Hurricanes, Discharges, and Monitoring Seagrass Loss in the Indian River Lagoon, SLR/IRL

IRL in Jensen, ca. 1948 Seymour Gideon property, courtesy Sandra Henderson Thurlow Archives. (Note clear water and abundant seagrasses.)

This photo is on page 23 of my mother’s book Historic Jensen and Eden on Florida’s Indian River. The insert reads:

“This photograph of the Seymour Gideon property was made after 1948 when Arthur Ruhnke started taking photographs locally, and before the August 26th 1949 hurricane that destroyed the fish houses. A trail leads to the ridge called “Mt. Washington” (Killer Hill, Skyline Drive today) by the pioneers. The watery expanses of the Jensen Savannas are in the distance. Notice the clear water and the abundance of river grass.” (Thurlow/Ruhnke Collection)

It is a beautiful photograph….isn’t it? Certainly after the Hurricane of ’49 hit the seagrasses of Jensen in the Indian River Lagoon were impacted too!

~Wind gusts reached 160 mph (260 km/h) at Stuart. 

~Stuart (Jensen)  experienced the most severe damage from the storm in south Florida; hundreds of homes, apartment buildings, stores, and warehouse buildings lost roofs and windows. Interior furnishings were blown through broken glass into the streets. 

WIKI 1949 Hurricane: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1949_Florida_hurricane

Jeanne, September 25, 26, 2004. NOAA image.

When hurricanes Frances and Jeanne hit within three weeks apart in 2004, entering both times at my hometown of Sewall’s Point, there was reported loss not only of property, but also of seagrasses in the Indian River Lagoon. Seagrass is very slow to recover…

Photo by Lauren Hall, SJRWMD, showing healthy seagrasses in the IRL. (From Save the Manatee Website)

As some locations of the grasses were experiencing recovery, they died back again due to the extreme discharges and toxic algae blooms in 2013 and 2016 ~linked to Lake Okeechobee, and canals C-44, as well as C-23, C-24 and C-25.

canals
Canal and basin map SLR/IRL. (Public)

The South Florida Water Management District reports periodically on not overall numbers but rather “patch dynamics” at certain locations of the lagoon. (For Martin County: Boy Scout Island and Willoughby Creek.) I feel this is limited. The best way to see seagrass bed coverage is from the air. I am hoping in the future there will be money in the budget or the District could coordinate with local pilot for aerial seagrass surveys. Another way to approach this is though Google Earth mapping/aerials, and my brother Todd Thurlow and Mark Perry of Florida Oceanographic are working on this now.

Hurricanes, discharges, fertilizer from our yards…Seagrasses are as important as property as they are the nurseries of the oceans and keep the lagoon “living.” Look at the aerials below to see the losses, so that we may be inspired to work for and better document a recovery.

Jacqui

 

Frances, September 4, and 5th 2004. NOAA image.
Aerial of seagrasses in 1977 in and between Sailfish and Sewall’s Point, courtesy FOS, Chris Perry.
Murky greenish water could be seen in the area of the Sandbar, between Sailfish and Sewall’s Point,  and some remaining sickly looking seagrass beds were visible, 3-15.  (Photo JTL.)
5-25-16 remaining seagrasses with algae on top SLR/IRL between Sewall’s and Sailfish Point, JTL
5-7-17 blue water but no visible seagrasses between Sailfish and Sewall’s Point,  JTL SLR/IRL

See page 14 of Water Resources Advisory Commission, (WRAC) for seagrass report in SLR/IRL, presentation by Dr Susan Gray, 5-31-17: https://apps.sfwmd.gov/webapps/publicMeetings/viewFile/10633

List of all Hurricanes of US, including 1949: http://www.aoml.noaa.gov/hrd/hurdat/All_U.S._Hurricanes.html

Waters off of Sewall’s Point in August 2013 during high levels of discharges from Lake Okeechobee. Seagrass beds between Sewall’s and Sailfish Point used to be the lushest in the southern lagoon…(photo, JTL)

3 thoughts on “Hurricanes, Discharges, and Monitoring Seagrass Loss in the Indian River Lagoon, SLR/IRL

  1. Great photo of the Gideon property. Looking at the swampy area in the background, my first thought was of the marvelous overlay video that your brother, Todd, created and that showed just how many lakes/swamps used to exist just inland. My next thought was … mosquitoes!
    And also, want to thank you for the links in your recent posts to the TCPalm series on fertilizer and more. The more people who learn about the sources of the destruction of their property values, maybe more will get involved. I’m trying to get the Tampa Bay TImes interested in covering it, too.
    Warm regards from St. Petersburg.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Part of the problem with many of our leaders is they have not been here long enough to remember how good it was before the accumulation of the last 60 years of Okeechobee muck, pesticides, fertilizer and fresh water in our salt water estuary. I look at the river I grew up in and see a black toxic mess. The algae got us noticed, but it was not the problem. It was just visible evidence of the problem. The discharges have to stop completely and the river can recover, but it will take decades. I don’t think our leaders understand how wrong the government has been and how inadequate one small reservoir will be south of the Lake. I can only hope for a long term drought to keep the fresh water out of the St. Lucie. Fresh water is a valuable resource, and SFWMD and the CORPS just throw it away while destroying our environment in the process.

    Liked by 1 person

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