Tag Archives: algae blooms

President Negron’s Memorandum to the Florida Senate, Senate Bill 10,”Protecting Coastal Counties from Polluted Discharges” SLR/IRL

For me this memorandum, perhaps more than other work published, helps the everyday person understand Senate Bill 10. Thus I share today. Thank you Senate President Joe Negron, “Champion of champions,” for the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon!

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THE FLORIDA SENATE

SENATOR JOE NEGRON President

MEMORANDUM

SUITE 409, THE CAPITOL, 404 SOUTH MONROE STREET ▪ TALLAHASSEE, FLORIDA 32399-1100 ▪ TELEPHONE (850) 487-5229 Senate’s Website: http://www.flsenate.gov

TO: All Senators

FROM: Joe Negron, President

SUBJECT: Protecting Coastal Counties from Polluted Discharges DATE: January 26, 2017

I greatly appreciate the support many of you have provided over the last several years as my home community and others across our state have been flooded with billions of gallons of polluted water that destroys our estuaries and harms our local economies. Today Senator Bradley filed Senate Bill 10, an act relating to water resources, to begin the formal process of purchasing land to increase water storage south of Lake Okeechobee. This legislation provides a clear plan to address this plague on our communities in a manner that respects the interests of the agricultural community and private land owners. While I have had the opportunity to discuss this critical issue with each of you, I wanted to provide a brief summary of how we arrived at this solution as well as a summary of Senator Bradley’s legislation.

Background: Record rainfall this past year resulted in unseasonably high water levels in Lake Okeechobee, which threatened the integrity of the Herbert Hoover Dike. To maintain safe water levels, the Army Corps of Engineers authorized the release of billions of gallons of water from the Lake to the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee Rivers. Such freshwater discharges cause significant environmental damage by lowering the salinity levels of the estuaries and introducing pollutants into coastal waters. Due to the discharges this summer, massive amounts of toxic algae that originated in Lake Okeechobee were sent to the estuaries and coastal waterways.

The extent and severity of the blooms resulted in Governor Scott declaring a state of emergency in four Florida counties.

These algal blooms have occurred before and will occur again unless high volume discharges from Lake Okeechobee are stopped and pollution in the Lake Okeechobee basin is abated. Algal blooms are not simply an unsightly nuisance for residents and tourists. They bring real health risks to humans and wildlife and result in severe economic damage to local businesses.

January 26, 2017 Page 2

As a result of the high volume discharges, coastal communities experienced enormous harmful algal blooms with devastating impacts not only to the ecology of local waterways, but also to residents, fishermen, and local businesses.

Despite the sincere efforts of our state and federal government to plan and fund long-term solutions to address rising water levels and pollution in Lake Okeechobee, year after year as the Lake levels rise, the solution is to flood my community and many others across our state with billions of gallons of polluted water.

From Governor Jeb Bush’s historic support of the bipartisan Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP) in 2000 to the recent University of Florida Water Institute study commissioned by the Senate and completed in 2015, for nearly two decades, there has been scientific consensus and recognition by state leaders that additional water storage south of Lake Okeechobee is necessary to stop this ongoing problem. This sentiment was reiterated as speaker after speaker addressed our Appropriations Subcommittee on the Environment and Natural Resources calling for increased storage south of the Lake.

Senate Bill 10 authorizes bonding a portion of proceeds from the Land Acquisition Trust Fund, set aside by the voter-approved Water and Land Conservation Amendment (Amendment 1, 2014), to purchase land and construct a reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee to reduce harmful discharges to the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries.

Senate Bill 10 Summary: Senate Bill 10 authorizes the issuance of bonds to raise over a billion dollars to acquire 60,000 acres of land and build a reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee to reduce harmful discharges to the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries.The reservoir is expected to hold 120 billion gallons of water, approximately as much water as was discharged from Lake Okeechobee into the St. Lucie Estuary between January and May of 2016. The creation of significant storage capacity south of the Lake will help manage Lake levels in anticipation of periods of high rainfall like this year’s predicted El Nino weather pattern. Storing water during the wet season provides the additional benefit of allowing water to be sent south to hydrate the Everglades and Florida Bay, or for agricultural use, during the dry season.

The estimated cost of a reservoir on 60,000 acres of land providing 120 billion gallons of storage in the area south of Lake Okeechobee is roughly $2.4 billion. With the federal government paying at least half of the cost of such a reservoir, the state’s commitment would be $1.2 billion. The bill authorizes the use of approximately $100 million of documentary stamp tax revenue set aside by the Water and Land Conservation  Amendment (Amendment 1, 2014) annually over the next 20 years to finance land acquisition and construction of the reservoir.

January 26, 2017 Page 3

The bill directs the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) to begin the formal process of purchasing land from willing sellers. The project is subject to Congressional approval to secure the 50/50 cost sharing agreement authorized for other CERP projects.

If the SFWMD is unable to identify sellers of land appropriate for a reservoir through an open solicitation by the end of 2017, the legislation authorizes the Board of Trustees to exercise the option with U.S. Sugar entered into in 2010 to buy 153,000 acres of land in the Everglades Agricultural Area, for the purpose of securing the 60,000 acres necessary for the reservoir and to begin planning the construction of the reservoir.

If the state is ultimately unable to purchase land for the reservoir by November 30, 2018, the legislation increases the ongoing Legacy Florida appropriation by an additional $50 million for the CERP, which includes a reservoir in the Everglades Agricultural Area as a key component. This is in addition to Legacy Florida’s existing commitment of $200 million. Legacy Florida also requires preference among these projects to be given to projects that reduce the harmful discharges from Lake Okeechobee to the St. Lucie or Caloosahatchee Estuaries.

As we move forward, I have a personal mission to work with the agricultural community, to work with Florida’s best scientists, and to work with every member of the Legislature, to protect our estuaries, to protect our lagoons, and to put the harmful discharges from Lake Okeechobee that destroy our environment and harm our economy into the past pages of history instead of the daily front pages of newspapers. I appreciate your consideration of this proposal and look forward to discussing it further in the days and weeks ahead.

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(For a full copy of Senate Bill 10, go to http://www.flsenate.gov/ and put 10 into “Bill” section at top of page.)
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Taking a Look for Ourselves, Algae Flyover, Lake O, SLR/IRL

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Visible algae around S-308 at Port Mayaca , August 3 2016.

 

Algae Flyover…

Included today are aerial images my husband Ed Lippisch took Wednesday, August 3rd and a satellite image for grand overview.

As far as my husband’s photos, the algae is lessened but it there. Look closely. The above image is of S-308 the structure that allows water to enter the C-44 canal, S-80 and then the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon. Algae blooms can be identified even from 1000 feet.

The photos included below may be recognizable to many of  you showing other views of S-308, S-80, the C-44 canal and the St Lucie River in the area of Palm City. Alage blooms are present.

The Landsat satellite image also from Aug 3rd was shared by my brother Todd Thurlow. As he notes, “it has been cloudy thus viewing is difficult.” Nonetheless, these images are key to knowing what is going on in the lake.

So thank you Ed! Thank you Todd! We will continue to check things ourselves hoping another toxic algae episode is not on the way. Also Thank you to the ACOE/SFWMD  for lessening the discharges from Lake Okeechobee to the estuaries since e June 29th. Better but not best. The long term goal? Clean up this water and re-plumb this state.

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Aug 3 2016 Landsat satellite

SFWMD canal and basin map. C-44 canal is the canal most southerly in the image.

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Discovery Channel’s On Location Algae Tour, SLR/IRL

From what I’m told, the last water story the Discovery Channel did  was on Flint Michigan….perhaps the next will be on the Lake Okeechobee and the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon….

Discovery reporter Katie Carpenter visited Stuart yesterday just for a tour. She visited Florida Oceanographic speaking to Mark Perry, others, and then met with me at the Town of Sewall’s Point for a tour of the area. She is just doing preliminaries–groundwork, seeing if there is a story.

I did my usual spiel trying to be a good hostess; I’ve done this before for high level government officials and reporters, and I am happy to do it—-it’s how we are going to change this mess–by sharing our story, putting it out for the world. So I put my smile on,  got out my history books, maps, photographs, and river advocacy educational materials from 2013 and offered a road tour.

I figured we’d hit a few places and maybe there would be some algae blooms to show her. Maybe they’d look toxic–

Not only did I see particulate algae in the water off Sewall’s Point but mats of it awaited us at Sandsprit Park, The Harborage Marina under the Roosevelt Bridge in Stuart, and most dramatically at St Lucie Locks and Dam where the waters of Lake Okeechobee are released by the ACOE along C-44 through Structure-80 into the South Fork of the St Lucie River.

Today I will share some photos and videos from the trip to continue documenting this 2016 Lake O Event that started January 29th, 2016.

It’s a crazy story isn’t it? From most biodiverse estuary in North America to a health hazard.

I wish there were a better story to Discover.

Katie was brought to our area through locals who referred her here. We have many connections. Yes, the world is Discovering what is happening here, and this exposure will help facilitate change because we definitely have a story.

LOCATION #1

St Lucie Locks and Dam 6-21-16
St Lucie Locks and Dam 6-21-16
St Lucie Locks and Dam looking east to the SLR
St Lucie Locks and Dam looking east to the SLR
Looking north over algae bloom and 7 gates releasing Lake O water and agricultural canal C-44 water.
Looking north over algae bloom and 7 gates releasing Lake O water and agricultural canal C-44 water.
Looking down at St Lucie Locks and Dam
Looking down at St Lucie Locks and Dam
....
….

 

LOCATION #2

Sandsprit Park
Sandsprit Park, Stuart
Sandsprit Park
Sandsprit Park

 

LOCATION #3

Harborage Marina
Harborage Marina
Harborage Marina
Harborage Marina
Harborage Marina
Harborage Marina
Harborage Marina
Harborage Marina
Harborage Marina
Harborage Marina
Harborage Marina
Harborage Marina
Harborage Marina
Harborage Marina
JTL and Katie Carpenter, Discovery Channel.
JTL and Katie Carpenter, Discovery Channel 6-21-16.

#1 SL Locks algae coming from C-44 west side through S-80 into SLR

(http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OZzHiOXy-zA)

#2
Roosevelt Bridge//Harborage Marina

(http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0qbV7OY4HQ4)

#SkyWarrior’s Report SLR/IRL, Father’s Day Weekend 6-19-16

In our continued documentation of the 2016 Lake Okeechobee event, my husband Ed and I flew over the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon around 5:00pm on Father’s Day, 6-19-16, at the very end of an outgoing tide. Being a stormy day, there was poor lighting, but it was easy to see the darkness that enveloped the river due to the discharges of surrounding agricultural canals, and tidal runoff, and especially the high and long-going releases from Lake  Okeechobee. The dark plume hugged the coast and jutted far out into the Atlantic having no clear edge as it was churned up from high winds and waves.  Nonetheless from above,  it’s shadow was visible for miles all the way south to the Jupiter Inlet.

Over the weekend there were multiple reports of algae blooms throughout the river and canals. Below are photos from a family boat ride in the vicinity of the Harborage Dock in Downtown Stuart yesterday, showing foam and algae at the shoreline and tiny specks of algae dispersed throughout the entire river.

“One resident nearby of Stuart, Dr Vopal, texted: “The river is pea green! …It is time for the legislators to look at this river and consider the health of the people that live on it. ”

Over the weekend just to me and on Facebook there were reports of algae blooms not only in Stuart but along the C-44 canal, the condo/marinas along Palm City Road, the eastern area of Lake Okeechobee itself, the St Lucie Locks and Dam, the St Lucie River near Martin Memorial Hospital, Sandsprit Park, Phipps Park, and Poppleton Creek. Certainly there were many others.

As most of us know, the Army Corp of Engineers has been discharging into the St Lucie River since January 29th, 2016. The river is almost completely fresh thus these freshwater blooms— that are in the lake and upper agricultural canals prior to being released into our river (cyanobacteria is a freshwater bloom)—and then they spread throughout the river once it too is fresh from all of the discharges. Since the ACOE has been releasing since January and there has been so much rain conditions are really bad.

Ed and I will continue to document. Our region’s entire quality of life is at stake. Nothing affects our local economy more than our river. We all must continue pushing to send water south to be cleaned and conveyed to Everglades National Park as Nature intended. Call our elected officials at every level. And vote on Aug 30th in the primary.

Fondly,

Jacqui and Ed, #Skywarriors since 2013

 

Photos of SLR/IRL -Sewall’s Point, Sailfish Point, St Lucie Inlet, Sailfish Flat’s former seagrass beds, Jupiter Island, Atlantic Ocean’s “protected” nearshore reefs.

 

Photos shared over weekend: Phipps Park, C-44 canal, St Lucie Locks and Dam, Sandspsprit Park also from family Father’s Day boat ride Harborage Marina, Downtown Stuart.

Lake O algae bloom shared by boater and posted by M. Connor just prior to weekend.

Sources of water ACOE/SFWMD june 2016
Sources of water ACOE/SFWMD june 2016
SFWMD canal and basin map. C-44 canal is the canal most southerly in the image.
SFWMD canal and basin map. According to Florida Oceanographic only 17% of water went into the SLR before the agriculture canals of C-23, C-24, and C-44 were dug in 1920s-1960s. Lake Okeechobee discharges on top of canal dumps are killing an already very stressed estuary. These waters must be redirected south and stored in other places that need the water. This overabundance of water is killing the St Lucie.
River Kidz and Treasure Coast Rowing Club youth led a river clean up and planting of native vegetation to filter water during incoming and outgoing tides at Poppleton Creek. The creek was filled with an algae bloom. photo TC Palm
River Kidz and Treasure Coast Rowing Club youth led a river clean up and planting of native vegetation to filter water during incoming and outgoing tides at Poppleton Creek. The creek was filled with an algae bloom. photo TC Palm

Cyanobacteria/Blue Green Algae/Microcystis: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cyanobacteria
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Microcystis_aeruginosa

What Exactly is Bioluminescence in the Indian River Lagoon? Is it a Good or Bad Sign?

bioluminescence
“The dinoflagellate, (marine plankton), Pyodinium bahamense is what “produces the light show in the IRL.” Dr Edie Widder. Photo Florida Fish and Wildlife, 2013.

About a week and a half ago, my mother sent me an email with photos of my father and her on a kayak trip at night in the Indian River Lagoon. She had seen an article in the Stuart News about a company called Motorized Kayaks of the Treasure Coast and their trip into the light show of bioluminescence that has been occurring off our shores.

First, I thought about how cool my parents are to be going on kayak trips in their mid- seventies, and second, I thought, “aren’t these little plankton creatures a kind of algae bloom, and aren’t algae blooms bad for the lagoon in spite of bioluminescence’s beauty?”

Algae blooms have been linked to recent 60% plus seagrass die-offs, poor water quality, as well as  IRL pelican, dolphin and manatee deaths.  Super blooms, brown tides, “regular” and “toxic” algae blooms are “fed” by fertilizer, septic effluent, canal and Lake Okeechobee discharges, especially in the southern lagoon.

My father, Tom Thurlow, preparing for a kayak trip into the Indian River Lagoon to view the bioluminescent light show. (Photo Sandra Thurlow, August, 2014)
My father, Tom Thurlow, preparing for a kayak trip into the Indian River Lagoon to view the bioluminescent light show. (Photo Sandra Thurlow, August 19, 2014)

Well anyway, I decided to contact Dr. Edie Widder of ORCA, the Ocean Research and Conservation Association, in Ft. Pierce, (http://www.teamorca.org/cfiles/home.cfm) and ask.

Dr Widder  is a world-renowned bioluminescence expert; she has even worked with the US Navy in the “design” of ships that would not cause bioluminescent disruption in the oceans, and thus give away their location to enemy ships.

This was my question to Dr Widder:

Dear Edie,
My parents rented kayaks to go see the bioluminescence in the IRL. It got me
thinking. Is the light caused by the same creatures that cause toxic algae
blooms in the lagoon?
Is the bioluminescence a bad sign for the health of the lagoon? Thank you.
Hope all is well.

Her response:

Hi Jacqui – It’s kind of a good news bad news story. The dinoflagellate
producing the light show, Pyrodinium bahamense, happens to be one that
produces saxitoxin. Interestingly it’s the same dino that’s responsible for
the bioluminescent bays in Puerto Rico and in those bays it doesn’t produce
the saxitoxin. Here it does. It’s not known why although I have a theory
and it has nothing to do with pollution. (It’s a long story having to do
with how their bioluminescence functions to protect them from predators
under different concentrations.)

Dino blooms are usually preceded by rain events that flush nutrients into
the water and then a series of calm sunny days that promote photosynthesis.
Blooms like the one we’re seeing now used to be routine according to some of
the older fishermen I’ve talked to. They called it fire in the water. The
fact is the water can’t be too polluted or the dinoflagellates won’t grow.
I’ll send you an article with some pictures I took.

Cheers,

Edie

Here is a photo Dr Widder took of bioluminescence in the lagoon I copied and a link to a remarkable video.

Bioluminescence in the IRL photographed by Dr Edie Widder.
Bioluminescence in the IRL photographed by Dr Edie Widder.

Incredible pictures of barnacles feeding on bioluminescent dinoflagellates: (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y1jG8qFZyYY)

Thank you for sharing, Dr Widder!

In conclusion, I looked up saxitoxin and learned it is a “paralytic shellfish toxin” that is found is some shellfish and especially puffer fish. It has been found in few other places in the US as well as in  the Indian River Lagoon. I guess the little dinoflagellates, the same ones that make the pretty bioluminescence light,  not always, but sometimes, will produce this toxin which gets spread to some shellfish and some fish. If such a shellfish or fish is ingested,  it will make a human very sick.  Around 2002, 28 people got so sick here, in the Merritt Island area, and in a few other areas of the county, that now there is a permanent government ban on harvesting/eating IRL puffer fish in the entire IRL.

Since I am nowhere close to a scientist, I will just share some links below and refrain from speculating what is “good or bad. ” Nonetheless, I think I can safely say that sometimes beauty and danger walk hand in hand in this magical world of our Indian River Lagoon.

_______________________________________________________

Abstract, Saxitoxin in the IRL, US Food and Drug Administration: (http://www.researchgate.net/publication/250019725_Concentrations_of_Saxitoxin_and_Tetrodotoxin_in_Three_Species_of_Puffers_from_the_Indian_River_Lagoon_Florida_the_Location_for_Multiple_Cases_of_Saxitoxin_Puffer_Poisoning_from_2002_to_2004Sincerely)

Monitoring Toxic Algae and Shellfish in the IRL, FWC, (http://myfwc.com/research/redtide/monitoring/current/indian-river/)

Florida Today: Is the IRL OK for Play? http://www.floridatoday.com/story/news/local/environment/2014/06/14/indian-river-lagoon-ok-play/10527607/)

Dinoflagellate: (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dinoflagellate)