Lake Okeechobee

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Paddling south from Lake O

Lake O seems “static” from a map view because the levee defines its bounds.  That’s where a cross-sectional view comes in handy for understanding how the pre-drainage and modern-day Everglades worked.


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Lake at 15

This just in:

Lake Okeechobee recently dropped to 15 feet above sea level. 

Here’s a quick look at how it got there, both recently and going back a few decades (actually century) in the more distant past.

Ideal Lake Stage
Research paper by William J. Sobczak

When it comes to the environment …

Sometimes our children know best.

Academic-Paper-William-Sobczak

The reason? It could be that they’re a little more open minded. Or maybe it has something to do with the idealism of youth. Where our adult minds get clouded with economic drivers, political bents and the sociological inertia of the status quo, children have a much less cluttered view of the world. Obviously, nature is good and water should be clean and whatever the cost, it really all boils down to doing the right thing. That would be a youthful view of things, which begs the question: Why doesn’t the same view prevail for adults.

The above paper about Lake Okeechobee — and specifically the discussion of a new regulation schedule called LOSOM — was written by my son for a high should project his senior year. What I admire about it most is its blend of youthful idealism and adult pragmatism, and his surprise choice at the end. I’ll leave it to you to read it to find out. In the process I think you’ll get a very good history lesson of the Lake.

Great job Willy!

Dike is in control
And why the Lake plays second fiddle

There’s the Lake Okeechobee we see …

And then the ghost of how it changed over time.

Chart of current Lake O level

In our modern day view …

We tend to focus on Lake stage and quality.

But that misses the bigger picture why the perimeter dike was built and how it changed water management on both the inside and outside of the 143-mile long earthen hill.

Cross sections (i.e. side views) of Lake O under pre-drainage and current conditions looking (1) West to East (top) and (2) North to South (bottom). Look at how much land has dropped south of the Lake. The black band shows the current “normal range” in the water table compared to the “cross hatched band” that shows historic pre-drainage levels.

How much has Lake stage changed?

For starters its 10 feet lower than its pre-drainage state (circa 1880) when it naturally flowed into the sawgrass plain and southward into the Everglades.

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