Dr Goforth and Understanding The Inherent Variability In Annual Flows to the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon

This chart shows the  inherent variability in the annual flows." (Dr Gary Goforth, 20014.)
This chart shows “the inherent variability in annual flows to the SLR/IRL.” (Dr Gary Goforth, 2014.)

One of the positive things that has come out of the negativity of the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon situation, is building relationships with incredible people who care about  our rivers. One of these people is Dr Gary Goforth.

Dr Gary Goforth, 2014. (Photo Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch)

Dr Gary Goforth, 2014. (Photo Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch)

I first met Dr Goforth last August when he spoke before the “Senate Hearing on the Indian River Lagoon and Lake Okeechobee Basin,” at the Kane Center in Stuart, organized by Senator Joe Negron. Dr Goforth was sitting next to Karl Wickstrom, founder of Florida Sportsman Magazine and outspoken member of the Rivers Coalition.

Listening to Dr. Goforth plead his case, I said: ” Wow, who is this guy?”

He spoke for the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon as a scientist showing the SFWMD and ACOE could move more water south, and he knew as he very much helped design the system!  I came to learn that he in fact is the “father of the STAs (Storm Water Treatment Areas) in the Everglades Protection Areas and worked for the South Florida Water Management District for I believe almost 20 years. Now he is independent and has his own company. (http://garygoforth.net)

Having access to Dr Goforth is like having access to a “water issues computer” and I am continually blown away by his breadth of knowledge and that he is openly willing to share.

Sometimes our conversations go like this:

“Dr Goforth, I am looking at your chart, and my husband tells me never to speak in public when  it comes to numbers…..but what does this mean……?”

He never makes me feel stupid, has the patience of a saint, and goes over the material until I get a hang of it.

The chart at the beginning of this blog entry is an example of complexities made simple through Dr Goforth. The chart, through color coding, shows “the inherent variability in flows” to the St Lucie River through C-23; C-24; Ten Mile Creek; C-44 Basin; Other Tributaries (a huge area around all the developed area of the river); and Lake Okeechobee Discharges. This is shown in AF (acre feet), or an acre of land with a foot of water on it.

Map of St Lucie Basin. Over the years, this basin has been expanded to take in water over 50% of its original footprint.
Map of St Lucie Basin. Over the years, this basin has been expanded to take in water over 50% of its original footprint. (SFWMD/ACOE map 2014.)

Referring to the chart is enlightening and disturbing to note that for instance in 2005, almost 2,500,000 acre feet of water came into the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon; and in 2013, our “Lost Summer” about 1,250,000 acre feet came in. Other years shown on the chart between 1995 and 2013 with “worse” years than 2013 are 1998; 2003; and 2004. To somewhat put this in perspective, the huge EAA, or Everglades Agricultural Area, south and around the Lake Okeechobee is 700,000 acres. So for 2,500,000 acre feet of water, where would we ever find 2,500,000 flat acres of land to put this water on? We would not, and this is why “they” have to deal with volume and deeper storage areas. Mind blowing? YES!

The red colored blocks south of Lake O. are the EAA-700,000 acres of sugar lands and vegetables. South of the EAA are the STAs and water conservation areas .(SFWMD map, 2012.)
The red colored blocks south of Lake O. are the EAA-700,000 acres of sugar lands and vegetables. South of the EAA are the STAs and water conservation areas .(SFWMD map, 2012.)

So getting back to home, why did we finally “freak out” and go over the edge in 2013, when the flows have been “worse” before? Well, I personally think social media is a big part of this, as well as the aerial photos that “showed” people” the true repugnance of the big picture; and like someone in an abusive relationship, after years and years, we’d finally HAD ENOUGH!

C-44, C-23 and C-24 basin runoff discolor the waters of the SLR/IRL while exiting the St Lucie Inlet 7-19-14. (Aerial photo, Ed Lippisch.)
C-44, C-23 and C-24 basin runoff discolor the waters of the SLR/IRL while exiting the St Lucie Inlet over near shore reefs, 7-19-14. (Aerial photo, Ed Lippisch.)

Dr Goforth’s chart also shows that the annual flow to the SLR is 999,468 acre feet; and the average annual flow of Lake Okeechobee water to the SLR is 291,899 acre feet or 29% of the flow. I’ll round that up to 30% and say, “Yes, we here in Martin and St Lucie County have terrible issues with our own local runoff of C-23; C-24; Ten Mile Creek; C-44 Basin; and Other Tributaries; yes, in fact we are almost killing ourselves, SO ACOE and SFWMD PLEASE DON’T TOTALLY KILL US BY RELEASING POLLUTED WATER FROM LAKE OKEECHOBEE ON TOP OF OUR ALREADY HORRIBLE SITUATION!

With that said, I hope you learned something today and if you have time, take a closer look at the chart, it’s really educational; also,  if you ever see Dr Goforth around town, go up to him and thank him and shake his hand. He is one of the most outstanding “River Warriors” of all!

8 thoughts on “Dr Goforth and Understanding The Inherent Variability In Annual Flows to the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon

  1. I concur. Gary shines the light brightly, and we have had good discussions this past year. As an aside, I think we need to precisely define the term “local runoff” and break that flow down to exact sources, percentages, etc. Too many resident assume “local” means urban street, residential lawn, yards, etc.

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    1. I agree Mike. I have a great visual from the St Lucie River Initiative that shows the original SLR basin and then its expansion after C-23, C-24, C-44 and other FDOT runoff etc. The basin in taking over twice as much water as it did before people altered the land. Today’s runoff is 50% NOT local so really we should not be saying LOCAL runoff. Maybe Runoff Adjusted for Development and Canals: RADC? Something….I say GIVE IT BACK!

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  2. So true Mike. Stop the cycle of disinformation. Get the truth out in terms we can all understand and in a way that expresses exactly what the issues are. a properly informed public operates using their heads, not from fear.

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  3. Thanks Jacqui for recognizing Gary. He offered to help in 2013 and contributed so much by digging into the SFWMD data and we worked together to get these recognized. As a result the SFWMD and USACOE are opening up on what happens with the actual water control and management that affects the St. Lucie and IRL. The current total watershed for the St. Lucie Estuary is 514,646 acres (St. Lucie Basin Map) with the North Fork, South Fork and tidal basins comprising 184,842 acres (36%). The watershed expanded by 329,804 acres when C44,C23 & C24 basins were added in the 1940s & 50s. It is this “local runoff” from these agricultural canals that must be stopped. If we could do this and stop the damaging releases from Lake O by moving it south, then we would see the Estuary recover. All the best.

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    1. Mark, thank you so much for commenting and adding your excellent data. It is this data and breakdown that helps us understand how to really tackle and fix this mess we are in. As far as Dr Goforth, he is an angel sent to us. This sounds corey but I am convinced it is true….

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