Category Archives: Indian River Lagoon

Aerial Update St Lucie River/IRL-end July

My “River Warrior” team and I continue to document the health of the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon. Thank you to pilots Scott Kuhns, and my husband, Ed Lippisch. Also my brother, Todd Thurlow, for his eyeonlakeo website updates and Florida Oceanographic for their weekly water quality report. As the summer temperature heats up, the water is not as clear as earlier this year, however, Saharan dust is keeping the rain and hurricanes away, seagrass is rebounding, and there have been no major discharges from Lake Okeechobee in over three years. Thank you to everyone and every agency fighting and advocating for clean water!

Florida Oceanographic Water Quality Report shows a C+ for the overall St Lucie Estuary with high scores near the inlet but lower scores in the main river and forks. See above link.

The seven photos below were taken by Scott Kuhns from his SuperCub on Saturday, July 30, 2022 around 11:30am.

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-St Lucie Inlet area and confluence of SLR/IRL -Sailfish Flats with seagrass recovery but lots of attached micro algae

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The ten photos below were taken by Ed Lippisch from the Vans RV-also on Saturday, July 30th, at approximately 2pm. No visible algae was seen visually at S-308, Port Mayaca or S-80 in the C-44 Canal although Lake Okeechobee was recently reported by FDEP to be around “50% algae coverage.” View here on my brother’s website  EYEONLAKEO under HAB-IMAGES.

-Port Mayaca’s S-308 at Lake Okeechobee -S-80 at St Lucie Locks and Dam, C-44 Canal

SFWMD canal and basin map. C-44 canal is the canal most southerly in the image and the only canal that connects to Lake Okeechobee.

 

Ten Mile Creek Reservoir Visit with Congressman Mast

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Wildlife is thriving! Many bird species visit the area including endangered Snail Kites.
  5. 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

First Mate of Clear Waters and Sparse Seagrasses

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.

SFWMD March 10, 2022, Ecological Report

Rivers Coaltion  meeting March 24, 2022

MRC IRL REPORT 2022 CARD UPDATE

-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…

Together with the ACOE, C-23/24 STA

-Selfie with ACOE Col. Jamie Booth, courtesy of Brigida I. Sanchez, USACOE Public Affairs.-Rounding an oxbow of the North Fork of the St Lucie River, tour with ACOE, February 18, 2022.The St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon had a great day, February 18, 2022. The C-23/24 Storm Water Treatment Area for CERP‘s “Indian River Lagoon South” broke ground in St Lucie County. In this case, the SFWMD bought the land and the ACOE builds the projects. As they have since 2000, when CERP was first authorized, the ACOE & SFWMD work together. Component C-23/24 was first authorized by Congress in 2007; this project has waited patiently for its debut.

I noticed right off the bat that the Army Corp’s words spoken at the ceremony were more personal, more empathetic than I had ever heard before.Lt. Col. Todd Polk:

“I can already see the eelgrass in the lagoon. I see the healthy wetland. I can see the birds and fish. I see our neighbors in St. Lucie and Martin counties making a living, enjoying and recreating in the restored environment.”

Col. Jamie Booth:

“This feels like a watershed moment….”

For entire ACOE presentation click here.

~It was quite windy and the outstanding educational project posters the ACOE had created were blown down. I asked I they would send me a PDF of the posters so I could share them.

Thank to the ACOE for methodically moving forward with with a modern mission to heal our waters. Together, we will get there!

SEE LARGE PDF BY CLICKING LINK BELOW IMAGE.

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POSTER_C-23_24_020822

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IRL_S_OVERVIEW

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IRL_S_FUTURE_BENEFITS

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IRL_S_C44

-SFWMD Comm. Dir, JTL, H.M. Ridgley, Evan’s Properties, courtesy of Brigida I. Sanchez, USACOE Public Affairs.

PHOTOS FROM RIBION CUTTING AND TOUR OF NORTH FORK OF ST LUCIE RIVER THAT FOLLOWED GROUNDBREAKING.

“Smile!”press release acoe & sfwmd“Chairman SFWMD Governing Board, Chauncey Goss, wears his ACOE/SFWMD cap!” Thank you for driving from Sanibel to speak Chauncey! Thank you to City of Stuart’s Mayor Merritt Matheson who arranged for the boat tour with help from Captains for Clean Water & Indian Riverkeeper. After the groundbreaking, officials toured the C-24 Canal and North Fork of the St Lucie River – filling three crafts. It is priceless for the agencies to witness on the ground/on the water the waterbodies we are working to restore!

-My boat was captained by Mike Holiday, Captains for Clean Water. Passengers left to right St Lucie County Commissioner Frannie Hutchinson who is credited along with St Lucie County Commission for keeping this project alive for 20 years and then getting it to groundbreaking, no simple task; ACOE Col. Jamie Booth; Captain Mike Holiday; Stuart Mayor, Merritt Matheson; and Exec. Dir SFWMD Drew Bartlett.

It was so exciting to show the Col. Booth the remaining beautiful North Fork of the St Lucie River that is designated a state designated aquatic preserve. See video below!

The St Lucie River was originally a large fresh water “stream” that ran into the Indian River Lagoon. Now it is connected to multiple canals.

Free “Save Our Manatees” presentation – Lyric Theatre

Manatees are in the news…

Mark your calendar for 7pm on March 24, 2022. The Environmental Studies Council and River Kidz present: “Save Our Manatees -How Water Pollution and Seagrass Loss are Killing Florida’s Beloved Sea Cow,” at the Lyric Theatre in Stuart.

Patrick Rose, Executive Director of Save the Manatee, will be speaking. The event will be moderated by Eve Samples of Friends of the Everglades –with the help and input of the River KidzTickets are free,  just call the Lyric Box Office at 772-286-7827. See flyer above!

If you are not familiar with Mr Patrick Rose, he is a great speaker, and knows more than just about anyone about manatees. This is a recent update he gave from Save the Manatee to the Rivers Coalition. His words are extremely informative. Just go to 30.00 in link below to hear his seven minute Zoom presentation.

Rivers Coalition 1-27-22 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uwEgM1BMJ4I

Also Dr. Tom Reinard of the Florida Wildlife Commission reported 1-26-22 -with this cold snap- that on 1-20-22 manatees began taking food. This is an unprecedented situation due to the Manatee Unusual Mortality Event in the Indian River Lagoon. Thank you to FWC and cooperating organizations/agencies for doing all they can to help these ancient and gentle marine mammals.

See this  link for latest FWC update and to see video of manatees taking/eating Romaine Lettuce.

In closing, I have thought a lot about manatees today. Don’t tell my husband, Ed, but I just adopted a manatee in his name for our wedding anniversary coming up on 2-12-22. Here’s his adoption certificate for Millie. LOVE THOSE MANATEES!