The first time I ever laid eyes on Lake Okeechobee, I was eleven years old. I remember thinking that I must be looking at the ocean because I could not see across to the other side. Just enormous!
In spite of its magnificent size, over the past century, Lake Okeechobee has been made smaller–around thirty percent smaller– as its shallow waters have been modified for human use–pushed back, tilled, planted, diked, and controlled. Today, it is managed by the South Florida Water Management District and the Army Corp of Engineers. Sprawling sugar fields, the Everglades Agricultural Area, (EAA), canals, highways, telephone poles, train tracks, processing facilities, a FPL power plant, and small cites surround it.
S-308, (the “S” standing for “structure), opens easterly into the St Lucie Canal, also known as C-44, (Canal 44). About twenty miles east is another structure, S-80, at the St Lucie Locks and Dam. It is S-80 that is usually photographed with its “seven gates of hell,” the waters roaring towards the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon, and the City of Stuart, but it is actually S-308 that allows the waters of Lake Okeechobee “in” from the lake in the first place.
Such a fragile looking structure to be the welcome matt of so much destruction…a sliver unto an ocean. So strange…
Today I will share some aerial photos that my husband took on Friday, May 13th, 2016 at about 700 feet above the lake. I asked Ed if from that height he could see the algae bloom so much in the news last week even though over time blooms migrate, “bloom” and then sink into the water column, becoming less visible but still lurking.
“Yes.” He replied.
” It’s harder to see from that altitude, and it depends on the light, but it’s still visible. It’s green in the brown water. The lighting shows were it is. You can see a difference in texture about 100 yards west of S-308. It is not right up against the structure, but further out. Boats are driving through it leaving a trail. It’s appears that is slowly being sucked in to the opening of the S-308 structure , like when you pull the drain out of the sink….”
TC Palm’s Tyler Treadway reported on 5-13-16: “The lake bloom was spread over 33 square miles near Pahokee, the South Florida Water Management District said Thursday. The Florida Department of Health reported Friday the bloom contains the toxin microcystin, but at a level less than half what the World Health Organization says can cause “adverse health impacts” from recreational exposure.”
Pahokee is south and west of Port Maraca and S-308. (Florida Trails)
Today I will share an historic aerial photo along Willoughby Creek together with a brief history lesson by my mother. Following, there are recent Google Map photos to compare…Stuart is still “paradise,” but sometimes I wish I were born 100 years ago. 🙂
“Jacqui, I came across this in my computer and thought it might be interesting for you to see. The date is Feb. 26, 1949. You can see Marvista… I think the house in the middle is the one that became Lee Rasch’s home. Patty Irons Child’s mother, Marge Irons was Lee’s second wife. The house at right was originally “Lagunita” built by Hugh Willoughby, Sr. (There is a big write-up on it on page 158 of the History of Martin County.) It later became a small hotel-like place call “Inlet Tides.” Both of the structures on the right side have been demolished… I am sure you know that Marvista was built by Hugh Willoughby, Jr. in 1924-25.”
—-Sandra Henderson Thurlow, Historian
You may have to “look” a bit, but if you do you will find Marvista and Lagunita today.
Today we look back in history….but you have to look….
These historic photographs are marked “Fairchild Aerial Surveys, Inc.”
According to Mr. John H. Canada, president, Ocean Naval Architects, the year was 1925. You may recognize one of the images as it was used in a former blog post discussing the piled up sand of the C-44 canal. From 1915 to 1925 the government was connecting the canal from Lake Okeechobee to the St Lucie River and Indian River Lagoon. A big mistake!
These photos below were originally sent to my mother, historian, Sandra Thurlow, by Mr John Whiticar. In their discussion, it is noted that one can see farming where Indian River Plantation is today (The Marriott); one cannot see an Intercostal Waterway–no spoil islands off Sewall’s Point; there was no development on Rocky Point; and most interesting for me, looking at the photo this time: today’s Martin County Golf Course, part of yesteryear’s “Sunrise Inn,” sits right there “in the middle of no where” in 1925. Those were the days!
Monday’s blog contrasting the beautiful, blue-waters of the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon this summer in 2015, to the silty, dark-brown waters of the “Lost Summer” of 2013 was well received, so today will post some more photos of this “contrast.”
My husband, Ed, encouraged me to do more framed contrast photos; however, time does not permit so there is just one “framed” photo above and the rest will be separate photos. I will try to do more framed ones in the future.
Also, although Ed and I have taken thousands of photographs, they do not always “match up” in location so the visual perspectives are not “exact.” My goal while in the plane is simply to hold on to the camera, hoping it does not fall into the river. It is always very windy in the open Cub. Getting a good photo is just secondary! I mostly just use my iPhone.
Well, a picture speaks a thousand words….” so I’m not going to “say” anything else…All photos are contrasting June 20th 2015 with either August 11th or September 8th of 2013.
Thank God we having a beautiful summer!
The remainder below do not match at all, but provide contrast:
Usually, my husband, Ed, does not like it when I ask him to “do things”…like take out the trash or blow leaves off the driveway. But he always likes it if I ask him to go up in the plane. He did so yesterday, and was able to visually document the polluted discharges pouring into our St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon.
Yes, once again.
The Army Corp of Engineers (ACOE), and the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) agreed to have the Army Corp start releases this year on January 16, 2015 at 200 cubic feet per second (cfs) through S-308 into the C-44 canal which is attached to the South Fork of the St Lucie River, and then in turn is connected to the Indian River Lagoon “my town,” Sewall’s Point.
Exhausting isn’t it?
The ACOE is now discharging at a rate of “950 cfs.” This rate goes up and down. It is going up because Lake Okeechobee is not going down…
Today I will share Ed’s photos and show how to “see” how much the ACOE is releasing at S-308. (Structure 308) which is located at Port Mayaca, in Indiantown, Martin County.
Ofcouse, there are discharges from area canals C-44, C-23, C-24 and C-25 as well, but today for simplicity’s sake, I will focus on the lake discharges today, which in my opinion, are the worst of all anyway—because they are not at all “ours.”
You can search “Jacksonville, ACOE” or just go to this link: (http://w3.saj.usace.army.mil/h2o/reports.htm). You can then very quickly check two things: Lake Okeechobee’s level and how much the ACOE is dumping at S-308 from the lake.
To do so, after accessing the site, go to “Current Lake Okeechobee Water Level” at the top left: Always one day behind or so, the latest date reported is 3-7-15– Lake O is at 14.71 feet. Then go back to the main page to the last link: “Port Mayaca Lock, S-308 Spillway.” View by date; the last date shows 873 cubic feet per second (cfs) being discharged.
Here are some more photos Ed took yesterday, 3-8-15, of the SLR/IRL.
When Ed got home, he said I was lucky I did not go up with him as it was windy which means bumpy…He also said the plume looked different from what we have seen before. It looked “chalky” as is seen in these two photographs below and extended about two miles off shore and further south of the St Lucie Inlet.
I am no scientist, but I would imagine this is silt/suspended solids in the water as everything is “stirred up” from the wind. Suspended solids falling on and smothering our reefs….
In closing, I must thank my husband for the photos, and I must point something out.
This area around Sewall’s Point and Sailfish Point, this “confluence” of the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon, in the not too distant past, has been documented as the most bio-diverse estuary in North America (Dr. R. Grant Gilmore, senior scientist with Estuarine, Coastal and Ocean Science, Inc., (ECOS)(http://www.floridaoceanscouncil.org/members/bios/gilmore.htm).)
The map below allows us to see where these precious seagrass beds are/were located. The map above shows where our “protected” near shore reefs are located just outside the St Lucie Inlet where the discharges go out to sea. These reefs are the northern most “tropical reefs” on the east coast of Florida…
I think it is a truly a sin that the ACOE and SFWMD year after year discharge onto these productive sea grass beds and near shore reef habitats that are the breeding grounds for thousands of fish and sea creatures. Its loss is felt all the way up the food chain, including “us.”
Where is the Department of Environmental Protection? Where is the Florida Wildlife Commission? Where is NOAA?
Not to mention, last year a designation of “Critical Wildlife Area,” —the first in 20 years for Florida—for 30 plus species of nesting and resting protected birds, was established on “Bird Island,” located just 400 feet off south Sewall’s Point….”Now” is right before nesting season’s height. Where will the birds find food when the seagrass beds are covered in silt and the water is so dark they can’t really see? Chances are these releases will continue.
Don’t our state agencies have a duty to protect? Don’t they have a voice or has it been muffled? Not a word? Not a peep. Where is our governor? Isn’t this money? Isn’t the productivity our of waterways linked to our businesses? Our real estate values? Where is our local delegation? Have we all become numb to this destruction? Beaten down and manipulated so long we that have no reaction?
It breaks my heart.
Our state and federal government entities responsible for “protection” especially should hang their heads in shame.
If nothing else “speak out” about how bad it is. Recognize the loss. Address the “constraints,” killing this ecosystem and local economy. Take leadership!
Be true to our heritage. We are the United States of America. Be brave. Speak out!
I love driving north along Indian River Drive towards Jensen Beach from the Town of Sewall’s Point. The palm trees, the river, the old brightly painted houses, and the Town of Ocean Breeze. Since childhood, “Ocean Breeze Park,” has been an icon for retired people growing old and having a great time. A little crowded in there for my taste, but still, what a cool place!
According to Sandra Henderson Thurlow’s book, Historic Jensen and Eden on Florida’s Indian River, “In the 1930s, Harry and Queena Hoke along with their two teenage sons, came to Martin County in a red trailer that was their home.”
According to the family: “The trailer was so small you had to go outside to change your mind.”
After visiting Pitchford’s trailer camp further north, the family eventually purchased 23 acres of the former C.F. Wolf pineapple plantation. The formation of the town is an American dream story. After success as a park, they eventually incorporated in 1960 increasing their coffers and their land holdings by buying adjoining properties.
With a great advertising campaign and true caring for the lives and fun of their residents the park-city became a true home.
According to the town’s Wikipedia article: “at the time of its incorporation, in 1960, the 65-acre park was said to be the largest privately owned trailer park in the United States.”
One of the great town stories is Mrs Geeben.
Mrs Dorothy Geeben, embodied the spirit of Ocean Breeze. She was mayor from 2001 to 2010. When she was re-elected in 2004 at age 96, the national media dubbed her “the nation’s oldest living mayor. She passed on January 11, 2010 at the age of 101 just short of her 102nd birthday.
Today new things are on the horizon for the Town of Ocean Breeze. Yes, it is run down, but it is improving. Flying over or driving through one can see that many trailers have been removed and western lands belonging to the town are being cleared for residential apartments. The town owns a tremendous amount of land as well as land in the Indian River Lagoon. (see chart above.) The Town of Ocean Breeze is a sovereign. They regulate themselves.
Hmmmm? What will the future bring?
Recently, there was a rumor going around that the town could ignore the county’s four-story height limit within its boarders and build condominiums to “see the sea.” I think that is doubtful, but stranger things have happened in Martin County and if Ocean Breeze is to evolve into the future it will certainly have to change.
According to Scripps Newspapers, after great financial difficulty the town was bought in 2013 by Carefree RV Resorts for Arizona for 16.5 million. The company owns 60 communities nation wide.
Although I know I’ve got many more good and productive years, I find myself thinking about where Ed and I might eventually downsize. I want a great location, a place where I can see the Indian River, somewhere within walking distance to town, and a community where I can have fun and grow old. Ocean Breeze just might be the ticket!
I could not be a passenger, it was too windy and I knew I would be sick hanging my head over the edge of the Cub. It has happened before.
In the yellow Piper Cub, the fight to Clewiston from the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon, in Stuart, is about 45 minutes one way, a long time if the air becomes a rough ocean.
So my husband, Ed flew alone and sent me a few photos along the way. He will do anything to get up in that airplane. For him it is fun even if it is windy.
So let’s take a closer look where Ed flew, to that area we all keep taking about in Hendry County and proposed first by US Sugar Corporation: SugarHill.
As one can see from the map below, Airglades Airport is west of Clewiston close to where Highway 27 shoots north. The SugarHill sector plan land use change encompasses a tremendous amount of land, 44,000 acres, these lands are located where the state has an option to buy for Everglades restoration. If some of those lands get zoned for residential and commercial development it could complicate trying to send water south through trading these lands or using them for restoration in the future. That’s why we want to take a look.
So basically the SugarHill sector lands are west of Clewiston, there is an airport, some development and miles and miles of agriculture. What is shall become only time will tell. I hope now that you’ve had a look, it will be easier for you to make a decision to protect these lands for the Everglades, St Lucie River and Indian River Lagoon.