Category Archives: Guest writer

“Phosphorus Loading by Land Use – What FDEP Isn’t Telling Us!” Gary Goforth, PhD.

I am once again honored to share Dr. Goforth’s work:

Excerpt from: A Brief Discussion of Lake Okeechobee Pollution G. Goforth, PhD.  9/18/2018:

“For calendar year 2017, the phosphorus loading to the Lake Okeechobee approached 2.3 million pounds, the highest level ever recorded, and the 5-yr average phosphorus loading to the lake was more than 5 times the pollution allocation established for the watershed. This pollution target is called the “Total Maximum Daily Load” or “TMDL.” The result: an algae bloom covered 90 percent of the lake this summer (NOAA 2018).

In addition, the state’s annual “progress report” on efforts to reduce pollution of the lake underestimates the actual loading to the lake. For the last two years the FDEP has published reports indicating phosphorus loading to the lake has decreased – yet these claims conflict with the measured loads to the lake, e.g., the average load measured in 2017 was 60% higher than reported by FDEP…”

Gary Goforth PhD, http://garygoforth.net/, has more than 30 years of experience in water resources engineering, encompassing strategic planning, design, permitting, construction, operation and program management and is an outspoken advocate for the St Luice River/Indian River Lagoon.

Our Algae Crisis Through the Lens of Master Photographer, Mac Stone

St Lucie Lock & Dam, S-80 where water from sick Lake Okeechobee is sent into the St Lucie River

It really says something about the state of Florida waters, when our most renowned Nature photographers visit to photograph the decline of what was once most beautiful. They cannot lie. To only photograph what is beautiful, is not to tell the story of what is happening to Florida’s waters.

On August 19, my husband Ed and I had the pleasure of taking award-winning Florida conservation photographer,  Mac Stone, https://www.macstonephoto.com for a flight over the St Lucie River, Lake Okeechobee, and afterwards, for a Sunday toxic drive.

Today, I share Mac’s photos, a testament to the terrible we must change…

To be around Mac himself was very uplifting. His message, I offer below. Please visit his Facebook page to view how Mac presented his St Lucie algae experience and to see his other work that is entirely inspirational.

Thank you Mac for sharing. Thank you Mac for caring! It meant so much to have you visit the dear St Lucie and your story reaches the world.

https://www.facebook.com/MacStonePhotography/

“Cities and estuaries, homeowners and businesses, beach goers and anglers, dems and repubs, people and wildlife, we are all affected by polluted water, no matter where you live. It’s heartbreaking to see my beloved coasts and wetlands like this and to hear the desperation in residents’ voices as algae-laden water courses through the arteries of their backyards. Let’s make sure this doesn’t happen again. Elections are coming up and no matter how you lean, please vote for water.” ~Mac Stone

#noworneverglades #florida #algae #everglades @ Martin County, Florida

Algae stream from Lake Okeechobee under the Veterans’ Bridge, Palm City
Cyanobacteria, also known as blue-green algae takes shape in C-44
A boat, no people, a dock, an eerie St Lucie River
The point is no longer the place to be
Cyanobacteria on the west side of Lake Okeechobee, littoral zone, and clouds
Driven by wind, what is toxic, proves beautiful in some odd way
Western Lake Okeechobee with toxic algae blowing into shoreline marsh
A striking image, giant fingers of cyanobacteria and a small boat, Lake Okeechobee
Empty Tiki Bar- Palm City is not, now so fun
Palm City, blue-green algae, properly called cyanobacteria- between red mangroves
Lightning strikes, an ancient form in modern times -cyanobacteria along the St Lucie
Gar fish, St Lucie Estuary, #toxic18
An outdated water model. St Lucie Locks and Dam. Florida must change from water management to water enhancement

_________________________________________________________

Water Quality Assessment of the St. Lucie River Watershed – Water Year 2018 – DRAFT, Gary Goforth PhD

Gary Goforth: http://garygoforth.net

Gary Goforth, P.E., Ph.D.

Dr. Gary Goforth has more than 30 years of experience in water resources engineering, encompassing strategic planning, design, permitting, construction, operation and program management. For the last 25 years, his focus has been on large-scale environmental restoration programs in the Kissimmee-Okeechobee-Everglades ecosystem. He was the Chief Consulting Engineer during the design, construction and operation of the $700 million Everglades Construction Project, containing over 41,000 acres of constructed wetlands.  He is experienced in public education, water quality treatment design and evaluation, engineering design and peer review, systems ecology, statistical hydrology, hydrologic modeling, hydrodynamic modeling, water quality modeling, environmental permit acquisition and administration, hydrologic and water quality performance analyses.

Once again, I am honored to share the work our favorite local advocate scientist, Gary Goforth. His news about our St Lucie River is not always pleasing, but it is so helpful to have his insights on important issues. Being educated is our best defense. Please see Gary’s note below  with links to his most recent updates.

8-24-18

Hi Jacqui – attached is the Executive Summary of the paper in jpeg format – easier to share!

The full report is available on my website:

http://www.garygoforth.net/DRAFT%20-%20Water%20Quality%20Assessment%20of%20the%20SLRW%20-%20Water%20Year%202018.pdf

Also available on my website is:

Brief Discussion of Lake Okeechobee Pollution (http://www.garygoforth.net/Lake%20Okeechobee%20Pollution%20Summary%20-%20Draft%208%2021%202018.pdf)

My guest column in yesterday’s Stuart News: Strengthening Environmental Policies in Tallahassee Required to Resolve Algae Crisis (http://www.garygoforth.net/Strengthening%20Environmental%20Policies%20in%20Tallahassee%20Required%20to%20Solve%20Algae%20Crisis.pdf)

Summary Lake Inflows and discharges to estuaries and areas to the south through July 2018 (http://www.garygoforth.net/2018%20Partial%20Summary%20-%20through%207%2031%202018%20-%20revised.pdf)

Hope these are helpful!

Gary

John Moran’s “Florida’s Summer of Slime: Stuart and Lake Okeechobee”

It’s an honor to present:

“Florida’s Summer of Slime: Stuart and Lake Okeechobee,” photo essay by John Moran, August 2018

I reported last month on the plight of the Caloosahatchee River and its befouled waters flowing from Lake Okeechobee; delivering slime to waterfront neighborhoods in Fort Myers and Cape Coral along the way to the Gulf Islands of Southwest Florida.

Next up on our Summer of Slime photo tour is a visit to Stuart and Lake O…Stuart and environs is a glistening jewel born of water. It may well top the list of Florida cities in shoreline per capita. There’s simply water everywhere. Two forks of the St. Lucie River, the Indian River Lagoon, canals and peninsulas and islands, and the Atlantic Ocean beyond. Stuart is pictured above; below is neighboring Hutchinson Island.

But it wasn’t Stuart’s reputation for abundant clean water that drew me south from Gainesville with my cameras. In effect, I’ve become a traveling crime scene photographer—and slime is the crime. A devastating outbreak of toxic algae has once again hit the St. Lucie River and the Treasure Coast, fueled by the polluted waters of Lake Okeechobee and the Kissimmee River basin to the north. Damaging headlines trumpet the story to the nation and the world and Governor Scott has declared a state of emergency. It’s déjà vu all over again.

My hosts in Stuart were water blogger Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch and her husband, Ed Lippisch.

Ed took me up for a photo flight in his Piper Cub so I could get the big picture.

Seen from a small plane at 500 feet, Florida is a beautiful place.

Here’s Lake Okeechobee and the western terminus of the St. Lucie C-44 Canal. Administered by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Port Mayaca Lock and Dam has the capacity to discharge 14,800 cubic feet of water per second downstream to Stuart and the St. Lucie River Estuary, 26 miles away.

Sugar industry representatives say the water coming out of Lake Okeechobee is not the problem and that the algae outbreak in Stuart is primarily caused by Stuart’s own septic tanks and urban stormwater. This claim is contradicted by the extensive algae mats seen along the C-44 Canal between the Port Mayaca and St. Lucie Locks, well upstream from Stuart.

Lake Okeechobee historically drained south to Florida Bay, not east and west to the Atlantic and Gulf. The C-44 canal was built in 1916 to divert floodwaters to the coast.

A view of the St. Lucie Lock and Dam, several miles southwest of Stuart. On the day of my photo flight in late July, the dam gates were closed, visibly holding back algae from flowing downstream. Look closely and you can see what some people call The Seven Gates of Hell.

The St. Lucie Lock and Dam are an integral part of South Florida’s complex web of water management structures, born of an age when the Everglades was reviled as a watery wasteland and America was driven to drain it.

Below the St. Lucie Lock and Dam, in Palm City and Stuart, you can still find waterfront homes untouched by the algae bloom. But that’s no consolation for the thousands of Martin County residents whose lives are in upheaval once again this summer. The familiar pattern of algae outbreaks is fueled by fertilizer, manure and urban sources of nutrient pollution, including septic tanks.

All of this is compounded by denial and neglect by elected officials and agencies to whom we entrust the important work of environmental protection and public health.

Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch took me on a driving tour of the C-44 Canal from Stuart to enormous Lake O, which is more like a stormwater treatment pond than a biologically healthy lake. “There are toxic algae blooms across the globe, but only one place where the government dumps it on you: Florida,” she says.

It’s not just the algae from Lake Okeechobee causing headaches along Florida’s east coast; the sheer volume of freshwater discharges is an environmental pollutant that overwhelms the estuary.

The Lake O gunk visible in the satellite view, above, is shown in the detail photo below.

Fishermen are still drawn to Port Mayaca. On the day we visited, I counted nine.

Dinner in hand (speckled perch), Felix Gui, Jr. has been fishing Lake O for 30 years. “The algae doesn’t affect the fish,” he says. “They eat the same, algae or no algae, and I haven’t gotten sick.” Experts have warned against eating fish exposed to the algae.

A Martin County Health Department sign at Port Mayaca warns against contact with the water but I saw no messaging about whether fish caught in these waters is safe to eat.

Enroute home to Stuart, Jacqui and I stopped at deserted Timer Powers Park on the St. Lucie Canal in Indiantown.

At the St. Lucie Lock, a surreal scene of impaired water, above, and a vortex of slime, below, waiting to be flushed downstream.

A pair of jet-skiers signaled for the lock to be opened, and another pulse of algae-laden water is released towards Stuart and the coast.

Wouldn’t want to anyway, thanks.

Further downstream, the algae spreads…

Nearing the coast, Rio Nature Park and the neighboring Central Marine in Stuart are slimed again. This was the epicenter of the infamous Treasure Coast algae outbreak of 2016.

Reporter Tyler Treadway of TCPalm gathered a sample of the polluted water from a canal behind the offices of Florida Sportsman magazine in Stuart.

Staff complaints of headaches, nausea and dizziness prompted Florida Sportsman publisher Blair Wickstrom to temporarily close the office in late July. “It smells like death,” he said.

The Shepard Park boat ramp parking lot in Stuart was nearly empty on the day we visited.

A man on a mission, Mike Knepper, above and below, posts videos on his Youtube channel documenting the degradation of natural Florida.

“It’s totally unacceptable to me what we’re doing to this planet because we’re very rapidly destroying it,” Knepper says. “My children and grandchildren will be paying the price for all the bad decisions we’re making today. I want to be able to look them in the face and say, ‘I tried to make a difference.’”

Dead-end canals along the St. Lucie River with their limited water exchange have been hardest hit by the toxic blue-green algae, which scientists refer to as cyanobacteria.

A growing body of medical research links exposure to cyanobacteria with neurodegenerative diseases including Parkinson’s, ALS and Alzheimer’s. Google it.

Meanwhile, we’re getting conflicting messages from officialdom. Martin County has erected signs warning against contact with the water but the Florida Dept. of Health website, under the heading How to Keep Your Family Safe While Enjoying Florida’s Water Ways, has this to say: “Cyanobacteria/ blue-green algae…are naturally occurring in Florida’s environment and are also found all over the world. They are part of a healthy ecosystem and help support a wide variety of aquatic life.” (http://www.floridahealth.gov/environmental-health/aquatic-toxins/cyanobacteria.html) In other words, Lighten up, Florida. This is just nature being natural.

An open question remains: What will become of the value of the Florida brand when the world fully sees what we have done to our waters?

Even in disaster, strange beauty emerges.

Greg Fedele has lived in his water-front home since 1991. He grieves for his loss. “I have three kids who can’t enjoy the waterways of Martin County like I did growing up.”

The sign at Ocean Blue Yacht Sales in Stuart echoes a wide swath of community sentiment. Asked to describe in a word how the algae outbreak has impacted his business, president Bryan Boyd replied, “Horrible. The last three years, our bay boat sales have been a third of what they used to be.”

A roadside sign seen in Stuart in late July. If you’re wondering what you can do about the ongoing crisis of Florida waters, we are called to consider our own water footprint, learn about the issues and get involved. And never forget that elections have consequences. Vote for Clean Water. (https://www.bullsugar.org/#)

What we have here in Florida is not just a crisis of water, we have a crisis of democracy and civic engagement.

From the beleaguered springs of North Florida to the sickened rivers and coasts of South Florida, we must understand that no savior is waiting on the horizon who will fix this thing for us.

It took a group effort to create this mess and we need all hands on deck if are to reclaim our waters. Florida needs environmental patriots willing to face down politicians funded by wealthy interests who think nothing of sacrificing our public waters on the altar of their private profits.

We don’t have the luxury of time to get this right. We are losing our waters now. This is our moment. It’s time to set aside our differences and focus on what is at stake, for this is nothing less than a battle for the soul of Florida.

The pictures don’t lie. We the people of Florida bear witness today to nothing less than a crime against nature, and a crime against the children who shall inherit our natural legacy.

A long time ago, Florida political leaders—Republicans and Democrats in common cause—understood there can be no healthy economy without a healthy environment. They wisely enacted laws and regulatory safeguards accordingly.

But that was then and this is now. It’s time to end the popular fiction in Florida that we can plunder and pollute our way to prosperity.

Gov. Reubin Askew said it best when he declared in 1971, “Ecological destruction is nothing less than economic suicide.”

In this, our Summer of Slime, can I get an amen?

by John Moran
August 2018

web: http://johnmoranphoto.com
email: JohnMoranPhoto@gmail.com
cell: 352.514.7670

Feel free to forward or post this photo essay as you wish; attribution is appreciated. Please share this with elected officials and ask them: what’s their plan to clean up our waters?

Breaking Through Water and Sky, Believe

If you feel anything like me, you’re not just tired, but sick of heart from looking at dead animals. The atrocities of our estuaries this year, especially for the Caloosahatchee, are Armageddon like in nature.

It is natural to be saddened, but we must stay strong and find inspiration. When we look around, even on the bloody environmental battlefield, it is there.

Today, I share the beautiful photos of local St Lucie River photographer Stephen Duffy, his Anhinga series shows this symbolic bird in all its glory. These special, yet common birds have no oil on their feathers, so they can both swim underwater and fly above the Earth. Thus the Native People held them sacred.  ~The bird that can fly and swim. The bird that can do “anything.” The bird that breaks the wall of water and sky.

When you see the anhinga remember: fly, swim, break through walls, and most important, believe.

Links:

https://www.nps.gov/ever/learn/nature/anhinga.htm

https://childrenofthesunnativeculture.com/cosnc/?q=node/187

The Champion Fallen Oak, Nathaniel Pryor Reed, SLR/IRL

Champion oak tree in Angel Oak Park, on Johns Island, South Carolina, National Registry of Champion Oaks page, 2015, https://www.americanforests.org/explore-forests/americas-biggest-trees/champion-trees-national-register/ (Image: B.B. Easton)
Christine Stapleton, Palm Beach Post 2014 https://www.mypalmbeachpost.com/news/state–regional-govt–politics/tales-nature-and-power-award-enough-for-legendary-enviro-nat-reed/IGeJCG9mimBDuetearCDvN/
My parent’s fallen oak tree, 2016.

Nathaniel Pryor Reed 1933-2018

Obituary, Washington Post: https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/obituaries/nathaniel-reed-leader-in-efforts-to-protect-endangered-wildlife-and-wetlands-dies-at-84/2018/07/13/ae25a46a-86a7-11e8-8f6c-46cb43e3f306_story.html?utm_term=.f87d9c61166c

Moon through the giant oak tree at my parents house, 11-6-14. (Photo Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch)

The death of elderly Mr Nathaniel Reed, was not completely unexpected. He was like an ancient champion oak, old and beautifully weathered. But the news of his death was shocking, bringing  tears and heartbreak to the many touched by his long branches, and the seeds he spread along the way.

I can never “not remember” Mr Reed. He was always, since my earliest childhood, a figment of my greater imagination and consciousness, an example of what it meant to have a meaningful life and purpose,  to walk and make change in the tainted world of politics, to choose the greater-good over greed, to inspire.

During my Sewall’s Point mayorship in 2011,  I first became active in the environmental community for which Martin County is known. Mr Reed planted the seeds, writing me a note here and there, on his quality stationary; in 2016, he gave the maximum amount to my campaign when I ran for county commissioner, District 1, and in his final years, Mr Reed wrote a Letter to the Editor of the Stuart News of which he sent me a copy.

At that time my student proposed Constitution Revision Commission proposal “A Right to a Clean Environment” was getting clobbered by Affiliated Industries, the Florida Chamber, The Florida Agriculture Coalition, and other powers who had assembled a legal team, including a former Florida Chief Justice to squash this threatening idea.

I was so worn down, and had been working so hard. Mr Reed’s letter and support reinvigorated me and the students. And although the proposal did not make the vote, it made smarter people than me on the CRC and throughout the state think, about how our paradise of Florida has become so polluted, and what we can do for change.

Let’s once again read Mr Reed’s words, at the trunk of the fallen champion oak remembering that we are his acorns, or even his resurrection fern…

Thank you Mr Reed. I am forever grateful. We will work towards your legacy.

Letter: Proposed amendment a brave effort to ensure a clean environment

Dec. 8, 2017

Thank you for the Dec. 1 editorial supporting the right to a clean environment!

The “usual suspects” are opposing the constitutional amendment proposed by Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch, which would receive strong support from the vast majority of Florida voters, just as they quietly opposed Amendment 1.

The fact that the Department of Environmental Protection and the Everglades Foundation have at last identified every polluter in the vast Okeechobee headwaters is an astonishing feat. The sheer number of polluters is mind-boggling.

The failure to enforce the possibly unenforceable standard (best management practices) shines through the research as testament to the carelessness of our state governmental agencies about enforcing strict water quality standards within the watershed.

There is not a lake, river nor estuary in Florida that is not adversely impacted by agricultural pollution.

As one of the authors of the 1973 Clean Water Act, I attempted late in the process to include agricultural pollution in the bill, but the major congressional supporters of the pending bill felt that by adding controls on agricultural pollution the bill would fail.

Now, 54 years later, fertilizer and dairy wastes 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!

Lefty Durando’s column clearly states the issues involved in the decades-long struggle to protect the Arctic National Wild Life Refuge. Having been there several times as assistant secretary, I have joined a group of well-known environmentalists, Republicans and Democrats urging defeat of the proposal to open the critical habitat of the coast zone to exploratory drilling. I suspect it is a lost cause, but one worth the fight to preserve the “Serengeti of the North”!

Nathaniel Reed, Hobe Sound

Links:

The Right to a Clean Environment Should Be Written Into Florida’s Constitution, JTL, Stuart News: https://www.tcpalm.com/story/opinion/contributors/2017/10/26/right-clean-environment-should-written-into-florida-constitution-guest-column/802410001/

News, Bruce Ritchie, Politico: Affiliated Industries Prepares to Fight a Right to a Clean Environment: https://www.politico.com/states/florida/story/2017/11/22/industry-to-fight-proposed-constitutional-amendment-for-clean-healthful-environment-122148

Resurrection fern

Satellite Images of Lake O, What Do They Reveal? SLR/ IRL 6-7-18

Since the ACOE and SFWMD have yet to develop public satellite imagery of algal bloom development in Lake Okeechobee with NOAA during rainy season, I go to my brother Todd. Ever since we were kids, he’s loved science and technology.

I have been bugging him lately for a satellite image…

6-4-18, Jacqui : Todd do you know when last high-resolution satellite photograph was taken of lake o and how to access this photo? Thank you. 

6-4-18 Todd: Should have been a Landsat 8 image on 5/21 but it is not available for some reason. The Landsat 7 image from 5/29 is so bad because of the broken instrument that is not usable. Preview here, I would have to “order” high res but not worth it.

6-5-18 Jacqui : Thanks Todd

6-6-18, Todd: Hey Jac, the European sentinel-2 satellite took a good image yesterday. I will post it to my page tonight and add sentinel to the Landsat folder. It doesn’t show anything though. The sentinel-3 satellite took an interesting chlorophyll wavelength shot showing returns in the southern lake. However, it doesn’t seem terribly accurate because the returns over time have been all over the place. I will have to study more up on those types of images.

Sentinel-2 L1C, SWIR on 2018-06-05
Sentinel-2 L1C, True color on 2018-06-05

6-6-18, Jacqui: Well thanks Todd, thankfully that must mean at least for these images the algae is not so much that it’s visible to the satellite in space but we know some is there from 1st hand. This is good news for now. Can we keep getting images? Why ACOE and SFWMD don’t have and report on regularly is ridiculous.

6-6-18, Todd: …..

6-7-18 Jacqui: Hey Todd, the Terra image that is in today do you think that is algae or a cloud east of FPL Pond? Know hard to tell w/lower res.

Todd and I will keep you posted.

For more, go to Todd’s website, look for Firm Favorites; St Lucie River Discharges;  Latest Lake O Satellite Imagery:http://www.thurlowpa.com