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Liquid Heart: Lake Okeechobee part two

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  • A fisherman waits for the big one to hit as winds blow and dark clouds over Lake Okeechobee near Moore Haven recently. The lake, the liquid heart of Florida, gives life to the Everglades and the communities that surround its shores. Lake Okeechobee once covered 1,000 square miles and was periodically flushed by hurricanes. Now dammed and drained, the lake serves as a 730-square mile reservoir with no way to purge itself naturally.
  • A woman in the late 1940s hangs onto a sign showing the route to America's Sweetest Town. Just south of Lake Okeechobee, Clewiston earned its place on the map through the sugar industry.
A photo from the 1928 hurricane shows some of the devastation left in the wake of the storm, which killed thousands. Out of that disaster was born the Okeechobee Flood Control Distric and the first section of the Herbert Hoover Dike.
  • The Clemens Construction Co. adds to the intricate system of canals and dikes that make up the U. S. Army Corp of Engineers flood controls. In 1947, the federal government declared the Everglades a national park; a year later, the government directed the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to begin extension of the Herbert Hoover Dike and widening of the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee canals.
  • Cracked marsh muck in the Everglades bakes in the sun during a record drought in 2000 and 2001. The drought dropped Lake Okeechobee to 9 feet above sea level after the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers lowered the lake by releasing billion of gallons of water to the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie estuaries. No one knew drought was on the horizon.
  • Neil Anderson, an employee of the Okeechobee Livestock Market Inc., slaps cattle on the back to herd them into pens after a recent cattle auction in Okeechobee. Cattle ranches and dairy farms cover vast acreage north of Lake Okeechobee.
  •  Beside the closed spillway to the St. Lucie Canal, a boat cruises through the lock at Port Mayaca. The St. Lucie Canal is part of the 152-mile Okeechobee Waterway that connects the lake to the St. Lucie River on the Atlantic coast and the Caloosahatchee on the Gulf coast. Five locks along the waterway allow boats to travel between the two coasts. At the will of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the South Florida Water Management District, the spillways in Moore Haven and Port Mayaca open to release water from the lake to the rivers.
  • Boats traveling the Caloosahatchee River to Lake Okeechobee must pass through the Moore Haven lock. Just south of the lock, the Moore Haven spillway opens during the rainy season to let water flow from the lake to the river. Last year, more than 900 billion gallons of water passed through the spillway to the  Caloosahatchee River.
  • Jim Young, from Angola, Ind., checks the tip of his fishing pole to make sure his line is clear while fishing in the shadow of the Moore Haven spillway recently. The gateway holds back the waters of Lake Okeechobee and has dumped billions of gallons of nutrient-rich lake water into the Caloosahatchee River, spurring algae blooms in Lee County waters. A head stone on a mass grave in the Port Mayaca Cemetery is one of the few reminders of the loss of life during the Sept. 16, 1928 hurricane, which killed an estimated 2,000 to 3,000 people.
  • A head stone on a mass grave in the Port Mayaca Cemetary is one of the few reminders of the loss of life during the Sept. 16, 1928 hurricane — an estimated 2,000 to 3,000 people were killed.
  • A boat navigates the Lake Okeechobee rim canal. The canal follows the Herbert Hoover Dike from Moore Haven to Port Mayaca for approximately 50 miles. During the 2001 drought, the lake dropped to nine feet, making navigation along the canal tricky. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers tries to keep the lake between 13.5 and 15.5 feet above sea level.
  • Wayne Nelson, head of the Fisherman Against the Destruction of the Environment, noticed problems with Lake Okeechobee 20 years ago when he found algae blooms in his favorite fishing spots in Lake Okeechobee.
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