I posted most of these photos on Facebook, but today I will give explanations and document on my blog. From above, our St Lucie/Indian River Lagoon remains beautiful, but we must be sensitive to the losses beneath the waters. These aerials were taken during a “slack tide” between 12 and 2pm on December 9, 2020 by my husband, Ed Lippisch. December 9th was the last of five days the ACOE stopped discharging from Lake Okeechobee; however S-80 was discharging “local runoff.” (Click on chart above.) Unfortunately, due to high lake level and lack of storage reservoirs, since these aerials were taken, the ACOE has begun ramping up Lake discharges once again.
Below Lawrence Glenn of the South Florid Water Management gives a comprehensive ecological report covering low-salinities and loss of oyster spat in the St Lucie and other aspects, positive and negative, for the entire Everglades system.
Below is an explanation of aerials documenting discharges December 9, 2020. All photos by Ed Lippisch.
-S-80 at St Lucie Locks and Dam discharging local basin S-80 runoff on December 9, 2020
S-308 at Port Mayaca, Lake Okeechobee closed on December 9, 2020. No algae visible.
-Plume of along Jupiter Island south of St Lucie Inlet
-Dispersing plume in Atlantic Ocean just past Peck’s Lake in Jupiter Narrows
-St Lucie Inlet -St Lucie Inlet State Park, Sailfish Point, Sewall’s Point, Stuart, Jensen
-Looking north to Sailfish Flats between Sewall’s Point and Hutchinson Island. This area has greatly degraded since 2013 as far as loss of seagrasses and fishing opportunities
-The area below, especially around Sailfish Point, was once considered “the most biodiverse estuary in North America” as documented, first, by Grant Gilmore
-This photo reveals seagrass loss across many areas of the Sailfish Flats
-Another view between Sewall’s and Sailfish Point, a seeming desert…
-Close up, Sailfish Point
-Sewall’s Point, east Indian River Lagoon
-Sewall’s Point is a peninsula surrounded by the St Lucie River on west side, and Indian River Lagoon on east side
Ed Lippisch, selfie. Thank you Ed!
As you can tell, I have lots of people helping me. Whether it is Ed flying or my brother Todd who provides an incredible easy to read website called EyeonLakeO. You can click below to check it out. The more we know, the more we document, the more we can overturn the destruction of our beloved estuary…
Looking back through my photo library, I was stuck by the color differences between these photos, so I decided to share….
The first two photos were taken recently, Saturday, December 5, 2020, the afternoon of the same morning the ACOE closed S-80 at the C-44 canal, and S-308 at Port Mayaca, Lake Okeechobee. This seems a bit quick for improvement, but so it was.
The second two photos were taken almost two months earlier, October 17, 2020 a few days after Lake Okeechobee discharges began and C-44 had already been discharging.
The first three photos, taken by my husband, Ed Lippisch, feature the confluence of the St Lucie River and Indian River Lagoon between Sewall’s Point and Sailfish Point. The final October 17 photos shows the plume from Lake O and basin runoff passing Peck’s Lake in the Jupiter Narrows.
We all await the closing of both structures S-308 and S-80 for good. The issue at hand is always the height of the Lake Okeechobee and the story that accompanies such.
Saturday, December 5, 2020, photo Ed Lippisch
October 17, 2020, photo Ed Lippisch
ACOE- Lake O discharges began Oct 14, 2020 and have stopped temporarily for 5 days, December 5, 2020. This is the most recent inflow chart, SFWMD.
A Ten Year View, Discharges to the St Lucie Estuary
Today I share images that help tell the story of the St Lucie Estuary over the past ten years. The first image is from the website eyeonlakeo. My brother, Todd Thurlow, takes data from D-Hydro of the SFWMD and puts it into a format that the average person can understand.
The chart above shows the “S-80 spillway at St Lucie Locks’ cumulative discharges by CALENDAR YEAR, 2011-2020.”
Scientists use Water Years, May 1 of one year, through April 30 of the next year. This splits up the years making it more confusing to remember or understand. We, as people, live our lives in calendar years.
We can see by looking at Todd’s chart that 2016’s calendar year is highest overall discharge year with 842,775 acre feet (one foot of water covering one acre) of water going to the St Lucie from what is called “local runoff” (all canals and surrounding areas) as well as discharges from Lake Okeechobee.
How large is 842,775 acres? Comparatively, Martin County is 347, 520 acres. 2020 is 188,723 acre feet and climbing. We are talking tremendous amounts of water!
In descending order, we see 2016; 2013; 2017; 2018; 2015; 2020; 2012; 2014; 2019; and 2011. The brown of line of 2020 crests 2015 as when the year is completed, 2020 will more than likely be higher than 2015.
“Could you please get me a chart or graph showing discharges to the St Lucie River for 2012-2020 by month. Please present this information from January through December of each calendar year and break it out from S-80 and S-308 and also give a total combined number. Please also note for each of those calendar years, the highest level Lake Okeechobee got that year.”
To view this information, click on Charts in red below for visuals, and data in red below for numerical charts. As mentioned this information below is from the SFWMD. This compiled information provides great perspective.
I, as many, participated in yesterday’s Army Corp of Engineers‘ Periodic Scientist Call. During the course of the call, it was alluded that the ACOE may be letting up or halting Lake Okeechobee discharges to the St Lucie Estuary soon. As soon as they do, we will begin to chart calendar year 2021. All things considered, everything in me believes it will be better than 2020!
On almost any summer day, Lake Okeechobee is green with algae.
A recent press release states:
“Congressman Brain Mast has introduced legislation to prohibit toxic discharges from Lake Okeechobee to the St. Lucie Estuary and the Indian River Lagoon. This legislation would make it illegal for the Army Corps of Engineers to discharge water containing algal blooms with a level of toxicity above the Environmental Protection Agency’s human health standard of 8 parts per billion microcystin.”
(Microcystins are hepatotoxins (liver toxins) produced by cyanobacteria, blue green algae.)
Such a law regarding blue-green algae would push back and change everything. ~The toxic algae, the discharges, the years’ long built up non-point pollution that has made Lake Okeechobee eutrophic.
Some people in opposition to this bill say it is outlandish. I think it is outlandish that any business interests, neighboring communities, or level of government would think it is OK to literally dump toxic water onto the citizenry of Martin County.
Thank you Congressman Mast!
Please be familiar with this press release and accompanying bill.
Stuart, Fla. – U.S.Congressman Brian Mast (FL-18) today introduced legislation to prohibit toxic discharges from Lake Okeechobee to the St. Lucie Estuary and the Indian River Lagoon. This legislation would make it illegal for the Army Corps of Engineers to discharge water containing algal blooms with a level of toxicity above the Environmental Protection Agency’s human health standard of 8 parts per billion microcystin.
“The Army Corps has proven that if left to their own devices, they will continue to poison our communities with toxic discharges from Lake Okeechobee that they have acknowledged to be toxic. No Floridian should tolerate being poisoned by their government,”Rep. Mast said.“The EPA has told us exactly what level of microcystin is too toxic for human contact, and now we must tell the Corps to stop these discharges that are destroying our waterways and putting our health at risk!”
The legislation is supported by Captains For Clean Water and Friends of the Everglades.
For decades, Florida’s coastal communities have been on the receiving end of toxic discharges, including recently discharges that have tested more than 60 times more toxic than the Environmental Protection Agency considers safe for human contact. These discharges put public health at risk, damage the economy and destroy the environment. Last year, Rep. Mast worked with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) toset a new public health standard for microcystin (8 parts per billion), which in turn forced the Army Corps of Engineers toadmit to knowingly discharging toxic waterto the coastal estuaries. Despite acknowledging that these releases are toxic, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has continued to poison Americans.
The photos below were taken just today, 8-12-20, at 9:30 am, by pilot Dr Scott Kuhns from the SuperCub. They show algae clusters in Lake Okeechobee. These algae clusters can grow very rapidly. Following are aerials of S-80 in the C-44 canal: when opened by the ACOE this structure allows water to discharge from Lake Okeechobee into the St Lucie River. Photo#1 JTL & Congressman Mast today at the Riverwalk along the St Lucie River, Stuart, Florida.
C-44 Reservoir and Storm Water Treatment Area (STA)
After weeks of algae Lake O shots, when my husband, Ed, went up in the Baron on June 17th, 2020, I looked at him and said: “Could you please also take some photos of the C-44 Reservoir and STA for an update? I need a positive fix.”
Thus today’s photos of the C-44 Reservoir/STA in Martin County, off the C-44 canal near Indiantown, share good news. Most important for me, the pictures reveal that many more of the STA cells are slowly getting filled with water -in December 2019 they started with one as Governor DeSantis pulled the lever. One can see many more cells are now filled. When complete, these cells will cleanse tremendous amounts of nutrient polluted water prior to entry into the St Lucie River. The ACOE projects that construction will be completed by next year. It has been in progress for many years and is a” cooperative” between the ACOE (reservoir) and SFWMD (STA) and a component of CERP.
Program: Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP)
“Located on approximately 12,000 acres on the northern side of the St. Lucie Canal in western Martin County, the C-44 Reservoir and Stormwater Treatment Area (STA) project will capture local basin runoff…” ~SFWMD“Achieve More Now”
There are maps and links at the bottom of this post should you like to learn more. Thank you to all over the years and today helping with the completion of the C-44 Reservoir STA as we work to save the St Lucie River.
Documenting St Lucie River and Lake Okeechobee, Saturday, June 13, 2020
Today’s post includes two sets of photos taken from two different planes: the Supercub and the Baron. The Supercub is the classic yellow “River Warrior” open-air plane, and the Baron is a closed cockpit twin-engine with the distinctive upturned wing-tip. The Supercub can fly low and slow, the Baron can fly higher and faster. Both offer unique perspectives to photograph our waterways.
Dr. Scott Kuhns and Steve Schimming shared photos taken from the Supercub in the morning hours of Saturday, 6-13-20. Scott uses a quality Nikon camera thus his photos offer a wider or closer perspective. Thank you Scott and Steve, long time River Warriors and friends. Their photos reveal the coffee color of the St Lucie following torrential rains.
This next set of aerials was taken by my husband, Ed Lippisch, and myself the same day, 6-13-20, a few hours later, closer to noon. Again, it is important to note the St Lucie area recently experienced particularly heavy rains, only Broward County and parts of Miami- Dade had more. So we can learn about this, I am sharing the most recent Water Conditions Report of the SFWMD for details of all the St Lucie and all south and central Florida. See link under Rainfall Distribution Comparison slide below.
The first group of photos from Ed and I in the Baron is of the St Lucie River and the second set is of algae blooms in Lake Okeechobee. NOTE THE ACOE IS NOT DISCHARGING INTO THE ST LUCIE AT THIS TIME.
We continue to document and thank all who are working towards projects and ways of life that better water quality in the state of Florida. We know what we need to do!
The St Lucie River-2018 to 2020. Like night and day.
The waters were fluorescent green-brown, and now they are clear.
It has been an amazing year. Even I have been surprised by the recent clarity of the St Lucie River and Indian River Lagoon. And what is really amazing, is that even the “worst of the worst” toxic areas of 2013, 2016, and 2018 now look “pretty good,” and life is returning.
One of these areas is the Harborage Marina in Stuart under the Roosevelt Bridge. I recently took these photos as I felt even at night the reflection of the bridge shone brighter.
Like Night and Day, Reflections on a Once Toxic Marina
ROOSEVELT BRIDGE SOUTH DAY/NIGHT, APRIL 2020, JTL
ROOSEVELT BRIDGE NORTH DAY/NIGHT APRIL 2020
WATER OF HARBORAGE MARINA APRIL 2020, OYSTERS COMING BACK. WATERS MUCH CLEARER.
THESE PICTURES BELOW ARE FROM 2018 SHOWING SEAWALL AND ROOSEVELT BRIDGE AREA DURING TOXIC OUTBREAK. SAME PLACE DIFFERENT YEARS; DIFFERENT WATER MANAGEMENT. DAY CAN TURN TO NIGHT VERY QUICKLY SO PLEASE KEEP UP THE FIGHT.
Family friend Scott Kuhns is a great dentist, pilot, and photographer. For years, Scott has been one of our “eyes in the sky,” taking flight over the St Lucie River-Indian River Lagoon -and west out to Lake Okeechobee.
Today, Sunday, May 3, 2020, before noon, Scott forwarded these striking photos. He wrote “I can see some algae at Port Mayaca.”
When I first reviewed the impressive photographs -coast to lake- I found it hard to believe, but indeed looking very closely, there is a wisp of algae close to S-308 at Port Mayaca in Lake Okeechobee.
Can you see it? When things are so beautiful, like right now, it’s easy to miss!
Thanks Scott for your continued service “River Warrior” extraordinaire! We will continue to keep an eye on the water as we move closer to hurricane season.
ST LUCIE INLET, CROSSROADS OF INDIAN AND ST LUCIE RIVERS DIVIDED BY SEWALL’S POINT, ~ALL PHOTOS BY DR SCOTT KUHNS
JUPITER NARROWS & ATLANTIC OCEAN SOUTH OF ST LUCIE INLET
C-44 CANAL at ST LUCIE LOCKS AND DAM, S-80
S-308, CONNECTION OF C-44 CANNAL to LAKE OKEECHOBEE
VERY TIP of S-308 with ALGAE WISPS SLIGHTLY VISIBLE, BUT DEFINITELY THERE
INSIDE STRUCTURE S-308, PORT MAYACA LAKE OKEECHOBEE ALONG C-44 CANAL. S-53 ON ANOTHER CANAL. ALSO FPL COOLING POND SURROUNDED ON WEST BY WHAT APPEARS TO BE SUGARCANE FIELDS
First of all, let’s recognize that we are stressed out enough social distancing due to the coronavirus. Nonetheless, for our waters, we must pay attention on every front. Right now, the St Lucie River and nearshore reefs are absolutely beautiful, and there is not a threat from Lake Okeechobee or area canals as it is not raining very much. Lake Okeechobee is at 11.85 feet NVGD, therefore, the chances of discharges into the St Lucie River are basically none. If another Hurricane Dorian comes this summer, that could be a different story.
We know our waters suffer from nutrient pollution overdose. Thankfully the State Legislature under the leadership of Governor DeSantis is now paying attention. It will take some time for the bills passed this past legislative session to bear fruit and some will need to be expanded, but when it comes to our waters we are in a better position politically this year and last year than in recent years.
Nonetheless, we must continue our advocacy and continue to document.
The above Jacksonville Army Corp of Engineers map distributed during the March 31, 2020 Periodic Scientist Call shows how much water is going where from Lake Okeechobee. One can see that water for agricultural irrigation is being sent east into the C-44 Canal via S-308; at 191 cubic feet per second. This is fine, and I hope all the water users get the water they need, but algae blooms in our waters is a concern for me.
So to get tho the point, today I share my husband, Ed Lippisch and friend, Scott Kuhns’ flight photos taken today, April 2, 2020 around 11:00am. The aerials show the beginning of an algae bloom in Lake Okeechobee near the S-308 structure at Port Mayaca (Ed said it appeared much brighter than in the photos) as well as clearly in the C-44 Canal near the FPL retention pond and its structure S-153.
Continuing to fly east, there appears to be no algae at S-80, St Lucie Locks and Dam further down the C-44. Keep in mind, the water that is going into the C-44 canal via S-308 at Lake O, Port Mayaca is not going east through S-80 but being used before it gets that far for water supply in the western part of the almost 30 mile C-44 canal.
~Confusing, I know! The C-44 is long and has multiple abilities.
Here are the aerials, as long as possible, we will continue to document the St Lucie River and Lake Okeechobee.
BELOW: LOOKING EAST OVER LAKE OKEECHOBEE, FPL COOLING POND VISIBLE
BELOW: FAINT GREEN ALGAE CAN BE SEEN NORTH OF S-308 ALONG SHORELINE OF LAKE OKEECHOBEE FROM 2000 FEET.
ALGE NORTH OF S-308 and RIM CANAL LAKE O
BELOW: ENTRANCE OF S-308 AT LAKE O GOING INTO C-44 CANAL
BELOW: S-80, St Lucie Locks and Dam, further east along the C-44 Canal, no algae visible
I have been wanting to write about these water quality maps for months. Now that I am at home, social distancing, due to the coronavirus pandemic, I have no excuse. So today, we begin.
Some history: about six months ago my brother, Todd Thurlow and Dr Gary Goforth started collaborating to create nutrient pollution color coded maps. The data is compiled by Dr Gary Goforth via South Florida Water Management District’s DBHydro water quality database; and the graphics are generated by Todd. All of these computer generated images can be found on my brother’s website, eyeonlakeo. This is a site you are probably familiar with as it led the charge on Harmful Algal Bloom Lake O satellite imagery before that went public in 2018. My goal is to do the same with these maps. In time, have them “go public.” The form this data exists in the District’s reports today is very sophisticated and thus confusing for the general public. With help from Gary, Todd, and a former eighth grade teacher, (me) it doesn’t have to be!
So let’s start with overview color. Basically, any color other than green is a flashing light, especially orange-red, or dark russet!
When looking at these maps, one must keep in mind that the map is in WATER YEARS. A water year begins on May 1 of a year and goes through the following year ending April 30th. The above map labeled “Lake Okeechobee Watershed Total Phosphorus Concentrations,” is Water Year 2019. (May1, 2018 – April30, 2019.)
Next, one must learn to think in terms of SUBWATERSHEDS and BASINS. The image above is for the entire 3.4-million acre watershed of Lake Okeechobee, and is broken into sub-watersheds and basins from large to small based on the way the water “flows” or used to. The sub watersheds are identified in bold in the table to the left and the basins are listed below.
The colors on the map are shown by scale at the bottom from green to dark red. You don’t have to be a genius to see that for instance S-154 Basin is one of the darkest color reds with a concentration of 857 “µg/L” (microgram per liter, commonly expressed as “parts per billion”, or “ppb”). In 2001, the State of Florida established a Target for the average phosphorus concentration in water entering Lake Okeechobee of about 40 ppb, so this basin’s concentration of 857 ppb is 21.4 times the Target concentration for the Lake; hence this basin has a “Target Multiple” shown in the table of 21.4.
The color coding gives you a quick and easy way to identify which basins are close to the target (green basins) and which basins need a lot of improvement in their non-point source controls (red basins). For a more quantitative assessment, you can check out the “” values in the table for each basin. It’s important to remember that while concentrations are very important to identify which basins need additional non-point source controls, such as farming or urban best management practices (BMPs), the “load” entering the lake from each basin is also important. We’ll talk about loads in a future blog. Now let’s take a look above at map number two, the “St Lucie Estuary and Watershed Total Nitrogen Concentrations” map. Nitrogen is the other important nutrient besides phosphorus that affects our water quality, including algae blooms. Since we already know now how to interpret the color coding, we can easily see that the Tidal Basins – the largely urban areas around the estuary – has the lowest nitrogen concentration, i.e., the Tidal Basins has the best nitrogen water quality. The Tidal Basin had a concentration of 824 ppb, and with a Target Multiple of 1.1 this concentration is still about 10% higher than the Target set by the State of 720 ppb. So while this basin has the best nitrogen levels in the watershed, it still has some improvements to make in order to meet the nitrogen Target. By contrast, Lake Okeechobee discharges, and runoff from the C-23 and C-24 basins are the darkest red and therefore have the poorest water quality, with nitrogen concentrations about 2 times the Target. The orange to red colors for these and the C-44 and Ten Mile Creek basins indicate these basins need to implement considerably more effective source controls in order to meet the Target for the Estuary.
Todd’s website and Gary’s (http://garygoforth.net/Other%20projects.htm) show phosphorus and nitrogen maps for the Lake and St. Lucie Estuary watersheds. They are working on maps for the Caloosahatchee River and Estuary Watershed.
In closing, these powerful visual maps give us the ability to easily “see” where the greatest problems of nutrient runoff are located; the nutrients come from many sources, including urban and agricultural activities, e.g., fertilizer application. And although the numbers and colors don’t tell us exactly where this pollution is coming from, we can determine it is problematic in the designated basins.
That’s enough for our first day. Hope it was a good one!
Work on the C-44 Reservoir and Storm Water Treatment Area started back in 2004 and is one of a few gigantic water projects of the Army Corp of Engineers and South Florida Water Management District. The mammoth construction site is part of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan, Indian River Lagoon South. In Martin County, the foundation for this was laid back in 1996 and 1998, and then again in 2006 when the public supported environmental land purchases through a sales tax: https://www.martin.fl.us/land-acquisition
Recently, the SFWMD has made great progress for water quality projects with strong backing from the public (fed up with toxic algae blooms), Governor Ron DeSantis and the Florida Legislature.
Today I will be sharing three things: a flyover with my husband Ed; a field trip led by the SFWMD to C-44 with Florida Sportsman Magazine; and the grand finale, the visit of Governor Ron DeSantis to allow the first waters of the C-44 Canal to flow into the STAs.
Why has everything taken so long? We’ll there are many reasons but we must note the 2008 Great Recession, politics, and most of all, the project’s size!
The map above and below can give you an idea of the project’s 12, 000 acres!
Looking at the Google Map, you’ll notice that you can easily see the outline of the former groves. Perusing the map below, you can see the reservoir will be in the north west corner and the six cells of the storm water treatment area on the east. You will also notice that Allapattah Flats, once a gigantic marsh through St Lucie and Martin County, is north of the project along with Troup’s – RB Ranch – upper east. Star Farms is west and grows sugar cane at the present time. There is a long intake canal off the C-44 canal that brings in the polluted water – primarily from local farm runoff. 2/3 of Martin County is agricultural. It is important to keep these lands in agriculture as developed lands would be even harsher on the wildlife and the environment. We all, coast or inland, must work to clean things up!
FLYOVER C-44 RESERVOIR & STA, ED LIPPISCH and JTL, SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 10, 2019.
2. FIELD TRIP TO C-44 RESERVOIR & STA WITH FLORIDA SPORTSMAN MAGAZINE, and JTL led by Alan Shirkey, Bureau Chief, Engineering and Construction, SFWMD and Buff Searcy, Lead Engineer and Construction Manager, SFWMD. THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 7, 2019. This was a great opportunity and thank you to Blair Wickstrom for recommending we do such from the ground. This is were one really sees what is going on!
3. GOVERNOR DESANTIS ACTIVATES THE C-44 STA, INDIANTOWN, FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 8, 2019. A great day and an honor for me to be there up close to our wonderful new Governor!
“The SFWMD recently completed three of the six cells of the 6,300-acre treatment area and expects to have the entire STA completed next year. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is building a 3,400-acre reservoir next to the STA that is expected to be completed in 2021. The C-44 Reservoir will store 50,000 acre-feet of water, including local basin runoff and Lake Okeechobee releases. This will reduce harmful releases reaching the St. Lucie Estuary that can fuel harmful algal blooms. The C-44 STA will treat the water stored in the reservoir before it is released into the estuary. “I can’t help but smile. Water flowing into this treatment area marks a momentous day in the history of the Everglades, the Treasure Coast, and the St. Lucie Estuary,” said SFWMD Governing Board Member Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch. “This is the start of the road to a healthier estuary and Everglades. Under the leadership of Governor DeSantis, progress on Everglades restoration is moving at a rapid pace.””