Yesterday the Army Corps of Engineers announced that they will be allowing a deviation in operations for the Water Conservation Areas. You may recall my recent posts about the high water levels in the manmade, levied water conservation areas and the dangers to wildlife and tree islands and the fact that when they are “full” it is not possible to “send water south” to the Everglades National Park from Lake Okeechobee….
-which means that if the Lake is filling up the St. Lucie River is closer to being discharged to. Today according to the South Florida Water Management District the lake sits at 16.01 feet. If indeed the present strong El Nino unleashes torrents of rain this winter, as it already did on November 15, 2023, or even if not, and the ACOE wants to “plan” by sending non- toxic algae lake water to the estuaries before summer, we are hosed.
Why? Because the system was built that way. It was built to favor some and hurt others, to protect the Everglades Agricultural Area and South Florida from flooding by draining Lake Okeechobee into the St. Luice and Calooshahatchee.
OK. A lot of issues were accepted from the late 1800s through 1948 when the Central and Southern Florida Plan was built. That does not mean it is acceptable today. There are options that would greatly improve the situation, like having everyone including the EAA sugar lands hold water on their lands instead of using the lake like a pond at a homeowner’s association to irrigate their lawn! This is 2024 almost!
It is appreciated that the ACOE is allowing a deviation for the Water Conservation Areas and of course the animals and tree islands must be helped too. But we must realize this it is not enough to save the the St. Lucie River that is almost dead as it is. No false hope.
Thanksgiving is approaching and it is time to reflect. Ed and I are grateful. We are grateful to be able to document the successes and setbacks of the Central Everglades Restoration Plan or CERP from the air. We are thankful to have pilot friends like Dr. Scott Kuhns and professional pilot Dave Stone join us – they have been fellow River Warriors for ten years! The photos we share today do not show perfection but they do show determination. All photographs were taken on November 19th 2023 between 2 and 4pm. It is our story, all of our story, as shown from above.
The following seven photos are of the C-43 Reservoir part of CERP. The SFWMD had a few hiccups due to the contractor and Covid but is now “back on track.” This reservoir will be gigantic. According to the ACOE it is located on 10,700 acres of former farmland in Hendry County, Florida, west of Labelle, the Caloosahatchee River West Basin Storage (C-43) Reservoir will hold approximately 170,000 acre-feet of water, with the maximum depth ranging from 15 feet to 25 feet. To compare, the C-44 Reservoir in Martin County is on 3000 acres and should hold 15 feet too.
Thursday, November 16, at the Rivers Coalition meeting held at the Stuart City Commission Chambers, 121 SW Flagler Avenue, 11am, Merritt Matheson will present. Matheson, from the famous Matheson family, was once a commissioner for the City of Stuart himself. Now serving on the Indian River Keeper Board of Directors and the Rivers Coalition, he is continuing his good work as a face for MARTIN COUNTY FOREVER.
You may have heard of it?
If not, I’ll share a bit of what I have learned to wet your whistle, and I encourage everyone to attend the meeting in person or Zoom. (For Zoom mail Info@RiversCoalition.org or call 772-225-6849)
We all know the county is rapidly being developed. It’s hard to watch.
If Martin County Forever gets supported by the Martin County Commission to go on the the ballot for voters to decide whether to support land acquisition, Martin County Forever can offset that loss. Martin County has already done a great job acquiring lands in the past. I think people will support Martin County Forever as it will only be about land acquisition. As the land so the water…
According to Martin County Forever literature, over 116,000 acres have been identified on the Martin County Land Acquisition Map (above). In years past, with community support, about 61% or (71,000) acres were acquired, leaving approximately 46,000 acres left that can still be acquired. Target areas include Blueways, the Indian River Lagoon watershed, Loxa-Lucie and Pal-Mar. These are beautiful areas that need to be saved and could become part of a so needed east coast wildlife corridor. The only lands for consideration are those eligible for state funding to match due to previous designations.
I commend Merritt for his conservation work and for never, never, never giving up! I hope you can join him.
All slides and photographs courtesy of the MC Forever website and FB page.
Ed and I just got off a seven day journey on “Finito.” We traveled along the Indian River Lagoon from Stuart to Cape Canaveral and only turned around due to a fuel leak that was heroically brought to our attention our eighty pound Belgium Shepherd, Luna.
The Lagoon has been through hell the past decade, especially in regards to algae blooms that began around 2010 and peaked in 2013. Over 90 percent of seagrasses in the 156 mile lagoon died off in those and the following years and FWC still reports issues including fish kills. I believe that the lagoon is improving in spite of continued difficulties. Just the past few days the water quality the length of the lagoon looked appealing and there were dolphins jumping in our wake the entire trip! Dozens of them, all along the way! These clever animals will always find a fish, in spite of crappy water, but nonetheless, their presence was inspiring.
Even though this was to be the “retirement cruise,” I couldn’t help myself from zooming into a Rivers Coalition meeting on October 26 and was impressed that for the second time in row since I was ditched by the Senate, South Florida Water Management District executive staff and a governing board member drove all the way from West Palm Beach to attend the meeting. Obviously this is done for their self preservation, but still!
The subject of the meeting was “Sending Water South,” and basically the theme, in line with my last blog post, was that the the high water in Water Conservation Areas south of Lake Okeechobee makes sending water south right now “impossible.” Staff said they were draining the WCAs now, the Storm Water Treatment Areas are restored, and they hope to send Lake Okeechobee water south in December. Of course no one mentions this bottleneck is caused by the Everglades Agricultural Area….
I found this possibility about sending water south in December misleading. In fact, it was False hope. Sure there is always a possibility that things will not turn out as science plans, but we should recognize science nonetheless. Especially as the District is based on science has its own scientific weather bureau that is so respected the ACOE relies on its data!
Two days prior to the Rivers Coalition meeting the District hosted a Water Resource Form. During this forum the high probability of above average rainfall December 2023 through February 2024 over the sixteen county South Florida Water Management District was noted. This is due to a weather condition known as El Nino. So back to the Rivers Coalition meeting, what if as science is revealing, we do not have a dry season and it rains over the Water Conservation Areas? Hmmm? Then the SFWMD probably wont be able to send water south in December, or January or February and tree islands and fur-bearing animals will continue to suffer as will we. This may have been mentioned in passing but it was not discussed.
I rather be prepared for something that may happen than have my government spoon feed me false hope gliding over serious issues. A scientific agency has the responsibility to share science not hope.
Yesterday, I listened to the South Florida Water Management District’s Governing Board meeting via Zoom. The overriding issue, besides the fact the St. Lucie River system’s C-44 Reservoir is not working, Lake O is over 16 feet and discharges could soon be imminent, was “high water in the Water Conservation Areas.”
What are WCAs anyway?
They were built as part of the giant drainage system of Florida that “over did it.”
The Water Conservation Areas were built to hold water because we had over-drained, but now sometimes they get too full…
In 1947 there was “the great flood,” that destroyed lands and properties in the seventeen counties of the Everglades Drainage District. This led to the U.S. Army Corps building the monstrosity named the Central and Southern Florida Project for Flood Control and Other Purposes (C&SFP.) The S.F.W.M.D. is the local sponsor. The two agencies work together.
United States Geological Survey explains:
“Historically, water flowed slowly southward through the Everglades in a wide swath. Record floods in 1947 and 1948 led to the construction of a massive flood control project. It served to prevent flooding and store water during dry periods. It also allowed for further development of the growing urban area on the Atlantic coastal ridge.
The project established three Water Conservation Areas (WCAs), one of which is the Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge. These areas are delineated in the Landsat images, clearly divided by the levees and canals. Also visible are the Big Cypress National Preserve, Everglades National Park, and Everglades Agricultural Area.Another part of the project is the 100-mile-long eastern perimeter levee, a 3- to 6-meter high earthen berm built to prevent flooding of farmland and urban areas. It runs along the eastern edge of the WCAs, marking a clear separation between the WCAs and urban areas such as Miami, Fort Lauderdale, and Coral Springs.
Along with facilitating the further growth of the urban areas of greater Miami, the other upshot of the project was that the natural flow of water was interrupted, changing the hydrology of the region. The gradual sheet flow of freshwater is diminished, and instead sudden pulses of water are delivered by the canals. These sudden releases caused decreases in the numbers of fish species.”
The bottom line is that when there has been significant rain, like now, the WCAs overfill and the fur bearing animals are seriously at risk, unnaturally surrounded by rising water with no access to their habitat. Deer and other mammals have to take refuge on sacred Native American tree islands or on levees. Often, many species are desperately standing together. Friend and foe. All stressed, all scared, and all hungry.
Brother Todd: “Did you guys see the sun this morning? I never stop on my morning run but I had to pause to take a picture. It looked like the moon.”
Jacqui: “Yeah, really something. When I drove over the bridge twenty minutes ago on my way from Sewall’s Point to Stuart, I said to myself ‘what is that?’ The sky looked like a huge fog bank coming from west to the east.”
Sister Jenny: “There is some weird haze in the air. Does anyone know what it is? I got an air quality alert on my radar and I saw it last night and this morning.”
“If you live in Florida, you may have noticed the smoke in the air on Tuesday morning, October, 3, 2023 This is a two-day loop of 276 GOES-East satellite images, 10-minute intervals from 10/2/2023 @ 9pm to 10/3/2023 @ 8pm. You can see a low pressure system in the northern Atlantic. That system pulls a stream of smoke from the northern Atlantic towards Florida on 10/2/2023. It arrives overnight and is over Florida on the morning of 10/3/2023. The north Atlantic smoke originated from wildfires near Hudson Bay in Canada. You can make the video loop by right-clicking the video and selecting “loop“. ~Todd Thurlow
Yesterday, I attended the Rivers Coalition meeting. It was a nice surprise to see so many members of the South Florida Water Management District as they were not listed on the agenda. “The District visitors” included Drew Bartlett, Executive Director; Laurence Glenn, Division Director, Water Resources; Sean Cooley, Chief Communications and Public Policy Officer, Office of Communications and Public Engagement; Kathy LaMartina, Regional Representative, Orange, Osceola, Polk, St. Lucie and Martin Counties; and Governing Board Member, Cheryl Meads, At large East Coast, St. Lucie, Martin, Palm Beach, Broward, Miami-Dade and Monroe counties.
The Rivers Coalition Meeting itself was entitled“Get the Muck Out of Here” and featured Joe Gilo, Lake Okeechobee Restoration Initiative, and Len Lindahl, McVicar Consulting/Diatom Project. Both presentations focused on improving water quaintly in the lake, an essential goal. Very interesting, but the presentations and question/answer sessions were cut short due to time.
Having the South Florida Water Management District as a guest is a rare honor thus they spoke before the planned speakers. Mr. Bartlett shared lake level facts and why water from Lake Okeechobee cannot be sent south when the Water Conservation Areas are already full. He mentioned that the new A-2 Storm Water Treatment Area is meant more for Lake Okeechobee Water. I wasn’t sure why he called it the “A-2” as we all know it as the “EAA STA.” No matter what it’s called, we all know that Mr. Bartlett is a talented executive director.
Mr. Glenn talked about the intricacies of managing the health of the Storm Water Treatment Areas and their legal job to cleanse the runoff water and meet water quality standards for the Everglades Agriculture Area. (Thus their water has priority to go through the storm water treatment areas first – hmmm?”)
Over the course of the meeting, what made the biggest impression on me, was when Drew Bartlett introduced Cheryl Meads as governing board member -“local representative.” Over the course of the past couple of years, Cheryl has moved from Islamorada, in the Florida Keys, where she first lived when appointed to the South Florida Water Management Governing Board, to Martin County and owns other properties in nearby counties. Cheryl and I both served as at-large members living in Martin County.
Although I was reappointed by Governor DeSantis for a second term serving on the South Florida Water Management Governing Board, I was not reconfirmed by the Senate and my term expired on June 19, 2023. Since that time, there has been no representation for “that seat” and we have all been waiting for a new appointment by the Governor. In August, three members were rereappointed: Chair Chancy Goss, Vice-Chair Scott Wagner, and Jay Steinle. It was thought that at that time, “the empty seat” would be filled. It was not.
I have to assume that yesterday’s gesture of Cheryl Meads being introduced by the Executive Director as the “local representative” implies that she is being directed to represent the Treasure Coast. Cheryl is a wonderful and environmentally oriented person as are all of the present governing board members. However, she is not a homegrown, fighting, St. Lucie River Warrior. At large members represent the entire east coast and when covering the “primary outlet” for the destructive discharges of Lake Okeechobee, the St. Lucie River requires special knowledge and attention. Please share with Cheryl your experiences and concerns. She is your new District voice!
Today I share Finding II. of “Conclusions of the Special Project to Prevent the Eutrophication of Lake Okeechobee Relevant to Management Determination for the Everglades Agricultural Area,” Draft Copy, 1975.
Again, I state how important it is that this historic documentation is not stored in our state archives like something out of “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” but rather ready and available to the public. Otherwise, history is rewritten by those with most the power and influence.
For instance, today, one will ofter hear in regards to pollution in Lake Okeechobee, –from those working for and in the EAA,– “The Everglades Agriculture Area (EAA) doesn’t backpump anymore. Our water is cleaner when it leaves than when it came in.” (basically, we are not responsible for the condition of Lake Okeechobee, others are….)
What is missing in this response is that in spite of its numbers the Everglades Agricultural Area remains responsible for damages that plague Lake Okeechobee TODAY.
If you smoked unfiltered cigarettes from the 1940s through the 1980s and then, because of a law suit, the University of Florida and the South Florida Water Management District helped you create “Best Management Practices” that did a great job cleansing your smoke through giant air filters, (like Storm Water Treatment Areas filter the EAA’s dirty water of nitrogen and phosphorus,) would it be correct to say the damage in your lungs has disappeared?
No. The damage in Lake Okeechobee from backpumping is still there and continues to be built upon. The filthy backpumped water of the past is a major reason for the pathetic condition of Lake Okeechobee today. It is time for the EAA and its masters to take responsibility for this and to stop hiding behind their modern day state sponsored improvements.
“With regard to eutrophication of Lake Okeechobee drainage water from 30 percent of the EAA land area is back pumped into Lake Okeechobee during the wet season. An average of 330,000 acre-feet of water entered the lake annually at Structures S-2 and S-3 from the Miami, Hillsboro and New River Canals . In addition drainage districts and the private interest pump approximately 150,000 acre feet of water into the lake from various locations. The EAA irrigation demands draw an average of 438,000 acre-feet from the lake annually…”
Conclusions of the Special Project to Prevent the Eutrophication of Lake Okeechobee Relevant to Management Determination for the Everglades Agricultural Area, Draft Copy, 1975.
Water Backpumped from the Everglades Agricultural Area contributes significantly to the cultural eutrophication of Lake Okeechobee.
The following research evidence is proffered in support of Finding II.
(page 23.) Joyner (1974) found that water pumped from agricultural areas to the southeast is generally the poorest in quality of all water entering Lake Okeechobee….
(page 24.) Brezonik further states: It is clear from the data that Lake Okeechobee presently receives an abundant supply of nutrients. Both nitrogen and phosphorus loading rates or near or above all the (dangerous) levels reported in the scientific literature. (Table 2.) If all backpumping were ceased, the nutrient loading rates would decrease by about 20 percent. This would still leave area loading for nitrogen above the dangerous values, but the volumetric rate would be slightly under the dangerous volumetric rate of Brezonik and Shannon (1971). The photophores loading without backpuming would be lower than all but Vollenweider’s (1968) dangerous rate….
Today I share aerial photographs taken by Ed Lippisch on September 17 around 9:30 am to 10am. The great thing about a photograph is that it speaks for itself! We have avoided a recent tropical storm or a hurricane’s impact on Lake Okeechobee, but the lake remains high at 15.41 feet as reported today by the SFWMD. Stormwater and canals C-23, C-24 continue pollute and discolor the estuary. Remember no fertilizer use during rainy season or if you’re like me EVER! Stay vigilant as hurricane season runs from June 1st through November 30th. Your eyes in the sky, J&E
Today I share an excerpt form “Conclusions of the Special Project to Prevent the Eutrophication of Lake Okeechobee Relevant to the Management Determination for the Everglades Agricultural Area,” Draft Report, State of Florida 1975. It is important that historical information like this is available to the public. It is mind-boggling that in 2023, seventy years since 1953, the issue of eutrophication of Lake Okeechobee has only worsened. Every year the estuaries are plagued by the threat of discharged toxic algae. Reports like this one lie buried in Florida’s state archives in Tallahassee. Most legislators have probably never read it. What has been done to improve water quality is not enough.
Lake Okeechobee is presently enriched and moderately eutrophic. If the present trend of increasing nutrient loads from the drainage basins is not reversed, the lake could become hyper-eutrophic within the foreseeable future.
The following research evidence is proffered in support of Finding I.
In 1953, Dr. H. T. Odum sampled the phosphorus content of Lake Okeechobee and tributaries to the lake. Although not enough samples were taken to have statistical significance, the values of the samples were well below levels consider to be eutrophic.
In 1953, the lake’s watershed was essentially undeveloped. The fact that the lake had low phosphate values in the water column indicates that the lake was not eutrophic in 1953.Water quality samples taken since 1953 have all shown phosphorus values higher than those taken by Odum. This indicates that present levels of phosphorus in the lake result from man’s drainage and land-use practices in the drainage basins.
Today I am including notes from: Draft, A Summary of Progress of the Special Project to Prevent the Eutrophication of Lake Okeechobee, 1975, inspired by my last post. This draft report eventually led to de-chanalizing a substantial portion of the Kissimmee River, the halting of backpumping by the Everglades Agricultural Area, the beginning of Best Management Practices for Agriculture, and conservation for drinking water.
It must be noted that it was the Central and Southern Florida Plan of 1948, after the great flood of 1947, implemented by the Army Corps of Engineers that channelized the Kissimmee River and created the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA). It took me years to understand this. The EAA and its flood protections were created by our federal government. Then acting in lockstep our state government morphed the Everglades Drainage District into the Central and Southern Flood Control District to manage the Central and Southern Florida Flood Control District-which included the Everglades Agricultural Area. In 1975, around the time of the Draft publication, the Central and Southern Florida Flood Control District was been renamed the South Florida Water Management District. The intensions of the Draft were good, but conflicts of interests continue today with management of the EAA, on both the state and federal level.
Think about it.
So once it was decided the Everglades Agricultural Area could no longer back pump into Lake Okeechobee due to the lake’s eutrophication, the EAA’s government sponsored pollution led to the law suit that now requites all Everglades Agricultural Area “runoff” to go through the Storm Water Treatment Areas to be filtered before it gets to the Conservation Areas thus Everglades National Park. “Lake Okeechobee water” on the other hand sits cooking toxic algae in the still sick lake, before it is sent polluted, unfiltered to the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries and residents of those estuaries have no legal standing.
Begin quotes from text, 1975:
Water back pumped from the Everglades Agricultural Area contributes significantly to the cultural eutrophication of Lake Okeechobee. (pg. 23)
The major causative factors of the present cultural eutrophication of Lake Okeechobee are:
Canalization of the tributary rivers of streams (especially the Kissimmee River).
Backpumping of highly enriched waters from the Agricultural Area, south of th lake , into the lake during the wet season.
Upland drainage practices in the lake’s watershed.
Inadequate nutrient conservation, livestock management, and other agricultural practices in the watershed.
Management and regulation of the lake and its tributaries which diminish their ability to absorb nutrients. (pg. 5)
In view of the fact that the cessation of back pumping would result in a reduction of the lakes present water budget by some 12-14 percent and that water conserving is one of the over-riding management objectives for the South Florida region the committee recommend further that “runoff water from the Everglades Agricultural Area be stored in or near the EAA for subsequent re-use as irrigation water.” This will alleviate the present need to use an average of 350,000 acre feet of water for the lake for irrigation in the EAA and balance the loss of the present 330,000 acre feet contributed to the lake by back pumping. (pg. 10)
Legal and Administrative Aspects of Management have been created and charged with managing various aspect of the region. The present management structure evolved in piecemeal response to growing management problems. Agency responsibilities often overlapped and conflicted and there is no balanced, integrated, or well directed management program for the region. (pg. 11)
Since 1948, the major resource management agency in South Florida has been the Central and Southern Florida Flood Control District which was created to manage the Central and Southern Florida Flood Control Project constructed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. (which includes the EAA.)
Sometimes looking back makes you wonder if you are going forward…
The hand written corrections and typewritten format on the document really bring it home:
Paragraph two: “The lake has been and is being degraded. Poor land and water management practices in the drainage basin threaten to further degrade and destroy the lake’s indispensable values. This was recognized as early as 1971…”
Yesterday, September 2, 2023, my husband Ed flew from Stuart to La Belle located along the Caloosahatchee River. I asked him to take some aerials of the C-43 Reservoir that although having some tribulations will one day will be similar, but larger, than the St. Lucie’s C-44 Reservoir. Ed agreed and a took some interesting pictures. Ed also took some aerials of the St. Lucie/Indian River Lagoon that was whipped up and milky looking from eight foot seas pushing sand into the inlet from the Atlantic Ocean.
Check out Todd Thurlow’s amazing site, EyeonlakeO, which in “real-time” measures Lake Okeechobee at 15.38 feet, even after Hurricane Idalia. Hurricane season has at least two more months to go, so we are not home free yet. The ACOE and NOAA are vigilant.
We continue to be your eye in the sky! See you next week. J&E
I. C-43 Reservoir under construction, along Caloosahatchee River. 9-2-23, about 10:55 am. EL
II. St. Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon with strange milky look due to high seas, 9-2-23, about 11:30 am. EL
III. S-308 Port Mayaca, Lake Okeechobee visible blue green algae (cyanobacteria) has lessened with cooler weather, but lake water is terribly polluted and blue-green algae remains just dormant. Presently there is no discharging by the ACOE from Lake O into the SLR/IRL. Runoff from C-23, C-24 and C-25 and area runoff continues. 9-2-23, 11:20am. EL
I hadn’t even opened my eyes this morning when Ed yelled up the stairs: “Jimmy Buffett died.” I picked up my phone from the floor and there was a text from my brother, from my mother, and from my sister. We went back and forth recalling favorite songs and even a concert. Days of youth in a world so different than today.
I put down the phone.
In disbelief I stared at the wall thinking “Not Jimmy Buffett!” A tear formed in my eye as a flood of memories rose to the surface, especially about my late father.
Middle and high school, days working as a receptionist at his law firm over summer, driving in with him dressed in tie and suit fulfilling the sometimes thankless job of father and provider. We’d get in the car and I just hoped he’d play Jimmy Buffett. It would make us sing. It would make us laugh. It would make us forget. It would make us remember. It bound us as father and daughter and as Floridians.
I’m sure you have a lot of memories connected to Jimmy Buffett too.
Once I saw Jimmy Buffett live, not singing, but giving advice…
Today I repost a blog post from May 15, 2015. It was Ed’s niece Darcy’s University of Miami graduation day. The commencement speaker? None other than Dr. Jimmy Buffett. I hope you’ll enjoy rereading this post as much as I did and the speech at the end? Just like his music, it will make you want to sing along…
These aerials were taken by my husband, Ed Lippisch, on August 27, 2023 around 12:15pm. Other than an operational burp from Lake Okeechobee through C-44, it’s canals C-23 and C-24 which drain Port St. Lucie, Allapattah Flats, as well as our Tidal Basin – that are causing the present discoloration and decline in water quality. On a good note, though impaired, seagrass beds are visible near the Sandbar and algae is no longer seen from 1000 feet at Port Mayaca.
Ed’s RV is having its annual so on August 16, 2023 Ed went up in the SuperCub with Scott Kuhns. It was early morning and lighting limited successful outcome of photographs. Thus I have chosen a just a few, that for me, are impactful in what they say about development and agriculture and our environment. JTL
Ed’s comment when he came home from flight yesterday was “not as bad as last time.”
Today’s aerials were taken 8-6-23 around 1:30pm. One can see blue-green algae, along the eastern shoreline of Lake Okeechobee, but not as much in the C-44 canal.
The St. Lucie River looks a bluer near Sewall’s Point- perhaps thanks to recent full moon tides and less rain runoff. Seagrass meadows covered in increasing a cyanobacteria and macro algae are visible. The seagrass is returning, but not in as good a shape, after massive and longterm Lake O discharges in 2018, 2016, and 2013 and decades of destruction.
Ed and I continue to be your “eye in the sky” and Todd is helping all of us keep an eyeonlakeo now at 15.30 feet according to the SFWMD. Hurricane season should start ramping up. It is not a good situation. More water should be able to be sent south as God intended.
~Lake O, Rim Canal, and C-44 at Port Mayaca’s S-308
~St. Lucie River-Indian River Lagoon. Sewall’s Point divides these waters.
~Note seagrass beds in next two photos. Once 700 acres now much less and impaired. Good to see it in any case!
Northern Lake O algae bloom On Saturday, July 29, 2023, my husband Ed returned from flight with 103 aerial photographs of the St. Lucie River to Lake Okeechobee. When there are so many photographs it is difficult for me to decide which ones to include so I have shared most in gallery format.
The St. Lucie River continues to be darkened by C-23, C-24 and storm water runoff while Lake Okeechobee continues to suffer from cyanobacteria blue-green algae blooms primarily in the north. Ed said there was algae in the middle of the lake but that it was more like a “sheen.” Like gasoline on water.
Ed’s photos show algae on both sides of the St. Luice Canal (C-44), but none at S-80, St. Lucie Locks and Dam, and little visible in the lake -again just a greenish color- at S-308 at Port Mayaca lakeside.
The algae in north Lake Okeechobee is dramatic and looks more clumped than I have witnessed previously. Perhaps wind and rain? Strange…
The only good thing I can say is that the ACOE and SFWMD continue to recommend no discharges from Lake Okeechobee to the St. Lucie River. We’ll see about next week.
On July 25, my brother Todd Thurlow eyeonlakeo texted me that S-308 was open at 1656 cubic feet per second but S-80 remained closed. I would imagine this water let in from the Lake Okeechobee was for canal levels or water supply of agriculture. If I were growing crops I would not wish to accept this water as University of Florida Institute of Food and Agriculture Sciences UF IFAS had notes: “Cyanobacterial toxins can accumulate in crop plants, resulting in injury and yield loss; human health may be affected. Impacts of field crop exposure to cyanotoxins in irrigation water are unknown.”
Known or unknown, it can’t be good.
The historic role of agriculture supported by our state and nation is the primary reason the lake is in such awful condition today; this has been documented since 1969. (U.S. Geological Survey in cooperation with Central and South Florida Flood Control District two year study on chemical and biological conditions of Lake Okeechobee, Beyond the 4th Generation, Lamar Johnson 1974.)
I love this old photograph. I would think it must have been taken sometime between 1916 and 1925 when the Everglades Drainage District was constructing or repairing, (1924), the St. Lucie Canal. Yes, the lonely little house in the wildlands of a slash pine forest saw the the construction of the canal, the lock and spillway, the first locktenders, some wicked storms like the hurricane of 1928 causing the Army Corps of Engineers by 1930 to take over management of both Lake Okeechobee and the St. Lucie Canal. In 1937 the canal was rededicated as the “Cross State Canal, or Okeechobee Waterway.” It was deepened and widened for higher discharges and for more yacht traffic. By 1941 the St. Lucie Lock and Spillway was replaced as part of this expansion and the southern banks were drastically cut in the direction of the little locktender’s house. I can imagine the stories this little house would tell! Today we don’t have the little house, but we have the next best thing, my little brother!
Watch Todd tell the remarkable history of replacing the lock and spillway and the location of the original locktender’s house throughout the canal’s changes. Todd brilliantly uses historic aerials and images juxtaposed to Google Maps some shared by my mother Sandra Thurlow.
~The site plan: “U.S. Engineer Office – Jacksonville, Florida. Sept. 1938… To Accompany Specifications June 27, 1939.
~The aerial photo with the locks under construction is dated 2/23/1940
~On Florida Memory the picture of the little house is titled cited “Locktenders house at St. Lucie Canal lock #2 in the Everglades Drainage District. 1913 (circa). State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory.
~1940 Aerials, U.S. Dept. of Agriculture
~Dr. Gary Goforth, 2014 History of the St. Lucie Canal
2024 will be the 100 year anniversary of the St. Lucie Canal…
Today I share my husband Ed Lippisch’s aerial photographs and one video taken around 11:30am on 7-23-23. Also included in the post are photos of reemerging seagrass beds taken by my brother Todd Thurlow on 7-2-23. A wonderful thing although Todd estimates that just under 80 acres were in the area he visited.
The St. Luice River/Indian River Lagoon is dark from rain, C-23 and C-24 discharge, and stormwater run-off, however most of the ocean looks gorgeous blue. You can even see the nearshore reefs. Seagrass and or macro-algae appear near the sandbars just inside the inlet. Not the 600 acres of yesteryear but some, and this is a good sign. There has been no discharge of Lake Okeechobee since April and that was a small amount with no algae. Nonetheless, it is never good for the river.
Lake Okeechobee shows no major algae blooms near S-308 as just a week ago at Port Mayaca although one can see the long green wisps like shadows in the water. This changes every day and you can follow at eyeonlakeo. This is Todd’s site and it shows Lake Okeechobee at 15 feet. Pray for no hurricanes.
There is algae on the inside gate of S-308 and some along the St. Lucie Canal also known as the C-44 canal as titled when it became part of the Central and South Florida Flood Control Plan of 1948. S-308 is overseen by the Army Corps of Engineers since 1930 but the South Florida Water Management District is involved spaying peroxide pellets on the algae when it gathers in big blue-green-gray rotting clumps as it did last week. The algae dies but more than likely sinks releasing toxins. A conundrum most definitely….
Thank you to my husband Ed who is in his tenth year documenting our waters by air. All of working together are make a difference. We are watching and they know it.
Date taken: 7-12-23 at 1pm/Location S-308 and C-44 Port Mayaca, Lake Okeechobee, FL/Pilot Ed Lippisch.
Three videos are included of the large cyanobacteria-blue green algae bloom off of S-308. S-308 opens into the C-44 (St. Lucie Canal leading into Stuart and out to St. Lucie Inlet.) This bloom waxes and wanes based on conditions but it “always there.” Nutrient pollution must be overcome.
S-308 is presently closed by ACOE. Keep your eyeonlakeo today measured at 14.87 feet.
These aerials were taken over Port Mayaca and the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon by Ed Lippisch on 7-7-23 around 11:30am.
The algae bloom on Lake Okeechobee has lessened compared to two weeks ago however, now Cyanobacteria can be seen clearly on the inside of S-308 at Port Mayaca, Lake Okeechobee. This is from boats coming through the locks from Lake Okeechobee at S-308 as the first two photographs display.
“The blue-green algae continues east along C-44 up to the railroad track, about a quarter to a half mile.” Ed Lippisch.
Keep your eyeonlakeo today, Sunday, 7-9-23 at 14.86 feet.
7-7-23: St. Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon view from Willoughby Creek approaching Witham Field. River is darker with runoff and canal waters but not Lake Okeechobee. No algae.