Before lines
The water didn't change, the boundary did

Today, we often default to political lines …

When thinking about geography, and hydrology, too.

Historic Phytogeography of South Florida with Present Day SFWMD Features, 2019, by Lexie Hoffart & Nichole Miller, Geographers, SFMWD. View a full scale version of the map here. Find out more about how the map was made here.

But we all know water has a mind of its own.

And just because you draw a line on a map (or in the swamp), it doesn’t guarantee that’s the direction the water will go.

The L-28 is the perfect example.

It was built in the 1960s to drain (not replenish water into) the swamp, and also never fully built. Conservation efforts in the 1970s cut its completion short. But in the sixty years since the levee has more or less stayed the same.

Driving into Big Cypress National Preserve from the east, the L-28 parallels the Tamiami Trail for 2 miles and then turns north (for another 17 miles). Today, we often think of the levee as the boundary between the Big Cypress Swamp and Everglades.

That’s where reverse engineering comes in.

But what are the limits to reverse engineering?

Campfire chat on reverse engineering

There’s an old hydrologic axiom that way flows downhill.

More correctly it flows downgradient. That’s some combination of topography, both natural and manmade, and hydrostatic pressure. A rising time for example flow uphill and pumps can send water uphill too, but both flow downgradient.

What’s the correct solution for the L-28?

Stakeholders are still trying to talk it out.

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