Category Archives: Indian River Lagoon

Hurricane Nicole’s Ugly Effect – St. Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon

As shared in my recent blog post, Hurricane Nicole brought a significant storm surge to the St Lucie River and Indian River Lagoon region. Many residents experienced flooding and property damage, especially of docks and seawalls.

Today, 11-16-22, my husband, Ed, went up in the RV plane and took pictures to compare to others we took prior to Hurricane Nicole.

It has been quite a time. Nicole hit Florida on November 10, 2022 and Hurricane Ian on September 28, 2022. The river has taken two recent hits.

When Ed got home and I asked him how the river looked, there was a pause and he replied, “just like old times…” meaning “not good.”

Ed’s photos were taking during a rising tide around 1:15 November, 16, 2022. You will see that there is the flushing/cleaning of incoming ocean water from the St. Lucie Inlet. If the estuary is left alone, in time, a few weeks, it will significantly clear up. If the ACOE discharges from Lake Okeechobee, (the Lake is at 16.22 feet) it will not clear. Tomorrow’s (11-17-22) Rivers Coalition meeting at 11am at the City of Stuart Chamber, 121 SW Flagler Avenue, Stuart, Fl 34994, will address this issue, also the issue of “sending water south.” The guest speaker will be LTC Todd Polk. I encourage all to attend.

The goal? To allow the St Lucie River to return to her true beauty and that can only happen when we stop the discharges, all of them.

2-11-15 ACOE Periodic Scientist Call information: Periodic_Scientists_Call_2022-11-15

-Sewall’s Point between the SLR/IRL -click on to enlarge. -Ernie Lyons bridge from Sewall’s Point to Hutchinson Island- IRL–Jupiter Narrows far left, SLR-Plume in Atlantic Ocean coming out of St Lucie Inlet


We “All” Live in an Ancient Indian Archaeological Zone

-Erosion at Santa Lucea Beach, Martin County , FL  11-11-22, JTLJust a few days ago, Hurricane Nicole whipped up the Atlantic Ocean and unearthed an ancient Ais Indian burial site at Chastain Beach on Hutchinson Island, near Bathtub Beach and Sailfish Point. Once again, we are reminded of history and those who lived here before us. I would hope, in time, these remains will be sacredly reinterred.

11-12-22 TCPalm article “Hutchinson Island Burial Site May Have Exposed Bones”

It is important to note that the local native people of Florida did not just live on Hutchinson Island, they utilized our entire coastal area of the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon. In fact, almost our entire coastal region is designated an “Archaeological Zone.”

-Below: map insert section of Martin County, Florida coast. “An Archaeological Survey of Martin County, Florida, 1995.” The shaded areas denote archaeological zones – areas the native people especially lived in and utilized. This includes Hutchinson Island, Sewall’s Point, parts of Rio, Jensen, Stuart, Palm City,  Rocky Point, and Hobe Sound among others. This report was not just to map these areas but also to alert developers. What does this mean? It means that in 1995 the famous archaeologist, Robert Carr, and his team determined such, and this is documented in their publication written for Martin County Government. Ironically, I had just asked my mother for a copy for our study of Palm City so when the unearthing occurred I took note.

The publication  provides the following designating these Archaeological Zones.

I am reminded to share an old blog post of mine about the Indian Mound, still visible,  in Ft Pierce. Tuckahoe, in Jensen, is also an ancient Indian mound. Most of course were disrespectfully carted away to construct roads.

“The Ais were a tribe of Native Americans who inhabited the Atlantic Coast of Florida. They ranged from present day Cape Canaveral to the St. Lucie Inlet, in the present day counties of Brevard, Indian River, St. Lucie and northernmost Martin. They lived in villages and towns along the shores of the great lagoon called Rio de Ais by the Spanish, and now called the Indian River.” -House of Refuge exhibit

Not just after a hurricane, but every day, we should remember those who were here before us and how they lived- in tune and respecting Nature. The best place to learn about the Ais people is at the House of Refuge on Hutchinson Island near to where the recent artifacts and bones were unearthed.

By the way, where do you live?

Video “Shadows & Reflections, Florida’s Lost People, features archaeologist Robert Carr and gives an idea of many of Florida’s native peoples.


Hurricane Nicole vs. 1984 Thanksgiving Day Storm

What a few days…
What became “Hurricane Nicole” was first labeled a “subtropical” storm
I texted my brother Todd, ( inquiring and he sent me a NOAA article about tropical, subtropical, and extratropical storms. Hmmm?
When I posted a video on Facebook as Nicole approached, showing South Sewall’s Point Road underwater, I was asked: “Is this the worst it has ever flooded?” This got me thinking about my photo archives so  I pulled out old pictures of the November Thanksgiving Day Storm that former Sewall’s Point Mayor, and friend, Don Winer shared with me.
The Thanksgiving Day Storm was not a named hurricane.  
Below are videos of Sewall’s Point from November 9, 2022 as Hurricane Nicole approached the east cost of Florida. Next, are photos from 1984 after the Thanksgiving Day Flood. Both storms are for the Florida November record books -that’s for sure! Looking at the photographs, and considering all the variables, what do you think? Nichole or Thanksgiving Day Storm?
-Above: Sewall’s Point is a peninsula in Martin County, FL surrounded by the Indian River Lagoon on the east and St Lucie River on the west. The east side is lower in elevation and sometimes experiences flooding. The town of Sewall’s Point is working hard to change this and the new work in the area of Mandalay held up according to Mayor Tompeck.
I. HURRICANE NICOLE, made landfall late November 9, 2022. Storm surge proceeded impact. JTL
-At Ridgeview 11-9-22 at 11:48am

-Riverview 11-9-22 at 11:42am

-Post storm 

-Post storm

-Below: Entrance to South SP Rd. November 9, 2022 at 11:51pm 

-North Sewall’ Point Road at entrance to Indialuice, approaching midnight after landfall. Courtesy of my brother law Mike Flaugh and my sister, Jenny Flaugh.

Sewall’s Point Park, post storm, November 10, 2022.


Subject: Thanks Giving Day Flood 1984, Sewall’s Point Florida.


Flood photos attached.
If you look carefully you will see some pointed towards the entrance to High Point when they had the white brick pillars on each side of the entrance.  Some look up the side streets to where you can see South River Road and how far up the side street the flood came.  Some are at Mandalay and you can read the street sign.  Some are by Kiplinger’s looking from the road to the river.  Some look north up SP Road and others were taken as the flood receded.  

Below added 11-12-22 an email from Mark Perry, Executive Director of Florida Oceanographic  -this history is so interesting!

Hi Jacqui,

“Great Blog on the comparison of Hurricane Nicole and the Thanksgiving Day Storm of 1984.  Florida Oceanographic established the St. Lucie Inlet Coastal Weather Station at the House of Refuge in October 1984, just before the “Thanksgiving Day Storm”.  The weather Station has been upgraded over the years and is a display at the House of Refuge showing “real” time weather conditions to visitors while providing weather to over 200 callers each day, boaters, fishermen,etc..  The weather information is also valuable to ocean and coastal research efforts and reporting pending storm conditions.  I recall the major storm surge and how glad I was that our weather station held up.  Back then we used a TR180 computer and a Realistic answering machine from Radio Shack.  Do you rember George Gross?  He and his father (Chemistry professor at FIT) were the owners of the 1st Radio Shack in Stuart.  George was on our Board at the time and he along with Bill Chase (also FIT computer teacher) installed the first coastal weather station in October 1984.  It was the first in our area and it is still going (with updated equipment of course);

Weather | Florida Oceanographic Society  (click on the one at House of Refuge)

Just some history I thought you might enjoy.


Mark D. Perry

Executive Director & CEO

Florida Oceanographic Society

890 NE Ocean Blvd.

Stuart, Florida  34996

A Different View, St Lucie River~Indian River Lagoon

-Indian River Lagoon & St Luice River meet to flow into the Atlantic Ocean as seen over the savannas. Nettles Island , a landmark, juts into the IRL (upper left.) Note peninsula of Sewall’s Point and St Lucie Inlet. Aerial photograph by Ed Lippisch, 9/11/22, 6:15pm.Recently, I have been asking Ed to get a “different view” while flying-something other than the location between Sewall’s Point and Hutchinson Island near the St Lucie Inlet. That area is the heart of the matter when documenting seagrass recovery or destructive discharges from Lake Okeechobee. However, the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon includes much more than that. The undeveloped savannas region seen above is quite striking.

Here Ed looks south over the savannas, now Savannas Preserve State Park, an area west of the railroad tracks stretching ten miles between Jensen Beach and Fort Pierce.

As my mother, author Sandra Thurlow writes  in her book, Historic Jensen and Eden on Florida’s Indian River, …”ours is not a savanna at all. A true savanna is grassland with scattered, small drought resistant trees. Many eons ago the Jensen Savannas was a lagoon like the Indian River. Now the ancient lagoon is a region of lakes, marsh and pine flatwoods. When polar icecaps formed, bringing Florida out of the sea, tides and winds shaped a primary dune along the east coast of the peninsula. The shallow waters in the wetlands behind the dune were brackish. The ocean levels continued to drop and sand bars just off the coast were exposed, forming Hutchinson Island. What had been the primary dune became the Atlantic Coastal Ridge.” 

She goes on to explain that prior to modern times the savannas’ ecosystem was almost 200 miles long, but due to development along the Indian River Lagoon the region has been reduced to just ten ecologically intact miles.

Areas such as these “savannas” are critical to the health of the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon and an inspiration for more comprehensive protection in the future.

Hope you enjoyed today’s different view.



At Mid Tide

In July a post I wrote, “At Low Tide, made many waves of happiness as our seagrass recovery (albeit with macro-algae) was suddenly visible. Today I share “At Mid Tide,” not as dramatic, but certainly worth documenting as it too shows the improving state of our St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon since the damaging and toxic Lake O discharges of 2013, 2016 and 2018 eradicated all seagrasses.

These photos were taken at different times of day on Sunday, August 14, 2022 in the area of the St Lucie Inlet between Sewall’s Point and Hutchinson Island – an area often locally referred to as the “Sand Bar,” including Sailfish Flats.

Incorporated are photos from my sister Jenny, my brother Todd, friend Mary Radabaugh, and me. All on the water with family/friends on the same day! Ed and I were late getting out, and the tide was receding. While about, Ed and I are very careful not to disturb the budding seagrasses -staying on the edge.  All mollusks/sea life if photographed is immediately returned to its original location. This habitat is delicate!

Yet another recent wonderful day on the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon since there have been no major damaging discharges from Lake Okeechobee in over three years and Mother Nature has not thrown a hurricane our way…


Approaching Ernie Lyons Bridge from Jensen Boat Ramp Do you see the fighting conch’s blue eyes? Video below gives perspective:

Almost home! 


My sister’s photos: Zella-Sand Bar, earlier incoming tide, Jenny Flaugh


My brother’s photos: Todd Thurlow – daughter Julia water skiing off the House of Refuge


Mary Radabaugh, friend and nature photographer: Osprey & blue sky near Boy Scout Island

~Our wildlife, sea and sky,  needs our continued support for a healthy St Lucie!

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.


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


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!”


-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


-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!


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!