A Tear for Lake Okeechobee, SLR/IRL

Ed and I have just returned from vacation. Ironically leaving June 28th, the day the ACOE announced a nine-day reprieve due to algae in Lake Okeechobee; and returning July 8, the day before the ACOE may open S-308 into the St Lucie River once again.

It was a great trip and the weather was excellent.

Ed was our pilot, and we flew with stops from Stuart to Michigan. It was remarkable to sit in the airplane and see the land below me ~ever changing from swampland, to farmland, to cites, to forest, to mountains, to rivers, and peppered with hundreds of lakes….

When we finally approached the Great Lakes Region, I was looking for the algae I had read so much about, and yes, there were some lakes turned green. But not in the vast northern waters of Lake Michigan, or Lake Huron, these lakes were deep mirrors of blue.

“The water here looks like the Bahamas,” Ed noted. We both looked in wonder at their hue.

Sometimes, I awoke at night, thinking of home. Thinking about how there is nothing like it, in spite of the many wonders of our great county. In spite of the beautiful, blue, icy waters of Lake Michigan.

On the way home to Stuart, I asked Ed if we could fly inland over Lake Okeechobee just to see.  It was midday and the clouds had popped up and I knew we’d have to do my least favorite thing, fly though them. As the turbulence engulfed the airplane, I closed my eyes and prayed. And then finally, as always, we were through.

The lake opened up before us like an ocean.

I could clearly see the algae at about three thousand feet. It was visible roughly a mile off the lake’s east coast out into the lake for as far as the eye could see. Ed flew west and then circled around. The green masses of algae had been pushed into geometric designs by the wind, and they were everywhere. We flew for miles over the middle of the lake and beyond. To my surprise, the repetitive, endless, formations of cyanobacteria caused something unexpected to happen. Rather than my usual disgust, or anger for the destruction of the St Lucie, I felt myself begin to tear-up. “This poor lake,”  I thought to myself. “I know you were once so beautiful even mythical;  what have we done to you?

Just unbelievable…”

I wiped the tear from my eye, so sad for what is happening to the waters of my beloved Florida. Ed turned the plane, and we headed home…

S-308 algae was visible about a mile off the east coast of the lake and on and off, sometimes heavy, inside of the S-308 structure and in the C-44 canal to S-80 at St Lucie Locks and Dam.

S-80 was open and algae could be seen going through the gates  from the C-44 canal

Home at last. Sewall’s Point Park River Kidz FDOT recycled sign art

All photos take on July 7, 2018, 3pm. JTL/EL

11 thoughts on “A Tear for Lake Okeechobee, SLR/IRL

  1. I’m sorry Jacqui, I know how much this means to you, begging the question that we hoped would be obvious to everyone from the beginning… Why is this being allowed? Government sanctioned criminal acts against humanity, the environment, in the name of unregulated commerce and pork barrel politics.
    Yes, distance can give one perspective. Things will have to get much worse though to bring about the change we all pray for.

  2. I was on the lake last June. It is very beautiful looking out at the horizon. It’s when you look straight down you see what terrible things we’ve done. Quite a legacy.

    1. This was announced last night at the same time it came out that the Governor will be here on our side (FM/CC) this morning to tour. Photo opp and possibly declare state of emergency? All optics in my opinion, but the important thing is we finally have their attention and now the real hard work begins — keeping the pressure on until meaningful action is taken.

  3. The Great Lakes used to be similar to Lake Okeechobee, but about 40 yrs. ago a bilge contaminant of zebra mussels invaded these lakes. They are excellent filter feeders of green water plankton reducing the total phosphate lake levels from very high ~ 100 parts per billion to now for Superior [4], Michigan ~ [5] , Huron[5] and Ontario [8] part per billion total phosphate. The last and shallowest lake in the chain, Lake Erie ~60 to 10 west to east. Lake
    Okeechobee ‘s compares at 120 to 140. Zebra mussels have increased clarity, severely reduced fish stocks, clogged intake pipes but have permitted underwater grass meadows to thrive. There is no free lunch. Lake Okeechobee water can only enter the Everglades at or below 10 ppbTP. Forget about intentional zebra introduction into Lake Okeechobee; it is illegal . And the high water temperatures of Okeechobee would probably prove lethal to the cold water zebra mussel even as this species is actively invading the fresh waters of the nation.

  4. I have been stopping by Stuart on my way home and walk under the bridge by the railroad trussel. I see there is a strong incoming tide as well as out going tide. What will happen if they release dirty water is the incomeing tide will push back the dirty water and algae will pile up. Why not start releaseing water an hour before ocean tide starts going out and stop releasing dirty water and hour before incoming ocean water (high tide ) starts comming in. This should allow for clean ocean water to push far up into the st. Lucy River where remaining dirty water will be diluted and salty water will stop algae growth. Doing it this way will also maximize energy of out going tide to suck all the dirty water out to sea. I am afraid if they wait untill algae is as thick as heinz ketchup It might plug up 20 mile long canal and then you really will have problems.

  5. With trying anything new they should go easy until they work out the problems. I have no doubt that timeing the Lake O releases to the out going tides could blow all the crap far out to sea but you do not want to blow all the boats out with it. They could do a cobination of steady release with a few days of timed(clean out) releases. I am glad you see the inportance of my comment for all the creatures (including people) I now hope the right person reads it.

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