Mission Statement: Our mission is to safeguard and restore South Florida’s water resources and ecosystems, protect our communities from flooding, and meet the region’s water needs while connecting with the public and stakeholders.”
-Ms Jennifer Reynolds, Director of Ecosystem Restoration and Capital Projects, presents to the Governing Board, Okeechobee, October, 2021.I am proud to serve on the Governing Board of the South Florida Water Management District. As 2021 comes to a close, I would like to document what the board and staff with the help, firstly, of Governor Ron DeSantis, and also South Florida residents, organizations, and state and federal government investment have accomplished since 2019. This list was compiled by Communications Director, Mr Sean Cooley, after the November meeting in West Palm Beach, as brought to our attention by Vice-Chair Scott Wagner.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
Port Mayaca, Structure S-308 at Lake Okeechobee opens to Canal-44 into St Lucie River. S-308 is open for water supply for agriculture but is not going through S-80 into the St Lucie River/ Indian River Lagoon. Aerial, Ed Lippisch, 5-5-21.
River Warrior Times 5-16-21. This piece is written specially for Lake Okeechobee.
It was my intension to write a summary water piece every two weeks. I last wrote on April 25, 2021.Today, I will try to catch up.
The blue-green algae bloom at Pahokee Marina, I wrote about last time, was cleaned up through a cooperative of the South Florida Water Management District and the Department of Environmental Protection. This is a first as globs of purple, blue, green, and grey cyanobacteria -blue green algae- sat in marinas and inside canal communities in 2016, and 2018 until they rotted and fell to the bottom. This time, under Governor DeSantis of which DEP and the SFMWD sit organizationally, it was determined (under Section 1 part I of 19-12) to remove the toxic algae via vacuum and chemical treatment, relocating what Palm Beach County could not take safely, far away to District lands away from people and wildlife.
Keith W. Babb, Mayor of Payhokee, attend the May 13 SFWMD Governing Board meeting and was very grateful. You can listen to his comments at 39.00 the beginning of the meeting. Congressman Brian Mast, who led Governor DeSantis’ transition committee, also provided fiery commentary.
Although it is definitely a positive that the toxic algae was removed, we must ask ourselves a question. How are we going to pay for this again, and again, and again? A precedent has been set. Is vacuuming each time sustainable? With Lake Okeechobee in its present condition this is a very relevant question.
As Mark Perry, the Executive Director of Florida Oceanographic has repeatedly stated: “Unless we address the source of the problem in the upper watershed of Lake Okeechobee, we will never reach the 105 metric tons at 40 ppb.” Translated, that means the pollution numbers coming into the lake are high, in some basins over 600 parts per billion phosphorus. You can’t vacuum away as an avalanche of pollution pours in!
The situation is complex. However, the handling of Pahokee Marina is symbolic of a larger problem. I would have liked not only DEP and SFWMD to be in the spotlight at the Pahokee Marina, but also FDASCs the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. Why? Because the lake did not get sick overnight, and the history of Lake Okeechobee is an agricultural one. This is reflected in “who” is in charge of water quality.
First, back-pumping fertilized and chemical-leaden water into Lake Okeechobee was common practice and allowed by the by the state. The sugar industry/EAA imparticularly partook of this practice for decades. It almost killed the lake. In the 1970s and 1980s lawsuits forced water that was once back-pumped into Lake Okeechobee to flow south, sparing the lake, but creating a new issue of destroying the Everglades. This in turn spurred other lawsuits so that today Everglades Agriculture Area (EAA) runoff must first be filtered through Storm Water Treatment Areas, south of Lake Okeechobee before it can enter the Everglades Protection Areas or Everglades National Park. Most of this was paid for by taxpayers, just like the clean up at Pahokee Marina.
Lake Okeechobee, though in a better position than in 1970 continues to be fed high concentrations of phosphorus and nitrogen mostly from agriculture areas north of Lake Okeechobee. Thus destruction already done from the early years is locked up in sediments, and the new destruction that continues makes for a hyper-eutropic lake that now blooms every year.
Not a good situation. So how is fixing our waters supposed to work? Who is in charge of water quality?
No one agency is in charge of water quality. Like it or not, in Florida, three agencies have this responsibility. As Florida Statue requires, we must all work together to turn Florida’s organizational chart from a line into a triangle. Until FDEP, SFWMD & FACS are truly working together, there will not be improvement to Lake Okeechobee’s water quality and Florida’s tax payers will be on the hook.
–Organizational chart State of Florida. Note the members of The Triangle (circled) responsible of water quality. The Dept. of Ag is a cabinet position. DEP and SFWMD are lower agencies but fall under the top tier, the governor. The governor is doing a great job but he can not do it alone!
Today is October 26, these photos/videos were taken over the weekend on October 24, 2020. The first is the St Lucie River looking off the Evan’s Crary Bridge at Sewall’s Point; the second is a video of the St Lucie River taken between Rio and Stuart; and the third is a video of a brown ocean at Peck’s Lake. The St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon and much of the east coast of South Florida have endured tremendous, repetitive downpours in 2020, causing massive “local basin runoff.” The St Lucie has been stressed for months, and since October 14, there are also discharges from Lake Okeechobee. Prior to that, there had been no Lake O discharges since March of 2019. This post is written to document this discharge era for today and for later reference.
1-Video visual water quality from boat, wide St Lucie River near Rio 10-24-20
2-Video visual water coloring, Atlantic Ocean at Peck’s Lake, south of St Lucie Inlet 10-24-20
DOCUMENTING THE DISCHARGES 2020
Covid-19, an active hurricane season, and the 2020 presidential election have captured our attention, but most of know, as this Tyler Treadway Stuart News article reports, much to our dismay, due to a high rate of Lake Okeechobee rise, and after weeks of media briefings, and warnings, a reluctant ACOE started discharging to the St Lucie River on October 14th. Thankfully, for much of the time, it has been difficult due King Tides. The discharges are expected at least another week longer if not a month depending weather and rainfall from Tropical Storm Zeta. See link below from the ACOE’s most recent, 10-20-20, Periodic Scientist Call for more info.
The most comprehensive place to keep track of all this is Todd Thurlow’s website (http://eyeonlakeo.com) that provides a multitude of easily interpreted information. Check it every day, especially LIVE DATA and Satelitte NCCOS HAB images of Lake Okeechobee.
Michael Conner, THE INDIAN RIVERKEEPER keeps an active Facebook page on Lake O discharge and other local issues and is often on the ground reporting.
Also on 10-14-20 The Florida Department of Environmental Protection put out a press release: “Governor Ron DeSantis Announces Preparation for Algae Bloom Mitigation Following Announcement by Corps of Releases From Lake O.” This technology has not been needed thus far.
I can’t forget to include that October 11, 2020, right before the discharges began, Ed and I took this video documenting a significant algae bloom in the middle of Lake Okeechobee. Since that time it has been too stormy, or cloudy to go up. Usually, rain and lack of sunshine minimize visual blue-green algae blooms as can be seen on Todd’s website. The algae does remain in the water column. This image/video was shared by many news stations and posted on Facebook.
3-Large algae bloom in middle of Lake Okeechobee, 10-11-20.
Next , I would like to document Florida Oceanographic CEO, Mark Perry’s recent op-ed as it gives us pause. “Why can’t, why aren’t we able to send more water south?” We know a lot has been done, and we are grateful, however, 2020 is not 1948, we must continue to advocate for a better water future…
OP-ED MARK PERRY, PUBLISHED IN STUART NEWS, October 15, 2020
Lake Okeechobee discharges can go south now.
As the water level rises in Lake Okeechobee, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is considering discharges to the coastal estuaries, the St. Lucie to the east and Caloosahatchee to the west.
According to the Lake Okeechobee Regulation Schedule, the Corps considers where the lake level is at this time of year within the “operational band,” which ranges from 10.50 to 17.25 feet of elevation. Then, based on the rainfall outlook and tributary conditions, they determine “allowable Lake Okeechobee releases” to the water conservation areas and to the estuaries.
The water conservation areas (900,000 acres) are the remnant Everglades, south of the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA) which is the 700,000 acres immediately south of the lake used primarily for growing sugarcane.
For “allowable Lake Okeechobee releases” to the estuaries, the Corps has specify flow amounts going to each estuary, which can be “up to 4,000 cubic feet per second (cfs) to the Caloosahatchee and 1,800 cfs to the St. Lucie.”
That is where they are right now with the lake at 16.02 feet elevation.
But the “allowable” releases to the water conservation areas are always “up to maximum practicable.” What does that mean? Well, they rarely talk about how much they can release to the water conservation areas, and never tell us how much should be considered to go south.
In fact, water has been flowing south into the water conservation areas all throughout this wet season, May through October.
But it is not coming from the lake.
About 955,000 acre feet (311 billion gallons) has been going into the water conservation areas from the EAA basin runoff. This means that they are keeping the EAA water table down to 10.5 feet — ideal for crops — by draining all this water through our 57,000 acres of stormwater treatment areas and into the water conservation areas — the Everglades.
Meanwhile, the Corps says they must discharge Lake Okeechobee to the estuaries because they can’t release it to the south. Well, they can — they have been doing it for months and they still are today, but it is all coming from the EAA basin runoff!
All this time, we could have been releasing lake water to the water conservation areas, and we could do the same right now instead of killing the estuaries with releases and wasting this water to tide.
But for that to happen, we need to tell the EAA to store and treat runoff on their own land so the stormwater treatment areas can be used for water flowing south from Lake Okeechobee.
The Corps and South Florida Water Management District are jointly responsible for managing water in south Florida. We need to have them focus on restoring more natural water storage and treatment north of the lake, in the 2.5 million acre watershed, so the lake doesn’t fill up so fast.
But we must also get them to flow south from the lake to the Everglades during the wet and dry seasons. We don’t have to wait for huge regional projects to be authorized and completed, we can do this now.
The lake is rising quickly because the EAA is using the capacity to send water south. Agricultural interests would like it to stay high because during the dry season, November thru April, the EAA will demand water from the Lake, about 350,000 acre feet, as water supply for their crops.
These are ideal conditions for the EAA, but not so good for the lake, the greater Everglades ecosystem and the coastal estuaries.
Mark Perry is executive director of the Florida Oceanographic Society in Stuart.
Below are Florida Oceanographic’s most recent St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon water quality reports
Finally: During Rivers Coalition meeting 10-22-20 more expansive documentation/reporting of on-going seagrass loss/slow recovery in the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon was requested. It was noted that SFWMD “Ecological Reports” cover only two historical seagrass areas of the once lush and healthy Sailfish Flats.
Tales of the Southern Loop, Boyton to Miami, Part 2
It was September 4th, early morning, we’d had our first cup of coffee, the engine was yawning, and Ed was at the helm. Today was part two, Boyton to Miami…
“You know what to do right?” Ed jokingly mocked from the helm. He was way too chipper.
I rubbed my eyes. “Yes Captain.”
There wasn’t much wind or tide; I easily removed the spring, bow, and stern lines in that order.
ADRIFT inched off the dock.
“Good job mate.” Ed yelled.
“It’s easy on a day like today!” I replied, knowing the entire Southern Loop adventure would not be so easy.
It was an absolutely beautiful morning. Ed made the radio request on Channel 9 to open Boyton’s Ocean Bridge; we waited, and as the draw raised up the trawler slid into the long man-made cut of the Intercostal Waterway.
The scene was almost surreal, especially the reflections; the water itself did not look great -trapped inside seawalls, houses, and lawns gushing fertilizer.
Ed yelled,” Look at the man cutting the mangroves!”
I turned to see a worker balancing atop rocks holding a trimmer over his head.
“Unbelievable!” I sarcastically yelled back. “You’ve got to love South Florida!”
The sun shone hotter and hotter. We passed Delray Beach, Highland Beach, Boca Raton, Deerfield Beach, Hillsboro Beach, and Lighthouse Point.
“Hey Ed,”Hillsboro Inlet and lighthouse is coming up. The pre-drainage Hillsboro River was about the north mark of the historic east coast seepage of the Everglades!”
As we slowly made our way, I saw finger canals everywhere…
Construction to channelize the Hillsboro River and the Miami River had first begun in 1910. The New River, in 1906. It wasn’t just the most southern coastline that was wet either, apparently the region from the Jupiter Inlet to the Hillsboro Inlet was once so marshy people canoed between the two- and out into the Everglades- regularly. That was until drainage lowered the water table six feet! Crazy isn’t it!
“Everglades eastern flow was directed towards numerous natural outlets piercing the Atlantic Coastal Ridge, specifically Cypress Creek, (region of Hillsboro River JTL) Middle River, New River, Snake River, Arch Creek, Little River, and the Miami River.” These flows eventually made it to the Atlantic Ocean and Biscayne Bay.” Pg 262, Landscapes & Hydrology of the Predrainage Everglades, 2011.
It is strange to think that there are no natural flows through these once cypress forests and rivers, but rather a channelized construction of canals, pumps, and structures kept in place by the South Florida Water Management District.
We forget that the Everglades’ waters, beginning in Lake Okeechobee, once seeped through, on and off, around today’s Pompano Beach; Ft Lauderdale to Miami; and even at South Miami to about Leisure City. Today ADRIFT would only make it to Miami.
1850s undeveloped South Florida: Cypress Strands, the Peat Transverse Glades; and the Marl Transverse Glades were once natural seepage areas from the Everglades. Landscapes and Hydrology of the Predrainage Everglades pgs. 49, 48, & 266. Notice how canals were constructed to these natural outlets. (3)
2. Modern satellite image of of S. Florida, note areas that once flowed through near Pompano (Cypress Strands); Ft Lauderdale area (Peat Transverse Glades); and further south of Miami (Marl Transverse Glades). Compare image 1 &2.
3. Earliest canals New River to Ft Lauderdale 1906; Hillsboro & Miami 1910. (Boyton for reference.) These canals led to where the water was naturally exiting the east coast.
“Hey First Mate!”
“Get your head our of that book and look around!”
“Holy cow!” I screamed. It looked like we were going to be swallowed up by the wake of a cargo ship!
4. Near Ft Lauderdale’s Port Everglades
5. Condos along the ICW near Ft Lauderdale
6. North area of Biscayne Bay, Broad Causeway Drawbridge at Bay Harbor
I was speechless. We had entered Ft Lauderdale. The modern Transverse Peat Glades! I watched in total amazement.
“Come up on to the helm,” Ed yelled. “We’re in Biscayne Bay almost to Miami.”
I put my book aside and crawled up the ladder. Even though I despise over development , it was very exciting. Huge ships went by and multi million dollar boats were docked everywhere.
“I think this is near the area of the recent fish kill.” I said. I showed Ed my phone pointing to the area between Highway 934 and 1-95. “The bay has polluted stormwater runoff problems and also it doesn’t get all the fresh water it historically received because we have cut off its flow connection of the cypress, peat and marl transverse glades.”
Ed looked at me through his sunglasses. “You read too much. Just enjoy!”
7. Further south in Biscayne Bay
8. Port of Miami
9. Ed smiling
10. Miami shoreline near Miami River/Maimi Canal outlet
11. Some wildlife! Yeah! Cormorants!
“Wow. This is amazing I said. My book was put away under the cushions.
“Where are we going to park? Make sure we don’t damage any seagrass.”
Ed rolled his eyes. “Not “park,” “anchor!”
We made our way just southeast of the Magic City and Rickenbacker Causeway. Remarkably, we anchored without a blip on a sandy/muddy bottom.
ADRIFT relaxed and found her direction in the tropical breezes. The whole thing was rather otherworldly. “God I love South Florida,” I thought,” even with all its water and drainage issues, she’s beautiful!”
Current Canal Network of SF w/Historic Imagery 1940-1953 Map (Simple Version), SFWMD, created by supervisor of Geospatial Mapping, Dr Ken Chen, and his team: Lexie Hoffart, Nicole Miller, and Erika Moylan.
~Today’s map has almost the same name as July 11, 2020’s shared map, but it is “simple,” as the 298 drainage districts are not marked. To best view this image go to South Florida Water Management District’s Featured Map Gallery, click on the image, and then export the PDF to your desktop. An easy way is to link here to the image entitled SFWMD Current Canal Network with 1940-1953 Historic Images Simple Version (2nd row, 3rd to right) then go to “File” and “Export as a PDF.”
Once downloaded to you desktop, you can zoom in and move up and down wherever you wish to go. North, south, east, west, central. What will you see? You will perceive the modern mapped canal network of South Florida atop hundreds of historic aerial photographs that have been stitched together. These maps are the first of their kind.
This image gives us a clear idea of what canals drain South Florida. I don’t think ever in one place has this information been so visually available.
I will use the east coast of Florida to zoom into with screen shots for examples, as this is my home. Later, hopefully, you can use your zoom feature as described at the beginning of this blog post to downloaded the map as a PDF for an even closer view. It will blow you away!
In the images below, from north to south, we see St Lucie; Martin; Palm Beach; Broward; and Miami-Dade Counties with in the footprint of the Central and South Florida Plan, now managed by the South Florida Water Management District. Mind you many of these canals in the map pre-date the SFWMD.
Oh my gosh! Look at all these canals! Look at the wetland images they rest upon. Most children grow up today not even knowing…
The canals are almost everywhere draining what was once of the largest wetlands in the world. Think of all the animals that once roamed and swam here. According to Mark Perry, CEO of Florida Oceanographic, through these canals approximately 1.7 million gallons of fresh water a day is drained to tide.
Kind of weird isn’t it. Like we are living on a squeezed out sponge. Looking at this map makes me want to rethink Florida. How about you?
CLICK ON EACH COUNTIES IMAGE TO ENLARGE AND SEE ALL OF THE CANALS OVER ONCE WETLANDS – as revealed in 1940-1953 aerials taken by the U.S. Dept of Agriculture.
To understand the creation and complexity of the maps I am including the following words of Dr Ken Chen Ph.D., GISP, Supervisor, Geospatial Mapping Services UnitInformation Technology Bureau, South Florida Water Management District. I had asked him to describe what was entailed with the historic imaging. Thank you to Dr Chen and Team whose talent, research, and time made these maps possible.
Historical aerials (1940 – 1953)
“Sources of historical aerials, especially 1940s and 1950s, are very scarce, especially for such a large area in South Florida. Therefore our focus was to get whatever we could find online regardless cloud cover or quality of images. As you know, all of those old images were recorded in an analog format (i.e. film or paper), instead of digital. Some (maybe all) of those films/paper images were later scanned and saved to a digital format and made available online. Scanning usually results in loss of imagery quality. For this canal map project, we were fortunately able to locate aerial index images (I would call them aerials index panels), after weeks of online research including data download and review. Each index panel displays a group of aerials in sequence over a specific area. For instance, say 200 images from #1 to #200 over an entire county. These index panels are usually used for aerial imagery management and archival purposes, just like a library index card for images. There is no information at all regarding how those index panels were created, but they are seemingly made via camera shooting or scanning of a group of stacked paper images or positive films. The index panels are simple graphics or pictures without any geospatial information, such as projection, coordinate system etc. The first step to process these index panels, prior to mosaicking, was to geo-rectify and inject geospatial information into the images. To do so staff needed to identify ground control points. It’s very challenging to identify those points in those very old images due to lack of apparent landmarks, e.g. road intersections. This is particularly difficult in the middle of nowhere across the vast wetlands in 1940s-1950s. So staff tried to use a very few of the intersections between rivers, canals and a few major roads to geo-rectify the panels and assigned appropriate geospatial information into them to make them georeferenced images. Then staff clipped each panel image to trim out the white or black edges before stitching all of them together for the majority of south Florida.
The original aerials were collected by the U.S. Dept of Agriculture. The aerials index panels were obtained from the Univ. of Florida’s Imagery Library. One thing to note – it’s very evident that there are strong image vignetting effects in the old aerials – bright in the center and getting darker toward the edges. That is an inherent optical artifact in the analog images and can not be corrected during the post processing.
This may be more than you asked for. I’m not sure if I have explained this clearly. To summarize it, this process can be simply illustrated in the following format:
Online search of available sources of data -> data download and review to accept or reject -> identify ground control points (GCP) in prep for image processing -> Using GCPs to georectify the index panels -> inject geospatial information into the panel pictures to make them georeferenced images -> remove the white/black edges -> Mosaick all georectified index panel images -> clip the mosaic to the district’s boundaries before use in the maps.
I forgot to mention the number of historical aerials we used to create the historical mosaic. We used totally 84 aerial index panels. Each panel consists of roughly 50+ to 200+ individual aerials, depending upon the geographic area each panel covers. I can’t get the exact number of aerials, my best guess the number would be ~7,000+-12,000.”
Today, I wanted to share new map images, “Selected Release Volumes, November 1st, 2018, to May 7, 2019,” being presented at the South Florida Water Management District by Chief District Engineer, John Mitnik P.E. Thank you to Mr Mitnik and his staff for these great images. I really like them and I think you will too as they specifically break down the movement of water from north to south, using color-coding and arrows, making it easier to see and understand the water flows of the complicated Lake O system.
Looking above, notice that the map starts at the top with Orlando’s free-flowing creeks, the often forgotten headwaters of Lake Okeechobee and Kissimmee Chain of Lakes: Their names? “Reedy,” “Shingle” and “Boggy.” Sounds like names from an Everglades’ Seven Dwarves, don’t they?
I’m not going to review each line, just some highlights…but please read through it all!
If you live in Martin or St Luice County, you may find of particular interest RED, RELEASES TO THE INDIAN RIVER LAGOON, (C-25 at Taylor Creek); and BROWNISH-RED, UPPER EAST COAST, DISCHARGES TO THE ST LUCIE ESTUARY, (C-23 and C-24); for all of us BLUE, TOTAL RELEASES SOUTH, is always important! 550.6 thousand acre feet is really a lot of Lake water “going south.” The original Everglades Forever Act proposed 250,000 acre feet, but it has not always worked out that way. Some years have been basically null. We should be very happy about 550.6!
On the southern map you’ll see some of the same colors and number and new ones like OLIVE GREEN, LAKE RELEASES EAST AND WEST; and many more. Most interesting to me right now as the estuaries are not getting bombed is LIGHT GREEN, WATER CONSERVATION AREA 3 RELEASES TO EVERGLADES NATIONAL PARK linked to the L-29 Canal along the Tamiami Trail. It is not just how much water is going south, but how much is getting to the right part of Florida Bay as it is hyper-saline, in parts, leading to massive seagrass die-off. This problem was the first to inspire change and it is still messed up….
In any case, I hope you enjoy these images as much as I do! And following such will certainly help us attain our goals!
Sometimes the history of the Everglades is really confusing. Why, with all of the environmental advocacy, since the 1970s, does the health of our environment remain crippled? One way to simplify it is to think in terms of before and after the 1947 U.S. Central and South Florida Plan. Of course there is extensive history before 1947, but it was after 1947 that things in South Florida’s water world became culturalized, compartmentalized, and legally defined. Before we talk about this 1947 Central and South Florida Plan, let’s review some important highlights pre-1947.
1. Hamilton Disston begins the drainage of Lake Okeechobee (1881)
2. Governor Napoleon Broward hires U.S.D.A. scientist James Wright who determines that “eight canals would indeed drain 1,850,000 acres of swampland” (1904)
3. The U.S. Congress’ Rivers and Harbors Act includes significant funds to deepen the manmade Hamilton Disston connection of the Calooshahatchee River to Lake Okeechobee (ca.1910)
4. The scandal of James Wright (from #2 above) who was deemed “a fraud” for the failure of the land to drain as expected ~causing the slump in swampy real estate sales (1914)
5. The resurgence of confidence in sales and a 1920s real estate boom fueled by advances in soil science, and the success of agricultural start-ups located in Moore Haven, Belle Glade, and Clewiston south of Lake Okeechobee
6. Land in a defined “Everglades Drainage District” more fully being systematically cut into sections for development with canals draining agricultural fertilizers and other chemicals into the waters of the state (1924)
6. Two very powerful hurricanes causing thousands of deaths and the destruction of property, and thus the state’s “call for a higher dike” (1926 and 1928)
7. The state’s reaction to the hurricanes, the 1929 establishment of the “Okeechobee Flood Control District” for the “Everglades Drainage District” as well as the Federal Government’s Army Corp of Engineers taking over “field operations”around Lake Okeechobee ~including the building of a thirty-five foot earthen dike and ingeniously using navigation funding to build the cross-state-canal, connecting the Caloosahatchee and the St Lucie Estuaries to Lake Okeechobee ~conveniently working as discharge-escapes through those estuaries when “necessary”
So, as we can see, a lot happened pre-1947, but it was what happened after, were things really changed…
In 1947 it rained and rained, and there were two hurricanes. From Orlando to Florida Bay the agricultural and developed lands, that had been built in drained, once marshy, swampy areas, really flooded, and in some places a foot of water sat for months. There was great economic loss.
The crying cow booklet, above, was sent to every member of the U.S. Congress.
To fight Florida’s destructive “flood waters” the 1948 U.S. Congress adopted legislation for the CENTRAL AND SOUTH FLORIDA PROJECT, a twenty year flood plan from Orlando to Florida Bay that included the formal creation and protection of the Everglades Agricultural Area south of Lake O, the Water Conservation Areas, intertwined with thousands of miles of canals and structures to control the once headwaters and River of Grass. HOUSE DOCUMENT 643 – 80TH CONGRESS (00570762xBA9D6)
Next, mirroring the same terminology the United States Government had used (the Central and South Florid Project) the state of Florida created the “Central and South Florida Flood Control District” to manage that CENTRAL and SOUTH FLORIDA PROJECT. A bit confusing huh? A tongue twister. And in a way one could say, at that time, the Central and South Florida Project and the Central and South Florida Flood Control District “became one.” The overall goal above all other things was flood control. And this marriage of the Central and South Florida Project and the Central and South Florida Flood Control District was successful at controlling the waters, but it also killed the natural environment, thus Florida herself.
This embedded cultural philosophy of “flood control only” was challenged in 1972 with the birth of the national environmental movement, and a consciousness that the natural system that supported Florida’s tourism, quality of life, agriculture, not to mention valuable wildlife, was in tremendous decline.
12-4-17, ca. 2:45 pm, photos: Ed Lippisch & Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch
The Army Corp of Engineers has lessened but not stopped Lake O discharges that started September 20th, 2017 just prior to Hurricane Irma. Perhaps as the discharges have gone on at such a high rate for a comparatively long time, the plume has had a chance to extend its territory. In yesterday’s photos, the dark, filthy plume is reaching clearly south beyond the exclusive Town of Jupiter Island.
Yesterday was a beautiful day, but the river and ocean waters of our entire region were ugly, possibly contaminated. How are we to enjoy our property and lives here?
When viewing the aerials below, please note the blue, sapphire-colored water just on the edge of the discharge plume. Yes, of course all estuaries put forth darkened fresh water after a rain event, and Ed and I could see this occurring just south at Jupiter Inlet. Nonetheless, the black, gigantic plume that we repeatedly endure for the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon due to discharges from Lake Okeechobee is an aberration.
Please let’s all support Joe Negron and the public’s work to build the EAA Reservoir; clean & send the water south!
Last Thursday on November 16, the ACOE reported they will reduce the amount of water they are releasing from Lake Okeechobee. The Corp had been releasing at a high rate, on and off, since September 20th. New targets are 2800 cfs east and 6500 cfs west.
Photos below were taken yesterday, 11-19-17 by my husband, Ed Lippisch. We will continue to document the discharges from Lake O, and area canals.
As Thanksgiving approaches, we are thankful the discharges are lessened and that the SFWMD and the public are working hard to plan the EAA Reservoir Senator Negron fought for… We the people of Martin County, will not be satisfied until these discharge stop. The river has its hands full with unfiltered discharges draining agriculture and developed lands from C-23, C-24, C-25 and C-44. All must be addressed.
“And where the river goes, every living creature that swarms will live, and there will be very many fish. For this water goes there that the waters of the sea may become fresh; so everything will live where the river goes…” Ezekiel
I am very fortunate to have a small army of people helping me document the Lake Okeechobee discharges this year. Presently, it is the tremendous rate of government sponsored discharge from Lake O that is destroying the regions’ economy and ecology, right before our eyes, ~once again.
Friends of my husband, pilots Dave Stone and Scott Kuhns, took these aerials yesterday, 11-8-17 around 5 pm. When I asked Scott about the plume, he relayed that it went 15 miles south almost all the way to Jupiter Inlet, and since there is also rain driven, fresh, dark- stained water flowing out of the Jupiter Inlet (not over-nutrified, black-sediment water from Lake O) there was no clear delineation of blackened plume to aqua ocean water, like usual–rather, the waters are all dark….
“How far did the plume go east from the St Lucie Inlet?” I asked. “From the coast, as far as the eye could see…”
*The ACOE has been discharging from Lake O since Hurricane IRMA hit on Sept 2oth, 2017. The rate of discharge has gone up and down, however increasing over recent weeks. Word is the St Lucie could be dumped on for many more months, possibly through the end of the year. So don’t count on taking your visiting relatives out fishing this holiday season even though you moved here for the water. This ecological disaster is finally seeing light at the end of the tunnel as Senator Joe Negron, alongside the public, and “River Warrior” groups, particularly Bullsugar, has pushed so hard that the SFWMD and ACOE are finally working towards building an EAA Reservoir that will begin the long journey of changing water drainage culture in South Florida, and “sending the water south.” Please get involved and learn more by viewing this SFWMD EAA RESERVOIR website:https://www.sfwmd.gov/our-work/cerp-project-planning/eaa-reservoir
*Thank you to the people, and the children, groups such as the C4CW, Rivers Coalition, grandparents’ HOA email chains, leadership at Martin Health System, and to the those working for the agencies trying to help the St Lucie. As the River Kidz say:
Whereas, if the ACOE’s discharge waters of Lake Okeechobee were “filling up the City of Stuart,” last Thursday, October 26, these polluted waters, would have reached the top of Stuart’s iconic 134 foot water tower…
Whereas, once again, our economy and ecology is completed devastated, and high bacteria levels in the water are exacerbated therefrom….We shall remember this day…
We shall, therefore, designate, Thursday, October 26, as “Water Tower Day” and say together: “Lake O discharges have reached the top; this must STOP!”
Yes, to put the Lake Okeechobee discharges into perspective, last Thursday the cumulative 2017 ACOE/SFWMD discharges from S-80 passed 134 “Stuart Feet”. The Stuart water tower is 134 feet tall. See my brother Todd’s cumulative total page below:
– In the lost summer of 2013, Stuart/Martin County received 284 “Stuart Feet”, 2.1 times the height of the tower.
– In 2017, the gates did not open until September 5. So it took only 52 days to accumulate that same amount of discharges!
– In 2013, the discharges started on May 8 (with the exception of some small pulses earlier in the year). That year, it took 91 days to hit a cumulative “134 Stuart Feet” – on August 7.
In other words, the discharges have been almost twice the rate as they began in 2013. You can see this in the slope of my brother’s graphs in the web page above. This doesn’t really mean a lot though. In 2013 the discharges didn’t really begin to accelerate until mid-July. At that point, the rates of discharge were comparable to what we are getting now.
– At the current average of about 4200 cfs, we would hit the 2013 total of 284 Stuart feet in another 42 days (December 9). If they are saying the discharges could continue for months, this could happen. We could have another record year, even though the disaster didn’t start until September. Maybe they will throttle it back a little or start pulsing again so it won’t be the case. In any event, this is already another lost year…
(This blog post was based on writing and ideas by my brother and contributing blogger, Todd Thurlow, http://www.thurlowpa.com)
* I edited this post from “today” to “last Thursday.” An ever rising story. 🙂 JTL
These aerial photos over the St Lucie Inlet were taken by my husband, Ed Lippisch, Sunday, October 29, 2017, at 1:45pm.
The number one issue here is the polluted waters of Lake Okeechobee being forced into the SLR/IRL because they are blocked by the Everglades Agricultural Area from going south.
The ACOE has been discharging Lake O waters into the St Lucie since mid-September. These over-nutrified and sediment filled waters continue to destroy our economy and ecology on top of all the channelized agricultural and development waters of C-23, C-24 and C-25. Stormwater from our yards and streets also adds to this filthy cocktail.
Near shore reefs, sea grasses, oysters, fish? A human being? Better not have a cut on your hand…Not even a crab has an easy time living in this.
We move forward pushing the SFWMD and ACOE for the EAA Reservoir with these sad photos and the fact that our waters are putrid at the most beautiful time of year as motivation. We will prevail. One foot in front of the other.
“Right now billions of gallons of fertilizer, sewage, and legacy pollution from Lake Okeechobee are spewing into the St. Lucie River, carrying a new threat of toxic algae. Water managers may say Irma left them no choice, but of course that’s a half-truth…”
Documentation of primary and secondary plumes at St Lucie Inlet caused predominantly from human directed ACOE/SFWMD discharges post Irma and other from Lake Okeechobee & canals C-44, C-23, C-24, C-25. 10am, September 30, 2017. Primary plume out 3 miles; secondary 3 1/2 and not quite south to Peck’s Lake. We must continue to #ReplumbFlorida #forthefuture #forthewildlife #forthekidz #fortheeconomy for our #indianriverlagoon JTL/EL
Hurricane Irma may be gone, but her waters are not. Our now black river and the giant plume off the St Lucie Inlet attest to this. Clean rain that fell in our region during the hurricane is now filthy “stormwater” discharging, unfiltered, through manmade canals C-23, C-24, C-25, and C-44. Nature did not design the river to directly take this much water; this much water kills.
Every plume looks different, and this one is multilayered with no clear border. Sediment soup, black-brown in color, yesterday it extended out about 2/3 of a mile into a stirred up Atlantic and flowed south, in the rough waves not quite having made it to Peck’s Lake.
Since Hurricane Irma’s rains, area canals dug with no environmental foresight in the 1920s and 50s for flood control, and to facilitate agriculture and development, have been flowing straight into the river. On top of this, in anticipation of the hurricane, three days prior to IRMA the Army Corp of Engineers began discharging from Lake Okeechobee. During the hurricane they halted, and then started up again at high discharge levels reaching over (4000 cfs +/-) this past Friday, September 15th. As Lake Okeechobee rises and inflow water pours in from the north, and is blocked by the Everglades Agricultural Area in the south, we can expect more Lake O discharge on top of the canal releases themselves.
As advocates for the St Lucie River we continue the fight to expedite the building of the EAA reservoir and to create a culture to “send more water south.” In the meantime, we, and the fish and wildlife, and the once “most bio diverse estuary in North America,” suffer…