“Thank you Jacqui! While this is bad for the East Coast, the West Coast has been inundated with nonstop discharges from Lake O. Can your brother update his Caloosahatchee chart to include 2020?” Mike Downing
Mind you, these numbers measured from S-79 (comparable to the St Lucie’s S-80) include basin runoff and Lake Okeechobee discharges. As of 12-1-20, the brown line of 2020 is creeping higher, just under 2018, to 1,409,269 acre feet! That’s one foot of water on 1,409,269 acres of land!
If we want to see a break-out of basin and Lake O discharges to the Caloosahatchee, we can view SFWMD, Division Director of Water Resources, Lawrence Glenn’s draft slide for the upcoming, December 10, South Florida Water Management District Meeting. (See below.)
In a color coordinated way, Lawrence’s chart splits out the basin and Lake Okeechobee discharges over the course of 2020. Look at all the dark blue representing Lake O in late October, November, and December. Also, look at all the basin runoff (green and gray)For Lawrence’s entire presentation -which includes the St Lucie- click here.
As a non scientist, non-technical type, what I notice looking at Todd and Lawrence’s charts is that although there has been notable discharge in 2020, the water was released by the ACOE later in the year. This is significant.
Back to Todd’s chart:
If you want to learn even more, use my brother’s eyeonlakeoacre feet calculator to get a visual for 1,409,269 acre feet of water. 1,409,262 acre feet would put 33.66 inches of water on the land area of Lee County and 48.66 inches of water on land area of Martin County!! Mind boggling! See here or chart below.
What helps keep things in perspective for me is a map created in 2019 by the SFWMD based on the famous historic 1913 Harshberger map that makes very clear -colored in light baby blue- the water that once covered the central and southern portion of Florida. The majority of this water is now sent through the Calooshahatee and St Lucie Estuaries…
A Ten Year View, Discharges to the St Lucie Estuary
Today I share images that help tell the story of the St Lucie Estuary over the past ten years. The first image is from the website eyeonlakeo. My brother, Todd Thurlow, takes data from D-Hydro of the SFWMD and puts it into a format that the average person can understand.
The chart above shows the “S-80 spillway at St Lucie Locks’ cumulative discharges by CALENDAR YEAR, 2011-2020.”
Scientists use Water Years, May 1 of one year, through April 30 of the next year. This splits up the years making it more confusing to remember or understand. We, as people, live our lives in calendar years.
We can see by looking at Todd’s chart that 2016’s calendar year is highest overall discharge year with 842,775 acre feet (one foot of water covering one acre) of water going to the St Lucie from what is called “local runoff” (all canals and surrounding areas) as well as discharges from Lake Okeechobee.
How large is 842,775 acres? Comparatively, Martin County is 347, 520 acres. 2020 is 188,723 acre feet and climbing. We are talking tremendous amounts of water!
In descending order, we see 2016; 2013; 2017; 2018; 2015; 2020; 2012; 2014; 2019; and 2011. The brown of line of 2020 crests 2015 as when the year is completed, 2020 will more than likely be higher than 2015.
“Could you please get me a chart or graph showing discharges to the St Lucie River for 2012-2020 by month. Please present this information from January through December of each calendar year and break it out from S-80 and S-308 and also give a total combined number. Please also note for each of those calendar years, the highest level Lake Okeechobee got that year.”
To view this information, click on Charts in red below for visuals, and data in red below for numerical charts. As mentioned this information below is from the SFWMD. This compiled information provides great perspective.
I, as many, participated in yesterday’s Army Corp of Engineers‘ Periodic Scientist Call. During the course of the call, it was alluded that the ACOE may be letting up or halting Lake Okeechobee discharges to the St Lucie Estuary soon. As soon as they do, we will begin to chart calendar year 2021. All things considered, everything in me believes it will be better than 2020!
Tales of the Southern Loop, Cape Sable, Marco Island, Ft Meyers, Moore Haven, Clewiston, Stuart, Part 7
I’m a bit late in getting this final Southern Loop published. Between the presidential election, Tropical Storm Eta, seemingly endless overcast skies, ACOE discharges from Lake Okeechobee, and resurging Covid-19, I have had a hard time keeping myself on track!
This post is split into seven sections for dates 9-17-20 though 9-22-20. It shares highlights of the second half of the Southern Loop along the waters of Cape Sable, Marco Island, Ft Meyers, Moore Haven, Clewiston, and back to Stuart. A fantastic trip!
Well before the era of high rise resort hotels, the island’s beach was surrounded by mangrove forests, and the Calusa Indians thrived here for possibly thousands years. Docking at Marco Island Marina was one of Ed and my most difficult experiences with the winds tearing along the seawalled canal as we struggled for direction. Once there, it was paradise. We wish to go back.
-Approaching Marco Island in the Gulf of Mexico-Marco Island is part of 10,000 Islands
II. FT MEYERS, CAPE CORAL, CALOOSAHATCHEE
The following day, after running just offshore in the Gulf of Mexico, Adrift arrived at Tarpon Point Marina, and docked with out issue- a familiar spot as this is where Ed and I had taken trawler classes in 2018. We had reached the Caloosahatchee!
That afternoon, Ed and I arranged a visit with Cape Coral resident, friend, and long time River Warrior pilot, Dave Stone. Also joining us was advocate and west coast fishing expert, Captain Chris Wittman, Captains for Clean Water.
Dave and Chris reminisced their history together documenting the blue-green algae discharges from Lake Okeechobee that exacerbated the horrific red tide in the Gulf of Mexico in 2018. Dave and Chris’ Facebook Live images helped turn the tide with the election of Governor Ron DeSantis and Executive Order 19-12.-
-Dave Stone and Chris Wittman visit Adrift In the following days, Ed and I made our way to Moore Haven. The channelized Caloosahatchee is 67 miles long with quiet, rural towns “Olga” and “Alva,” and two locks (Franklin and Ortona), along the way. During the course of this lasting and beautiful day, I actually heard Ed say: “I think I could retire here.” That was a first!
Of course like everything else, although there remains great beauty, from an ecological view, the story of the Caloosahatchee is a bit depressing . In the late 1800s, it was the first water body altered as Hamilton Disston plowed through the oxbows to change its course and blew up the rapids to drive the river through the sawgrass marsh at Lake Hipochee and then on to Moore Haven. This unnaturally connected the Caloosahatchee to Lake Okeechobee. Like the St Lucie, the Caloosahatchee has been plumbed to drain diked, and polluted Lake Okeechobee. This drain the swamp “progress” of the time, affects Florida’s waters today at great cost.
-The Caloosahatchee connects the Gulf of Mexico to Lake Okeechobee-The Olga bascule bridge-A lovely home along the channelized Caloosahatchee River-Cows cooling off. Hey! What about Best Management Practices? 🙂-Ed talking to the ACOE at Franklin Locks -Historic swing bridge at Fort Denaud, near La Belle; prior to dredging and drainage, just north of here were the rapids of the Caloosahatchee-Ed and I hold the ropes, Ortona Locks and Dam, near Ortona Prehistoric Village
III.MOORE HAVEN AT CALOOSAHATCHEE & LAKE OKEECHOBEE
By the time we reached Moore Haven at the mouth of Lake Okeechobee, the sun was getting ready to set over the Moore Haven Bridge. Hospitality was in the air and Ed and I were immediately assisted to dock by fellow travelers John and Susan Brady of Kemah, Texas, who now live on their boat Sunset Drifter. We had a delightful visit and got great tips for “living aboard.”
As I looked out towards the lake, I was ecstatic to see the famous “Lone Cypress” tree was only a stone’s throw away. This tree has been a Lake Okeechobee landmark for hundreds of years. I found it rather ironic that it now has a sprinkler next to it! Considering it was living in a sawgrass marsh in more than a foot of water 140 years ago, this is the ultimate metaphor for Everglades’ change.
-Visiting with the Bradleys at the Public Docks of Moore Haven-Sunset over the Moore Haven Bridge, also known as, Highway 27-Me standing with the Lone Cypress today, 2020 -A sprinkler!? -Historic marker-Post card of the Lone Cypress at mouth of Lake Okeechobee ca. 1880, Florida Memory.
In the morning Ed and I waved goodby to the Lone Cypress and to the Bradleys. Then the craziest thing happened. We were going through the locks at Moore Haven and there was substantial floating vegetation. To my surprise, I saw many marsh rabbits floating on water hyacinth or actually in the water literally up to their ears. We have marsh rabbits at home along the Indian River Lagoon, but I have never seen them in deep water. My emotions got the best of me and I did the unthinkable. I abandoned my post.
“Where is the net?” I shouted as I climbed the stairs leaving the rope hanging against the lock’s tall cement wall. “Ed I’m going to save the drowning rabbits!“
Ed was not pleased, yelling, “Jacqui, rule number one, never abandon your post!”
The trawler banged against the lock, the waters rushed in, and I could not reach the bobbing rabbits, so finally I gave up and re-grabbed the line. We passed through the lock into the rim canal of Lake Okeechobee. I silently watched as the rabbits floated by. Ed gave me that look that means he is “not happy.”
-Marsh rabbit with only ears and face above water -Video of marsh rabbits trapped on floating vegetation below, hit arrow
-After the fiasco at the Moore Haven Locks, Ed and I continued towards Clewiston. We didn’t speak for hours. I actually sat on the bow and cried thinking about how much humankind has altered this planet. But I got ahold of myself. The wind was picking up and many birds were flying overhead -a sign of changes to come.
I checked to see if there was cell service. There was, so I looked up marsh rabbits and to my chagrin, I learned that they are “excellent swimmers.” I looked towards the helm.
“Marsh rabbits can swim!”
His laugh echoed over the water. “Good thing you didn’t pull them onto the boat!”
“I guess so. But nonetheless, that was NOT NORMAL! ”
-The rim canal
V. CLEWISTON RIM CANAL/LAKE O
When Ed and I arrived in Clewiston it was very stormy, we took refuge at Roland Martin Marina. Captain Sam, a war veteran with feathers in his cap, helped us dock. I knew with this weather we’d be here for a few days so I got out my phone and called Clewiston Mayor, Mali Gardner who I’ve known for many years. Over the coming days, she and her husband displayed the warmest hospitality taking Ed and I on a tour of the area. So nice!
-After docking with the help of Captain Sam, Roland Martin’s Marina, Clewiston-Tour with Mayor of Clewiston, Mali Gardner. We sometimes have different interests, but we have great respect for one another.
Welcome to Clewiston! -Famous Clewiston Inn with wildlife mural-Mayor Gardner shows us the original shoreline of Lake Okeechobee where today many beautiful houses sit-Historic Clewiston homes and drainage system-Ed at the Clewiston Museum that houses the mind blowing fossil findings of Mark Renz from LaBelle-With Mary Anne Martin owner of Roland Martin Marina in Clewison. Ms Martin is a huge advocate for Lake Okeechobee. For years she has voiced against spraying of chemicals on floating vegetation, and works for the burning of lands when lake levels are low to regenerate Lake Okeechobee’s ecosystem. Lake Okeechobee is famous for its bass fishing. -Merchandise for sale and for display at Roland Martin Marina
VI. LAKE O
-After three days the wind died down and the S-310 lock to Lake Okeechobee was opened. It had been closed for high water for the first time in years. Ed and I headed home to Stuart. Lake Okeechobee was wild and windy, like an ocean itself. A flock of seagulls followed us 25 miles ! I threw bread from the upper helm and the talented birds, like acrobats, caught pieces in mid air. It was so much fun.
-S-310 to Lake O-Ed on open Lake O! -Flock of seagulls followed us all the way home across Lake Okeechobee!
This Google Earth image shows our path from Clewiston, across Lake O to the C-44 canal adjacent to Indiantown. The C-44 connects to the St Lucie River bringing us home to Stuart, Florida, in Martin County.
VII. STUART, C-44 Canal, ST LUCIE RIVER
S-308 Port Mayaca locks at Lake O to C-44 canal -Trees along the banks of the C-44 CanalS-80 St Lucie Locks and Dam, continuing C-44 to St Lucie River-C-44 is very impaired from Lake O, and basin agricultural and development runoff -After a long journey, a familiar sight, the Roosevelt Bridge opens to welcome us home to the Harborage Marina. Much of the C-44 Canal and upper St Lucie River were under water due to King Tides. This salt infusion is healthy for the St Lucie River as like the Caloosahatchee it is unnaturally connected to Lake Okeechobee.
-Roosevelt Bridges, Stuart, home sweet home back at the Harborage Marina After the almost three week trip, it was wonderful to be home. Ed and I had accomplished our goal and our promise to each other. Working together and experiencing our state’s waters first-hand was a life changing experience.
When we docked with out a hitch like pair of old pros, we both became strangely quiet. Home is wonderful, but somehow, we knew from here on out, there was nothing that could compare to being Adrift.
Tales of the Southern Loop, Key West to Cape Sable, Part 6-Sunrise and setting moon, Key West
September 15, 2020
Before Ed and I left Key West, we were able to rid the trawler of the smell coming from the head’s sanitation system. It took three trips to West Marine, multiple pump-outs, flushing with extra water, enzyme cleaners, and most important, changing the vent filter. The whole situation made us much more careful and aware.
Excited to overcome yet another obstacle, Ed and I pulled away from a rooster crowing sunrise for what would be the most memorable leg of our trip, Key West to Cape Sable. This was unlike any other in that it was eight hours, alone, in wide Florida Bay for about 70 miles at 7 knots!
We saw pretty clouds, blue skies, turquoise-blue waters, bobbing seagulls, cormorants flying as fast as ducks, two pleasure crafts, one crab boat, and one shrimp trawler. But that was it, most of the time it was just Ed, me, and crab pots as far as the eye could see!
-Happy to be safe at seaAfter about an hour, the wind started picking up. I put on a life vest as the sea began to swell. I imagined that if I did fall in there would be no way to be rescued as I would quickly be carried off. My imagination started to roam. Staring out to the empty horizon, I started to think, about pirates…
-A shrimp boat in the Gulf of Mexico/Florida Bay off Key West“Ed what would happen if someone came up to the boat and asked us for all of our valuables.”
“It won’t happen.” Ed replied.
“How do you know?”I asked looking off into the wide distance.
“Because I’ve read. Pirates don’t frequent these waters, and if they did, they wouldn’t be attracted to a boat like ours.”
“Why do you say that? We’d be perfect. We can’t speed away.”
“Don’t worry so much Jacqui.”
“Why shouldn’t I?
“There’s nothing to worry about; plus I brought a gun.” Ed slowly replied.
“A gun!” I exclaimed. “If we’re not going to get approached by pirates, why did you bring a gun?”
“Just in case.”
“Holy —- Ed! That certainly doesn’t make me feel any better!”
I exhaled, trying to calm down.
During the course of our conversation the swells got steadily larger, up to 5 feet coming from our stern, and off to the side, our beam. Adrift was dancing in the motion!
“I didn’t know waves in Florida Bay could be so big. I exclaimed. “Why didn’t you tell me?”
“Jacqui, come on, it’s part of the Gulf of Mexico.” Ed peered through binoculars.“What are you looking for? Pirates?”
“No, just looking.” Ed replied.
“Ed, I’m not feeling so good. These waves. This is crazy.”
“Do you want me to turn around?” He asked, getting irritated.
“No.” I conceded. “Since we’ve been out here this long, we might as well go the whole way.”
The trawler hit hard against the ocean, fear got the best of me and I wondered if the boat might eventually break into pieces.
“Could this thing start coming apart? I inquired, holding my hand over my mouth. Metal creaked and the hull hit relentlessly. With each strike I daydreamed of balancing on a piece of the crushed hull in my bright yellow life vest of course surrounded by sharks.
“I don’t think so,” replied Ed.
“I’m going down; I think I’m going to be sick.”
“Holding on for dear life, I stumbled down the stairs from the upper helm to the stern.
“Oh no,” I thought to myself, “I don’t feel good at all.” I walked into the cabin and then into the head, sat down on the toilet, and suddenly projectile vomited. It was bright red as I had been drinking tropical punch Gatorade and raspberry yogurt. I stared in disbelief. I felt terrible. The exaggerated wave motion was even more pronounced in the cabin. I held on for dear life.
“This is unbelievable; this is no fun!” I got myself together, stumbled through the cabin hitting walls. With one arm always holding on to something, I grabbed a hand towel, wiped my face, and struggled up the stairs to the upper upper helm.
And there I saw him. Ed was in his element! Loving it! Like a cowboy on a wild mustang. I sat myself down, holding on to a metal post that was creeping like a Halloween set. I looked up: “Ed, “I puked.”
“I figured as much. Feel better? “
“Oh no! It’s happening again!”Adrift sunk deep into a wave then popped back up. I leaned over, and let go. Ruminants of tropical punch Gatorade and yogurt splattered everywhere. This was not good. I was embarrassed.
Ed softened. “Babe lay down; I’ll clean it up later. It will be less bouncy up here.” Ed and I had been through such exercises many times as I had thrown up in the plane over the years when flying over Lake Okeechobee to take pictures of harmful algae blooms.
I put my head down on the cushion but no matter how hard I tried, I could not rest. The seas tossed and slowed our progress.
I raised my head. “How much longer?”
” A couple hours….” I lay down again praying for it to be over.
As I lie in agony, I asked the same questing multiple times – about two hours apart: “How much longer?” Ed’s answer was always the same. “Two hours.” I eventually realized that if that were true, we would have already been there! This was the most extended motion sickness episode of the many I had had in my life. I couldn’t wait for it to be over.
Eventually, the waters started to calm down and our destination, Cape Sable, came into to focus before us. As always, as soon as I was on stable ground, I felt better. My spirts rose, we easily dropped anchor, and planned an excursion. Looking towards the untouched shoreline was incredible!
“This must be what Ponce de Leon felt like.” I said beaming.
“I wonder who will win that one?” Ed joked. “The Endangered Species Act is sacred for you environmentalists.”Like young kids, Ed and I explored a dying mangrove forest, endless shells, flora, and wildlife around Ingraham Lake. Just north-interior lie famous Whitewater Bay and Shark River Slough, all within dingy distance. A veritable eco-playground!
I found the sands most beautiful, crushed shells from millions of years all mixed together. This makes sense as Cape Sable is the southernmost point in the United States, all left to flow, flows here. Thankfully it lies protected within Everglades National Park. And thought humankind and Climate Shifts are rapidly changing its nature, Cape Sable remains absolutely stunning in its timeless and weathered beauty.
-Cape Sable, Everglades National Park-Taking the dingy to Cape Sable’s shore. Ed wondered why the water was so murky. “It’s an estuary!” Water coming from Shark River Slough into Florida Bay.-Adrift at her destination, Cape Sable-On the desolate beach, Cape Sable-Shells, and ancient Inidan midden remains-Dead and dying but strikingly beautiful mangroves like art from many hurricanes-Land snails -Many shells were pierced and attached to the weathered mangroves -On the other side of this marsh lies Lake IngrahamThe whole experience was otherworldly- as if Ed and I were the only people in the world! As the sun set we made dinner and drank wine – watching the stars appear one by one until the entire Milky Way shone above us like a glistening blanket. Just incredible! We sat in the upper helm and discussed philosophy like we were students of Plato or Galileo. I had no memory of my motion sickness earlier in the day…
A gentle breeze blew, Ed held me under the stars…
“I love you.” I said softly into to his ear…
And then I continued…
“but I might as well tell you right now, you’ll be sleeping with the gun, by the door, in the cabin tonight, just in case the pirates do arrive.” 🙂“Sea you next time! Cape Sable to Marco Island!” 🙂
Tales of the Southern Loop, Marathon to Key West, Part 5
The trip from Marathon to Key West was stunning. The sun was shining, it was the 11th of September, 2020, and the water was turquoise blue. Ed rounded Adrift under the Seven Mile Bridge, once the area of Henry Flagler’s famous Oversees Railroad.
-Entering the Atlantic- going under the 7 Mile Bridge, Key WestAfter about an hour, I noticed something. I walked up the ladder to the upper helm.
“Babe when you come down can you tell me if it smells down here?”
“What smells,” Ed asked. “
“The salon? It smells? Did you flush properly?” he inquired.
I rolled my eyes, “yes,” I replied, wondering if I did hold the foot pedal down long enough to draw water.
We had another five hours before we reached Key West; I decided to put “the smell” out of my mind. As we looked out upon liquid glass water, I could see Ed smiling, stress free.
-Ed looks upon the blue Atlantic!The trip was absolutely beautiful. It was quiet and the water was almost like a blue mirror. I knew that the Keys, like all Florida, has water issues, but on a day like today you would never know. Ed and I enjoyed looking back and forth at each other so pleased that we had decided to actually take this trip. Taking three weeks off was something Ed had never done before; we both agreed to do it NOW as “we’re not getting any younger.”
I climbed around the bow and again walked up the ladder. “On my deathbed I am going to be so glad we took this trip!” I shouted.
Ed smiled,“Always the optimist!” he replied.
I laughed and returned to the kitchen to make lunch.
“I think this is the prettiest kitchen anyone could have,” I said to myself. I looked for dolphins and sea turtles while I made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
-Looking out the window-Approaching Key WestThe time flew by and as we reached Key West I worried about docking as it was getting windy. A&B Marina dockhands, Ty and Kyle, ran out to greet us and thus docking was a non-issue. We did notice right away that we were one of the smallest crafts in the marina; it was filled here mostly with super yachts and large sports fishing vessels.
“I think I’m beginning to suffer from an inferiority complex.” Ed noted looking around.
“I bet they’e not having as much fun as we are!” I quickly replied.
“Ty please bring us two bags of ice.” I was thinking of happy hour.
“Yes mam.” He said.
-One of many yachts at A&B MarinaTrue happiness always seems to be short lived, doesn’t it?
Ed rounded the corner. “What’s that smell?” He inquired.
“I told you, it’s coming out of the bathroom or bedroom. I can’t tell. This trawler should be able to hold more than a few days….” I complained.
“Well, we better pump out.”
“We just pumped out before we left.” I wined.
Ed retrieved a pair of gloves from under the sink and didn’t answer.
When Ty returned with the ice, we told him we wanted to pump out too. Living on the boat really mades one conscious of one’s footprint: water usage, food, plastic bottles, cans, waste, soap… It created an awareness I hoped to bring back to my household.
Ed and Ty hooked up the giant vacuum. The large yellow tube looked like a fat winding snake. The apparatus slurped and groaned sucking all out of the holding bin. “Gross!” Hard to believe that it wasn’t until the Clean Water Act and the environmental movement of the 1970s that dumping human waste directly into the oceans began to change. Today we are still dealing with the residual problems that accompany our latest way to deal with sewage sludge, Biosolids.
-Ed pumping out sewage After we pumped out, we decided to take a walk to allow Adrift to air out! Due to Covid-19, the cruise ships had not come into Key West so Ed and felt like we had this historic city all to ourselves. We took a few hours to enjoy the architecture, shared a couple of beers on Duval Street, visited the Ernest Hemingway estate, and laughed at the plethora of chickens, and roosters that greeted us at every corner who thankfully had escaped a tradition of cock-fighting.
-Photos from the Historic District of Key West Thank God we had pumped out because by the next day, September 12, the storm that had been brewing behind us since Tavernier edged up to Key West. Hurricane Sally was forming just next to us!
“I’m really glad we left Tavernier when we did,” said Ed.
And you guessed it. What was the number one question while we were in lock-down inside the boat?
“What’s that smell?”
Obviously it was more than a pump out issue!
One thing that worried me more than smells, was hurricanes. I was very aware that our trip was taking place at the height of hurricane season, but it was the only time Ed could get away from the office. Thunder rattled the dishes and lightning lit up the sky. The trawler repetitively hit up against the dock. We held our noses finally falling asleep. By morning eleven inches of rain had fallen and much of Key West was flooded. But boy was it good to get out into the fresh air!
Ed and I decided to not yet work on “the smell,” but we did immediately resume our roles as tourists!
–Hurricane Sally formed just northeast of Key West from a tropical storm, September 11th and 12.
-A very wet rooster the morning after tropical storm’s torrential rains-Ed at the laundry matt and enjoying ourselves as TOURISTS!The Key West Butterfly & Nature Conservancy -Key West Trolly Tours – sight seeing! -A modern day conversation with Henry Flagler 🙂-View of the Key West Lighthouse from the Hemingway Home & photos of 2 of 60 cats, most with 6 toes!-Mural on Duval Street-The classic Key West tourist photo: Southern Most Point USA -Resident iguana on ONE HUMAN FAMILY art After sightseeing, Ed and I went to West Marine and bought a filter to hopefully fix the toilet. But to take advantage of good weather, we first we took a spin in the dingy to check out the water. Amazingly enough, it looked terrific. There were queen conch hiding in lush seagrass beds, many water birds diving, and minnows and other fish jumping. The water appeared healthy in spite of the large mooring area, marinas, and heavy boat traffic.
I thought about the all of history I had learned in Key West. As with most places there was an earlier era where people thought there were no limitations of their natural resources, and Key West was one of those places!
-The large sign below is erected in the heart of the city called the Historic Seaport of Key West. This area was once known as the Key West Bight where green sea turtles, pink shrimp, and sponges were harvested until exhaustion. Basically until no more were left…
This is not a part of Key West history we like to brag about, but perhaps it’s the most important story of all. The story of change, the story of recognizing poor practices and changing one’s ways.
It might not be a perfect story but like the Atlantic’s blue glass water it reflects a beauty. Human beauty. The beauty to be able to do better, to change.
Ed looked at me, “Speaking of change, let’s go change that filter!” 🙂
Tales of the Southern Loop, Tavernier to Marathon, Part 4
When Ed and I awoke, it was September 7, 2020. Even though rain and low visibility lie ahead, we decided to move towards Marathon. If we remained in Tavernier, the weather would only get worse.
Today, we would be passing some of the most famous areas of the Florida Keys such as Islamorada, where a memorial stands in remembrance those who perished in the all time historic Labor Day Hurricane of September 2, 1935. The tropics were buzzing this 2020 as well as Ed and I inched southwest through the drizzle.
Within a few hours the weather was mostly behind and a family of dolphins welcomed us to their home of Florida Bay. Florida Bay, a magnificent body of water that for centuries has cast its spell upon multitudes. A water body that now has its fair share of ecological issues due to Florida’s extensive agriculture and development that has basically stopped the flow of fresh water from the once Everglades, “River of Grass. “
-Historic Florida map, 1884. Interacting with the bottle nosed dolphins was a fun contrast to the stressful broken-generator-scenario that had consumed us in Tavernier and put me in a really good mood.
Dolphins jumping in our wake, Florida Bay with video!
2. Before us was beautiful…3. Behind us looked ominous…It was a spectacular trip! Six hours later we arrived at Marlin Bay Marina in Marathon. Everything was first class. Dockhands Gilde and Frances ran out to meet us so docking was a non-issue; Barbara checked us in with a friendliness not often anymore experienced. Nonetheless, a couple of things were clear: not that many people were there, and in public places, even outside when in public, we would be wearing a mask. Covid-19 was taken very seriously here in Monroe County especially because Hurricane Irma had wiped out their hospital in 2017. Ed and I thanked Barbara and walked out carefully into the lightning and drizzle, a hint of things to come.4. Ed checking in and standing on wall at Marlin Bay MarinaEd and I were overnighting longer in Marathon because I had a week of meetings for the South Florida Water Management District. With the Zoom format trawler lifestyle was no big deal, but having reliable wi-fi was. Marlin Bay Marina turned out to be the perfect place for everything. All technology worked and Ed went snorkeling while I zoomed.
When time and weather allowed, Ed and I spun around in the dingy. We saw iguanas, darting Northern Rough Winged swallows, minnows, nurse sharks, parrot fish, loads of penguin like cormorants, American egrets, white egrets, various herons, ospreys, magnificent frigate birds, pelicans, an island rookery, and visited a place achieving “ecological sainthood,” the world famous Marathon Sea Turtle Hospital.
5. Sea Turtle Hospital display, MarathonEd and I took long masked walks to the Fish Market on 35th Street and beyond, taking note of the thousands of crab and lobster traps lining the streets. Of course fishing and crabbing is a longstanding Keys’ industry. Thankfully, today there is more pressure for sustainable methods. In any case, its a way of life that will not be given up.
6. Crab and lobster traps lined the streets/lots of Marathon 7. In spite of Covid, the Fish Market and other restaurants and shops at 35th Street were busy 8. Goofing around at the Fish Market
The water in Marathon looked as healthy as anywhere we’d seen with lush seagrass beds and substantial wildlife. The only thing we noticed was that there were not many pelicans flying in formation as we regularly see along the Treasure Coast. Here, if we saw a brown pelican, it was flying alone.
10. Dingy adventure reveals seagrass beds, rookeries, and wildlife-Lush manatee grass-Magnificent frigate birds-An invasive but cool looking iguana -Minnows eating what looked to be periphyton
Towards the end of our stay, Ed and I walked at least a mile along US1 to Publix. We wore our masks the whole way; it was so hot! I felt miserable. Cars zoomed by along a busy road that could have been anywhere. It was hard to believe all of this was all once mangroves and a native wildlife habitat. I really wanted to take off my mask. But I didn’t. Ed and I knew the importance of keeping them on, plus, in Monroe County the fine for not wearing a mask was $250.00.
11. Ed walking along US 1 in Marathon As we neared home, we saw that the clouds we’d watched building over the past few days were lending themselves to the beginnings of a beautiful sunset. Even though we were dripping sweat, we ran as fast as we could. When we got to the marina the sky was silver but ablaze.
“Ed! Take off your mask!” I said to Ed. “Let’s take a selfie!”
We took off our masks, came together, and smiled. I thought about the smiles on the faces of the dolphins that had greeted us and I was eternally grateful for the beauty around Ed and me. Hurricanes, pandemics, changing landscapes, and impaired waters…the world remained a beautiful place!
Today is October 26, these photos/videos were taken over the weekend on October 24, 2020. The first is the St Lucie River looking off the Evan’s Crary Bridge at Sewall’s Point; the second is a video of the St Lucie River taken between Rio and Stuart; and the third is a video of a brown ocean at Peck’s Lake. The St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon and much of the east coast of South Florida have endured tremendous, repetitive downpours in 2020, causing massive “local basin runoff.” The St Lucie has been stressed for months, and since October 14, there are also discharges from Lake Okeechobee. Prior to that, there had been no Lake O discharges since March of 2019. This post is written to document this discharge era for today and for later reference.
1-Video visual water quality from boat, wide St Lucie River near Rio 10-24-20
2-Video visual water coloring, Atlantic Ocean at Peck’s Lake, south of St Lucie Inlet 10-24-20
DOCUMENTING THE DISCHARGES 2020
Covid-19, an active hurricane season, and the 2020 presidential election have captured our attention, but most of know, as this Tyler Treadway Stuart News article reports, much to our dismay, due to a high rate of Lake Okeechobee rise, and after weeks of media briefings, and warnings, a reluctant ACOE started discharging to the St Lucie River on October 14th. Thankfully, for much of the time, it has been difficult due King Tides. The discharges are expected at least another week longer if not a month depending weather and rainfall from Tropical Storm Zeta. See link below from the ACOE’s most recent, 10-20-20, Periodic Scientist Call for more info.
The most comprehensive place to keep track of all this is Todd Thurlow’s website (http://eyeonlakeo.com) that provides a multitude of easily interpreted information. Check it every day, especially LIVE DATA and Satelitte NCCOS HAB images of Lake Okeechobee.
Michael Conner, THE INDIAN RIVERKEEPER keeps an active Facebook page on Lake O discharge and other local issues and is often on the ground reporting.
Also on 10-14-20 The Florida Department of Environmental Protection put out a press release: “Governor Ron DeSantis Announces Preparation for Algae Bloom Mitigation Following Announcement by Corps of Releases From Lake O.” This technology has not been needed thus far.
I can’t forget to include that October 11, 2020, right before the discharges began, Ed and I took this video documenting a significant algae bloom in the middle of Lake Okeechobee. Since that time it has been too stormy, or cloudy to go up. Usually, rain and lack of sunshine minimize visual blue-green algae blooms as can be seen on Todd’s website. The algae does remain in the water column. This image/video was shared by many news stations and posted on Facebook.
3-Large algae bloom in middle of Lake Okeechobee, 10-11-20.
Next , I would like to document Florida Oceanographic CEO, Mark Perry’s recent op-ed as it gives us pause. “Why can’t, why aren’t we able to send more water south?” We know a lot has been done, and we are grateful, however, 2020 is not 1948, we must continue to advocate for a better water future…
OP-ED MARK PERRY, PUBLISHED IN STUART NEWS, October 15, 2020
Lake Okeechobee discharges can go south now.
As the water level rises in Lake Okeechobee, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is considering discharges to the coastal estuaries, the St. Lucie to the east and Caloosahatchee to the west.
According to the Lake Okeechobee Regulation Schedule, the Corps considers where the lake level is at this time of year within the “operational band,” which ranges from 10.50 to 17.25 feet of elevation. Then, based on the rainfall outlook and tributary conditions, they determine “allowable Lake Okeechobee releases” to the water conservation areas and to the estuaries.
The water conservation areas (900,000 acres) are the remnant Everglades, south of the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA) which is the 700,000 acres immediately south of the lake used primarily for growing sugarcane.
For “allowable Lake Okeechobee releases” to the estuaries, the Corps has specify flow amounts going to each estuary, which can be “up to 4,000 cubic feet per second (cfs) to the Caloosahatchee and 1,800 cfs to the St. Lucie.”
That is where they are right now with the lake at 16.02 feet elevation.
But the “allowable” releases to the water conservation areas are always “up to maximum practicable.” What does that mean? Well, they rarely talk about how much they can release to the water conservation areas, and never tell us how much should be considered to go south.
In fact, water has been flowing south into the water conservation areas all throughout this wet season, May through October.
But it is not coming from the lake.
About 955,000 acre feet (311 billion gallons) has been going into the water conservation areas from the EAA basin runoff. This means that they are keeping the EAA water table down to 10.5 feet — ideal for crops — by draining all this water through our 57,000 acres of stormwater treatment areas and into the water conservation areas — the Everglades.
Meanwhile, the Corps says they must discharge Lake Okeechobee to the estuaries because they can’t release it to the south. Well, they can — they have been doing it for months and they still are today, but it is all coming from the EAA basin runoff!
All this time, we could have been releasing lake water to the water conservation areas, and we could do the same right now instead of killing the estuaries with releases and wasting this water to tide.
But for that to happen, we need to tell the EAA to store and treat runoff on their own land so the stormwater treatment areas can be used for water flowing south from Lake Okeechobee.
The Corps and South Florida Water Management District are jointly responsible for managing water in south Florida. We need to have them focus on restoring more natural water storage and treatment north of the lake, in the 2.5 million acre watershed, so the lake doesn’t fill up so fast.
But we must also get them to flow south from the lake to the Everglades during the wet and dry seasons. We don’t have to wait for huge regional projects to be authorized and completed, we can do this now.
The lake is rising quickly because the EAA is using the capacity to send water south. Agricultural interests would like it to stay high because during the dry season, November thru April, the EAA will demand water from the Lake, about 350,000 acre feet, as water supply for their crops.
These are ideal conditions for the EAA, but not so good for the lake, the greater Everglades ecosystem and the coastal estuaries.
Mark Perry is executive director of the Florida Oceanographic Society in Stuart.
Below are Florida Oceanographic’s most recent St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon water quality reports
Finally: During Rivers Coalition meeting 10-22-20 more expansive documentation/reporting of on-going seagrass loss/slow recovery in the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon was requested. It was noted that SFWMD “Ecological Reports” cover only two historical seagrass areas of the once lush and healthy Sailfish Flats.
Tales of the Southern Loop, Miami to Tavernier, Part 3A cloud covered sun and a silver moon coated Biscay Bay with a metallic morning light. Today was September 6th, and last night something had changed.
At 3am Ed had shot out of bed. “It’s too quiet in here.”
“It is. That’s why we’re sleeping.” I rolled over putting the pillow over my head.
Ed returned a few minutes later. “The generator stopped working.”
“Oh,”I mumbled and quickly went back to sleep. When I awoke, I found Ed inside the engine room.
“Good morning,” I said. He looked up. “So maybe it’s not such a good morning; the generator doesn’t work.” I tried to smile. “But let’s not let this ruin our trip.”
“Jacqui the oven/stove wont work, the refrigerator and the air-conditioning won’t work, and forget easily charging the phone or computer. We wont be able to anchor out. I was really looking forward to more of that.”
“Yeah, it’s a bummer. But it will still be fun. So we’ll have to depend on marinas to plug in that shore power thing.”
Ed smirked. “I’m surprised you remember- shore power.- In any case, let’s get ADRIFT underway.” Ed closed up the engine room, headed to the helm, and hit the button to raise the anchor. The clickity-clack sound of metal hitting metal echoed throughout the bow and upper helm.
“At least the anchor still works!” I yelled to my Captain.
ADRIFT crept south in the direction of Tavernier. Once again, it was turning out to be a beautiful day. -Leaving Miami, Biscayne Bay-Card Sound, Biscayne Bay, heading south to the Florida KeysBiscayne Bay was stunning and huge. As we exited the bridge at Card Sound, the waterway started to narrow. Some boats were going very fast. I decided to continue reading my new favorite book, Landscapes and Hydrology of the Predrainage Everglades, rather than complain. I knew Ed was thinking about the generator…
“Hey Ed!” I yelled towards the upper helm. “Did you realize we have been passing the marl transverse glades?”
“Hadn’t really been thinking about them,” he replied.
I walked up the ladder and sat beside him. “I’m going to read to you, OK?”
“In contrast to the unobstructed, rimless, and continuously flowing Peat Transverse Glades, the Marl Transverse Glades were raised spillways, receiving water from the Everglades only during the wet season…The significance of of the Marl Transverse Glades for understanding predrainage Everglades hydrology lies not in their volumes of outflow but instead in their indication that Everglades waters from Rockland Marl Marsh typically rose high enough each year to flow out….”
“Do you know what this means Ed?”
“It means that when the Everglades were high, like now, during hurricane season, water oozed through to Biscayne Bay not just from areas around Ft Lauderdale, but also from south of Miami to about Homestead. Today that stretch includes cities like Kendall, Palmetto Bay, Cutler Bay, Naranja, and Homestead Air Force Base.”
“That is pretty surprising.” Ed replied, seeming to be in better spirits. “So – another reason Biscayne Bay doesn’t get enough fresh water.”
“Look at you!” I lovingly mocked. “I’m surprised you remember!”
-Compare predrainage “marl transverse glades” (southern most arrows) pg. 48 & to post drainage developed areas today, pg. 49 -between Miami and Homestead. In predrainage times, this area McVoy calls the “marl transverse glades,” filled up/flowed over with high Lake O and rain waters oozing through to Biscayne Bay. Today due to development, pumps, and drainage this does not occur. Landscapes and Hydrology of the Predrainage Everglades, McVoy, 2011.I looked up from my book. We were in a narrow waterway of mangroves and approaching Key Largo. “Why are those boats going so fast?!” I complained. I couldn’t hold back anymore.
“Because they are allowed to.” Ed replied. “They are in the channel.” Wakes hit up hard against the shoreline.
“They shouldn’t be allowed to go so fast in here. I don’t see how a manatee could survive. And it’s dangerous.” I agonized.
“Just smile Jacqui!”
Ed remained silent looking straight ahead. ADRIFT plodded along in repetative wakes while swirling through boat traffic. And I decided – I better just smile…When we arrived in Tavernier, at Mangrove Marina, Ed was once again focusing on the broken generator. Docking was not so easy this time. The winds had kicked up and I was in charge of the lines. I wondered how I’d jump off to the dock if necessary. The engine ground as Ed moved forwards and backwards trying to back into the slip. We almost smacked into the dock and I yelled loudly realizing the fender was caught on a neighboring house boat. Thankfully, at the last minute, two young dockhands saved us. We thanked them profusely and Ed handed them a tip.
“Thank God they were here,” I grumbled.
“One day they wont be.” Ed replied.
“How would I have jumped on that high dock?”
Ed did not answer.
“I’m going to open the lazarette to look at this generator again.” I knew Ed would be obsessed until this was resolved.
“OK. I’m going to take a walk,” I said. I’ll see you in a little bit.”
It was good to get on land and good for Ed and I to take a break from each other.
Walking the marina, the first thing I noticed, were these weird and beautiful sea anemone like things on the floor of the shallow docking areas. I got down on my stomach to look closer. -It looks like the DREAM OF THE SLEEPING JELLYFISH. Over the course of our stay, I became totally preoccupied with them, checking on them throughout the day and evening. My blog post is above.