In recent years we along the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon have been screaming because the ACOE and SFWMD have been discharging water from Lake Okeechobee and the C-44 basin into our waterways causing destructive toxic algae blooms and other issues to our area …
This year some are screaming because C-44 basin runoff water in southern Martin County is being pumped back into Lake Okeechobee. Yes, C-44 is “running backwards.” It’s a crazy world here in South Florida even through the water managers are working hard at “getting the water right…”
So two odd things are going on right now. First, water is being sent into Lake O from the C-44 canal as we were in a long-time drought, and also, now, water is being back-pumped into the lake from the south to help alleviate flooding in the Water Conservation Areas— as it has rained so much recently “down there.” This whole situation is exacerbated because the EAA, in the middle, “is kept dry to protect the property of the agricultural industry and safety of communities south of the dike.”
The graph and short write-up below are from friend and engineer Dr Gary Goforth. The graph “shows” the C-44 basin runoff (see image above) being sent to Lake Okeechobee in 2017 compared to other years since 1980 (other than ’81) “is at 100%.”
I have also included some articles and images on the other “back into Lake O” subject. Back-pumping was made illegal in the 1990s, but is allowed under certain circumstances such as endangering communities and agriculture in the EAA, and danger to wildlife in the conservation areas due to flooding…All of this is “back-pumping” not good for the health of the lake. In all cases, it is helping one thing while hurting another…
One day we will have to truly get the water right. Images below may help explain things.
ISSUE OF BACK-PUMPING:
ISSUE OF C-44 CANAL BASIN WATER BEING SENT INTO LAKE O RAHTER THAN TO SLR:
” For the period 1980-2016, about 32% of the C-44 Basin runoff was sent to the Lake, while 68% was sent to the St. Lucie River and Estuary. Historically (i.e., before 1923) virtually none of the C-44 Basin runoff went to the St. Lucie River and Estuary: some went to the Lake, some went to the Loxahatchee River and some went north to the St. John’s River. So far in 2017, virtually all of the basin runoff has been sent to the Lake.”
My brother, Todd, wrote to me on June 8th noting that the C-44 canal was flowing westwards into Lake Okeechobee rather than dumping eastwards into the St Lucie as is standard operating procedure after a big rain…
Yes this canal, as most of the others, can “flow” in either direction, seemly “backwards.”
So how can this happen? This backwards flow?
Dr Gary Goforth says the following:
“Yes this is normal operations; generally when the Lake level is below 14 ft the Corps leaves the locks at S-308 wide open which allows any local runoff to flow into the lake.”
Another way Lake Okeechobee can receive water in an unusual way is if the water is pumped into it–back pumped. This has recently been done from the EAA. Back pumping into Lake O has been outlawed, but it is allowed if communities or farmland would flood.
According to an exchange yesterday on Facebook, with Audubon’s Dr Paul Grey:
“St Lucie (C-44) backflows are just one of many southern inflows now, S-2 is backpumping, three other southern outlets are flowing backward into the low lake (L-8, S354, S-352) the Caloosahatchee was backflowing but appears equalized today. More water is flowing into the lake from downstream areas than upstream right now. Not the end of the world but not desirable either, it is very polluted water. http://w3.saj.usace.army.mil/h2o/reports/r-oke.html “
When I asked Dr Grey if this was being done to gather water in the lake as we’ve recently been in a drought, or to keep the farmlands in the EAA and surrounding areas dry, this was his response:
“Both, they want to fill the lake this summer, and so do I, in concept, but much of this backpumping and flowing is because the farmers have been pumping water so rapdily off their own lands they have made the canals too deep, and risk fooding the communities. And rather than tell the farmers the canal its too deep and they have to modererate their pumping, the SFWMD backpumps/flow it to the lake.”
In any case, when I visited yesterday during my trip to Belle Glade, S-308 was closed at Port Mayaca and no more water was entering Lake O from C-44. I’m not sure about S-2.
The water looks dark and full of sediment. The once beautiful beach is full of gritty rocks. Maybe the lake is healthy in the shallows south, near the islands, but by Port Mayaca it looks terrible. Algae has been reported by S-308 a few weeks ago according to a report from Martin County at the River’s Coalition meeting. But thankfully there is not algae reported in C-44 right now.
We have really made a mess of it. For our rivers and for Lake Okeechobee, the reservoir must be built and we must continue to advocate for sending cleaned water south and re -plumb this outdated system. Forward flow or backwards flow, just say NO.
Todd Thurlow notes 6-8-17
Interesting note: if this data is correct, C-44 has poured 10.7 billion gallons (aka 13.82 Stuart Feet) of water into Lake Okeechobee in the last three days. With all the recent “local” runoff into the canal, they have opened S-308, sending the water west to the Lake to help get the low lake level up.
48.5 million gallons passed through S-80 to the St. Lucie on June 5th…
Senate Bill 10, the bill associated with Senate President Joe Negron and his goal to stop the damaging discharges of Lake Okeechobee to the St Lucie River and Caloosahatchee… my gosh, up and then down, and then up again…Why such a roller coaster ride?
The last time I went on a roller coaster ride was many years ago when I in my twenties and teaching German at Pensacola High School. I took my IB high school students and 14 visiting German exchange students to Six Flags. I got so sick on the ride that I had to sit on a bench the remainder of the day. The students? They loved it and went multiple times! Roller coasters are not fun for everyone. But one thing’s for sure, if you’re on the ride, and you feel sick, be assured that it will end, but when it hasn’t, hold on! This bill, this ride, won’t end for another month plus, as it has to be voted on by the full Senate and achieve a matching bill in the House….
Thus far, the bill has really gone “double-full-circle-upside down-roller-coaster” in that Stuart’s Dr Gary Goforth ( http://garygoforth.net) mentioned the many configurations available to achieve “the goal” during the January 11th 2017 meeting of the Senate Natural Resources Appropriations Committee. At this time he pointed out that some of those “loopy configurations” on his visual went back to CERP’s birth year of 2000 and the first goals the state and federal government had for an EAA reservoir!
You can watch Dr Goforth’s presentation and see his handout linked at the top of this post. Gosh, I kind of feel sick, yes, there have been so many changes and so many numbers… 60,000, 14,000, 360,000, 240,000, A-1, A-2, my head is spinning! There is so much back and forth! Yes there is, but goodness, you can’t say this isn’t exciting! The St Lucie River and Indian River Lagoon a roller coaster for the whole world to see! Personally, I am going to try NOT to sit out on the bench this time, how about you? 🙂
Here is a Senate staff summary of what part of the rollercoaster ride the bill is on today:
Establishes options for providing additional water storage south of Lake Okeechobee, including the:
o Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA) reservoir project with the goal of providing a minimum of 240,000 acre-feet of water storage; and
o C-51 reservoir project with the goal of providing approximately 60,000 acre-feet of water storage.
Authorizes the Board of Trustees of the Internal Improvement Trust Fund (TIITF) and the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) to negotiate the amendment or termination of leases on lands within the EAA for exchange or use for the EAA reservoir project.
Requires lease agreements relating to land in the EAA leased to the Prison Rehabilitative Industries and Diversified Enterprises, Inc., (PRIDE Enterprises) for an agricultural work program to be terminated in accordance with the lease terms.
Requires the SFWMD, upon the effective date of the act, to identify the lessees of the approximately 3,200 acres of land owned by the state or the district west of the A-2 parcel and east of the Miami Canal and the private property owners of the approximately 500 acres of land surrounded by such lands;
Requires the SFWMD, by July 31, 2017, to contact the lessors and landowners of such lands to express the SFWMD’s interest in acquiring the land through the purchase or exchange of lands or by the amendment or termination of lease agreements.
Requires the SFWMD to jointly develop a post-authorization change report with the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) for the Central Everglades Planning Project (CEPP) to revise the project component located on the A-2 parcel for implementation of the EAA reservoir project.
Requires that if, for any reason, the post-authorization change report does not receive Congressional approval by October 1, 2018, unless the district has been granted an extension by the Legislature, the SFWMD begin the planning study for the EAA reservoir project by October 31, 2018, and proceed with the A-2 parcel project component of CEPP in accordance with the project implementation report.
Requires the SFWMD to give preference to the hiring of former agricultural workers primarily employed during 36 of the past 60 months in the EAA, consistent with their qualifications and abilities, for the construction and operation of the EAA reservoir project.
Establishes the Everglades Restoration Agricultural Community Employment Training Program within the Department of Economic Opportunity to provide grants for employment programs that seek to match persons who complete such training programs to nonagricultural employment opportunities in areas of high agricultural employment, and to provide other training, educational, and information services necessary to stimulate the creation of jobs in the areas of agricultural unemployment. The program is required to include opportunities to obtain the qualifications and skills necessary for jobs related to federal and state restoration projects, the Airglades Airport in Hendry County, or an inland port in Palm Beach County.
Establishes a revolving loan fund to provide funding assistance to local governments and water supply entities for the development and construction of water storage facilities.
Revises the uses of the Water Protection and Sustainability Program Trust Fund to include the water storage facility revolving loan program.
Prohibits, beginning July 1, 2017, the use of inmates for correctional work programs in the agricultural industry in the EAA or in any area experiencing high unemployment rates in the agricultural sector.
Beginning in Fiscal Year 2018-2019, appropriates the sum of $100 million from the Land Acquisition Trust Fund (LATF) to the Everglades Trust Fund for the purpose of implementing the water storage reservoir projects, with the remainder of such funds in any fiscal year to be made available for Everglades projects.
The bill provides the following appropriations for the 2017-2018 fiscal year:
The sum of $30 million in nonrecurring funds from the LATF is appropriated to the Everglades Trust Fund for the purposes of acquiring land or negotiating leases pursuant to s. 373.4598(4), F.S., or for any cost related to the planning or construction of the EAA reservoir project.
The sum of $3 million in nonrecurring funds from the LATF to the Everglades Trust Fund for the purposes of developing the post-authorization change report pursuant to s. 373.4598, and the sum of $1 million in nonrecurring funds from the LATF to the Everglades Trust Fund for the purposes of negotiating Phase II of the C-51 reservoir project pursuant to s. 373.4598, F.S.
The sum of $30 million in nonrecurring funds from the LATF to the Water Resource Protection and Sustainability Program Trust Fund for the purposes of implementing Phase I of the C-51 reservoir project as a water storage facility in accordance with ss. 373.4598 and 373.475, F.S.
Post Hurricane Matthew, I am sharing Dr Gary Goforth’s “Updated Lake Okeechobee Discharges to the Estuaries and Everglades,” dated yesterday, October 10, 2016 as sent to state and local officials, as well as the press. Many helpful visuals are attached.
Dr Goforth continues to lead in documenting the destruction of what was once lauded as North America’s “most biodiverse estuary,” our beloved St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon…
Through shared knowledge, we advocate for a better Florida water future.
More than 204 billion gallons of polluted Lake water has been discharged to the St. Lucie (25% of total Lake discharges); more than 456 billion gallons of polluted Lake water has been discharged to the Caloosahatchee (55% of Lake discharges). By contrast, only 20% of Lake discharges has been sent to the south, with only 6% sent to the STAs/Everglades.
Ag runoff continues to contribute significant amounts of flow and pollution load to the St. Lucie: 39% of flow, 53% of total phosphorus and 42% of total nitrogen.
I added a chart comparing monthly Lake flows to the STAs – 2016 releases to STAs has been significantly less than 2014 and 2015.
Recently, at Rivers Coalition Defense Fund meeting, president Kevin Henderson brought along the old River League’s briefcase. It had been stored away for many decades in an aging house in Stuart. In case you have not heard of them, “The River League” worked tirelessly in the 50s and 60s to stop the expanding destruction of our rivers by the Florida Flood Control District (today’s South Florid Water Management District) and the Army Corp of Engineers.
I couldn’t believe the old brief case—a beautiful sight–aged leather, and rusted metal with the sweat of those who carried it unwashed from its handle…
Kevin placed the briefcase on the table and opened it. It had not been opened in almost 50 years! No pun intended, but the sound of the locks “clicked”and suddenly it was open…
I held my breath.
I swore for a second that I saw the spirit of Ernie Lyons come out of the old briefcase like a genie. He had a giant cigar in his mouth and dark rimmed glasses. His hair was greased back and he sat at a floating desk from the old Stuart News…He was leaning back in his chair with his hands behind his head smiling from ear to ear. His teeth were stained with tobacco juice and he looked happy as a clam.
“Ernie here….Ha! Good to see you workin’ so hard! Those bastards are still killing it aren’t they? The river that is! Don’t you for a moment have despair. As you know this war has been going on for a long, long time. All of us, who have passed, are on your side. We are here. All of us who worked so hard to save the paradise of this place. You’ve probably caught on. Good versus evil is not a game. And I got a secret to tell ya. —I know the end—and good wins. Don’t give up! And know we’re here working the magic behind the scenes to help you save the St Lucie/Indian River Lagoon.”
Then he looked away and started furiously typing…the words he was writing could be seen above his head:
Today’s column, 1968
HOW THROATS OF OUR RIVERS WERE CUT BY CANALS
“There was never anything more beautiful than a natural South Florida river, like the North and South Fork of the St Lucie…
A bank of cabbage palms and live oaks draped with Spanish moss and studded with crimson-flowered air-plants and delicate wild orchids– were scenes of tropical wonder, reflected back from the mirror-like onyx surface of the water….”
When I looked up, Ernie was gone and our meeting was in full discussion…
As a reflection from the mirror of the St Lucie’s onyx-like water–I know that Ernie is here…
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 photos were taken by Dr Gary Goforth this past Sunday. During a trip, he flew over Lake Okeechobee.
He writes: “Jacqui–The photos are of the southeast part of Lake; the plane had just passed over Clewiston and is headed northeast. The city of Pahokee is visible along the upper right shoreline. The FPL reservoir is visible in the background. The bloom is enormous – easily over 100 sq miles in extent, although areas are patchy.” GG
STATE OF EMERGENCY
It’s hard to understand state of emergencies.
Martin County waters are experiencing their third “state of emergency” since 2013–two of those being this year in 2016.
Yesterday, Governor Rick Scott declared one, after our county commission declared one first, over the blue-green algae blooms in the St Lucie River, Indian River Lagoon and Atlantic Ocean —I am very grateful.
What I do not understand is that when you really read between the lines, we will continue to be under siege.
After one sifts through the words of the declaration there are basic things that stand: the emergency order directs Water Management Districts and the Florida Wildlife Commission to stop flows into the lake as soon as possible coming from the north. It also allows a waiver of requirements to purchase pumps to move water south, and increases water testing.
This is all good and well, but there is one problem. This means the discharges from the lake continue– perhaps lessened, but they will continue…full of the same algae that is causing the emergency in the first place. And the lake is very high at 14.90. The dumping could go on for months even if no new water enters the lake from the north…
Until the gates at S-308 and S-80 are closed we will suffer. Like having the dike too high is a safety issue for those south of the lake, sending the lake’s algae waters to the St Lucie River is a safety issue too. Take a look.