After almost two years of no discharges from Lake Okeechobee and minimal rain in the past couple of months, Martin County’s waters are clearer than any time I have documented from 2013. Yesterday’s tail-end flight, 3-25-20, took Ed and I north along the coast from Bridge Road in Hobe Sound, to the St Lucie Inlet in Stuart.
For the first time I can ever remember, Ed and I could CLEARLY see the reefs below a sapphire-turquoise sea. We were amazed. “Can you believe this?” Ed and I repeated again and again during the windy flight. It was crystalline.
Yesterday’s fly-over was a sight for sore eyes; I am thankful for this time of healing for our ecosystem.
Below: SEWALL’S POINT as we approach Witham Field in Stuart. Sewall’s Point is a peninsula lying between the St Lucie River and Indian River Lagoon. The nearby St Lucie Inlet is the confluence of these two waterbodies that take on the discharges from Lake Okeechobee. Great to have a break!
“The donor is William Shanley who used to live in the Stucco house across from the Quisenberry property on Sewall’s Point. He was in real estate and he and Dan Deighan bought the Real Estate office of C. O. Rainey on Colorado Blvd. that had the aerials on the wall.”~Historian, Sandra Henderson Thurlow
When my mom handed me the original photograph my jaw dropped. The photo is huge, 16 x 20 inches, its unique perspective capturing at least thirty miles from the South Fork of the St Lucie River west to Lake Okeechobee!
This style of photograph looks like it was made using a plane and camera typical of the WWII era. These cameras were used after the war to help promote development especially here in Florida.
Even though taken sixty-one years ago, the photo reveals many familiar landmarks that define Martin County today, or once did: the winding South Fork of the St Luice River; the St Lucie Canal (C-44) connecting Lake Okeechobee to the South Fork; the dreaded St Lucie Locks and Dam (S-80); Highway 76 running from Stuart all the way to the Lake; the Florida Turnpike; Lake Okeechobee itself; the straight east west lines of Cove and Salerno Roads, the tropical fish farm between the two, and Paulson Road -today, near the bridge at Halpatiokee Park.
In modern times, development covers much of the wetlands in the forefront of the photo but back then….Harris Ranch, a beautiful area, along Roebuck Creek, sold in 1972; and good old fashioned Florida farms are also part of the historic mosiac. The most prominent farming taking place atop the high Green Ridge near Indiantown -at the sharp west turn of the St Lucie Canal.
This morning, Ed and I had some time, so we flew the “River Warrior” to get a glimpse of the modern view in mom’s photograph. An iPhone and an open air plane at 1000 feet wasn’t the same as a high flying spy plane with advanced camera equipment, but it was great fun to compare. We used the figure eight oxbow in the South Fork as the guide to find our way. It is circled it in red below for you to use too.
Whether 1959 or 2020, looking wide west, remains a sight to see!
~Click on images to enlarge.
Above: Oxbow in red circle above, today clearly seen in aerial Below. You can follow the St Luice Canal, (C-44 Canal) above the oxbow to identify today’s I-95, the Florida Turnpike, and St Lucie Locks and Dam.
Below: Close up, beyond I-95 and Turnpike sits St Luice Locks and Dam.
Flying southwest along most South Fork of the St Lucie River…
Thank you to pilots Scott Kuhns and Steve Schimming for providing a “wider perspective.” This morning, March 18th, their photos reveal an unravaged St Lucie River-Indian River Lagoon ~from 2500feet. These are shots I definitely could not get with my iPhone!
Thank you for the good news that shall be documented for all. ~The St Lucie, Indian River Lagoon -a year and a half into no Lake Okeechobee discharges- looks GREAT!
CROSSROADS ST LUCIE RIVER/INDIAN RIVER LAGOON, ST LUCIE INLET, MARTIN COUNTY, FL
SAILFISH POINT, HUTCHINSON ISALND
THE FAMOUS HOUSE OF REFUGE, BUILT IN 1876, HUTCHINSON ISLAND ocean and IRL
JUPITER NARROWS, INDIAN RIVER LAGOON SOUTH OF ST LUCIE INLET, ST LUCIE INLET STATE PARK
THE ST LUCIE RIVER-INDIAN RIVER LAGOON, COMING BACK, WHEN ALLOWED TO BE, IT IS “THE MOST BIO-DIVERSE ESTUARY IN NORTH AMERICA!”
ST LUCIE INLET STATE PARK, ST LUCIE INLET & SAILFISH POINT, MARTIN COUNTY 3-14/15-2020, photos Ed and Jacqui Lippisch
It is an amazing thing, what happens, when you give something time to heal. Life rises from the ashes, it returns. After some of the worst toxic discharge years -2013, 2016, 2018- the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon in Martin County is healing.
Let’s be clear. ~She is not flush, but she is healing.
Ed and my weekend aerials and boat excursion show absolutely beautiful water and God’s creatures on the rise! Seagrasses, once completely gone, are visible, but dormant from winter months, it still looks pretty barren. Hopefully, upcoming visits to the same area will reveal plush meadows by June or July.
These are awkward and difficult times, with Coronavirus restrictions quickly bearing down on us; so I wanted to share some “good news.”
We must not forget to focus on the gift of blue water and the miracle of resurgent life. Life that always returns if given the chance. ~It is all around us.
SEAGRASS EAST OF SAILFISH POINT & MANY BOATING FAMILIES ENJOYING THE SANDBAR AT CONFLUENCE ST. LUCIE RIVER AND INDIAN RIVER LAGOON
BABY QUEEN CONCH ARE RETUNING TO THE SANDBAR! SUCH BEAUTIFUL COLORS!
BIRD ISLAND, JUST OFF SEWALL’S POINT, SEE THE HUNDREDS OF WHITE SPECKS!
CROSSROADS AREA 2019-20 OFFERS BLUE WATER FLOWING IN FROM INLET RATHER THAN TOXIC BROWN OUTGOING FROM LAKE OKEECHOBEE WORSENED BY AREA CANALS
SOUTH- DOWN JUPITER NARROWS -PASSING ST LUCIE INLET STATE PARK & ARRIVING AT PECK’S LAKE ~A CONTINUATION OF THE INDIAN RIVER LAGOON. ~SLOW SPEED ZONES, MANY OSPREYS, JUMPING FISH, A FEW MANATEES &DOLPHINS. PEACE AND QUIET. ~SO NICE TO RETURN AT SUNSET KNOWING LIFE IS SLOWLY RETURNING TO THE ST LUCIE. LIFE RETURNS.
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.
Aerial, Kissimmee River restoration, Gary Goforth, 2-9-20
My most recent blog post included the above photograph of Kissimmee River Restoration north of Lake Okeechobee taken by Dr Gary Goforth. My mother, Sandy Thurlow, commented: “ I would so like for Dr. Goforth to explain what we are seeing in his aerial of the restoration of the Kissimmee River.”
I wrote Gary on behalf of my mother and he provided such comprehensive and helpful insight that today I am sharing not just for my mother, but for everyone! Please read below.
When time allows my mother was hoping to get an explanation of the wonderful Kissimmee River restoration photo you shared in my blog post. Could you please write something? Thank you so much.
The Kissimmee River Restoration (KRR) Project is one of my favorite projects on the planet!In the 1960s, the historic 105-mile meandering Kissimmee River was transformed into a 56-mile ditch by the Corps of Engineers at the request of the State of Florida to help relieve flooding upstream.Public activism convinced Gov. Bob Graham to support restoration of the River in the 1980s, and as a US Senator he was instrumental in having Congress authorize the Corps to proceed with restoration.The SFWMD was way out ahead of the Corps (again) and had completed several phases of engineering design and prototype testing.The initial backfilling of the C-38 Canal was begun in 1999, and when completed later this year, the project will re-establish flow in 40 miles of the old river and rehydrate about 12,400 acres of former wetlands that were over-drained by the canal.
There are many reasons I love the picture taken Sunday as Ed was flying Mark and I north of the Lake:
·In the foreground of the photo you see a section of the meandering restored Kissimmee River!The construction work in this section of the river consisted of backfilling the 300-ft wide and 30-ft deep canal.It also included “re-carving” some sections of river channel that were destroyed during C-38 canal construction.This work has routed water to the native channel and floodplain of the Kissimmee River, and reestablished hydrologic continuity between the river and floodplain for the first time since the C-38 canal was completed in 1971!How amazing!
·The photo also shows smaller secondary river channels and a colorful mosaic of wetlands on their way to restoration!What has been amazing is that despite almost 50 years of over-drainage, there are tens of thousands (maybe millions) of resilient seeds of the former marsh vegetation in the soil that have regenerated upon reflooding!This is truly amazing!
·The photo shows the restoration area known as Phase II, located roughly in the middle of the KRR project.This phase is almost complete, with the remaining canal backfilling to be completed later this year.By the way, the balance of the restoration project should also be completed this year!!!
·The left hand side of the photo, where the road crosses the floodplain, shows the location of what was the water control structure and navigation locks known as S-65C.As part of the restoration project, structure S-65C was demolished in 2017.For spatial reference, the old structure was located about 5 miles upriver from the Hwy 98 bridge and about 23 miles upstream of where the C-38 canal empties into the Lake.About 30 miles to the north (left in the photo) is where the C-38 Canal exits Lake Kissimmee.
·A Google Earth image taken in 2017 is attached below.This image shows the S-65C structure prior to demolition.
·In the photo taken on Sunday you can see the footprint of the backfilled C-38 canal in the center of the photo – on either side of the rectangular open water. You’ll need to zoom in to make out this detail since the inundated floodplain has almost covered up the former canal footprint!
Between the rain and the FAA’s Presidential Temporary Flight Restrictions, it has been difficult this Florida winter to get photos of the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon. Luckily, yesterday, there was an opportunity to get up in the air!
Ed took Florida Oceanographic https://www.floridaocean.org Executive Director, Mark Perry, and board member, Dr Gary Goforth up for a ride. Mark wanted to check on the seagrasses and near shore reefs. Gary – the restored Kissimmee https://www.sfwmd.gov/our-work/kissimmee-river as he was very much part of this success that is still underway. As it was quite windy and I have a delicate stomach, I stayed on the ground. I didn’t want to ruin the outing asking for an air-sick bag!
Today, I share some rare photos of the St Lucie River after being “Lake Okeechobee discharge free” for almost one year. As you can see, her seagrass beds still need a few more years to recover, but rhizomes and grasses are back in some areas, ~but not what we want- historic “all.” The ocean waters were very turned up so it was hard to see the reefs, but the water sure was blue and for that we are beyond thankful!
Ed and I and the River Warrior Community will continue to document and fight for the continued health of our St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon!
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.
Within minutes, Ed and I had passed the Savannas, City of Port St Lucie, and were flying over sprawling agricultural lands, and then the northern diked region of Lake Okeechobee ~where the Kissimmee River meets the lake.
Today we will share photos of the approximate twenty-two miles of the Kissimmee River floodplain, once channelized, that is now being restored by the ACOE and SFWMD.
The map image below shows in detail the different parts of the floodplain-river, and its “de-construction.” For me, the Kissimmee is a the greatest example of Stuart News’ editor Ernie Lyons’ famous words: “What men do, they can undo,” as channelization in the late 1960s, was immediately recognized as an ecological disaster and people began lobbying Congress for change. Sometimes, I guess, we learn the hard way…but at least we learned. Thank you to all those who have been part of this restoration!
These five photos below show take-off from Witham Field in Stuart over Sewall’s Point, the St Lucie River and Indian River Lagoon. The last two photos are the North Fork of the SLR and Port St Lucie.
The next six photos are the northern part of Lake Okeechobee. There is a lot of vegetation in this area that is sometimes submerged. These areas are important for bird life.
Below we start at the still channelized mouth of the Kissimmee River entering Lake Okeechobee. As we approached the restored area, birds were flying down below, white against green, having returned to their historic nesting grounds: https://www.sfwmd.gov/news/nr_2018_0329_2017_sfwbr
Yesterday, 3-17-19, my husband, Ed, flew the Super-Cub over the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon ~ twenty-one days after the ACOE started discharging from Lake Okeechobee on February 24, 2019.
When Ed arrived home, I asked, “So how was it?”
“Brown,” he replied.
“Like dark coffee brown, or kind of like that weird mixed greenish-brown?”
He looked at me, and smiled. “Jacqui, it was brown.”
“OK, I said, I’ll take a look at your photos.”
So here are the photos from Ed’s flight from Witham Field in Stuart, over Sewall’s Point and Hutchinson Island, then out west to S-80 to see the “Seven Gates of Hell” where you can see the one gate discharging now at an average of 250 cubic feet per second, down from an average of 500 cubic feet per second. As you can see from the SFWMD chart below, there has been other runoff locations as well, but the majority is from Lake Okeechobee.
Thank you to my husband Ed, for showing us that right now, the river is brown.
The following phots are of Caulkins Water Farm, a former orange grove that died due to citrus greening that now holds water from the C-44 Canal. This is a wonderful thing! As local ag-man Mr. Hadad, told me once, “Jacqui we spent 100 years taking the water off the land, and we’ll spend the next 100 years putting it back on.” The later photos are of S-80 again with view of C-44 canal leading west to Lake O.(https://www.facebook.com/CaulkinsWaterFarm/)
The following photos are when Ed headed back to Witham Field going once again over the St Lucie Inlet over the Atlantic Ocean. You can see the water looks blue north of Sailfish Point north of the inlet with nearshore reefs visible. Plume is also visible south of St Lucie Inlet. Also in photos is the winding Jupiter Narrows and St Lucie River in the area of Stuart and Rio. You can see Langford Landing with scraped orange soil and docks built into river still under construction since 2015.
Temporary Flight Restrictions were in place this weekend as President Trump and the First Lady were visiting their home, Mar-a-Lago, in Palm Beach. The restrictions go right up to the edge of Stuart, thus it was not possible to fly into the Crossroads or St Lucie Inlet to continue documenting the discharges that began on February 23, 2019.
Instead, today, I am posting a link to an article by Tyler Treadway of TCPalm entitled:
If Army Corps stops Lake Okeechobee discharges soon, St. Lucie River Suffers Little Harm. It states:
“Two weeks of Lake Okeechobee discharges haven’t caused much damage to the St. Lucie River estuary, but an environmental expert says extending the releases much longer could be devastating.
The Army Corps of Engineers, which started discharging lake water to the river estuary Feb. 25 at an average daily rate of about 323 million gallons, plans for the releases to continue at least until March 16.
They’d better not last much longer, said Mark Perry, executive director of the Florida Oceanographic Society in Stuart.”
From what I understand the releases are scheduled for 21 days which would put them through around March 15, 2019.
Ed did fly to Zephyr Hills near Tampa, so I asked him to take photos of that trip. Below you can see Moore Haven, S-308 Port Mayaca, Lake Okeechobee, and other aerials of interest. Ed said he saw no cyanobacteria or blue-green algae in Lake Okeechobee.
Some months ago, the original “River Warrior” Piper Cub was replaced with a Super Cub. Because the Super Cub is so much more powerful, more like a helicopter, it is much windier in the back of the plane, where I sit. I almost dropped my beloved iPhone, many times, before I gave up….
I have had to replace my lightweight and versatile iPhone with a “real” camera as the weight of the camera is stabilizing. Today, I share some of my other aerials of the St Lucie/IRL Region from 3-2-19, taken with this heavier camera. I thank my husband Ed for “giving me wings.” Over the coming months, as I adapt, we shall begin to document all of Florida’s east coast. First, here’s home!
Circling back over the IRL and US Sailing Center’s regatta, a beautiful sight!
The remaining photos are coming in for landing circling over the St Lucie at Roosevelt Bridge and developed lands…