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.)
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.
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.
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.
John H Campbell
Public Affairs Specialist
Jacksonville District, US Army Corps of Engineers
Join our online communities: http://about.me/usacejax/
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.”
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…”
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….
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.”
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)