St. Lucie Canal (C-44)

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The St. Lucie Canal (C-44) is a man-made canal built in 1916 in Martin County, Florida to divert floodwaters from Lake Okeechobee via the canal to the South Fork of the St. Lucie River and into the St. Lucie Estuary, a component of the Indian River Lagoon, which connects to the Atlantic Ocean.[1] Resulting from this connection, restoration projects in the St. Lucie River are the northernmost component of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan.[2]

The St. Lucie Canal (C-44) can also be referred to as the St. Lucie Canal, the C-44, and the C-44 Canal. It is a part of the Okeechobee Waterway, and sometimes also is referred to by that name.[1]

The C-44 has been a source of contention since its construction in 1916.[1]

Description[edit]

The St. Lucie Canal (C-44) connects to Lake Okeechobee at Port Mayaca, Florida. The St. Lucie Canal (C-44) is 8 feet deep (2.4 meters) deep – the result of its second deepening in 1949 – and has a rate of flow of 9,000 cubic feet per second; . In 1933, 16 fixed spillways were approved for construction to reduce shoaling.

The C-44 has a drainage basin of 185 square miles (470 square kilometers), equivalent to 117,000 acres (47,348 hectares).[1]

Water flow[edit]

In 1924, the canal′s original flow capacity was 5,000 cubic feet (141.5 cubic meters) per second. In 1937, the canal was deepened to 6 feet (1.8 meters) increasing its flow capacity. In 1949, it was deepened to 8 feet (2.4 meters) , which increased the flow capacity to 9,000 cubic feet (254.8 cubic meters) per second.

According to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, the St. Lucie Canal (C-44) flows both east to the St. Lucie Estuary and west to Lake Okeechobee "on about an equal basis."[1]

Navigation[edit]

The St. Lucie Canal (C-44) connects to the Caloosahatchee Waterway, which connects Lake Okeechobee to the Gulf of Mexico at Fort Myers, Florida.

Major Structures[edit]

There are three major structures along the canal: the S-308 lock and dam structure, the S-153 structure, and the S-80 lock and dam structure.

S-308[edit]

The S-308 lock and dam structure is located at the western end of the canal and connects to the shore of Lake Okeechobee.

S-153[edit]

The S-153 is designed to discharge into the St. Lucie Canal (C-44). The S-153 regulates water levels in the Levee 65 Borrow Canal The Levee 65 Borrow Canal is located on the edge of Lake Okeechobee and north of the St. Lucie Canal (C-44).

S-80[edit]

The S-80 structure is a lock and dam structure located at the eastern end of the canal. This structure was completed in 1944.

Environmental and navigation problems[edit]

Fresh water discharge[edit]

One of the major problems resulting from the construction of C-44 is that control of the water levels of Lake Okeechobee causes too much fresh water to discharge from the canal into the St. Lucie Estuary. Large discharges from Lake Okeechobee into C-44 cause salinity levels to drop rapidly, killing many species in the estuary.

Turbidity[edit]

High flow rates in the canal result in erosion and the transport of sediment into the St. Lucie Estuary that can smother benthic habitats. The increased turbidity of high flow rates also results in sediment filling navigation channels.

Drainage basin[edit]

Drainage from the canal′s drainage basin into the St. Lucie Canal creates water quality problems in the St. Lucie Estuary.

History[edit]

Construction of the St. Lucie Canal (C-44) began in 1916 and was completed in 1924. The original purpose of the canal was to allow for an improved way to divert floodwaters from Lake Okeechobee. The canal was originally designed to flow into Manatee Pocket instead of the South Fork of the St. Lucie River.

The C-44 has been a source of contention since its construction in 1916.[1] Records indicate that people have been complaining about the negative impacts of the canal since the early 1950s.[1]

Timeline[edit]

  • 1916: Construction begins on the St. Lucie Canal (C-44).
  • 1924: Original construction is completed, providing a flow capacity of 5,000 cubic feet (141.5 cubic meters) per second.
  • 1937: The St. Lucie Canal (C-44) was deepened to 6 feet (1.8 meters) to allow for the navigation of vessels to and from Lake Okeechobee.
  • 1949: The canal was deepened to 8 feet (2.4 meters), which increased the flow capacity to 9,000 cubic feet (254.8 cubic meters) per second.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g "Florida Department of Environmental Protection -- Ecosummary: C-44 Canal, Martin County, Florida" (PDF). Florida Department of Environmental Protection. Florida Department of Environmental Protection.
  2. ^ "Florida Department of Environmental Protection -- Significance of North Fork St. Lucie River Aquatic Preserve".