waterworks

Crossing the dotted lines
How invisible lines shape our thinking

Dotted lines warp our view …

Of how a watershed naturally works

Available on Apple Podcasts and Podbean

I‘m not saying let’s do away with the lines.

All I’m saying is let’s try to find some common ground.

As seen in Fakahatchee Strand Preserve

This National Park Service placard at the trailhead to Big Cypress Bend boardwalk has always intrigued me. It’s a state trail, part of Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park which was established in the mid 1970s. So the placard predates the dotted lines that eventually went in, but to me – both then and today – it’s a reminder that our modern-day boundaries are not set in stone, nor should our thinking simply stop wherever they start and end.

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This Just In: “Fakahatchee Strand is getting a new visitor center at Big Cypress Bend, which will also lengthen the boardwalk.”

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Technological breakthrough
Always arriving in the nick of time

Can we rely on technology …

To guarantee future water resources?

The S-12A helps deliver water into Everglades Nat’l Park

Answer:

The answer is yes, but not an absolute yes of our forefather’s forefathers – rather it’s a tentatively stated and probabilistically defined, “let’s hope so.” At this point it would be pretty fool hearty to go back to the dousing rod or hand pump, and truly, why would anyone want to try.

Technology has become a double edged sword of sorts, in a way that makes me ask – “is it too late for technology, or is it too late for us because of our technology? We have it now, for good and for worse, as our answer and curse. It’s our fate and the facts, but we need it now more than ever, and I don’t think that is a hope misplaced. What haunts me is the question – “if we knew then what we know now, would the world and its waters be different today?”

I am buoyed by the prospect that technology, if properly harnessed, can save us heartache down the road. Ecosystems and water ways have been pillaged for economic gain, but would the calculations that created those messes – so long ago – have been different if our grandmother’s grandfathers had better technology at their fingertips? What if the original drainers of the Everglades didn’t “dig first, and ask questions later?”  What if they had the tools to tell them what unintended consequences lay ahead? Unfortunately, the one thing that technology has never invented (despite a legion of prognosticators who claim its powers), is a crystal ball.

Pump grave yard, as see at John Stretch Park at the southern shores of Lake Okeechobee. The Herbert Hoover Dike is visible in the background.

Thus, I can make no guarantees, only hope – on a wing and prayer – that technological solutions await, always in the nick of time.

quality of water

Vegetation plume
Fueled by poor water quality

The Everglades are oligotrophic.

The canal below provides a direct connect between agriculturally enriched waters to the heart of the Everglades.

Bad water quality in, looking Northwest

The result is a dense and growing thicket of willow and cattails in the middle of what should be pristine Ridge and Slough.

The solution?

Nutrient plume out, looking Southeast

Filling in the canal and cleaning up the water seems like a good start.

It’s part of a plan gaining multi-stakeholder support.

How To: Fill a canal
And send water into NE Shark River Slough

For as place as flat as the Everglades …

Water sure does flow uphill a lot.

At the pumps, looking west

Across the canal, looking back at the pumps

Farther West, at the first of three bridges that send headwater flows into Everglades National Park. Can you see the southern levee of WCA 3B?

Ten miles West of the S-356 (and S-334) where the S-333 (left) and S-333 North feed water from Water Conservation Area 3A (WCA3A) to the three bridges that feed water to Northeast Shark River Slough

Water stage in the L-29 Canal = 6.90 ft NAVD88 + 1.54 = 8.44 ft above sea level (NGVD29)

The reason? Back in the old days, water was allowed to spread out and flow wherever it wanted to go. That changed gradually and dramatically over time with the influx of agriculture, people and coastal gridlock into south Florida. The result is as complex a water management system as you’ll see anywhere in the world. I like to think of south Florida as the NASA of water management. It’s not as complicated as rocket science, or maybe it is? The only way we’ll know for sure is to have a chess match between the astronomers and the hydrologist, or maybe a Jeopardy event. As long as the topics are watershed-centric, I’m pretty sure the hydrologist will hold there own.

As for the run of photographs above, I was just driving by earlier this morning and couldn’t help myself from stopping to soak it all in. Water is flowing into Northeast Shark River Slough thanks to an engineering feet that was decades in the making, and still being refined.

Next steps: Get the James Webb telescope fully deployed.