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Kissimmee River System Past and Present Thirty years ago the Army Corps of Engineers in partnership with the State of Florida began construction of a massive flood control project on the Kissimmee River in south central Florida The flood control solution was the channelization of the river converting its 103 plus miles of shallow meandering river channel and floodplain to a geometric essentially straight as an arrow Historically the Kissimmee River meandered approximately 103 miles within a one to two mile floodplain The floodplain approximately 56 miles long sloped gradually to the south from an elevation of about 51 feet at lake Kissimmee to about 15 feet at lake Okeechobee falling an average of about one third of a foot in elevation over each mile of the river Under historic condition river flows generally exceeded 250 cubic feet per second 95 percent of the time while over bank flooding occurred when flows exceeded 1400 cfs in the upper reaches to 2000 cfs in the lower reaches It is important to recognize at the outset that the 1961-71-flood control work on the Kissimmee River was a continuation of past federal concerns and the development of the river that began with the construction of federal channel for commercial navigation in the early 1900s The flood control project was conceived planned and designed between 1954 and 1960 Federal law and policy dealing with the water related environment did not at that time include the Clean Water Act of 1972 At the time of authorization and construction there were certainly stirrings of environmental awareness throughout the country but even so the first Earth Day had to be held Governmental processes were relatively single purpose minded The charge in the 1954 authorization was pure and simple Flood damage reduction in the most cost efficient fashion and that was what was done About 20000 of the original 35000 acres of floodplain wetlands were either drained covered with
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