Florida boaters’ shortcut across Lake Okeechobee closed for 3 months starting Jan. 4

Mariners touring Florida waters will not have entry to the east-west shortcut throughout Lake Okeechobee for three months beginning Jan. 4 — the busiest aspect of the state’s boating year.

That signifies boaters traveling involving the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico should just take an around 320-mile detour close to the state’s southern tip, adding 165 nautical miles and a few of days for slower-going vessels like sailboats and trawlers.

This yr, 3,305 boats handed through the St. Lucie Lock from Jan. 1 as a result of Dec. 17, with about one particular-third of all those (1,011) performing so throughout the first three months of 2021— the exact same time period of time the lock will be shut in 2022.

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Seven boats transit the lock at St. Lucie Lock and Dam in western Martin County Thursday while nearly a dozen more await their turn in the south fork of the St. Lucie River. Boaters were moving vessels inland to protect them from Hurricane Dorian.

Seven boats transit the lock at St. Lucie Lock and Dam in western Martin County Thursday whilst practically a dozen far more await their transform in the south fork of the St. Lucie River. Boaters were transferring vessels inland to secure them from Hurricane Dorian.

Locks are elevators for boats

The Military Corps of Engineers declared it will need many months to dewater and maintenance the St. Lucie Lock, the framework boats need to go as a result of to shift amongst the C-44 Canal and the St. Lucie River.

It can be the 1st time in 26 many years the lock has been closed for upkeep, in accordance to Tammy Cleveland, the Corps’ deputy chief of its South Florida workplace in Clewiston.

A lock is an elevator for boats, which have to be lifted or decreased at the St. Lucie Lock and Dam by about 14.5 feet, based on the river’s tide phase and the canal’s drinking water level.

The St. Lucie Lock and Dam is just one of five locks on the 154-mile-prolonged Okeechobee Waterway. There are two east of the lake and three west of the lake together the C-43 Canal and Caloosahatchee River. All are operated by the Military Corps, and they raise boats traveling towards Lake Okeechobee and reduced them as they travel away from it.

Water flows through the Franklin Lock and Dam on the Caloosahatchee River toward the river's estuary at 2 p.m. Friday, Sept. 18, 2020, as shown by the Army Corps of Engineers spillway camera.

Drinking water flows via the Franklin Lock and Dam on the Caloosahatchee River towards the river’s estuary at 2 p.m. Friday, Sept. 18, 2020, as proven by the Military Corps of Engineers spillway digital camera.

The Military Corps web site provides this technological data about the St. Lucie Lock:

The Everglades Drainage District built the initial lock there in 1925

It was redesigned in 1941

Preliminary building price about $2 million

It usually normally takes 15 to 20 minutes to traverse the lock

It really is about 15 miles up the St. Lucie River’s South Fork from wherever it crosses the Indian River Lagoon (The Crossroads).

Chamber proportions are 50 ft large by 250 toes prolonged by 10 ft deep at minimal h2o

Chamber is built from concrete and steel sheet pile walls

Lock gate is a steel sector gate (pie-slice form) put in in concrete gate chambers, operated by rack and pinion travel.

The lock is operated from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. 365 times a calendar year, except a major hurricane is approaching. The visitor center, observation decks and northside recreation space already were being closed to the community, so personnel could phase gear there and prepare for the Jan. 4 lock closure. On the other hand, the close by campground will continue to be open up.

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The Extended Way All over

An approximated 100,000 boaters provide their boats to Florida every winter season and spring, according to Stop by Florida.

Mark Clarke keeps his boat on the difficult at Indiantown Marina, whose location — at mile 29 of the Okeechobee Waterway, just west of the State Street 710 bridge — helps make it an ideal hurricane gap. The complete Okeechobee Waterway is greatly employed as a area to hide boats from harming winds and storm surge when hurricanes technique.

The marina has been abuzz with out-of-state boat proprietors preparing their vessels to go east of the St. Lucie Lock to stay clear of turning into stranded inland by means of the total boating year, Clarke emailed TCPalm.

“I am glad I am sitting this one out,” he wrote. “I have never noticed the marina so hectic.”

The marina has 40 wet slips, a 24-ton vacation raise and acres of property to store boats.

Boaters touring east from there will have to head west more than 125 miles before turning south and creating way by means of the Florida Keys to head east up the coastline. Boaters traveling west from there will not have any limits even though the St. Lucie Lock is closed.

“There are a whole lot of boat proprietors who have not been to the marina nonetheless and other individuals who are not all set to launch,” Clarke wrote. “They could drop out on most of the cruising period. I’ll wager they will have some tales. It really is a lengthy way to Channel 5 in the Keys and then the Bahamas.”

‘The Gateway to the Atlantic’

As one particular can envision, the opening of the locks in the 1920s, and the reopening in 1941 after it was redesigned, was celebrated with significantly fanfare. The passageway throughout Florida was to be a conduit of financial viability for coastal cities on possibly finish of the waterway, Stuart and Fort Myers.

During its heyday, a significant proportion of cargo was transported by barge. The Okeechobee Waterway served about 10,000 vessels a 12 months. It was popular for Martin County residents to listen to tugboats pushing the barges down the river at evening. Tugboat captains sounded horns to alert bridgetenders at the 5 drawbridges crossing the St. Lucie River and Indian River Lagoon at the time.

More than the a long time, the tugs and barges went absent as much more merchandise and cargo had been transported by vehicles and trains. Drawbridges have been changed by span bridges, negating the need to have for other boats to notify bridgetenders who are no for a longer period there.

Let us hope the Army Corps can entire this project quickly and with no delays.

For additional information and facts about the lock closure, go to saj.usace.military.mil.

Ed Killer is TCPalm’s outdoors writer. Sign up for his and other weekly newsletters at profile.tcpalm.com/newsletters/handle. Friend Ed on Fb at Ed Killer, follow him on Twitter @tcpalmekiller or e mail him at ed.killer@tcpalm.com.

This posting initially appeared on Treasure Coast Newspapers: Florida boaters: St. Lucie Lock closing disrupts Okeechobee Waterway

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