An Update for 3-6-15, St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon

River Kidz drawing 2012.
River Kidz drawing 2012. “Save Our Rivers!”

If you read my blog, you know that I prefer to do a “feel good” piece on Friday as we all go into the weekend. Sometimes this is difficult when it comes to the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon.

I have been asked to provide a “simple update” as so much information has occurred lately, plus the Army Corp of Engineers (ACOE), and South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) have begun releasing more polluted water from Lake Okeechobee (via the Kissimmee River area), and our area canals, C-23, C-24, C-25 and C-44— due to high rainfall.

As you know, the ACOE began releasing in mid January as the lake is “high.”  Going into summer the lake should be able to “hold” three to four feet of rain from a hurricane without breaking the dike which in spite of $650 million in repair is still rated as one of the most dangerous in the nation.

So although for one week the ACOE stopped releasing, they have started up again this week at a higher level going from about 200 to 950 cubic feet per second (cfs). (For perspective during the highest discharged in 2013 the releases where around 5000-7000 cfs.)

Releases to SLR/IRL, 3-3-15, SFWMD.
Releases to SLR/IRL, 3-3-15, SFWMD.

You can see from the above chart, that after the rain last weekend, (that in some areas of Martin County, such as Palm City, was 11 inches) there was a spike. The blue is Lake Okeechobee discharges, and the other colors correspond to area canals and basins.

SLR basins. SFMWD, 2015.
SLR basins. SFMWD, 2015.

Pretty much “what happens”, every week or so is that there is a stakeholder call and then the ACOE and SFWMD have to come up with a “weekly” decision on how to manage Lake Okeechobee. Not fun.

After they compare notes and get input from state holders, a press release is sent out. This week, it read like this:

PRESS RELEASE ACOE 3-5-15
DISCHARGE INCREASES FROM LAKE O.
Classification: UNCLASSIFIED
Caveats: NONE
All,
Corps of Engineers will increase flows on FRI to 2,500 cfs west and 950 cfs
east. More information is attached.
Please contact me if you have questions.
JHC
John H Campbell
Public Affairs Specialist
Jacksonville District, US Army Corps of Engineers
Jacksonville, FL
Office: 904-232-1004
Mobile: 904-614-9134
Join our online communities: http://about.me/usacejax/
Classification: UNCLASSIFIED
Caveats: NONE

The ACOE has to share the bad news as they “control” S-77 and S-308, the giant gates that allow the water to come gushing in to the estuaries St Lucie and Caloosahatee, but really, the decision is made together with the SFWMD, and stakeholders like counties, and state agencies trying to deal with all this exhausting, constant “up and down.”

Pulse release schedule, ACOE, 3-6-15.
Pulse release schedule, ACOE, 3-6-15.

Another thing the agencies try to do to “help” is send the water in “pulse releases” instead of in one tremendous “flush.” To understand why this is a good idea, you can see the cartoon  below that was very popular during the 2013 “Lost Summer…”

Cartoon on the giant "flush," 2013.
Cartoon of the giant “flush,” 2013.
MCHD 3-5-15. Bacteria chart. Under "35" is good.
MCHD 3-5-15, Bacteria chart. Under “35” is good.

Another report that came out yesterday from the Martin County Health Department shows the enterococcus bacteria levels found in the St Lucie River at certain check points. Most are” high” again. This corresponds with the high “discharges” from our area canals and from Lake Okeechobee and is believed to be in many cases connected to non-functioning septic tanks–Nonetheless, many pollutants “rise” and “flow” during these high water times causing our bacteria levels to spike…Martin County is working very hard to pin down this issue.

Just to give perspective, during part of the 2013 “Lost Summer,” the chart above was ALL RED, not only at the Roosevelt Bridge, Sandsprit Park, and Leighton Park, but even at the Sandbar which is practically sitting inside the St Lucie Inlet, an area one would expect to be “flushed” with clean sea water at all times….

Sending water south, almost 500,000 Acre Feet has been sent....
Sending water south, almost 500,000 Acre Feet has been sent this water year, starting May 1st, 2014.

In spite of all this “bad news” the SFWMD has been trying to alleviate our problems as one can see from the chart above, they have sent almost 500,000 acre feet (500,000 acres with one foot of water on top) of water “south” from Lake Okeechobee and the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA.) This is truly historic and to be commended. The SFWMD  heard our call SEND THE WATER SOUTH. Thank you!

Unfortunately this is not enough….

It is clear, everyone is “trying” and even Mr Jeffrey Kivett, Operations, Engineering and Construction Division Director, South Florida Water Management District,  did a good job of simplifying the “constraints” so we can all “understand.” (http://www.sfwmd.gov/portal/page/portal/xrepository/sfwmd_repository_pdf/wrac_pres_system_constraints_2015_0205.pdf)

Also this week, thanks to Senator Negron’s IRL Hearing, the University of Florida’s: “Options to Reduce High Volume Freshwater Flows to the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee Estuaries and Move More Water from Lake Okeechobee to the Southern Everglades” went public discussing constraints and providing  quite a few good ideas of how to “overcome them.”

UF REPORT: (http://www.flsenate.gov/UserContent/Topics/WLC/UF-WaterInstituteFinalReportMarch2015.pdf)

Slide 1 of the SFWMD power point presentation "Constraints to Sending Water South, 2015.)
Slide 1 of the SFWMD power point presentation “Constraints to Sending Water South, 2015.)

In summary, I am sorry to say, right now, everything is pointing towards another “lost summer.”

Worst of all is that many fish and oysters begin spawning in March, so their “babies” will get swooped out to sea, lowering the productivity of our estuary by millions of dollars really….and it is almost “Spring”here in Florida—- were we humans, and especially kids,  like to play and use the water too. Not mention our real estate values…

“Groundhog Day?” Have you seen the movie?

Watch this very powerful video if you have time, and be ready to defend our St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon once again— this time asking  for the EAA option lands owned by Us  Sugar Corporation to be bought south of Lake Okeechobee by our state.  As we can all see, it is very sad, and rather embarrassing to admit, but we have become the “toilet” of the great state of Florida. We pay too many taxes to allow this.

Call to action, Everglades Foundation: (https://vimeo.com/119495955)

 

 

7 thoughts on “An Update for 3-6-15, St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon

  1. I think we do have common ground in that we all waunt to see our lagoon restored to its full potential. Their is a mountain of false information. If I thought buying the land wound fix the lagoon I would be on board in a minute.When hurricaines Francis and Gene washed out a 2 mile calcium road{ called jungle trail}that runs parallel to the IRL oysters came back by the millions. Bait and gamefish did the same. I believe hurricaine Charley tore into an offshore calcium deposit and restored all the grass flats in Tampa. A bunch of people with the first name–DOCTOR swore it was the fertilizer ban. One thing that bothers me is at the end of the video he says MOST INPORTANTLY buying the land would secure drinking water for millions of south Floridians.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Last summer they built 2 road like berms at the C-54 spillway so a trackhoe could get close enough to the water to put rocks in. This little road was calcium. I checked with viniger.All summer rains washed this calcium into the water as they released from the canal. you would not believe the foam. All winter white pelicans stayed here and feed on menhaden minnows.Our Pineda causeway was built in 1972. We moved back in 76 . It is calcium. The shrimping was so good people would get there at noon to save a spot on mathers bridge (3 miles south). There are now Granite bolder jetties running parallel to the causeway. Unless you know about the acid desolveing calcium these jetties would make no sense. You can see them on google earth.These are all facts and there are many more. I would like to see such foam— H2O2 at all your spillways.

    Liked by 1 person

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