River Warrior Times 5-16-21

Port Mayaca, Structure S-308 at Lake Okeechobee opens to Canal-44 into St Lucie River. S-308 is open for water supply for agriculture but is not going through S-80 into the St Lucie River/ Indian River Lagoon. Aerial, Ed Lippisch, 5-5-21.

River Warrior Times 5-16-21. This piece is written specially for Lake Okeechobee.

It was my intension to write a summary water piece every two weeks. I last wrote on April 25, 2021.Today, I will try to catch up.

If I had one phrase to describe what has happened since April 25, it would be “high-alert.” Governor DeSantis visited on May 10, giving direction as his executive order 19-12 is the guidepost for the Department of Environmental Protection and the SFWMD.

The blue-green algae bloom at Pahokee Marina, I wrote about last time, was cleaned up through a cooperative of the South Florida Water Management District and the Department of Environmental Protection. This is a first as globs of purple, blue, green, and grey cyanobacteria -blue green algae- sat in marinas and inside canal communities in 2016, and 2018 until they rotted and fell to the bottom. This time, under Governor DeSantis of which DEP and the SFMWD sit organizationally, it was determined (under Section 1 part I of 19-12) to remove the toxic algae via vacuum and chemical treatment, relocating what Palm Beach County could not take safely, far away to District lands away from people and wildlife.

Keith W. Babb, Mayor of Payhokee, attend the May 13 SFWMD Governing Board meeting and was very grateful. You can listen to his comments at 39.00 the beginning of the meeting. Congressman Brian Mast, who led Governor DeSantis’ transition committee, also provided fiery commentary.

Although it is definitely a positive that the toxic algae was removed, we must ask ourselves a question. How are we going to pay for this again, and again, and again? A precedent has been set. Is vacuuming each time sustainable? With Lake Okeechobee in its present condition this is a very relevant question.

As Mark Perry, the Executive Director of Florida Oceanographic has repeatedly stated: “Unless we address the source of the problem in the upper watershed of Lake Okeechobee, we will never reach the 105 metric tons at 40 ppb.” Translated, that means the pollution numbers coming into the lake are high, in some basins over 600 parts per billion phosphorus. You can’t vacuum away as an avalanche of pollution pours in!

The situation is complex. However, the handling of Pahokee Marina is symbolic of a larger problem. I would have liked not only DEP and SFWMD to be in the spotlight at the Pahokee Marina, but also FDASCs the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. Why? Because the lake did not get sick overnight, and the history of Lake Okeechobee is an agricultural one. This is reflected in “who” is in charge of water quality.

First, back-pumping fertilized and chemical-leaden water into Lake Okeechobee was common practice and allowed by the by the state. The sugar industry/EAA imparticularly partook of this practice for decades. It almost killed the lake. In the 1970s and 1980s lawsuits forced water that was once back-pumped into Lake Okeechobee to flow south, sparing the lake, but creating a new issue of destroying the Everglades. This in turn spurred other lawsuits so that today Everglades Agriculture Area (EAA) runoff must first be filtered through Storm Water Treatment Areas, south of Lake Okeechobee before it can enter the Everglades Protection Areas or Everglades National Park. Most of this was paid for by taxpayers, just like the clean up at Pahokee Marina.

Lake O, EAA, STAs, and WCAs. (Map SFWMD)

Lake Okeechobee, though in a better position than in 1970 continues to be fed high concentrations of phosphorus and nitrogen mostly from agriculture areas north of Lake Okeechobee. Thus destruction already done from the early years is locked up in sediments,  and the new destruction that continues makes for a hyper-eutropic lake that now blooms every year.

Not a good situation. So how is fixing our waters supposed to work? Who is in charge of water quality?

The Northern Everglades and Estuaries Protection Program (373,4595. Florida Statutes) directs the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, and the South Florid aWater Management District to work together to reduce pollutants and achieve water quality standards in the the Lake Okeechobee, St Lucie River, and Caloosahatchee River watershed through Basin Management Action Plans and Total Maximum Daily Loads program (403.067. Florida Statutes.)”

No one agency is in charge of water quality. Like it or not, in Florida, three agencies have this responsibility. As Florida Statue requires, we must all work together to turn Florida’s organizational chart from a line into a triangle. Until FDEP, SFWMD & FACS are truly working together, there will not be improvement to Lake Okeechobee’s water quality and Florida’s tax payers will be on the hook.

THE TRIANGLE!

Organizational chart State of Florida. Note the members of The Triangle (circled) responsible of water quality. The Dept. of Ag is a cabinet position. DEP and SFWMD are lower agencies but fall under the top tier, the governor. The governor is doing a great job but he can not do it alone!

Links to timely information:

JAX ACOE keeps S-80 closed, adjust flows to Caloosahatchee

SFWMD operations statement Ops_Position_Statement_May_11_17_2021

EyeonLakeO website Todd Thurlow

DEP algae bloom dashboard 

FOS SLR water quality report

Orca report on dead manatees in the IRL by county

 

 

 

Jumping Around the Frog Pond

Today we will be jumping around the Frog Pond

On April 29, 2021, I took a tour, with SFWMD staff, led by LeRoy Rodgers, Section Leader, Vegetative Management, 21 years; Christen Mason, Invasive Species Biologist, 7 years; and Brenda Mills, Principal Project Manger, Everglades Restoration, 23 years. Serious experience! The goal was to tour and learn about Frog Pond restoration, the C-111 project sites, and the 8.5 Square Mile Area. So what is the Frog Pond anyway? There’s no easy explanation, but I’ll try. The Frog Pond can best described as the “end of the road or the beginning of the road,” Ingram Highway that is. The end of the road for Florida City and the beginning of the road for Everglades National Park. Looking at the map provided by the SFWMD, one can see that the Frog Pond is the long yellow rectangle below; pink contains the C-111 South Dade Project of which Frog Pond is part; and the blue section at the top is the 8.5 Square Mile Area.So before we start jumping around…

Ecologically, this area is part of the Everglades Keys, the marl transverse glades, (where water once seeped through from the River of Grass) south of Miami.

-Landscapes and Hydrology of the Predrainage Everglades, page 49, 2011, McVoy.So how about today?

First, we must recognize the hard work of the public, the U.S. Department of the Interior,  the USACOE, the National Park system, and others. In the 1980s and 1990 all fought and achieved the Everglades  National  Park  Protection  and  Expansion  Act with the goal of protecting the eastern agriculture areas from flooding, but achieving more water into Everglades Nation Park. No easy task!

“To quote the book, page 257, River of Interests: “The  Interior  Department  and  the  National Park System agreed  that  acquisition  of Frog Pond was essential, claiming that it would restore freshwater to Florida Bay.” And as all has evolved, this is indeed being accomplished. Here is an excellent 2021 explanation from  SFWMD Chief District Engineer and Assistant Executive Director, John Mitnick.

“The Frog Pond Detention Area is a project in South Dade along the eastern side of ENP, and just southeast of the S-332D Detention Area.  It is part of the C-111 Spreader Canal CERP project.  Originally it was a detention area, meaning water was pumped into it and detained before it would evaporate or seep out into the groundwater table.  The purpose being to create a hydraulic ridge in the groundwater table (raise the groundwater elevation) to prevent groundwater and surface water from seeping out of ENP to the east.  Around 2016 the District undertook a project called the Florida Bay Project where we modified the detention areas to allow surface water to overland flow out of the detention cells into the headwaters of Taylor Slough after water had passed through the detention cells. This way it was a more direct hydration of the Taylor Slough.  Since it was completed, the project has been very effective at providing additional water to Taylor Slough.”

In its days as agriculture fields, the Frog Pond’s marl and limestone was mechanically ground up to create soil for crops. Though helpful for growing a menagerie of delicious things, this practice was very destructive to the ecology of the already drained lands.

Today the SFWMD has the lead on improving these lands. Christen Mason, Invasive Species Biologist and LeRoy Rodgers Section Leader, Vegetative Management, were proud to show me their restoration work.

The photo below is an excellent example comparing the invasive Napier Grass, on the right, which had totally taken over this area, and the restored rocky marl lands to the left-that have been “restored.”

Napier Grass is also called Elephant Grass and is a wicked invasive and very difficult to remove. Another invasive species, Burmese Pythons, are known to hide in it.

I.

-Left restored. Right full of invasive Napier GrassSo we can see that what was once a monoculture of invasive African Napier Grass is now a combination of native grasses and shrubs. A place for native birds and wildlife. This has taken decades. In some areas, pine trees were planted. Their pert green shoots explode against a blue sky. I hear chirps and singing insects everywhere! I keep looking for a frog, but don’t hear any.

-Christen Mason shows how the rock was ground up for soil-Native grasses and flowers have returned-LeRoy Rodgers holds a wildflower, and beautiful red bug -Pretty! Lots of butterflies!  -Gymnosperma glutinosum, Michelle’s favorite!-Calopogon tuberosus-a young slash pine reaching for the sky!-wild porter weed-a future forest-Beautiful native grasses and flowers-wild milkweed?-a cool water filled solution hole keeps life in dry times-note hammock in background. Lucky Hammock is most famous and a magnet for birds and bird watchers.-Christen poses for the camera. Surrounded by her creations!

II.

Next we drove north and hopped into a hammock. Frog Pond has famous hammocks especially in the west where lands were less disturbed. As we walked the rocky decline from the road, staff asked me if I was allergic to poison-wood or afraid of rattlesnakes. “Neither.” I replied. Proud my parents raised me like they did. Setting up my chair confidently, I took bite of my sandwich in the cool shade.

III.

The day was getting hot and we had to drive back to West Palm Beach, so next we jumped right along to the pump station!

Below is Structure-176, not too far north of the Frog Pond. This station pumps water that wants to go through those old marl transverse glades back into structures of the pink area creating  the hydraulic ridge Mr Mitnick wrote about. This ridge keeps water inside Everglades National Park- upper ground and surface water.

-S-176 -Water is sent back over the lands through the pump station. There are many in area!   Note the soil color and the solution holes!

We jumped back into the truck, and just when when I thought my trip couldn’t get any better,  the most wonderful thing occurred. As we approached I saw all these colored spots in the distance. I strained my eyes.

“Oh my gosh!”  I yelled.

Hundreds of wading birds had gathered. Wood storks, ibis, white egrets, blue herons, roseate spoon bills, and many others feasted, crammed together, on collections of fish and crustaceans.

I silently slid out of the truck, watching and trying not to disturb them. But as the trucks went past the birds lifted into the sky, squawking and flapping, then circling right back to their watery dinner table! I was in awe. “This is what it is all about,” I thought to myself. Like a description of Marjory Stoneman Douglas, a sea of birds rose from the Everglades and blocked out the sun. My eyes filled with tears… My hope renewed for our wildlife, our lands, and our waters.

-Birds fly!AWSOME BIRD VIDEO!

 

I wiped the tears from my eyes. Staff was moved as well. We knew we had just witnessed the best of Everglades restoration. It is working.

For the next leg, I drove with Brenda Mills, Principle Project Manager, Everglades Restoration. I learned she was not only an accomplished engineer but also an avid birdwatcher and had even chaired her local chapter of the Native Plant Society!

As we got out of the trucks for our final look around, I was told we were standing in the at controversial 8.5 Square Mile Area. Lands before me had been scraped and restored, piles of earth rose to the horizon. Behind me, tall Royal Palms blew in the wind. I could see an orange painted house through the Napier Grass, Australian Pines, and animals roaming.

The wind blew, the dust rose. “It will start raining soon.” Brenda said. “This landscape will look totally different then, you should come back.”

“Will do,” I said. “I want to see the waters tumbling into Taylor Slough.”  We laughed knowing this area can go from dessert like to Colorado River within hours. I finally knew something about the Frog Pond; I had seen and learned so much. I wished I could stay longer at this amazing place. We all looked at each other, smiling. I kept listening -just hoping that before I left, I would hear one frog chirping. I thought I did, but it must have been a goat. What a day at the Frog Pond!

-SFWMD’s Christen, Rory, and Barbara are doing great work! Thanks for the tour! -Invasive Nadier Grass and Australian Pines in the 8.5 Square Mile Area-An area adjadcent to the 8.5 Square Mile Area that is is slowing being restored. It was once entirely full of Napier Grass. The birds and animals are coming back. -one last photo before we drive home 🙂

 

 

 

 

“Eye on the Horizon,” Picayune Strand

Picayune Stand’s story is the story of Florida at its very worst, and at its very best.

In the 1940s and 50s, this 74,000 acres was logged of its giant cypress; in the 1960s, Gulf American Land Corporation “dynamited” canals, and roads were built for “Golden Gate Estates,” a Florida real estate scheme that never materialized. Gulf American sold plenty of swamp land, finally going bankrupt. This most beautiful of places was left  broken and ravaged. Times changed. The public fought for these lands, and in 2000, Picayune Strand became elevated as the first project of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan, or CERP. It is almost done…

On April 29, I visited this CERP project held and managed as Picayune Strand State Forest. Its stakeholders include the Florida Forest Service, U.S. Fish & Wildlife, South Florida Water Management District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Florida Wildlife Commission, and Collier County. It was an inspiring field trip that I will share with you today.

8:00 am

SFWMD Lead Project manager, Joanna Weaver, and I drove for two hours to arrive at our destination in Collier County. Around a picnic table, we met ecologist, Mike Duever; Florida Forest Service biologist, Mike Knight; and Florida Forest Service fire expert, Sean Allen. As we all stood or sat around the table six feet apart, Mr Duever, thoughtfully gave his presentation. I listened intently. I think at first, he may have seen me a “lady from the city,” but I quickly won him over with my knowledge and love of plants and animals. After an excellent hour of intense slides and discussion, we paired off in trucks to take a tour. I was partnered with Mr Duever.-There is north Golden Gate Estates and south Golden Gate Estates. Picayune Strand State Forest is “south Golden Gate Estates” -south of I-75 (Alligator Alley).  North Golden Gate Estates (north of I-75)  is a neighborhood. On the map below, you can see the outlines of the roads now labeled as Picayune Strand State Forest south of I-75. The roads you see north of I-75 comprise the neighborhood of north Golden Gate Estates. The north was developed; the south became Picayune Stand State Forest. -Mr Duever’s handout demonstrates what was on the lands and is now removed, or in the process thereof.  First, logging trams in red; Second, canals in blue; and roads in grey. Mind you the property is 74,000 acres! -This is the back page of Mr Duever’s handout. Blue boxes equal the year/s canals were filled and thus the number of growing seasons for recovering vegetation and trees.  Yellow boxes equal the year/s roads were removed thus also the number of growing seasons. Some areas have had more time to heal than others. -In this handout, note three red squares at the top of the image. These red squares represent the three pump stations that are/will create sheet flow, restoring the hydrology and creating healthy habitat. Miller Pump Station, (far left), must meet flood protection standards for Lipman Farms on the east. This is being addressed now. Lipman Farms granted an easement for the building a protection levee. The entire project must not jeopardize flood protection for northern Gold Gate Estates, thus the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers portion of the CERP project, the gigantic pumps! -Below: Sean Allen of the Florida Forest Service loves his job. “Have you ever seen a panther?” I asked.” Absolutely!” He replies, looking in every direction. Picayune Strand is Panther Mitigation habitat for the state of Florida. This is panther country! 

I was very lucky to be paired up with Mike Duever. He has devoted his life to the restoration of these lands working first with National Audubon, then a long career with the SFWMD. He now works as a consultant for the SFWMD because no one knows the project like he does.

As he calmly took me over the bumpy roads, all the years, all of the ups and downs, all of the successes, all of the disappointments since 2000, I asked: “Are you ever upset that Picayune is not finished yet?”

“Jacqui,” he replied, looking at me with steel violet eyes, “restoration is full of “surprises.” What’s important is to do it the right way.” His glance veered off to the horizon.

By the end of the day, I felt I’d met John Muir himself.

We drove and drove. There were times it was just quiet.

I saw a giant eagle’s nest, deer, blue herons, alligators and beautiful wildflowers. We drove, got out, got in. There were miles of  filled-in canals and roads made one with the earth around them. The forest retuning…

Things weren’t perfect. Mr Duever spoke of an invasion of sable palms and the forestry service explained how the palms act as a middle story between the lower and upper stories, something these lands never had, sometimes promoting out of control wildfires that kill everything.

So much had been accomplished. So much was left to do…

It was complicated. Restoration is complicated. But like Mike Duever taught me that day, it is not about getting rattled by the “surprises,” it’s about the long view. It is about the horizon.

One day, not too far away, all of the giant pumps, not just two, will spread out the “flood waters” creating a sheet flow across the lands during the wet season. All of the trams, and roads will have been removed and the canals will all have been filled, leaving little pools for life to gather. The groundwater will synchronize; the cypress will come in where now willow stands. The wading birds will have thousands of areas to nurture their young. The panther will roam looking for deer and hog and the cry of eagle will echo through the cypress strands.

It will happen. Don’t look down. -Horizon.

-Mike Duever -Too many sable palms endanger the pines and cypress when fire strikes. Many must be removed.-Mr Duever holds a wildflower, Pink-Sabitia -Filled in canal -Removed roadbed. In time, vegetation will grow in.-Some areas of canals are left for water -Wildflowers and uplands-a giant blue bee! -Joanna assesses progress and things yet to come… -The history of Florida is written in these rocks piled high along the canals.-Mike Duever explains that this area was the greatest of the ancient cypress swamp. The willow he says is a precursor for its return. -A young cypress-A pond/canal adjacent to the former cypress swamp expands and contracts with the seasons. It is filled with fishes and gators. Look a snail! Life is retuning…

4:00 pm

-Final visit, the pump stations. Ominous! These things are huge and impressively spotless.

We meet Charles Hendrickson, a wildlife-loving engineer who works for the SFWMD. “I love the nature here. It’s getting to be more and more.” I count 12 alligators near the intake canal and six standing wading birds. He tells me he once saw flamingos! Next, taking his phone out of his pocket, Charles shows me a photograph of hundreds of white pelicans that visited the Merrit Pump Station just days days before. Incredible! As I wave goodbye, I notice Charles looking beyond.

Eye on the horizon…

Update: Picayune Strand/Audubon

 

The River Warrior Times ~Sunday, April 25th, 2021

Today, I begin a new blog section, called the “River Warrior Times.” This bi-weekly summary is meant for the general public who may not utilize social media. It is my hope, that this summary will help educate people as it is going to be a fast-paced late spring and summer.

ALGAE

This year, blue-green algae (cyanobacteria) was first spotted in Lake Okeechobee the week of April 5, 2021 and relayed to the SFWMD Governing Board by the public at the April 8 meeting. As the public continues to report these blooms, the Department of Environmental Protection has been testing for toxins. That’s helpful, but who is in charge of water quality anyway?

The Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) is the lead agency for water quality for the state of Florida. The SFWMD assist the ACOE with opening and closing Central and South Florida gates and working to build projects. The Department of Agriculture is in charge of Best Management Practices for Agriculture. Circling back, the Department of Environmental Protection oversees Best Management Practices for cities and counties. I call this THE TRIANGLE. Not one agency is in charge. According to Florida Statutes,  the three agencies must work together. In 2019, Governor DeSantis’ Executive Order 19-12 laid out the order  for change to get these agencies working together. Since 2019, the state legislature and state agencies are charged to work to fulfill this order as the public pushes Desantis’ order or just their desire for clean water.

On April 10, 2021, the ACOE stopped discharging to the St Lucie River not because algae had been spotted, but because the Lake Okeechobee was evaporating so quickly the federally protected Everglades Snail Kite nests were at risks. Then, shortly after stopping for the Snail Kites, the ACOE needed to start discharging again because of torrential rains from storms that roared across the state filling up the lake again. By this time, the Department of Environmental Protection had found blooms at 121 parts per billion microsytin at S-308, the structure that opens from Lake Okeechobee to the St Lucie River, thus the Colonel’s decision was to send all discharge from Lake O to the Caloosahatee River (west) and none to the St Lucie. Why? Because of the very high level of toxic algae. Food for thought is also that the Calooshatchee has a wide marsh in front of its structure that filters toxins, the St Lucie’s structure  is in deep water that fills up with algae, there are no filters…

This is good news for the St Lucie. However, there are serous concerns here as there is red tide along the west coast. Water managers and experts on the west coast note that scientifically the present discharges do not exacerbate the red tide issue. I imagine some residents of the west coast do not feel this way.

There is a lot of work to do. It is my belief, that the SFWMD continues to work it’s part of the TRIANGLE to cleanse and send more water south most recently by removing the Old Tamiami Trail to allow more water to go to Everglades National Park and Florida Bay, and amazingly the  EAA Reservoir’s project partnership agreement  was approved with the ACOE last Thursday -meaning construction of the reservoir can begin.

Remember, for water quality to improve, THE TRIANGLE must work together: Florida Department of Environmental Protection; Florida Department of Agriculture; and South Florida Water Management District . 

OFFICIAL STATEMENTS

ACOE Operations Lake O statement, april 22, 2021

SFWMD statement: Ops_Position_Statement__Apr_20_26_2021

Yet another situation that occurred during this past week, announced on April 22, 2021, the ACOE halted a USGS Sediment study of the St Lucie River that would have required the S-308 structure at Lake Okeechobee to open. Why did they halt it? Again, because of the high toxic algae levels. Read their official  press release here.

PHOTOGRAHS

Ed and I last few over Lake O on April 16 seeing some algae along the eastern shore of Lake Okeechobee. Since that time and before, Mike Connor, Indian Riverkeeper, and Paul Gray, Florida Audubon, have displayed on the ground photos of much concern. Reinaldo Diaz, the Lake Worth Lagoon Riverkeeper was the first to spot on east coast and John Cassini, Caloosahatchee Riverkeeper on west.

-April 12, 2021, cyanobacteria at S-308 structure at Lake O that opens to St Lucie River (C-44). Photo Mike Conner, Indian River Keeper.-April 15, 2021, east shoreline of Lake O south of S-308, aerial Ed Lippisch. Algae was also north of S-308. -Photos shared on April 22, 2021 by Florida Oceanographic courtesy of Paul Gray, Florida Audubon, Pahokee Marina. Looking a lot like Central Marine in 2016.

SPRAYING

For three years, Mike Knepper of Martin County has been producing videos with a drone about the state spraying of vegetation in Florida lakes and waterbodies. These video are almost exclusively on social media and have started a movement that is “turning over the tables” as the Mr Knepper educates and inspires the public to push state agencies, particularly the Florida Wildlife Commission (FWC) to reevaluate motivations and outcomes of chemical spraying of floating vegetation, like water-hyacinth.

Recently, (4-18-21) the front page of the Stuart News ran an article by Ed Killer, entitled “Using Chemicals in Savannas Debated.” This article does not focus on Mike Knepper specifically but is a great guide to this issue.

Mr Knepper believes that there is a connection between the toxic algae and the chemicals that get into the environment as the chemicals cause the plants to die and float to the bottom and rot -causing more nitrogen and phosphorus to be released- thus fueling algae blooms. For example, a body such as the Savannas is connected to both the St Lucie River and Indian River Lagoon watersheds. The Kissimmee River is connected to Lake Okeechobee…

State agencies have been making headway with reflection, and redirection using more mechanical means etc, however; there is much, much more work to do.

I recognize the serious conundrum as an overabundance of floating plants can occur very quickly and explode into population that inhibits functioning flood control, endangering us all.

Mr Knepper says, “The plants? Why are they there ? This is Mother Nature trying to fix things! She is trying to take up all the phosphors and nitrogen through those plants!” 

Is there a better balance? Is spraying, indeed, adding to the toxic algae blooms? Until the next River Warrior Times. Keep fighting!

JTL

 

 

Protecting Bird Island from Kayakers and Lake Okeechobee Discharges

Bird Island, officially known as MC2, is a “no trespassing zone,” with ten large signs around it stating Critical Wildlife Area or (CWA). Recently, there have been complaints to the Florida Wildlife Commission from Sewall’s Point residents that kayakers have been getting on the island to view the birds flushing them from their nests. Terrible! Exposed chicks and eggs are a delicacy for crows and other predators. Bird Island is a state recognized breeding ground for multiple species of endangered and threatened wading birds. It is protected.

This past Wednesday, April 13, 2021, I accompanied the Florida Wildlife Commission and Martin County to do an official state bird count. There were over 300 birds mid-day and the number of nests will be estimated next week. The sound of the nestlings was unceasing with chicks begging for food as parents chirped and clapped back. Incredible! Chicks were hidden down in the mangroves but older ones were perched outside looking around, looking a lot like their parents. I was told it appeared to be an “average year.” It looked pretty good to me!

Today, I share photos and videos. Hopefully these will quench the thirst of those who may want to break the law. Bird Island can be viewed from outside the sign area, but not inside. FWC law enforcement is increasing visibility in the area and hopefully anyone out and about who sees a disturbance will call 1-888-404-3922. 

The most wonderful thing I learned was that since 2010, when I first met Ricardo Zambrero of FWC and the idea with the Town of Sewall’s Point, Nancy Beaver of Sunshine Wildlife Tours, and Martin County crystalized into a hard fought CWA-designation in 2014 ~ the beautiful pink roseate spoonbills have gone from rookery visitors to successful nesters! Last year over thirty roseate spoonbills were reported on the island, young and mature. I saw many the day of the count. Younger birds are lighter in color and one adult bird I saw sitting on a nest was almost red where body met wings.

This incredible place must be protected from curios visitors, just as we must protect if from polluted discharge waters from Lake Okeechobee!

Thank you FWC.

-Approaching Bird Island off South Sewall’s Point in the Indian River Lagoon-A menagerie of birds! A very diverse crew! Strength in numbers!-Wood storks, and roseate spoonbills-Magnificent frigate birds-Wood storks and frigate birds-Signs are posted around the entire island-Martin County works to protect the island from erosion caused by boat wakes and storms

-Wood storks on nests on black mangroves-Another view. Two large black mangroves died in Hurricane Irma in 2017. A huge loss of habitat.-JTL, SFWMD; Ricard Zambrero & Andrea Peyeyra, FWC; and Mike Yustin, M.C.-A pink rosette spoonbill against a blue sky-I think these are cormorants but they sure look like loons!INCREDIBLE VIDEOS

-Bird Island south side distant and up close

-Roseate Spoonbill flies overhead

-Many types especially wood storks, great egrets, and a juvenile  brown pelican

-Brown pelican flies from island – view of many birds

-East side of island rocks to protect from erosion. Oyster catchers have nested here!

 

-Earlier blog post about Bird Island and diversity of species. 

Haney Creek, Hidden in the Middle of Everything

My husband, Ed, has been out of town for a few days, so I decided to visit a place I haven’t come upon in a long time, Haney Creek. I had been pouring through 1940s Department of Agriculture aerials showing Martin and St Lucie counties in their pre-drainage/pre-development glory. What a mind-blower to see how much the landscape has changed! Nonetheless, there remain a few fantastic parks that allow us to connect with the past.

One of these, located right in the heart of Stuart, is Haney Creek or Haney Creek Trail. This gem of a park is over 157 acres and remains in as natural a form as possible. It contains very well marked trails, and the main path is only a short walk that can be made right on one’s way to the grocery store. Haney Creek is hidden in the middle of everything! It is peaceful and beautiful and a great reminder of our once wildlife full ~sand-pine, wet prairie, flatwoods habitat~ that in earlier days sprawled “everywhere.”

Looking at the aerial or walking along Haney Creek Trail, it’s easy to see how everything we put on our yards ends up in the river. Nature formed forests, sand dunes, ponds, and creeks so that all things found and find their way to the St Lucie…

On the 1940s aerial below, Haney Creek is located far south, just up from the “Y” of  US1 and the railroad track. Can you find it? If not, there’s a modern map within the photos that follow. Take a trip back in time with a mind set for today-it’s so easy and right in the middle of everything!  -Haney Trail, part of the Haney Creek Project, is located right off of Baker Road, next door to Felix Williams Elementary School. The main trail takes about twenty minutes to walk. I’m including some photos I took. My favorite is the prickly pear cactus-flower. Note the bee inside! 

Day 35 ~Discharges to St Lucie Stop, April 10, 2021

Documenting the Discharges 2021

On Friday, April 9, the Army Corp of Engineers announced it would halt discharges to the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon on Saturday, April 10. The Corp has been discharging from Lake Okeechobee since March 6th. Today Lake Okeechobee sits at 14.14 feet. Please read above link for details.

These aerials were taken by my husband, Ed Lippisch, yesterday, Saturday, April 10, 2021 at approximately 1:30 pm during an outgoing tide, from 3000 feet over the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon, and 1500 feet over Lake Okeechobee and the C-44 Canal.

There have been documented reports of algae near Port Mayaca at Lake Okeechobee as well as on the the west coast -April 8. Ed’s photos from April 10 reveal some algae in C-44 canal near the railroad bridge just inside the S-308 structure, but none was visible in Lake O near S-308 from the altitude of the airplane.

Ed, myself, and the River Warrior crew will continue flights documenting the visual condition of the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon. Always watching. Always sharing.

When we are not flying, you can follow along  electronically via my brother Todd Thurlow’s website eyeonlakeo. 

J&E

-Sandbar and barren (no visible seagrass) Sailfish Flats area of the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon. Visually, water is a mixture of blue and brown, mostly transparent, near St Lucie Inlet. -Discharges exiting St Lucie Inlet over nearshore reefs. It will take a few days for the river to clear up. -At Lake Okeechobee, Port Mayaca, S-308 Structure to C-44 Canal leading to St Lucie River-C-44 Canal at railroad bridge just inside S-308 structure. Algae visible on right side. -C-44 at St Lucie Locks and Dam S-80 Structure AKA “The 7 Gates of Hell.”

Information:

Florida Oceanographic Society  WQ Report “B” March 31-April 7, 2021

SFWMD Operations Position Statement April 6-April 12, 2021 Ops_Position_Statement__Apr_06_Apr_12_2021

Todd Thurlow’s website EyeonLakeO 

To learn more and sign a petition to stop the discharges:  RiversCoalition.org 

Closest to Home

Sometimes the most beautiful places, are the places closest to home. Savannas Preserve State Park, established in 1978, stretches more than ten miles from Jensen Beach to Ft Pierce containing the “largest, most ecologically intact stretch of freshwater marsh in southeast Florida.”

Ed and I usually visit through the Jensen Beach Boulevard entrance, but recently we entered at Walton Road. The beauty was remarkable!

According to the state’s handout, it was Lt. Benjamin Pierce who first used the term “savannah” to describe a series of ponds and marshes and more that he came upon during the Second Seminole War (1835-1842).

If you live near the Treasure Coast, this 5,400 acres offers a valuable close to home experience. Ed and I were there before sunset and even on a cloudy day the lighting was awe inspiring. A wonderful afternoon! Thank you to those who had the foresight to preserve these lands between the St Lucie River and Indian River Lagoon.