My husband Ed took these aerials yesterday March 4, 2023 around 11am. He described it as a “mid tide” between high and low. Also swinging by Port Mayaca, at Lake Okeechobee, this time there was no visible algae.
Following Ed’s aerials I am including those of Dr. Scott Kuhns whose photographs taken on February 27, 2023 around 10am showing streaks of algae caused the ACOE to close gate S-308 at Port Mayaca for about 2 1/2 days. Kudos to Dr Kuhns! And thank you to the ACOE for closing!
So the pictures directly below are Ed’s 3-4-23 and those following are Scott’s 2-27-23. We will continue to document the discharges with hopes they will be halted. We all agree that St Lucie River suffers under the discharges. She was taking water to avoid algae in summer. No one thought algae sightings would begin so early in February, but they have. With this discovery, it is time to 🛑 stop! Cyanobacteria is impossible to 100% track and understand. It is too ancient and will outsmart us every time. Close the locks.
The St Lucie Canal, also known as, the C-44 Canal, is the property of the U.S. Government. Martin County public records show that in the early 1930s, as a result of the 1928 hurricane, the right of way of the Everglades Drainage District was taken as part of the Okeechobee Waterway.
The U.S. Army Corp of Engineers holds jurisdiction and decision making over the canal and the water that flows through it from basins and Lake Okeechobee. Since the great flood of 1947 and the creation of the Central and Southern Florida Plan, there has been a “local partner” in decision making. That partner today is named the South Florida Water Management District, formerly the Everglades Drainage District…
In a modern world, every week, there are conditions calls regarding Lake Okeechobee and the environmental envelope, etc. As in all things, these calls start with the “higher ups” and then end with a public call. The public call is the ACOE Periodic Scientist Call. During this call, stakeholders share conditions and concerns from all over south and central Florida. Most participants are government people or elected officials, but also heads of NGOs and members of the public chime in.
The process generally works as such: after all these calls, the SFWMD, the local sponsor, puts out an operations statement or recommendation to the ACOE. All of this information is available on line, but its like trying to find a needle in hay stack.
Of course the ACOE and the SFWMD have been communicating all week. At the end of the day, because the U.S. ACOE holds jurisdiction over the C-44 Canal the ACOE is the final decision maker. More than ever, though, they are listening and even seeking public input. This is refreshing!
The ACOEs has been announcing their decision on the Jacksonville District’s media call on Friday of the week of all the other calls. This past Friday, the day after the SFWMD operations report was submitted, and all the “calls”, January 20, 2023, the ACOE held its media call, and the decision to start discharging from Lake Okeechobee was made make Col. Booth.
Going back a couple of years, Col. Kelly, at the ACOE, came up with an operations plan called a HAB DEVIATION or Harmful Algae Bloom Deviation. This was done after Governor Ron DeSantis put forth Executive Order 19-12 that did all possible to avoid harmful and toxic discharges to the northern estuaries, St Lucie and Caloosahatcee, as years 2013, 2016 and 2018 had been disasters. HAB DEVIATIONS, like all things Army Corp, is engineering-like and complicated, but goal was to allow a deviation from lake operations (LORS or LOSOM) if there was algae in the lake or it was possible there could be algae in the lake, like after a Category 4 hurricane stirs everything up and brings massive runoff…
I am not sure if what the ACOE is doing now qualifies as a technical HAB Deviation, but it is certainly in the spirit of one. Both SFWMD and ACOE have stated they are expecting a large post Ian cyanobacteria blue-green algae bloom in Lake Okeechobee this summer. High lake water in summer would set off releases so they are hopefully dodging a bullet by lowing the lake now.
Due to Hurricane Ian, a Category 4 storm, that obliterated the lower west coast of Florida, coming in just north of Sanibel Island and Ft Meyers, Lake Okeechobee has risen four feet since September 28, 2022 cresting at around 16.47 feet. Because the Herbert Hoover Dike was almost complete, the ACOE did not discharge right away. If the lake had been at the 15.50 limit as before dike completion, there would have been discharges, input or no input.
Yesterday, January 25, 2023, was the ribbon-cutting for the Herbert Hoover Dike Rehabilitation. It took eighteen years. This does not mean there is unlimited allowance of water in Lake Okeechobee, but it allows for more flexibility as will LOSOM. Sediment has been settling in the lake since September/October.
I for one, appreciate the flexibility of the ACOE. In the old world when I entered in 2008, they just followed the book and opened the gates toxic algae or no toxic algae. Now there is awareness and thought. And water quality remains the responsibility of the state. If the ACOE believe/agree a HAB deviation is necessary after a Category 4 hurricane in order to try to avoid toxic discharges in summer when the lake often cooks into a toxic soup, I am all for it. I do not want to go through those type of years again!
These charts below from my brother Todd’s eyeonlakeo.com website show how water was discharged to the St Lucie in 2016, 2018, 2021, and 2022. Although the ACOE is discharging at 500 cfs average now to the SLR, all will be done to avoid another “Lost Summer!”
2016 Lost Summer 2
2018 Lost Summer 3
2021 nice summer even with LO releases (green)
2022 great summer, no releases LO
Photos of Ed Lippisch taken on Sunday, January 22, 2022, the day the 500 cfs discharges began to the St Lucie. These photos are baseline photos to compare to the future. I takes a day or more for discharge water to reach the St Lucie Inlet. The differences in these photos is due to tide and light.
These aerial photos were taken yesterday, 2-24-19, by my husband, Ed Lippisch. The first two are of S-80, the structure at St Lucie Locks and Dam that drains water from the surrounding C-44 basin and also allows water to enter the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon from Lake Okeechobee.
On Friday, the ACOE announced it would be working up to 500 cubic feet per second to be discharged from Lake Okeechobee to the St Lucie River for possibly the next three weeks. These photos are meant as a starting point, and Ed and I will continue, weather allowing, to document the discharges. The discharge numbers can be viewed on the ACOE website but they are alway a day behind: http://w3.saj.usace.army.mil/h2o/reports.htm Website: https://www.saj.usace.army.mil
I guess one could say the St Lucie River is getting a new year’s present in that yesterday was the last scheduled release from Lake Okeechobee by the Army Corp of Engineers. The entire situation has a similar theme to an abusive relationship where the beaten thanks their oppressor for finally halting…
Due to Temporary Flight Restrictions (TFR) because of the President’s visit to Palm Beach, it was not possible to fly south along Jupiter Island from Witham Field in Stuart, however, when the wind and runway changed my husband, Ed, was able to get a few aerials at the Crossroads of the St Lucie River and Indian River Lagoon around Sewall’s Point. No seagrass, but the water already looks better.
After being decimated in 2013; part of 2015; toxic in 2016; and experiencing a no-holds-barred discharge rate since September 20, 2017, post Irma; we will continue to fight for the EAA Reservoir’s success and a better 2018 for our St Lucie River.
We shall never, never, never, give up!
Please see links to my brother Todd Thurlow’s website for St Lucie Canal Real Time Flows S-80 Cumulative 2017 and Latest Lake O Satellite Imagery
12-4-17, ca. 2:45 pm, photos: Ed Lippisch & Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch
The Army Corp of Engineers has lessened but not stopped Lake O discharges that started September 20th, 2017 just prior to Hurricane Irma. Perhaps as the discharges have gone on at such a high rate for a comparatively long time, the plume has had a chance to extend its territory. In yesterday’s photos, the dark, filthy plume is reaching clearly south beyond the exclusive Town of Jupiter Island.
Yesterday was a beautiful day, but the river and ocean waters of our entire region were ugly, possibly contaminated. How are we to enjoy our property and lives here?
When viewing the aerials below, please note the blue, sapphire-colored water just on the edge of the discharge plume. Yes, of course all estuaries put forth darkened fresh water after a rain event, and Ed and I could see this occurring just south at Jupiter Inlet. Nonetheless, the black, gigantic plume that we repeatedly endure for the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon due to discharges from Lake Okeechobee is an aberration.
Please let’s all support Joe Negron and the public’s work to build the EAA Reservoir; clean & send the water south!
Whereas, if the ACOE’s discharge waters of Lake Okeechobee were “filling up the City of Stuart,” last Thursday, October 26, these polluted waters, would have reached the top of Stuart’s iconic 134 foot water tower…
Whereas, once again, our economy and ecology is completed devastated, and high bacteria levels in the water are exacerbated therefrom….We shall remember this day…
We shall, therefore, designate, Thursday, October 26, as “Water Tower Day” and say together: “Lake O discharges have reached the top; this must STOP!”
Yes, to put the Lake Okeechobee discharges into perspective, last Thursday the cumulative 2017 ACOE/SFWMD discharges from S-80 passed 134 “Stuart Feet”. The Stuart water tower is 134 feet tall. See my brother Todd’s cumulative total page below:
– In the lost summer of 2013, Stuart/Martin County received 284 “Stuart Feet”, 2.1 times the height of the tower.
– In 2017, the gates did not open until September 5. So it took only 52 days to accumulate that same amount of discharges!
– In 2013, the discharges started on May 8 (with the exception of some small pulses earlier in the year). That year, it took 91 days to hit a cumulative “134 Stuart Feet” – on August 7.
In other words, the discharges have been almost twice the rate as they began in 2013. You can see this in the slope of my brother’s graphs in the web page above. This doesn’t really mean a lot though. In 2013 the discharges didn’t really begin to accelerate until mid-July. At that point, the rates of discharge were comparable to what we are getting now.
– At the current average of about 4200 cfs, we would hit the 2013 total of 284 Stuart feet in another 42 days (December 9). If they are saying the discharges could continue for months, this could happen. We could have another record year, even though the disaster didn’t start until September. Maybe they will throttle it back a little or start pulsing again so it won’t be the case. In any event, this is already another lost year…
(This blog post was based on writing and ideas by my brother and contributing blogger, Todd Thurlow, http://www.thurlowpa.com)
* I edited this post from “today” to “last Thursday.” An ever rising story. 🙂 JTL
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.
Todd: S-80 hit 6,727 cfs on 10/06/2004. The lake was at 17.86 and rising it peaked at 18.02 on 10/13/04.
Hurricane Jeanne had hit days earlier on Sept. 25
Jacqui: I remember that. Bad.
Todd: Also. The 4000+ right now is instantaneous. The stats you always see are a mean for the day. Right now that are piling between 1000cfs and the high 5000s. It looks like they did almost hit 6000 earlier today.
Pulsing not piling.
Jacqui: Awful. I think it stinks that unless you know how to access all the technology, you don’t know the river is getting slaughtered until the following days. A nightmare. Thanks Todd. Goodnight.
Robert Lord is President and C.E.O. of Martin Health Systems, formally known as Martin Memorial Hospital. “MHS” as it is known for short, is the long time top-employer for Martin County, and a respected and expanding health system. It has been located in Martin County for 75 years. (https://www.martinhealth.org) The origianl institution sits along the shores of the St Lucie River, near downtown Stuart and has grown into both south Stuart and St Lucie County. It is a literal “lifeblood” of our communtiy.
I have known and admired the Lord family since my childhood. Bobby Lord, Robert Lord’s father was a local celebrity in Stuart’s early days as he is a County & Western legend. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bobby_Lord )I attended both elementary and middle school, and graduated from Martin County High School in 1982 with Robert’s younger brother, Cabot.
I cannot express how much it meant to me last Thursday to see “Robby” Lord, accomplished attorney, now President and C.E.O. of Martin Health Systems, in his position of leadership and influence, speak in support for Senate President Joe Negron and Senate Bill 10. A bill intended to purchase land south of Lake Okeechobee for a reservoir to begin what must happen to save our river: “clean and send more water south.”
Having known the Lord family all these years, I have followed Rob’s career, especially as my sister, Jenny, is physician recruiter, and has served the hospital loyally for almost 20 years.
So, Bravo Rob Lord! You have created a “hometown game-change,” and as we all know, it is not easy to speak up. There are tremendous pressures to conform and accept things as they are. Over the past few years, outside powers have moved into our area influencing and blurring the lines.
I believe that Rob’s speaking out will clear the blurred lines and change the playing field forever. There is no mistaking it. Lake Okeechobee’s discharges are a health issue and must be stopped. Our state and federal government can ignore this no longer in spite of the influences of power.
Excerpt from speech:
“…Good morning, my name is Rob Lord. I am President and C.E.O of Martin Health System .. I care deeply about the impact of Lake Okeechobee discharges on the estuaries. I grew up on the Indian River Lagoon. My family moved here in 1969. I have fished these water with my father, my grandfather, and my brother and nephews and nieces. No one values this eco-system more than my family. We watched it change. As CEO of Martin Health System this has been a significant challenge for us. This past year blue-green algae came to our community. We needed to post this sign in our emergency room. We treated this very much like we needed to treat the Ebola situation….”
Dr. Steven Parr, Director of Emergency Medicine at Tradition Medical Center noted there are studies occurring now to determine whether the toxins trigger certain diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and ALS also known as Lou Gherig’s disease.
Regarding Senate Bill 10, and the recent changes made to the bill~
I thought I would just go on-line and compare the first bill to the second with its amendments…kind of like juxtaposing town ordinances between first and second reading. Well, I learned over the past week, that this is not as easy as I had anticipated. In fact, to interpret well, I think I need a lawyer, or to become one.
Nonetheless, today I have gathered information to help us understand what is/has happened with Senate Bill 10. The essence of its changes is encapsulated in these recent words by Senate President Joe Negron about the bill:
“Harmful discharges from Lake Okeechobee have flooded communities on the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee Rivers with massive amounts of toxic algae that destroyed estuaries and harmed the local and state economies. Unfortunately, incidences like these are not unique in our state and are a symptom of the lack of attention to water resource development. The lost summer must be a wakeup call for all Floridians.”
Powerful words from a Senate President. And between the lines we see that he is trying to build bridges to garner more support…as the powers that be have been repeatedly clubbing the bill over the head, in form with their outdated ideology.
So the bill has changed, it may be slightly wounded but it is still alive, and the dramatic destruction of our St Lucie/Indian River Lagoon has become the seed of change for our entire state. Wow. This is fitting as Martin County has a history of inspiring change and being a leader when it comes to the environment.
Ernest Lyons, the great “Stuart News” newspaper man, and others are in their graves smiling I am sure. He may even be smoking a cigar.
Nonetheless, we must remain the epicenter of this state-wide change…we must keep foucs.
The toxic destruction from Lake Okeechobee is a not by accident, but a rather a state and federally sponsored decision embedded in a power culture that has ruled for over one-hundred years. It is time to crack this wide open, thus even though the bill is morphing Senate Bill 10 must keep the EAA land purchase and reservoir component.
And although it has grown to include others, it still has this critical component.
The Florida Wildlife Federation states:
“Unfortunately SB10 has been substantially amended to include funding for water supply developments (pipes and pumps)…The bill changes the direction of the state’s major land acquisition programs from conservation purposes, to acquisition and improvements to land and water areas to protect, restore, and DEVELOP, water resources…These amendments are concerning…” I trust FWF’s concerns are warranted and should be looked at.
Now for the fun part! Below you can compare the two bills, it has gone from 14 to 27 pages!
The press releases following help interpret the bill’s intent. Below the Florida Senate links are two reporter’s insights that I feel are quite helpful, Isadora Rangel of TCPalm and Nancy Smith from Sunshine State News.
In closing, we must never give up because we are destined to change the long-standing culture of drainage and destruction for the St Lucie River/ Indian River Lagoon and now for the great state of Florida.
MORE PROJECTS ADDED
Bradley also added projects to garner support from lawmakers across the state. Those include:
• Creating a loan program to help government and private entities pay for water storage projects that prevent it “from being discharged to tide or otherwise lost to protect the waters of the state.” The loan would pay up to 75 percent of the project and give priority to alternative water supply in areas with limited water sources or that are threatened by salt water intrusion.
• $20 million for grants to help local governments convert septic tanks to sewer systems or remove muck in the Indian River Lagoon and the St. Lucie and Caloosahtachee rivers, as Gov. Rick Scott has proposed;
• $35 million per year for the restoration of the St. Johns River and its tributaries or the Keystone Heights Lake Region;
• $2 million annually for septic-to-sewer conversions, stormwater projects, muck removal and other water quality projects in the Florida Keys.
Sunshine State News, Nancy Smith
The Coast-to-Coast Comprehensive Water Resource Program includes the following:
— Acceleration of the timing and funding for the state share of the Everglades Agricultural Area Storage Reservoir Project. The bill authorizes the purchase of land for the project from willing sellers in the EAA and does not authorize the use of eminent domain.
— Funding of the state share of all existing Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP) projects in the integrated delivery schedule (IDS), including the Lake Okeechobee Watershed Project, the C-43 West Basin Storage Reservoir Project, the C-44 Reservoir Project, the Western Everglades Restoration Project, the C-111 South-Dade Project, and the Picayune Strand Restoration Project.
— Direction to the Army Corps of Engineers to begin the reevaluation of the Lake Okeechobee Regulation Schedule to take into account repairs to the dike and new southern storage features to increase storage in the lake as early as possible.
— A new bonding program, building on the Florida Forever model that recognizes the need to bond for water resource protection and development across Florida. The bill transfers the remaining $3.3 billion of existing bonding authority from Florida Forever to the Florida Coast-to Coast Water Resources Initiative. The bill does not create additional bonding capacity.
— A new revolving loan financing program and statutory tools to allow the state, water management districts and local governments, to develop and operate water storage and supply facilities to service regional populations addressing the growing need for water supply in the state.
— Dedicated LATF funding to expand Legacy Florida to include projects addressing water quality and restoration with the St. John’s River and the Florida Keys.
— Funding to aggressively address the retrofitting or conversion to central sewer systems of outdated septic systems consistent with Gov. Rick Scott’s leadership on this issue.
— Provisions that encourage reuse by establishing a water reuse grant program, specifically to assist wastewater treatment facilities to expand capacity to make reclaimed water available for reuse.
On May 10th, 2016 there was a knock on my front door. I was expecting somebody. Kait Parker and her team from the Weather Channel had arrived via New York to do a story on the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon.
The group was upbeat and friendly. They interviewed Ed and me in our kitchen, and later we took them up in both the Cub and the Baron to shoot footage and to get “the view.” –The aerial view of the discharges from Lake Okeechobee that had started this year on January 29th.
What really struck me about Kait was that although this Texas girl’s beauty, talent, and ambition had moved her beyond the Treasure Coast to Atlanta’s Weather Channel, (Kait had been a well-known and loved meteorologist for three years at WPTV, the West Palm Beach/Treasure Coast NBC affiliate), she had come “home” to see what the heck was going on. She, as so many others, had heard the horrible stories of destruction facing the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon.
I commend Kait for coming back to see for herself and for using her fame to share our story with others. This gesture will not be forgotten and “Toxic Lake” is already making waves! Waves of change.
Thank you Kait.
*Thank you Kait Parker,Spenser Wilking,and Andy Bowley.
My “Road Trip to the Glades” series is meant to be an experience of exploration. Exploration into a world many of us from the Coast have not seen. It is my hope that through learning about the Glades communities we can forge insights and hopefully friendships that assist us in our journey for a solution to Lake O’s discharges, Senate President Elect Joe Negron’s land purchase proposal for 2017, and a restored Everglades including a healthy St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon.
At this point, as river advocates, we must make clear that we wish to attain these things, not at the expense of the communities of Lake Okeechobee. The best way to begin this conversation is to educate and visit there ourselves, because yes, #GladesLivesMatter.
We begin first our journey driving west from Stuart on Kanner Highway, named for Judge A.O. Kanner. “A.O.” had an accomplished legal and legislative career, and in 1925 was chosen to move to Martin County by longtime friend and colleague, Governor Martin, to get newly founded Martin County “off to a good start.” A note of interest is that “Abram” and his wife Mary were one of Martin County’s few Jewish families. At the time, Jews were not allowed to buy in certain subdivisions. But thankfully Kanner was embraced by the Martin County community, and became one of its most respected citizens. He lived in Stuart until his death in 1967. As a legislator, Kanner fought for roads. State Road 76, was the result of his effort to get good roads to the Glades. It is on his legacy that we will drive forward.
Driving west about twenty miles outside of Stuart, we pass Indiantown. We see train tracks, agricultural fields, and wonderful open natural lands such as DuPuis Wildlife Area. All the while the C-44 canal is to our right. An eagle flies overhead. The blue and white clouded sky seems bigger here.
Just a few miles before reaching the Lake we see the looming Port Mayaca Cemetery. In this cemetery are buried in a mass grave 1600 of the 3000 dead from the horrific 1928 Hurricane. A stark reminder of the past, the power of Mother Nature, and how we live dangerously so in a drained swamp. There are graves of others not associated with the hurricane too. Old families. People whose blood and sweat laid the ground for South Florida’s development. Many of the family plots go back to the 1800s.
Getting back into the car and back on Kanner Highway, we drive past sod farms and sugarcane fields. King Ranch has a sign with their brand atop. After about 10 minutes, slowly and with caution we approach Port Mayaca. It is impossible to see Lake Okeechobee herself as a gigantic berm and structure surround her. We do see the ACOE’s S-308, the structure that allows water to enter the C-44 from Lake Okeechobee that eventually flows and destroys the St Lucie River. Strangely, we notice an “advisory” blue-green algae sign prominently displayed while at least four people are fishing in the canal. Pulling onto the once famous toll road of Connors Highway and going south, we see the berm of Lake Okeechobee. We leave Martin and enter Palm Beach County. Large trucks fill the road. It is nerve-wracking but exciting. Some beautiful old homes stand amoungst thickets of royal palms and tropical vegetation. Roses and honey are for sale if one has the nerve to pull over.
After about twelve miles we reach Canal Point. Canal Point is not incorporated, but part of Palm Beach County. At this location is S-352 built in 1917, today’s SFWMD’s structure allowing water into the West Palm Beach Canal, Water Conservation Area 1, as well as being used for irrigation.
We take a sharp turn into the Canal Point Recreation Area praying not to get rear ended. Here we can drive on top of the dike and take a look at Lake Okeechobee and across the street. Fishermen fish near the structure. An alligator waits nearby. It’s nice to see some wildlife.
A beautiful Baptist church stands among tidy homes. A U.S.Department of Agriculture Research Service Sugarcane Station also sits along the Connor Highway that hugs the lake not too far from S-352.
Canal Point has about 525 people and the town is very small located between Lake Okeechobee and sugarcane fields. From what we can see there is also a post office, one elementary school, and a store. Larger, Pahokee is just a few miles away.
This little town has a rich and important history. In the coming days we will learn about Canal Point’s mark on the Northern Everglades of which we are part.
Martin County was fortunate to “dodge the bullet” of category 4 Hurricane Matthew, but as long as the St Lucie Indian/River Lagoon is attached to Lake Okeechobee via the C-44 canal, the river cannot. She is shot in the chest each time.
These photos taken yesterday morning by my husband, Ed, show the discharges, like blood, gushing out of the St Lucie Inlet. Melodramatic personification? Perhaps, but true.
A press release by the Army Corp of Engineers on October 7th stated:
“Lake Okeechobee continues to rise; today’s stage is 15.93 feet…
The Corps has resumed discharges from Lake Okeechobee after suspending them during the storm. Water managers have removed target flows and will release as much water as practical through Moore Haven Lock (S-77) located on the west side of the lake, and the Port Mayaca Lock (S-308) located on the east side of the lake…
‘We anticipate inflows to the lake will increase as a result of Hurricane Matthew,’ said Col. Kirk. ‘Therefore, we must maximize outflows in order to slow the rise in the lake and be as prepared as possible for additional hurricane season uncertainty…”
“Additional uncertainty?” Not for the river.
As the Corp has been discharging from the lake since January 29th, 2016 and now the gates are wide open to save life and property south of the lake, the St Lucie did not really dodge a bullet at all. She is hemorrhaging once again.
Until Lake Okeechobee is redirected south as God designed, “dodging a bullet” in Martin County remains an illusion.
I am lucky to know a lot of people who are smarter than me. And one of them is my brother. Ever since we were kids Todd read meteorological books or the Guinness Book of World Records. He likes data. Today, over forty years later, he is helping me apply his knowledge of data to the St Luce River/Indian River Lagoon.
If you are a regular blog reader, you know that this past summer Todd helped publicly identify what became a 240 square mile algae bloom in Lake Okeechobee that was being released into the C-44 causing our river to become toxic. Today, I will share his ideas on avoiding the perfect toxic algae storm.
Here is a photo of Todd and I when we were young in the 70s, when the river was in better shape and we were having fun fishing on Ronnie Nelson’s dock on Hutchinson Island.
Here is a photo of Todd and me today. As you can see we have changed a lot and the river has changed too…
After studying these satellite aerials for a while, I can tell that the blooms are definitely related to sunlight and wind..Our scientists friends would sarcastically say, “no kidding?!”
High pressure system -> a lot of sunlight + no wind = bloom. Clouds + wind = less algae.
The fresh water, phosphorus and nitrogen are always in the lake, but not necessarily the river. Luckily, cloudless days are also the perfect time to spot the algae by satellite.
Maybe the ACOE should add to their discharge schedule that they will hold back the releases when it is forecast to be calm and sunny for several days to prevent the risk of and bloom in the estuaries? Then they can pulse the releases again when the clouds and wind pick up and the algae blows away in the lake – kind of like mother nature.
Jacqui: “Always better if we go with Mother Nature so we don’t end up with such ecological disasters…”
Todd: ” I think Gary Goforth, Mark Perry and others would tell us that the disaster timeline sets up like this:
– A low pressure weather system moves into Florida and dumps a bunch of rain, local runoff begins and the lake starts to rise
– They keep S-308 at Mayaca an other lakeside gates closed and open S-80 because the priority is always to transport the “local” runnoff first and not add to flooding problems by sending lake water through the coastal canals
– The local basins start to drain out and a high pressure weather system moves in. It gets sunny, hot, and the wind dies down to zero.
– With a lot of sun and no wind, the lake starts to bloom. With local runoff subsiding, the tides help flush all to local runoff out to sea but not completely.
– Just when conditions in the lake are “the perfect storm”, the estuaries would otherwise be recovering from the local runoff, the lake is in full bloom and rising, S-308 is now opened to drop the lake at the worst time. All the algae that just exploded in the lake is transported down C-44 through S-80 and into to estuaries. Salinity in the estuaries stays low instead of naturally recovering. With the sunny conditions and unnatural discharges, the estuaries explode with algae blooms.
If they would just delay opening S-308 for just a few days, maybe a week, allowing clouds and wind to return, could the perfect storm be avoided?”
You can access more of Todd’s shared data here under FIRM FAVORITES: http://www.thurlowpa.com
Thank you Todd! Hope the ACOE thinks on this. We don’t want to get in the Guinness Book of World Records 2016 for the estuary with the most toxic algae blooms!
The following update Comparison of Lake O Releases was shared by Dr Gary Goforth on 7-14-16. Thank you Dr Goforth. The more informed and studied we are about where the water is going, the better chance we have to change this situation.
1. Lake Okeechobee has received more than twice the watershed inflows since January compared to last year at this time.
2. Discharges from the Lake have increased 25% compared to last year this time, however the distribution of inflows has dramatically changed compared to last year (as you so clearly know):
3. Since January 1, a. approx. 525 billion gallons of Lake water have been sent to the estuaries (including Lake Worth Lagoon) b. Lake flows are averaging about 1 billion gallons per day to the St. Lucie River/Estuary and about 2.1 billion gallons per day, and about 0.1 billion gallons /day to Lake Worth Lagoon, for a total of about 3.2 billion gallons per day c. Twenty-five (25) times more Lake water has been discharged to the estuaries than to the Everglades d Ag runoff has contributed significant nutrient loads to the St. Lucie River/Estuary: i. Nitrogen loads: 36% from ag and 54% from Lake [Dear Gov. Scott and SFWMD Board members: Martin County septic tanks contributed about 2% of the nitrogen load] ii. Phosphorus loads: 53% from ag and 30% from Lake e. 93% of the sediment load to the St. Lucie River/Estuary this year has come from the Lake discharges (37 million pounds)
4. Only 32 billion gallons of Lake water have been sent to the STAs this year – less than 1/3 of the amount sent last year at this time.
Today’s first photo was taken by Dave Stone a good friend of my husband and a professional pilot. Taken with an iPhone it shows and incoming tide yesterday, 2-10-16, over the once seagrass rich Sailfish Flats.
The video below the photo shows yesterday’s Lake O/canals/run-off plume having traveled out the St Lucie Inlet moving along Jupiter Island south of Bridge Road far past Peck’s Lake. The video is taken using a Go-Pro by Ed Lippisch.
These videos and photographs are helpful tools of understanding and documentation. Recent others are included below.
Thank you to my husband and the pilots of Witham Aero Club.
I am supposed to be on a blog break, but I did not want to miss the chance for Dr Scott Kuhns’ photos to be documented. Dr Kuhns has a much better camera than Ed or myself who use our iPhones. These photos were taken on Saturday, October 3, around 11:00am, 2015, with a Nikon D750.
So far this year, the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon has avoided the releases from Lake Okeechobee, and we were fortune that Hurricane Joaquin did not hit Florida which certainly would have filled up that lake. Nevertheless, we have been getting the discharges from regional canals C-23, C-24, C-44 and C-25 up in Ft Pierce.
While this fresh water is running off Martin, St Lucie, Okeechobee, and Indian River County, and being dumped to tide through our ailing rivers, Lake Okeechobee is filling up from the Kissimmee and other tributaries.
Lake Okeechobee’s level today is at 14.77 NGVD. (http://w3.saj.usace.army.mil/h2o/currentLL.shtml) Hurricane Season officially ends November 30th….When the lake gets over approximately 15.5 feet there is a high chance its waters will be directed through C-44’s S-308 and S-80 to the St Lucie River/IRL by the SFWMD and the ACOE.
Presently according to NOAA, there is an El Nino (complicated, but basically a wet “winter” predicted/fewer hurricanes in summer) so this 2016 winter and Florida-spring, during what is normally the “dry season,” it may be rainy.
We must keep an eye on Lake O’s level every day, all year-long. I would still like to get a bank in Stuart to sponsor a “Lake O. Level Screen,” next to the temperatures….like they do in Clewiston. Like Clewiston, the lake affects our lives and livelihoods along the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon on an everyday level—– whether we can “see” it or not.
Thank you Dr Scott Kuhns for the quality aerial photographs! Let’s keep documenting, learning, advocating, and affecting change.
As we all know, until last week, it has been raining a lot! Almost daily it seems the grey clouds gather and beat their chests threateningly; most often making good on their promise. This past week was the first time in a long time, my husband, Ed, could get up in the Cub and photograph the river. I will share these photos today.
Following are two sets of photos; the first Ed took on Thursday, August 20, 2015, and the second set were taken by Ed and friend Scott Kuhns, Sunday, August 23, 2015.
The point of the blog is to share the photos, and celebrate our 2015 “clearer waters” near the Indian River Lagoon’s southern inlets, but also to feature the weaker-looking “rain-event, fresh-water plumes.” You may recall the wretched, horrific looking plumes of the Lost Summer of 2013 during the discharges from Lake Okeechobee and area canals? Here is a photo to remind you taken in September 2013:
2015’s summer rain induced plumes do not include Lake Okeechobee releases, or the other conditions of 2013; this summer’s plumes are not as severe looking as 2013’s as you will see. Thus we have “clear water,” even when there is a lot of rain.
Last, I ask you to note the photos of the seagrasses around the Sailfish Flats area between Sewall’s Point and Sailfish Point. I am no scientist, but I think they look awful. Recently, I was told having some algae on the seagrasses is good in that when they are exposed during low tide they are protected from the burning sun. That is nice to know. Nevertheless, they look weird. Like there is too much algae; they do not look healthy. They appear grey and sickly. It is obvious they are not recovered yet from 2013 and before.
I do not have a “before aerial.” but this photo from the St Johns River Water Management District show up close what healthy seagrasses look like and I do not think ours look anything like this right now.
So here are the photos, enjoy the clearer water thus far this summer, and please stay on the Water Districts and politicians noting that clear water doesn’t mean healthy seagrasses. We have a long way to go!
THESE LAST PHOTOS ARE OF FT PIERCE INLET. FT PIERCE INLET GETS WATER FROM C-25 WHICH DOES NOT DISCHARGE INTO THE ST LUCIE BUT DIRECTLY INTO THE IRL JUST OUTSIDE OF THE FT PIERCE INLET AT TAYLOR CREEK. C-25 IS NOT SHOWN ON THE CHART AT THE BEGINNING OF THIS POST FOR THE ST LUCIE RIVER. C-25 CAN ALSO RELEASE WATER FROM THE C-23 AND C-24 CANALS IF THE SFWMD DIRECTS SUCH. SEE CANAL MAP BELOW.
Thank you to my husband Ed Lippisch, friend Scott Kuhns for these photos. Also thank you the ACOE and SFWMD for sharing their chart information.
Monday’s blog contrasting the beautiful, blue-waters of the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon this summer in 2015, to the silty, dark-brown waters of the “Lost Summer” of 2013 was well received, so today will post some more photos of this “contrast.”
My husband, Ed, encouraged me to do more framed contrast photos; however, time does not permit so there is just one “framed” photo above and the rest will be separate photos. I will try to do more framed ones in the future.
Also, although Ed and I have taken thousands of photographs, they do not always “match up” in location so the visual perspectives are not “exact.” My goal while in the plane is simply to hold on to the camera, hoping it does not fall into the river. It is always very windy in the open Cub. Getting a good photo is just secondary! I mostly just use my iPhone.
Well, a picture speaks a thousand words….” so I’m not going to “say” anything else…All photos are contrasting June 20th 2015 with either August 11th or September 8th of 2013.
Thank God we having a beautiful summer!
The remainder below do not match at all, but provide contrast:
It is human nature to “miss something once it’s gone.” This is true whether it’s the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon, or something else.
Such was the case for me this weekend and I tried to prepare for the “miss.” My husband’s red and white Cessna 340 is being sold. Knowing the plane would available no more, I arranged a date yesterday for videographer and River Warrior, Kenny Hinkle to fly in the plane. I had been wanting to do this for a long time, but as is so often the case, “never got a round tuit.”
Kenny and Mike Connor’s big win with their video of the toxic algae bloom at S-308 last Friday at Lake Okeechobee causing Senator Joe Negron to immediately call Army Corp of Engineers Col. Dodd, who then stopped the discharges was a big win! Thank you to all involved. Reeling from this positive occurrence, I thought I would like to help Kenny get some more footage for his “next big win.” The 340 is the perfect “vehicle” for that…
The plane provides a great “overview” flying 1500 feet or much higher, and can cover long distances quickly.
Thank you to my husband for providing this trip, this farewell…In fact thank you to my husband for all of this. If it were not for him, the river would not be documented as it is!
It was actually this plane, the Cessna 340, that took the first photo on June 28th of 2013, during the toxic Lost Summer, that inspired me to start taking photos of the river and discharges regularly. As you can see below, this photo was/is so alarming, showing the impact and damage caused to property values and the environment by the releases from area canals and by Lake Okeechobee. Lake Okeechobee always the nail in the coffin….
So today, I am going to provide the farewell videos I took, and one other You Tube video I finally published so that if you ever want to, you can see for yourself what it looks like to fly from Stuart over the St Lucie River and C-44 canal, around the south rim of the “ocean of water” known as Lake Okeechobee, and then along the lake’s rim passing areas/cities of Pahokee, Bell Glade, and South Bay, then turning south along the New River Canal, flying through the sugarcane fields, (the Everglades Agricultural Area), until finally seeing the water conservation area/s, and Alligator Alley (even though I think I mistakenly say Tamiami Trial in the video….) and then flying back up the Miami canal to Clewiston before I stopped filming due to turbulence.
The videos are raw footage. Nothing fancy, the reality of a low plane ride. Many try to convince me to make them more professional. I like them as they are. Real. They show the view, the conversations, the thoughts, the heat, the noise, the turbulence….the miracle of being above ground!
The videos are split into 5 parts covering most of the trip and I included one other at the end that was taken in 2014 by Ed with a Go-Pro as it shows clearly the US Sugar option lands that are now being so hotly debated for Everglades restoration and purchase with Amendment 1 monies.
To use another cliché, “seeing is believing.” Yes, see, believe, and know, that we are changing our world.
Usually, my husband, Ed, does not like it when I ask him to “do things”…like take out the trash or blow leaves off the driveway. But he always likes it if I ask him to go up in the plane. He did so yesterday, and was able to visually document the polluted discharges pouring into our St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon.
Yes, once again.
The Army Corp of Engineers (ACOE), and the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) agreed to have the Army Corp start releases this year on January 16, 2015 at 200 cubic feet per second (cfs) through S-308 into the C-44 canal which is attached to the South Fork of the St Lucie River, and then in turn is connected to the Indian River Lagoon “my town,” Sewall’s Point.
Exhausting isn’t it?
The ACOE is now discharging at a rate of “950 cfs.” This rate goes up and down. It is going up because Lake Okeechobee is not going down…
Today I will share Ed’s photos and show how to “see” how much the ACOE is releasing at S-308. (Structure 308) which is located at Port Mayaca, in Indiantown, Martin County.
Ofcouse, there are discharges from area canals C-44, C-23, C-24 and C-25 as well, but today for simplicity’s sake, I will focus on the lake discharges today, which in my opinion, are the worst of all anyway—because they are not at all “ours.”
You can search “Jacksonville, ACOE” or just go to this link: (http://w3.saj.usace.army.mil/h2o/reports.htm). You can then very quickly check two things: Lake Okeechobee’s level and how much the ACOE is dumping at S-308 from the lake.
To do so, after accessing the site, go to “Current Lake Okeechobee Water Level” at the top left: Always one day behind or so, the latest date reported is 3-7-15– Lake O is at 14.71 feet. Then go back to the main page to the last link: “Port Mayaca Lock, S-308 Spillway.” View by date; the last date shows 873 cubic feet per second (cfs) being discharged.
Here are some more photos Ed took yesterday, 3-8-15, of the SLR/IRL.
When Ed got home, he said I was lucky I did not go up with him as it was windy which means bumpy…He also said the plume looked different from what we have seen before. It looked “chalky” as is seen in these two photographs below and extended about two miles off shore and further south of the St Lucie Inlet.
I am no scientist, but I would imagine this is silt/suspended solids in the water as everything is “stirred up” from the wind. Suspended solids falling on and smothering our reefs….
In closing, I must thank my husband for the photos, and I must point something out.
This area around Sewall’s Point and Sailfish Point, this “confluence” of the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon, in the not too distant past, has been documented as the most bio-diverse estuary in North America (Dr. R. Grant Gilmore, senior scientist with Estuarine, Coastal and Ocean Science, Inc., (ECOS)(http://www.floridaoceanscouncil.org/members/bios/gilmore.htm).)
The map below allows us to see where these precious seagrass beds are/were located. The map above shows where our “protected” near shore reefs are located just outside the St Lucie Inlet where the discharges go out to sea. These reefs are the northern most “tropical reefs” on the east coast of Florida…
I think it is a truly a sin that the ACOE and SFWMD year after year discharge onto these productive sea grass beds and near shore reef habitats that are the breeding grounds for thousands of fish and sea creatures. Its loss is felt all the way up the food chain, including “us.”
Where is the Department of Environmental Protection? Where is the Florida Wildlife Commission? Where is NOAA?
Not to mention, last year a designation of “Critical Wildlife Area,” —the first in 20 years for Florida—for 30 plus species of nesting and resting protected birds, was established on “Bird Island,” located just 400 feet off south Sewall’s Point….”Now” is right before nesting season’s height. Where will the birds find food when the seagrass beds are covered in silt and the water is so dark they can’t really see? Chances are these releases will continue.
Don’t our state agencies have a duty to protect? Don’t they have a voice or has it been muffled? Not a word? Not a peep. Where is our governor? Isn’t this money? Isn’t the productivity our of waterways linked to our businesses? Our real estate values? Where is our local delegation? Have we all become numb to this destruction? Beaten down and manipulated so long we that have no reaction?
It breaks my heart.
Our state and federal government entities responsible for “protection” especially sho