Impairment of the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon


Basins of the St Lucie River.

Something the every day person may not know because the communication feedback loop between state agencies and the public doesn’t really function, is that in 2002, the Department of Environmental Protection, a state agency, declared the St Lucie River, part of the southern Indian River Lagoon, “impaired.”

The 2002 report reads: “Anthropogenic impacts to the St Lucie River have impaired its function as an important estuarine ecosystem and resource. Stream channelization, wetland drainage, conversion, construction of drainage canal systems, urbanization, and agriculture activity have so completely modified the watershed that it can no longer function as a healthy ecosystem…although it was once one of the most productive in the world…” (

A tremendously loss to say the least. Why did we have to wait until it was dead to do something?

Unfortunately that is the case, so what’s important to know now about this “impaired” status is that it triggered a program to help the water body called a Basin Management Action Plan (BMAP) and Total Maximum Daily Loads, (TMDLs).

You may have heard of them.

So now that the water body is impaired, there is an action plan for the water basins limiting the total maximum daily loads of nitrogen and phosphorus that flow into the estuary.

Municipalities and counties will be held eventually responsible for the maximum levels of pollutants allowed to enter the water before the water would become “impaired.”

This gets confusing, I know. I think of it like this: how many cigarettes one is allowed to smoke before one is on the verge of dying of cancer…your total maximum daily smoke, before you become “impaired.” But what if you been smoking a pack a day for 80 years? Is there time to cut back? Shouldn’t you just quit?

Crazy isn’t it?

The real catch for the St Lucie River is that much of the water that runs into the river is from Lake Okeechobee through C-44. So even if the St Lucie met its TMDLs they would be destroyed by releases from Lake O.

The state is working on this problem and many others. This might take awhile to fix. They are figuring 5, 15, and 30 year implementations before they can really measure improvements…

Time is of the essence, but this is the best the state can do.

Hmmm…I’m not a smoker but I am so frustrated, I think I’ll go have a cigarette.

8 thoughts on “Impairment of the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon

  1. Jacqui,

    Yes maddening indeed, especially since this is from a 2002 DEP Report. Interesting too that the State included “agriculture” as one of the culprits. I wonder how that changes the status of the IRL in terms of State funding?

    Do you know the organization? I believe they were instrumental in changing the status of an important river S. America to being an “entity”. By doing this, the River then had right’s (like a citizen) and therefore entitled to government protection pollution. Interesting idea huh…?

    This is excellent investigative information. Please make sure Eve Samples see’s a copy of this. Thank you.

  2. Jacqui,
    Would you consider re posting this on STIRL FB. I would like more people to see this and I would also add my comments about 350. org and the S. American river story.

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