My recent post about “Holding Lake Okeechobee’s Algae at Bay” got a lot of responses with a few questioning whether the algae bloom in Lake O off Port Mayaca was caused by the waters of C-44 flowing back into the lake.
I do not know the answer to this question, but I do know flights over the C-44 canal in 2019 have shown no visible algae blooms, but many in the lake with some right off Port Mayaca. Nonetheless, we know the C-44 is full of nutrient pollution.
Today I want to share a chart from my brother Todd Thurlow’s website http://eyeonlakeo.com/ as well as our back and forth on the issue of how much water has been put into Lake Okeechobee from C-44 so far this year rather than going into the St Lucie River. The ACOE can flow C-44 flow both ways…
Be sure to read “Summary of Query Results” below for the answer.
Todd: Jacqui, I changed my DBKey on my daily spreadsheet to S-308 just to see what it would spit out. See below. It looks like S-308 has sent a net 17billion gallons of C-44 basin water (over 54,000 AF) into Lake O this year. I am pretty sure that means we get a “free” 17billion gallons in our direction before it is considered “Lake Water”.
Jacqui: Todd did the ACOE start sending the C-44 canal water back to Lake O May 29th? Looking at the chart this is what I see.
Todd: There has been little flows all year as can be seen on the chart too but the big flows started on May 13 at -2042cfs. There was a pause between June 4 and July 30. Then is started again with a few days off here and there. Here is the data that is summarized in that chart.
The May 29 date that you might see (its actually May 20) is where the “Cumulative Total Discharge” graph crosses the zero axis? That is where the net flows for the year were back to zero. In other words, it took from May 13 to May 20, 8 days of westward flow, to cancel out all of the net eastward flow for the year.
These DEP canal summaries are no longer available on-line but remain good references even though written in 2001.
Todd Thurlow gave a great presentation last evening about his website “EyeOnLakeO,” http://eyeonlakeo.com. The site is a cache of images, charts, data, videos, graphs, and mathematical conversion calculators. This information is all public, but hard to find because it is buried under layers and layers of government-agency material. Thanks to Todd, now much of this is in one place, and only a click away!
Last’s night’s presentation reviewed everything on the site, but focused mostly on “Descriptions of Satelite Imagery and Sources.” This you may have seen me post on Facebook where Todd juxtaposes the Lake Okeechobee NOAA Harmful Algae Bloom Images to Real Color Images.
You can see other subject boxes include: Florida Chlorophyll; Martin County Chlorophyll; Live Discharge Data; Historical Discharge Graphs (my favorite); Calculators and Tools (super helpful!); Satellites- Landsat 7 & 8; Terra, Aqua, Suomi Last 7 Days; Measurements (of algae blooms in Lake O); Landsat 1-4 Movies 1972-2013; Landsat 4-8 Movies 1982-2018 (compilations of satellite images over time); Lake O Surface Winds “Windy” (to see where the algae will be pushed and gather); Hurricane Matthew Video info (was 20 miles off Stuart/Cat. 4/2016); Terra/Aqua/Suomi Archives; and a movie of the Lake O Algae Bloom 2016 that Todd measured at 253 square miles being dumped into the St Lucie River at S-308…not a good year!
Todd noted all this got started with Mark Perry, CEO of Florida Oceanographic, asking Todd if he could measure the 2016 bloom. I’m so glad Mark asked!
The presentation was well received and left our heads spinning!
Todd noted during his introduction that he is not a scientist, but a lawyer and an interested citizen like the rest of us. He shared that there is a ton of information out there and that it is not the responsibility of the government to give us the information. It is our responsibility to get it ourselves. Thank God I have Todd as a brother because I don’t have the ability or the desire to mine all of this information. But he does, and we can all use it and all share it and hold our state accountable using it.
What a wonderful thing!
Please go to Todd’s website and explore, bookmark as a reference especially with summer coming: http://eyeonlakeo.com
In closing, I’d like to use this opportunity to compare the 5-18-19 NOAA image on Todd’s site with photographs of algae bloom in Lake Okeechobee taken by my husband, Ed Lippisch, just yesterday. Ed described this bloom as five miles long and a few miles wide. As with many other years, the cyanobacteria is back in the lake. But now we can watch it, and fight that it is not discharged into our river.
~Yes, it is from the air, and from outer-space, that we really can force the conversation for a better water future!
This blog post is a follow-up to my previous post: https://wp.me/p3UayJ-9Vm, entitled “Top 25 Discharge Years” to the St Lucie and Caloosahatchee . Here I wrote that the SFWMD’s DBHydro systems’ discharge dates were not the same for the St Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries and speculated on why. To review, the St Lucie’s dates available on DBHydro are 1953-2019, whereas the Caloosahatchee’s is 1967-2019. Thirteen years are “missing.”
Of course my brother Todd, was able to locate and give insight into those missing numbers explaining that comparisons could be found in another system, the USGS system, that actually shares information about the entire planet.
Todd has created the above charts using the USGS data for the Caloosahatchee and the DBHydro data for the St Lucie, and we can now see the 1959/1960 discharge comparison of the St Lucie and Caloosahatchee for 1959 and 1960 in the above charts and excerpts below. Cool!
Delving into all this is a lot of work, and sometimes imperfect, but isn’t it great that the internet allows both the state and federal government to put all this raw data out there for anyone to analyze? Although it takes time and expertise, at the local level it is really our responsibility to individually, through non-profits, and as local governments, tap into this available data and present it in a fashion that everyone can understand, and perhaps inspire!
So now, the lost numbers of the Caloosahatchee are found revealing that the St Lucie River has the highest discharge number on record – 1960- at 3,093,488 acre feet!
Shockingly, the worst year, 1960, displays 3,093,488 acre feet of water coming through S-80 into the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon. For comparison, the highest year in the past decade was 2016 at 857,529 acre feet. ~A difference of 2, 235,959 acre feet.
We know now that an “acre foot” is an easy calculation, “one foot of water covering one acre of land.” 3,093,488 acre feet of water would have just about covered St Lucie, Martin, Palm Beach, and Broward counties as the acreage of these counties combined adds up to 3,293,440 acres. Hard to believe!
Even though in 1960, the lake was not yet prone to massive cyanobacteria blooms, fresh water itself is destructive to a brackish estuary, and over three million acre feet discharged into the river by, what would have been at that time, the Central and South Florida Flood Control District, (the predecessor to the South Florida Water Management District), must have wiped out just about everything.
Of course the question is: “Why such high a high number in 1960?” One would deduce, that the primary reason would be because there were three tropical storms and one hurricane that crossed over Florida during this era. According to NOAA’s Tropical Cyclone Rainfall in Florida chart: Judith, October 1959, 7.90 inches; Donna, September 1960 13.24 inches; Florence, September 1960 15.79 inches, and we do not know for the Unnamed 1959 storm.(https://www.wpc.ncep.noaa.gov/tropical/rain/tcflorida.html)
But this is conjecture…
Going back to Todd’s graph, you’ll notice that thirteen out of the twenty-five years listed had higher discharge number than 2016. Sobering, isn’t it? Staggering numbers, for a river that by Nature was never connected to Lake Okeechobee, and only a portion of the so-called C-44 Basin. We have drowned her, indeed…
Now for one final question.
The Caloosahatchee has data too, but only for years 1967-2019. Thus the Caloosahatchee’s highest year for discharge of its top 25 years is 2005, at 3,731,056 acre feet; followed by 2016, at 2, 950,926 acre feet and so on. Please click on the graph.
So what about the missing thirteen years of 1953-1968? Where did this water go? Did it go to the St Lucie? Was the Caloosahtchee off-line? Did it go through the Calooshahatchee but was not recorded? These are questions I cannot answer. But in any case, both rivers need a break, or they shall break themselves. History allows us to see the long-standing destruction and ecological disregard for our treasured Northern Estuaries.
Last week, I presented a blog on discharges, 2010-2019, to the St Lucie River from both the surrounding basin, and Lake Okeechobee. Although we can separate Lake O’s numbers, it is important to know just how much water, thus sediment, nitrogen and phosphorus, the estuaries are taking “at once.” I have often said the worst thing about discharges from Lake Okeechobee is that the river is already on life support -from being drowned out by basin runoff- when Lake Okeechobee is leashed open.
So called “basins” around our rivers, like everything else in South Florida, have been altered to drain more efficiently than Nature intended. Thus with “basin discharges” these rivers (St Lucie and Caloosahatchee) are already being drowned out during high rain events, and thus when Lake O’s water comes on top, well, it is the “nail in the coffin” so to speak.
I just needed to explain that before we begin….
~ So today, as in the previous post, I will be speaking about both basin and Lake O water.
Referring to my brother, Todd’s, graph at the top of the page, you’ll notice right away the destructive-discharge numbers are much larger for the Caloosahatchee, than the St Lucie, as it is much larger estuarine system.
As we can see comparing the two charts labeled “Cumulative Discharges 2010-2019” below, both the St Lucie and the Caloosahatchee’s highest year for discharges, by far, was 2016. But whereas the St Lucie received 842,000 acre feet of water, the Caloosahatchee’s water number is a whopping 2,950,926 acre feet! That would mean one foot of water on 2,950,926 acres of land.
You’ll remember from last time that “acre feet” is a very easy way to calculate. “Acre feet” means one foot of water on top of one acre of land. This 2016 Caloosahatchee 2,950,926 acre feet of water would just about cover, by one foot, Lee County, Collier County, and Hendry County – counting land and water within boundaries – as the acreage of these three counties adds up to 3, 012,450 acres.
Again, this visual is meant to give perspective on the tremendous amount of land this amount of water would cover. Often when we hear “acre feet” we don’t put “two and two” together. Once one realizes the number of acres of land that would be covered, it is astounding!
~But then, of course! These waters used to flow naturally as sheet-flow from the Shingle Creek area up in Orange County all the way south to Florida Bay.
Continuing on, we see that in second place, although the St Lucie’s second worst year was 2013, for the Caloosahathcee it was 2017, and then 2013. The fourth worst, for both estuaries was 2018.
Please compare the charts below of both rivers to see other differences from 2010-2019. Interesting… In the future, perhaps we can ask why 2018, in fourth place, was by far the most horrific year for the Caloosahtchee. Certainly it has to do with that sediment, nitrogen and phosphorus feeding cyanobacteria. As we know, in 2018, Lake Okeechobee was 90% covered in a cyanobacteria (blue-green algae) bloom…
*Please note that the charts look similar below; look closely to see that the first is for the CALOOSAHACHEE and the second is for the ST LUCIE. Thank you Todd for these awesome visuals!
Go to http://eyeonlakeo.com, Todd’s website for more ways to easily access and compare Calooshatchee, St Lucie and other information.
“The throat of our river was cut by the canals.” ~Ernest Lyons 1905-1990
Today, I begin a series of blog posts under the title: “Destruction by the Numbers,” based on new information my brother Todd has added to his website: http://eyeonlakeo.com.
The first slide we will study is calculated under Historical Discharge Graphs for “S-80, Calendar Year 2010 to 2019.” S-80 is the Army Corp of Engineers’ structure located at the C-44 Canal that discharges water to the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon from two sources. First, from the basin surrounding the C-44 Canal; and second, through S-308 at Lake Okeechobee.
Todd’s chart allows us to isolate the most recent decade, 2010-2019, and see that the highest discharging year during this time was 2016 at 847,773 acre feet. 2016 was by far the worst year in recorded history for cyanobacteria blooms being discharged from Lake Okeechobee and spreading throughout the river system. There was such massive blue-green algae build-up at Bathtub Beach that the waves and shoreline were completely green.
Don’t be intimidated by the left axis’ measurement of acre feet. Acre Feet is easy to calculate as it means exactly what it says. The acreage noted, in this instance, 847,773 acres, would be covered by one foot of water.
For reference, I will use the Everglades Agricultural Area, (EAA), located underneath Lake Okeechobee that we talk about all the time. This farmed area, mostly sugarcane, is 700,000 acres. So 847,773 acre feet of water —dumped into the St Lucie River from S-80, in 2016 –would cover the entire EAA, and more, by one foot of water!
~The map below shows the EAA in a salmon color.
Back to the chart. The next worst year, following 2016, was infamous 2013, the year that became known as the “Lost Summer,” and really started the river’s revolution at 671,067 acre feet. At one foot deep, the amount of water discharged would just fit inside the boundaries of the 7000,000 acres of the Everglades Agricultural Area. It is interesting to note that 2017, a year not often mentioned, closely followed with 661,000 acre feet.
2018, a horrible water year, fresh in our memories, actually came in fourth at 402,116 acre feet! Obviously timing and temperature are factors too.
~2010, 2015, 2012, 2014, 2019, and 2011 follow. Of course 2019 is not even finished. It will be interesting to see where it ends up.
As we would have guessed, 2016’s toxic algae health hazard was the highest destruction by the numbers year in the past decade. But what we would never have estimated is how much water was discharged to the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon through S-80 in the 1950s and 60s. This number will truly blow your mind. But we’ll save that for the next “Destruction by the Numbers.”
Today we continue our journey of the Loxahatchee Slough, once part of southwest headwaters of today’s “Wild and Scenic,” but also water-anemic, You will see that the Loxahatchee River is located in both Martin and Palm Beach counties. My brother, Todd Thurlow’s “Time Capsule Flight” guide-posts are below to give reference during your awesome flight of this area.
Again, as in some of Todd’s other videos, you will see that humankind has developed lands “right in the middle of a river.” Certainly we would have done things differently today!
For instance, the red line in the video and photo above shows the “Southern Path From the Everglades to the Loxahatchee Slough” using 1949-1950 USGS Topo maps. Today, this once “water wonderland” is completely developed, and channelized, shutting off the once intermittent, bi-directional flow, depending on rain levels and locations… to the Loxahatchee River.
It is kind of sad that most of us are completely unaware that this giant slough was once a flourishing “fork” of the Loxahatchee River. It took me awhile to figure it out. They should teach this stuff in school. Please watch Todd’s video below. You will be in awe!
In this video you will see:
0:00 1958 USGS 1:250K Topo Quad of Palm Beach and neighboring counties
0:05 I added the red line to the map showing the path of low lands between Loxahatchee Slough and the Everglades
0:08 Eight 1949 and 1950 1:24K USGS Topo maps
0:25 Fade away to a current aerial showing the red line and flying…
— north, from the intersection of State Road 7 (US441) and Old Hammock Way (just north of The Mall at Wellington Green)
— 0:30 across the West Palm Beach Canal
— 0:33 to the south end of Loxahatchee Slough (Behind Renaissance Charter School / Okeechobee Rd & Benoist Farms Rd)
0:46 Fly up the C-18 Canal, which now splits and drains to Loxahatchee Slough (C-18/Corbett Basin)
0:59 Turnpike and I-95 interchanges at Indiantown Rd. (SR706)
If one looks up the Loxahatchee River today there is hardly a mention of the once great southwest arm of the river, it is just a long skinny canal, ~the photo not even showing the large partially remaining Loxahatchee Slough now amputated from the river by development. https://loxahatcheeriver.org/river/about-river/