“Paradise and Hell,” June 2015/June 2013, St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon

Contrast June 21, 2015 and June 28, 2013. St Lucie Inlet, Martin County, Fl. (Photos JTL and EL)
Contrast June 21, 2015 and June 28, 2013. St Lucie Inlet, Martin County, Fl. (Photos JTL and EL)

I hope you and your family had a happy Father’s Day. The water was beautiful this weekend,  so I thought today I would compare some aerial photos my husband Ed and I took this weekend to some we took in June of 2013 during the “Lost Summer.” No wonder we all fight for clean water and fewer discharges from Lake Okeechobee and area canals. What a difference!

Of course other than “history,” rain has a lot to do with discharges into the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon, and it has not been raining too much lately— thus the blue waters rather than the ugly dark brown plumes. It is important for all of us to understand why our paradise sometimes turns into a disgusting toxic mess so we can keep working for policy to change this problem.

The first and worst part of the problem lies in southern Martin County—the C-44 canal built by the Flood Control District of the era and later the Army Corp of Engineers to connect Lake Okeechobee to the South Fork of the St Lucie River. This canal was connected in 1923 for agriculture and transportation. So now, not only is there the agricultural lands’ runoff from the C-44 basin that pours into the river, but also the periodic often huge releases from Lake Okeechobee. In spite of claims that this lake water is “only 30%” of total discharge water coming into the estuary, when it comes it is tremendous, filthy, and always a killer.

I think a decent metaphor would be that one could drink alcohol all time (from the C-23, C-24, C-25) and have problems like an alcoholic but function, however, if one downed two bottles of gin in a short period of time, one would kill oneself. Lake Okeechobee and its periodic huge slugs are death each time for our St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon.

Canals in Stuart, C-23, C-24, C-25 built in the 50s and 60s. C-44 connected to Lake Okeechobee constructed in the 1920s.
Canals in Stuart, C-23, C-24, C-25 built in the 40s, 50s and 60s. C-44 connected to Lake Okeechobee constructed in the 1920s.

Next we must recognize the other problem-part of our canal system in the northern region…

After a tremendous hurricane/storm and flooding (because we are a swamp….)  in 1947 the state of Florida and the federal government worked to appropriate monies for the Central and South Florida Flood Project  which created the plumbing system we know today for all South Florida.

The part “we got” was the building of canals C-25, C-24 and C-23. The state and federal government acted like this was “just for flooding” but it wasn’t. It was also to allow for more agriculture and development in the region by draining the lands. (Mostly citrus and development of Port St Lucie).  These canals were built and “improved” throughout the 50s and 60s and expanded the water being drained into the St Lucie River by about five times!

So now water from Okeechobee and St Lucie counties, and even water that had been flowing north into the St Johns River, through Indian River County and beyond— drains into the St Lucie River! (The headwaters of the St Johns River started flowing north in the marshes west of Sebastian and Vero—they have been directed to the SLR…)

Crazy isn’t it?

You know these “guys” —these politicians and business people, knew they were killing the river. They were just so driven by the pay-off of citrus/agriculture and cheap lands to sell….that they didn’t care…The river dies slowly so many of them did not see the “close to total death” —what we see today…but they knew what they were doing.

There were those who objected trying to protect the river’s  fishing industry and wildlife….But their voices were not enough to stop the train….sound familiar?

Drainage changes to the SLR.
Drainage changes to the SLR. Green is the original, natural, watershed,. Yellow and pink show the expanded drainage to the SLR/IRL. St Lucie River Initiative, Letter to Congress 1994.

The map above shows the “expanded watershed” in yellow and pink going into the St Lucie River. This is why I very much object also when I hear “how 70-80%” of the water polluting the St Lucie “is from our local watershed.”

Like we are supposed to feel responsible?  Most of it’s  not local!!!!! Plus it is the SFWMD’s job to oversee these canals. FIX THEM!

The moral of the story though is that the “local watershed” does not exist anymore….

“Wealth (agriculture and development) at the expense of the environment….” The story of our state.

Of course the grand irony is that we all came here for the “environment” ….the water, the fishing, the wildlife, the beauty…..

So here we are in Martin County living in a world where the pendulum swings between “paradise and hell.”

Paradise is not what it used to be, but it is still here. We saw some of it this past weekend…And we could bring back more if we really tried….If we want it, our job is to get more of the water coming into the St Lucie River/IRL back onto the land, going south, and returned or held north, and not draining or being released  into our watershed.

Sounds reasonable doesn’t it? Well, the problem is we don’t have 30 years….or 50 years….like “the plan” (CERP) calls for now….(http://www.evergladesrestoration.gov)

There is alway hope we could do it faster. We must make hope a reality….all of us.

As newspaper man and famed environmentalist Ernie Lyons said: “What men do, they can undo…..and the hope for our river is in the hundreds of men and women in our communities who are resolved to save the St Lucie…” (Ernest Lyons, Editor and reporter, Stuart News)

This weekend I think we were all inspired! 🙂

Comparison 2015 and 2013 Atlantic shoreline with nearshore reefs, Jupiter Island south of St Lucie Inlet. (JTL)
Comparison 2015 and 2013 Atlantic shoreline with nearshore reefs, Jupiter Island south of St Lucie Inlet. (JTL)


September 2013
September 2013–plume as it exits St Lucie Inlet.
Another aerial 2013- plume along Jupiter Island.
Another aerial from September 2013- plume along Jupiter Island that had exited the St Lucie Inlet.


20 thoughts on ““Paradise and Hell,” June 2015/June 2013, St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon

  1. When I was a kid (50 years ago) all our fesh water lakes had MANY boats fishing for crappie in the deepest parts of the lake in the winter time. Like I have said many times a layer of calcium would settle to the deepest part and crappie would lay there eggs so their babies would have calcium ‘milk”. One crappie can lay 200,000 eggs. They could reproduce in numbers large enough to feed everbody. Now there are no boats in the middle any of our lakes. There may be exceptions like Blue Cypres Lake but I would bet if you checked those lakes you will find a film of calcium in the deepest parts in the winter. NO fish can reproduce without calcium(milk) for their young createing HELL on earth for all the creatures and people who depended on them.

  2. In one of your blogs you wrote a quote from the bible—build you HOUSE on a ROCK and not on SAND —this saying is a medaphor–HOUSE could mean many things like Family –business–life or even campaign to save the lagoon ROCK only means one thing—Gods word, Truth, Honesty,Treating others the way you would have them treat you. SAND is the ways of the devil lieing,manipulating. falsely accuseing others. Having fished all my life there is much I have not said ,but what I have said I have been carefull to be truthfull and am certain everything I have told you is NOT a theory but is the TRUTH

  3. Sending water South will help but it will not completely solve our water problems in the St Lucie River.

  4. Thank you Facebook friends!
    Mark Polsky, Jesse Hindman, Joe Crankshaw and 18 others like this.
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    FL Green What a difference a couple of years make and a rainy season…We have got to get tougher Fertilizer restrictions for the Ag industry…The Natural Resources Sub-Committee is on the side of the polluters and keeps enacting legislation on their behalf…they just want to keep gambling with Florida’s biggest industry a 70 Billion dollar tourist industry unsure emoticon
    Unlike · Reply · 1 · 11 hrs · Edited

    Rebecca Fatzinger Wow..the comparison is unreal…and they have the nerve to say that its not the discharges its our own pollution…..crazy….thanks for as always being our beautiful yellow bird in the sky..we would never get to see the truth from this view if not for you and your hubby!
    Unlike · Reply · 3 · 9 hrs

    Jesse Hindman Much different, remember going through inlet and could see the disgusting line
    Unlike · Reply · 1 · 4 hrs

    Linda Aileen Miller Amazing how they actual expect people to buy their rhetoric about it ‘not’ being related to discharges! Thank you Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch! A picture worth more than a thousand words!!!!
    Unlike · Reply · 1 · 2 hrs
    Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch

  5. The split water in the photo happens all year, every year, nearly every day at low tide. The clear water in the first photo does not accurately represent a comparison to the water quality from the 2 years since it is not described in detail at what tides the photo was taken.

    It is still a working progress to clean up our waters and the overall summary of this article is a good indicator of how much effort needs to take place to do so.

    1. https://jacquithurlowlippisch.files.wordpress.com/2015/06/img_8254.jpg Thank you very for your comment however I can assure you that the color change you see between the two photos does not happen “every day” here in the SLR/IRL. I document times in my regular email blasts to government officials, not general blog posts. I do understand what you are getting at as far as runoff and tide changes. I am not sure where you are from as you have chosen to post anonymously but here I do believe that here along the SLR/IRL it is a bit different than most places when the government is discharging from enlarged area canals and Lake Okeechobee. You are welcome to call me at 772-486-3818 and I do appreciate your input. It is good when someone does not agree and is not afraid to express this. Please see link for another photo that may be more “clear.” If you go back to blog link I posted another too as well as month and year shot. If you really want times I can get them; it just will require me to go back in my computer and logbook.

  6. Actually the Facts about how all the calcium has been removed is having its day right now. Our lagoon house is going to restore the water in front of it with shell the way it was 100years ago. I just came back from the public fishing pier where I allways tell a few more people the things I am telling you—making special effort to exsplain to kids in away they can understand. Pretty soon the only ones who will believe the theorys that septic tanks and fertilizer is killing the lagoon is the State people and the special interest groups they represent.

  7. I cant help it . What has been done to the people of florida who love to fish is enough to make anybody angry—what is it that it says in the bible—be angry but sin not

  8. I am in fact from Jupiter. I have live here for over 30 years. It does happen inside our inlet way “everyday” at low tide and you can visit evsjupiter.com to see the different color changes. However, I do agree that it is not a natural occurrence and action should be taken to correct the natural flow of the estuaries.

  9. Tommarow I will start putting sand in front of lagoon house. They have signs up saying it is a designated construction site . In order for them to get funding they have to document everything. I intend to have every fish and bird in the lagoon poseing for the camera. I hope you are bringing your fresh water runoffs to life there . Without calcium they will be dead and barren. But with calcium there seems to be no limit to the amoumt of life these runoffs can support. Fresh water is NOT a bad thing. It is essential for the lives of many important creatures.

  10. All of you are kooks. Force the sugar cane growers to clean up their water before it reaches the coast and you solve the problem. It’s a simple fix but the sugar cane industry runs FL.

  11. Restore our watershed to the original watershed. Keep lake water out of the IRL/SLR by restoring the original flow to the Everglades. Force big sugar to clean the water that is coming off their farmlands!

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