Category Archives: St Luice River and C-44 Canal

A Fly-over, a Field Trip, and Watching the Governor Activate the C-44 STA

Google Map area of C-44 Reservoir and STA in Indiantown, FL, Martin County.

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

There were years of planning and design with stops and starts. Time has gone by and when funding has been in place, the Army Corp of Engineers has been building the reservoir (since 2015) and the South Florida Water Management District has been building the storm water treatment area (since 2014) : https://www.saj.usace.army.mil/Missions/Environmental/Ecosystem-Restoration/Indian-River-Lagoon-South/

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!

Years ago, I wrote a post about the Minute Maid Groves that were once on this property and shared awesome photos my mother gave me from 1964. Groves to Water, amazing how times change: “A Look Back to the Orange Groves of Today’s ACOE SFWMD C-44 Reservoir/STA, 1964, SLR/IRL” https://jacquithurlowlippisch.com/tag/c-44-storm-water-treatment-area-and-reservoir/

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!

 

SFWMD map of site
  1. FLYOVER C-44 RESERVOIR & STA,  ED LIPPISCH and JTL, SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 10, 2019.

 

on Sunday, November 10, Ed and I flew over and took aerial photos. Below you can see the airplane over the reservoir looking over the cells of the storm water treatment area. Also note the long intake canal to the C-44 Canal.
Looking over Cell 2 C44 STA

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!

 

Entrance sign along Citrus Road in Indiantown
On Thursday, Blair Wickstrom and Tray Wheeler of Florida Sportsman Magazine and myself took a tour or the property and really got to see it from the ground.  Buff Search, JTL, Blair Wickstrom, Alan Shirkey
Pumps pull in water from below
Buff Searcy, Lead Engineer, Alan Shirkey, Bureau Chief SFWMD, Florida Sportsman publisher, Blair Wickstrom, reporter Tray Wheeler. Large gate strains.
Buff Searcy, Lead Engineer SFWMD with reservoir dike in background.
Buff Searcy, Blair Wickstrom, Tray Wheeler, Alan Searcy discuss…
Indigo Snakes are an endangered species and live in this area
The wildlife was most interesting to me as many types were in the area. We saw numerous deer resting in the grass. I was assured they would move when the reservoir and STA were up and running. It pains me they do not have more wild habitat.
Signs regarding threatened/endangered eastern indigo snake
Alan Shirkey explains the reservoir and STA.

 

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.”” 

Please see Press Release from the Governor’s Office: Governor Ron DeSantis Activates C-44 Stormwater Treatment Area

Cleaner water coming to St. Lucie River, Indian River Lagoon as SFWMD opens C-44 project, by Tyler Treadway:https://www.tcpalm.com/story/news/local/indian-river-lagoon/health/2019/11/08/water-pumped-into-sta-desantis-celebrates-lake-o-project-indiantown/2506354001/
The Governor hits the button and the first waters flow into the C-44 STA. It can take months for these to slowly fill. Later plants (mostly cattails) will grow and filter water before from the Reservoir before it goes back into the C-44 Canal and St Lucie River.
Water entering the STA
People gather to await the governor!
.
.
.
.
.
.
Gov. DeSantis speaks, photo Carolyn Timmann
Carolyn Timmann and Alan Shirkey stand before cell 2 of the C-44 STA as water enters for the first time
.

Former posts on C-44 Reservoir and STA

October 13, 2014: Seeing Results C-44: https://jacquithurlowlippisch.com/2014/10/13/seeing-results-c-44-storm-water-treatment-areareservoir-st-lucie-river-indian-river-lagoon/

Sept 15, 2015: Reaching the Finish Line: https://jacquithurlowlippisch.com/2015/09/15/reaching-the-finish-line-c-44-storm-water-treatment-areareservoir-slrirl/

October 29, 2015: A Look Back to the Orange Groves of Today’s ACOE SFWMD C-44 Reservoir/STA, 1964, SLR/IRL https://jacquithurlowlippisch.com/tag/c-44-storm-water-treatment-area-and-reservoir/

Sunrise Rotary’s 2nd Annual Water Forum, Public Health as it Relates to the River

Thank you to Rotarians Mr Larry Lavargna and Ms Elmira Gainey for co-chairing Stuart-Sunrise Rotary’s 2nd Annual Water Forum, Public Health as it Relates to the St Lucie River. There are few instances where so many influential water voices come together to speak on the river as it relates to public health and for a question/answer period after each to boot. A excellent public forum!

I noticed that of all the speakers, Dr Gary Goforth had written out his talk, thus in case you were unable to attend,  I asked if he would share. His words are included below. You can also find many of the presentations recorded and posted at Treasure Coast on Facebook.

The most powerful things happen when we all get involved and include others! Thank you Sunshine-Rotary!

2019 SSRC OUR WATER 2019 Booklet

2nd Annual Rotary Water Forum – October 5, 2019

Public Health as it Relates to the River

Gary Goforth

We are so blessed to live in Paradise!  Like you I love this river, its estuary, its mangroves, its beaches, its near-shore reefs. But as many of you know, it is a Paradise with a tragic problem. Below the surface of this serene river lies poison.

Ms. Sandra Thurlow recently provided the following treasure: In 1885, Homer Hine Stuart, Jr. for whom Stuart is named carried around a small woodcutting representing the confluence of the North Fork and South Fork of the St Lucie Rivers.  This carving showed the river as 20 feet deep at the location of the future Roosevelt Bridge.  Imagine that!

Thirty years later Ernie Lyons described looking down into the River 15-20 ft through clear tea-colored water to a sandy bottom below.

The area behind us was known worldwide as “Giant Tarpon Kingdom” with regular catches of silver kings above 175 pounds. The world record was reported as 220 pounds, caught just up river.

In 1913, the State of Florida decided to construct a canal connecting Lake Okeechobee with the Atlantic Ocean. The primary intent was to divert the overflow of Lake Okeechobee away from its natural course south through the Everglades, thereby allowing the sawgrass plains south of the lake to be developed for agriculture. A secondary benefit was to provide cross-Florida transportation of produce and other commerce.

On June 15, 1923, the first recorded discharges from Lake Okeechobee passed through the newly constructed St. Lucie Canal, which connected the St. Lucie Estuary to the Lake.  But an unintended consequence was the discharge of countless tons of muck and dirty freshwater from the Lake that forever changed the landscape of the St Lucie River and Estuary.

Within 10 years the Martin County Commissioners had asked the State to stop the discharges “for the reason that the continued discharge of a large volume of dirty freshwater has killed all the shell fish, driven all salt water fish from the river, filled the river with hyacinths and so polluted the St Lucie River as to completely take away the attractive features and ruin its commercial value to the community.” (December 15, 1930 MCBCC)

The lake discharges drove out the king tarpons – the 150-200 pounders – and the small city of Stuart recast itself as the “Sailfish Capital of the World.”

Ernie Lyons described the damage in this way:

“We turned our good, sweet water into a cup of poison and changed a laughing little river into a reeking abomination – in the latter part of an ordinary lifetime.  Clean rivers are not “forever and forever” like the sunrise.” (from The Last Cracker Barrel (1976) p 62)

 

As a professional engineer I’ve had the honor of working to protect the environment of south Florida for more than three decades – in the Everglades, in Lake Okeechobee, along the Kissimmee River and its headwaters, and in the magnificent estuaries –the St Lucie and Caloosahatchee. My wife and I raised three kids here along the St Lucie River and I’ve taught my two grandsons to fish and appreciate the incredible biological diversity throughout the river and estuary and near shore reefs.  But unfortunately, we don’t eat the fish we catch in the River because of the public health risk.

  1. I recently had the misfortune of being in the emergency room of our local hospital. One of the very first questions I was asked was if I had had any recent contact with the St Lucie River.
  2. During the 2016 discharges I walked along Stuart Beach with Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch and we collected the names and stories of over 100 people who had gotten sick after coming in contact with the water.
  3. A beautiful dog, Finn, died that summer after morning frolic in the water. Several other dogs suffered acute liver failure, and suffer to this day.

 

2016 was a watershed year in understanding the relationship between the discharge of polluted water from the Lake and public health. The media began to focus on toxic blue green algae – particularly the microcystis form.   While parts of our beloved estuary were covered in foul smelling neon green guacamole, the media began reporting on the effects of microcystis and human health.  An Ohio State University study reported that those of us in Martin and St Lucie County have twice the national average rate of death for non-alcoholic liver disease.  They correlated this high rate with one thing – discharge of polluted water carrying blue green algae from Lake Okeechobee. This particular form of blue-green algae – microcystis – carries a dangerous toxin that can cause serious liver disease which can lead to death.  Additional human health risks have also been identified – Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and Lou Gehrig’s disease.

In the last year – thanks to the efforts of Congressman Brian Mast – the Corps of Engineers acknowledged for the first time that Lake discharges to the estuaries carrying microcystis are toxic to humans, and the US Government makes these discharges knowingly and with the understanding that they are poisoning us – the public that they serve.

Numerous public health advisories have been issued in our region in association with lake discharges – warnings to the public to avoid contact with the water.  But none have ever been issued when Lake water is sent south – the environmental conditions south of the lake are not advantageous for sustaining toxic blooms.  So the alternative to knowingly poisoning the public are clear – send the water south.

Col. Kelly is now in charge, and we are truly grateful for his leadership.  As the Corps revises its operation schedule of the Lake, I am sure that Col. Kelly will ensure that the public health, economies and environment of our region are given equal weight as the public health, economies and environment of the area south of the Lake.  Hundreds of millions of dollars in economic loss are felt by the regions around the estuaries during years of heavy lake discharges. Public health is adversely affected. There is no acceptable level of lake discharges.  There is no level of Lake releases to the St Lucie Estuary that is beneficial.

Lake discharges contain pollutants include toxic blue green algae, sediment (muck), low salinity water, and nutrients.  However, even if all the Lake water was sent south, our beloved St Lucie would still be in trouble.  Our local watershed has its challenges – particularly high levels of nitrogen and phosphorus in agricultural runoff.  Our watershed suffers from the same lack of pollution regulation as the Lake Okeechobee watershed: landowners are not held accountable for pollution from their property.

But the problem is not just ag runoff – WE ALL ARE RESPONSIBLE.  For the St Lucie Estuary, approximately 5-10% of the total nitrogen loading is from our septic tanks.  If you have a tank – have it inspected and maintained.  Water quality data show an improvement in nitrogen levels due to positive actions taken by the City of Stuart, Martin County, Port St. Lucie and homeowners – conversion of more than 8,000 septic tanks to centralized sewer.  The City of Stuart has one of the best programs for converting septic tanks to sewers: a voluntary system that allows homeowners the option of waiting until their tanks or drainfields need replacing before hooking up.  But converting septic to sewer doesn’t solve the problem of nutrient overload – it just moves the problem to other areas.  The majority of the residuals from wastewater treatment plants are returned to our watersheds as “biosolids” that contain high concentrations of phosphorus and nitrogen.  An article in this morning’s Stuart News documented the presence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in dolphins, and the researchers attribute much of the problem to pharmaceuticals that pass generally untreated through centralized sewers and are returned to the watershed through biosolids.     We still need a better strategy for managing biosolids.  Sen. Harrell – we look to you for leadership in the Legislature to require additional oversight and regulation of the application of all biosolids in our watershed.

The Florida Legislature is the single most influential group that can positively affect the public health in the state of Florida.  The Legislature has an obligation to understand that allowing continued pollution of Lake Okeechobee and the estuaries will directly and adversely impact the health of the public you represent.  Unless the State begins holding landowners accountable for the pollution they generate, there is absolutely no reason to believe that our water quality will improve and as a result, our public health will continue to decline.  No matter if the Corps and SFWMD implement all the projects on the books – there will still be Lake discharges of toxic water to our estuaries – and unless the Legislature reverses its direction, the water quality and public health problems will persist.

I ask Sen. Harrell to work with the Legislature to hold the state’s Dept. of Environmental Protection (DEP) accountable for protecting our environment.  Their current program for improving water quality going into the Lake is terribly broken.  Pollution loading to the lake reached an all-time high in 2017.  And compounding this problem is that annual DEP reports to the Governor and legislature and public are misleading – as they allege that pollution loads are decreasing – when the reality – as documented by the SFWMD – is that average pollution loads are higher than the Starting Period.  For 2017 the measured phosphorus loads to the Lake were 60% greater than they reported in their annual report.  For 2018, the measured loads were 40% greater than they reported.  Who holds the DEP accountable for transparency and accuracy in reporting to the Governor, the Legislature and the public?  Sen. Harrell – please demand accountability on the part of DEP.

USEPA recently established draft guidelines for microcystin in water. We urge the legislature to direct DEP to expeditiously embrace and adopt those guidelines to protect human health. We support Col. Kelly’s efforts to prevent Lake discharges to our estuary that contain blue green algae, and urge him to adopt the microcystin guideline into the new version of the Lake operating manual.

I want to thank Ms. Thurlow-Lippisch on behalf of the SFWMD – for exploring more ways to sending Lake water south through the STAs, into the Everglades and on to Florida Bay. The SFWMD is also the agency responsible for collecting water quality data documenting the state of the water.  Thanks to the leadership of Ms. Thurlow-Lippisch, they are initiating steps to establish a regulatory program that if done properly will hold landowners accountable for reducing nutrient pollution.  The SFWMD will need our support as they develop an effective program – and we the public need to turn out and support them in their efforts.

We’ve heard Col. Kelly and others describe projects to be completed in the next 2-3 years.  Wouldn’t it be wonderful to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the first discharges from the Lake with a promise to stop the toxic discharges?!

I’d like to end with a challenge for all of us from an idol of mine – Timer Powers – Timer was a former Martin County commissioner and water management board member and Executive Director:

“The greatest challenge in front of us is to take the steps that are necessary to assure that our younger generation has the rivers, the creeks and the critters that are at the heart of our whole society.  There’s not many people representing the critters, and if we fail to represent those who can’t represent themselves, either nature or people, then we have failed.”

So to my fellow clean water advocates – let’s rise up to meet this challenge!  We can do this people!

Thank you all, and to the Rotary for bringing us all together on this beautiful day along side this beautiful estuary!

 

Gary Goforth Ph.D ~Comments for BMAP Deadline

As I wrote about yesterday, Governor DeSantis’ Executive Order 19-12 calls for the Basin Management Action Plans around Lake Okeechobee to be “updated” by January 10, 2020.

https://wp.me/p3UayJ-a2Q

Dr Goforth (http://www.garygoforth.net/Other%20projects.htm ) is a familiar and trusted friend in our fight to protect the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon. Today, I am sharing his comments made during the development of the Basin Management Action Plan for the St Lucie River; and also his easy to read charts presented at the June 10, 2019, SFWMD Northern Estuary Workshop. It is my hope, that my very oversimplified post from yesterday can be complemented by Dr. Goforth’s input.

From Dr. Gary Goforth, Ph.D

  1. Subject: Estuary Water Quality Protection, July 8, 2019

Looking forward to a productive workshop on Wednesday…

Gary Goforth

*Please see attached:

Key Recommendations for Enhancing the SLRE BMAP

 

2. Subject: RE: Estuary Water Quality Protection, July 12, 2019

Thank you for a very productive workshop Wednesday on water quality and its impacts to the northern estuaries.

I’ve been asked for copies of the documents I held up during my public comments. These were developed pursuant to the 2007 Northern Everglades and Estuary Protection Program (NEEPP), and were to serve as the technical foundation for an expanded Works of the District (Rule 40E-61) regulatory program administered by the SFWMD. These documents summarize the most comprehensive analyses of water quality and hydrology for the Lake Okeechobee and estuary watersheds. These were presented to DEP during the development of the BMAPs – but DEP chose not to take advantage of them. Even worse, prior SFWMD management worked with an agricultural lobbyist to remove all references to these documents from the 2015 SFWMD annual environmental report (“In 2014, South Florida water managers were on the verge of an agriculture pollution crackdown, but at the last minute reversed course. TCPalm obtained emails that show how a lobbyist influenced water policy. The South Florida Water Management District changed course immediately after a Dec. 3, 2014, meeting with U.S. Sugar Corp. lobbyist Irene Quincey, eventually halting its planned policy in favor of a plan that takes polluters at their word and holds no one accountable if water quality suffers.” http://www.tcpalm.com/story/news/investigations/2017/08/30/u-s-sugar-lobbyist-influence-over-florida-water-pollution-rules/464671001/).

They can be downloaded from the following links; I’m sure staff could provide hardcopies (they’re several hundred pages in length).

Lake Okeechobee Watershed:
http://www.garygoforth.net/Draft_LOW_TSD_-_Feb_2013.pdf

St. Lucie Watershed:
http://www.garygoforth.net/TSD%20for%20SLRW%20-%2012%2018%202013.pdf

Caloosahatchee Watershed:
http://www.garygoforth.net/Deliv%203%2015%20Draft%20TSD%20for%20the%20CRW%20-%209%2030%202013.pdf

Let me know if I can be of further assistance.

Gary Goforth
http://www.garygoforth.net/Other%20projects.htm

Dr Gary Goforth

Summer Swimming, Not What it Used to Be…

With my little sister Jenny, 1st day of summer vacation, Stuart, Florida, 1970s.

When I was a kid growing up in the 60s and 70s in Stuart, summer vacation meant carefree swimming at the  Stuart Causeway, the beach, and the Sunrise Inn. This was such an anticipated time of year that my parents would splurge and buy us new bathing suits from TG&Y.

Here I am pictured with my little sister, Jenny, outside our family home on Edgewood Drive. We were proudly displaying our matching new bathing suits!

Today, things are different. It is important for parents to check the water first. Is it safe? Has an algae bloom been reported? Is the Army Corp dumping Lake Okeechobee?

Today, I share two websites: Martin County, and the Martin County Dept. of Health. Both have been updated to reflect today, and though it’s not all “good news” with this much open government, I am confident things are on their way to getting better.

In the meantime, safe swimming and happy summer!

Martin County (great video “Our Water Story”): https://www.martin.fl.us/OurWaterStory

Martin County Health Dept. http://martin.floridahealth.gov/newsroom/2019/05/summer_safety.html

Florida 1969

 

Florida 2019

P.S. Not so sure about the “Natural Places” part? I think here is an opportunity to educate people on nutrient pollution.

Report Your Algae Sighting to DEP, Overwhelm Them, SLR/IRL

I, as many, have seen and received multiple algae reports via Facebook, text, and through the tremendous reporting of Tyler Treadway of  the Stuart News. Now, I am encouraging everyone to take the time, and it doesn’t take much, to report their algae sightings in the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, (DEP).

It was Mike Connor who reminded me to do this, after my husband Ed accidentally spotted the algae lines by plane off Port Mayaca ~in Lake Okeechobee~ on June 2nd, the day after the ACOE started discharging.

At first I thought, “I’m too busy for that…” and then I realized of course I need to report to DEP because then the state is obligated to document and to test it for toxcidity.

Better yet, if everyone who is reporting via social media and text called DEP, there would be so many test sites for DEP to test, it would exhaust their resources.

Oh well…

Since our resources are gone, this is only fair.

As they say: “All is fair in love in war.”

Please report algae  sightings; see link below.

If you can’t figure it out this unclear website, call the Governor’s office: 850-488-7146 or Noah Valenstein the head of DEP: 850-245-2118.

Jacqui

https://depnewsroom.wordpress.com/south-florida-algal-bloom-monitoring-and-response/

Off of Overlook Drive near downtown Stuart. A beautiful location, an area Ed and I considered building on.

Liz Dunn shared 6-9-18 just south of Martin Health System.

Twilight Flight Over the St Lucie River, SLR/IRL

Last night’s twilight flight was a first for me, but not for my husband Ed. Usually, we fly in daylight chasing algae blooms or black Lake Okeechobee water…

Last night was just for fun, but one still feels the pull to protect this sacred place.

The beauty of the lands lighting up beneath us was almost as inspiring as the sunset. Humanity, such promise.

We do live in a beautiful place. A place to protect and call home…

Documenting the Discharges, 10-29-17, SLR/IRL

These aerial photos over the St Lucie Inlet were taken by my husband, Ed Lippisch, Sunday, October 29, 2017, at 1:45pm. 

The number one issue here is the polluted waters of Lake Okeechobee being forced into the SLR/IRL because they are blocked by the Everglades Agricultural Area from going south. 

The ACOE has been discharging Lake O waters into the St Lucie since mid-September. These over-nutrified and sediment filled waters continue to destroy our economy and ecology on top of all the channelized agricultural and development waters of C-23, C-24 and C-25. Stormwater from our yards and streets also adds to this filthy cocktail. 

Near shore reefs, sea grasses, oysters, fish? A human being? Better not have a cut on your hand…Not even a crab has an easy time living in this.

We move forward pushing the SFWMD and ACOE for the EAA Reservoir with these sad photos and the fact that our waters are putrid at the most beautiful time of year as motivation. We will prevail. One foot in front of the other. 

Save the St Lucie! Save the Indian River Lagoon!

Links to ACOE website: See S-80 & S-308, others intesting too. Northern waters should also be cleaned! http://w3.saj.usace.army.mil/h2o/reports.htm