As we know, next year is the 100 year anniversary of the St. Luice Canal. Dug by the Everglades Drainage District 1916-1924, the canal was turned over to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in 1930 following the horrific 1926 and 1928 hurricanes and the U.S./Florida decision to build the Herbert Hoover Dike. During the 1930s through the fifties the canal was widened and deepened and repurposed as a cross state canal conveniently allowing even more discharge water from Lake Okeechobee to the St. Lucie River.
According to a November 4, 1954 U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Central and Southern Florida Project report by Colonel H.W. Schull Jr.
“For quite some time, local interest in the Stuart-Palm City area have been very bitter and adamant concerning the release of water in the St. Lucie estuary. They have made numerous complaints to this office about the releases of muddy water and its effect on sport fishing in the Stuart area, as well as the effects of shoaling in the vicinity of Palm City. In November 1953, the local people formed the St. Lucie-Indian Rivers Restoration League, which has become appreciably influential; the League has now grown to the estimated membership of 1,250. The situation in the Stuart-Palm City area has become by far the most sensitive of any in the Jacksonville District. This office has received complaints from the league following practically all discharge periods. Full-capacity discharge is entirely untenable to local interests. Last spring, the League threatened to use all possible influence to block the 1955 fiscal year appropriations for the Central and Southern Florida Project unless they could obtain a definite commitment “to relieve the area of excessive flood discharge and its incidental damages.” It was brought out that if unable to obtain such a commitment local interest were prepared to attack the appropriations as discriminatory, to withdraw from the 17-county Flood Control District by legislative action, and would proceed with damage actions in the Federal Courts….”
And that was only 1954…
By 1959 the Stuart News ran articles quoting the St. Lucie-Indian River Restoration League and the Martin County Water Conservation Committee. These articles shared by historian Sandra Henderson Thurlow, reveal continuation of bitterness and exasperation by the St. Lucie-Indian River Restoration League now together with the Martin County Water Conservation Committee.
By 1959, the “Great Flood” of 1947 had set in motion the enormous and expensive Army Corps’ Central and Southern Florida Flood Control Project adding to the already built canals of the Everglades Drainage District – such as the St Lucie Canal. To complicate Martin County’s drainage issues, the Minute Maid Corporation bought 5,300 acres of St Johns River Marsh land fifteen miles from Ft. Pierce in neighboring St Lucie County. Also booming was ranch land north and west of Cocoa. Many were excited about draining the land and building Florida’s post-war economy. This would be at the expense of the St. Lucie.
It was the hope of the St. Lucie-Indian River Restoration League and the Conservation Committee that the Army Corps would build a gigantic reservoir west of Sebastian, Vero, and Ft. Pierce to hold the water that would be drained from these lands but instead the Army Corps decided to build C-25, C-23, and C-24 alone. “No reservoir. Too expensive.”
Today these St. Lucie C-canals drain the lower St. Johns Marsh and and a large portion of St Lucie County into the St. Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon. These canals, like the C-44, or St. Lucie Canal, can operate in any direction, and they are all connected, taking in water and then discharging wherever the engineers desire…
C-25, north of Highway 68 and west of Ft. Pierce, dumps into the Southern Indian River Lagoon at Taylor Creek in Fort Pierce; C-24 and C-23 discharge into the mid and lower north fork of the St Lucie River. As they are all connected so the water can be made to go through any outlet. Most water exits through the St. Lucie River heading to the St. Lucie Inlet, Martin County – carrying with it a collection of agricultural and development pollutants.
The St. Lucie-Indian River Restoration League and the Martin County Water Conservation Committee fought hard for the St. Johns Marsh Reservoirs-also called a CONSERVATION AREA, but they were never built.
The League and Committee were so furious with the effects of all the canals that they filed a suit for injunction against direct ad-valorem tax levies by the Central and Southern Florida Flood Control District, the equivalent of today’s South Florida Water Management District. But the League did not prevail. The League expressed that one of the reasons this case did not succeed may be linked to “the Judge Chillingworth murder case occupying all of judge Judge Smith’s time.” Ironically it was the Chillingworth family that founded Palm City Farms.
Ernest Lyons, editor of the Stuart News wrote: “So that is why Martin County must demand now that the priorities of be changed on the project, making the reservoir purchase and construction No. 1 and the safety valve into Fort Pierce harbor (C-25) No. 2.
Otherwise we are going to wake up one of these days a find the beautiful St. Lucie, whose South Fork is now a drainage canal for the floodwaters of the Kissimmee River Basin has had its North Fork turned into a drainage canal for the St Johns River which historically flowed the other way.
Martin County is going to be made the dumping ground for another vast drainage area unrelated to this county unless our Congressmen, County Commission, State Representatives and other official demands that this scheme be changed by altering the priorities to do “first things first.”
It is kind of ironic that we continue to fight over reservoirs today.
I recently visited the lands that the SFWMD has purchased north of Highway 68 to restore/ build a C-25 reservoir and storm water treatment area as part of ACOE’s Indian River Lagoon South, CERP.
Palm City was once narrow strips of pine flatlands interspersed with hammocks, ponds, wide prairies, sloughs, sawgrass and cypress trees. Today it is a bustling part of Martin County due to the drainage of the C-23 canal on the north, and the C-44 canal on the south. When one attempts to unravel the long history of drainage of Palm City, it is helpful to think in three connected but separate levels: local, state, and federal.
In 1919 the Palm City Drainage District was created. It was established for a local level as a special drainage district by the Florida Legislature with a lifetime of fifty years. It was primarily created to drain newly established Palm City Farms. Miles of canals and ditches were dug to drain into Bessey Creek, Dansforth Creek, and the South Fork of the St Lucie River. Some of these canals and ditches still exist today or have been incorporated into larger canals.
Digging of the St Lucie Canal in the south began around 1915 lasting into 1926. It was dug by the Everglades Drainage District, State of Florida, from the South Fork of the St Lucie River to Lake Okeechobee. After the deathly hurricane of 1928, the federal government authorized widening and deepening the St Lucie Canal to create the Okeechobee Waterway also known as the Cross State Canal from Stuart, across Lake Okeechobee, to Ft Meyers. Doing so allowed the St Lucie Canal to conveniently function as the main outlet for Lake Okeechobee’s flood waters. Later, after the great flood of 1947, the canal became part of the Central and Southern Florida Plan and renamed C-44 becoming part of the giant Central and Southern Florida Flood Control System of the Army Corp of Engineers.
The great flood of 1947 called not just for the widening and depending of the St Lucie Canal and enlargement of its structures, but the federal Flood Control Act of 1948 authorized more canals, levees, and structures to be built by the Army Corps of Engineers throughout southern and central Florida. Among the new canals were the C-23, the C-24 and C-25 canals of Martin and St Lucie counties -all discharging into the North Fork of the St Lucie River. The state asked for and supported this. The C-23 is the border between Martin and St Lucie Counties. Of course there were major unintended consequences that added to the discharges of the St Lucie Canal and the original Palm City Drainage District. This plethora of fresh, dirty water has all but killed the St Lucie River. Improving the health of the St Lucie is the goal of local, state, and federal restoration efforts today.
Ed, Scott, and I, part of your River Warrior team since 2013, continue to visually document the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon by air. Although due to algae at the gates of Port Mayaca the ACOE’s lake schedule has not subjected the St Lucie River to Lake Okeechobee discharges since April 10, 2021, the rains and stormwater runoff from surrounding lands and canals C-23, C-24 are flowing. I know I am not an official keeper of rain, however, the rain gauge in my garden has displayed significant rain over Sewall’s Point in the past weeks. See ACOE & SFWMD recent official documents below.
Today I will share aerials from Dr Scott Kuhns. A view from the Super-Cub. These aerials reflect a visual change in the water color due to the rain. The water is darker and contains sediment, and all other that runs off roads and lawns, and agriculture fields out west. Sometimes over a million acre-feet of discharge a years can come from C-23 and C-24 alone! We do not need any Lake O discharges on top of this. C-44 runoff (see canal map at end of this blog post) is probably on the way as when the canal level is lower than the lake it is usually made to flow in our direction. Right now the lake is at 13.87 feet. Two tropical systems are being watched. Hopefully, we will not have a hurricane! The river over all has been looking great! Seagrasses slowly returning. Better fishing reports.
It is important we stay on top of things. Continue to advocate! Learn all you need to know about #LakeO on my brother Todd’s website eyeonlakeo.
Dr Scott Kuhns, SLR/IRL, yesterday, August 5, 2021 at 10:00 am. Note Atlantic remains blue in color and St Lucie Inlet as well but there is a plume. The estuary and Crossroads of the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon-they are more impacted. The final photo of St Lucie Locks and Dam’s S-80 structure is inland and thank goodness remains closed! Thank you Dr Scott Kunhs for being our eye in the sky and longtime River Warrior documenter!
Today, family friend, Dr Scott Kuhns, flew the River Warrior II taking aerials of the the St Lucie River. He wrote: “8:15 this morning 5/29/20 can’t find any clear water! All the way past Jupiter.”
My reply: “This is really good that you have taken these pictures Scott. This is all tremendous runoff from C-23, C-24, probably C-44, as well as our tidal basin. The SFWMD Raindar chart shows it poured up to 10 inches in the past week in the area of Martin and St Lucie Counties. South in Miami, even more. The positive thing is this runoff discoloration of the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon will fade after dissipating -when the rain stops -unlike Lake Okeechobee discharges that can last for many months unstopped, on top of such. Thank you! Interesting to know it is dark water all the way south to Jupiter. Thank you for taking these photos. They document our so called “local runoff.”
You’ll see that after the rain event, the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon looks terrible even with out Lake Okeechobee discharges. This is caused by directed water runoff from C-23, C-24, C-25, C-44 and “local” coastal runoff. Naturally, the river never took all this water. Humans made it this way, and we must fix it.
Soon after the torrential rain, the Army Corp of Engineers made things even worse and started dumping from Lake Okeechobee through the C-44 Canal into the St Lucie River by opening up the gates at S-308 and S-80.
My husband, Ed, first flew over Lake O on June 1st, just by chance. At this time, he spotted algae on the lake and took a photo. Ironically, the next day, the Army Corp started dumping from Lake Okeechobee on June 2nd!
After another long, hot summer, the Army Corp finally stopped discharging in the fall~October 5th… Take a look at the photos and remember to enjoy the blue water when it is here, but NEVER FORGET! Only though looking back, will we have the determination to change the future.
LAKE OKEECHBEE DISCHARGES ADDED
City of Stuart, June 9 2018.
Rio near Central Marine, week of June 12, 2018
LAKE O: Week of June 16th, June 25th, and July 22nd. Cyanobacteria (blue green algae) blooms and then subsides. ~All the while, this water is dumped into the St Lucie River by the Federal Govt.; the water quality is terrible and this the responsibility not of the Feds but of the State of Florida.
October 5, the ACOE stops dumping from Lake O. The blooms stop almost right away but the damage remains….
I woke up to seeing sunshine through the window. I looked at my phone. My brother’s text read: “S-308 just jumped to 1484 cfs and its climbing.”
(Go to St Lucie River for reports: http://www.thurlowpa.com/news.htm)
In Sewall’s Point, today is the first morning in three weeks that it hasn’t been raining, or just about to. My porches have been slick with moisture and leaves. The frogs in my pond are so loud at night I have to put in ear-plugs. My husband and I laugh saying you can count sheep, but there is no sleep!
In spite of all of this and the fact that the ACOE has been discharging from C-44 canal basin since around May 16, and the St Lucie River already looks like hell, it is still disappointing and heart-wrenching when they formally “open the gates.” ~To Lake Okeechobee that is…
In spite of the history, or knowing why they do it, it just seems so wrong that little St Lucie has to take basically one-third of the crap water for the state. Sorry and I know my mother will not like that word, but its the truth. Thank God for Joe Negron and his work last year as President of the Florida Senate and resurrecting the EAA Reservoir. And curse to any new Governor who does not help it be fulfilled.
The natural drainage basin of the St Lucie River shown in GREEN below was much smaller than it is today. The introduction of four man-made drainage canals dramatically altered its size and the drainage patterns. This primarily being C-44, the canal connected to Lake Okeechobee (bottom). One can see from the map image that C-44 Basin and of course Lake O’s water, the most effective assassins, were never part of the St Lucie Basin as were not Port St Lucie’s C-23, C-24, and C-25 system. These canals have killed our river!
The EAA Reservoir must be built, and in time, more water must move south to Florida Bay. We shall be fixed or compensated or a combination of both for our now noxious-reality. We will not accept this fate. Who knows what this summer shall bring. But one thing is for sure, this life along the St Lucie, is now toxic.
Thank you to ACOE for the following information and press conference yesterday.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Jacksonville District will start releasing water from Lake Okeechobee this weekend as part of its effort to manage rising water levels.
The discharges are scheduled to begin Friday (June 1). The target flow for the Caloosahatchee Estuary is 4,000 cubic feet per second (cfs) as measured at Moore Haven Lock (S-77) located in the southwest part of the lake. The target flow for the St. Lucie Estuary is 1,800 cfs as measured at St. Lucie Lock (S-80) near Stuart. Additional runoff from rain in the St. Lucie basins could occasionally result in flows that exceeds the target.
“Historic rain across the region since the middle of May has caused the lake to rise more than a foot,” said Col. Jason Kirk, Jacksonville District commander. “We have to be prepared for additional water that could result from a tropical system. The lake today is above the stage when Irma struck in September, which eventually caused the water level to exceed 17 feet. A similar storm could take the lake to higher levels.”
Today, the lake stage is 14.08 feet, up 1.25 feet from its 2018 low which occurred May 13. The lake is currently in the Operational Low Sub-Band as defined by the 2008 Lake Okeechobee Regulation Schedule (LORS), but within one foot of the Intermediate Sub-Band. Under current conditions, LORS authorizes USACE to discharge up to 4,000 cfs to the Caloosahatchee (measured at S-77) and up to 1,800 cfs to the St. Lucie (measured at S-80).
“Forecasts indicate more rain is on the way in the coming week,” said Kirk. “Additionally, long-range predictions indicate increasing probabilities of above-average precipitation for the rest of the wet season. We must start aggressively managing the water level to create storage for additional rain in the coming wet season.”
Last Thursday on November 16, the ACOE reported they will reduce the amount of water they are releasing from Lake Okeechobee. The Corp had been releasing at a high rate, on and off, since September 20th. New targets are 2800 cfs east and 6500 cfs west.
Photos below were taken yesterday, 11-19-17 by my husband, Ed Lippisch. We will continue to document the discharges from Lake O, and area canals.
As Thanksgiving approaches, we are thankful the discharges are lessened and that the SFWMD and the public are working hard to plan the EAA Reservoir Senator Negron fought for… We the people of Martin County, will not be satisfied until these discharge stop. The river has its hands full with unfiltered discharges draining agriculture and developed lands from C-23, C-24, C-25 and C-44. All must be addressed.
“And where the river goes, every living creature that swarms will live, and there will be very many fish. For this water goes there that the waters of the sea may become fresh; so everything will live where the river goes…” Ezekiel
These aerial photos over the St Lucie Inlet were taken by my husband, Ed Lippisch, Sunday, October 29, 2017, at 1:45pm.
The number one issue here is the polluted waters of Lake Okeechobee being forced into the SLR/IRL because they are blocked by the Everglades Agricultural Area from going south.
The ACOE has been discharging Lake O waters into the St Lucie since mid-September. These over-nutrified and sediment filled waters continue to destroy our economy and ecology on top of all the channelized agricultural and development waters of C-23, C-24 and C-25. Stormwater from our yards and streets also adds to this filthy cocktail.
Near shore reefs, sea grasses, oysters, fish? A human being? Better not have a cut on your hand…Not even a crab has an easy time living in this.
We move forward pushing the SFWMD and ACOE for the EAA Reservoir with these sad photos and the fact that our waters are putrid at the most beautiful time of year as motivation. We will prevail. One foot in front of the other.
Yesterday, I asked Ed to take me up in the plane, once again to document the discharges. In the wake of much rain and an active hurricane season, the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon continues to sacrifice its economy, health, and ecosystem for the EAA and South Florida drainage. A standard operating procedure that is outdated and dangerous.
The discharges from Lake O. have been on and off since Hurricane Irma hit on September 20th. Presently they are “on,” and it shows. Right now our river and ocean shores near the inlet should be at available to boaters, fisher-people, and youth, in”full-turquoise-glory.” Instead, the estuary, beaches, and near offshore is a ghost-town along a chocolate ocean and a black river. The edge of the plume can hardly be distinguished as all is dark, sediment filled waters. A disgrace.
Today is October 7th, 2017 and I am sharing photos taken October 6th, 2017 in the area of the St Lucie Inlet displaying the recent discharges from Lake Okeechobee and area canals. The plume was measured four miles out, this is very far, and can be seen both north and south of the inlet. The edges are churned up and blurred, and there are many layers fanning out.
I share to document. I share in hope of eventual change, and I share to inspire the so many people who are causing change, change, that one day we will see in a better water future.
Thank you to my husband Ed for piloting, and to passenger, and photographer, Matt Coppeletta.
All photos taken of the St Lucie Inlet area on 10-6-17 by Ed Lippisch and Matt Coppeletta. Discoloration of water is caused primarily by discharges from Lake Okeechobee but also from canals C-23, C-24, C-25 and area runoff.
“Right now billions of gallons of fertilizer, sewage, and legacy pollution from Lake Okeechobee are spewing into the St. Lucie River, carrying a new threat of toxic algae. Water managers may say Irma left them no choice, but of course that’s a half-truth…”
Documentation of primary and secondary plumes at St Lucie Inlet caused predominantly from human directed ACOE/SFWMD discharges post Irma and other from Lake Okeechobee & canals C-44, C-23, C-24, C-25. 10am, September 30, 2017. Primary plume out 3 miles; secondary 3 1/2 and not quite south to Peck’s Lake. We must continue to #ReplumbFlorida #forthefuture #forthewildlife #forthekidz #fortheeconomy for our #indianriverlagoon JTL/EL
Hurricane Irma may be gone, but her waters are not. Our now black river and the giant plume off the St Lucie Inlet attest to this. Clean rain that fell in our region during the hurricane is now filthy “stormwater” discharging, unfiltered, through manmade canals C-23, C-24, C-25, and C-44. Nature did not design the river to directly take this much water; this much water kills.
Every plume looks different, and this one is multilayered with no clear border. Sediment soup, black-brown in color, yesterday it extended out about 2/3 of a mile into a stirred up Atlantic and flowed south, in the rough waves not quite having made it to Peck’s Lake.
Since Hurricane Irma’s rains, area canals dug with no environmental foresight in the 1920s and 50s for flood control, and to facilitate agriculture and development, have been flowing straight into the river. On top of this, in anticipation of the hurricane, three days prior to IRMA the Army Corp of Engineers began discharging from Lake Okeechobee. During the hurricane they halted, and then started up again at high discharge levels reaching over (4000 cfs +/-) this past Friday, September 15th. As Lake Okeechobee rises and inflow water pours in from the north, and is blocked by the Everglades Agricultural Area in the south, we can expect more Lake O discharge on top of the canal releases themselves.
As advocates for the St Lucie River we continue the fight to expedite the building of the EAA reservoir and to create a culture to “send more water south.” In the meantime, we, and the fish and wildlife, and the once “most bio diverse estuary in North America,” suffer…
As the possibility of a direct hit from Hurricane Irma approaches, I can’t help but reflect.
Looking back, we see that it was the severe flooding and the hurricane season of 1947 that led Florida and the U.S. Government down the track to where we are today through the creation of the Florida Central and South Florida Flood Project, (CSFP).
In 1947, during the United States’ post World War II boom, Florida had a very active and destructive hurricane season. This slightly edited excerpt from the ACOE’s book River of Interest does a good job giving a short overview of that year:
“…Rain began falling on the Everglades in large amounts. On 1 March, a storm dropped six inches of rain, while April and May also saw above average totals. The situation became severe in the summer…
As September approached and the rains continued, the ground in the Everglades became waterlogged and lake levels reached dangerous heights. Then, on 17 September, a hurricane hit Florida on the southwest coast, passing Lake Okeechobee on the west and dumping large amounts of rain on the upper Everglades, flooding most of the agricultural land south of Lake Okeechobee.
George Wedgworth, who would later become president of the Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative of Florida and whose parents were vegetable growers in the Everglades, related that his mother called him during the storm and told him, “ this is the last call I’ll make from this telephone because I’m leaving. . . . “We’ve got an inch or two of water over our oak floors and they’re taking me out on a row boat.”
Such conditions were prevalent throughout the region. Before the area had a chance to recover from the devastation, another hurricane developed, moving into South Florida and the Atlantic Ocean by way of Fort Lauderdale. Coastal cities received rain in large quantities, including six inches in two hours at Hialeah and nearly 15 inches at Fort Lauderdale in less than 24 hours.
The Everglades Drainage District kept its drainage canals open to discharge to the ocean as much of the floodwater in the agricultural area as it could, exacerbating coastal flooding. East coast residents charged the District with endangering their lives in order to please ag- ricultural interests, but this was vehemently denied…
Whoever was to blame, the hurricanes had devastating effects. Although the levee around Lake Okeechobee held, preventing the large numbers of deaths that occurred in 1926 and 1928, over 2,000 square miles of land south of the lake was covered by, in the words of U.S. Senator Spessard Holland, “an endless sheet of water anywhere from 6 to 7 feet deep down to a lesser depth.” The Corps estimated that the storms caused $59 million in property damage throughout southern Florida, but Holland believed that the agency had “under- stated the actual figures.” The destruction shocked citizens of South Florida, both in the upper Everglades and in the coastal cities, and they demanded that something be done.”
Well, what was done was the Central and South Florida Flood Project.
Key Florida politicians, and the public demanded the Federal Government assist, and as both the resources and will were present, the project was authorized in 1948 with massive additional components making way not only for flood protection, but for even more agriculture and development. In Martin County and St Lucie County this happened by the controversial building of canals C-23, C-24, C-25 and “improving” the infamous C-44 canal that connects to Lake Okeechobee. This construction was basically the nail in the coffin for the St Lucie River and Southern Indian River Lagoon.
But before the death of the environment was clear, the Corps developed a plan that would include 1,000 miles of levees, 720 miles of canals, and almost 200 water control structures. Flooding in coastal cities and in the agricultural lands south of Lake Okeechobee would be minimized and more controllable.
Yes, a goal of the program was to provide conservation areas for water storage, protecting fish and wildlife habitat. Although water conservation areas were constructed, conservation of wildlife did not work out so well, and has caused extreme habitat degradation of the Everglades system, Lake Okeechobee, the southern and northern estuaries, the Kissimmee chain of lakes, and Florida Bay. Nonetheless, this project made possible for over five million people to now live and work in the 18,000 square mile area that extends from south of Orlando to Florida Bay “protected from flooding” but in 2017 living with serious water quality issues.
With problems apparent, in 1992 the Central and South Florida Project was “re-studied” and we continue to work on that today both for people and for wildlife…
Irma many be the system’s greatest test yet…
Yesterday’s Army Corp of Engineer Periodic Scientist Call was focused on saving people’s lives and safety. After the built-system was discussed, Mr Tyler Beck of the Florida Wildlife Commission, and Mr Steve Schubert of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reported on the endangered Everglades Snail Kites and their nests at Lake Okeechobee. Like most birds, pairs mate for life. There are presently fifty-five active nests, thirty-three in incubation, and twenty-three with baby chicks…
In the coming days, as the waters rise on Lake Okeechobee, and the winds scream through an empty void that was once a cathedral of colossal cypress trees, Mother Nature will again change the lives of Florida’s wildlife and its people, just as she did in 1947. Perhaps this time, she will give us vision for a future where nature and humankind can live in greater harmony…
It is a journey the state, federal, and local agencies don’t always wish to take–a journey to face the numbers of our watershed…
Today, Dr Gary Goforth (http://garygoforth.net) shares his most recent report, “Water Quality Assessment of the St Lucie River Watershed, For Water Year 2017, DRAFT.”
Mind you, for non-scientist people like myself, a “water year” is reported from May of one year, through April the next year, as opposed to a calendar year.
The full report is linked at the bottom of the post and contains numerous helpful charts. I have just included the key findings below.
Dr Goforth wanted to get the draft assessment out before the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s Basin Management Action Plan workshop scheduled for this Friday Aug. 25th at 10:00 am at Martin County Building Permits Office, 900 Southeast Ruhnke Street, Stuart, FL 34994, Conference Rooms A & B because this is where the rubber hits the road! FDEP: (http://www.dep.state.fl.us/central/Home/Watershed/BMAP.htm)
Water Quality Assessment of the St. Lucie River Watershed –Water Year 2017 – DRAFT Gary Goforth, P.E., Ph.D.
Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? (Who watches the Watchers?)
1. Over the last water year (May 2016 – April 2017), the surface water entering the St. Lucie River and Estuary (SLRE) in general was of poor water quality. The best water quality entering the SLRE was from the highly urbanized Tidal Basins. The largest source of phosphorus, nitrogen and sediment pollution to the SLRE was Lake Okeechobee discharges. The C-44 Canal Basin contributed poor water quality, and was the only basin demonstrating a worsening in water quality over the last ten years.
2. It was estimated that stormwater runoff from agricultural land use contributed more flow and nutrient pollution than any other land use, even contributing more flow than Lake Okeechobee discharges.
3. The annual Basin Management Action Plan (BMAP) progress reports produced by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection continue to indicate water quality conditions in the tributaries of the SLRE are better than they actually are. Examples of flaws in the BMAP assessment process include the omission of Lake Okeechobee pollution loads, the use of simulated data instead of observed data, the inability to account for hydrologic variability, and the inability to assess individually each of the major basins contributing to the SLRE.
4. An alternative to the assessment approach presented in the BMAP progress reports was developed and used to evaluate water quality conditions of major inflows to the SLRE and to assess progress towards achieving the Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) load reduction goals. This alternative approach uses observed data, includes Lake discharges, accounts for hydrologic variability, and is applied to each of the major basins contributing pollution loads to the SLRE. For WY2017, observed nitrogen loads to the SLRE exceeded the Phase 1 BMAP target loads (adjusted for hydrologic variability) by 77 percent. Observed phosphorus loads exceeded the Phase 1 BMAP target loads (adjusted for hydrologic variability) by 53 percent.
5. The largest single source of total nitrogen, total phosphorus and sediment load to the SLRE was Lake Okeechobee discharges. In addition, total phosphorus concentrations in Lake Okeechobee discharges to the SLRE remained almost four times the lake’s TMDL in-lake target concentration of 40 parts per billion (ppb). In 2017, the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) reported that phosphorus loading to the lake from surrounding watersheds was almost 5 times the Lake’s TMDL of 105 metric tons, yet staff acknowledged the agency does not enforce permits that set numeric limits on phosphorus discharges to the lake (SFWMD 2016, SFWMD 2017). Unfortunately, despite the continued and well-publicized pollution of the lake, the Florida legislature in 2016 enacted a water bill that pushed back deadlines for achieving the lake’s TMDL by decades (Ch. 2016-1).
6. The best water quality entering the SLRE during WY2017 was observed in the highly urbanized Tidal Basins, with concentrations of 97 ppb and 819 ppb for TP and TN, respectively. Each of the remaining source basins, except the C-44 Canal Basin, exhibited a slight improvement in nutrient levels compared to their base periods, however, collectively these WY2017 loads did not achieve the alternative BMAP Phase 1 load target (Figures ES-1 and ES-2). The C-23 and Tidal Basins met the alternative BMAP Phase 1 target for TP, while the C-23, C-24 and Tidal Basins met the alternative BMAP Phase 1 target for TN. The predominantly agricultural C-44 Canal Basin exhibited poor nutrient conditions, and in fact, continued a trend of deteriorating nutrient conditions compared to its 1996-2005 base period. As a whole, the water quality entering the SLRE remains poor, although a slight improvement over the 1996-2005 period was observed.
TCPalm’s Elliott Jones reported this morning that Stuart has received a whopping 11.30 inches of rain just so far this month! (The average being 7.14.)
Although due to the recent drought, the ACOE/SFWMD are not dumping Lake Okeechobee through Canal C-44, canals C-23, C-24, C-25, and areas along C-44, as well as our own basin, are draining right into the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon. Very little of this water is cleansed before it enters and thus is damaging to the eco system. Next time you see water draining through a grate in a parking lot, think about this. Remember too that before the major canals were constructed the 1900s, the river received less than half the water it gets every time it rains today.
The aerials below were taken 6-13-17 by my husband Ed Lippisch and pilot Dave Stone. It is important to monitor the river all of the time so we can view changes.
“Rain stained” we are; please remember not to fertilize during the rainy season. The birds on Bird Island will appreciate it! (http://befloridian.org)
Canals draining water into SLR/IRL after rain events:
Happy 17th Birthday to Chase! If you don’t already know him, Chase is one of Stuart’s leading sports fishermen, in any age category. This photo is of a recent catch of my favorite fish, the beautiful and unforgettable, “Silver King Tarpon.”
Since Chase was thirteen years old, when we ran into each other, he would share photos of his fishing expeditions. I always stood there, mouth wide open…”Are you kidding me?” I would ask. He would just smile with his wide, blue eyes saying it all:” THIS IS NO FISH STORY…
In 2015, Chase and I, together with many others tried to save a pigmy whale that had beached at Stuart. Chase loves the outdoors and has respect for all of the water’s creatures.
Yesterday, in Jensen, I ran into Chase celebrating his 17th birthday with family and friends.
Perhaps it is his mother’s wonderful name, “Cobia,” that inspires her son! 🙂
If you are a reader of my blog you know, the ancient, acrobatic, and historic tarpon is my favorite fish as it was the original sports fish of the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon, until its numbers were destroyed by canals, C-44, C-23, C-25 and C-25. Had these canals not been allowed to decimate our river, Tarpon would still be King, not the famous off-shore Sailfish….
Thank you Chase for sharing and inspiring us all! We know you have a great future ahead of you!!!! I can’t wait ’til you have your own show!!!!!!
My husband’s flight yesterday over the Atlantic Ocean, St Lucie Inlet, and St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon is beautiful. But look carefully and you will see a light-colored brownish plume at the mouth of the St Luice Inlet entering the ocean. Finally after months of drought, it has begun raining. And when it rains… (mind you C-44 connecting the St Lucie River to Lake Okeechobee is closed now) the re-directed run-off of waters from canals C-23, and C-24 of course still flow into our St Luice River/Indian River Lagoon.
These canals organized and built during the 1950s and 60s are part of the Central and South Florida Flood Project that the Army Corp built following the hurricane and extensive south Florida flooding of 1949. The run-off waters from these canals and the local watershed are what you see in today’s video.
As damaging as C-23 and C-24 are (they too must be reworked and redirected) they are not the damaging discharges from Lake Okeechobee that throw the St Lucie over the brink as in 2013 and especially 2016 when toxic algae covered extensive portions of the entire St Lucie.
Rio, St Lucie River, Jeff Tucker, toxic algae
Shoreline of Sewall’s Point, Tracy Barnes 6-25-16
(Photo mosaic from 2016 shows various photos by Dr Scott Kuhns, Rebecca Fatzinger, (wildlife) JTL/Ed Lippisch, pilot Dave Stone and others.)
In spite of the light brown plume, the short video flight from Jensen to Peck’s Lake shows blue waters near the inlet and mouth of the estuary as it should be, not black water. If Governor Scott does not veto the budget, the reservoir in years to come will help offset the Lake Okeechobee destruction and open the way to truly “send the water south.” #ThankyouJoeNegron
This is very exciting, but believe me, this is no time to let down your guard, as the fight for control of Florida’s waters has really just begun.
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.
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.
As many of us have read in Ed Killer’ excellent TCPalm article, the discharges from Lake Okeechobee have surpassed the level of 2013, the “Lost Summer.” As my husband Ed and I go up fairly regularly in the Cub, I will attempt to share shorter more frequent posts with more aerial photos of the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon in order to document this year’s continued destruction.
This destruction is not expected to stop anytime soon as Lake Okeechobee yesterday was reported at 14.77–very high for hurricane season. Last year, on 6-10-15, the lake stood at a “comfortable” 12.58. As we know, the entire reason we are being dumped on is because the water cannot go south as Mother Nature intended.
The photos below were taken 6-15-16. The ACOE has been releasing since January 29th, 2016. Today is June 17th, 2016. All charts below showing basin water inputs of area agricultural canals and tidal runoff are courtesy of the South Florida Water Management District and Army Corp of Engineers’ Periodic Scientists Call.
Aerial photos taken by Ed Lippisch at the confluence of the St Lucie River and Indian River Lagoon around Sewall’s Point, Sailfish Point, Manatee Pocket and St Lucie Inlet 6-15-16, formerly the richest seagrass beds in the county as well as North America.
It’s easier to communicate your message when you have billions of dollars, but it is not a limiting factor if you don’t…
Today, I will share a “Draft Report” from Dr Gary Goforth. This report is a response he has created specifically to U.S. Sugar Corporation’s May 1st full- page ad in the Stuart News entitled: “The Water That Ends Up In Our Local Waterways.”
This is one of multiple full-page ads U.S. Sugar Corporation has run in the local Martin County paper over that past months trying to “educate” our citizenry. Why are they spending so much money doing this? Why all the propaganda? Because they know that though our advocacy for the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon, we are changing the course of human events. For the first time, many people and some important politicians and are looking at South Florida and saying “It needs to be re-plumbed…..”
Dr Goforth (http://garygoforth.net) is no stranger to these water issues, nor to the controversy and ability to manipulate the numbers complicated by the historic and supportive relationship between those doing business in the Everglades Agricultural Area south of the lake and today’s South Florida Water Management District. Thus the intertwined propaganda.
So here we go, each idea is presented on a separate slide. You can click the slide to enlarge if you need to. Thank you Dr Goforth!
Today, I was looking though my family library of photos and saw one from 2005, the year Ed and I got married.
“Boy we looked young,” I thought…”We have really changed…”
Then I noticed these SFWMD nutrient loading maps in the same file, as they were “published” in 2005 as well. These awesome maps were shared by SFWMD’s Boyd Gunsalus, such a helpful and smart person when it comes to water.
These SFWMD maps were very helpful to me when I was first learning about phosphorous and nitrogen loading by basins and Lake Okeechobee. The lake’s cumulative pollution is even higher than the different canals/basins. I would bet these numbers have not changed much. The state’s approach with BMAPS and TMDL’s is to be appreciated but just too slow.
Well, Ed and I have clearly aged and changed… but the maps–I bet if they made new ones for 2005-2016, the numbers would look about the same. I can’t say I’m envious. We are meant to change. To get better.
Maybe a scientist will chime in and let me know???
Today’s blog is a full expansion of the 1925 aerial photo I wrote about last Friday.
My brother Todd took this photo creating a time line flight of 1925 and 1940 views of the Sailfish Flats, the Indian and St. Lucie Rivers, and the St. Lucie Canal (C-44).
Todd’s video is a history lesson in “dredge and fill” which was very common throughout all south Florida and the United States until national laws in the 1970s required more scrutiny and often no longer allow such due to heavy impacts and damages on waterways and the natural environment.
Our Martin and St Lucie County canals dug by the ACOE and water management entities C-44, C-23, C-24, C-25 are dredge and fill. Sailfish Point, Sewall’s Point, and Indian River Plantation, just to name a few, have large portions that are dredge and fill. The dike around Lake Okeechobee and the work abound the FPL plant in Indiantown by Barley Barber Swamp are dredge and fill. At the time, it was “how it was done.” People did not foresee the ramifications to the environment or to people living in these areas in the future.
The land was our Play Doh…
I know you will learn a lot and enjoy watching Todd’s video. The link is above.
—My questions to Todd after I saw the video included:
Jacqui: “So Todd, what are the white lines on the edge of Stuart, Rocky Point etc…more piled white sand? Looks like Jupiter Island was smaller at one point…across from Sailfish…
So how in the world did they dig out the Sailfish Point Marina and what about the straight marina of Sailfish Point that was already there from the days of Mr Rand? Also what about the FPL Pond in Indiantown? Where do you think they put that fill? Holy cow! That’s a lot of fill!
(I have adapted Todd’s words after checking concepts with him so I could present info in a simple manner.)
Todd: “The lines on the edge of Rocky Point were probably a beachy shoreline. With it being more open water at the time and more exposed to the inlet; I’m sure there was more of a beach there. That shoreline matches perfectly the shoreline shown on the early NOAA maps – even before the inlet was there.
With respect to Jupiter Island, you are probably referring to all the spoil that was piled up at the entrance to the Great Pocket – some of that was put there when I was in middle school. The main part of Jupiter Island is more to the east and is now gone – and earlier connected to Hutchinson Island. The old Gilbert’s Bar Inlet was south of that point.
The marina on Sailfish Point was dredge fill. We have some aerials of it in the making. As was the case in areas of Sewall’s Point, the sand dug to build small marinas or subdivisions was piled on the land (Archipelago, Isle Addition) to make the land higher or to create completely new lands.
As far as the giant FPL pond, they probably just dug with a dragline and used the fill to make the dike around the outside of the pond and also to build up the land around FPL.”
So we live in an environment altered by our forefathers, and now we are experiencing unintended consequences to the health of our St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon. We must assist the next generation in understanding the past so that we and they can create a better water future. And that we can!
Official seals are as ancient as Mesopotamia. Whether ancient or modern, seals symbolize what is important to us and how we see ourselves. Throughout history, seals are often recreated to represent new perceptions and values. All seals, of every era, hold great historic importance. Let’s take a look at the seals of Martin County, Florida, and its surrounding municipalities.
Recently my mother, historian Sandra Henderson Thurlow, gave a presentation at Indian River State College. I was intrigued by the early seal of Stuart and its changes throughout the years.
I was also struck that the St Lucie River, the original reason people moved to our area, was removed in favor of the sailfish and ocean sometime in the 1970s or 80s. I was also struck that the Railroad was so prominent, and today we are fighting it. —-Today the prominent symbol is a sailfish. A sailfish is certainly a wonderful and attractive symbol, however, it seems repetitive in that both Martin County and the City of Stuart use the sailfish. View both seals below.
Let’ s reflect. Stuart became the sailfish capital of the world in the 1930s and 40s, very cool, but Stuart was originally named “Stuart on the St Lucie ” for the river….Stuart became a city if 1914; Martin became a county in 1925.
In any case, how much do we promote sports fishing since it is the symbol of both the city and the county? The sports fishing industry a huge money-maker and is directly related to the health of the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon. If the river is sick, and the polluted canal plume waters from C-23, C-24, C-25, C-44 and Lake Okeechobee are belching off our inlet, it is more difficult for the sailfish to have a successful spawning season.
Why isn’t the river at all represented anymore?
It’s all tied together— the river and the inlet ocean area…partially due to the degradation of our waterways we are really no longer truly the “Sailfish Capital of the World.” How can we become the sailfish capital of the world again?
How can we honor our sailfish history and have an eye for a better water future? Is it time for updated seals? Should Stuart and Marin County both be sailfish? What do you think? I suppose the most important questions are: “What is most important to us today, and what do we really stand for?”
Here are some other seals of Martin County’s incorporated cities and towns:
Today I will be sharing aerial photos of the recent plume along Jupiter Island south of the St Lucie Inlet, taken this past Saturday, October 10th at 9:34 am. These photos are courtesy of friend Mr. Cam Collins. My husband, Ed, took Cam up in an acrobatic plane, the Extra 300, a plane I have not flown in yet. Doing “Half-Cubans” and “Loops” over the Atlantic Ocean is not my favorite way to see the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon….
Typically I am sharing photographs taken in the Legend Cub, an open aircraft; most photos are taken at around 500 feet. Cam’s photos are taken at about 1000-1500 feet, thus there is a much broader perspective. The effect is powerful.
I was surprised to see the giant plume considering the major rain event from tropical activity occurred on September 17th, 2015, over three weeks ago. Out of curiosity, I went back and looked at the ACOE Periodic Scientists Call information to review what the release numbers from C-44, C-23, C-24, the Tidal Basin, and Ten Mile Creek have been. No Lake Okeechobee so far. This is what I found:
8-25-15/8-31-15 was reported at 1985 cfs (cubic feet per second)
9-8-15/ to 9-14-15 was reported at 2108 cfs
9-15-15/9-21-15 was reported at 5877 cfs (rain event)
So I wonder how long it takes the discharge water to travel through the St Lucie River/Southern Indian River Lagoon and out of the St Lucie Inlet? September 17th’s rain event was three weeks ago? It seems that water would have passed through by now…..what water is the water in Cam’s photographs? Is October’s plume September’s water? If you have an idea, please write in.
——In any case, thank you Cam and thank you Ed. We will continue to document the discharges, Lake O or otherwise, that are killing our St Lucie River and Indian River Lagoon.
The words of Ernest F. Lyons, famed fisherman, environmentalist, and veteran editor of the Stuart News, can be used over, and over, and over again…
Lyons grew up in Stuart in the early 1900s and witnesses first hand the destruction of his beloved St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon. In the 1940s and 50s, for “flood control” and EAA interests, he watched St Lucie Locks and Dam, C-44, and S-80 be “improved,” by the ACOE and SFWMD—-destroying fishing grounds that will never be replaced…He witnessed canals C-23, C-24 and C-25 be constructed to scar the land and pour poisonous sediment from orange groves and development into the North Fork and central estuary.
But even amongst this destruction, Lyons never stopped seeing the miracle of the world around him. And no where did life continue to be more miraculous than along his beloved river.
This week so far, I have written about things that bring light to the destruction of our rivers, I must not forget that in spite of this destruction, beauty and life still exist….To do our work as advocates for the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon we cannot become negative, we must be inspired….one of the best ways to achieve this is to recall the work and words of our forefathers….to “recycle inspiration.”
Although Ernie Lyon’s work was first read on the pages of the Stuart News, my mother historian Sandra Henderson Thurlow, has clipped old pages, been in touch with Ernie’s children, and transcribed many of Lyon’s columns as part of the work of Stuart Heritage. Stuart Heritage helps keeps our rich “river-heritage” alive. After all, our founding name was “Stuart on the St Lucie.”
“What a Wonderful World”
I get an indescribable “lift” from the habit of appreciating life.
All of us, even the most harried, have moments when we are fleetingly aware of the glory that surrounds us. Like moles that occasionally break throughout their tunnels, we infrequently catch a glimpse of the natural beauty and awesome majesty outside the corridor within which we have bound ourselves.
And pop back into our holes!
The habit of appreciation—–the cultivation of the sense of awareness—are forgotten roads to enrichment of personal experience. Not money in the bank, or real estate, or houses, or the exercise of power are true riches. By the true tally, the only value is “how much do you enjoy life?”
All around each of us are the wonders of creation—the shining sun, a living star bathing us with the magic mystery of light…we look to the heavens at night and wonder at the glittering panoply of suns so distant and so strange, while accepting as commonplace our own.
We live in a world of indescribable wonder. Words cannot tell why beauty is beautiful, our senses must perceive what makes it so.
What we call art, literature, genuine poetry, and true religion are the products of awareness, seeing and feeling the magic which lies beyond the mole-tunnel view.
One man, in his mole-tunnel, says he is inconsequential, a slave to his job, of dust and to dust going. Another, poking his head our into the light, realizes that he is a miraculous as any engine, with eyes to see, a mind which to think, a spirit whose wings know no limitations.
The mole-man is bound to a commonplace earth and a commonplace life. He lives among God’s wonders without ever seeing them. But those who make a habit of appreciation find wonder in every moment, and every day, by the sense of participation in a miracle.
They see the glory of the flowers, the shapes and colors of trees and grass, the grace of tigers and serpents, the stories of selfishness or selflessness that are written on the faces men and women. They feel the wind upon their faces and the immeasurable majesty of distances in sky and sea.
And in those things there is the only true value. This a wonderful world. Take time to see it. You’re cheat yourself unless you appreciate it.—–E.L.
Ernest F. Lyons: (http://www.flpress.com/node/63)
“From 7 a.m. Wednesday to 7 a.m. Thursday, the heaviest rainfall was reported at the Savannas Preserve State Park in southeastern St. Lucie County, with 7.67 inches. Next highest in 24-hour rainfall, according to the Weather Service, was 6.87 inches at Hobe Sound.” —-from article y Elliot Jones, TCPalm, 9-17-15
Today I will share aerial photos of the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon taken by my husband, Ed, on 9-23-15. I asked Ed to document the after effects of the tremendous rainfall event in the region from September 16th through the 17th, 2015. After reviewing his photos, the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon has dark waters, this is evident, but first, let’s set some things straight….
We hear a lot about “local runoff,” however, it is becoming more and more understood, there is no such thing as “local runoff” for the St Lucie River/IRL…. The canals that dump into the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon are regional canals that have been “plumbed” over the past 100 years to drain and dump waters off the lands from as far away as western Martin County, Okeechobee County, and even what used to be the north flowing waters of the St Johns River in Indian River County! Then when things are really bad, since the water can’t flow south, “they” dump the overflow waters of Lake Okeechobee into the St Lucie River to boot.
The poor St Lucie River is inundated with “everyone’s water” not just “its own.”
It is critical that we study and understand what happens in our area after a huge rain, with or without the “extra-extra killing waters of Lake Okeechobee.” Why? Because maybe, just maybe, if the SFWMD, ACOE, as well as state and federal politicians will see how much the river is already suffering, they will do all they can, “not to kill it more.”
So here are Ed’s photos, taken one week after the rain event. It takes the water coming in through the canals some time to move through the St Lucie River; I imagine a lot had already exited the St Lucie Inlet. The 23rd was the soonest Ed could “get up in the air.”
I am thankful to my husband, as for me going up in that plane? It is really amazing to be flying, but also very stressful. Somehow to me it seems God only meant for birds to fly….
At least with the Cub, I feel like if something ever happened, over the ocean anyway…. we could just jump out!
When I was a kid growing up in Indialucie, named so as it is located between the Indian River Lagoon and the St Lucie River….it flooded a lot. We kids loved it. We would play and play! Just like kids did in the Town of Sewall’s Point when it rained so hard the past couple of days. I was told yesterday by Pam Hopkins, water quality specialist, at Florida Oceanographic that their gauge showed 8.5 inches!
Rain is not the problem. It’s the drainage…
Florida was drained so agriculture and development could flourish. But we have literally outgrown the plumbing system of the 1920, 30s, 40, 50, 60, and 70s….we must begin to think anew.
Rain events like the past couple of days allow us to clearly see the problem and to be creative in thinking about solutions. —-One thing is clear, when Lake Okeechobee’s water is added on top of such events, “not only are we flooded, but we are drowning.”
Whether it is the overflow waters of Lake Okeechobee, runoff from area canals, or “local flood waters,” such experiences highlight the need for storage, as fresh water is a resource and should not be wasted.
I have used the basin/canal map a lot recently as it applies to just about everything. Here you can see the drainage system draining the lands into the SRL/IRL; of course there is other local infrastructure drainage such as street “gutters,” drains, and underground piping that do not show up on this map. In any case, the goal is to “get the water off the land as soon as possible” and drain it to the lowest point, the river……
Well that has got to change.
BELOW, HUTCHINSON ISLAND, FLORIDA OCEANOGRAPHIC AREA/PUBLIX
To get the current conditions of drainage from canals around Lake O excluding C-23, C-24, and C-25 see this ACOE link; also the drainage from around the coastal area like Stuart, Sewall’s Point etc…is not shown here but estimated in other models.
Current Conditions report ACOE drainage: (http://w3.saj.usace.army.mil/h2o/reports/StatusDaily_files/slide0178.htm)
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.”
Today’s blog was inspired by a question on Facebook by beloved Stuart News reporter, Mr Ed Killer.
Yesterday in my blog post, I wrote that I would be going to Apalachicola this week with the UF Natural Resources Leadership Institute. “Ed” commented and this is what he said:
“Tcpalm Ekiller: I want you to think of something while in Apalachicola Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch : That industry is about a $2 mill /yr industry statewide, with most of that impact in that area. While it stinks for the oyster men that lack of water is a problem, we haven’t been allowed to eat an oyster from our estuary since the 1970s because the DEP downgraded the health of our water to class D. We have (FOS & a few other groups) have added more than $2 million in oyster shell projects to the St. Lucie River to help clean our water knowing we can never harvest the oysters.” Ed Killer
This got me thinking, and I thought, “Yeah, what really did happen to our St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon oysters and what is their history? In fact, if I think about it, we are surrounded by mounds of ancient oysters, “Indian mounds” that attest to how plentiful they used to be…
Did you know?
Mt Elizabeth, better known today as “Tuckahoe,” at Indian Riverside Park, is said to stands around 40 feet tall. It is a shell mound built up over thousands of years. It consists of oyster shells and some clam shells that come from the Indian River Lagoon region. You can still see the ancient oysters in the dirt under the modern landscaping today.
The native people of our area did not have to hunt game full-time or at all as they had all they needed from the riches of the estuary. In those days the natural inlets opened and closed on their own as they broke through “Hutchinson Island.” Oysters would have been more plentiful when the inlets broke through as they live in brackish waters.
*Note that the first 1882 chart describes Mt. Elizabeth (Tuckahoe) as located at what is now the top of Skyline Drive (Mt Washington) at the location of Jensen Beach Community Church. The 1883 (lettered 1888) map locates Mt. Elizabeth at what is now Indian Riverside Park at the Tuckahoe Mansion. This can be confusing.
Front page of Todd’s video showing a historic view of seeing Mt Elizabeth from the Shoal off shore in the ocean. Some early sailors mixed up Mt Elizabeth (Tuckahoe with Mt Washington (Sky Line Drive).
So what about after the Native Americans? I remember my mother telling me stories of pioneer accounts, after the St Lucie Inlet was opened permanently in 1892, of people eating oysters “as big as a man’s hand.” One a meal in itself!
Obviously the oysters would grow most plentiful by the inlets, like near Sewall’s Point and today’s Hutchinson Island.
So yesterday I wrote my historian mother, “Mom, do you have any information on oysters in IRL?
And she sent a fabulous historic survey, an old post card from Sewall’s Point, and account from the House of Refuge. Basically at that time too, a lot depended upon the inlets. I am including a lot of information, and more than likely “just a read for the history hardcore,” but you’ll get the idea.
But then the decline….
—it began in the 1920s with C-44 and the connection to Lake Okeechobee and then was exacerbated by C-23, C-24 and C-25. “Canals of Death…”We over drained the land, we built houses and scraped the wetlands for agriculture fields….we threw poison and fertilizer on the lands so things would grow and pests would go away…slowly, ever so slowly it drained back into the rivers….For a time, we “flourished,” but it has caught up to us, and our rivers are dying, as Ed Killer said in we’ve been “downgraded to a Class D.” Oysters can’t live in that…
May we bind together and turn things around because no one is going to do it but us. Nature, just like people can heal. We just have to give her a chance.
I. An 1898 excerpt from a magazine of the day about oyster stew made right at the house of Refuge...shared by Sandra Thurlow.
by John Danforth
Excerpted from “Florida Sport” an article in Shooting and Fishing
December 15, 1898
I have decided on one which happened in 1898 in Dade County, Florida. My wife and myself, in company with Ben Crafts, were living on board a twenty-five foot cabin sloop, which had all the conveniences of a shore camp. We cruised on the Indian River, but most of the time we spent on the St. Lucie River and its tributaries.
Our sloop was built by the Bessey brothers especially for cruising the in Florida waters. The Bessey brothers are educated gentlemen, who have modeled and built nearly all the sailing craft owned by the Gilbert’s Bar Yacht Club, and in our sloop they seemed to get as near perfection as one could ask. We had plenty of room for cooking, eating, sleeping and to carry fresh water, provisions, and tackle of all kinds. We had an outfit, so we could leave the sloop anchored, with the cabin locked, and go for a cruise in the woods for days. My object in securing such a boat was not for catching and killing all we could find, but to better support myself and family by becoming a guide for gentlemen who visit Florida for sport.
At the time of which I write the Caribou (our sloop) lay at anchor about a half mile off the mouth of Hup-pee creek in the full moon of June. I had planned to be on the ocean beach at night to welcome the big turtles which come there to deposit their eggs in the sand where they hatch. When their work is done they disappear and are not seen again until the next year at about the same time. From where we lay at anchor to the U. S. Government house of refuge was eight miles across the Indian River. At the house of refuge it was only a stone’s throw from the Indian River to the Atlantic Ocean. The wide sand beach extended north and south as far as the eye could reach was a good place for turtles to come.
We hoisted the mainsail, then the anchor, and as the Caribou moved out Ben set the jib. With the stiff breeze that was blowing we were soon bowling along at lively speed, and it was only a short time when I called Ben to let go the jib. We hove to just off the house of refuge, took in the mainsail, let go the anchor, and soon had things snug for the night. Ben shelled oysters, my wife lighted the gasoline stove, and in a short time we had an oyster stew that was what Ben called “real filling.”
II. 1883 Historic survey as shared by Sandra Thurlow, compliments of surveyor Chappy Young.
S. Coast and Geodetic Survey
E. Hilgard, Superintendent
Topographical Sheet No. 1652
Locality: South End of Indian River
1883 Chief of Party:
S. Coast and Geodetic Survey Office
Washington, Feb. 7th, 1883
Plane Table Sheet No. 1652 Scale 1/20,000
East Coast of Florida Indian River
From Eden Post Office or Richards Southward to Pecks Lake, and including St. Lucie River
Surveyed by E. L. Taney Aid USC&GS in 1882-83, B. A. Colonna Asst. C&GS. Chief of Party
S. Coast and Geodetic Survey
E. Hilgard, Superintendent
On the west Shore of Indian River the ground rises eighty feet above the level of the ordinary height of water in Indian River the higher ridges give quite a pretty land fall when seen four or five miles off shore quite overtopping the land and forest between Indian River and the ocean. On the east shore of Indian River and between it and the ocean the mangrove swamp is about on a level with the water in the River at ordinary stages and near the beach is from 3 to 15 feet above ocean high tide. I had a signal scaffold 45 feet high on top of a hill 82 feet high on the West Side of Indian River (Blue Hill?) from this scaffold I had a fine view of the county to the westward which consisted of numerous parallel ridge of sand with intervening saw-grass ponds the major axis of all of which extended in a northerly & southerly direction. Cattle-men that I met at the St. Lucie P. O. informed me that it was a succession of these ridges back to Okeechobee and that the old government wagon road which ran north and south and was back about 4 to 12 miles from the river was still passable and ran for the most of the distance along such ridges. Nearly all of this country rest on a foundation of marine conglomerate called Cochina [coquina] which is at various depths but occasionally crops out rising from 3 to 5 feet above mean ocean tides. This cochina differs very much in structure from that of Beaufort N. C. and other places north of here, large shells are seldom found in it and some of it presents the appearance of course white or yellow sand stone. When burned it makes a fairly good shell lime and when wet can be readily cut into building blocks with an axe. The sand of which the soil is almost exclusively formed is white or yellowish, it underlies all of the streams, saw-grass ponds, mangrove swamps & two or three feet generally bringings (?) the white sand even in mangrove and other swamps. It is impracticable to dike any of the low grounds because the water on a rise would come in from the bottom. — Whenever pine is indicated there will be found a growth of underbrush of various kinds and ranging in height from 1 to 10 feet. The pine timber itself is of little or no value being of stunted growth and the underbrush is scrub oak, whorttlebun (?), low saw-palmetto etc. etc. Where hard wood is depicted, except the mangrove swamps, the land is always best for cultivation, such hard wood land is called “Hammock-land by the natives and seems to owe its fertility to the fact that cochina lies near the surface and like an impermeable clay holds those chemicals that are gathered from the decaying vegetation, among the trees growing in these hammocks are those locally known as Palmettos, Mastics, Rubber trees, Live Oaks, Iron wood trees, the Crabwood trees and a great variety of others. There are various course grasses growing along the Ocean shore, and several varieties of running cactus, prickly pear in se and mixed in every when, a decided feature on the level sand wastes and elsewhere along the ocean side and occasionally west of the Indian River is the Scrub palmetto, a species of palm that although it has a trunk from 4 to 8 inches in diameter and from 3 to 20 feet in length runs along the ground like a vine and among them progress is very difficult for their trunks cross each other in mast confusion and their leaves are just about 5 feet high and have sharp edges. On the west side of the river among the pines and in the lands along the edges of the saw grass ponds there was nice tender grasses on which deer feed, and I never ate more delicious venison than here. The Indians of whom there are 3 or 400 back in the Glades, remnants of the Seminoles, always burn off the underbrush as much as they can about January or February. The saw grass ponds to which I have alluded are of fresh water generally very shallow and cut up by narrow sloughs or streams, these streams are seldom over 4 feet deep and have hard sandy bottoms on which various water grasses grow. The sawgrass itself has generally in the dry season only 3 or 4 inches of water about its roots but in the wet season the water rises 2 or three feet, the blades of this grass are from 3 to 10 feet long, about an inch wide and their edges are serrated, touch and very sharp. They rapidly cut out the clothing. If there is any hotter place than one of these saw grass ponds when the sun shines down and the myriads of mosquitoes swarm in our face stinging by tens and twenties, I hope it is not on top of the earth. Wherever these saw grass ponds run parallel to the River and within a mile or so of it excellent water can be had had by setting a flour barrel at the river side along the foot of the bluff. But on the east side of Indian River and between it and the Ocean good water is unknown for when fresh it is so strongly impregnated with lime that it is far from wholesome. —The mangroves grow to a greater height here than elsewhere within my experience. The natives divide it into two varieties, the Black and the red. I had the black mangrove cut down from one of the lines of sight that measured 85 feet from roots to top. When season[ed] the mangrove wood looks much like mahogany and is very hard, it takes a high polish. When burned the ashes are very strong in potash, a fact that may prove of value some of these days because the trees are so assessable. The old Gilbert’s Bar entrance, now closed, is shown on this sheet. Whenever the salt and fresh waters meet the mangrove flourishes and such has been the case at Gilbert’s Bar. Once fine oysters grew there and all kinds of fish belonging in these waters were abundant but since the inlet closed the oysters have died and the fish are gone except a few bass and catfish. Just outside however and along the old Gilbert’s Bar (Cochina Reef) there are lots of them Barracuda, Pompano, Bluefish, Cavallies, Green Turtle, Mullet, Sea Bass and a beautiful fish much resembling our Spanish mackerel but having more beautiful colors and very game. Trolling them I have seen them take the hook and bound 5 to 10 feet clear of the water. I had thought the blue-fish game and the taking of it fine sport but one of these beauties far exceeds any thing I ever saw for punk rapidity of motion and beauty of form and color. From October to April the climate is delightful and Indian River is the boatman’s paradise, from May to Sept. the heat although seldom above 85˚ and the mosquitoes and other insets are very troublesome. In all of the waters represented on this sheet eelgrass grows luxuriantly and it is the favorite food and principal feeding ground of the manatee. I have seen a heard of ten feeding in the St. Lucie at one time, they go to bottom, eat, rise, blow the water in a spray from their nostrils and in a few seconds they sink again. Like other grazing animals they feed early in the morning and late after-noon principally. They are very careful of their young and I never saw one turn to flee until the calf was well started. There are a great number of Coots in these waters in the fall & winter and a few ducks. In the woods there are quail, or partridge, and wild turkeys. Very many small birds of various colors migrate from these shores to the Bahama Ids., every winter returning about the first of May. The country in 1880 had but one settlement, it now has several and the tide of immigration seems to be setting towards it. Settlers have located up the St. Lucie near the forks and they are prospecting in every direction. The influences of ocean tides are not felt within the limits of this sheet in the Indian River. During rainy season the water rises one or two feet higher than in the dry season and at all times the prevailing wind exercises great influence— A Northern making high water, a South Easter or S. Wester— making low water. The mean rise and fall of the ocean tide is about 1.8 foot and the prevailing current along the coast is to the Southward. The edge of the Gulf Stream is only 2 or 3 miles off shore and an easterly wind throws it much nearer in-shore the prevailing Southerly current is supposed to be the eddy from the Gulf Stream. The limit of this sheet marks what is probably the northern limit of the successful growth of the Cooco Nut Palm, Oranges, Pineapple, Bananas and sugar cane flourish. The tomato and other vegetables ripen in April, Sweet Potatoes grow the year round and I have eaten from one which I was informed was of two years growth. There was not a horse, an ox, a mule within the limits of this sheet, broken to harness in 1882-3.
House of Refuge No. 2 was the best dwelling within the limits of the sheet and Doctor Baker; was the only place that look[ed] like a home. The Rattle Snake and the largest I have ever seen being from 6 to 7 feet long but they are not very numerous, Alligators are no longer numerous and they have learned to be very shy. Raccoons and opossums are so thick that it is difficult to raise domestic fowls. The wild cats from about 4 ft. 6 ins. from tip to tip when extended, Black Bears come to the beach every year from about the 1st of June and comb it for turtle eggs. When they arrive they are nice and fat and are very good eating but after running (?) up and down the beach so much they get very thin. We were told that a bear could be seen almost any night and once we went over and got one but the mosquitoes were so bad that we did not try it again.
The prettiest land on this sheet is the peninsula laying between the St. Lucie River and the Indian River from Mt. Pleasant South to the point. It is high hammock land, with coquina, foundation and covered by a heavy growth of hard wood and underbrush with now and then a pine. This country had quite a population in it once, just before the Seminole outbreak, and for a time after it, the settlers had oranges, lemons and limes, some of the old trees are still to be found in the vicinity of Eden P. O. and the limes are very fine but the oranges are bitter and the lemons not bearing.
Asst. U. S. G & C. S.
Chief of Party
On Wednesday, my husband Ed and I sat down for dinner. “Did you see my photos of the river? He asked.
“No, I’m sorry, I haven’t looked at them yet…”
“They are pretty dramatic,” he replied, taking a swig of his Lagunitas.
I didn’t think much more about it, but later that evening, when I reviewed his shots, I understood.
Today I will share Ed’s recent photos of the Indian River Lagoon and St Lucie River that he took on Wednesday, September 2nd between 11:30AM-1PM. The first set of photos are from the Ft Pierce area around Taylor Creek where canal C-25 dumps into the IRL near Ft Pierce Inlet. C-25’s discharge can also be from C-24 or C-23 as they are all connected and can be manipulated to flow in different ways by the South Florida Water Management District. C-25, C-24 and C-23 ARE NOT connected to Lake Okeechobee. These photos are just showing rain runoff and all that is carried along with it and brought in by rising ground waters.
I believe there have been recent improvements made at Taylor Creek (C-25), but perhaps there should be more as the outflow still looks like an oil spill. A cocktail of agriculture, development, residential, and road runoff….a “river of death…”
Once a reader wrote me saying,” Jacqui I like your blog but when it rains anywhere in the world there are these freshwater plumes….you are being misleading….”
I nicely replied. “I agree there are freshwater plumes all over the world, but