Vanishing point — disappearing north Florida waters

So far, most of my drought postings have focused on the unprecedented Southern California five-year drought.  Relieved somewhat by the Santa Anna winds bringing some rain, the State of California remains under siege.  Calif. Governor Jerry Brown’s  mandatory resrictions  on water usage remain in place.

My review of the U.S. Drought Monitor on the East Coast has revealed only a few areas of drought over the Florida peninsula for limited periods of time.  These areas of drought have been for the most part. in the southeast Florida area. But little has been written about north Florida.

At the mouth of the Apalachicola River, south of the state capital (Tallahassee). and the source of the Apalachicola Bay or, if you wish, Apalachicola Basin,  a water war between Florida and Georgia has been waged for decades. So contentious the war become,  Florida has filed in the U. S. Supreme Court a lawsuit against Georgia for an equitable apportionment of the waters of the Apalachicola River between Georgia and Florida.

I wrote in a post some months ago a few generalities about the procedure for making the judicial apportionment of the waters.   Most of the river runs through the State of Georgia.  Florida argues that unless there is a reasonable apportionment of the water, the Apalachicola River Basin will lack the necessary river nutrients for the growth of shrimp and other seafood.  An entire industry will die off while Georgia continues to retain and impound water upstream for Georgia’s future needs that Florida regards as bogus and unsupportable by the facts.

Notwithstanding the ‘water wars’ in Florida’s panhandle, north Floridians have been noticing the drying up of north Florida lakes for at least two decades.  What is the source of the drying up?  Is it the slow but noticeable drop in the lakes through sinkholes, leaving residents to do battle in the summer with mosquitos thriving in the marshes where the larger lake once thrived? Is it the drying up of the underground Florida aquifer from fertilizing agriculture leading to out-of-control vegetation deadly to the ecosystem similar to one of the problems plaguing the Everglades?  Whatever the source touch this link for one author’s ‘call to action’.

Vanishing point — disappearing north Florida waters

Aerial of Harbour Town Marina, Sea Pines, Hilton Head Island, South Carolina.

Aerial of Harbour Town Marina, Sea Pines Plantation , Hilton Head Island, South Carolina
Aerial of Harbour Town Marina, Sea Pines Plantation , Hilton Head Island, South Carolina

Built in 1969 by acclaimed developer Charles Fraser, Harbour Town Marina has 100 slips on Calimbogue Sound, the second largest sound on the Atlantic coast (Long Island Sound is the largest) and part of the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway.  Designed by renowned land planners Wallace Robert & Todd and Sasaki & Associates, the Sea Pines development includes, condominium apartments, a retail shopping center, a championship golf course and pro shop, a tennis center, two stand-alone restaurants as well as a hotel and Marriott time-share development.   The master plan also includes an iconic working lighthouse. Legend has it that the firms almost came to blows over the design of the lighthouse striping.

Survey of the Intracoastal aboard the Army Corps S/V FLORIDA II

https://youtu.be/JyrTAgJ3zGw

Congress mandates a survey of the Florida stretch of the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway at least annually.

The author joined Col. Alan M. Dodd, Commander of the Jacksonville District and Corps support personnel, along with the federal Waterway’s official local sponsor, the Florida Inland Navigation District and its Commissioners, on the survey of the stretch from Stuart, Fla., to Fernandina Beach, Fla., from Wednesday, April 1, 2015 to Friday, April 3, 2015

Along the way, various Corps and FIND personnel as well as private contractors demonstrated the work and projects underway in the Waterway. We heard an update on the removal of the sunken barge from the Fort Pierce District, a dredge contractor joining us while underway to explain the work and challenges in removing rocky spoil with long distance pump dredges, the Corps’ work in managing exotic vegetation along the Waterway, and an update on Jaxport at Jacksonville.

A stop was made just south of the Palm Valley Bridge to meet with a homeowner whose dock encroached on the federal government’s right of way. The Colonel explained that several letters had been directed to the homeowner without compliance. Either the homeowner could remove the offending structure or the Corps of Engineers would remove the encroachment and place a lien against the owner’s entire property for the federal government’s expenses in removal. No word yet on whether the owner would comply.

A special treat was to make the transit aboard the FLORIDA II, A 62-foot, all steel, catamaran hydrographic survey vessel specifically designed for the Corps of Engineers.
The vessel’s top speed is 40 knots; 3 knots when under survey. Enjoy this short 4 minute videotape.

Florida dams, reservoirs, and similar water basins and catchments

Franklin Lock and Dam on the Caloosahatchee River at Olga, Fla., opened in 1965, fourteen feet high, upstream of the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway, and built at a cost of $3.8 million.
Franklin Lock and Dam on the Caloosahatchee River at Olga, Fla., opened in 1965, fourteen feet high, upstream of the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway, and built at a cost of $3.8 million.

 

Kerr Lake is located in the Ocala National Forest, the largest concentration of sand pine in the world.  Home to black bear, bald eagle, and Florida manatee.
Kerr Lake is located in the Ocala National Forest, the largest concentration of sand pine in the world. Home to black bear, bald eagle, and Florida manatee.
St. Lucie Lock and Dam, Gateway to the Gulf of Mexico from the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway
St. Lucie Lock and Dam, Gateway to the Gulf of Mexico from the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway
Construction began on the Jim Woodruff Dam in about 1947 and opened in 1957. Located in Gadsden and Jackson counties, Florida/Decatur County, Georgia.  Impounds from the Caloosahatchee and Flint rivers created Lake Seminole (Reservoir), encompassing 58 square miles.
Construction began on the Jim Woodruff Dam in about 1947 and opened in 1957. Located in Gadsden and Jackson counties, Florida/Decatur County, Georgia. Impounds from the Caloosahatchee and Flint rivers created Lake Seminole (Reservoir), encompassing 58 square miles.

Federal law requires the Secretary of Army to inspect the Intracoastal

Federal law requires the Secretary of the Army to make a physical inspection of the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway at least annually and report his or her findings to Congress.

Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway
Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway

The author has attended at least six inspections of the Florida portion of the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway.  One of the more esoteric briefings was the replacement of mangrove shoots in the fast-moving current of the Jupiter Inlet at Jupiter, Florida, in Palm Beach County.  Engineers had devised a method of inserting hundreds of young mangrove shoots encased in PVC piping in the Inlet.  Several years later, we observed that these shoots had taken hold in the inlet and that they appeared to be thriving.

Other briefings have included plans on restoring the original flows of the Everglades south to the tip of the Florida peninsula, as well as the installation of recreational areas, including a natural aquatic pool for the observation of marine life on Peanut Island at Lake Worth (Palm Beach) Inlet in the Waterway and cleanup of the bottom land of the Miami River utilizing performance specifications requiring the bidder to provide both the price and the method to be used in cleanup.

Hon. Joseph Hampton Moore, president of the Atlantic Deeper Waterways Ass’n

Hon. Joseph Hampton Moore, mayor of Philadelphia, congressman, and founder of the Atlantic Deeper Waterways Association.
Hon. Joseph Hampton Moore, mayor of Philadelphia, congressman, and founder of the Atlantic Deeper Waterways Association.

Unquestionably the ‘Father’ of the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway, in 1907 Congressman J. Hampton Moore sponsored a bill to direct the Corps of Engineers to survey the Delaware River in his district for much needed deepening.

Bills dealing with such questions were referred to as Rivers and Harbors bills and were passed, generally, every few years instead of every year.  These bills dealt with the rivers and harbors in a piece-meal fashion pitting one state or congressional district against another. Moore’s bill went down in flames, competing with bills from other states and districts with stronger congressional representation.  In his first term in Congress, Moore could not understand why his bill, which sought only a survey for deepening, went down in defeat.

Moore devised a plan to stop governmental bureaucracy from pitting one state against another when a continuous inland waterway from Maine to Florida was needed. Moore called a meeting in Philadelphia in 1907 to form the Atlantic Deeper Waterways Association. Every Governor, Senator, House member, and interested Mayor from Maine to Florida was invited. It would be an ‘all for one’, and ‘one for all’ proposition calling upon Congress to appropriate $50 million a year for ten years.

Attendees would elect Moore president of the the ADWA for forty straight years until the job was done. A continuous protected inland waterway under federal control from Florida to Norfolk, Va., would not be completed until 1935, along with the Cape Cod Canal and other Atlantic coast inland waterways although not necessarily continuously protected by sufficiently large barrier islands, as in Florida.

Moore’s job had been accomplished. The ‘all for one’ plan worked. For much of the distance the inland waterway was at least 125 feet wide and at least 10 feet deep. Joined in the work was John Humphrey Small, a Member of Congress and for a time Chairman of the Rivers and Harbors Committee.  More important, while Moore was a Philadelphia Republican, Small was a North Carolina Democrat. For years, the two formed an unbeatable combination in Congress on the question of an Intracoastal Waterway.

Author rowing on the Intracoastal, Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.

The author rows a 21′ long ultra-lite Alden Star rowing shell the average person can lift and launch into the water. The oars are top-of-the-line oars hand carved from light wood in Vermont. A pair of oars will set you back about $400 but, in the opinion of the author, the cost is well worth it.

Author rows on the New River Sound (Intracoastal)
Author rows on the New River Sound (Intracoastal)

While more expensive than oars made from PVC, the slightly heavier weight lends more stability. And with experience, the combination of the ultra-lite shell propelled by the wooden oars create an experience that is just this side of heaven. The shell flat flies over water when the wind is down and the water flat.

Rowing on the New River Sound, or almost any tidally-influenced inland waterway, is a rough way to row.  While I have rowed as fast as 10 knots in ideal conditions, those instances are few and far between.  The best conditions are those found in flat water low or no wind such as lakes or closed non-tidally influenced water.

The New River Sound is a portion of the Intracoastal Waterway that runs from Lighthouse Point south through Fort Lauderdale to Hollywood, Fla.

The author took up rowing when age no longer accommodated running.  I enjoyed running. But after discovering rowing, I’d say that rowing is a better conditioning experience with less stress on the feet, ankles, and knees. One caveat: talk to your physician before undertaking any exercise regime and find the right one for you.