Comparing Discharges: Caloosahatchee to the St Lucie 2010-2019

“Destruction by the Numbers,” 2

S-79 Spillway Caloosahatchee at Franklin Lock and Dam, Calendar Year 2010-2019, courtesy http://eyeonlakeo.com, Todd Thurlow.
Structures along the Caloosahatchee River, courtesy Melody Hunt, Research Gate. S-79 is the gate used for purposes of this post. S-79 is comparable to the St Lucie’s S-80 at St Lucie Locks and Dam, in that it is the final structure along a channelized river thus allowing both runoff from the surrounding “basin” and water discharged from Lake Okeechobee.

Last week, I presented a blog on discharges, 2010-2019, to the St Lucie River from both the surrounding basin, and Lake Okeechobee. Although we can separate Lake O’s numbers, it is important to know just how much water, thus sediment, nitrogen and phosphorus, the estuaries are taking “at once.” I have often said the worst thing about discharges from Lake Okeechobee is that the river is already on life support -from being drowned out by basin runoff- when Lake Okeechobee is leashed open.

So called “basins” around our rivers, like everything else in South Florida,  have been altered to drain more efficiently than Nature intended. Thus with “basin discharges” these rivers (St Lucie and Caloosahatchee)  are already being drowned out during high rain events, and thus when Lake O’s water comes on top, well, it  is the “nail in the coffin” so to speak.

I just needed to explain that before we begin….

~ So today, as in the previous post,  I will be speaking about both basin and Lake O water.

Referring to my brother, Todd’s, graph at the top of the page, you’ll notice right away the destructive-discharge numbers are much larger for the  Caloosahatchee, than the St Lucie, as it is much larger estuarine system.

As we can see comparing the two charts labeled “Cumulative Discharges 2010-2019” below, both the St Lucie and the Caloosahatchee’s  highest year for discharges, by far, was 2016. But whereas the St Lucie received 842,000 acre feet of water, the Caloosahatchee’s water number is a whopping 2,950,926 acre feet! That would mean one foot of water on 2,950,926 acres of land.

You’ll remember from last time that “acre feet” is a very easy way to calculate. “Acre feet” means one foot of water on top of one acre of land. This 2016 Caloosahatchee 2,950,926 acre feet of water would just about cover, by one foot, Lee County, Collier County, and Hendry County – counting land and water within boundaries – as the acreage of these three counties adds up to 3, 012,450 acres.

Lee, orange; Collier, blue; and Hendry, green equals 3,012,450 acres of land so 2,950,926 acre feet of water would just about cover this area.
TT3

Again, this visual is meant to give perspective on the tremendous amount of land this amount of water would cover. Often when we hear “acre feet” we don’t put “two and two” together. Once one realizes the number of acres of land  that would be covered, it is astounding!

~But then, of course! These waters used to flow naturally as sheet-flow from the Shingle Creek area up in Orange County all the way south to Florida  Bay.

Continuing on, we see that in second place,  although the St Lucie’s second worst year was 2013, for the Caloosahathcee it was 2017, and then 2013. The fourth worst, for both estuaries was 2018.

Please compare the charts below of both rivers to see other differences from 2010-2019. Interesting… In the future, perhaps we can ask why 2018, in fourth place, was by far the most horrific year for the Caloosahtchee. Certainly it has to do with that sediment, nitrogen and phosphorus feeding cyanobacteria. As we know, in 2018, Lake Okeechobee was 90% covered in a cyanobacteria (blue-green algae) bloom…

*Please note that the charts look similar below; look closely to see that the first is for the CALOOSAHACHEE and the second is for the ST LUCIE. Thank you Todd for these awesome visuals!

CALOOSAHATCHEE 2010-2019 basin and Lake O
ST LUCIE 2010-2019 basin and Lake O

Go to http://eyeonlakeo.com, Todd’s website for more ways to easily access and compare Calooshatchee, St Lucie and other information.

Former blog post: Destruction by the Numbers post that inspired this post: https://jacquithurlowlippisch.com

7 thoughts on “Comparing Discharges: Caloosahatchee to the St Lucie 2010-2019

  1. Thank you Jacqui Thurlow Lippisch for preparing a comparable chart for S-79!!! We are VERY fortunate to have you on the SFWMD Governing Board!

    2016 was a horrible year for your East Coast and a bad year here on the West Coast. However, 2018 was an absolutely horrible year for the West Coast yet our discharges were far less than in 2016. The finger has pointed to Hurricane Irma stirring up the bottom muck in Lake O. that contains the legacy nutrients from decades of EAA back pumping.

    Blake Faulkner has been very vocal on Facebook for the need to remove the legacy nutrients in the bottom muck of Lake O. The SFWMD needs to develop a plan to remove the bottom muck from Lake O. While Deep Well Injection (DWIs) remain very controversial, Blake Faulkner has convinced me that they may be the best means to remove the bottom muck from Lake O. to avoid another 2018.

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  2. Thank you for this comparison. Very helpful. Have you thought about looking visually at the data cumulatively starting at a base year of say, 2010? Giving one data line rather than 10? Seems that 2016 might have been the tipping year and set stage for what happened in 2017 and 2018 in both rivers. Could mark on the graphs the starting and ending dates of various outbreaks.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Dear Jacqui,As always, we appreciate your diligence, vigilance, and attention to factual information. I have forwarded these highly effective charts to my Estero Bay Zone team of John Cassani’s Calusa Waterkeeper. You continue to inspire. Keep fighting and congratulations on your new role with the SFWMD!Best,Louise KowitchBonita Springs

    Liked by 1 person

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