Aerial Tour of October 17th’s Polluted Runoff, C-44, C-23 and C-24 Canals, SLR/IRL

Plume from canal runoff C-44, C-23 and C-24, October 17,2014. (All photos Jacqui Thurlow Lippisch and Ed Lippisch.)
Plume from canal runoff C-44, C-23 and C-24, October 17, 2014. (All photos Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch and Ed Lippisch.)

Today, I will take you on an air tour, hopefully one of the last of this year’s rainy season. In Florida, rainy season corresponds with hurricane season that lasts June through November. Nonetheless, typically the rains start to wind down towards the end of October.

The Army Corp of Engineers has not released from Lake Okeechobee this year so it has given us an opportunity to see what the runoff  in our area is “in and of itself.” I refuse to use the words “local runoff” because the St Lucie River and Indian River Lagoon’s runoff is over 50%  of what is was before the Water/Flood Control Districts and the ACOE created since the 1920s in order to drain the land for development and mostly agriculture.

It is the runoff of these expanded lands that we are dealing with today, full of sediment, fertilizer, pesticides, herbicides, road pollution, and whatever is on people’s yards.

I think seeing how “bad” our canal runoff is also shows why WE CANNOT ACCEPT WATER FROM LAKE OKEECHOBEE on top of this already bleak situation of our own.

Green is original flood plane and yellow is expanded flood plane. Photo from A "Citizens' Report to Congress" 1995, St Lucie River Initiative.
Green is original flood plain and yellow is expanded flood plain. Photo from A “Citizens’ Report to Congress” 1995, St Lucie River Initiative.

So anyway, enough of my lecture, let’s get started!

Ed in front of Cub Legend
Ed in front of Cub Legend.

The tour starts at Witham Airport in Stuart.

Ruoff from canals and Willoughby Creek
Run off from canals and Willoughby Creek

The first thing one sees once up in the air off of runway 12, is the polluted freshwater pollution/sediment line coming around the tip of Hell’s Gate in the St Lucie River. This water is coming from the South Fork of the St Lucie River where C-44 is located and the North Fork area where C-24 and C-23 are located. This filthy water flows into the St Lucie River proper and then around the tip of Sewall’s Point, into the Indian River Lagoon, out the St Lucie Inlet and then into the open Atlantic Ocean. (See map/chart 3 above for canal locations and expanded watershed runoff.)

Close up
Close up of plume in SLR
Sewall's Point
Sewall’s Point

Continuing on, as one flies over the St Lucie Inlet and along the Atlantic Coast over Jupiter Island one sees the dark water in what is usually a turquoise blue ocean. It must be noted that although this runoff canal-plume is disgusting looking it is nothing close to how dark and sediment filled it was last year when the runoff included releases from Lake Okeechobee.

Beach along Jupiter Island
Beach along Jupiter Island

There was some fun stuff to see also. There were many sharks in the dark waters. Ed and I wondered if they were sneaking  up on the fish in all the cloudy water, there were so many.  We must have seen 20-25 large sharks. We also saw sea turtles and giant rays, and lots of bait fish and sea birds both in and out of the plume area.

Plume from canal runoff C-44, C-23 and C-24, October 17,2014.
Plume from canal runoff C-44, C-23 and C-24, October 17,2014.

As we approached Peck’s Lake, we could see the tip of the plume in the distance like a giant slug. The plume ended about a mile short of Hobe Sound Beach, in Jupiter Island.

Ed and I talked about how one house would have the dark plume waters and another only a few feet away had blue ocean…

Plume up close
Plume up close
Another angle, tip of plume
Another angle, tip of plume
Long shot with Peck' Lake in background.
Long shot with Peck’s  Lake in background.
Shot of ocean on the trip home
Shot of ocean on the trip home showing edge of plume.

Well that’s the end of the tour. Hopefully you learned something or saw something new. And hopefully it is also the end of the rain for 2014. To learn more about these canals please see links below.

Another year, another rainy season behind us….

As we flew home, I was grateful to live in such a beautiful area and with every flight I become more determined to save it from the dirty waters of our canals and Lake Okeechobee. To destroy such a paradise is wrong.


C-44 DEP: (

C-23 DEP (

C-24 DEP (





10 thoughts on “Aerial Tour of October 17th’s Polluted Runoff, C-44, C-23 and C-24 Canals, SLR/IRL

  1. Jacqui, my words of thanks are not nearly strong enough to express my gratitude to you and Ed for creating a record from the air of the impacts this overwhelming volume of polluted water is doing to our estuaries. One of my requests to Charlie Christ if he won was to restore the funding necessary to complete C-23-24-25-and 44 sta projects and COMPREHENSIVELY test the unnatural discharge waters. Regards to Ed!

  2. I’m sorry, I comment occasionally on your post, I enjoy reading it, and do not intend to be confrontational…..but the “polluted” water that we see in the pictures is turbidity. We can’t see real pollutants. Anytime it rains, anywhere in the world, turbid water runs off from the local basin, downstream and eventually into the ocean. This is geology at work. When it rains we get runoff, no way around it. Brown water is not necessarily bad, it not dirty it just has dirt in it.

    1. Please don’t be sorry. I appreciate your comment and yes what you say is true. Nonetheless…..please read the links in my blog. Pollutants are part of the runoff even if you can’t “see” them they are in there. Also is the sediment that is slowly covering to river bottom and near shore reefs—yes it too is full of pollutants. I am aware of brown water stained by vegitation. In our waters it is more than just stained water…. Perhaps we must just agree to disagree. Thank you honestly for commenting and please do as much as you can.

  3. Jacqui, Excellent photojournalism and documentary reporting once again.

    As we discovered this August with help from Jackie Trancynger, your persistence and Paul Shidel’s powerful image of the toxic algae at S-308 gate about to enter the C-44 canal. Photographs can be an effective tool. I agree with Marty. You and Ed have provide us with an invaluable gift with your dedicated work and this Blog site. Thank you!

    Words ARE important. I never liked the phrase “polluted freshwater”. There is absolutely no room for semantics or contradictions in our fight to clean the IRL. It’s either fresh, or polluted water; but not both at the same time. Weather the pollution is “visible” or not, it doesn’t belong in our river.

Leave a Reply