-Indian River Lagoon & St Luice River meet to flow into the Atlantic Ocean as seen over the savannas. Nettles Island , a landmark, juts into the IRL (upper left.) Note peninsula of Sewall’s Point and St Lucie Inlet. Aerial photograph by Ed Lippisch, 9/11/22, 6:15pm.Recently, I have been asking Ed to get a “different view” while flying-something other than the location between Sewall’s Point and Hutchinson Island near the St Lucie Inlet. That area is the heart of the matter when documenting seagrass recovery or destructive discharges from Lake Okeechobee. However, the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon includes much more than that. The undeveloped savannas region seen above is quite striking.
Here Ed looks south over the savannas, now Savannas Preserve State Park, an area west of the railroad tracks stretching ten miles between Jensen Beach and Fort Pierce.
As my mother, author Sandra Thurlow writes in her book, Historic Jensen and Eden on Florida’s Indian River, …”ours is not a savanna at all. A true savanna is grassland with scattered, small drought resistant trees. Many eons ago the Jensen Savannas was a lagoon like the Indian River. Now the ancient lagoon is a region of lakes, marsh and pine flatwoods. When polar icecaps formed, bringing Florida out of the sea, tides and winds shaped a primary dune along the east coast of the peninsula. The shallow waters in the wetlands behind the dune were brackish. The ocean levels continued to drop and sand bars just off the coast were exposed, forming Hutchinson Island. What had been the primary dune became the Atlantic Coastal Ridge.”
She goes on to explain that prior to modern times the savannas’ ecosystem was almost 200 miles long, but due to development along the Indian River Lagoon the region has been reduced to just ten ecologically intact miles.
Areas such as these “savannas” are critical to the health of the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon and an inspiration for more comprehensive protection in the future.
Fresh water plumes flowing out of estuaries into the ocean are, of course, noted all over the world. There are even accounts from early Florida pioneers in the 1800s documenting such phenomenon. The difference with the “freshwater plumes” in our area of the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon, is that the watershed has been radically altered over time to take on more than its fair share of water and the plumes are not just sediment and organic material but often toxic.
As we are aware, canals C-44, C-23, C-24, and C-25 expanded the watershed of the SLR/IRL by more than five times its God-given capacity, plus in the case of C-44 the overflow waters of Lake Okeechobee. Yes we live in a “swamp.” But our South Florida swamp has been over-drained.
Today I will share photos my husband Ed Lippisch took on September 3rd, and September 7th, 2015, and then contrast then with a few taken in September of 2013 during the “Lost Summer.” My point being, even our rain plumes, like “now,” are not natural to our watershed as the watershed has been expanded so much. Add Lake Okeechobee to it, and a really bad summer like 2013, and the plumes are visibly “different.”
Of course lighting and timing have a lot to do with a photograph.
A photograph is an image in time; it is not necessary “scientific,” but no one can say, a picture doesn’t “speak a thousand words.”
As we all know, until last week, it has been raining a lot! Almost daily it seems the grey clouds gather and beat their chests threateningly; most often making good on their promise. This past week was the first time in a long time, my husband, Ed, could get up in the Cub and photograph the river. I will share these photos today.
Following are two sets of photos; the first Ed took on Thursday, August 20, 2015, and the second set were taken by Ed and friend Scott Kuhns, Sunday, August 23, 2015.
The point of the blog is to share the photos, and celebrate our 2015 “clearer waters” near the Indian River Lagoon’s southern inlets, but also to feature the weaker-looking “rain-event, fresh-water plumes.” You may recall the wretched, horrific looking plumes of the Lost Summer of 2013 during the discharges from Lake Okeechobee and area canals? Here is a photo to remind you taken in September 2013:
2015’s summer rain induced plumes do not include Lake Okeechobee releases, or the other conditions of 2013; this summer’s plumes are not as severe looking as 2013’s as you will see. Thus we have “clear water,” even when there is a lot of rain.
Last, I ask you to note the photos of the seagrasses around the Sailfish Flats area between Sewall’s Point and Sailfish Point. I am no scientist, but I think they look awful. Recently, I was told having some algae on the seagrasses is good in that when they are exposed during low tide they are protected from the burning sun. That is nice to know. Nevertheless, they look weird. Like there is too much algae; they do not look healthy. They appear grey and sickly. It is obvious they are not recovered yet from 2013 and before.
I do not have a “before aerial.” but this photo from the St Johns River Water Management District show up close what healthy seagrasses look like and I do not think ours look anything like this right now.
So here are the photos, enjoy the clearer water thus far this summer, and please stay on the Water Districts and politicians noting that clear water doesn’t mean healthy seagrasses. We have a long way to go!
THESE LAST PHOTOS ARE OF FT PIERCE INLET. FT PIERCE INLET GETS WATER FROM C-25 WHICH DOES NOT DISCHARGE INTO THE ST LUCIE BUT DIRECTLY INTO THE IRL JUST OUTSIDE OF THE FT PIERCE INLET AT TAYLOR CREEK. C-25 IS NOT SHOWN ON THE CHART AT THE BEGINNING OF THIS POST FOR THE ST LUCIE RIVER. C-25 CAN ALSO RELEASE WATER FROM THE C-23 AND C-24 CANALS IF THE SFWMD DIRECTS SUCH. SEE CANAL MAP BELOW.
Thank you to my husband Ed Lippisch, friend Scott Kuhns for these photos. Also thank you the ACOE and SFWMD for sharing their chart information.
Of course when it rains the waters of the St Lucie River/Southern Indian River Lagoon get darker due to runoff into the river. But unless it keeps raining, the water will clear up. The government likes to call this water “storm water.” This is all of the water that flows into the river from people’s yards, roads, agriculture fields, etc….
Lately it seems to me, our recent storms, like yesterday, and a few days before have concentrated right along our coast. I am not certain, but I looked on the South Florida Water Management District’s website and it did not appear that C-23, C-24 and C-25 were open or if they were it was not a lot. To check C-44 you have to go to the ACOE website; it is definitely not open. So I think most of what we are seeing right now in our river is runoff from the lands closest to the coast not necessary connected to canals. You can see a basin map below.
So anyway, the photo above with the murky-grey colored water was taken yesterday 7-22-15; it was an outgoing tide; and it was around 11AM. Thank you Ed!
Today, I will share some of Ed’s photos and then compare others from when there was some rain, and the ACOE was dumping into our river JUST FROM LAKE O, and others from very rainy times when dumping from Lake O and the area canals of C-23, C-24, C-25 and C-44 by ACOE/and SFWMD was “constant.”
THESE PHOTOS IMMEDIATELY BELOW FROM yesterday 7-22-15 in the area of Sewall’s Point. They show grayish-murky waters from storm water coastal runoff but green-blue shines through…
THIS PHOTO BELOW IS FROM July 14th, 2015, a week ago. It had not recently rained and my yard was bone dry. It was an incoming tide. Sewall’s Point and confluence of SLR/IRL appears very “blue.” It is beautiful although seagrasses and the benthic community are still “recovering.” Blue does not mean the river is “healthy,” but BLUE IS GOOD.
THIS PHOTO BELOW IS DATED May 18th 2015. This is the tip of South Sewall’s Point looking towards the St Lucie Inlet and Jupiter Narrows. Sailfish Point is under the wing. It was not raining much at this time in March of 2015, but the ACOE/SFWMD was dumping from Lake Okeechobee because the lake was “too high.” The river looked brown and gross.
Ironically, now we appear to be on the verge of a serious “water shortage”….too bad there isn’t a place to store this water somewhere north and/or south of Lake O….that the ACOE and AFWMD dump during the dry season trying to get the lake down in case there is a hurricane….The agriculture community could use that water now as could the Everglades, Miami/Dade, wildlife etc…..the C-44 STA/Reservoir is wonderful and we are thankful but it is only for C-44 BASIN RUNOFF not Lake O.
THIS PHOTO BELOW IS SEWALL’S POINT’s west side, IRL, looking north with the confluence of the SLR/IRL in foreground. This was September of 2013 during some of the highest releases from Lake O and C-23, C-24, C-25 and C-44. This is when the river was toxic and there were signs not to touch the water. It is very dark brown. Too dark.
THIS DISGUSTING SHOT BELOW is of the St Lucie Inlet with Sailfish Point foreground. This photo was also taken in September 2013 during very high discharges from Lake O especially and the C-23, C-24, C-25 and C-44. Yes. It was raining! And certainly coastal storm-water runoff not going into canals as seen in the photo at the beginning of this blog was also included. It was all horrible, but the biggest single overdose during this time was from Lake O.
At this time our river was almost black in color and had a strange consistency due to all of the sediment and pollution in the water. During this year of 2013 our river lost about 85 percent of its seagrasses and ALL of its oysters. The releases lasted from May through October. Salinity was way down and 0 in some places. Algae blooms, toxic in nature, were documented from Palm City to Stuart to Sewall’s Point. The Sandbar at the mouth of the inlet was posted as a health hazard area by Martin County. Real estate sales were lost and animals were absent; it was a true state of emergency as filed with the state by many local governments.
We live in a state of unbalance.
South Florida is a swinging pendulum of too much water and not enough water. It makes no sense. We waste water, yet we encourage more people to come to South Florida when do often don’t have enough as it is because we are dumping it all…
We want things to be like they were in 1970 and 80….
We want to be the sugar and vegetable basket for the world, and have everyone move here… Well no matter how much sugar we produce, or how many houses we build, “we can’t have our cake and eat it too.”
We need more storage south and north of Lake Okeechobee. If we can engineer to send a camera to photograph Pluto 2.7 billion miles away, can’t we fix things here at home?
Well, unless we can figure out how to live on Pluto, we are going to have to—