Tag Archives: Robert Renkin

“Mueva el agua al sur!” South Florida’s Impacts and Needs, St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon

Color graph showing land use and development possible through drainage and redirection of natural water flow in South Florida by 1953. (SOFIA, Robert Renken team 2000.)
Color graph showing land use and development in South Florida by 1972 made possible by drainage and re-plumbing of Lake Okeechobee waters to the northern estuaries. (SOFIA, Robert Renken team 2000.)

To understand the impacts on the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon, it is necessary to look in beyond our boarders.  One of the most telling documents helping to explain why the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon is forced to take the over flow water of Lake Okeechobee (which in some years, since 1923, has been above 2,000,000 acre feet) is a document entitled “Synthesis of the Impacts of 20th Century Water Management Land Use  Practices on Coastal Hydrology of South East Florida,” by Robert Renken and other scientists  for the 2000 Greater Everglades Ecosystem Restoration Conference.

The full document is here: (http://sofia.usgs.gov/geer/2000/posters/use_impact/index.html)

Today I will show parts of this document as “food for thought.”

Chart 1, 1900
Chart 1, 1900.

As one can see above, in 1900, Lake Okeechobee overflowed naturally to the Everglades  to Florida Bay. The green on the eastern coast was a Florida forest.

Chart 2, 1952
Chart 2, 1953.

By 1953, the year after my Thurlow grandparents came to Stuart from Syracuse, New York, the Everglades Agricultural Area, (EAA), just south of the lake had caused the destructive redirection of Lake Okeechobee waters; this water was directed to the northern estuaries, the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon on the east, and to the Calooshatchee on the west.  More agriculture can be seen in dark brown along the eastern coast and south to Homestead. Forests in some areas remain (green). The yellow is urban development. There is some urban development but it is not extensive.

By 1972 when I was 8 years old growing up in Stuart, the EAA had morphed to gigantic proportions and coastal development had moved into the eastern Everglades.
Chart 3, 1972.

By 1972, when I was 8 years old growing up in Stuart, the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA) now mostly sugarcane, south of Lake Okeechobee, had morphed to gigantic proportions (dark brown), agriculture had also expanded along the eastern coast, and coastal development (yellow) had grown and moved into the eastern Everglades.  

Chart 4, 1995.
Chart 4, 1995.

By 1995, when I was 31 years old, and teaching English and German at Pensacola High School, the EAA had achieved its 700,000 acreage south of the lake, and although there remained extensive agriculture (dark brown) along the east coast, excessive urban development had taken over many of these lands (yellow.)

Today, there is nothing but more rapid population growth projected for this area. There were 5,564,635 inhabitants of the Miami-Dade metropolitan area as of the 2010 Census; it is the most populous in Florida, and southeastern United States. It is the eighth-most populous area in the entire United States. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Miami_metropolitan_area)

For me, this rapid population and agriculture growth is rather depressing, but I will say Ed and I had a great Cuban meal in West Miami at Islas Canarias Restaurant over the  Labor Day weekend…

At the end of the day, this area is going to need more water. With a growing population, documented salt water intrusion, and sinking aquifer level this part of the county will not stand the test of time unless it has more fresh water.  Perhaps they would reconsider re-plumbing the canals making releases to the estuaries?

“Move the Water South” may just start being chanted from Miami…

I hear it now, don’t you?

“Mueva el agua al sur!”