The Beechcraft Baron – whose distinctive wing tip has marked thousands of aerial photos since the infamous algae bloom year of 2016 – is flying to further skies. I thank this airplane for documenting the important issues of our St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon, Lake Okeechobee, and Florida Everglades. Ed and I never gave him a name, other than “the Baron.” I insisted that Ed take some farewell photos before he is handed off to a new owner. I share those photographs today.
~Last Flight Old Friend, I will miss you.
-Early morning sunlight and rain combine in a beautiful farewell to an extraordinary place, St Lucie Inlet, St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon, Stuart, Florida 8:00am, 1-12-22. Ed Lippisch
-C-44 Reservoir filling up…Greetings. These aerials were taken November 26, 2021, the day after Thanksgiving, by my husband, Ed Lippisch, and his niece Darci. They took an after Thanksgiving flight and I made sure they took some pictures. It was a glorious Florida day!
Today, I am sharing Ed and Darci’s flight photos of the following:
-S-80 at St Luice Locks and Dam (gate open for C-44 basin runoff)
-And finally, the skinny, but very visible plume exiting at the confluence of the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon exiting the St Luice Inlet.
The water quality grade from Florida Oceanographic Society ending November 24th was a “B.” This is good news, however, seagrasses remain sparse and manatees are migrating due to colder weather, hungry, and deaths are way above average due to loss of seagrass throughout the Indian River Lagoon and other parts of the state.
The C-44 Reservoir will very much help improve water quality from the C-44 canal into the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon. This is a huge step and will be be majorly complemented by the EAA, and C-23/24 Reservoirs in the future. The C-44 Reservoir is being filled incrementally, checking for the structure’s integrity, and is expected to be in full service by the end of next year. Improved water quality is the only way to heal our waters and we need the EAA Reservoir to send the water south!
-Lake Okeechobee appears algae free. Looking east over Structure 308 and the C-44 Canal. FPL Cooling Pond left surrounded by agriculture, mining, and DuPuis Management Area.
-C-44 Reservoir is two and one half miles wide, and two miles long. Note pump station in left foreground. It is being filled slowly by the Army Corp of Engineers. The STA is in closest foreground.-Another angle-Back to pump station view
-C-44 Storm Water Treatment Area’s 6 cells cleansing and treating C-44 water were built by the SFWMD. Reservoir is visible far upper left. Note speck of pump station in the distance.
-Caulkin’s Water Farm is remarkably successful. It cleanses and stores water and was once a citrus grove. Such projects are funded by the Florida Legislature and managed by the SFWMD.
-Various angels of the C-44’s Structure 80, or “The Seven Gates of Hell” that allow both C-44 basin water and Lake Okeechobee water to disrupt salinity and pollute the St Luice River. The gate open in this photo is for C-44 basin water only. Many call this “local basin runoff,” but it is not. In 1916 C-44 busted through the natural ridge that historically separated the St Lucie from Lake Okeechobee.
-St Lucie Inlet looking north towards Sailfish Point. The runoff is from Canals C-44, C23, C-24 and runoff from all our our homes and streets, etc. Pick up dog waste! Don’t fertilize! Go to native and Florida Friendly plants; get on sewer if on septic; demand Agriculture follow Best Management Practices and prove accountability. SAVE OUR RIVERS!-St Lucie River at Witham Field. See you next flight!
-C-25, Taylor Creek, Ft Pierce, FL July 20, 2013 Jacqui & Ed Lippisch
This aerial photo is an old one. Taken in July of 2013, it became one of the “poster-photos” in the fight to fix the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon. This photograph is not of Lake Okeechobee water, but the polluted runoff of C-25, Ft Pierce, St Lucie County.
Yesterday, the South Florida Water Management District Governing Board approved the purchase of 1,583 acres to create a reservoir and storm water treatment area for the the C-25. This means, that over time, this horrible looking sediment-pollution plume will be lessened or even disappear. Good for the Indian River’s seagrass! Good for the hard working residents!
When the modern River Movement began, brought on by the “Lost Summer of 2013,” the entire focus was on the discharges destroying the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon from Lake Okeechobee. The St Lucie/Indian River Lagoon deals with a “two-front war.” The C-Canals (C-44, C-23, C-24, C-25) and often toxic Lake Okeechobee that is discharged through the C-44 Canal along with basin run-off.
What ensued will make the history books:
~The people united against the Cyanobacteria laden Lake Okeechobee discharges that are considered the worst of all the discharges, and pushed for the EAA Reservoir, with the help of Senate President, Joe Negron, and others. The reservoir was approved by Congress in 2018. This was an amazing feat. The EAA Reservoir is ready to go under construction, and will allow more water to go south to the Everglades and less water to be discharged to the St Lucie and Calooshahatee estuaries. This was the first and most important goal.
So now, with that in place, (and continuing to fight for its completion), it is time for the River Movement to expand to the next level of destruction, the C-Canals. Although the betterment of these canals has been part of CERP since the beginning, they are just now seeing their day. All of them fall under the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan category, “Indian River Lagoon South,” and there are four of the them in our region: C-44, C-23, C-24, C-25. “C” stands for Canal.
Remarkably enough, the C-44 Reservoir, in Indiantown will go on-line next week as the 1st major CERP project completed and as the first component of “Indian River Lagoon South.”
Because of the ACOE moving forward, in the near future, other C-Canal projects will be completed: 1.C-23 and C-24, done together through the C-23/24 North and South Reservoirs, and the C-23/24 Storm Water Treatment Area; and 2. there is now land for the C-25 Reservoir and Storm Water Treatment Area. (Top of image.)
It is impressive that since 2019, not only was the first construction contract awarded for the EAA Reservoir – and that the SFWMD is building the EAA Storm Water Treatment Area, but that also from 2019-to present, the Army Corp of Engineers is “in design” on C-23/C-24 and, yesterday, the SFWMD bought land for C-25. This is all costing millions of dollars!
I know all of these numbers get confusing. The bottom line is that almost all is in place to to heal our St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon. (EAA Reservoir; C-44 Reservoir, C-23/24 Reservoir and now even C-25 Reservoir.)
Now we just have to get it all to the finish line.
This will take about ten years so long as all goes well and LOSOM’s outcome is palatable. I will talk more about this in another post.
In closing, for long-working Martin County Commissioner, Sarah Heard, I must mention the last and perhaps most important part of Indian River Lagoon South. The “Natural Lands” component. ~for the birds and other creatures. Part, like Allapattah Flats, is complete but there is more to acquire. See list below.
For now, please try to learn the C-Canals if you don’t know them. We will all need to know them for the the next chapter of the St Lucie River/ Indian River Lagoon!
These pictures were taken by my husband, Ed Lippisch, on 10-27-21. It was such a busy few days, that I really did not get to look at them until now. The first thing that struck me was the beauty and the interesting geometric shapes. We certainly live in a gorgeous place. This year the river has suffered from tremendous run-off from the C-23, C-24 and C-44 canals as well as stormwater runoff from all of our yards, driveways, and streets. Fortunately, we did not have major, long lasting, discharges from Lake Okeechobee. Fortunately, we were not struck by a hurricane!
I wanted to share this entire series of aerials as I think they complete a picture and give one the feeling of flight. The St Lucie Sailfish Flats look beautiful but please keep in mind that although you will see some dark areas on the sandbars that look like recovering seagrass, reports from Indian Riverkeeper, Mike Connor, and others, report various clinging algae more than lush seagrass beds. My brother, Todd Thurlow, has been reporting on the phenomenon of seagrass loss at recent Rivers Coalition meetings by comparing Google Earth images. You can go to his website eyeonlakeo.com to view in detail.
The St Lucie/Southern IRL has not had a “major event” since 2018 and worse, 2016, when the entire rive became a toxic soup due primarily to the discharges from Lake Okeechobee over an already impaired system. The ACOE and SFWMD continue to move forward on exciting projects that will help improve the river’s woes. The first of these to come on line will be the C-44 Reservoir in Indiantown. This ribbon-cutting will happen this month. I will be reporting on it and other components of CERP’s Indian River Lagoon South that are in motion. With Indian River Lagoon South and the EAA Reservoir there is hope. Actually there is more than hope. Our river one day, shall recover. Please do your part to refrain from fertilizers, and if you have one, keep a clean septic tank until you can go to sewer. Agriculture, too, must do its part, as we continue our journey to build a healthy water future.
The St Lucie and Loxahatchee watersheds as well as the EAA Reservoir are all noted on this schedule. The big recent additions are the C-23/C-24 Reservoir/STA components in St Lucie County and the Loxahatchee River watershed in southern Martin and Palm Beach counties. The C-44 Reservoir -that has been on the IDS for many renditions- is located in Indiantown and will be going on-line this year as the first completed major CERP project!
To study this chart, click on link above, familiarize yourself with the key at the top, note color coding by timeframe/Congressional approval, and type. It’s pretty cool once one figures out how to read it!
-Excerpt with Indian River Lagoon South’s C-23/C-24, C-44 etc…-Excerpt Loxahatchee River just authorized in WRDA 2020
By now you have certainly heard of LOSOM (Lake Okeechobee System Operation Manual) that is replacing LORS (Lake Okeechobee Regulation Schedule.) If you haven’t, basically the operation schedule for Lake Okeechobee is being updated in line with the anticipated completion of improvements of the Herbert Hoover Dike.
For over two years, the ACOE has patiently taken input from stakeholders and the public. They had originally expected to announce their final output on November 2, 2021, but have decided to postpone their final announcement until November 16, 2021. Why did they postpone? Read here: ACOE LOSOM press release. Even after November 16th the process will continue as the operations manual is written. LOSOM is on the IDS above and listed as a “Non-CERP” project (light blue at top.)
A lot of exciting things are happening for the St Lucie and for the Greater Everglades. Most definitely there is a reason for hope.
Keep the pressure on, be empathetic to all, and never forget how hard we have worked since 2013.
-Lake Okeechobee at Port Mayaca and C-44 Canal 2018. Photo JTL/EL
In the fall of 2011, the River Kidz were born. A grassroots youth uprising due to Lake Okeechobee discharges hurting St Lucie River wildlife and the power of social media that was in its infancy. A mixture of over one-hundred children, parents, and politicians came to the original River Kidz gathering and fundraiser at Sewall’s Point Park. A ten year old and an eleven year old had just changed the trajectory of their lives, and the river found a voice in a new generation.
Now it’s ten years later…
~Full disclosure, Evie Flaugh is my niece, the daughter of my younger sister Jenny and her husband Mike. Evie is the only child I have seen born into this world and it is heartwarming to watch her mature.
Recently, while I was Adrift on the St Johns River, Evie released her Capstone Project 2021 for Rollins College staring first and foremost the Everglades, along with interviews with Dr Leslie Poole, me, Maggy Hurchalla, Eve Samples, Mark Perry, and Nic Mader. The product is impressive and very professional. So proud of my River Kid! BTW Evie won “best” class! I’m allowed to brag; I’m her Aunt 🙂
Evie’s fourteen minute video “Send it South” is posted below on YouTube. Please watch. Please share. Please comment. My plan is to do a series of post about our grown up River Kidz.
-Evie Flaugh (11) and Naia Mader (10), September 17, 2011 co-founders of River Kidz, Sewall’s Point Park, 1st official event. Photo JTL-Evie 2021. Born and raised in Stuart, Evie co-founded River Kidz with Naia Mader in 2011. She remains passionate about activism and fighting for the environment. She recently graduated from Rollins College with a degree in Critical Media & Cultural Studies and is currently in her first year at the Crummer Graduate School of Business, on track to receive her MBA in May 2023. The “Send It South” documentary was her senior capstone last May. (Taken from Evie’s interview on WFLM with Robert Delancy, September 30, 2021; photo Evie’s Facebook page)
-St Lucie Inlet to Atlantic looking beautiful at this time day. Note nearshore reefs.
-Crossroads’ confluence of St Lucie River and Indian River Lagoon, S. Sewall’s Point – note lack of lush seagrass meadows
Jupiter Inlet and Loxahatchee River– heavy rains causing discoloration
Beechcraft Baron, Ed Lippisch, August 21, 2021, 3:30pm
-Looking towards Stuart over Sewall’s Point, SLR/IRL. Sailfish Point Marina left corner.-Sailfish Flats- note shades of seagrasses but no lush meadows-brown coloration -Over Atlantic-Indian River Lagoon lies east of Sewall’s Point, St Lucie River lies west -Various views
-One can see river’s proximity to Witham Field in Stuart. These photos show darkness of St Lucie due to stormwater runoff off lands and canals C-23. C-24, and C-44. No Lake O discharges.
-St Lucie Inlet
-Stuart Sandbar with many boaters. Water is dark with stormwater and canal runoff but remains to recreational standards.
-West now over S-308, Port Mayaca, Lake O – no visible algae from altitude of 1500 feet. Satellite images do show algae on west and middle of lake. SEE my brother Todd’s website EYEONELAKEO for all info. -Although water looks good at St Luice Inlet at an incoming tide, the estuary is suffering from too much input. Read Florida Oceanographic’s update for details.
Today, August 22, 2021 Lake Okeechobee is at 14.39 feet. This recent TCPalm article by Ed Killer gives insights based on a recent media conference with Col. Kelly of the ACOE.
Aerial SLR/IRL near St Lucie Inlet, courtesy Dr Scott Kuhns, 8-11-21.One of the difficult things about trying to keep an eye on the St Lucie River’s health is that destructive forces are coming from so many directions. It’s basically a “three front war.” During and after heavy rains, water is water pouring in, unfiltered, from the northwest, C-23, C-24, and C-25, and also from the southwest through C-44. When things are really bad, and the lake is high, the ACOE can discharge Lake Okeechobee as well. Some may consider this a two front war as Lake O and C-44 basin water are discharged through the same canal (C-44) but as they are separate “animals,” I consider it three.
So in recent weeks, as the rainy season has arrived, C-23, 24, and C-25 have been discharging stormwater runoff form the northwest, and now that C-44 is lower than Lake O (14. 38 feet), the ACOE’s operation is discharging C-44 too. Not yet, has the ACOE started discharging from Lake Okeechobee.
If you have been out on the river you have probably noticed the color is darker and it is going to get even darker as C-44 basin runoff also enters the river.
There are CERP projects set to improve these situations, the C-44 Reservoir and the C-23/24/25 Reservoirs. The C-44 Reservoir will be on line by the end of this year so long as when the ACOE starts filling it up this October, all goes well. The C-23/24/25 are in design and if the economy holds out and our advocacy continues should be done by 2030 or a couple of years before. This is great news! Also the EAA Reservoir, that will accept waters form Lake Okeechobee sending south, should break ground this year and is slated to be complete by 2028. The SFWMD is already well into building the storm water treatment component as the local partner in all of these projects. Thus relief is on the horizon, but until these all up and running, it’s the same old —-.
Below is a slide from the most recent SFWMD Governing Board Meeting on August 12. Mr Glenn’s slide shows how much runoff was entering the St Lucie. The number is 2432 cubic feet per second daily flow. Over 1400 or 2000 is “off the cuff” considered “destructive.” And now C-44 basin is coming in on top of this. This began through S-80 this Saturday, thus the C-44 runoff is unaccounted for in this slide.
We can look at my brother, Todd Thurlow’s, website and see in real time (almost) how much C-44 water is entering the St Lucie. Yesterday, when I texted Todd at 11pm it was 1049.18 acre feet on 8/14 and 1043.31 acre feet on 8/15. Sorry to be going from cfs to acre feet, but the bottom line is -this is a ton of water that never entered the St Lucie before the canals were dug. These canals are what is what is killing our river as they carry agricultural fertilizers and pesticides together with all the pollution coming from our yards: septic tank effluent, fertilizer, pesticides-FDOT road runoff too!
These aerial were taken from the SuperCub by Dr Scott Kuhns last Wednesday, August 11, 2021, and this is before Saturday when S-80 began discharging to the St Lucie for the C-44 “basin.” Bottom line, the St Lucie is now in a two front war against the northern and western canals, let’s fight for it not to become three. #NoLakeO to the St Lucie. Compare what the river looked on July 28, 201 and as the rains began.
Aerials August 11, 2021, Dr Scott Kuhns
Crossroads SLR/IRL-South Sewall’s Point-Looking south towards Jupiter Narrows-St Lucie Inlet with plume but still able to see nearshore reefs north of inlet-St Lucie Inlet with plume but plenty of blue water-note this is prior to C-44 basin runoff-St Lucie Inlet
LAKE OKEECHOBEE same day. Algae visible in lake off Port Mayaca and S-308 structure-View of S-308 no algae visible from this altitude-Close up of water near S-308. See GPS below.
RAIN RAIN RAIN
Friday night, August 13, 2021, my rain-gage in South Sewall’s Point overflowed! More the 7 inches of rain fell in about three hours causing flash flooding in Martin County, FL. These rains are now exiting our canals.
Friday night, August 6, 2021, Ed, Luna, Okee and I spent the night on Adrift, after meeting up with “Cinnamon Girl,” the craft of Dutch and Mary Radabaugh. Their name may ring a bell as Dutch and Mary were the face of Central Marine during the infamous toxic algae outbreaks of 2005, 2013, 2016 and 2018. Fortunately, there is no blue-green algae bloom in the St Lucie/Indian River Lagoon today as they ACOE has not discharged from Lake Okeechobee since April 10, 2021 due to algae sitting at the gate of Port Mayaca.
As mentioned in my previous blog post, the rains have begun, rainy season is upon us, and although stormwater runoff and C-23/24 are tainting the river brown, it is remains beautiful and safe so Ed and I decided to take Mary and Dutch up on their offer to meet and anchor in the IRL near Boy Scout Island. We had done this two years ago. How time flies!
It turned out to be a wonderful weekend and we got to observe. The seagrasses were no where close to as thick as they were in 2019, but they were there, and and recovering. Macroalgae coated everything. This is disappointing but is happening across the entire Indian River Lagoon due to nutrient conditions. Nonetheless, thankfully, at low tide the wading birds were abundant. We also saw manatees, sea turtles, stingrays, snook, hermit crabs, one large conch and hundreds of shiny minnows. I was impressed! I think there is no more beautiful place that the Indian River Lagoon at sunrise or sunset. Glorious…
We must remain vigilant.
Lake Okeechobee reached 13.87 feet over the weekend, eyeonlakeo, thus the C-44 canal with its surrounding runoff will start flowing to the St Lucie once the lake achieves 14 feet. So is the operation of the Central and South Florida System. This will certainly affect the clarity of our waters. Thankfully there is still #NoLakeO.
I share these photographs to document and to celebrate a good year thus far in 2021. Let’s continue “Riverlution” to keep it that way!
-St Lucie River -headed southeast into Indian River LagoonIndian River Lagoon. There’s Cinnamon Girl! -Ed with Luna going to say “hi!”-Dutch with Holly-Okee stays inside Adrift. She likes sitting on maps.-IRL at sunset, silvery. -After a peaceful night’s sleep under the stars, Okee awakes to watch a golden sunrise-Sun’s up! Time to paddleboard and check out the conditions. JTL, Mary, Dutch and Ed. -Ed takes a break-Water brownish from rain and canals C-23/24. Greenish in bright light. -Mangrove island in the area known as the Sandbar. Many birds roosting! Mostly ibis. -Bare bottom with a some seagrasses surrounding mangrove island and sandbar area. Mary noted in 2007 this area had very lush seagrasses that have since been destroyed by Lake O discharges. Today there are sprigs. -Water looking greenish in bright light -Ed checking out the conditions and happy as a clam-Macroalgae (below) coats everything ground and seagrasses- not good. Many believe this system is replacing seagrasses through out the IRL. Water quality is key to keeping seagrasses! After our journey out we return to Cinnamon Girl. There are visitors!-Nic Mader and I relax. Nic is a dolphin specialist. Bottlenose dolphins like all creatures of the IRL are intricately connected to the seagrass habitat and the life that grows there.-Getting some exercise-Rains are beautiful falling in giant sheets from the sky! -Nic paddles towards home while looking for dolphins.
-Mary Radabaugh is a very good photographer always carrying her camera. She captured these images. The roseate spoonbills and American egret were on the sandbar along many other wading birds. Wonderful to see! Watch the link below (in red) to watch a manatee video Mary took as well.
What a place of beauty. The St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon was once considered “the most bio-diverse estuary in North America.” Let’s continue to fight to regain that status! We are on our way back. Such a stunning, special place! Thank you for getting us on the ground out to see. We love you Cinnamon Girl!