Post Hurricane Matthew, I am sharing Dr Gary Goforth’s “Updated Lake Okeechobee Discharges to the Estuaries and Everglades,” dated yesterday, October 10, 2016 as sent to state and local officials, as well as the press. Many helpful visuals are attached.
Dr Goforth continues to lead in documenting the destruction of what was once lauded as North America’s “most biodiverse estuary,” our beloved St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon…
Through shared knowledge, we advocate for a better Florida water future.
More than 204 billion gallons of polluted Lake water has been discharged to the St. Lucie (25% of total Lake discharges); more than 456 billion gallons of polluted Lake water has been discharged to the Caloosahatchee (55% of Lake discharges). By contrast, only 20% of Lake discharges has been sent to the south, with only 6% sent to the STAs/Everglades.
Ag runoff continues to contribute significant amounts of flow and pollution load to the St. Lucie: 39% of flow, 53% of total phosphorus and 42% of total nitrogen.
I added a chart comparing monthly Lake flows to the STAs – 2016 releases to STAs has been significantly less than 2014 and 2015.
This website shows the incredible “work-around” the District performs to send water through the Everglades Agricultural Area, (EAA), to get water to flow south. The EAA, of course, is one of the nation’s richest agricultural areas and completely blocks the flow of water from Lake Okeechobee to the Everglades. Since the 1920s, the EAA has been the primary reason for the Army Corp of Engineers building canals C-43 and C-44 for the “overflow” waters of Lake Okeechobee. These excess waters are then dumped into our precious estuaries of the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon and Caloosahatchee. This destroys them.
If you go to the link above and view the website you will see a combination of ten different structures, (S); stormwater treatment areas, (STA); and water conservation areas (WC) that either basically send, clean, or hold water in its journey south.
They are as follows: Lake Okeechobee; S-354; S-351; S-352; C10A; WC1; WC2; WC3; STA3/4; and STA 2.
I really think this is a great site and as a former 8th and 9th grade teacher, I appreciate that it is something that can be visually shared with young people so that they can easily understand why our estuaries are periodically destroyed; the value, but difficulty of the EAA’s location; and why our Everglades are being starved of the amount of water they originally received.
My greatest hope with tools like this is that future generations will be able to figure out a way for us all “to have our cake and eat it too–” allowing enough water to go south so as not to destroy our estuaries, and allow the state’s long time best friend, historic “Ag” to do what it does, make money and feed people….
I definitiely commend the SFWMD for the transparency of the web-site; let’s take a look at what they are reporting today.
From Nov. 1, 2013, through Oct. 31, 2014, South Florida Water Management District operations moved approximately 339 billion gallons of water from Lake Okeechobee – that’s the same as 782,367 football fields filled with 1 foot of water or about 2.2 feet of water depth of Lake Okeechobee.
Holy Toledo! 339 billion gallons of water. Hmmm? How much is that?
After the 2013 Lost Summer and looking at the ACOE’s website for so long, I understand acre feet better….so how do we convert gallons to acre feet? (An acre foot is one foot of water standing on one acre of land…)
Thankfully, I have friends who can help me answer this question.
My friend, Dr Goforth, (garygoforth.net), a former long time employee of the SFWMD and designer of the Storm Water Treatment Areas told me:
“To convert from gallons to acre feet, divide by 325,872.”
All joking aside, thank you SFWMD for the website. By the way, it is important to recognize that the ACOE and SFWMD have “moved more water south” in 2014 than at least since 1995. Bravo!
In conclusion, in conferring with Dr Goforth, he thought it was a great site too, but mentioned it would be nice if the site explained how much water “made it to Everglades,” as this is a tremendous part of the overall goal.
Below is Dr Goforth’s chart showing water to Everglades among other complicated transactions. Like I said, thank God there are people who can read this stuff and do the numbers; all I really know is that sometimes there is an ocean of water coming into our estuaries and it needs to go somewhere else!
*Thank you to Ted Guy for calling the Move Water South site to my attention!
12-20-14: After completing the above post, I am adding the chart below of Dr Goforth’s showing how much water by year comparatively moved south into the STAs from 1995 to 2014. I think it is a helpful visual and now I can reference this photo in Comments of this blog post.
I am also adding this Option Lands Map as it too is referred to in the comments on this blog post as a way to send even more water south and create a type of flow way in the future….
One of the projects that was born from Senator Joe Negron’s led “Select Committee on the Indian River Lagoon and Lake Okeechobee Basin” Senate Hearing of 2013 is linked to an agreement between the Florida Senate and the University of Florida Board of Trustees. The project title is a “Technical Review of Options to Move Water from Lake Okeechobee to the Everglades.”
The project has been given $250,000, the “project period” ends March 1, 2015, and will be led by Wendy Graham of the UF Water Institute. Other great minds of our state university system will also be a part of this process. (http://waterinstitute.ufl.edu)
As a Florida Gator myself, Class of 1986, I am hopeful. Nonetheless, I recognize that the university is historically tied into the politics of development and agribusiness that has been part of the destruction of the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon and our state.
My Grandfather Henderson was an agronomist/soil scientist, UF graduate, and teacher. He taught citrus magnet and UF Bull Gator, Ben Hill Griffin. He was very proud of this. When I was kid and my grandfather would drive me from Gainesville to Stuart, he would try to make me memorize every scientific name and genetic history of every cow we passed along the Florida Turnpike, and also tell me what quality of soil was located where the cow was standing.
My grandfather, my mother’s father, was a farm boy, had lived through the Great Depression and was not thinking about “preserving” this state; he was thinking about using it for the “betterment of mankind, for progress.” I, on the other hand, have lived a kinder, gentler life, and so my goal is to save the beauty and nature of the state for future generations, and I see its connection to property values. My grandfather probably figured “what good are property values if there is no food on the table?”
These ideological conflicts still exist today just in a different way. For the University of Florida and people like my grandfather, historical friendships and connections run deep and it is difficult to not be affected by such in ones ‘ judgement, even if one is a scientist…
But in my opinion, today when thinking about this “conflict, we must think more about the future….and the future of this state is inexorably tied to the health and quantity of its fresh water resources…also we must trust and support those who have been charged to complete the project.
Yes, in spite of the political intricacies, I can think of no better place for a review of “moving water south,” than the University of Florida Water Institute.
According to engineer Dr Gary Goforth, of Stuart, now independent but formerly of the South Florida Water Management District, the UF team is “highly qualified.”
He states: “I am optimistic the review team will produce an excellent report after meeting with interested members of the public if they can make recommendations that may be in conflict with existing state and federal agency positions and policies. This is often difficult for agencies that depend on continued State funding as does the University...”
Kevin Henderson, also of Stuart, (no relation to my grandfather) engineer, and long-standing estuary advocate and Rivers Coalition member says:
“I believe the folks at UF understand the issues and will have a good handle on options that will work, could work, and will not work.
So my view is- let them do it, don’t believe everything you read in the papers, and read the scope below with an understanding of the political document it has to be to even get started.
What would be really useful is the Corps making clear that HHD cannot be made into a legal dam without having a very large flood discharge outlet that does not exist today.“
Me? I just want to wish Wendy Graham’s team luck, and let them know that I for one am rooting for them.
Below is a copy of the agreement between the Florida Senate and UF Board of Trustees. This is important for everyone to read.
Before I close, I can’t resist yelling out loud for all the souls of history and future generations to hear: GO GATORS!