Today I am trying my hand at posting while mobile. So if the two YouTube videos I share do not come through and eyeonlakeo.com is not linked I apologize.
Many of you who follow my blog know my brother’s “Time Capsule Flights, “and his web site eyeonlake.com. Todd and I have worked together for many years documenting South Florida’s water history-past and present.
For this post, by going back and forth between present and past Google Earth images, Todd gives us a comparative view of what just was and now is. Hard to watch, but important to know. Next time it could be any of us. Our hearts are with Florida’s West Coast in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian.
I am blogging from my phone so I do not know what this post will look like when it’s published. On my street in Sewall’s Point, there is no power. Not for one second will I complain knowing what so many have lost on Florida’s southwest coast and around the state. Hurricane Ian has only just begun to tell his story. We all will be living with his impact for years.
From the bottom of my heart I am wishing those who are suffering comfort. “West Coasters” are indeed our brothers and sisters. In 2013 when the River Movement was rising from the filth and black waters of the St Lucie and Caloosahatchee’s “Lost Summer” we met at the Sugarland Rally in Clewiston. East & West met to bind for the fight against polluting discharges from Lake Okeechobee, and we indeed planted seeds that inspired a youth movement, and changed water policy and politics throughout the state of Florida. Our influence grew with each terrible event- 2013, 2016, 2018. Over time, this east/west partnership became much, much, more, and yes, like every family, we’ve had our challenges, our problems. The ACOE’s LOSOM, the most recent challenge, publicly pitted us against each other for over three years, but we finally found a fair center for ourselves and others.
The past couple of days, I’ve been thinking about SFWMD Chairman, Chauncey Goss who I sit next to every month at our governing board meetings. Chauncey’s family lives on Sanibel and his father worked to create the special low density, native character of the Island. May it be rebuilt in the same nature respecting spirit.
As we all know, all we have can be taken from us, thus all we really have is that within us. May we be good neighbors to those left in Ian’s path, as it is not just them, we are all forever changed.
These aerials were taken by my husband, Ed Lippisch, between September 16 and September 23, 2022. I had asked him to get some photographs other than our normally featured Sailfish Flats area between Sewall’s Point and Hutchinson Island.
I chose a few of my favorites for a series entitled “A Different View.” This past weekend, I started closely reviewing all of Ed’s photos and decided to share more. Ed captured from Stuart, to Hobe Sound, to Palm City and Port St Lucie. I think what is most clear is how close we are to the river and thus how it is clearly our responsibility to protect her. Thank you Ed for being our eye in the sky and for giving us these different views.
-Roosevelt Bridge, FEC Railroad, and US1 crossing St Lucie River, Stuart. Palm City west. -Roosevelt Bridge, St Lucie River Stuart looking east over Witham Field and Sewall’s Point to Atlantic Ocean.-Shoreline of North River Shores, just north of Roosevelt Bridge, Stuart, FL.-Closeup Roosevelt Bridge, Florida East Coast Railway, and US1. St Lucie River, Stuart.-Indian River Lagoon and Savannas Preserve State Park, Jensen/Rio and north St Lucie Co. -North Fork of St Lucie River, Port St Lucie, looking east to Indian River Lagoon and Atlantic Ocean. -Savannas Preserve State Park looking west to Savannah Club Golf Course, St Lucie Co. (I think) -Savannas Preserve State Park looking south to St Lucie River, note Sewall’s Point & St Lucie Inlet. Very old- Indian River Drive and the Florida East Coast Railroad are clearly seen along the ridge of the Indian River Lagoon. -Nettles Island in the Indian River Lagoon, St Lucie County, Hutchinson Island. -Jensen Beach Bridge at Hutchison Island where large section of mangroves died due to drowning and poor planning. It appears some are coming back to life.-North Sewall’s Point looking from over the IRL to forks/and the St Lucie River. Line of C-23 can be seen in distance. -Evans Crary Sr. & Ernie Lyons bridges from Stuart to Sewall’s Point leading to Hutchinson Island, St Luice River/Indian River Lagoon. Rio/Jensen north, and City of Stuart sprawling north and south. -Bird Island, a Critical Wildlife Area, off South Sewall’s Point, note seagrass/macroalge beds.-Ernie Lyon’s Bridge ending at Hutchinson Island at Indian River Plantation, Marriott, right. Elliott Museum and Florida Oceanographic on left. Indian River Lagoon and Atlantic Ocean in view.-C-23 Canal, the county line between Martin and St Lucie counties. Note the difference in development patterns. “Newfield” will be constructed around Citrus Blvd. the wavy white line in the now green area of Martin County it’s pattern will not resemble PSL. -Next two photos: Another view of C-23 Canal and surrounding area near North Fork and former arm of the St Lucie River.-Next five photos: Winding North Fork of St Lucie River surrounded by development of Port St Lucie under puffy clouds. -Hobe Sound area near Bridge Road looking southwest. This is where the controversial development of Atlantic Fields was just approved by the Martin County Commission. The Polo Club where it will be built is located close to the oval shape (maybe a horse track) seen in the green field. Atlantic Ridge State Park and Loxa-Lucie are also in this region of Martin County. The Town of Jupiter Island is along the Indian River Lagoon and the Atlantic Ocean at the east end of Bridge Road. There are many other developers eyeing this area or Martin County. -Next three photos: Same area of Hobe Sound -note Indian River Lagoon and Atlantic Ocean east and right, and St Lucie River ahead. The South Fork of the St Lucie was once easy to see in this area. Since drainage of South Florida it is almost unrecognizable, but it is here. -Florida Turnpike and I95 near Bridge Road, Hobe Sound, FL. -Natural Lands near Atlantic Ridge State Park and Seabranch Preserve State Park looking east towards Jupiter Narrows, Indian River Lagoon, and Atlantic Ocean. Thank you to those who worked to save some of these lands around the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon. We must conserve even more!
-September 21, 2022 at 10:48 am, SW Gray Fox Lane, at Heron Preserve, Port St Lucie, FL, aerial photo by Ed Lippisch.
A Different View~Western Port St Lucie
I once read that as a city grows, road names reflect a time long past. This is certainly the case here in western Port St Lucie. The name the road below is “SW Gray Fox Lane,” but there are no longer gray foxes running here. And the development? Ironically, “Heron Preserve.” Don’t think so. Just scraped and squared wetlands that once cleansed water running south. Our river cries for days long past.
-North Fork of St Lucie River surrounded by by development, Port St Lucie, Florida. Distinctive oxbows lie south of Prima Vista Blvd. Aerial photo by Ed Lippisch September 16, 12.15pm.
The above aerial of the North Fork of the St Lucie River is the second in my recent series entitled: “A Different View,” as Ed and I feature areas of the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon other than the Sailfish Flats and Sandbar between Sewall’s Point and Hutchinson Island.
For me, today’s is a powerful visual. Though it shows the remaining serpentine beauty of the North Fork of the St Lucie River one can easily see how the river, remaining natural lands, seagrasses, and fish and wildlife -close by and downstream- are impacted by human activity from the surrounding houses, roads, bridges, and highways.
Just think of all the people living in this sea of development surrounding the winding waterway. Imagine if the people were thoughtlessly putting fertilizer and pesticides onto their lawns -that runoff in turn draining into the river- or perhaps their home located right inside the river’s watershed has an old, leaking, septic tank. Envision all the oily/dirty runoff from the surrounding roads and highways flowing down into the waters after a hard, long rain like we’ve had this week.
An image such as this makes it intensely clear and can be applied anywhere as a learning tool in the St Lucie River region: It is ridiculous not to change and modernize our ways if we truly desire the health and recovery of our waterways. All of us!
-Indian River Lagoon & St Luice River meet to flow into the Atlantic Ocean as seen over the savannas. Nettles Island , a landmark, juts into the IRL (upper left.) Note peninsula of Sewall’s Point and St Lucie Inlet. Aerial photograph by Ed Lippisch, 9/11/22, 6:15pm.Recently, I have been asking Ed to get a “different view” while flying-something other than the location between Sewall’s Point and Hutchinson Island near the St Lucie Inlet. That area is the heart of the matter when documenting seagrass recovery or destructive discharges from Lake Okeechobee. However, the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon includes much more than that. The undeveloped savannas region seen above is quite striking.
Here Ed looks south over the savannas, now Savannas Preserve State Park, an area west of the railroad tracks stretching ten miles between Jensen Beach and Fort Pierce.
As my mother, author Sandra Thurlow writes in her book, Historic Jensen and Eden on Florida’s Indian River, …”ours is not a savanna at all. A true savanna is grassland with scattered, small drought resistant trees. Many eons ago the Jensen Savannas was a lagoon like the Indian River. Now the ancient lagoon is a region of lakes, marsh and pine flatwoods. When polar icecaps formed, bringing Florida out of the sea, tides and winds shaped a primary dune along the east coast of the peninsula. The shallow waters in the wetlands behind the dune were brackish. The ocean levels continued to drop and sand bars just off the coast were exposed, forming Hutchinson Island. What had been the primary dune became the Atlantic Coastal Ridge.”
She goes on to explain that prior to modern times the savannas’ ecosystem was almost 200 miles long, but due to development along the Indian River Lagoon the region has been reduced to just ten ecologically intact miles.
Areas such as these “savannas” are critical to the health of the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon and an inspiration for more comprehensive protection in the future.
-L to R: The peninsula of Sewall’s Point lies between the SLR/IRL. The Sailfish Flats and Sandbar seagrass meadows lie between Sewall’s Point and Hutchinson Island. Witham Field, Stuart, can be seen west. The Atlantic Ocean is east. St Lucie Inlet State Park is located south on Jupiter Island. The St Lucie Inlet is cut between Hutchinson and Jupiter Islands. Today’s photos highlight the area’s returning seagrass meadows after their disappearance primarily because of years of damaging cyanobacteria laden Lake Okeechobee discharges, especially in 2013, 2016, & 2018. Photo Ed Lippisch, 8/26/22.When Ed came home from flying the RV on Friday, August 26, 2022, he said, “I think the aerials look good, you can really see the seagrasses.” I looked at him kind of funny. He never says anything like that. Looking on my phone, I could tell the photos were revealing, but it wasn’t until I viewed them full screen on my computer that I saw their true beauty. Ed’s photos reveal clear water, clear air, defined nearshore reefs, and lush seagrass/micro-algae meadows.
It is exciting to see and am I so glad Ed captured it! In the coming days and weeks tropical weather may be pushing our way. “Thank you Ed, for capturing the river before the height of hurricane season, before possibly more rains and more runoff.”
These just might be the most beautiful recent photos ever taken of the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon. Over the past couple of years, we’ve had some good ones of blue water alone, but blue waters cradling seagrass beds, the life of the sea itself, this is “true beauty.”
These improvements have only been possible due to recent ACOE policy decisions – no major Lake O discharges for over three and one half years, and Mother Nature, who so far, has not brought any of her discontent our way.
At this time, it is in order to thank former City of Stuart Mayor, Merritt Matheson, who went to great lengths over the past four years to hold accountable and build relationships with the Army Corps of Engineers. Mayor Matheson led numerous boat tours and meetings inviting, colonels, commanders, and staff. His St Lucie River tours led by an elected, passionate, educated, local helped the ACOE understand the fragility of our region and the intense ecological and health impacts caused by discharges from Lake Okeechobee. Mayor Matheson your efforts made a tremendous difference for the health of the St Lucie River. Thank you.
This post is for aerial documentation. With recent needed rains this past week in the St Lucie Region, the St Lucie River is “awash” from area canals and “local” runoff. But #NoLake O!
Remember: Don’t fertilize through rainy season-June 1-Nov. 30-and let’s all be aware that everything we or our four legged friends put on our lawns ends up in the river. Seagrasses are recovering let’s help not hurt.
Ed Lippisch & Scott Kuhns, August 19, 2:18pm, RV, Lake Okeechobee (no visible algae) to St Lucie River
-Island in Lake O south of Buckhead Ridge also visible is Kissimmee River, now C-38 -St Lucie River at St Lucie Inlet
Ed Lippisch, August 21, 8:45am Lake Okeechobee to St Lucie River, RV -Visible plume
In July a post I wrote, “At Low Tide,“ made many waves of happiness as our seagrass recovery (albeit with macro-algae) was suddenly visible. Today I share “At Mid Tide,” not as dramatic, but certainly worth documenting as it too shows the improving state of our St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon since the damaging and toxic Lake O discharges of 2013, 2016 and 2018 eradicated all seagrasses.
These photos were taken at different times of day on Sunday, August 14, 2022 in the area of the St Lucie Inlet between Sewall’s Point and Hutchinson Island – an area often locally referred to as the “Sand Bar,” including Sailfish Flats.
Incorporated are photos from my sister Jenny, my brother Todd, friend Mary Radabaugh, and me. All on the water with family/friends on the same day! Ed and I were late getting out, and the tide was receding. While about, Ed and I are very careful not to disturb the budding seagrasses -staying on the edge. All mollusks/sea life if photographed is immediately returned to its original location. This habitat is delicate!
Yet another recent wonderful day on the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon since there have been no major damaging discharges from Lake Okeechobee in over three years and Mother Nature has not thrown a hurricane our way…
Approaching Ernie Lyons Bridge from Jensen Boat RampDo you see the fighting conch’s blue eyes? Video below gives perspective:
My sister’s photos: Zella-Sand Bar, earlier incoming tide, Jenny Flaugh
My brother’s photos: Todd Thurlow – daughter Julia water skiing off the House of Refuge
Mary Radabaugh, friend and nature photographer: Osprey & blue sky near Boy Scout Island
~Our wildlife, sea and sky, needs our continued support for a healthy St Lucie!
Mr Mike Knepper is a force. His passion? Changing the way Florida state agencies such as FWC and the SFWMD approach aquatic vegetation removal. Mike feels strongly that agencies should manage waterway aquatic vegetation mechanically, rather than with chemicals. Mike has become a regular voice at the SFWMD Governing Board meetings and people are listening….
Mike is a 1979 graduate of Martin County High School, a grandfather, a well known and respected home builder (Knepper Construction), and an environmental activist.
On August 5, 2022, Mike contacted me.
“Jacqui, I would like for you to meet me at the end of boat ramp road so you can see the spray job the district just did. It will make you sick. All of these dead plants will end up in the St Lucie River.”
As it was my mother’s 83rd birthday and my 40 year high school reunion, I replied:
“Mike, aggg. thanks for letting me know. Why don’t you call Executive Director, Drew Bartlett?”
“I just left him a message, I bet he won’t reply…”
Not only did Drew Bartlett return Mike’s call, Drew Bartlett, SFWMD Executive Director, decided that the vegetation in C-23 at the S-97 structure should be removed MECHANICALLY.
-C-23 Canal prior to removal of vegetation, photo Mike Knepper, 8-5-22By the time I spoke to Drew Bartlett later that afternoon the plan to mechanically remove the vegetation was in motion. I was ecstatic and yes, a bit surprised. “This could be the beginning,” I thought. What made me most pleased was that I was told this decision was made on behalf of the St Lucie River…
AND SO THE WORK BEGAN!
SFWMD’s Mr Rich Virgil, Division Director Field Operations, informed his men of a change of process. The men would be working through the weekend to remove the vegetation.
“The Okeechobee Field Station has a long reach backhoe at the S-97 structure and C-23 Canal performing mechanical removal of the floating vegetation. This is the location that was reported by Mr Knepper yesterday. The crew will work today and tomorrow to address the issue.”
-Photographs mechanical removal of vegetation C-23 Canal, photo SFWMD’s Rich Virgil “Mr Knepper, your voice has been heard!”
Vegetation is being mechanically removed and a towboat has been deployed from S-65 (Kissimmee River) to assist. Mr Virgil says this will decrease response time to remove the vegetation an the towboat will remain on site through the duration of the wet season.
-Mr Virgil’s photos below of towboat being deployed S-65 structure in Kissimmee to C-23
“The crew is done for the day, they will be back in the morning to finish. The picture is from the S-97 structure looking east plus the pile of removed vegetation.
A good days work!!! ” ~Rich Virgil
-C-23 Canal vegetation removed day 1, August 5, 2022. Photo SFWMD’s Rich VirgilAugust 6, 2022
“Task Complete: C-23 Canal at Structure S-97 Mechanical Vegetation Removal Efforts-the crew has completed the vegetation removal in the C-23 Canal at the S-97 Structure.”
-Thank you to those who worked through the weekend to clear the C-23 canal:
Robert Prescott crew chief
Jack Theriault excavator OPER
Joey Conroy transport OPER / barrier remover
Jonathan Spooner boat OPER
Brody Lamb transport OPER / barrier remover
-Thank you Mike Knepper for inspiring the removal!
-Thank you Mr Drew Bartlett, SFWMD Executive Director and Mr Rich Virgil, Division Director of Field Operations, for showing leadership and thoughtfulness working for the health of the St Lucie River.
SFWMD: “Our mission is to safeguard and restore South Florida’s water resources and ecosystems, protect our communities from flooding, and meet the region’s water needs while connecting with the public and stakeholders.”
At 8am on Friday, July 29, 2022, a group of realtors, environmentalists, reporters, and professionals met at SFWMD headquarters in West Palm Beach. The day had finally arrived for our field trip to the EAA Reservoir/Storm Water Treatment Area south of Lake Okeechobee. The Army Corp will be building the reservoir scheduled to be complete in 2029, and the SFWMD is under construction with the storm water treatment area or “STA” to be complete in 2023. The project, became part of CEPP, the Central Everglades Planning Project, and was reborn through public outcry due to toxic summers and the grit and leadership of Martin County’s 2017/18 Senate President, Joe Negron (SB10). And thus today, like a phoenix, the EAA Reservoir and STA is rising, and will one day be the first structure built to encompass sending cleansed Lake O water south to the Everglades. Make no mistake, this reservoir is the greatest hope for the health of the Northern Estuaries that for decades have been subjected to damaging discharges from Lake Okeechobee.
Well located between the Miami and New River Canals, and neighboring the A-1 Flow Equalization Basin, the 6500 acre STA’s gigantic water cleaning marsh and the 10,500 acre, 23 feet deep reservoir, will be a game changer. Listen the videos below by SFWMD Executive Director for insights.
What a day! What an experience!It was sobering to make the long drive from headquarters through the Everglades Agricultural Area and historic City of Belle Glade knowing this is where Marjorie Stoneman Douglas’ “River of Grass” once flowed. Today Taco Bells replace sawgrass. Over an hour later arriving at the construction trailer along Highway 27, SFWMD engineers Tim Harper, Alexis San-Miguel, Jennifer Leeds, Leslye Waugh and Drew Bartlett were available to educate us. Next we returned to the vehicles dodging the hot sun, weaving our way through the sugar cane fields that will soon be replaced with one of the most extensive environmental restoration projects not just in the country, but in the world! For myself, having been visited in 2019 and 2021, it was inspiring to see and compare the EAA Reservoir/STA today -now really coming out of the ground and taking form with the inflow/outflow canal (across the top) and C-640 (between STA and reservoir). Of course, there are controversies as there always are; this is the essence and history of Everglades Restoration. I am confident, that these water and cultural concerns will be ameliorated in friendly fashion, just as SFWMD mascot Freddy the Alligator emphasizes. I for one, am thankful for all who got us here, particularly Joe Negron. Through participation, education, and inspiration, we will continue the work to “rebuild and restore” the waters of South Florida.
Group portrait with SFWMD mascot Freddy the Alligator L-R: Max Chesnes, reporter TCPalm; Jennifer Leeds, SFWMD Bureau Chief-Ecosystem Restoration Planning; Anne Schmidt (realtor), Deb Drum, Director PBC En. Res. Dept; Todd Thurlow, (website eyeonlakeo); Eve Samples, Exec. Dir. Friends of the Everglades; HB Warren, (realtor); JTL, SFWMD G.B.; Kathy LaMartina, SFWMD Reg. Rep.; Rob Lord, former President of Martin Health/Clevland Clinic); Crystal Vanderweit, photographer TCPalm; Alexis San-Miguel, Section Leader EAA Res./STA; John Gonzalez, (realtor); Ike Crumpler, (realtor assoc. consultant /Upstairs Communications; Drew Bartlett, Ex. Dir. SFMWD; Gil Smart, Friends of the Everglades; Leslye Waugh, SFWMD Eco. Restoration Admin.; Sean Cooley, SFWMD Communications Dir.; Kym Hurchalla, Friends of the Everglades. -SFWMD official group shot 🙂
Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA) Features
Reservoir aka “A2 Reservoir”: 10,500 acres with 240,000 acre-foot storage at about 23 feet deep
STA aka “A-2 Stormwater Treatment Area”: 6,500 acres
Adds 160,000 to CEPP’s 210,000 for a total of 370,000 average annual acre-feet of new water flowing through to the central Everglades ~ ACOE
Blue line = path from SFWMD Headquarters in West Palm Beach to the EAA R/STA and back-My vehicle: JTL, Alexis, Gil, Max, Crystal, Drew, Todd, John, HB, Kym, Eve.-Construction Manager Principal, Tim Harper, shares maps, information and answers questions.-SFWMD Exec. Dir Drew Bartlett explains videos 1&2 -extremely helpful!
VIDEO #1 DREW BARLETT
#VIDEO 2 DREW BARTLETT
-Exec. Dir. Drew Bartlett and JTL arrive on site: smile and wave to Freddy the Alligator! “Freddy the Alligator has come to say hello!” Freddy helps other animals during drought and he and his friends need more and clean water! -Reviewing the site is overwhelming; the reservoir and STA by vehicle cover over eight miles!-Dyno-mite! C-640 Canal divides the STA and the Reservoir. We were treated to a blast during lunchtime. Guest, Eric Eichenberg, CEO Everglades Foundation, and I prepare. We have been waiting for this a long, long time!
-Realtor Anne’s new hat! -John Gonzalez, JTL, HB Warren, Deb Drub, Rob Lord, Eve Samples -Realtors: John Gonzalez, Anne Schmidt, Ike Crumpler, and HB Warren-all worked in Stuart when the horrific harmful discharges from Lake Okeechobee destroyed the estuary and home sales in 2013, 2016 and 2018. “We want clean water!” -My brother, Todd Thurlow, author of eyeonlakeo website, stands before the C-640 Canal that divides the STA and the Reservoir is also part of Friends of the Everglades. This photo was for my mother. 🙂