Today I share recent photos of the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon taken by my husband, Ed, yesterday, April 24, at 2:30pm. The water remains a lovey shade of turquoise blue but there is a visible plume exiting south of the St Lucie Inlet. As there has been no documented discharges from C-23, C-24, C-44, or Lake Okeechobee of late, this must be the effect of recent rains and local runoff.
I am also sharing the SFWMD’s weather site; it is full of information, including scientific predictions. You can access through this link here or type in “SFWMD weather” as a search. As June approaches it is very important for us to keep our eye on rains and weather systems that will affect the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon and Lake Okeechobee’s level.
As we know the St Lucie was once just a small river running in to the longer Indian River Lagoon, but the today she is connected to canals and Lake Okeechobee and it is killing her. The state and federal government are well funded and continue working to improve the situation every day. We too can help: Don’t fertilize! Plant your yard with native and Florida Friendly plants. Conserve water! It’s simple, like they said in the old days,“give a hoot, don’t pollute!”
-Peck’s Lake of Jupiter Narrows and Atlantic Ocean -visible plume but water still pretty. Happy sailing! -Below: St Lucie Inlet -one can see small plume from local runoff. The water near the St Lucie Inlet and offshore still looks good. There have been no major discharges in three years. Nonetheless seagrass is not lush and there is a UME for manatees in the IRL. We all must work for better water quality.
On February 19, 2022, famed environmentalist Maggy Hurchalla passed away. I shared shortly after this time, that I had asked my historian mother, Sandra Henderson Thurlow, if I could see her, “Hurchalla file,” and she that handed me a box.
The box included news articles from the life of Maggy and of her family as well. Today I share some of what was in that box so that it is available to all as we remember the great environmental and controlled-growth heroine of Martin County.
Earlier News Articles and Columns
Al Burt’s Florida, “Scrub Pines & Saw Palmettos,” Maggy Hurchalla
Ed took a pre-Easter flight in his new RV plane on April, 16, 2022 at 10am. He flew from Witham Field in Stuart west to Lake Okeechobee, back over parts of the C-44 Canal, and then over the St Lucie Inlet.
We are at the hight of the dry season. Once the wet season begins in the next couple of months, conditions will drastically change. We can use these photos as an “end of dry season base line.”
The St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon looks very good as we have had little rain and no major Lake O discharges in three years. See page 14 below of “SFWMD Environmental Report,” – meeting date 4-14-22.As far as Lake O, although on April 8, 2022, the Martin County Health Department issued a cyanobacteria (blue-green algae) warning for area near Port Mayaca and Lake Okeechobee, blue-green algae was not visible from the sky. Please read press release.
We must stay vigilant.
-Lake Okeechobee at S-308, Port Mayaca
-C44 Reservoir/STA at Indiantown-at 10 feet being filled and check for safety by ACOE
-C44 STA and intake canal from C-44 canal
-More of Reservoir and STA -Caulkins Water Farm next to C-44 R/STA
On January 12, 2022, Ed sold the Baron and I entitled my post “Last Flight Old Friend.” Today I am hoping to make a new friend with Ed’s RV. To begin this friendship, on April 3, 2022, I sent Ed up to take photographs in RV flight.
His aerials came out well; I wanted to share them today. They provide a striking look at some of the beautiful and changing areas of Martin County.
-I am not sure what development this is being created, however, one can see the St Lucie Inlet and Jupiter Narrows as a reference. If anyone knows, please share. It looks to me to be located around Hobe Sound.
IV. April 3, 2022, 11:30am
-The St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon looks good. There have been no major discharges from Lake Okeechobee since 2018. Mind you, April is the near end of the dry season. The wet season begins around June 1. According to NOAA, the 2022 storm names are: Alex, Bonnie, Colin, Danielle, Earl, Fiona, Gaston, Hermine, Ian, Julia, Karl, Lisa, Martin, Nicole, Owen, Paula, Richard, Shary, Tobias, Virginie and Walter. I hope it is not foreshadowing that of of them is named “Martin.”
Ed’s aerials below show the effects of discharge on the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon near the St Lucie Inlet not from C-44 or Lake O, but from Canals C-23 , C-24 and local runoff. Seagrasses, or lack thereof, is a concern. Please see link for recent Army Corp updates: ACOE Periodic_Scientists_Call_Power Point 2022-03-29 2
Thank you Ed for taking photos! Maybe next time, if I get my nerve up, I’ll be up there with you! I have to say, my favorite plane so far was not the Baron, but the original “River Warrior”, the Cub. 🙂 No matter what you’re flying we will continue to document the St Lucie fighting for her health!
Above: L-R Stephen Leighton, Mast Chief of Staff; David Rowe, Assist. Superintendent Okeechobee Field Station; JTL, SFWMD GB; LeRoy Rodgers, SFWMD STA Section Leader; Congressman Brian Mast; Bruce Chesser, Okeechobee Field Station Superintendent; Alan Shirkey, SFWMD Construction Bureau Chief, -stand before TMC
On Thursday, March 24, 2022, Congressman Brian Mast was given a tour of Ten Mile Creek Reservoir and Storm Water Treatment Area, St Lucie County, by the South Florida Water Management District. Ten Mile Creek (TMC) is part of the northern reaches of the St Lucie River lying southwest of Ft Pierce. The area is part of the 18th District and Congressman Mast wanted an update on “TMC” and to learn what it is doing, NOW, for the St Lucie River. For those of us who have lived in the region for a long time, we know Ten Mile Creek had big problems. Thankfully, the reservoir and storm water treatment (STA) area has a new life today overseen by the SFWMD!
The story goes like this: TMC is a pre CERP project. Congress authorized the Army Corp of Engineer’s “Ten Mile Creek” project in 1996; by 2006 funds had been appropriated and construction was completed. Almost immediately, the project suffered major structural and design setbacks and sat excrusiatingly in a “passive operation state” through lawsuits and finger-pointing -between the Corps and designers- through 2016. At that point, it was de-authorized by the Army Corp, and to the tune of seven-million dollars, taken over and reworked by the South Florida Water Management District.
The big NOW take aways from the visit were:
Bruce Chesser, Field Station Superintendent, shared that pump stations S-382 and S-383 are in fine shape and there is a good working relationship with the North St Lucie River Water Control District that oversees the Gordy Road Structure of Ten Mile Creek proper.
Alan Shirkey, SFWMD Engineering and Construction Bureau Chief, reviewed the work completed including scraping and replacing the bottom of the reservoir and re-grating the storm water treatment area, thus both are now safely functional. On average, 17,444 acre feet of water are cleansed.
The 526 acre reservoir holds up to four feet of water (though not 11 feet as originally envisioned by ACOE) with major water quality improvements through the 132 acre STA. When asked by Congressman Mast, LeRoy Rodgers, STA Section Leader noted that phosphorus is being lowered from around 200 parts per billion to 20 parts per billion. This is great news! Mind you this is about 5-10% of all the water coming into the St Lucie River from Ten Mile Creek. The original plan was for 25%. Nonetheless, it is significant and will be added to once the C-23 and C24 Reservoir and STA is built.
Wildlife is thriving! Many bird species visit the area including endangered Snail Kites.
I am grateful for the South Florida Water Management District (2016-present) as they truly make “lemonade out of lemons!”
~PHOTOS OF OUR FIELD TRIP
-Bruce Chesser, Okeechobee Field Station Superintendent and Congressman Mast discuss the operations of pump station S-382 that brings in water from the TMC basin. This basin was once grapefruit county, but not today. Creekside is building hundred of homes nearby. -TMC Basin in purple-Alan Shirkey gave a great construction briefing on what the SFWMD has done to make the reservoir function safely-We took a driving tour around the reservoir. Never have I seen so many cormorants! See photo below. Many other birds were present, but the cormorants were in large groups, like ducks! -Video tour from top of levee around reservoir
-Note the landfill -on Turnpike-in the background, another bird haven!-The stairs of the original reservoir BELOW were a bad part of the design! You may have read about the FRESH WATER TURTLES that got stuck on these stairs unable to exit the reservoir as vultures waited nearby. See page 9 of ACOE Environmental Assessment Ten Mile Creek Water Preserve Areas, Critical Projects Transfer, St Lucie County. Today the turtles are in the surrounding wetlands laying eggs and swimming around, the reservoir is too low to be of interest. -Looking across reservoir to S-382-The S-383 structure brings water from the reservoir to the STA where it is cleansed by plants before it released back to the North Fork of the St Lucie River-LeRoy Rodgers and Congressman Mast discuss plants used in the STA process as well as working with US Fish & Wildllife regarding endangered species-More cormorants! They sure look like ducks!
-Reservoir (west)-STA (east)-A big smile from Stephen Leighton, Chief of Staff!” We want clean water NOW!” -THANK YOU FOR VISITING TMC CONGRESSMAN MAST! You do a great job protecting the St Lucie River! -Right outside of the Ten Mile Creek reservoir and storm water treatment area lies Ten Mile Creek Preserve and the Gordy Road Water Structure that is controlled by the North St Lucie River Water Control District. A beautiful place. Like “Old Florida.” You can visit! -Gordy Road Structure, TMC
This past weekend, March 19, 2022, Ed and I had a chance to spend the night in the area of Boy Scout Island, “Adrfit.” We met up with our friends, the Radabaughs, of “Cinnamon Girl,” and ate lasagna and drank wine under a full moon -toasting the Indian River Lagoon’s beauty and importance. It was magical! We brought along our Belgium Shepard, Luna and our cat, Okee. The entire family was present. These are the days to be thankful for. But something was missing…
On Saturday, we tooled around on our blow-up canoe. Ed accidentally hit me over the head with a paddle and I still have the bump to prove it! I screamed out loud! We just about capsized in the strong winds, raging current, and choppy waves, but we held fast.
It was an incredibly stunning night and day. But there was one thing missing in the clear waters, our seagrass meadows. It may lush-out as we approach summer, but it certainly seems lean. Nonetheless, we saw manatees, giant leopard rays, starfish, schools of mullet, pelicans, and many kinds of wading birds. I just pray that the seagrass returns, because without, clear water or not, we are a desert or becoming one.
There have been no major discharges from Lake Okeechobee in three years, this is certainly giving the southern lagoon a fair chance for recovery. But again, clear water must have seagrasses to be of ecological value.
-Sunrise over St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon-Moonset over Sewall’s Point-Cinnamon Girl-Cloud formations-Morning visitors! -Okee watches Dutch and Holly -Ed and Luna go for a spin-A journey through the mangrove forests-Mullet
-Red mangoes and black mangroves roots. Black mangroves can get very large and have straw-like roots; red mangroves are known as the “walking tree” as they stride-out in arches -Ibis fly-A cathedral of red mangroves!
-Don’t fall in!-Mary, Lisa, Dutch and Colton taking a look at the water and s”seagrasses”-View of Boy Scout Island -so blue!-Area around Boy Scout Island where once seagrass was plentiful. Now small blades, rhizomes, and macroalgae.
-Looking west, brown pelicans float after diving for fish. At least they can see. No coffee colored Lake O or canal water today! This area near the St Lucie Inlet gets lots of flushing, most of the St Luice does not. -Colton found a nine-armed starfish, eastern area -Luna watches, her black coat juxtaposed to turquoise water. Luna does not run in the shallow waters. She would damage the roots remaining seagrass. She is happy anyway!
THIS 1977 AERIAL BY CHRIS PERRY SHOWS HOW LUSH THE SEAGRASS IN THIS AREA OF THE ST LUCIE INLET ONCE WAS. TODAY THIS AREA IS BARREN. I was 13 years old at the time this photo was taken; I am 58 today…
The C-43 Reservoir is also known as the “Caloosahatchee Reservoir,” as it will help manage water from the river’s basin and from Lake Okeechobee. The reservoir’s construction began in 2015; it will be over twice as large as the recently completed St Lucie Reservoir, or C-44 Reservoir, in Martin County. The Caloosahatchee is a much larger system!
~The C-44 Reservoir stores 50,600 acre-feet of water; the C-43 Reservoir will hold 170,000 acre-feet of water
~The C-44 Reservoir is about 15 feet deep; the C-43’s depth will range from 15 to 25 feet
~Looking across the C-44 Reservoir is about three miles; the C-43 is is approximately six miles!
These reservoirs, along with the EAA Reservoir, once complete, will give greater flexibility to the Everglade’s system in many capacities and help offset damaging discharges and algae blooms from Lake Okeechobee.
Enough talk. Let’s go!
-Jared Ross of welcomes us-On the ground, we get a safety lesson and review a diagram of the project-Pre-helicopter driving tour, with John, SFWMD, our guide
-Atop the dam-Workers at a giant culvert I had seen the C-43 before, at its major groundbreaking in 2019. It was exciting to see it almost three years later and note the progress that has been accomplished thus far. Today, I will share my photos and videos so you too can see. It is hard to grasp it all as it is so sprawling, but from the air you will get a good idea.
-With Jennifer Reynolds, Ecosystem Restoration SFMWD, and Jennifer Smith, Chief of Staff, SFWMD. My helicopter mates!-Time to fly-Following diagram below, going around the reservoir counter-clockwise, starting middle bottom above my thumb-Townsend Canal allows water to be delivered from Calosahatee to reservoir. Water supply to surrounding agricultural fields will be also met.
-Perimeter Canal, further away and closer up-James our pilot-Back on the ground, a follow up. Wow, impressive! Let’s get it done! I will write more about the C-43 in the future, but today I just wanted you to have an opportunity to see it by air!
It is really great to be learning more about Florida’s west coast. My recent girls’ trip with high school friends Nic Mader and Cristina Maldonado was the “best-west” yet! What is so interesting is that no matter where I go, it seems my home town of Martin County follows, or is already there. When I opened the book I took along the trip for reference, Everglades, The Ecosystem and Its Restoration, guess who had written the forward? Martin County’s Nathaniel Reed. His final words after quoting Winston Churchill were “I count on you to never giver up!”
God, it’s hard sometimes isn’t it? In fact, part of the west coast trip was to get our minds off all happening on the east coast. And then there is SB 2508. But Mr Reed is right, we must never give up.
He was almost mythical…attending Rivers Coalition meetings in his 80s standing there speaking to us about the importance of the EAA Reservoir with his eyes partially closed, as in a trance. His arms folded, scarred, and weathered from his hundreds of fishing trips around the globe. At these meetings, he revealed insights from his days working in Tallahassee and Washington D.C. and many of the hurdles encountered.
In 2017, it meant the world to me, when Mr Reed wrote a letter to the editor of the Stuart News in support of a bill I sponsored, “A Right to a Clean and Healthy Environment.” I was getting hammered by Gunster lawyers during my appointment to the Constitution Revision Commission. Oh such a threat! Even the River Kidz were being humiliated. Mr Reed wrote in his letter:
“As one of the authors of the 1973 Clean Water Act. I attempted late in process to include agricultural pollution in the bill, but the major congressional supporters of the pending bill felt that by adding the controls on agricultural pollution the bill would fail.
Now, 54 years later, fertilizer and dairy waste are the main contributors to the pollution of the waters of our nation. Algal blooms are all too common even on the Great Lakes.
The “usual suspects” may defeat Thurlow -Lippisch’s brave effort, but you are right: The issues won’t go away! “
I never forgot these kind words, it made it all worth while when I felt like crying or walking into a corner. The bill failed. Time moves on but I never forgot. For me to see both Reed’s smiling face at the Big Cypress Visitors’ Center during our girls’ trip, and then ironically when I opened the Davis/Ogden book; it makes me feel like Mr Reed is still alive. He is speaking to us. Yes. Even when we are getting crushed, we cannot give up.
As I stood at Big Cypress something occurred to me that I had not realized before. The west coast is full of lands that were created because Mr Reed and others of his era did not give up even after tremendous disappointment.
In 1947, after going through the political blender, Everglades National Park ended up being half the size originally negotiated. Ernest F. Coe, who inspired many and envisioned a national park dedicated to the preservation of the Everglades, almost boycotted the park’s ribbon cutting he was so angry at the reduction in size. In the end, Mr Coe attended, but only after those the likes of Ms Marjory Stoneman Douglas insisted.
And years later as the list above shows, Corkscrew, Picayune, the Panther Refuge, Fakahatchee, and Big Cypress were established to a patchwork of pieces near or contiguous with Everglades National Park. The “titles”are different, but to the wildlife and our waters its all the same whether private, state forest, national wildlife refuge, national preserve, or national park…
My recent trip with childhood friends Nic and Cristina really brought Mr Reed’s message home! We must work on saving Florida a piece at a time, a drop of water at a time. Heads up! Even when the “usual suspects” get you down, get up, brush yourself off, hold your head high and keep walking. Go visit one of these treasured places. May we never, never, never give up! -Nic Mader, Cristina Maldonado, and JTL – Girls’ Trip 2022