Tag Archives: ACOE

Changing of the…Lieutenant Colonel, ACOE

Left to Right: Lt Col Todd Polk, Lt Col Jennifer Reynolds, Col. Andrew Kelly, ACOE, SFWMD lunch time, Sept 2019. Photo JTL

When I took this photo recently at a South Florida Water Management District meeting, I thought to myself “score!” It is a rare thing to see all in one place, the latest changing of the ACOE guard.

As we know, the Army Corp of Engineers, Jacksonville District, changes out its leadership top positions, almost like clock-work, every three years. I say “almost” because Lt. Col. Jennifer Reynolds stayed for four years during a time of change and controversial issues like toxic algae being discharged into the St Lucie and Caloosahatchee Rivers and the beginnings of the updating of LORS (Lake Okeechobee Regulation Schedule) to LOSOM (Lake Okeechobee System Operating Manual: https://www.saj.usace.army.mil/LOSOM/) . Acronyms aside — “how Lake Okeechobee is operated” being updated –now to possibly include considerations for cyanobacteria and human health.

Today we set our issues aside to welcome Lt. Col. Todd Polk who has now officially  replaced Lt. Col. Jennifer Reynolds. (Col. Kelly has another two years.)

In case you have not met him already, as he has been being phased-in for a couple of months now,  we welcome Lieutenant Colonel, US Army Deputy District Commander, South Floria, Todd F. Polk, PMP!

You can read his impressive bio below. HIs email is todd.f.polk@usace.army.mil should you like to welcome him too!

Lt Col Todd Polk, ACOEO website 2019

Lieutenant Colonel Todd F. Polk

Lt. Col. Todd Polk joined the Jacksonville District as the Deputy District Commander for South Florida, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in August 2019. He oversees the planning, construction, and operations of Corps projects in central and south Florida.  Polk joins the Corps from the U.S. Army Garrison at Fort Drum, New York.  While at Fort Drum he served in two positions, most recently as the Chief of Engineering and Design Branch for the Department of Public Works, and Chief of strategic and community planning for the Plans, Analysis, and Integration Office.  In 2016-2017, Polk deployed in support of the U.S. Military Observation Group previously serving on the Force Headquarters Staff for the United Nations’ Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo.  Prior to his deployment to Africa, Polk was a Project Manager for Military Construction and Sustainment and Restoration projects with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Alaska District, 2015-2016.  His previous assignments include the Executive Officer for the 6th Brigade Engineer Battalion (Airborne), 4th Infantry Brigade, 25th Infantry Division (A), Fort Richardson, Alaska from 2014-2015; and, Brigade Engineer and Chief of Plans, 4th Inf. Bde., 25th Inf. Div. (A), Fort Richardson, Alaska from 2013-2014.

Polk’s earlier assignments include Battalion Operations Officer, Executive Officer, and Observer-Controller/Trainer for the Sidewinder Team, Operations Group, National Training Center, Fort Irwin, California from 2010-2012.  Brigade Engineer for the 3rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team (IBCT), 10th Mountain Division (Light) in Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) 10, and A Troop Commander, 3rd Squadron, 71st Cavalry in Logar Province, Afghanistan, OEF 9-10, in 2009, Headquarters and Headquarters Troop Commander, 3rd Squadron, 71st Cavalry, 3rd IBCT, in OEF 6-7, Kunar Province from 2006-2007.  G-3/5/7 Operations Officer 10th Mountain Division, Fort Drum, New York, from 2004-2005.  Battalion Maintenance Officer, Headquarters and Headquarters Company Executive Officer and C Company Platoon Leader, 65th Engineer Battalion, 25th Infantry Division (L), Schofield Barracks, Hawaii from 2000-2003.

Polk was commissioned as an Engineer Officer in 1999 from the University of Kentucky.  He holds a Bachelors of Arts in Communications from the University of Kentucky, Lexington, Kentucky, and a Masters of Arts in Public Administration from Webster University, Saint Louis, Missouri.  His military Education includes the Engineer Officer Basic and Captains’ Career courses; Combined Arms Services and Staff School; Army Command and General Staff College; Airborne, Air Assault and Ranger courses; and, Joint Planner and Joint Fire Power courses.  He is a registered Project Management Professional.

His military awards and decorations include the Bronze Star Medal with one Oak Leaf Cluster (OLC), the Meritorious Service Medal (3 OLC), the Joint Commendation Medal, the Army Commendation Medal, the Army Achievement Medal (5 OLC), Meritorious Unit Citation (1 OLC), Army Superior Unit Award, Airborne Badge, Air Assault Badge, Combat Action Badge, Ranger Tab, and the Bronze Order of the de Fleury Medal.

Polk is a native of Cincinnati, Ohio.  He is married and has two children.

 

500cfs from Lake O, Documenting the Discharges 3-1-19, 3-2-19

*All comments become public record.

Last week, on Friday, the ACOE announced in order to lower Lake O for wet season,  it would begin discharging for the next 21 days from Lake Okeechobee into the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon with an average of 500 cubic feet per second through S-80 at St Lucie Locks and Dam.

My husband, Ed, and I took aerial photos at the beginning of these discharges on 2-24-19; we continue our documentation today, and in the future. The first set below was taken on Friday, March 1st around 3pm. The second on Saturday, March 2, around 12:30 pm. In both cases, it was an incoming tide ~with more sunshine on Saturday. Obviously, one can see negative changes in water-color and clarity after one week of discharges.

Your eye in the sky,

Jacqui & Ed

ACOE website and press release on discharges to the SLR and Caloosahatchee: https://www.saj.usace.army.mil/Media/News-Releases/Article/1764322/corps-takes-action-to-lower-lake-okeechobee-in-advance-of-wet-season/

 

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

Set #1, 3-1-19, 3:10pm  Ed Lippisch all photos

In this photo one can see the airstrip at Witham Field with flight going over Crossroads of St Lucie River and Indian River Lagoon as confluence meets at Sewall’s Point flowing out to St Lucie Inlet at Hutchison Island. The bare sand was formerly rich seagrass beds that have been devastated by the discharges. All photos are taken in this area of the St Lucie Inlet.

 

Set #2, 3-2-19, 12:45 pm Ed Lippisch

Plume south of St Lucie Inlet

You can click here to see what it looked like after one day on 2-24-19 to compare to what river near confluence looked like after being dumped on for one week: https://jacquithurlowlippisch.com/2019/02/25/documenting-the-discharges-slr-irl-2-24-19/

Blue Water on Christmas Day, 2018

What should be normal, was a gift on Christmas Day, blue water in the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon. The peninsula of Sewall’s Point shone like the gem it is surrounded by aquamarine on both sides: the St Lucie River on its west, and the Indian River Lagoon on its east…

Feeling like the Bahamas, rather than the toxic-sludge we had to endure ~coming mostly from Lake Okeechobee this past summer, 2018, and yes, remember 2016, and 2013….the destruction must stop!

As 2019 edges into the picture, we will once again have to give everything we have to fight for clean water and encourage our state and federal government to support legislation “sending the water south.”

Seeing these beautiful blue waters once again is certainly encouraging. Now to keep the Army Corp and South Florida Water Management District at bay long enough, as projects proceed, and allow our precious seagrass beds to return so baby fish can once again hide, swim, and grow to maturity in these waters; once christened the “most bio-diverse in North America.”

Thank you to my dear husband, Ed, for these photos all taken 12-25-18. And from both of us, “Merry Christmas!”

Sewall’s Point lies between the St Lucie River and Indian River Lagoon
Sailfish Flats between Sewall’s and Sailfish Point. Seagrass remains bleak after years of discharges from Lake O, and other area canals
St Lucie Inlet opening to the Atlantic Ocean between Sailfish Point and the southern end of St Lucie Inlet State Park on Jupiter Island
Another angle of St Lucie Inlet area
Remnants of once lush sea grass beds off Sewall’s Point
Another angle: Evan’s Crary and Ernest Lyons Bridges on far right
A great shot of the now pathetic seagrass beds. This area was once considered “the most bio-diverse in North America,” with approximately 700 acres of healthy seagrasses in this area between Sewall’s and Sailfish Points

Photo below as a comparison ___________________________________________________________________________

NEVER FORGET! Town of Sewall’s Point, Martin County Florida, 9-2013 surrounded by polluted waters released from Lake Okeechobee. Even the ocean brown! Similar years were 2016 and 2018 both with cyanobacteria blooms along shorelines. This awful sediment, and nutrient filled water is dumped on us by our federal and state government and is a health hazard.

The Heart of the 1947 Central and South Florida Project, the SFWMD

Everglades National Park, JTL

Sometimes the history of the Everglades is really confusing.  Why, with all of the environmental advocacy, since the 1970s, does the health of our environment remain crippled?  One way to simplify it is to think in terms of before and after the 1947 U.S. Central and South Florida Plan. Of course there is extensive history before 1947, but it was after 1947 that things in South Florida’s water world became culturalized, compartmentalized, and legally defined. Before we talk about this 1947 Central and South Florida Plan, let’s review some important highlights pre-1947.

1. Hamilton Disston begins the drainage of Lake Okeechobee (1881)

2. Governor Napoleon Broward hires U.S.D.A. scientist James Wright who determines that “eight canals would indeed drain 1,850,000 acres of swampland” (1904)

3. The U.S. Congress’ Rivers and Harbors Act  includes significant funds to deepen  the manmade Hamilton Disston connection of the Calooshahatchee River to Lake Okeechobee (ca.1910)

4. The scandal of James Wright (from #2 above) who was deemed “a fraud” for the failure of the land to drain as expected ~causing the slump in swampy real estate sales (1914)

5. The resurgence of confidence in sales and a 1920s real estate boom fueled by advances in soil science, and the success of agricultural start-ups located in Moore Haven, Belle Glade, and Clewiston south of Lake Okeechobee

6.  Land in a defined “Everglades Drainage District” more fully being systematically cut into sections for development with canals draining agricultural fertilizers and other chemicals into the waters of the state (1924)

6. Two very powerful hurricanes causing thousands of deaths and the destruction of property, and thus the state’s “call for a higher dike” (1926 and 1928)

7. The state’s reaction to the hurricanes, the 1929 establishment of the “Okeechobee Flood Control District” for the “Everglades Drainage District” as well as the Federal Government’s Army Corp of Engineers taking over “field operations”around Lake Okeechobee ~including the building of a thirty-five foot earthen dike and ingeniously using navigation funding to build the cross-state-canal, connecting the Caloosahatchee and the St Lucie Estuaries to Lake Okeechobee ~conveniently working as discharge-escapes through those estuaries when “necessary”

So, as we can see, a lot happened pre-1947, but it was what happened after, were things really changed…

In 1947 it rained and rained, and there were two hurricanes. From Orlando to Florida Bay the agricultural and developed lands, that had been built in drained, once marshy, swampy areas, really flooded, and in some places a foot of water sat for months. There was great economic loss.

The crying cow booklet, above, was sent to every member of the U.S. Congress.

The country as a whole was empowered with its post World War II success and prosperity, and with that same determination, the U.S. Congress came to Florida’s rescue…

To fight Florida’s destructive “flood waters” the 1948 U.S. Congress adopted legislation for the CENTRAL AND SOUTH FLORIDA PROJECT, a twenty year flood plan from Orlando to Florida Bay that included the formal creation and protection of the Everglades Agricultural Area south of Lake O, the Water Conservation Areas, intertwined with thousands of miles of canals and structures to control the once headwaters and River of Grass. HOUSE DOCUMENT 643 – 80TH CONGRESS (00570762xBA9D6)

Next, mirroring the same terminology the United States Government had used (the Central and South Florid Project) the state of Florida created the “Central and South Florida Flood Control District” to manage that CENTRAL and SOUTH FLORIDA PROJECT. A bit confusing huh? A tongue twister. And in a way one could say, at that time, the Central and South Florida Project and the  Central and South Florida Flood Control District “became one.” The overall goal above all other things was flood control. And this marriage of the Central and South Florida Project and the Central and South Florida Flood Control District was successful at controlling the waters, but it also killed the natural environment, thus Florida herself.

This embedded cultural philosophy of “flood control only” was challenged in 1972 with the birth of the national environmental movement, and a consciousness that the natural system that supported Florida’s tourism, quality of life, agriculture, not to mention valuable wildlife,  was in tremendous decline.

As Florida matured came Governor Claude Kirk, a republican,  in 1968, who was advised by environmentalist Nathaniel Reed. Then came Governor Reubin Askew, a democrat. The Florida Legislature, seeing the destruction of the state’s natural resources, passed a very important piece of legislation, the “Florida Water Resources Act,” today’s Chapter 373 in Florida Statures. (http://www.leg.state.fl.us/statutes/index.cfm?App_mode=Display_Statute&URL=0300-0399/0373/0373ContentsIndex.html)

This law created five Florida water management districts with expanded responsibilities for regional water resources management including environmental protection not just flood control.

Accordingly, the Central and South Florida Flood Control District changed its name, but not its heart, becoming the South Florida Water Management District, we know today…(https://www.sfwmd.gov)

Everglades National Park, JTL

Is it Time to Address South Florida’s Greatest Taboo? “Shared Adversity,” SLR/IRL

LAKE OKEECHOBEE REGULATION SCHEDULE (LORS) http://www.saj.usace.army.mil/Portals/44/docs/h2omgmt/LORSdocs/2008_LORS_WCP_mar2008.pdf

The second she said it, I was at full attention. This past Tuesday, Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation Director, Ms. Rae Ann Wessel, spoke on the Army Corps of Engineers Periodic Scientists Call. In seven years of listening, in seven years of agency and public comment, I had never heard, seriously, and scientifically, someone address South Florida’s greatest taboo.

Ms Wessel said something like this:

Part of the LORS (Lake Okeechobee Release Schedule 2008)  addresses “shared adversity.” Lake Okeechobee is approximately 470,000 acres. Would it be possible to put the water the Corps plans  to release from the lake over approximately 484,000 acres of  crop lands just south of the lake, rather than into estuaries? The Caloosahatchee algae situation is already at its absolute worst…

You could hear a pin drop…

Wessel was recommending options to the Army Corps and stakeholders regarding the ACOE restarting discharges to the estuaries. Since the previous week’s call, due to NOAA images showing 90% of the lake covered in cyanobacteria blooms, and crisis of algae in both estuaries, the Governor and other powerful politicians asked the federal agency to temporarily stop discharges considering all options before discharging, once again.

Just the previous day, before Wessel’s comment, after viewing the putrid algal mess in the Caloosahatchee, Gov. Rick Scott called for a State of Emergency encompassing seven counties.

Some history, earlier this year, the Caloosahatchee was almost begging the South Florida Water Management District and ACOE for water, but was denied. Now the Caloosahatchee is receiving so much water, with algae to boot, that they are experiencing a toxic summer similar to what the St Lucie experienced in 2016. The Caloosahatchee has had it especially tough this year.

The elephant in the room, or perhaps better described as the Tyrannosaurus rex in the room, is that with Lake Okeechobee over 14 feet, and the fact that we are now approaching the most turbulent part of hurricane season, the ACOE “has to start releasing again,” like now! And everybody knows this.

Therefore, Rae Ann was looking for options, for sharing adversity, and this was fair as the Calloosahatchee has bore most of the adversity this year. She wasn’t talking about flooding the cities in the EAA, she was inquiring about flooding the fields, by less than a foot of water that would evaporate quickly at that extension and depth, maybe stressing but not killing the crops. Sugarcane in particular, is a hardy and durable crop for intermittent periods of water.

Shared adversity… Certainly, the estuaries have have their “fair” share…

So why does the ACOEhave to dump to the estuaries? Why is it taboo to talk about flooding the fields? Because although the 2008 LORS talks about shared adversity the EAA is federally protected by an older and more important document. 

The ACOE in not a teacher picking favorites, they are the military taking orders from Congress.

The federal “law,” connected to the Central and South Florida Project (http://141.232.10.32/about/restudy_csf_devel.aspx) is complex, but perhaps best explained by sharing an excerpt from the book, River of Interests, by the Army Corp of Engineers. Page 35, discusses the 1948 Central and South Florida Project, what it did, and requires of the ACOE.(http://sccf.org/downloadable-files/5b465bf85f38152b048d1cce.pdf)

First, the Corps would build a levee from northwest Palm Beach County to the south of Dade County along the east coast, thereby preventing flooding from the Everglades to the coastal communities. Second, the Corps would modify control facilities and levees around Lake Okeechobee in order to create more water storage, and it would increase the discharge capacity from the lake in order to prevent flooding. Third, the Corps would create three water conservation areas in Palm Beach, Broward and Dade counties for water storage. Fourth, the Corps would construct canals, levees, and pumping stations to protect 700,000 acres of agriculture south of Lake Okeechobee in Palm Beach, Hendry, and Glades counties, known as the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA). Fifth, the Corps would build canals and water control structures to handle drainage in Dade, Broward, Palm Beach, Martin, and St. Lucie counties.

This bolded section is the key, this is why Rae Ann Wessel’s question rung so loudly in the silence of the ACOE call. For the ACOE, it is “understood,” that no matter the case, even with LORS, and in spite of “shared adversity,” that 700,000 acres of agriculture fields, south of Lake Okeechobee is to be protected from flooding destruction.

But as we all know, nothing lasts forever.

Just like other laws of our great county, some do, indeed over time, become outdated for the times. Things change. Among other issues, in 1950, when the Central and South Flood Project law was structured and voted upon to protect the crops in the EAA as part of flood control  2.81 million people lived in Florida. Today, 20 million people reside here. In the old days, the discharges did not have the impact as they do today, the rivers were healthier, and the Lake, it wasn’t so polluted. But now, seventy years later, water quality, pollution, and human health issues have risen to a point of question. “In emergency situations”, is discharging cyanobacteria water from Lake Okeechobee into the now heavily populated areas along the estuaries to prevent flooding of the Everglades Agricultural Area in the state’s best interest, or is it archaic, like the T-Rex in the room?

It might be time to re-evaluate South Florida’s greatest taboo.

s.wordpress.com/2018/07/img_2525.jpg”> Caloosahatchee algae bloom 7-6-18, photo courtesy Dave Stone.

[/caption]Links:

What is the Everglades Agricultural Area: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Everglades_Agricultural_Area

Gov.Rick Scott State of Emergency proclamation: https://www.flgov.com/2018/07/09/gov-scott-issues-emergency-order-to-combat-algal-blooms-in-south-florida/

SCCF: (https://fortmyersbeach.news/rae-anne-wessel-of-sanibel-captiva-conservation-foundation/)

What are the ACOE Periodic Scientists Calls? Former blog post 2014: https://jacquithurlowlippisch.com/2014/03/06/the-acoes-periodic-scientists-call-and-the-indian-river-lagoon/

A Tear for Lake Okeechobee, SLR/IRL

Ed and I have just returned from vacation. Ironically leaving June 28th, the day the ACOE announced a nine-day reprieve due to algae in Lake Okeechobee; and returning July 8, the day before the ACOE may open S-308 into the St Lucie River once again.

It was a great trip and the weather was excellent.

Ed was our pilot, and we flew with stops from Stuart to Michigan. It was remarkable to sit in the airplane and see the land below me ~ever changing from swampland, to farmland, to cites, to forest, to mountains, to rivers, and peppered with hundreds of lakes….

When we finally approached the Great Lakes Region, I was looking for the algae I had read so much about, and yes, there were some lakes turned green. But not in the vast northern waters of Lake Michigan, or Lake Huron, these lakes were deep mirrors of blue.

“The water here looks like the Bahamas,” Ed noted. We both looked in wonder at their hue.

Sometimes, I awoke at night, thinking of home. Thinking about how there is nothing like it, in spite of the many wonders of our great county. In spite of the beautiful, blue, icy waters of Lake Michigan.

On the way home to Stuart, I asked Ed if we could fly inland over Lake Okeechobee just to see.  It was midday and the clouds had popped up and I knew we’d have to do my least favorite thing, fly though them. As the turbulence engulfed the airplane, I closed my eyes and prayed. And then finally, as always, we were through.

The lake opened up before us like an ocean.

I could clearly see the algae at about three thousand feet. It was visible roughly a mile off the lake’s east coast out into the lake for as far as the eye could see. Ed flew west and then circled around. The green masses of algae had been pushed into geometric designs by the wind, and they were everywhere. We flew for miles over the middle of the lake and beyond. To my surprise, the repetitive, endless, formations of cyanobacteria caused something unexpected to happen. Rather than my usual disgust, or anger for the destruction of the St Lucie, I felt myself begin to tear-up. “This poor lake,”  I thought to myself. “I know you were once so beautiful even mythical;  what have we done to you?

Just unbelievable…”

I wiped the tear from my eye, so sad for what is happening to the waters of my beloved Florida. Ed turned the plane, and we headed home…

S-308 algae was visible about a mile off the east coast of the lake and on and off, sometimes heavy, inside of the S-308 structure and in the C-44 canal to S-80 at St Lucie Locks and Dam.

S-80 was open and algae could be seen going through the gates  from the C-44 canal

Home at last. Sewall’s Point Park River Kidz FDOT recycled sign art

All photos take on July 7, 2018, 3pm. JTL/EL