Arrow size and direction indicate annual water volumes into or out of Lake Okeechobee from 1981-2015. The major input is from the Kissimmee River draining 4,500 square miles of a lake and wetland complex starting at Shingle Creek just south of Disney World and ending into Florida Bay. This water movement hard engineering design aka the C&S project has functioned as designed and built in the 1920's to 1950's. Major environmental damages that have resulted from redesigned nature. Three   of these hard engineering works that have caused major ecological disasters are the cutting the C-44 canal from the lake into the St. Lucie River, channelizing the Caloosahatchee River, and severely restricting the 6,000 year south flow of Lake Okeechobee water  into the historical Everglades aka River of Grass.    


More specifically , negative ecological impacts of this massive water flow re-route are destruction of hundreds of acres of seagrass beds in both the St. Lucie River and Southern Indian River lagoon by suspended solids re-settling in the salty environment. The resulting mucky deposits have not only smothered large oyster  beds and  loss of prime habitat in the St. Lucie Inlet area of over 800 documented fish species and many more aquatic species in the southern Indian River Lagoon. Since 2004, several major eruptions of the cyanophyte, Microcystis aeruginosa have created massive blooms covering the river, lagoon and Atlantic coast beaches in Martin and St. Lucie counties.   


A similar situation has occurred for the Caloosahatchee river, its estuary and the Sanibel vicinity. This river historically had its headwaters from lake Hipochee situated just southwest of lake Okeechobee . In the 1890's a canal was dredged to connect the two lakes so that now Okeechobee is the headwater of this river. Historically under managed control, it  has been stressed by either too much or too little water from its headwater lake and the  poor quality has caused the same impacts as on the east coast.                                                                                                                 

Most of the polluted water that is re-routed east and west into these northern estuaries has been at the expense of flow south into the historical Everglades. These once continuous wetlands have been separated into man-made basins with the net result of depriving the downstream  Everglades National Park and its hydrological downstream Florida Bay. The result of this lack of fresh water flow is evident in the before and after seagrass destruction as the saltinity doubled over normal for extended times. Again, seagrass destruction is the critical habitat for much marine life. 

Federal Government and Florida developed CERP to restore some water volume flow.


CERP Status 2018 with southern reservoir

WRDA bill for southern reservoir awaits Senate action

This bill will build a 0.240 MAF reservoir south of lake Okeechobee at ~ $1.4 billion at 50/50 Federal / Florida split. Florida signed the authorization in 2018. 

This reservoir will hold and discharge its Lake Okeechobee waters into a 6,500 acres STA [stormwater Treatment area that is proposed to reduce its total phosphate concentration to 10 parts per billion Total Phosphate [ppb TP] prior to passage south into the remnant northern section of the historical Everglades currently portioned into three WCA's [water catchment areas] immediately south.

Both the USACE and some other professionals believe that the current design will be hard pressed to pass up to 0.36 MAF from reservoir into WCA 3-A annually and meet the Federal 10 ppb TP criteria.  

Giving the benefit of doubt, this very critical reservoir will reduce the last 35 year discharges to both the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee Rivers by 55% as combined with completion of all other CERP projects. 

As essential as this project will be, much more return of historical flow south is needed. The USACE is proposing to dig up to 80 artesian storage and recovery  [ASR] wells centered around lake Okeechobee. These wells if both fully built, utilized and water volume recovered could "hold" back up to 0.466 MAF of Kissimmee River water annually entering into Lake Okeechobee during periods of high volume inputs. This "hold" of water entry could reduce the annual average from 2.3  MAF to 1.8 MAF; however all "held" ASR water will eventually be needed to enter the lake generally with a given year. 

Assuming all hard engineering problems associated with the ASR's are overcome, the ASR project will decrease the discharge volume to the St. Lucie River by an additional ~ 20% to total ~75% discharge to the St. Lucie River. 

The Caloosahatchee River needs a wet season [1/2 yr.] input of my rough estimate of 0.5 MAF and dry season of about 0.2 MAF for a total yearly outflow from the lake of 0.7 MAF. The ASR "held" water will be cleansed prior to release to the river but its dilution of the 140 ppb TP lake Okeechobee water will be insignificant to overall Lake water quality improvement.


95 % less volume discharge CERP+EAA + Holey & Rotenberger

Improve CERP with soft engineering as Flow-Through-Marshes [FTM ] at H/V of 6/1 for STA's 1/1.

I proposed three options on April 12, 2017 [see White papers]. Option three was the use of Holey and Rotenberger trusted lands owned by the State of Florida with an existing management plan that cited restoration to an Everglades function. It was not adopted. However, with increasing drastic HAB's on the East Coast of Microcytsis and the West Coast of Microcystis aeruginosa and the red tide 's Katrina braves , closed beaches, tons of dead fish and marine mammals, increasing emergency room visits, growing awareness of the three fold increase in non-alcoholic  deaths in St. Lucie, Martin and Okeechobee counties, lost tourism, fishing, recreational "lost summers " increased occurrences maybe political motivation may move to use the 64,000 acres addressed in the "Out of the Box" white paper by O'Laughlin and Gilio, 2018.  

Ample evidence shows lake Okeechobee's inflows have increased around 35% in the last 20 years. The  continued inadequate lake storage and increased  southern flow into the Everglades translates into increasing future occurrences, intensity and duration of HAB's on both coasts.

The advantages of using Holey Lands' 35,000 acres of former Everyglades is to increase the southern reservoirs water treatment area by five [5] times, increase the "soak" time of polluted water 's contact with adsorbing native wetland vegetation by two and a half [2.5] times leading to an additional ~30% decrease to discharges to the northern estuaries adding a  total ~ 75% discharge reduction and 75% potential increase of southern inflow for the Everglades. 

 And if these 35,000 acres were terra-formed into  an  FTM with small linear islands, sloughs, broad flats, the results would be :increased habitat for : year round bass fishing,  seasonal duck hunting, public access [boardwalks] , birding, etc. Add to that list is excellent feeding water depths for the everglades kite, nesting grasses for the seaside sparrow and restoration of some sacred Indian nation islands  suitable for cougar and mammals-- a restored Everglades. And restored Everglades acreage needs guides, motels, restaurants, etc. Finally, this Holey Land would be in permanent conservative use as required in its management plan.

All this effort requires agricultural level manpower suitable for the 30 % underemployed thousands of the lake's southeastern shoreline. Maintenance manpower will be high in the upstream receiving sections of the 35,000 acres.

Use of the adjoining Rotenberger trust is more problematic due to about 40 sites privately owned on roughly 4,000 acres. It is unknown if willing sellers exist. One possibility is terra-form these properties above flood stage of  the FTM  to maintain private ownership of existing parcels.If property rights can be protected, use of the Rotenberger's 28,000 acres as an additional  FTM Everglades restoration could be added to stop discharges to the St. Lucie River by an additional 20% to total about 95% discharge volume release.