Category Archives: St Luice River and C-44 Canal

Prohibiting Toxic Discharges, Would Change Everything

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.

Let’s think about this.

The United States Environmental Protection Agency has codified exactly what level of microcystin is too toxic for human contact. The number is 8 parts per billion.

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!

St Lucie River wide water, 2016.

Please be familiar with this press release and accompanying bill.

August 12, 2020

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

CONTACT: Kyle VonEnde, 202-329-1890

                     Kyle.VonEnde@mail.house.gov

Mast Introduces Legislation Prohibiting Toxic Discharges

 

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.

BACKGROUND

 

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) to set a new public health standard for microcystin (8 parts per billion), which in turn forced the Army Corps of Engineers to admit to knowingly discharging toxic water to the coastal estuaries.  Despite acknowledging that these releases are toxic, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has continued to poison Americans.  

The legislation is attached: MAST_8ppb

_____________________________________________________

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/STA Aerial Update -June 2020

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.  

LINKS

Computer Generated Model: (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4BsC0BoIPJ4

ACOE INFO SHEET:(https://usace.contentdm.oclc.org/util s/getfile/collection/p16021coll11/id/4599)Without

Martin County: “Martin County’s land acquisition efforts, this most critical and important project would not be under construction today.” (https://www.martin.fl.us/land-acquisition)

JTL  Past blog posts

SFWMD FIELD TRIP 2019 (https://jacquithurlowlippisch.com/2019/11/11/a-fly-over-a-field-trip-and-watching-the-governor-activate-the-c-44-sta/)

EARLY FLY OVER 2014 (https://jacquithurlowlippisch.com/tag/c-44-sta-and-reservoir/)

HISTORY: A LOOK BACK TO THE ORANGE GROVES OF TODAY’S C-44 RESERVOIR 1964 AERIALS: (https://jacquithurlowlippisch.com/2015/10/29/a-look-back-to-the-orange-groves-of-todays-acoe-sfwmds-c-44-reservoirsta-1964-slrirl/)

Red Balloon with black dot signifies footprint of former orange groves that became the footprint  of C-44 Reservoir STA approx. 10,000 to 12,000 acres

Documenting SLR and LO-June 2020

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. 

I.

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.

Canal systems dumping fresh water into SLR  presently is primarily from C-23 and C-24. Good for the S.L. the SFWMD is advocating and the ACOE is allowing the water in the C-44 to run back into L.O. as lake was not in “ecological envelope.” Note: presently there are no discharges from LO into the SLR. ~Image SFWMD

St Lucie Inlet

Confluence SLR/IRL
Looking southt to St Lucie Inlet and Jupiter Narrows
Seagrasses looking bleak

Bird Island
Sailfish Point
Sailfish Point
Crossroads SLR/IRL

Sandbar
Sandbar
Sandbar
Bird Island IRL
Photos Dr Scott Kuhns: Sewall’s Point

II.

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! 

https://apps.sfwmd.gov/webapps/publicMeetings/viewFile/25566

 

Sailfish Flats IRL
Exiting St Lucie Inlet looking south along Jupiter Narrows/Jupiter Island
Plume becoming visible
Looking back again into southern edge of SL Inlet

Now back at the St Lucie River and St Lucie Inlet at higher altitude
St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon
Sailfish Point St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon
Plume from higher perspective
Veteran’s Bridge in Palm City looking back to Stuart, note Witham Field and ocean in distance
Circling around- Hobe Sound looking north to St Lucie Inlet.
Heading west over Atlantic Ridge natural area
Approaching Lake O. FPL cooling pond visible.
S-308 at L.O. and C-44 Canal
My brother Todd Thurlow’s website shows that algae in L.O. is now showing on low resolution satellite imagery: Terra, Aqua, Suomi: http://eyeonlakeo.com/LakeO3x7days.html; http://eyeonlakeo.com
algae bloom southern rim
algae bloom like this was basically throughout southern area of lake, but denser in some areas and not so dense in others….
Ed’s palne GPS, present location south L.O.
South Lake O over southern rim
LakeO lapping towards Port Mayaca not FPL cooling pond, this area is by far the most algae ridden

Lake O
Lake O
Lake O
Lots of algae in Lake Okeechobee

MOVIE:

Now after flying west again over Lake Okeechobee algae here as well but more spread out

Another great SFWMD is the most recent Ecological Report as it discusses effects of water quantity and quality on fish and wildlife for all central and S.F.: (https://apps.sfwmd.gov/webapps/publicMeetings/viewFile/25567)

Like Night and Day, Reflections on a Once Toxic Marina

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.

How things can change!

~Like night and day; like day and night…

As we enjoy the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon’s beautiful waters this year, we must not forget what we have gone through in 2013, 2016, and 2018. We can never take clean water for granted, we must continue the fight.

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.

MOVIE TOXIC ALGAE 2018 SLR HARBORAGE MARINA~IMG_4161

 

Beautiful -But I See Some Algae at Port Mayaca…

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

REMNANTS OF THE ORANGE GROVE THAT IS NOW THE C-44 RESERVOIR AND STA.

SLR basins. SFMWD. You can see FPL cooling pond just northeast of S-308.

 

Aerials~St Lucie & LakeO-“After the Rain” 4-18-20

Last night, 4-18-20, after a hiatus, Mother Nature decided to “let it rain” and this morning friends Dr Scott Kuhns and daughter-in-law, Dr Mary Kuhns went for a flight over the St Lucie River and Lake Okeechobee to check things out.
Ed and I thank them for sharing their photographs!
Update-No visible algae at S-308 or along the C-44 canal. The waters of the St Lucie River are grayish from rain water runoff. Things look good, considering.  
~The rainfall numbers across the SFWMD can be viewed at the SFWMD’s 24 Hour Realtime Rain Gauge Site.
S-308 at Port Mayaca, Lake O
Along C-44 canal, do you see algae?
South Sewall’s Point, rain runoff visible
Hole in the wall & St Lucie Inlet
Rain plume exciting St Lucie Inlet

SFWMD 

Lake O 11.34 feet NVGD

JAXACOE

Canals in Martin & St Lucie Co.that are connected to the St Luice River: C-23, C-24, C-25 built in the 50s and 60s. C-44 is also connected to Lake Okeechobee constructed in the 1920s. The natural basins of the SLR have been tremendously enlarged damaging the river.

Thank you SFWMD & ACOE for info. 

Faint Algae Bloom at LakeO, S-308, C-44 Canal, Martin County

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.

SFWMD

SFWMD WEEKLY ENVIRONMENTAL CONDITIONS REPORT 3-25-20

SFWMD WEEKLY ENVIRONMENTAL CONDITIONS REPORT 4-1-20

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. 

ACOE Periodic Scientists Call 3-31-20

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

SFWMD basin map for SLR showing S-308 and S-80 along with other structures.

Color-coded Nutrient Pollution Maps Shine the Light! LakeO/SLE

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!

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!

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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

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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:

Click to access Draft_LOW_TSD_-_Feb_2013.pdf

St. Lucie Watershed:

Click to access TSD%20for%20SLRW%20-%2012%2018%202013.pdf

Caloosahatchee Watershed:

Click to access 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…