Category Archives: St Luice River and C-44 Canal

True Beauty, SLR/IRL

-L to R: The peninsula of Sewall’s Point lies between the SLR/IRL. The Sailfish Flats and Sandbar seagrass meadows lie between Sewall’s Point and Hutchinson Island. Witham Field, Stuart, can be seen west. The Atlantic Ocean is east. St Lucie Inlet State Park is located south on Jupiter Island. The St Lucie Inlet is cut between Hutchinson and Jupiter Islands. Today’s photos highlight the area’s returning seagrass meadows after their disappearance primarily because of years of damaging cyanobacteria laden Lake Okeechobee discharges, especially in 2013, 2016, & 2018. Photo Ed Lippisch, 8/26/22.When Ed came home from flying the RV on Friday, August 26, 2022, he said, “I think the aerials look good, you can really see the seagrasses.” I looked at him kind of funny. He never says anything like that. Looking on my phone, I could tell the photos were revealing, but it wasn’t until I viewed them full screen on my computer that I saw their true beauty. Ed’s photos reveal clear water, clear air, defined nearshore reefs, and lush seagrass/micro-algae meadows.

It is exciting to see and am I so glad Ed captured it! In the coming days and weeks tropical weather may be pushing our way. “Thank you Ed, for capturing the river before the height of hurricane season, before possibly more rains and more runoff.”

These just might be the most beautiful recent photos ever taken of the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon. Over the past couple of years, we’ve had some good ones of blue water alone, but blue waters cradling seagrass beds, the life of the sea itself, this is “true beauty.”

These improvements have only been possible due to recent  ACOE policy decisions – no major Lake O discharges for over three and one half years, and Mother Nature, who so far, has not brought any of her discontent our way.

At this time, it is in order to thank former City of Stuart Mayor, Merritt Matheson, who went to great lengths over the past four years to hold accountable and build relationships with the Army Corps of Engineers. Mayor Matheson led numerous boat tours and meetings inviting, colonels, commanders, and staff. His St Lucie River tours led by an elected,  passionate, educated, local helped the ACOE understand the fragility of our region and the intense ecological and health impacts caused by discharges from Lake Okeechobee. Mayor Matheson your efforts made a tremendous difference for the health of the St Lucie River. Thank you.

Canal system SLR/IRL, SFWMD

 

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.

 

At Low Tide

This post is meant to document the life seen July 2022 On Saturday, 7-9-22, Ed made me promise I would be ready on time. He wanted to take me out in the Maverick to show me the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon’s seagrass/macro-algae flats at low tide. Very low tide. “Exactly 12.37pm.”

I was ready on time, but I don’t think I was ready for what I witnessed. With the seagrass and macro-algae totally exposed, one could see the extent of the recovery; wading birds feasted everywhere -over one-hundred of various species.

Ed and I did not walk out into the delicate grass flats, but anchored and explored along the edge. From where we were, in the distance, we could see many boats at the Sandbar, Sailfish Point, and the St Lucie Inlet. Carefully, we photographed and returned the creatures living on the edge of the seagrass/macro-algae flats. It definitely does not look entirely healthy, like it did when I was a kid,  but nonetheless life reigns. The extreme low tide lasted about an hour. Then the ocean tide came rushing in…

Of the critters  I knew were fighting conchs, living sand-dollars, hermit crabs, inky sea slugs, olive snail mollusks, clams, shrimp, and pen shell mollusks bivalves. Many others were present that I could not identify. There were at least two kinds of seagrasses.

Historically, this is a small amount of seagrass life for the Indian River Lagoon. These flats were completely decimated by long-duration Lake Okeechobee discharges, some toxic, in 2013, 2016, and 2018. Three years without major Lake Okeechobee discharges has allowed some life to return.A reader of my blog recently asked if I thought our water improvements were policy driven or luck. My answer? “Both.”

-Fighting Conch says “hello, remember wildlife is protected!” -Watch video of the fighting conch walking

-Video of low tide exposure

-Ed is happy I was on time! -Various photographs 7-9-22 around 1pm. Looking east towards Sandbar (L) and Hutchinson Island’s Sailfish Point (R) visible behind a stunning mangrove island and ibis rookery. Note all the specks, they’re birds! -Ibis-Ed and I did not walk out on the delicate beds but could see many birds feasting in the distance. -Little blue herons happily eating-Living sand-dollar -Fighting conch covered in sandy mud-A clam excretion? Very strange- and a sea-slug.-A hollow tube formation.-Here one can see two kinds of seagrasses, maybe manatee and johnson. -There were hundreds of these piles of sand. Not sure what they are. -When disturbed, a sea slug excretes beautiful purple ink- kind of like an octopus. I put him right back! -A convention of sea slugs!-Baby olive mollusk makes a path through the sand.-Small clams. There were blue crabs, and tiny crabs about but they were too fast to photograph! -Sand dollar. Amazing they are breeding here! -Ed and I though this might be a baby queen conch due to spikes but the more we looked we thought it was yet another fighting conch.-There were many hermit crabs in many different shells. At one point, after the long Lake O discharges, there were no hermit crabs to be seen. Terrible. Glad to see them back! -I think this fighting conch was eating this little shrimp.-Pen shell mollusk bivalve-A living olive mollusk! A rare sight! Beautiful! -Note macro algae on top of seagrass. This is getting to be more and more due to over nutrification (nitrogen and phosphorus) of our waters. -Hermit crab in macro algae and seagrass.-Ed and I at “high noon.”-Surrounding water looking clear! 

 

Visual Update SLR/IRL June 23, 2022

I am very fortunate to have a team of people, “River Warriors” who help me document from sky to water the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon. Today, I share photos taken by friend  Mary Radabaugh who overnighted in the area over Father’s Day weekend, June 18-19, 2022. She took amazing photos of nature: live sand dollars, growing seagrasses, wading birds, manatees, and sea turtles. Life is returning to the area.

Next, Dr Scott Kuhns shares five aerials he took the same weekend, on June 18,  around 11:30am. These photographs reveal clear waters with rain runoff plume over St Lucie Inlet and nearshore reefs. There is also a photo of the C-44 Reservoir filled to just over ten feet. This reservoir sits on the C-44 Canal and was just completed this past year as the first major CERP project. It is scheduled to be operational by 2023, although the ACOE is trying for earlier.

My husband, Dr Ed Lippisch, took his plane up yesterday. He shares four photos from June 22, 2022 around 12:30 pm that encompass the estuary from a higher altitude. The darker rain runoff is more visible. The estuary still looks good in the region near the St Lucie Inlet. Higher up the north and south forks the water is darker. There have not been major discharges from Lake Okeechobee in over three years. This is a very good thing and we must continue to make this our goal.

Thank you for all who fight for a clean and healthy St Lucie River!Periodic_Scientists_Call_2022-06-21

ST LUCIE RIVER/INDIAN RIVER LAGOON

I.-Mary Radabaugh, living sand dollar and more life, Sandbar near St Lucie Inlet between Sewall’s Point & Hutchinson Island, 6-18/19-22

 

I am adding two more wildlife videos 4:35pm, 6-23-22

A. Spotted Eagle Rays at the Sandbar, June 19, 2022,  by my sister Jenny and her husband Mike Flaugh.

B. Trigger Fish, Powers family dock, S. Sewall’s Point, IRL side June 23, 2022.

 

II.-Scott Kuhns, SuperCub, June 18, 2022 near St Lucie Inlet and C-44 Reservoir, 6-18-22.

 

III.-Ed Lippisch, Van RV, St Lucie Inlet SLR/IRL  June 22, 2022. 6-22-22.

SFWMD canal and basin map.

 

 

Not too Bad…

I visited my mother yesterday and we talked about the tremendous recent rains. We sat inside to chat because the mosquitoes were so bad outside.

This is about how our conversation went:

Jacqui: “I just took a picture of another seven inches in my rain gauge.”

Sandy: “Yes, I have dumped out over fifteen inches of rain in mine since that tropical disturbance…”  (6-3-22)

In spite of all this rain, the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon doesn’t look too bad. Here are aerials taken by my husband, Ed Lippisch, and friend, Scott Kuhns, on June 11, 2022 to show what the area looks like. The St Lucie itself does look dark brown and there is a plume from runoff, but overall it is “not too bad…”

We will continue to be your eye in the sky documenting the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon.

#NOLAKEO

-Ed Lippisch, RV, June 11, 2022 10:30am. St Lucie Inlet. -Roosevelt Bridge, St Lucie River 

-Scott Kuhns, SuperCub. June 11, 11:30 am. St Lucie Inlet. -Shawn Engebretsen flies his T-6 on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean & IRL 

The St Lucie River Central & South Florida Project Canal System SFWMD-June 11, 2022 South Sewall’s Point, JTL. My mom lives in North Sewall’s Point. 

The Incredible Wildlife, C-44 Reservoir/STA

-Road to the C-44 Reservoir pump station, speed limit is 25 miles per hour.Keeping you up to date…

I’ve had the chance to go back out to the C-44 Reservoir/Storm Water Treatment area on February 19, 2022, and it is a sight to see! The wildlife! I shared many of these photos on Facebook; I am posting on my blog for posterity. I hope you enjoy.

C-44 R/STA Wildlife video SFMWD

C-44 Reservoir Filling Up

SFWMD Press Release CERP C-44 R/STA ribbon-cutting, Dec.6, 2021  

-Empty apple snail found at C-44 R/STA evidence of Snail Kites!WHITE PELICANS

The drive to the Reservoir from Citrus Boulevard is long and slow; on your way you pass the Storm Water Treatment Area that consists of six cells. During an earlier visit, I saw numerous endangered Everglades’ Snail Kites flying over looking for apple snails. I learned at SFWMD Governing Board meetings that the birds had many successful nest here.

When I visited just last week, I saw a large flock of white pelicans! What a treat, I have never really seen them before. Maybe once in Sebastian.  They are huge and I noticed they have black markings under their wings. They were flying around in groups overhead, like modern-day pterodactyls.  So cool.

 

DEER

Almost immediately after seeing the white pelicans, I saw deer. I was careful to stay my distance and could see them running along the storm water treatment of Cell 2. They looked healthy and happy as there is plenty to eat and there is no hunting allowed at the Reservoir/STA.

INDIGO SNAKES

One of the main reasons you have to go slow is the federally threatened Eastern Indigo Snake. Snakes often warm themselves on the pavement. As a kid there were many indigo snakes in St Lucie Estates in Stuart. They are docile, large, and a striking blue/black in color, just beautiful. My mother used to bring them to my brother, sister and I to look at. Today there are hardly any. I saw no indigos during my C-44 Reservoir/STA visit but I did see a friendly black racer. He or she was warming right at the base of the pump station at the reservoir.-Panoramic view of the giant C-44 Reservoir. About two and a half miles across in every direction.

ALLIGATORS

Alligators are also in on the new real estate and can been seen warming themselves along the edge of the Reservoir. This photo is by Sean Cooley, SFWMD Communications Director who I was with this day. These alligators must have walked up a thirty foot berm and then down into the reservoir! “Build and they will come!” Love it!

-The ACOE is filling up the C-44 Reservoir to its second level. Five feet each time, for three times, to reach fifteen feet. The reservoir will be monitored for safety and integrity throughout 2022.

-Pump Station S-401 brings water in from C-44 Canal-A view from the top of reservoir’s edge looking east over pump station confectioning canal, and STAs in distance-Sean Cooley and I at the reservoir as it fills up. Sean is communications director for SFWMD and previously worked for Audubon.Evening falls…the alligators fall into sleep to awake for a new and wonderful day at C-44 Reservoir/STA.

WATCH THIS GREAT SFWMD YouTube  Wildlife Video of C-44R/STA

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.

Senate Bill 2508 in Black, White and Toxic Algae Green

Toxic algae under the Evans Crary Bridge, St Lucie River, Sewall’s Point 2016. There have not been long-standing, major destructive discharges to the St Lucie or Caloosahtchee since 2018. We certainly do not want them to return.

What is Senate Bill 2508? So it puts a constraint on how you optimize and operate Lake Okeechobee. It elevates water supply above all other system-wide objectives for lake operations. Three years of collective stakeholder work on LOSOM would be overridden forcing water supply guarantees in the EAA that consists primarily of sugarcane. Oh yeah, and if the SFWMD doesn’t conform, no money for CERP projects.

Today I offer Senate Bill 2580 Environmental Resources, which is part of Senate Bill 2500 Appropriations in “black and white.”

First, I share the easy to understand “Background and Effects” of the Bill that was given to me by South Florida Water Management staff at the beginning of the Governing Board Meeting, Thursday, February 10, 2022.

Second, you can read the entire: Senate Bill 2508 Environmental Resources

Third, you can read the entire Senate Bill 2500 Appropriations 

Fourth, highlights of Senate Bill 2508 Environmental Resources include lines 246-273 and 336-351

Fifth, highlights of Senate Bill 2500 Appropriations include section 1647.

Sixth, I offer the response of Governor Ron DeSantis that was also provided to me at the beginning of the South Florida Water Management District Governing Board meeting held Thursday, February 10, 2022. It is time to fight for our estuaries once again. Watch the SFWMD meeting here statrting at 1:23.