This year, the Army Corp of Engineers– with input from the South Florida Water Management District, and other stakeholders— has been discharging from Lake Okeechobee into the St Lucie River and southern Indian River Lagoon since January 29th, 2016. Today will review an April update.
We as citizens must pay attention and know what is happening to the river so that we can intelligently fight for its future.
Dr Goforth’s chart above gives a good visual comparison of 2016’s discharges, thus far, compared to those of 1997/98, another El Nino year with fish lesions, fish kills, and toxic algae reports. This chart also compares 2013, our recent “Lost Summer,” when toxic algae blooms filled the river, on and off, for about three out of five dumping months. (–Running May through October, 2013.)
One can see, that Lake Okeechobee’s 2016 discharge amounts are quickly approaching the total numbers released in 2013— although well below those of 1997/98.
Although discharges have been lessened lately, with the Army Corp of Engineers reporting a possible La Nina indications for the 2016 Hurricane season, (4-26-16 ACOE Periodic Scientist Call) considerably more rain could be on the way.
With the lake sitting at 14.29 today, —a high level going into “wet season,” starting June 1st—we should all be watching the situation very closely. Hopefully 2016’s total Lake O release numbers will be nowhere close to 1997/98.
We must continue to advocate hard for a third outlet, and land purchase south of the Lake Okeechobee, as this is the only way to spare our rivers’ repeated total destruction.
Thank you to Dr Goforth for his contribution today.
The following is from an email dated from Dr Gary Goforth on April 26, 2016 including the slide used for today’s blog and others of interest. Click on image to enlarge.
1. Summary of the 2016 Lake discharge event to the St. Lucie River and Estuary.
2. Preliminary Water Year 2016 (May 1, 2015 to March 31, 2016 – missing April 2016) summary, including a. Inflows to Lake Okeechobee by basin, with comparison to last year b. Outflows from Lake Okeechobee by region, with comparison to last year c. Flow diagram for Lake releases, with comparison to last year d. Lake releases to STAs, with comparison to last year e. Nutrient and TSS load from Lake discharges to the St Lucie and Caloosahatchee Estuary f. The graphs are shown for both acre feet and billion gallons
Today and will share some history, and today I will honor Mr Leon Abood, who has led the Rivers Coalition of Martin County for the past seventeen years…
In 1998 a terrible thing was happening. An uncanny number of fish in the St Lucie River had lesions, and for the very first time, numerous algae blooms were being reported the river. The ACOE and SFWMD had been releasing fresh water from Lake Okeechobee into the estuary for a longer period of time than “typical” due to high rains and high water levels in Lake Okeechobee; this had occurred before, but this time something was different. Really different.
“Fish with lesions? Disgusting. And those poor fish! What’s going on?”
Fishermen were confused and furious; the public was just learning the extent of the problems in their beloved St Lucie River; and real estate agents were desperate because they could not sell houses. All were watching the economic vitality of Martin County and its essential natural system (that brought residents here in the first place) collapse.
The standing motto of the day became: ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!
Agencies as usual declared uncertainty of why the fish were so sickly, everyone looking at everyone else…In time, very quietly, studies did verify that high levels of fresh water in brackish systems allow a bacteria to grow that promotes lesions, as a fish’s delicate slime coat is compromised….It was Lake Okeechobee exacerbated by the other canals….
This is taken into account today before decisions are made…When possible, “pulse releases” became more common rather than giant long-lasting slugs of water into the system….
As far as “the river,” other groups had been fighting for the St Lucie River/Southern Indian River Lagoon since the 1950s, but now it was time for “business!”
In a fit of fury and desperation, the Realtor Association, on May 12th, 1998, formed the “Rivers Coalition.” The group was built from the earlier formed El Nino Task Force and focused on group rather than individual membership.
Founding members in 1998 included the St Lucie River Initiative, the Realtor Association of Martin County; Stuart/Martin Chamber of Commerce; Treasure Coast Builders Association; Martin County Conservation alliance; Economic Council; Florida Oceanographic Society; Marine Industries Association; Audubon of Florida; Audubon of Florida; and the Martin County Farm Bureau.
Leon has led the coalition through the horrors of fish lesions, toxic algae blooms, releases from Lake Okeechobee and area canals, along with Mr Karl Wickstrom–a law-suit against the federal government, and has been the face and front man of the river for a confused and desperate public. His calm and authoritative demeanor gives people confidence. He is a true leader, calm when surrounded by controversy and sharks at every turn.
Leon’s goal has always been that all stakeholders are to take part: business, environmental, and residential…. and to bring information forward for the public so they can make “logical and intelligent decisions about what is going on.” He has helped achieve this important goal. —And without information and discussion there is no change…
Since 1998, the Rivers Coalition has grown and evolved but always remained a consistent “voice for the river.” Without the voice the Rivers Coalition, our river situation would not have the statewide recognition and there would not be the pressure on government to fix the problems.
We all know, it is a problem of monumental proportion, TO MOVE WATER SOUTH and not through our estuary, that will take generations. Knowing this, Leon Abood gave the first “go ahead” to support the River Kidz in 2011 so they could one day “take the baton.”
Please read more about Leon Abood and the accomplishments of the Rivers Coalition below on Rivers Coalition link.
Leadership for the future will be made soon. Leon will not walk-away until he has given his blessing and guided new leadership. After 17 years of investing heart and soul it’s not as easy as “passing the baton,” and the River Kidz are just a tad too young. We are going to need some leaders just a bit older….:) He has a few in mind…
Why is he leaving?
After 17 years, he is tired. And Leon simply wishes to spend more time with his wife Georgia, a well-known artist; they love to travel to Europe specifically Paris and Italy. What do they say in real estate? In life too, “Time is of the Essence….”
Thank you Leon, you will never be replaced, and you will always be remembered!
Know the Rivers Coalition will have a rebirth with you always at its side.
Under tremendous political pressure, and intense time limitations, the Water Institute of the University of Florida (http://waterinstitute.ufl.edu) has created a professional, “arm’s-length” document, reporting on “Options to Reduce High Volume Freshwater Flows to the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee Estuaries and Move More Water from Lake Okeechobee to the Southern Everglades.”
Kudos to Senator Joe Negron and the Senate Committee who put forth the $250,000 for this study after the “Lost Summer” of 2013! Write him, thank him and ask him to support the EAA option land purchase! (http://www.flsenate.gov/Senators/s32)
Kudos to the people who demanded something be done to save the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon that suffers from terrible “local runoff” and then is periodically murdered by the tremendous releases from Lake Okeechobee that are a tipping point, causing the river to go into a toxic state as we saw in 1998, 2004-5, and most recently in 2013!
The UF Water Institute’s report came out yesterday. The study clearly states, as pointed out to me by Dr Gary Goforth, (http://garygoforth.net) who is reviewing the document:
” Achieving substantial reduction in lake-triggered discharges to the estuaries and substantial improvement toward the dry season Everglades demand target will require additional land between the lake and the EAA, e.g., the current U.S. Sugar land purchase option, lands from other willing sellers, and/or use of existing state-owned land (e.g., Holey Land and Rotenberger Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs)).”
Friend, environmental icon, and 20 year county commissioner, Maggy Hurchalla, pointed out this section as we tried to review the 143 page document in quick time:
p102: “Currently, the state of Florida has an option to purchase approximately 46,000 acres in the EAA(Figure V-8). The option is set to expire in October 2015. Thus, the state has a limited window of opportunity to purchase this land at market prices. Given the limited opportunity and the uncertainty of any future similar opportunities to purchase large acreages of lands in the EAA,the state should consider this time-limited option. The particular 46,000 acres at issue may be useful for additional storage and treatment or may serve as lands that the state could trade with other agricultural interests in the area if land in different locations are needed.”
…. the Technical Review Team concludes that relief to the estuaries and the ability to move more water south of Lake Okeechobee can be accomplished using existing technology. The solution is enormous increases in storage and treatment of water both north and south of the lake. Existing and currently authorized storage and treatment projects are insufficient to achieve these goals. The path forward requires significant long-term investment in the infrastructure of the South Florida hydrologic system. Options to Reduce High Volume Freshwater Flows to the Estuaries and Move More Water South from Lake Okeechobee to the Southern Everglades To reduce damage to the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries freshwater inflow and nutrient loads from both Lake Okeechobee and the local basins must be reduced. On average, 70-80% of the freshwater discharge and 65-80% of the nutrient load to the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries originates in the local basins, with the remaining balance contributed from Lake Okeechobee. Previous CERP, NEEPP and ROG planning exercises have all identified that providing large volumes of regional storage is essential to reduce freshwater discharges to the estuaries. The most recent estimates of required storage include: 400,000 acre-feet of water storage within the Caloosahatchee River watershed, 200,000 acre-feet of water storage within the St. Lucie River watershed, and approximately 1,000,000 acre-ft of water storage distributed north and south of Lake Okeechobee. …..
Many opinions will evolve out of this UF document. Fingers will be pointed….
Nonetheless, if we are adaptable, determined, and consistent, like a gator in the swamp, we will be able to “ride” this UF study to achieve the purchase of option lands in the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA).
We must also “ride” the UF report for funding projects to clean up and divert area runoff from area canals C-23, C-24, C-25, and C-44 that are also an ongoing man-made pollution disaster to the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon. Together, Lake O and our area canals are killing our rivers and Lake O is always the “tipping point…”
Keep your eye on the prize, don’t take “no” for an answer…
Options to Reduce High Volume Freshwater Flows to the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee Estuaries and Move More Water from Lake Okeechobee to the Southern Everglades
An Independent Technical Review by the University of Florida Water Institute
*This Everglades Trust website allows you to find and contact your elected officials and write them about purchasing option lands in the EAA and saving the everglades; see here for information: (http://www.evergladestrust.org)