Tag Archives: Dr Grant Gilmore

Documenting the Destructive Discharges, Speak Out! 3-9-15, SLR/IRL

Confluence of St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon between Sewall's Point and Sailfish Point, Hutchinson Island, 3-8-15 showing releases from Lake Okeechobee and area canals. (Photo Ed Lippisch)
Confluence of St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon between Sewall’s Point and Sailfish Point, Hutchinson Island, “The Crossroads,” 3-8-15 showing releases from Lake Okeechobee and area canals. (Photo Ed Lippisch)

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…

SLR basins. SFMWD, 2015.
This SFWMD basin map also shows S-308 at Lake O, the C-44 canal, S-80 at St Lucie Locks and Dam, SLR/IRL.

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.”

So—–

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. 

Front page of ACOE Lake O website, 2015.
Front page of ACOE Lake O website, 2015.
3-9-15 Lake O level   14.71 feet NVGD. (A certain amt of feet above sea level>)
3-9-15 Lake O level 14.71 feet. NVGD.
S-308 report shows 8 cfs on 3-8-15 going into C-44 or SLR.
S-308 report shows 873 cfs on 3-7-15 going into C-44 or SLR.

 

Here are some more photos Ed took yesterday, 3-8-15, of the SLR/IRL.

East side of Sewall's Point, 3-8-15 showing St Lucie River.  (Ed Lippisch)
West side of Sewall’s Point, 3-8-15 showing St Lucie River. (Ed Lippisch)
West side of SEwall's Point, 3-8-25. (Ed Lippisch)
East side of Sewall’s Point, 3-8-25 showing Indian River Lagoon. (Ed Lippisch)
Southern tip of of Sewall's Point at Crossroads. (3-8-15.) (Ed Lippisch)
Southern tip of of Sewall’s Point showing SLR in foreground and IRL in background. 3-8-15. (Ed Lippisch)
Known as the "Crossroads" this area off of Sewall's Point is the confluence of the SLR/IRL. The St Lucie Inlet is just off of the the tip of S.Hutchinson Island and is known as Sailfish Point. 3-58-15. (Photo Ed Lippisch)
Known as the “Crossroads” this area off of S. Sewall’s Point is the confluence of the SLR/IRL. The St Lucie Inlet is just off of the tip of S.Hutchinson Island and is known as Sailfish Point and is blocked in the far upper right of this photo. 3-8-15. (Photo Ed Lippisch)
Confluence of St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon between Sewall's Point and Sailfish Point, Hutchinson Island, 3-8-15 showing releases from Lake Okeechobee and area canals. (Photo Ed Lippisch)
St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon near Sewall’s Point and Sailfish Point, Hutchinson Island. “Crossroads.” (Photo Ed Lippisch)
inlet
SL Inlet in distance, 3-8-15.  (EL)
3-8-15. IRL. (EL)
3-8-15. IRL. East of Sewall’s Point. (EL)

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….

Plume off St Lucie Inlet, 3-8-15. (EL)
Plume off St Lucie Inlet, 3-8-15. (EL)
Plume another view 3-8-15, 3-8-15.
Plume another view 3-8-15. (EL)
Map showing reefs in Marin and Palm Beach counties. The reef in MC is directly impacted by the discharges from Lake O. (map courtesy of state.)
Map showing reefs in Marin and Palm Beach counties. The reef in MC is directly impacted by the discharges from Lake O. (map courtesy of state.)

 

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…

SFWMD seagrass map, 2015.
SFWMD seagrass map, 2015.

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 should hang their heads in shame.

If nothing else “speak out” about how bad it is. Recognize the loss. Address the “constraints,” killing this ecosystem and local economy. Take leadership!

Be true to our heritage. We are the United States of America. Be brave. Speak out!

_________________________________________________

Florida Dept. of Environmental Protection: (http://www.dep.state.fl.us) 

Florida Wildlife Commission: (http://myfwc.com)

NOAA/National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration: (http://coralreef.noaa.gov)   (http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/species/mammals/)

Remembering Mangroves, the Walking Tree to Wetlands

Evie Flaugh balances her way through a mangrove forest, 2012. Martin County. (Photo credit Jenny Flaugh)
Young Evie Flaugh, walks through a mangrove forest, 2012, Near Hole in the Wall, Martin County. (Photo credit Jenny Flaugh)

One of the first things I learned about the Indian River Lagoon and St Lucie River as a kid at the Environmental Studies Center and later at Florida Oceanographic was mangroves. Red mangroves had cool arch like roots; white mangrove had a notch on the leaf and a salty back; and black mangrove had weird breathing sucker roots coming out of the ground around the tree and were sometimes very  large. http://www.floridaocean.org/uploads/docs/blocks/22/irl-mangroves.pdf  

I also remember walking with my parents along the beach of Jupiter Island and there were gigantic halloween like remnants of a black mangrove forest coming out of the eroding sands.  I also remember the closed off mosquito impoundments around today’s Marriott, Indian River Plantation, and A1A, along the ocean, drowning the mangroves, many white, and black, that looked like giant dead sentinels, somehow still alive, watching us over-kill our environment and all the little misquitoes.

And today, yes, it seems the red mangrove, more than the others, flourishes. Interestingly enough, before the St Lucie Inlet was opened by hand in 1892, there were not many mangroves along the St Lucie River as it was fresh. But close to the ocean, along parts of the Indian River Lagoon, there was brackish water and  there were mangroves.

My historian mother recently told me she attended a lecture of  fish scientist, Dr. Grant Gilmore, and he was of the opinion we needed to create, restore more wetlands and fewer mangroves (as they were destroyed by mosquito impoundments) as the wading birds and many fish rely on this habitat, not just mangrove habitat.

His 2012 key note presentation at Harbor Branch Oceanograpic Institute Symposium is summarized here: http://indianriverlagoon.org/pdf/IRLS%202012%20Abstracts%20of%20Presentations.pdf

In closing this short reminiscent piece, one other thing I remember about being a kid growing up in Martin County is the mosquitos! They were brutal at certain times of the year. We would run in place at the bus stop so they couldn’t get us, and my little  legs were always full of bites and scars. I also remember riding our bikes behind the mosquito fogger truck for entertainment…(so that’s what happened!)

Remembering it all, I can empathize why we went to war with the mosquitos, but if we went too far, let’s take a clear-headed walk through the mangroves, and see what we can do…