Dike restoration being planned
By MaryAnn Morris, Okeechobee News
years of planning, the Army Corps of Engineers has finally been
successful in getting the Herbert Hoover Dike restoration project off
the ground. On June 20, 2005, the Corps officially solicited bids for
the first phase of this critical work. The bids are due Aug. 19, 2005.
estimate about one week for evaluation, a contract to be awarded around
Sept. 11, 2005 and the chosen contractor to be able to begin in
October," said Contract Specialist Pam Owens with the Army corps of
Engineers in Jacksonville.
The dike is a critical part of South
Florida's economy. In 1928 a hurricane roared up from the Caribbean and
destroyed many of the towns along the lake and thousands of people
died. To prevent this from happening again, the federal government
built the Herbert Hoover Dike, enclosing the lake with a 34-foot high
wall of earth, broken intermittently by channels that could be opened
or closed to keep water in or release it.
A rich life has
developed since the dike was built: sod and vegetable farms, orange
groves and the sugar industry adds $7 billion and 120,000 full-time
jobs to Florida's economy. The bass fishing industry adds another $2.2
billion each year to Florida's gross domestic product. More than 40,000
people make their lives in the towns that ring the lake, protected by
the Hoover Dike.
Development along the coast requires fresh
water. The water in Lake Okeechobee keeps coastal drinking water
sources free of saltwater intrusion. South Florida's drinking water
comes from rain as does the water to grow the crops that make up so
much of the economy of the region.
In 1979 breaches of the dike
caused damage to a FP & L cooling reservoir. Since 1984 the Army
Corps of Engineers has written several reports documenting that areas
of the 70-year-old dike were prone to seepage and stability problems,
putting South Florida's economy and many of its citizens at risk.
1998, the Army Corps of Engineers gathered a group of five experts from
universities in the United States and from the Netherlands to work on a
plan to repair the dike. (Remember, the Netherlands is also surrounded
by a dike.)
In 2002 through 2003, emergency repairs to the Dike
were made to stop water from coming up on the land side of the Dike
near South Bay, but the water already in the ground made that solution
fail. Although the dike was built state-of-the-art in the 1930s, today
the gravel, limestone and shell would not be used. Better methods of
judging materials are used today than the engineers of the 1930s had.
Those materials allow water to seep through. The deeper the water in
the lake, the more the weight of the water pushes through the dike
until it comes out the other side.
When it rains, the soil soaks
up as much water as it can. Then the water begins to run off. In South
Florida the average rainfall is over four feet a year. Most often it
comes a few inches a day as afternoon thunderstorms from June through
This June, instead of the historic 6 inches or so, more
than 14 inches of rain fell over the land that drains into the Lake.
From Kissimmee, some 90 miles north of Lake Okeechobee Central Florida
drains south into the lake as does much of the land surrounding it.
Rain also falls onto the 760 square miles of the lake itself. All this
water is held back by the 70-year-old Hoover Dike.
thousands of years Lake Okeechobee ebbed and swelled with Florida's wet
and dry seasons. From the highlands to the Everglades, water slowly
flowed, depositing rich organic sediment from the land north of the
lake to form the rich farmland found by explorers in the 1800s.
the turn of the century, farmers were attracted to the rich soil and
long growing season to raise crops and towns were built along the lake.
But another part of Florida's sub-tropic climate was devastating
So we have the Herbert Hoover Dike and managed water
in South and Central Florida. There are many considerations and no easy
But the Dike will be repaired by the Corps of Engineers.
more on the plan to repair the Herbert Hoover Dike, see the Monday
edition of the Okeechobee News. Some information for this article came
from: "Lake Okeechobee and the Herbert Hoover Dike a Summary of the
Engineering Evaluation of Seepage and Stability Problems at the Herbert
Hoover Dike", U.S. Army Corps of Engineers; "Herbert Hoover Dike Major
Rehabilitation Evaluation Report, Reach One: Final Environmental Impact
Statement," U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Jacksonville District, July
2005; "Historical Analysis of the Contribution of the Everglades
Research and Education Center," Univ. of FL IFAS and the Florida
Division of Fisheries.)