In spite of Florida’s significant development, the health of estuarine seagrass is something we expect and treasure. Being the home of baby fish and wildlife, estuaries are often called the “cradle of the ocean.”
According the the USDA, “estuaries are among the most productive natural systems on earth.” Their value? Perhaps priceless. And we are losing money fast.
Today I wanted to share information presented at a Rivers Coalition meeting now posted for the St Lucie/Indian River Lagoon estuary; I will touch on four other sister estuaries as well: Caloosahathcee; Lake Worth Lagoon; Biscayne Bay; and Florida Bay. Being familiar with each, can help us advocate for the value of the greater whole.
I. St Lucie/Indian River Lagoon
Last week, my brother Todd Thurlow, shared satellite and GIS images that show a story of seagrass loss in the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon estuary in an area known to locals as Sailfish Flats. I have taken screen shot images of Todd’s website below. The first image was taken in 2007 and the second on 2-24-2021. In spite of yearly variations due to season, temperature, and other natural changes, I think it is clear that seagrass has declined. The real killer is that the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon had once attained the greatest species diversity of any estuary in North America, (Lodge, The Everglades Handbook, 4th Edition, page 175).
Right now, it appears that seagrasses have disappeared in the Sailfish Flats region. The reason? Certainly there are many including the damaging discharges from Lake Okeechobee, and canals C-44, C-23 and C-24. ~Hurricanes? Climate Change? Sea level rise? Fertilizers from local runoff? Destruction of native trees and vegetation? Earlier dredge and Fill? Septic Tanks? Dredging? Beach Renourishment? But some of these things have gone on for decades, so why now such a difference? Please share your ideas and experiences.
To see all images throughout many years visit Todd’s website eyeonlakeo.
-Seagrass loss a visual survey, Sailfish Flats, SLR/IRL, 2007 compared to 2021
I am no expert in the Caloosahatchee, but it is commonly known that if it gets too saline in the upper estuary, the underwater grasses there can die. I am sharing the most recent Sanibel Captive Conservation Foundation “Caloosahatchee Conditions Report” as it shows the organization recommending 2000 cfs from the ACOE (Lake Okeechobee) but will be recommending less or none in the future.
III. Lake Worth Lagoon
Lake Worth Lagoon, once a huge freshwater lake, is now open to the sea. LWL has many issues, but sediment covering seagrasses -especially from the C-51 canal- is a big one. You can learn more at the Palm Beach County’s Environmental Resource Management website.
IV. Biscayne Bay
The South Florida Water Management had an outstanding workshop on Biscayne Bay last December. Seagrass loss was a big topic and they had just had a fish kill. You can learn more here.
V. Florida Bay
Florida Bay has endured significant seagrass loss, especially, most recently in 2015. This year due to 2020 rains, the Bay is having a very good year as recently reported by the SFMWD. (See page 24). Audubon’s Everglades Science Center is a good website to learn about issues of seagrass loss and others facing Florida Bay.
“Seagrasses? What seagrasses?” It must be “Seagrasses! What Seagrasses!”
On August 3rd, I posted the above aerial noting the return of visible recovering seagrasses since the ACOE stopped discharging from Lake Okeechobee.
One of my readers wrote: “Most is not true seagrass, some algae’s, discolored sand. A little shoal grass here and there. It’s gonna take a few years of no discharges.”
And this is true. Seagrass is growing back, but right alongside, or even on the algae itself, is something else. A type of dark green, slimy-algae covering the grasses. I don’t remember it like this before…
We are living in a time of over-nitrification. Too much Phosphorus and Nitrogen drains off the land into the estuary feeding algae of all kinds as they compete for dominance.
And we decide who wins:
~A great video shared by my brother Todd covering the story of all types of algae and cyanobacteria.
I have seen the microalgae growing back on our seagrasses in the SLR/IRL, and it has been here for years; it is just getting more dominant. I have not photographed as doing so requires a protected camera. Thus I am sharing these photos that in some ways resemble our beds.
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.
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…
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.
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.
I was on the Army Corp of Engineers Periodic Scientist Call this past Tuesday. These are excellent calls and one learns quickly the difficulties and the burdens of water management for our state and federal agencies in the state of Florida. I have participated in the calls as an elected official for the Town of Sewall’s Point since 2012.
This past Tuesday, something was said that struck me. Mark Perry, of Florida Oceanographic, reported something to the effect that over 600 acres of seagrasses inside the St Lucie Inlet are now “sand bottom.” Six hundred acres….
I went home and asked my husband that night at dinner…”Ed could it really be six-hundred acres? The seagrasses dead?”
“Easy.” He replied. “Just think of when I lived at the house at 22 South Sewall’s Point road when we first got married in 2005, and we’d walk out with the kayaks and there was lush seagrass all the way out ….well that’s gone–its gone all around the peninsula–you can see this from the air.”
Ed took some aerial photos the day after this conversation. Yesterday. I am including them today.
—-So it’s true, 600 acres of seagrasses are dead in one of the most bio-diverse estuaries in North America, the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon or southern IRL —for many years, as many of us know, confidently cited as not “one of,” but rather, “the most diverse…”
The Army Corp has been releasing from Lake Okeechobee this year since January 29th, 2016. We are only in June and there is more to come. Yes there is…there is “more to come” from us. There has to be. Because we are losing or have lost —everything.
Please compare the 1977 photo and then the 2012 map to photos taken yesterday. Please don’t give up the fight to bring back life to this estuary.
Seagrass….it has had a rough few years in the Indian River Lagoon-south,central, and north. Seagrass is a flowering plant, and just like plants that grow on land, it “comes and grows” with the seasons. We are just going now into spring…maybe it hasn’t flowered yet? Maybe it really grows in summer? Anyway…
My husband, Ed, brought home these photos yesterday of the area between Sewall’s Point and Sailfish Point. The area looks pretty naked to me. Ed will fly over again and we will watch whether the seagrass comes back or not. At least these are good baseline photos for 2016.
We all know the seagrasses have been terribly compromised throughout the years of due to agriculture and developments’ rampage in Florida, and Mother Nature’s too. For instance, 2004 and 2005’s hurricanes, 1998 and this year’s El Nino…Tough times were especially visible in 2013 with the toxic Lake O “Lost Summer,” and again this year in 2016—-with the constant releases from Lake Okeechobee since January. But even with these tough conditions the seagrass usually comes back, although weaker than before.
At the end of the blog I linked a post from August 2015, where you can see the seagrasses here in 2015 that looked dark and full of algae but were visible.
Just in case you don’t know, the location between Sewall’s Point and Sailfish Point is considered the cradle of the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon. For years it has been labeled the “heart of the most biodiverse estuary in North America,” with more fish species that any other, over 800 (Grant Gilmore, formerly of Harbor Branch).
What a crime to allow this fishery to go into to such demise. A nursery that affects all of Florida’s east coast. An engine for our economy and quality of life for all species.
To conclude, the photos Ed took below are in two groups: taking off from Witham Airport in Stuart (1-11) and then from Jupiter Island over the waters of Sewall’s and Sailfish Point (12-26). Parts of these waters are known as the Sailfish Flats. You will notice the waters of Lake O slowly exiting the St Lucie Inlet.
As we all know, until last week, it has been raining a lot! Almost daily it seems the grey clouds gather and beat their chests threateningly; most often making good on their promise. This past week was the first time in a long time, my husband, Ed, could get up in the Cub and photograph the river. I will share these photos today.
Following are two sets of photos; the first Ed took on Thursday, August 20, 2015, and the second set were taken by Ed and friend Scott Kuhns, Sunday, August 23, 2015.
The point of the blog is to share the photos, and celebrate our 2015 “clearer waters” near the Indian River Lagoon’s southern inlets, but also to feature the weaker-looking “rain-event, fresh-water plumes.” You may recall the wretched, horrific looking plumes of the Lost Summer of 2013 during the discharges from Lake Okeechobee and area canals? Here is a photo to remind you taken in September 2013:
2015’s summer rain induced plumes do not include Lake Okeechobee releases, or the other conditions of 2013; this summer’s plumes are not as severe looking as 2013’s as you will see. Thus we have “clear water,” even when there is a lot of rain.
Last, I ask you to note the photos of the seagrasses around the Sailfish Flats area between Sewall’s Point and Sailfish Point. I am no scientist, but I think they look awful. Recently, I was told having some algae on the seagrasses is good in that when they are exposed during low tide they are protected from the burning sun. That is nice to know. Nevertheless, they look weird. Like there is too much algae; they do not look healthy. They appear grey and sickly. It is obvious they are not recovered yet from 2013 and before.
I do not have a “before aerial.” but this photo from the St Johns River Water Management District show up close what healthy seagrasses look like and I do not think ours look anything like this right now.
So here are the photos, enjoy the clearer water thus far this summer, and please stay on the Water Districts and politicians noting that clear water doesn’t mean healthy seagrasses. We have a long way to go!
THESE LAST PHOTOS ARE OF FT PIERCE INLET. FT PIERCE INLET GETS WATER FROM C-25 WHICH DOES NOT DISCHARGE INTO THE ST LUCIE BUT DIRECTLY INTO THE IRL JUST OUTSIDE OF THE FT PIERCE INLET AT TAYLOR CREEK. C-25 IS NOT SHOWN ON THE CHART AT THE BEGINNING OF THIS POST FOR THE ST LUCIE RIVER. C-25 CAN ALSO RELEASE WATER FROM THE C-23 AND C-24 CANALS IF THE SFWMD DIRECTS SUCH. SEE CANAL MAP BELOW.
Thank you to my husband Ed Lippisch, friend Scott Kuhns for these photos. Also thank you the ACOE and SFWMD for sharing their chart information.
Seagrass, the basis of life for the Indian River Lagoon… how much was there in the past and how does it compare with today?
This is not always an easy question to answer. I have asked the South Florida Water Management District for their records and basically their records show seagrass was declining in the 1970s and then there was more than ever in the 1990s, and then there was the crash in the northern and central lagoon in 2009-2013, but here in Martin County? They say the seagrass comes and goes based on how heavy the releases from Lake Okeechobee and canals C-23, C-24 and C-25.
Mark Perry of Florida Oceanographic stated last year in 2013 that about 80% of the seagrass was lost in key areas. The SFWMD seems to always report it is coming back and improving but this is difficult for me to always believe because when Ed and I fly over it, it looks so disgusting if it is low tide and you can see it, full of algae and blackish in color.
Anyway, today I thought I would share two of my mother’s historic photos for reference.
First, I must state that according to Jensen and Eden on Florida’s Indian River, by Sandra Thurlow, there were freshwater grasses in the lagoon even into the early 1900s. Her archives include an old ad from 1914 that reads: RIVER GRASS WILL NOT DISCOLOR THIS PAINT. Apparently before the St Lucie Inlet was opened by hand in 1892, the river was mostly fresh as at that time the natural inlet had closed. Over the centuries it opened and closed depending on the moods of Mother Nature.
When it was closed for any length of time, fresh water grasses filled the river; apparently there was a lot of iodine in the grass so if it were exposed in the hot summer months it would turn a “white house black.”
Well over the years this fresh water grass died off and was replaced with brackish marine grasses that formed a home for many fish and much wildlife, the IRL became “the most bio diverse estuary in North America.” Today with all the sea grass loss and pollution it is not holding onto that honor.
This UF link has a lot of great information of seagrasses in our area (http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/in189) and it is important to know because if we have healthy seagrasses we will have a healthy river.
Seagrass is really the lifeblood of the Indian River Lagoon. For the most part it no longer exist in the St Lucie River. Seagrass is the where fish are born, hide and eat before they get big enough to move into the oceans or open waters of the lagoon.
Holistically the lagoon is in big trouble. In 2010 and 2011 a super bloom of algae never seen in the lagoon before started in the northern area in Volusia County and Brevard counties. By the time it ran its course 87% of the sea grasses in the Banana River had disappeared.
In 2012 further south into Indian River County and parts of northern St Lucie, a secondary bloom, a brown tide, had moved south killing approximately 44% of the sea grasses in these areas.
Overlay of 1883 USCGS Map over Google Earth, Todd Thurlow.
Today’s post is super cool. My brother, Todd Thurlow, Time Capsule Flights, made a fly over of Lake Worth over the Haulover and Sawgrass Route to Jupiter Inlet using 1883 USCGS maps. His inspiration? Marty Baum’s recent comment on “The Gale of 1878, Ten Mile Creek.”
An excerpt from Marty’s retelling of his great-great grandfather, Hannibal D. Pierce, referred to as “Father” below, reads:
“…A few days after the storm Father reached home in a skiff borrowed from Mr. Rogers, the lone settler at the haulover. The last hurricane having raised the water in the sawgrass to an extreme height and good northeast wind blowing, Father decided to try the sawgrass route from Jupiter to the lake. He found the swamp like a great open lake, and had no difficulty in its navigation in the Creole; he landed at the haulover only a few hours after leaving Jupiter. Here he had to leave the Creole until help could be found to haul her over the three hundred yards of hill and dale to the lake. Borrowing the skiff of Mr. Rogers, he rowed it to his home a distance of twenty miles…”
What Todd’s video allows us to see is that, indeed, in the old days, after a gale, one could sail from Jupiter to Lake Worth, east and west of today’s U.S. 1, south through a sawgrass river! The sawgrass river today? High rise building, shopping malls, and gated communities….
I find this absolutely amazing, and a bit strange. 🙂
Please enjoy the video below!
Marty’s comment and the post the “Gale of 1878, Ten Mile Creek” is reposted for reference.
This time capsule flight shows the 1883 USCGS Maps from the south end of Lake Worth over the following areas:
0:44 The homestead of Hannibal Dillingham Pierce (father of barefoot mailman Charlie Pierce)
0:46 Hypoluxo Island
2:07 The old Lake Worth Inlet (note the 3D image of the Palm Beach Marriott Singer Island Beach Resort on that spot!)
3:08 The Haulover between the north end of Lake Worth and the Sawgrass Route
4:55 Jupiter Lighthouse
5:18 The old Jupiter Inlet (about 1/3 mile or 630 yards south of the current inlet)
I am a serious student of this, and the next storm that year. Hannibal D. Pierce, my GG Grandfather back at the homestead on Hypoluxo Island having served a couple years as Keeper at Orange Grove HOR. had recovered a longboat from the Providentia wreck Feb 1878. He sloop rigged it and took it on its maiden voyage to Titusville. Charles W. Pierce; On Wings of the Wind, unpublished manuscript.
Cheap enough some would say, but there were some settlers who could not afford to spend any money buying nuts to plant; they needed what money they had to buy food and clothes. These people did not plant any coconuts from the wreck of the Providencia. But Hammon and Lainheart opened their hearts to Father after he bought 200 nuts for himself, 200 for Cecil Upton, and seven hundred for Captain Armour; they gave him the Providencia’s longboat. This boat was a heavy built round bottom boat, twenty feet long and six wide. …
When Father got the Providencia’s longboat home, (Hypoluxo Island, today, under the Manalapan Club) he hauled it out at his east landing and planned to make her into a sloop. Uncle Will and Mr. [Ruben] Pease, who were good carpenters, helped with the work of putting in a centerboard and half decking her forward and along the sides. When rigged with a jib and a leg-o-mutton mainsail she made a pretty good sa
It was the first week of September that Father announced his intention of making a trip to Titusville in his new boat, the Creole, for much needed supplies. … When Father had been gone about two weeks there came a hurricane. It was not a very bad one, but it lasted five days. A few days after the storm, the seas were calm and we looked for Father to return. But he did not show up and the weather became stormy again and there was no news from up river in all that time. No one came to the lake so there was no news of storm damage from up Indian River, nor any news from Father, and the family on Hypoluxo Island was worried and anxious.
We kept on worrying and wondering as week after week went by and no word from Father or the Creole. I spent a good part of each day, when not hunting or fishing, in the top of an old rubber tree that stood on the west shore of the island south of the landing, with the old long spyglass resting over a limb I scanned closely the lake to the northward. While the magnifying power of the old telescope brought distant islands and shorelines into plain view, it did not show that which I most longed to see – Father’s boat coming home.
One day as I climbed to my customary perch in the tree I was overjoyed to see a sail far up the lake. But a minute’s scrutiny with the spyglass caused my sudden joy to vanish; it was not Father’s boat, but a much smaller craft. It was a very small boat that had come from up river by way of the sawgrass route; they brought a letter from Father, who was at Jupiter waiting for a smooth sea to make the outside run to the lake. We were certainly pleased to hear that he was safe and well and so near home. But days and days went by and the wind continued to blow hard from off the ocean and then there came another hurricane, which lasted only a day and one night, but was most severe; the worst we had experienced since 1876. The wind was from the east-northeast on the first day and most of the following night, and how it did blow and rain. The rain was the most tremendous any of the settlers had ever seen before or since. The rain drove in through the sides of the house until the entire inside was afloat; boards had to be laid on the floor so Mother could attend to her work without wading. About two o’clock in the morning the wind shifted to the southeast and about an hour later began to slacken just a little. Up to this time it had been impossible for us to sleep on account of the roar of wind and rain and of the possibility the house might be blown down. When the wind shifted there was some protection afforded by a hammock to the southeast of the house, and knowing by the change of the wind that the hardest had passed, we “turned in,” as the sailors call going to bed.
In the morning a scene of desolation met our gaze when we went to the door and looked out. Coconut trees blown down or their leaves whipped to threads, leaves and limbs scattered all over, bananas all flat on the ground, and not a whole tree or plant anywhere; and the lake – it was near five feet higher than before the storm. The whole back country was flooded by the September blow and now this had caused it to rise beyond all bounds. It flowed over the low spot in the spruce ridge to the north of Bradley’s through the pine woods into Lake Worth. And up across from the inlet it flowed into the lake from the back swamp in such a volume it created a large deep creek.
A few days after the storm Father reached home in a skiff borrowed from Mr. Rogers, the lone settler at the haulover. The last hurricane having raised the water in the sawgrass to an extreme height and good northeast wind blowing, Father decided to try the sawgrass route from Jupiter to the lake. He found the swamp like a great open lake, and had no difficulty in its navigation in the Creole; he landed at the haulover only a few hours after leaving Jupiter. Here he had to leave the Creole until help could be found to haul her over the three hundred yards of hill and dale to the lake. Borrowing the skiff of Mr. Rogers, he rowed it to his home a distance of twenty miles.
It was a week or so later that the tram road was built at the haulover, and the Creole was the first freight hauled by the new road from the swamp to the lake, and when she again rode anchor near her home dock, eight weeks had elapsed since her departure for Titusville.”
I tell this story in the first person AS my Grandfather. The trip took nearly months to complete. As an aside, Emily Lagow (she MET Jim Bell who she later married on this trip) was but a day behind my Grandfather in Captain Abbotts trade boaton its first trip down the lagoon boat and rode the hurricane out anchored near Gilbert’s Bar HOR. Gramps was at Jupiter Light. Em Lagow even stopped and visited the Faber Brothers at Rockledge where my Gramps had weathered the 5 day storm while suffering the flu. Here is Em Lagow Bell’s account; From My Pioneer Days the above booklet Sandy shared with Jacqui;
“We went on to the House of Refuge at Peck’s Lake, on the way to Jupiter. “We got the sails all down, for the clouds were black, and about four in the afternoon it began to rain and blow so that the spray came over on the boat, but we were in a good harbor and it was fierce all night, and lasted 24 hours. We were all right. That was my first experience of gales in Florida. I was so scared I couldn’t lie down or sleep till it was over.
We started for Jupiter and arrived at noon, so glad to get ashore to walk around. ”
My Gramps had left that morning up Lake Worth Creek to Mr. Rogers mentioned above. Jacquie, I transcribed this document years ago and not only have the story, but I indexed it also. Yours for the asking. Cheers!
I imagine if there is a dream of the roseate spoonbill, it would be for more water to be on the land…The recent heavy rains and local flooding have been a smorgasbord and reminder of better days for our local shore bird communities.
Last week, while driving by the county jail on Willoughby Boulevard , I witnessed a variety of shore birds in the flooded grasses behind the barbed-wire fence: great egrets, white egrets, blue herons, little blue herons, wood storks, a menagerie of ducks, and four beautiful pink roseate spoonbills! I got out of my car and peered through the fence….Amazing I thought…”was this area too once wetlands?”
In Sewall’s Point, a group of as many a ten were reported foraging both along North and South Sewall’s Point Roads. What a sight! People stopping in their cars to see…taking pictures and posting on Facebook.
In the past few years, it has been reported by Martin County and Audubon that the spoonbills are nesting on Bird Island just off the Archipelago in Sewall’s Point. This was never reported before. Nancy Beaver of Sunshine Wildlife Tours documents their progress…
We humans complain when there is flooding; the shore birds love it, as this was their habitat before we drained the lands for agriculture and development. “Couldn’t there be a way to have both?”
This I think would be the dream of the roseate spoonbill…
I didn’t pick up Sunday’s Stuart News until Monday, as I had been out of town. Sipping my coffee and holding the old fashioned paper, I love so much, my lips curled in a broad smile. The opinion page juxtaposed articles by two candidates running for Florida governor: Nan Rich and Rick Scott.
These letters were not just broad sweeping letters; they were thoughtful and personal, they mentioned the River Warriors and direct stories of inspiration from local residents. Don’t get me wrong, I know it is an election year, but nonetheless, it is simply amazing. In one year, since the discharges from Lake Okeechobee and our local canals turned our world upside down, and news of such “went viral,” the people have accomplished the most impressive of our forefathers’ American expectations. Expectations that years of social conformity and acceptance of over-development and pollution had overridden. The people of the Indian River Lagoon have stood up to their government.
The rebellion of the southern lagoon corresponded to the northern lagoon’s massive deaths of manatees, dolphins, pelicans and loss of almost 100% of its seagrasses. These die-offs and toxic algae blooms in the north, actually began happening in 2011 but did not come out publicly until the uprising in the southern lagoon blended the two tragedies.
I know for many of my friends the politics of the River Movement is hypocritical, frustrating and painful. I feel the same way. In fact lately I have been a bit depressed over the whole thing. But I am getting out of it. Boy is it a pleasure to see that paper, to be in the drivers seat, to have “them” writing letters, visiting, and actually thinking that there is no longer a “golden ticket” to pollute. I have been in Martin County many years, and on “this level,” “this” has never happened before.
Finally, even Senator Rubio is getting heat in the press; long standing Senator Nelson is happy he’s been around, but also nervous he is part of the lagoon “establishment;” Charlie Crist is taking out his old notes about US Sugar; Senator Negron is promising more for the lagoon in 2015; Congressman Murphy is regrouping and studying the Farm Bill after the ACOE refused CEPP on his watch; and the future speakers of the Florida house and senate are making their cases for the future of “water.”
Many times the lagoon has been defiled by our government, in fact 2013 was not the worst its ever been. But I am telling you, this time it is different because of “us.” This time we have exposed them. This time we are asking truly for government to do what it is supposed to: “protect the health; safety and welfare” of its people. This time we are united in a brotherhood and sisterhood of diverse backgrounds and interests. This time we have reached a tipping point, as has the lagoon.
And most important for change, this time, “they” are watching and listening to us.
Please take advantage of this opportunity. Don’t turn your back because the politics are so repulsive to watch. Look to the sky—look to the river ——write a letter or make a call and say : ‘thank you; we are happy you are taking an interest in the lagoon; I will be weighing who to vote for based on who really has the desire, passion and an honest heart.”
These politicians may never be able to reach perfection, their world is pretty insane, but be grateful they are paying attention, and know you are a force for change in a way never before. Drive your points home!
My husband Ed’s aerials of the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon show a positive picture of area waters that in 2013, 2016, and 2018 were black and green with the repeated bruises of Lake Okeechobee’s toxic algae blooms. This is not the case last year in 2019, and so far in 2020. We must celebrate these wonderful times for our waters by enjoying them. Healthy breezes float by, fish are jumping, and a blue lavender sky beckons you…
Most important, sea grasses are recovering. ~Although dormant in winter like the plants in our yards, they bloom forth now; “spring has sprung!” Signs of life are everywhere from pink and orange, protected baby queen conch at the Sandbar, to 9 armed starfish walking about, and even the recent rare sighting of critically endangered Right Whales, ~a mother with her calf swam slowly across St Lucie Inlet. Thank God the water was clean!
We are thankful for these times of bluer and clearer water and we will never give up the fight! Enjoy the the flight and if you can, go visit our beautiful river.
~STARTING OUT AT C44STA/RESERVOIR, WESTERN MARTIN COUNTY, this project cleans water from the C-44 Canal before it enters the SLR
~FLYING EAST OVER THE TOWN OF SEWALL’S POINT and HUTCHINSON ISLAND provides a familiar view of the confluence of the St Luice River and Indian River Lagoon where the water bodies converge to exit at the St Lucie Inlet. Although the upper St Lucie is always ailing from years of damage, the lower St Lucie and Indian River Lagoon is very flushed by the sea. Seagrasses in the area of the Sandbar and Sailfish Flats have been dormant during winter months and are blooming out now-just like plants and flowers in our yards. It will be important to compare these photos to summer to see true recovery.
~FLYING SOUTH ALONG ST LUCIE INLET STATE PARK, JUPITER ISLAND and then swinging north we see Hutchinson Island’s Bathtub Beach, being restored AGAIN, the 1876 House of Refuge where the mother Right Whale and calf were just a couple of weeks ago, and the nearshore reefs VISIBLE and not under black green toxic water.
One thing is for sure, the South Florida Water Management District puts out a lot of information. One publication I am slowly acquiring the patience to read in the weekly “Environmental Conditions Report.” The District has been great about sharing this important information on Twitter and Facebook, but it is still difficult to find on the website.
Today I am going to share how I read this report hoping that you will start to read it too. You’ll notice that right off the bat there is a disclaimer: “Information contained in the report addresses environmental conditions only and is not the official South Florida Water Management District operations recommendation or decision.”
Disclaimer or not, this document is very important because it is given from the perspective of the entire environment of the Everglades System and of the wildlife if they could talk. The report is 30 pages long and scientific; how can we make it easier for the layperson to read?
For me, as I begin, I ask myself, “What is this week’s problem?” “What should I know first?” To get myself engaged, I have started reading at the bottom of the document first. I go directly the last page where it says “…Recommendations.” Then I read it all.
The first sentence under the February 13, 2020 Water Management Recommendations reads: “Current stages in WCA-3A are low for this time of year and salinities are high in Florida Bay.” Hmmm. I know high salinities are not good for Florida Bay because it can cause a massive sea grass die off, and what is this about WCA-3A? What is a WCA?
So now with these “problems” in mind and of course thinking about the importance of my own St Lucie River. (I am so thankful we have not had toxic algae discharges from Lake Okeechobee this year!) I read it all because I want to know about the environment for the entire Everglades as I’m sure you do as well!
Next Tuesday’s Stuart meeting and others of the ACOE, for input on updating the Lake Okeechobee Operations Schedule, are quickly approaching; if you cannot attend in person, please write. Today I share the letter of Geoffrey Norris PhD, FRSC, who my blog readers are familiar with as he has been a guest writer many times. His is an excellent letter, and can give you ideas of how to compose your own, if you cannot attend in person.
Stuart Tuesday, February 19, 2019, 1 p.m. – 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. – 8 p.m.
Indian River State College
The Clare and Gladys Wolf High-Technology Center
2400 SE Salerno Road, Stuart, FL 34997
Thank you everyone for being part of the River Movement that is changing state politics and policy so we can leave something better to the children of today, and in the future.
Re: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Jacksonville District’s meetings for input on the development of a new Lake Okeechobee System Operating Manual (LOSOM) (https://www.saj.usace.army.mil/LOSOM/)
SCIENCE AND STRATEGY FOR MITIGATING CYANOBACTERIAL AND ALGAL BLOOMS IN FLORIDA WATERS
My name is Geoffrey Norris, and I am a resident and property owner in Martin County, Florida. I have recently provided the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers with written input to your scoping meetings in the way of anecdotal evidence suggesting that the ACE-mediated water releases are having a devastating impact on the ecosystems of the coastal areas in east Florida. This, in my judgement, is having a severe negative impact on the economy of Florida, which is largely built on and sustained by the natural aquatic ecosystems. I now wish to provide you with my scientific opinion on the cyanobacterial (blue-green) blooms and dinoflagellate blooms (red tides) that are associated with the destruction of ecosystems of the lacustrine, estuarine and coastal waters of much of Florida’s littoral zone.
In the following discussion, the acronym ACE refers to the United States Army Corps of Engineers.
But first let me outline my credentials: I have been actively involved as an earth scientist in the study of microscopic algae (dinoflagellates) and associated organic micro-organisms for about 50 years. My expertise is as a paleontologist, not as a biologist, but I am familiar with earth science and life science literature pertinent to fossil and living dinoflagellates and associated organisms. I have written many research papers on the subject, and am a co-author of a seminal book on the classification of living and fossil dinoflagellates, which continues to be widely referenced by research scientists. I am a Professor Emeritus at the University of Toronto where I directed a research laboratory devoted to organic-walled algal microfossils for more than three decades prior to retirement, and was Chair of Geology for a decade. I was a visiting scientist for several months at the Florida Marine Research Laboratory, St Petersburg (now incorporated in the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission) researching aspects of the life cycle of certain dinoflagellates. I have taught students about marine-estuarine ecosystems in field trips to Florida Bay, the Everglades, and the Keys. I am old enough to remember how Florida once was in the 1960s before habitat destruction had become so severe. More recently I have been involved in extensive applied paleontological research on the geology of the outer continental shelf and continental slope flanking the Gulf of Mexico, including documenting the evolutionary history and ecology of marine and brackish dinoflagellates over the last 60 million years in the Gulf and the adjacent southern states. I am a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, which is more or less equivalent to the U.S. National Academy of Sciences that recognizes the country’s leading research scientists for outstanding achievements.
Background to the problem
As you know, Lake Okeechobee has been converted over the decades from a once-dynamic lake system to a virtually static reservoir. In the early days, input to the Lake was provided upstream by a variety of rivers. Output occurred over the southern rim, discharging water seasonally into the uniquely very wide and very shallow “River of Grass” that traversed the Everglades, and eventually drained into Florida Bay. Over the years (1930-1960), in response to various circumstances, the southern rim was raised and strengthened and eventually became the Herbert Hoover dike. At that point, the lake ceased to exist functionally as a dynamic system, and might now be better called the Lake Okeechobee Reservoir. It is a semi-static system with no natural outflow, and now functions to trap nutrients and hold them indefinitely until the water managers make decisions regarding discharges. This is the nub of the problem – how to control and release water, in what quantities and in what directions, and how to remove the nutrient and microbial overload from the water. For many years the problem was simplistically stated as a flood control measure, but as the nutrient loading and consequent lake eutrophication became more apparent it also became clear that dumping excess water from Lake Okeechobee into outflow canals directed to the east and west coasts was creating a major problem, not solving one.
Cyanobacteria and the Army Corps of Engineers
During the latter two or three decades of the 20th century, phosphorus in the Lake Okeechobee Reservoir increased markedly. High phosphorus content tends to favor cyanobacteria such as the toxic Microcystis, and tends to exclude microscopic and generally benign algae which otherwise might be expected in a lake, for example: dinoflagellates, diatoms, green algae, and other planktic or benthic photosynthetic organisms. Major blooms of blue green toxic cyanobacteria became more frequent and intense in the early 21st century, and now are close to becoming a persistent annual feature in Lake Okeechobee and in the ACE water-dumping grounds. The seasonal release from the Lake by the Army Corps of Engineers of highly toxic water infected with cyanobacteria is simply not acceptable. This is not a solution – this is a travesty and a betrayal of trust by ACE for the American people it serves through their elected representatives in Congress.
The Mission of ACE is clear: “The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ mission is to provide vital public engineering services in peace and war to strengthen our Nation’s security, energize the economy, and reduce risks from disasters” (emphasis is mine).Unfortunately, you seem to be doing the exact opposite. How secure can the public feel when you poison our water? How can you claim to energize the economy when you are driving Florida’s principal industries into the ground? How can you claim to be reducing risks from disasters when you are pumping toxic effluent into our environment and endangering the lives of humans and animals alike with disastrous consequences for the ecosystem?
No, clearly you are on the wrong track, and you need to reevaluate how you handle the remediation of the Lake Okeechobee Reservoir. Here are some ideas that might be worth exploring as you re-formulate your strategy.
Get rid of the phosphorus from Lake Okeechobee Reservoir
High phosphorus loadings in bodies of water are not new, particularly since the advent of the green revolution in the 1970s. Fertilizer mixes are applied liberally to agricultural land on a global basis, and nutrient pollution of freshwater and marine water bodies is becoming commonplace. Getting rid of bio-available phosphorus (dephosphatisation) in the water and the bottom sediments of the Lake Okeechobee Reservoir would help to reduce the probability of toxic cyanobacterial blooms forming. One possibility is the use of lanthanum-modified bentonites, kaolinites, or zeolites to permanently remove the phosphate from the water. These dephosphatisation agents have been used elsewhere in the world to remediate lakes that have undergone eutrophication and massive cyanobacterial infection. Why not the Lake Okeechobee Reservoir?
Other alternatives to clay minerals used for dephosphatisation include such substances as fly ash. Fly ash is produced in abundance in the Everglades Agricultural Area when the sugar cane is burned off during harvesting– could these tens of millions of tons of vegetation accruing annually be converted to fly ash and captured and collected and used to lock up the phosphorus, rather than continue the present practice of discharging fly ash into the atmosphere and polluting the area for miles around all the way to the coast?
Get rid of the toxic microcystins from the Lake Okeechobee Reservoir
Just a few days ago, a paper was published showing that microcystins (toxins associated with cyanobacteria) from Lake Erie could be removed by using treated rice husks as a sorbent material, and then recycled or disposed of using sand (“Treated rice husks as a recyclable sorbent for the removal of microcystins from water, Dilrukshika et al, Science of the Total Environment, available online 5 February 2019, Elsevier.”) Perhaps there are other agricultural waste products that could be used for this purpose in addition to rice husks. Now is the time to come up with big bold ideas with the potential to address this huge issue. Sitting with your hands on the flood gate controls will solve nothing.
Army Corps of Engineers – stop killing our brackish estuaries with freshwater discharges
Even if nutrients and toxins can be removed from Okeechobee water, the Army Corps of Engineers must stop displacing brackish water that occurs naturally in our estuaries and lagoons with massive amounts of lacustrine freshwater. Freshwater is certain death to estuarine sea grasses, shell fish, bonefish, marine vertebrates and other estuarine fauna and flora. Sending massive amounts of freshwater to offshore marine areas is also not an option for similar reasons and must be stopped forthwith.
ACE should think big! Send the water south again, into the wetlands where it was once a vital component. ACE should think Marjorie Stoneman Douglas’s “River of Grass”! Reconstructed wetlands to bio-cleanse effluent are not new technology, having been used since the mid-20th century, and are now being aggressively installed to efficiently cleanse polluted water in areas such as Lake Erie which has huge nutrient pollution problems and attendant toxic cyanobacterial problems.
Stop using glyphosate/Roundup to kill cattails (Typha) in and around Lake Okeechobee Reservoir.
The Army Corps of Engineers has been killing cattails and other littoral zone plants in and around the Lake Okeechobee Reservoir with glyphosate (Roundup) since at least the year 2000, according to the ACE website. This efficient vegetation killer is known also to magnify the effects of phosphate release in sediments, hence favoring the growth of cyanobacteria. The cyanobacteria in turn are known to be potentially capable of becoming genetically resistant to glyphosate toxicity. Glyphosate is suspected of being harmful to human health, although its putative harmful effects are controversial. Recent court judgements, however, support its status as a carcinogen. For all these reasons, ACE must discontinue the use of glyphosate/Roundup in the Lake Okeechobee Reservoir, and must enforce the ban of back-pumping potentially toxic effluent from the sugar cane fields to the Lake Okeechobee Reservoir.
Red tides and the Army Corps of Engineers
The continued release by the Army Corps of Engineers of massive amounts of nutrient-rich water from the Lake Okeechobee Reservoir into the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico is contributing to the problem of red tides in marine coastal waters caused by blooms of the dinoflagellate, Karenia. Red tides have plagued Florida for a long time, but in recent years blooms of Karenia have changed from being an occasional seasonal nuisance, to a chronic, multi-seasonal, multi-year threat to human health. Nutrient pollution is one of several factors implicated in the rise to prominence of Karenia red tides. The Army Corps of Engineers has a continuing responsibility to preserve the marine ecosystems of Florida as well as reduce the risks to human health by discontinuing the discharge of nutrient-rich water from the Lake Okeechobee Reservoir to the marine coastal waters.
In conclusion, the Army Corps of Engineers is faced with a huge problem, but this should be looked upon as a huge opportunity for your organization to exert its leadership and provide the vital engineering services to the people who so desperately need them.
Thank you for reading my views on this really important issue. I cannot emphasize enough how important it will be when ACE makes the transition to a modern environmentally-conscious organization that truly provides vital public engineering services in peace and war to strengthen our Nation’s security, energize the economy, and reduce risks from disasters.
I sincerely wish your organization both good luck and adequate funding from Congress and elsewhere to carry out your mission effectively.
Geoffrey Norris PhD, FRSC
~2008 Lake Okeechobee Operating Schedule (LORS)
~2019: Lake Okeechobee System Operating Manual (LOSOM), a component of the Central & Southern Florida (C&SF) System Operating Plan
What should be normal, was a gift on Christmas Day, blue water in the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon. The peninsula of Sewall’s Point shone like the gem it is surrounded by aquamarine on both sides: the St Lucie River on its west, and the Indian River Lagoon on its east…
Feeling like the Bahamas, rather than the toxic-sludge we had to endure ~coming mostly from Lake Okeechobee this past summer, 2018, and yes, remember 2016, and 2013….the destruction must stop!
As 2019 edges into the picture, we will once again have to give everything we have to fight for clean water and encourage our state and federal government to support legislation “sending the water south.”
Seeing these beautiful blue waters once again is certainly encouraging. Now to keep the Army Corp and South Florida Water Management District at bay long enough, as projects proceed, and allow our precious seagrass beds to return so baby fish can once again hide, swim, and grow to maturity in these waters; once christened the “most bio-diverse in North America.”
Thank you to my dear husband, Ed, for these photos all taken 12-25-18. And from both of us, “Merry Christmas!”
Photo below as a comparison ___________________________________________________________________________
With the mid-term election behind us, it’s time to get to work, and along the Indian River Lagoon and St Lucie River that means it’s time to get reconnected to Nature during the cool season before the Algae Monster arrives again.
Last week, as the keynote speaker for the Florida Springs Restoration Summit in Ocala, I had an amazing back to nature experience. On a Silver River Guided Paddle Adventure with Dr Robert Knight leading the way, five manatees swam underneath my kayak!
They looked so beautiful, so graceful, so confident, and so powerful!
I could see them perfectly through the clear water of Silver Springs. During the summit, I learned that only recently the spring’s water magnitude had increased to historic levels ~after aquifer recharge of a very rainy 2017, thanks to Hurricane Irma.
Florida springs suffer from lack of water because the Water Management Districts, at the direction of their leaders, over-permit water extraction for more agriculture and development. Also, nutrient pollution haunts the spring-shed due to nitrate leaching of old septic tanks. When flow is low and nitrate high, benthic algae grows on the once white sand bottom of the springs. Almost all Florida springs deal with this issue.
But on this recent day, the day of my tour, Silver Springs was glistening, and its bottom bursting with eel grass. The manatees munched at their leisure, mothers and calves reflecting a bluish hue underneath the clear, streaming water.
As the manatees swam under my little boat, I felt a joy unknown since childhood. “An ancient herd of elephants just swam under my kayak!” I thought, laughing out loud.
And in this moment of pure inspiration, I recalled an image from home of a starving manatee struggling to eat weeds and grasses along the Intercostal. Of course after years of harsh discharges from Lake Okeechobee and area canals, the sea grass forests are dead.
I brought my mind back to this present gift before me. And told the Silver manatees I would return home inspired to fight for all, and that were were indeed, one Florida water family.
These aerial photos over the St Lucie Inlet were taken by my husband, Ed Lippisch, Sunday, October 29, 2017, at 1:45pm.
The number one issue here is the polluted waters of Lake Okeechobee being forced into the SLR/IRL because they are blocked by the Everglades Agricultural Area from going south.
The ACOE has been discharging Lake O waters into the St Lucie since mid-September. These over-nutrified and sediment filled waters continue to destroy our economy and ecology on top of all the channelized agricultural and development waters of C-23, C-24 and C-25. Stormwater from our yards and streets also adds to this filthy cocktail.
Near shore reefs, sea grasses, oysters, fish? A human being? Better not have a cut on your hand…Not even a crab has an easy time living in this.
We move forward pushing the SFWMD and ACOE for the EAA Reservoir with these sad photos and the fact that our waters are putrid at the most beautiful time of year as motivation. We will prevail. One foot in front of the other.
President Negron’s recent press release about his visit to Washington DC to discuss Lake Okeechobee discharges is below as addressed to the Florida Senate. It pleases me to see that his words are in keeping with his first op-ed on the issue published in TCPalm on October 17, 2012. Some people don’t realize how long Senator Negron has been working on this.
In 2012 Senator Negron wrote:
“While the Corps claims that public safely is its top priority, it ignores calamitous results actually inflicted on the St Lucie Estuary. Its erroneous logic goes something like this: in order to avoid possible harm, we will inflict certain harm. The Army Corps is killing our oyster beds and sea grasses, while turning the St Lucie River into a grotesque brown cesspool unfit for swimming or fishing…”
President Office — Press Release
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 2, 2017
CONTACT: Katie Betta, (850) 487-5229
MEMORANDUM: UPDATE REGARDING LAKE OKEECHOBEE DISCHARGES
TO: All Senators
On Monday and Tuesday of this week, I had the opportunity to meet in Washington with Senator Rubio, Senator Nelson, Members of Congress, senior budget staff, and high-level representatives of the Army Corps of Engineers to discuss the best way to reduce and ultimately eliminate the devastating discharges from Lake Okeechobee. After completing these meetings and reviewing related documents, here are five things I know:
1. If Florida advances funds to complete the rehabilitation of the Herbert Hoover Dike around Lake Okeechobee, the federal government will not repay the money to Florida. We will have simply spent hundreds of millions of dollars of General Revenue funds on what is unquestionably a federal responsibility.
2. As I have consistently advocated from day one, Florida’s best scientists should determine the Lake Okeechobee Release Schedule (LORS) and not the Army Corps of Engineers. Achieving this goal would take an act of Congress, a highly unlikely outcome.
3. Once the Herbert Hoover Dike rehabilitation is complete in 2024, the Army Corps of Engineers is not committed to storing one more gallon of water in Lake Okeechobee. The LORS must go through a multi-year review process, with the Corps predicting only negligible modifications to the release schedule. The Corps wants to avoid expected negative impacts it believes would result if the Lake is managed at higher levels than the present.
4. Under both the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP) and the Central Everglades Planning Project (CEPP), redirecting damaging Lake Okeechobee discharges southward to improve the flow, timing, and distribution of water through the Everglades has already been authorized. The issue is not if we will have additional southern storage, it is when and where.
5. If the Florida Legislature approves and funds additional water storage south of Lake Okeechobee, the Army Corps of Engineers will reevaluate the order of priority in the 2016 Integrated Delivery Schedule (IDS). Florida is a partner in Everglades restoration and its decisions influence and impact federal participation in the 50-50 matching program. An example of this reality is the Corps’ recent initiation of the Lake Okeechobee Watershed one year earlier than planned after adverse discharge events.
I look forward to discussing this important issue further when we reconvene in Tallahassee next week.
Today I am sharing in full Dr Gary Goforth’s ( http://garygoforth.net/resume.htm) note and summary of Lake Okeechobee releases for 2016 compared to 2013 and the last big El Nino event (1997-1998) as presented to Martin County. Please click on slides for larger view and thank you Dr Goforth for helping us with the numbers.
From the desk of Dr Gary Goforth regarding slide presentation:
1. More than 113,000 acre feet (36.9 billion gallons) of Lake water (“blackwater”) has been dumped to the River/Estuary during the first 20 days of the 2016 Lake releases; this is equal to 27% of the entire 147-day 2013 event, and 11% of the 1998 event.
2. The 2016 average daily rate of Lake releases is slightly less than the average 1998 rate, and more than twice the 2013 rate.
3. A distinguishing feature of the 2016 event is exceptionally high rates of C-44 Basin runoff in combination with the high Lake releases.
4. The 2016 average daily C-44 Basin runoff rate is 4 times the runoff rate of 1998, and more than twice the 2013 rate.
5. The 2016 average daily rate of combined flows through S-80 is more than the 1998 rate, and more than twice the 2013 rate.
6. The 2016 maximum daily rate of combined flows through S-80 is less than the 1998 maximum flow, but more than the 2013 maximum flow.
7. The 2016 Lake releases have already contributed more than twice the annual TMDL for phosphorus and nitrogen.
2016 data are preliminary and subject to revision.
I was on the IRL yesterday and travelled from the St. Lucie Inlet to the Ft. Pierce inlet – I saw no pockets of clear water and visibility was only 6 inches – 18 inches. I can’t imagine the sea grasses are getting any sunlight; I certainly didn’t see any sea grasses from the surface.
Notes: 1. More than 113,000 acre feet (36.9 billion gallons) of Lake water (“blackwater”) has been dumped to the River/Estuary during the first 20 days of the 2016 Lake releases; this is equal to 27% of the entire 2013 releases, and 11% of the 1997-1998 event. 2. The 2016 average daily rate of Lake releases is slightly less than the average 1998 rate, and more than twice the 2013 rate. 3. The 2016 average daily C-44 Basin runoff rate is 4 times the runoff rate of 1998, and more than twice the 2013 rate. 4. The 2016 average daily rate of combined flows through S-80 is more than the 1998 rate, and more than twice the 2013 rate. 5. The 2016 maximum daily rate of combined flows through S-80 is less than the 1998 maximum flow, but more than the 2013 maximum flow. 6. The 2016 Lake releases have contributed more than twice the annual TMDL for phosphorus and nitrogen. 7. 2016 data are preliminary and subject to revision.
Anyway, today I will once again to try to boil-down some fancy government terms to help you understand what our state is doing to try to fix the “impaired waters of the state…” such as our St Lucie River and Indian River Lagoon. I will focus on a report about “what is impeding its progress.” This report will be discussed at the Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council on 6-19-15.
“Impediments to Implementation of the Indian River Lagoon Basin Management Action Plans” by the East Central Florida Regional Planning Council and the Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council was prepared with technical assistance from the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, 5-27-15.
For a full copy of this report please contact Mr Michael Busha at firstname.lastname@example.org
Here we go:
The Background section of the report notes:” …In the past century the IRL has been affected by many activities including the creation of inlets, dredging of navigational channels, impoundment of mangroves for mosquito control, shoreline development, and alteration of the watershed basins draining into the lagoon. Today water quality the single most important issue impacting the lagoon. The decline in water quality is attributed to an increase in nutrient input, sedimentation, turbidity, atmospheric deposition, nutrient releases from legacy muck deposits, and changes in salinity due to freshwater discharges. The issue is complex because the impact comes from a variety of sources, including non point sources of stromwater entering the lagoon through major canals systems as well as through smaller creeks, tributaries, and individual outfall structures.”
Here I must state something not noted in the report in case you don’t know: Not until a water body is declared as “impaired” does it get the help of the state creating a Basin Management Action Plan through the implementation of TMDLs—-or the determination of Total Maximum Daily Loads.
I wrote something in the past about this and likened a “total maximum daily load” to a “maximum daily allowance of cigarettes that one is allowed to smoke before one gets cancer…..a “total daily maximum daily load” of phosphorus and or nitrogen is what the government is talking about with the river. How much it can take before it gets sick/impaired.
Phosphorus and nitrogen come from different sources; I always note fertilizer as an example because it is written right there on the bag, and fertilizer from farming and people’s yards is a huge source of the LOAD of phosphorus and nitrogen going into our St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon….
Right now all our water bodies get too much nutrient pollution (too many cigarettes) so now the government is figuring out how to cut back slowly over time….the problem is the river may die while we are “trying to kick the habit…”
Now, back to the official document: There are currently 20 adopted BMAPs in Florida. Portions of the IRL are addressed by four of the adopted BMAPs. They are North IRL; Banana River: Central IRL; St Lucie River and Estuary.
Each plan varies but has the same goal: to lessen nutrient pollution, to improve water quality, and whether the plan says it or not, to increase sea grasses….The plans outline specific project that are expected to provide load reductions of phosphorus and nitrogen. All plans are implemented in 5 year periods spread out over 15 years. Plans can be many things, turning dirt, holding water, implementing best management practices not to allow runoff….
Polluted runoff causes impairment…
The St Lucie River was determined as “impaired” in 2002. (Report at end of blog.)
The SLR/IRL BMAP was adopted in 2013. So to figure out how this plan will work….in 2018 the state will have a goal for load reduction; then again in 2023; and then again in 2028. Each time period the load numbers should be going down, and if they are not, cities, counties, and other stakeholders, like agriculture, and other polluters, should be in trouble if there is not a reduction in loads. DEP oversees all of this.
Kind of confusing isn’t it? And I am not sure my dates are correct, but hopefully you get the idea….Perfect science? No. But at least there is a plan…I just wish they’d get us off the cigarettes faster. Like make us go “cold turkey.”
The report list the following impediments the BMAPs.
1. Inadequate Funding….
2. Nutrient Load from Muck not Addressed. (Muck holds nutrients so when it get stirred up from winds or storms it is “re-released…” (Second hand smoke….)
3. Nutrient Loads from ground water are not being addressed. (Groundwater comes up from the ground as tides rise and bring nutrients like from septic tanks into the river and lagoon—gross.)
4. No Incentive for Stormwater Management. I am not really sure about this one but obviously it has to do with incentives; seems like the government could help create incentives if we would reward clean water….(inventions, lessen people’s taxes if they achieve clean water “loads.”) Hey doesn’t the Dept of Economic Opportunity do stuff like this?
5. Incomplete water quality data. Collecting data is expensive. Maybe high school kids could get credit if they did it…..and let’s face it: WE KNOW the WATER’S DIRTY. Focus on the source and stop acting like we don’t know where all this nutrient pollution is coming from!
6. Inadequate Water Quality Monitoring. Same thing as above. Figure it out. Guess….
7. Unequal treatment of public and private entities, agriculture, and water control. This is complicated, but basically in my opinion the Right to Farm Act puts less stringent standards on agriculture to prove they are lessening loads than on municipalities and counties. BMPs vs NPDS (Best Management Practices vs. National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System…)This is a huge problem. Ag has to enter the 21st century. All ag. Best Management Practices are “voluntary.” This is not enough!
8. Onerous conditions attached to BMAP projects
9. Inadequate technology to meet TMDL goals
10. BMAPS are based on flawed TMDLs
11. Trends in nutrient loading from atmosphere not being considered. (Phosphorus and nitrogen come in from rains and winds from as far away as the Europe, Africa and other nations polluting too…
12. Legacy Loading in Lake Okeechobee. THIS IS MY FAVORITE. How can surrounding governments and stakeholders be held responsible for lowering loads when periodic releases from Lake O through the C-44 canal pollute the water as fast as we can clean it up? For instance this year the ACOE and SFWMD have released into the estuary since January 16th and just stopped three weeks ago…MAJOR SECOND HAND SMOKE!!!!!!
13. Lack of Operations Monitoring
14. Load allocation process is not consistent between BMAPs. This has to do with undeveloped land being removed from the maps as nutrient reductions are not required on those lands…
There is a lot more to the report but that is a summary.
This whole process of BMAPS and TMDLs is confusing, but I wanted to at least give you an idea of the report. We must remember not to be too negative for the state workers implementing the BMAP. Negativity will not inspire more work, it will inspire less. Also it is not their fault. Fault lies in leadership.
Rather that telling businesses, citizens, and most of all agriculture to QUIT SMOKING, leadership —-and this is going back many years and includes Democrats and Republicans—is basically paying for our rehab over a period of 15 to 35 years.
Florida’s waters do not have time for rehab. They must be fixed today. Tough love is really the only answer.
Usually, my husband, Ed, does not like it when I ask him to “do things”…like take out the trash or blow leaves off the driveway. But he always likes it if I ask him to go up in the plane. He did so yesterday, and was able to visually document the polluted discharges pouring into our St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon.
Yes, once again.
The Army Corp of Engineers (ACOE), and the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) agreed to have the Army Corp start releases this year on January 16, 2015 at 200 cubic feet per second (cfs) through S-308 into the C-44 canal which is attached to the South Fork of the St Lucie River, and then in turn is connected to the Indian River Lagoon “my town,” Sewall’s Point.
Exhausting isn’t it?
The ACOE is now discharging at a rate of “950 cfs.” This rate goes up and down. It is going up because Lake Okeechobee is not going down…
Today I will share Ed’s photos and show how to “see” how much the ACOE is releasing at S-308. (Structure 308) which is located at Port Mayaca, in Indiantown, Martin County.
Ofcouse, there are discharges from area canals C-44, C-23, C-24 and C-25 as well, but today for simplicity’s sake, I will focus on the lake discharges today, which in my opinion, are the worst of all anyway—because they are not at all “ours.”
You can search “Jacksonville, ACOE” or just go to this link: (http://w3.saj.usace.army.mil/h2o/reports.htm). You can then very quickly check two things: Lake Okeechobee’s level and how much the ACOE is dumping at S-308 from the lake.
To do so, after accessing the site, go to “Current Lake Okeechobee Water Level” at the top left: Always one day behind or so, the latest date reported is 3-7-15– Lake O is at 14.71 feet. Then go back to the main page to the last link: “Port Mayaca Lock, S-308 Spillway.” View by date; the last date shows 873 cubic feet per second (cfs) being discharged.
Here are some more photos Ed took yesterday, 3-8-15, of the SLR/IRL.
When Ed got home, he said I was lucky I did not go up with him as it was windy which means bumpy…He also said the plume looked different from what we have seen before. It looked “chalky” as is seen in these two photographs below and extended about two miles off shore and further south of the St Lucie Inlet.
I am no scientist, but I would imagine this is silt/suspended solids in the water as everything is “stirred up” from the wind. Suspended solids falling on and smothering our reefs….
In closing, I must thank my husband for the photos, and I must point something out.
This area around Sewall’s Point and Sailfish Point, this “confluence” of the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon, in the not too distant past, has been documented as the most bio-diverse estuary in North America (Dr. R. Grant Gilmore, senior scientist with Estuarine, Coastal and Ocean Science, Inc., (ECOS)(http://www.floridaoceanscouncil.org/members/bios/gilmore.htm).)
The map below allows us to see where these precious seagrass beds are/were located. The map above shows where our “protected” near shore reefs are located just outside the St Lucie Inlet where the discharges go out to sea. These reefs are the northern most “tropical reefs” on the east coast of Florida…
I think it is a truly a sin that the ACOE and SFWMD year after year discharge onto these productive sea grass beds and near shore reef habitats that are the breeding grounds for thousands of fish and sea creatures. Its loss is felt all the way up the food chain, including “us.”
Where is the Department of Environmental Protection? Where is the Florida Wildlife Commission? Where is NOAA?
Not to mention, last year a designation of “Critical Wildlife Area,” —the first in 20 years for Florida—for 30 plus species of nesting and resting protected birds, was established on “Bird Island,” located just 400 feet off south Sewall’s Point….”Now” is right before nesting season’s height. Where will the birds find food when the seagrass beds are covered in silt and the water is so dark they can’t really see? Chances are these releases will continue.
Don’t our state agencies have a duty to protect? Don’t they have a voice or has it been muffled? Not a word? Not a peep. Where is our governor? Isn’t this money? Isn’t the productivity our of waterways linked to our businesses? Our real estate values? Where is our local delegation? Have we all become numb to this destruction? Beaten down and manipulated so long we that have no reaction?
It breaks my heart.
Our state and federal government entities responsible for “protection” especially should hang their heads in shame.
If nothing else “speak out” about how bad it is. Recognize the loss. Address the “constraints,” killing this ecosystem and local economy. Take leadership!
Be true to our heritage. We are the United States of America. Be brave. Speak out!
There have been many times over thousands of years that the ocean has broken through Hutchinson Island and flowed into the Indian River Lagoon off of Sewall’s Point. Most recently, in 2004, after hurricanes Jeanne and Francis. Also in the early 1960s, at Peck’s Lake*, on Jupiter Island. But of course we “repair” the areas and “put them back”…for a little while anyway….
I have been fortunate the past few years in my river photography to see the island by air in my husband’s airplane; it never ceases to amaze me that Hutchinson Island, as all barrier islands, is really just a ribbon of sand….
So, of course Mother Nature comes through….
Bathtub Beach is an area that Nature seems determined to reclaim soon. Yesterday, as many, I drove to see the “State of Emergency” claimed by Martin County at Bathtub Beach.
There was a young couple that had scaled the piled protective sand and I struck up a conversation with them.
“Hi, I’m Jacqui. This is amazing isn’t it?”
The young man replied: “Yeah we came yesterday, and the waves were 10 to 12 feet!” The water was all the way up to this fake dune. Look, you can see the sand is still wet.”
“Wow,” I exclaimed. “Yes, I have seen this before. It’s incredible. You just have to wonder if one day the ocean will come through so hard she takes it all. This would be terrible for the people who live here…”
The response from the young man?
“Well, at least the river will be cleaner….”
I was amazed to see how far the river culture has expanded, and perhaps the values of a younger generation…
Rather than get into a political conversation with a nice young couple just here to explore, I said how nice it was to meet them, and ran down the sand pile in my high heels to get to my car before I got a ticket.
At 50 years now, I have known our beaches since I was a kid walking around on the worm reef catching fish with a homemade net, before we knew that was “bad” for it. During my youth, the older generation began to really build on Hutchinson Island, which was not such a good idea either….The same goes for the low areas of the Town of Sewall’s Point, across the Indian River, where I live and sit on the town commission. These areas are very vulnerable. It’s a problem.
So how do we deal with this “realization,” that we have built on Mother Natures’ front line? Do we retreat, as in war, knowing we will never win, or do we harden our areas reinforcing the shoreline and our homes as long as we can? Do we spend millions of dollars putting concrete seawalls and dredged sand on our shorelines that will surely eventually wash away and each time, not to mention it covers and destroys our “protected” off shore reefs and sea grasses?
These are the difficult questions, and if we follow the model of South Florida that has been dealing with these issues of sea level rise, and just the “normality” of living on a shifting sandbar that God wants to roll over on itself like a conveyor belt, every few hundred to a thousand years, we have some big problems ahead of us. We can reinforce our shorelines and raise our houses, but in the end, Nature will win. In our short lifetimes, we may not see the “grand change,” but our children and grandchildren will.
For instance, the photo at the beginning of this blog is an ancient black mangrove with a hole in it looking towards the ocean. These mangroves are exposed during high erosion because Hutchinson Island is rolling over on itself. This is called “transgression.”
To repeat, much of the construction on barrier islands happened before people fully understood that these places are particularly volatile. ￼ ￼The clues have been accumulating for decades: beachfronts are thinning, storms regularly swallow dunes and send sand flowing to the far side of the island… Slowly, geologists and government entities have realized that the very nature of barrier islands truly is to “roll over,” typically toward the mainland, as waves and weather erode one side and build up the other. Barrier island ecology is not fully understood; there are many theories. It is complex, but some things we understand now…
Thus when the erosion is greatest, the remnants of an ancient mangrove swamp on the ocean side of the island can be seen….Kind of bizarre isn’t it?
What do they say? “The only constant is change.”
Yes, times are changing, the climate and the oceans are warming; no matter the reason, this has happened before. Our job, as it always has been, is to adapt. But in the world of money, real estate, and ad-valorum tax values to governments—along the Indian River Lagoon, this may never occur, until the ocean is truly upon us…
*Originally, I wrote” 1948: as well as “1960” in this blog post as the years that Peck’s Lake opened. Due to communication with my mother, historian, Sandra H. Thurlow, I have changed my blog to say only “1960s.” She believes there was an error in a photograph used in her book, “Sewall’s Point,” in that the photo she used in her book said 1948 but she now, after seeing old shared photos from John Whiticar, thinks this date is incorrect. Please read below:
Peck’s Lake Inlet
The photograph of a wash over at Peck’s Lake in Sewall Point on page 19 is identified as “1948” because it an 8 x 10 print in the Ruhnke/Conant Collection we purchase had that date written on the back.
Year later I began to suspect this was in error.
The clincher was a group of photos that John Whiticar came across that were obviously from Ruhnke which included the washout I had labeled 1948 with others that were obviously from the 1960s because of a flower farm in the background. There were also photos of the drowned trees and Ruhnke family photos of a visit to Peck’s Lake.
A Nov. 11. 1963 article in the Stuart News about Inlet worked said, “Also in April of this year the Martin County Commission passed a resolution asking the Corps of Engineers to take action to insure the boating public would always have as safe an inlet from the ocean as was available at that time through the storm-opened Peck’s Lake Inlet, closed by the Corps this past summer.
Billboards, radio ads, and commercials for clean water. They are already on Florida’s west coast and they may be coming to The Treasure Coast. Lee County and generally the west coast of a Florida have been the leaders in this promotion for educating the public to vote and act out of habit for “clean water.”
I smiled a few years ago when I saw a Facebook post of a billboard on the west coast of a lady in a bikini standing in a pool of algae water holding it in her hands, the caption read ” Why won’t Florida’s politicians protect our water?”I believe Earth Justice, a law firm for the environment, and the Sierra Club helped fund the ad along with private monies.
Lately local governments themselves are helping create and fund these ads, like the one above for fertilizer. “Don’t Feed the Monster,” teaches the public not to over fertilize. It was Sanibel and Sarasota on the west coast that started the strong fertilizer ordinances in their cities, somewhere around 2007. It caught on. In 2009 on Florida’s east coast, the City of Stuart passed the first “state endorsed” fertilizer ordinance and then in 2010 the Town of Sewall’s Point went one step further and passed a “strong fertilizer” ordinance not allowing fertilizing during the rainy season with product containing phosphorus and nitrogen, the nutrients that “feed” algae blooms in our waters. Martin County and others followed and then this strong fertilizer ordinance idea, originally from the west coast, went up the entire treasure coast and beyond. Remarkable!
Will the next move be for Martin, St Lucie and Indian River Counties to have a couple of billboards? Martin County is promoting the “Be Floridian” program or getting ready to….this fertilizer education program came out of Tampa Bay. Their ad is pink flamingos! At the beginning of every rainy season the city hall puts hundreds if not thousands in front of their building and around the city. These pink flamingos remind the public to “not fertilize during rainy season June-September.” The “Be Floridian” program promotes Florida Friendly yards with less turf grass and less fertilizing. It has been wildly successful and Tampa Bay has recovered 45percent more of their sea grasses than they had after World War II since the programs’ inception which occurred around ten years ago.
These ad programs are working and educating for clean water and putting pressure on politicians and agriculture to get more “on board.”
I think the ads are coming to the St Lucie/Indian River Lagoon Region soon, so if you have any clever ideas please share. But one thing for sure, if I’m involved, I will not be wearing a bikini! 🙂
Senator Joe Negron, Senate Appropriations Chair, and leader of the “Senate Hearing on the Indian River Lagoon and Lake Okeechobee,” brought home more money for the IRL compared to any other water body in the state: $231,998,021. Our springs comrades who have been publicly fighting ten years longer than us, brought home 30 million. Tallahassee is wondering who this new kid on the block is, us….
Whether you are a fan or not, it must be noted that Senator Negron stuck his neck out, possibly compromising his senate presidency, to get our “name on the map” as far as Tallahassee goes. Prior to last year, most “good ‘ol boys in Tallahassee would have said, “Indian River Lagoon…Hmmmm? Creature of the Indian Lagoon, ain’t that a movie?”
Nonetheless, I do not pretend to think that these monies alone will cure the lagoon’s ills, as the gorilla in the room has not been addressed “head on and in its entirety:” the releases from Lake Okeechobee through S-308 and S-80. I believe this will come in time if we keep fighting.
In my opinion, the biggest part of change is the first step. With the outrage of the public over the “Lost Summer’s” toxic St Lucie River and Indian River Lagoon, and the support of Senator Negron, one of the few people in a the legislature with the seniority and status to act somewhat independently of demanding party pressures to conform, we have taken the first step forward to fixing the lagoon. Actually, a leap.
WE MUST CONTINUE, YES! But let’s be happy that we have made public progress on a state level more than ever before, and let’s look at what we received, as we should be aware of the gift of public monies from people all over our great state and be full of gratitude.
It’s a lot to go over, but it is important, so I will simply go down the list and summarize. Let’s look at the map as well. Please remember the SLR/IRL is part of the greater Everglades system, from the Kissimmee River area in Orlando, south to the Tamiami Trail in Dade, and beyond to Florida Bay. So anything done to help “the system,” helps us move water south, and with our health as well.
Here we go!
1. $32,000,000 for Water Quality storage in Storm Water Treatment Area 1 in Palm Beach County. Water storage is key to stop releasing so much into the estuaries.
2. $3,000,000 for Best Management Practices (BMPs) for farmers in the St Lucie, Lake O, and Caloosahatee watersheds. It is difficult to swallow more public money going to help farmers with pollution runoff, but there is no other way to do this. We must continue to help fund them, big or small. This is a historical issue as they have been here since the 1800s in many cases. I look at it like “grandfathering” with an extra requirement, as in real estate. The good news is that as time goes on, agriculture businesses will have higher standards to avoid pollution fertilizer, pesticides and fungicide runoff that is killing our waterbodies. Hopefully we can make changes before the rivers and springs die off completely.
3. $40,000,00 for the C-44 Storm Water Treatment Area/reservoir in Martin County. This will offset local drainage farm and urban runoff along the C-44 canal, not water from Lake Okeechobee. We must clean our local runoff as well as it is responsible for around 50% of the destruction to our estuary and on an everyday basis.
4. $2,000,000 CERP Picayune Strand east of Naples in Collier County. This area is important to the southern glades and needs monitoring and vegetative management for water flow and storage and improvement. Hopefully it will help some panthers too!
5. $5,000,000 C-111 South Dade. This is a crucial water delivery system to allow more water to “go south.” A must.
6. $5,000,000 Kissimmee River Restoration. The all time worst thing ever done in Florida other than dike Lake O and redirect the water to the estuaries, was to straighten the Kissimmee River. (Hold my tongue!) Restoration of the ox bows must continue. So far the ACOE has restored about 22 miles of the 56 miles of what was once 153 miles of gorgeous serpentine like, vegetative, wildlife filled, cleansing waters.
7. $18,000,000 C-43 STA along Caloosahatchee River. This is the equivalent of C-44 STA/reservoir for the Caloosahatchee. Only fair. C-43 is a must. They take up to three times the polluted runoff from Lake Okeechobee that we do!
8. $20,000,000 IRL muck removal in northern lagoon. The northern IRL has lost 60% of their seagrasses and has 2 Unexplained Mortality Events including manatee, dolphin, and pelican die offs. Give them what they need! Sediment/muck fills the lagoon over the years from canal runoff covering seagrasses; when stirred up, it releases legacy pollution. GET THE MUCK OUT!
9. $2,075,000 Lake Worth Lagoon. Lake Worth does not get the attention it needs being in development happy Palm Beach County. This area was once full of sea grass and life but not after years of receiving dump water from Lake O, like us, but through a different canal. Local advocate, Lee Shepard, is a great advocate for this part of the lagoon. Let’s help!
10. $4,000,000 Water Quality research for Harbor Branch and ORCA. Although it is hard to justify “more tests,” as we can all see the lagoon is dying, these new, scientific studies will help us find sources to our pollution issues that the legislature can’t ignore. Septic leakage, especially, is difficult to trace without such systems. LOBOS and Kilroys, please help us!
11. $1,000,000 Oyster recovery programs for St Lucie and Caloosahatchee Rivers. Millions of dollars worth of oysters, natural and deployed by government programs, died during the fresh water discharges of 2013 and years before. One oyster can filter 50 gallons of water a day. Government in action….
12. $90,000,000 NUMBER ONE NECESSITY is raising the Tamiami Trail in Dade County so water is not blocked off from going south. They should raise the whole road as the road built in the 1920s cuts off the flow of water south to the Everglades for the entire state. (Another environmental nightmare to fix.)
13, $2,7769,585 This money will be used for pump improvements etc to move more water south and cut away vegetation blocking water “going south,” or hold water in the C-43/44 reservoirs that would go into the estuaries.
14. $2,076,728 The Loxahatchee is one of two “Wild & Scenic Rivers” in the state of Florida and home to tremendous amounts of wildlife. Helping with storm water runoff and preservation is key for the health of this important part of the Everglades System.
15. $2,076,718 The St Lucie Rivers Issues Team has a long history of working with local governments for “close to home” projects along the SLR/IRL. Kathy LaMartina at its helm, South Florida Water Management District. Thank you!
Grand total= $231,998,021
I am grateful to the state legislature, especially Senator Negron, and I must note Governor Scott did not veto one line. But please know everyone, the “fight for right” along the Indian River Lagoon has just begun!
I am in Melbourne, Florida, serving as a delegate for the Marine Resources Council’s Action Assembly of the Indian River Lagoon. I got here early and started reading up on this area of the lagoon that is suffering from marine mammal deaths of manatees and dolphins. Brevard County holds 60% of the lagoon and basically just about all of their sea grasses are now dead and though over nitrified water certainly fed the super bloom that killed the sea grasses, scientists feel there is more to the story. But scientists are not allowed to just feel, they have to “prove” so the struggle to explain what happened continues…
The assembly is being held at Florida Tech, which sits close to Crane Creek, a tributary of the IRL. About 10,000 years ago Mammoths lived here and their gigantic skeletons have been excavated. Paleontologist have also found bones of mastodon, horses, camels, the 20 foot tall ground sloth (the largest mammal to ever roam North America) along with tapir, peccary, camel and my favorite, the incredible saber-toothed cat.
Although humans also lived in this area 10,000 years ago, it was not until modern times that Crane Creek was drastically altered. In 1922, after the times of the pioneers, efforts to drain the area under Florida statute 298 were successful and the M-1 canal along with with feeder canals dried the lands of the surrounding area and inland along the St Johns River for agriculture that the real estate ads had promised.
Today the area is highly populated and is the home of a struggling NASA. A six lane highway abuts the once beautiful Indian River Lagoon and concrete is everywhere.
of course, times change, still it is hard to picture Mammoths walking around here! I wonder what this area will look like in another 10,000 years? Maybe something weirder than a 20 foot sloth or humans will walk or climb. Maybe something smarter? I hope.
Fertilizer has certainly been a hot topic over the past few years and for me this movement is one of the great hopes that the Indian River Lagoon has a chance of surviving.
Fertilizer ordinances, specifically those with “black out periods,” started on the west coast of Florida over a decade ago as activist around Tampa Bay and Sarasota decided to fight for their waters. They have had great success after great losses and now Tampa Bay has more sea grasses than it did before World War II, due mostly to its BE FLORIDAN program that the National Estuary Program is now trying to bring to the IRL. (http://www.befloridian.org)
Although there had been talk years ago of fertilizer ordinances on Florida’s east coast, they really didn’t catch on until the Town of Sewall’s Point adopted a “strong” fertilizer ordinance, a “black out period,” or no fertilizer use during the rainy season (June-November, for SP) in 2010. I am proud to say I was a big part of that movement with the support of the Sewall’s Point Commission.
It was Commissioner, to be Mayor, Jeffery Krauskoph, in 2009, who gave me the idea to push for such an ordinance in the Town of Sewall’s Point. The City of Stuart had actually passed the first in the area, however; it did not have a “black out period” and the Sewall’s Point ordinance does.
Ironically, last night the City of Stuart was petitioned by fertilizer activists from Volusia, Brevard, Indian River, St Lucie and Martin counties to push for a “stronger” fertilizer ordinance and Stuart in fact adopted, by first reading, the Martin County ordinance, a “strong” fertilizer ordiance.
The perils of fertilizer were first majorly documented in the research of the National Reasearch Council’s, Clean Coastal Waters, Understanding and Reducing the Effects of Nutrient Pollution, in 2000. Dr Brian LaPointe and and Dr Margaret Leinen of Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute both sat on this national committee and Dr Leinen even testified before Congress. (http://www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=9812)
The book scientifically states ” the problems caused by nutrient over enrichment are significant and likely to increase as human use of inorganic fertilizers and an fossil fuels continue to intensify.” The scholarly publication notes strategies for “control” and tells the story of synthetic fertilizers created after World War II and how they transformed not only agri-business but suburbia, and how this, hand in hand, with over development, has lead to the steady demise of our beloved coastal estuaries. In many cases, such as the Gulf of Mexico, fertilizer from farms along the Mississippi River have created “dead zones.”
I am on the board of Harbor Branch’s Foundation and I once asked Dr Leinen, (who now is now the Vice Chancellor for Marine Sciences and Dean of the School for Scripps Institute of Oecnograpy in California,) “if you testified before Congress on this problem, why didn’t they listen; why didn’t they do anything? ” She smiled at me and kindly and replied, “Jacqui, politics often overrides science.”
I stood there and had one of my “realizations…”
On a positive note, what I love about fertilizer ordinances the most, is that the “people” have embraced them as they realize the fertilizer problem is something they can directly and positively affect. As the public puts “skin in the game” for the direct benefit of their rivers, springs and estuaries, they expect this of their politicians as well. This is the beauty and and power of fertilizer ordinances; it is politics on its most revolutionary level, that of “the people….”
At this time, “strong” fertilizer ordinances have been adopted in the Town of Sewall’s Point; Martin County; Indian River County; St Lucie County; Orchid Island; Indian River Shores; Vero Beach; Brevard County; and are at first reading or being “worked on or discussed” in Stuart; City of Port St Lucie, Jupiter Island; Ocean Breeze; Fellslmere; Palm Shores; Melbourne Beach; Sebastian; Rockledge; Satellite Beach; New Smyrna Beach; Cocoa Beach and most likely a handful of others. Marty Baum, the Indian River Keeper, and others to be commended for taking the time to travel and advocate.
Like wildfire, communities along the Indian River Lagoon are taking into their own hands a part of the puzzle to save their lagoon. And the dolphins, manatees, seagrasses and and fish are smiling and hoping that this is just the start! As Dr Grant Gilmore said at the 2013 Harbor Branch Symposium, “it is the people, not the government, that will save the IRL.”
River Kidz-St Lucie County member, Adian Lewy, 10, speaks at the Clean Water Rally in Tallahassee 2-18-14 as Indian Riverkeeper, Marty Baum, proudly looks on…
River Kidz, a program that was started by two Sewall’s Point fifth grade girls in 2011, now has hundreds of members, has a workbook, is taught in many private and public schools, and has divisions in St Lucie and Lee counties. Kids have been taught about the environment for years, so why is River Kidz different?
River Kidz is different because it teaches kids how to advocate. River Kidz’ mission is to “speak out, get involved and raise awareness because we believe kids should have a voice in the future of our rivers.”
All the River Kidz do includes “art, action, and advocacy.” Kids create art in the classroom and in public about the Indian River Lagoon, St Lucie River, focusing on its animals, seagrasses, as well as the damaging discharges from the canals and especially releases from Lake Okeechobee. This artwork is compiled by teachers and parents along with letters the children write and sent, or personally given, to local commissioners, mayors, policy makers, congressmen and women, state representatives, senators and even the president of the United States.
Kidz learn to speak in public. Last summer in 2013, 11 year old Veronica Dalton, ask if she could speak at the River Rally at the St Lucie Locks. She delivered her own speech in front of 5000 people.
When I was a kid they taught us about sea grasses and seahorses and it was fun; I learned to love the St Lucie River and Indian River Lagoon but today’s children, if they are going to have the river for their children, have to learn early about its wonders and its issues, environmental and political, so they are prepared to protect and creatively save it in the future.
As a former teacher I know, a child likes nothing more than to have a purpose, responsibility, to be trusted. These kids are rising to the occasion and learning at a young age, to write letters to politicians, to speak out in public, “to do” by deploying oysters and reef balls and to create art to get their message across. If this is what they are accomplishing at ten, what will they do in the future?
On Friday, April 9, the Army Corp of Engineers announced it would halt discharges to the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon on Saturday, April 10. The Corp has been discharging from Lake Okeechobee since March 6th. Today Lake Okeechobee sits at 14.14 feet. Please read above link for details.
These aerials were taken by my husband, Ed Lippisch, yesterday, Saturday, April 10, 2021 at approximately 1:30 pm during an outgoing tide, from 3000 feet over the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon, and 1500 feet over Lake Okeechobee and the C-44 Canal.
There have been documented reports of algae near Port Mayaca at Lake Okeechobee as well as on the the west coast -April 8. Ed’s photos from April 10 reveal some algae in C-44 canal near the railroad bridge just inside the S-308 structure, but none was visible in Lake O near S-308 from the altitude of the airplane.
Ed, myself, and the River Warrior crew will continue flights documenting the visual condition of the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon. Always watching. Always sharing.
When we are not flying, you can follow along electronically via my brother Todd Thurlow’s website eyeonlakeo.
-Sandbar and barren (no visible seagrass) Sailfish Flats area of the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon. Visually, water is a mixture of blue and brown, mostly transparent, near St Lucie Inlet.-Discharges exiting St Lucie Inlet over nearshore reefs. It will take a few days for the river to clear up. -At Lake Okeechobee, Port Mayaca, S-308 Structure to C-44 Canal leading to St Lucie River-C-44 Canal at railroad bridge just inside S-308 structure. Algae visible on right side. -C-44 at St Lucie Locks and Dam S-80 Structure AKA “The 7 Gates of Hell.”