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!
Ed, Scott, and I, part of your River Warrior team since 2013, continue to visually document the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon by air. Although due to algae at the gates of Port Mayaca the ACOE’s lake schedule has not subjected the St Lucie River to Lake Okeechobee discharges since April 10, 2021, the rains and stormwater runoff from surrounding lands and canals C-23, C-24 are flowing. I know I am not an official keeper of rain, however, the rain gauge in my garden has displayed significant rain over Sewall’s Point in the past weeks. See ACOE & SFWMD recent official documents below.
Today I will share aerials from Dr Scott Kuhns. A view from the Super-Cub. These aerials reflect a visual change in the water color due to the rain. The water is darker and contains sediment, and all other that runs off roads and lawns, and agriculture fields out west. Sometimes over a million acre-feet of discharge a years can come from C-23 and C-24 alone! We do not need any Lake O discharges on top of this. C-44 runoff (see canal map at end of this blog post) is probably on the way as when the canal level is lower than the lake it is usually made to flow in our direction. Right now the lake is at 13.87 feet. Two tropical systems are being watched. Hopefully, we will not have a hurricane! The river over all has been looking great! Seagrasses slowly returning. Better fishing reports.
It is important we stay on top of things. Continue to advocate! Learn all you need to know about #LakeO on my brother Todd’s website eyeonlakeo.
Dr Scott Kuhns, SLR/IRL, yesterday, August 5, 2021 at 10:00 am. Note Atlantic remains blue in color and St Lucie Inlet as well but there is a plume. The estuary and Crossroads of the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon-they are more impacted. The final photo of St Lucie Locks and Dam’s S-80 structure is inland and thank goodness remains closed! Thank you Dr Scott Kunhs for being our eye in the sky and longtime River Warrior documenter!
Documenting the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon, 2021
Dr Scott Kuhns sent me aerials he took from the St Lucie Inlet this morning, July 28, 2021, at 10am from 2500 feet. Although due to rain there is local basin runoff and C-23/24 dumping into the St Lucie River, there is not Lake Okeechobee discharge mostly due to the presence of algae. So we have been fortunate and our waters have been looking great. So blue! Beechcraft Baron
The second batch of photos I already shared on Facebook. My husband Ed took these photos Saturday, July 24, 2021, from about 1500 feet. Seagrass is budding back! One sees the darker colored runoff water inside the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon, but again, there is no Lake Okeechobee water thus still blue out over the nearshore reefs and closer to the St Lucie Inlet/Atlantic Ocean. Last, I will share Ed’s aerials inland of Lake Okeechobee taken on July 24, 2021 as well. The lake aerials show algae along the shoreline, but not so much further out. We must heal all our waters including this lake!
Hopefully there will not be a hurricane this season, and the waters of the St Lucie can continue to recover from previous long-lasting Lake Okeechobee discharges. In any case, Scott, Ed, and I will continue to document.
Thank you pilots!
In closing, I must admit that for my whole life, my favorite color has been green, but I love when it’s blue!
Learn all you need to know on my brother Todd’s website eyeonlakeo Click on image to see Lake O and C-44 discharges so far in 2021.
As I continue my now popular retrospective series “Keeping Alive the Power of the Pubic Voice,” the next St Lucie River rally documented in my LOST SUMMER photo archives is dated August 20, 2013 –Ten days after the Beach Rally and and seventeen days after the first Rally at the Locks.
This was the infamous “riverlution” rally at the the St Lucie Locks and Dam when Governor Rick Scott visited. Just days prior to this, TCPalm put out their STOP KILLING OUR LAGOON issue. These were indeed incredible times! Below is an excerpt I saved from WPTV reporter Jeff Skrzpek, and some of my archived photos. Many people you’ll see in the photographs continue today to work for a better St Lucie River and Everglades LOSOM system.
The St Lucie “Lost Summer” led to significant changes to Florida water policy as we shall we in upcoming post. The recent wave started in Martin County and continues to crash ashore today.
Excerpt, August 20, 2013 – WPTV
STUART, Fla. — – “Hundreds lined the road, armed with signs and chanted loudly as Governor Rick Scott zoomed by more than 300 protesters on his way to tour the St. Lucie Lock.
“Save our river!” screamed the crowd as the hot sun beamed down sweaty backs.
After arriving, Governor Scott was rushed into fenced area, topped with barbed wire fencing, walking away from the crowd without acknowledging any of the concerned residents. The chants turned from being loud to all out anger…”
-Jeff Skrzypek, WPTV
Below” screen shot of TCPalm’s STOP KILLING OUR LAGOON SERIES. Note Eve Samples! I see Larry Reisman and I think that’s Ed Killer in the back. It is hard for me to see and recognize the others with my now “old eyes.” 🙂
I’ve had so many calls and reactions to my recent post “Keeping Alive the Power of the Public Voice,” that I’m going to keep sharing my photo archives of the “Riverlution.” Yes, today’s modern Florida water advocacy all started here in Martin County.
This next set of archived photos is dated August 10, 2013, Lost Summer (only seven days after the Rally at the Locks,) and labeled “Beach Rally for the River.” Photos reveal a large crowd at Stuart Beach and aerials of a black coffee/green algae St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon. Terrible!
For me, one of the all time most inspirational photos is in this collection. I am displaying it as the first one. It shows a little boy raising his arms in glee towards the sky as Ed’s original River Warrior -the yellow Cub- plane passes overhead and the flag flies! Save Our River! We are working not just for ourselves but for the future. Please keep the power of the public voice alive for all our Everglades’ rivers during the optimization of LOSOM. The voice of the people must direct policy and we must continue to lead the way!
(Email to comment: LakeOComments@usace.army.mil)
Beach Rally for the River, August 10, 2013, Stuart, Florida (Thurlow archives)