I present the remarkable antithesis, “Restoration of the Kissimmee River.”
As Todd notes, Kissimmee restoration began in 1999 with phases 1 and 4 completed first. Phases 2 and 3 are expected to be completed by 2020. You will see as you travel up the winding river the long gash of the C-38 Canal backfilled with the same soils that were dug from its own flesh, and the winding oxbows, like capillaries, filling-up to come back to life!
Here’s a map to reference. Amazing! This restored habitat will help replenish wading bird communities and naturally filter water as it flows south to Lake Okeechobee rather than mainlining pollutants. My favorite shot comes at the end where an aerial view of gigantic dump trucks looks like a collection of children’s toys. We can now begin to grasp the scale of this massive project!
When we watch this video we know Ernest Lyons’ words “what men can do, they can undo,” is no longer just a saying, but a reality and we are empowered to do the same! Please click on image with arrow or link below.
This video compares 1940 and 1999 aerials of the Kissimmee River with current Google Earth Imagery to show The Kissimmee River Restoration project, which began in 1999. Phases 1 and 4, at the northern end of the project, were completed in 2010. Phases 2 and 3, on the southern end, are expected to be completed in 2020. When finished, the U.S. Army Corps. of Engineers and the South Florida Water Management District will have restored 44 miles of winding river, over 12,000 acres of wetlands and 40 square miles of floodplain. ~Todd Thurlow
Aerial, Kissimmee River restoration, Gary Goforth, 2-9-20
My most recent blog post included the above photograph of Kissimmee River Restoration north of Lake Okeechobee taken by Dr Gary Goforth. My mother, Sandy Thurlow, commented: “ I would so like for Dr. Goforth to explain what we are seeing in his aerial of the restoration of the Kissimmee River.”
I wrote Gary on behalf of my mother and he provided such comprehensive and helpful insight that today I am sharing not just for my mother, but for everyone! Please read below.
When time allows my mother was hoping to get an explanation of the wonderful Kissimmee River restoration photo you shared in my blog post. Could you please write something? Thank you so much.
The Kissimmee River Restoration (KRR) Project is one of my favorite projects on the planet!In the 1960s, the historic 105-mile meandering Kissimmee River was transformed into a 56-mile ditch by the Corps of Engineers at the request of the State of Florida to help relieve flooding upstream.Public activism convinced Gov. Bob Graham to support restoration of the River in the 1980s, and as a US Senator he was instrumental in having Congress authorize the Corps to proceed with restoration.The SFWMD was way out ahead of the Corps (again) and had completed several phases of engineering design and prototype testing.The initial backfilling of the C-38 Canal was begun in 1999, and when completed later this year, the project will re-establish flow in 40 miles of the old river and rehydrate about 12,400 acres of former wetlands that were over-drained by the canal.
There are many reasons I love the picture taken Sunday as Ed was flying Mark and I north of the Lake:
·In the foreground of the photo you see a section of the meandering restored Kissimmee River!The construction work in this section of the river consisted of backfilling the 300-ft wide and 30-ft deep canal.It also included “re-carving” some sections of river channel that were destroyed during C-38 canal construction.This work has routed water to the native channel and floodplain of the Kissimmee River, and reestablished hydrologic continuity between the river and floodplain for the first time since the C-38 canal was completed in 1971!How amazing!
·The photo also shows smaller secondary river channels and a colorful mosaic of wetlands on their way to restoration!What has been amazing is that despite almost 50 years of over-drainage, there are tens of thousands (maybe millions) of resilient seeds of the former marsh vegetation in the soil that have regenerated upon reflooding!This is truly amazing!
·The photo shows the restoration area known as Phase II, located roughly in the middle of the KRR project.This phase is almost complete, with the remaining canal backfilling to be completed later this year.By the way, the balance of the restoration project should also be completed this year!!!
·The left hand side of the photo, where the road crosses the floodplain, shows the location of what was the water control structure and navigation locks known as S-65C.As part of the restoration project, structure S-65C was demolished in 2017.For spatial reference, the old structure was located about 5 miles upriver from the Hwy 98 bridge and about 23 miles upstream of where the C-38 canal empties into the Lake.About 30 miles to the north (left in the photo) is where the C-38 Canal exits Lake Kissimmee.
·A Google Earth image taken in 2017 is attached below.This image shows the S-65C structure prior to demolition.
·In the photo taken on Sunday you can see the footprint of the backfilled C-38 canal in the center of the photo – on either side of the rectangular open water. You’ll need to zoom in to make out this detail since the inundated floodplain has almost covered up the former canal footprint!