I am very fortunate to have a team of people, “River Warriors” who help me document from sky to water the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon. Today, I share photos taken by friend Mary Radabaugh who overnighted in the area over Father’s Day weekend, June 18-19, 2022. She took amazing photos of nature: live sand dollars, growing seagrasses, wading birds, manatees, and sea turtles. Life is returning to the area.
Next, Dr Scott Kuhns shares five aerials he took the same weekend, on June 18, around 11:30am. These photographs reveal clear waters with rain runoff plume over St Lucie Inlet and nearshore reefs. There is also a photo of the C-44 Reservoir filled to just over ten feet. This reservoir sits on the C-44 Canal and was just completed this past year as the first major CERP project. It is scheduled to be operational by 2023, although the ACOE is trying for earlier.
My husband, Dr Ed Lippisch, took his plane up yesterday. He shares four photos from June 22, 2022 around 12:30 pm that encompass the estuary from a higher altitude. The darker rain runoff is more visible. The estuary still looks good in the region near the St Lucie Inlet. Higher up the north and south forks the water is darker. There have not been major discharges from Lake Okeechobee in over three years. This is a very good thing and we must continue to make this our goal.
With winds of over 185 miles per hour, Hurricane Dorian struck Elbow Cay, just east of Great Abaco Island’s Marsh Harbor, on September 1, 2019. Dorian is considered to be the worst natural disaster in the county’s recorded history and one of the most powerful Atlantic hurricanes on record. (NOAA)
Today I share a special interest story…
From April 11-14, 2021, my husband, Ed Lippisch, and Dr Daniel Velinsky, continued a tradition. They traveled to Marsh Harbor in the Abaco Islands of the Bahamas, to go bonefishing with local guide and friend, Justin Sands.
I asked Ed and Dan if I could share what they saw and experienced, especially because I know that the Army Corps was preparing for this hurricane to stall not over the Bahamas, but over Lake Okeechobee…
Thank you Ed and Dan for sharing your impressions ~JTL
-Mangroves of the Marls around Marsh Harbor have not recovered from Category 5 Hurricane Dorian. Photo Dan Velinsky, April 12, 2021.-Pine forests around Marsh Harbor have also not recovered due to Hurricane Dorian. Dorian struck on September 1, 2019. These photos were taken 18 months later. Photo Dan Velinsky, April 12, 2021.
BY DAN VELINSKY
Ed and I flew to Marsh Harbor, Abaco, Bahamas last Monday to bone fish. It had been almost 2 years since our last visit due to Hurricane Dorian and Covid-19 issues. We had been in constant contact with our friend and multi generational Bahamian bonefish guide, Justin Sands. Ed had flown aid missions bringing water and necessary supplies directly after DorianWe had received photos from our friends and the news media. Nothing prepared us for the reality that slapped us in the face when we landed and ventured into the Marls to fish.
The ecological disaster was beyond belief. It has been 18 months since the storm. On land, there are no pine trees that are alive. On the water, there are no mangroves alive. I have been in florida since the 60s, thru hurricane Donna, Andrew, Francis, Jean and the rest. I have seen Miami, Stuart and the Bahamas after all the storms. Nothing prepared me for this. In areas of the direct path, nothing alive after almost 2 years. It will be generations for the pines to come back. Without a planting program, they may not. Im sure it will effect the small animals, but also the weather patterns. No greenery to hold the cool air, to clense the air.
On the water, no mangroves to act as nursery for all the fish, crabs, turtles and other sea life. As the roots decompose the balance to the ecosystem will change. I expected to see new growth after this amount of time, but it was minimal at best, and none in many areas. There is a program there, spearheaded by the fishing guides to plant mangrove shoots, which should help, but it will only be a drop in the bucket. It is horrible.
The devastation to the land and residents is also beyond description. It looks like a war zone after heavy bombing. We were so focused on finally getting to bone fish, and getting to the Bahamas and back with the Covid restrictions, I really didn’t think about the damage. What a reality check it has been.
Yes, we had fun with our friend Justin, caught over 25 fish, learned to cast into 20 mph wind. But my takeaway from this trip is the picture of the devastation in my mind. We were extremely lucky here in Stuart. The Bahamians were not. ~Dan Velinsky, April 17, 2021.
MARSH HARBOR, April 11, 2021. Photos, Ed Lippisch.AREA EAST OF MARSH HARBOR, April 12, 2021. -A beautiful bonefish. Their mangrove habitat was impacted.-Guide, Justin Sands and Ed.-Author of this blog post, Dan Velinsky.April 13, 2021. “The Marls” west of Marsh Harbor where the bonefish reside.April 14, 2021. Takeoff from Marsh Harbor heading west homebound. “Years past, these were healthy, mangrove islands, now destroyed.” Ed Lippisch.
I posted most of these photos on Facebook, but today I will give explanations and document on my blog. From above, our St Lucie/Indian River Lagoon remains beautiful, but we must be sensitive to the losses beneath the waters. These aerials were taken during a “slack tide” between 12 and 2pm on December 9, 2020 by my husband, Ed Lippisch. December 9th was the last of five days the ACOE stopped discharging from Lake Okeechobee; however S-80 was discharging “local runoff.” (Click on chart above.) Unfortunately, due to high lake level and lack of storage reservoirs, since these aerials were taken, the ACOE has begun ramping up Lake discharges once again.
Below Lawrence Glenn of the South Florid Water Management gives a comprehensive ecological report covering low-salinities and loss of oyster spat in the St Lucie and other aspects, positive and negative, for the entire Everglades system.
Below is an explanation of aerials documenting discharges December 9, 2020. All photos by Ed Lippisch.
-S-80 at St Lucie Locks and Dam discharging local basin S-80 runoff on December 9, 2020
S-308 at Port Mayaca, Lake Okeechobee closed on December 9, 2020. No algae visible.
-Plume of along Jupiter Island south of St Lucie Inlet
-Dispersing plume in Atlantic Ocean just past Peck’s Lake in Jupiter Narrows
-St Lucie Inlet -St Lucie Inlet State Park, Sailfish Point, Sewall’s Point, Stuart, Jensen
-Looking north to Sailfish Flats between Sewall’s Point and Hutchinson Island. This area has greatly degraded since 2013 as far as loss of seagrasses and fishing opportunities
-The area below, especially around Sailfish Point, was once considered “the most biodiverse estuary in North America” as documented, first, by Grant Gilmore
-This photo reveals seagrass loss across many areas of the Sailfish Flats
-Another view between Sewall’s and Sailfish Point, a seeming desert…
-Close up, Sailfish Point
-Sewall’s Point, east Indian River Lagoon
-Sewall’s Point is a peninsula surrounded by the St Lucie River on west side, and Indian River Lagoon on east side
Ed Lippisch, selfie. Thank you Ed!
As you can tell, I have lots of people helping me. Whether it is Ed flying or my brother Todd who provides an incredible easy to read website called EyeonLakeO. You can click below to check it out. The more we know, the more we document, the more we can overturn the destruction of our beloved estuary…
Looking back through my photo library, I was stuck by the color differences between these photos, so I decided to share….
The first two photos were taken recently, Saturday, December 5, 2020, the afternoon of the same morning the ACOE closed S-80 at the C-44 canal, and S-308 at Port Mayaca, Lake Okeechobee. This seems a bit quick for improvement, but so it was.
The second two photos were taken almost two months earlier, October 17, 2020 a few days after Lake Okeechobee discharges began and C-44 had already been discharging.
The first three photos, taken by my husband, Ed Lippisch, feature the confluence of the St Lucie River and Indian River Lagoon between Sewall’s Point and Sailfish Point. The final October 17 photos shows the plume from Lake O and basin runoff passing Peck’s Lake in the Jupiter Narrows.
We all await the closing of both structures S-308 and S-80 for good. The issue at hand is always the height of the Lake Okeechobee and the story that accompanies such.
Saturday, December 5, 2020, photo Ed Lippisch
October 17, 2020, photo Ed Lippisch
ACOE- Lake O discharges began Oct 14, 2020 and have stopped temporarily for 5 days, December 5, 2020. This is the most recent inflow chart, SFWMD.
Tales of the Southern Loop, Miami to Tavernier, Part 3A cloud covered sun and a silver moon coated Biscay Bay with a metallic morning light. Today was September 6th, and last night something had changed.
At 3am Ed had shot out of bed. “It’s too quiet in here.”
“It is. That’s why we’re sleeping.” I rolled over putting the pillow over my head.
Ed returned a few minutes later. “The generator stopped working.”
“Oh,”I mumbled and quickly went back to sleep. When I awoke, I found Ed inside the engine room.
“Good morning,” I said. He looked up. “So maybe it’s not such a good morning; the generator doesn’t work.” I tried to smile. “But let’s not let this ruin our trip.”
“Jacqui the oven/stove wont work, the refrigerator and the air-conditioning won’t work, and forget easily charging the phone or computer. We wont be able to anchor out. I was really looking forward to more of that.”
“Yeah, it’s a bummer. But it will still be fun. So we’ll have to depend on marinas to plug in that shore power thing.”
Ed smirked. “I’m surprised you remember- shore power.- In any case, let’s get ADRIFT underway.” Ed closed up the engine room, headed to the helm, and hit the button to raise the anchor. The clickity-clack sound of metal hitting metal echoed throughout the bow and upper helm.
“At least the anchor still works!” I yelled to my Captain.
ADRIFT crept south in the direction of Tavernier. Once again, it was turning out to be a beautiful day. -Leaving Miami, Biscayne Bay-Card Sound, Biscayne Bay, heading south to the Florida KeysBiscayne Bay was stunning and huge. As we exited the bridge at Card Sound, the waterway started to narrow. Some boats were going very fast. I decided to continue reading my new favorite book, Landscapes and Hydrology of the Predrainage Everglades, rather than complain. I knew Ed was thinking about the generator…
“Hey Ed!” I yelled towards the upper helm. “Did you realize we have been passing the marl transverse glades?”
“Hadn’t really been thinking about them,” he replied.
I walked up the ladder and sat beside him. “I’m going to read to you, OK?”
“In contrast to the unobstructed, rimless, and continuously flowing Peat Transverse Glades, the Marl Transverse Glades were raised spillways, receiving water from the Everglades only during the wet season…The significance of of the Marl Transverse Glades for understanding predrainage Everglades hydrology lies not in their volumes of outflow but instead in their indication that Everglades waters from Rockland Marl Marsh typically rose high enough each year to flow out….”
“Do you know what this means Ed?”
“It means that when the Everglades were high, like now, during hurricane season, water oozed through to Biscayne Bay not just from areas around Ft Lauderdale, but also from south of Miami to about Homestead. Today that stretch includes cities like Kendall, Palmetto Bay, Cutler Bay, Naranja, and Homestead Air Force Base.”
“That is pretty surprising.” Ed replied, seeming to be in better spirits. “So – another reason Biscayne Bay doesn’t get enough fresh water.”
“Look at you!” I lovingly mocked. “I’m surprised you remember!”
-Compare predrainage “marl transverse glades” (southern most arrows) pg. 48 & to post drainage developed areas today, pg. 49 -between Miami and Homestead. In predrainage times, this area McVoy calls the “marl transverse glades,” filled up/flowed over with high Lake O and rain waters oozing through to Biscayne Bay. Today due to development, pumps, and drainage this does not occur. Landscapes and Hydrology of the Predrainage Everglades, McVoy, 2011.I looked up from my book. We were in a narrow waterway of mangroves and approaching Key Largo. “Why are those boats going so fast?!” I complained. I couldn’t hold back anymore.
“Because they are allowed to.” Ed replied. “They are in the channel.” Wakes hit up hard against the shoreline.
“They shouldn’t be allowed to go so fast in here. I don’t see how a manatee could survive. And it’s dangerous.” I agonized.
“Just smile Jacqui!”
Ed remained silent looking straight ahead. ADRIFT plodded along in repetative wakes while swirling through boat traffic. And I decided – I better just smile…When we arrived in Tavernier, at Mangrove Marina, Ed was once again focusing on the broken generator. Docking was not so easy this time. The winds had kicked up and I was in charge of the lines. I wondered how I’d jump off to the dock if necessary. The engine ground as Ed moved forwards and backwards trying to back into the slip. We almost smacked into the dock and I yelled loudly realizing the fender was caught on a neighboring house boat. Thankfully, at the last minute, two young dockhands saved us. We thanked them profusely and Ed handed them a tip.
“Thank God they were here,” I grumbled.
“One day they wont be.” Ed replied.
“How would I have jumped on that high dock?”
Ed did not answer.
“I’m going to open the lazarette to look at this generator again.” I knew Ed would be obsessed until this was resolved.
“OK. I’m going to take a walk,” I said. I’ll see you in a little bit.”
It was good to get on land and good for Ed and I to take a break from each other.
Walking the marina, the first thing I noticed, were these weird and beautiful sea anemone like things on the floor of the shallow docking areas. I got down on my stomach to look closer. -It looks like the DREAM OF THE SLEEPING JELLYFISH. Over the course of our stay, I became totally preoccupied with them, checking on them throughout the day and evening. My blog post is above.I continued my walk. Quaint houses lined the streets. “I love it here.” I thought. “There is absolutely nothing like the Florida Keys.”Once my stroll was over, I knew it was time to make it back to see Ed. He was not a happy camper.
“What’s wrong hunny?” I inquired.
“I’m not sure I will be able to fix the generator, but the marina office gave me a number of a guy to call. It’s Labor Day weekend. I’m not going to bother him.”
“Come on babe, all the days blend together in a place like the Keys. Let’s call him.” Before we called, we decided to take the inflatable canoe out into a small cove. It was so beautiful! The seagrass was lush and Ed thought he saw an otter but it ended up being a mother manatee and and her young calf poking their noses out to breathe. It was so joyous to just be there next to them as they came up for air. I though about the fast speed boats we’d seen by the mangroves and prayed the mother and calf would be safe. The sun set , we made dinner, and retired early. I dreamt of sleeping jellyfish and baby manatees.
In the morning I convinced Ed to take a walk, meet my jellyfish, and see the adorable Keys houses. Lo and behold there was a sign! A sign on a red truck that just happened to be the number the marina had given Ed for someone to fix the generator. Ed left a message and Larry Heimer, Blue Earth Marine Services, returned the call! Soon after we met Larry and Wendy. Wonderful people! Ed learned a lot watching and asking questions. Thanks to Larry the generator got fixed! Ed after the generator was fixed by Larry Heimer and Wendy 🙂Stormy weather forms… I was so happy! Ed was smiling again!
But there was another issue brewing…
We looked up. “Where is this weather coming from?”
“There’s a system forming,” Larry replied. “You best leave tomorrow if you can.”
Night fell; Ed and I listened to the band playing.
Lights reflected off the water and I thought about the jellyfish sleeping on their heads on the milky limestone bottom and the thousands of years of time, tide, and water that had formed this remarkable place.
Ed and I watched the heat lightning and toasted our good fortune to find Larry and Wendy to fix the generator.
We decided that unless it was really storming, we would head out first morning light….
You may have seen my most recent Lake Okeechobee post from July 25, 2020? After algae aerials since May 8th, my dear husband, Ed, said he saw no algae. Ed and I had a back and forth -me saying the algae “was hiding.” Hiding in the water column. Ed saying it was gone. Well, guess what? I was correct…
Today, July 29, only four days later, the cyanobacteria is back. There was one positive to it all. Ed added to his long list of esteemed flight guests, Ft Meyer’s Captains Chris Whitman and Daniel Andrews – the faces of Captains for Clean Water. The east and west coasts of Florida have been advocating together since the days of the Sugarland Rally in 2013. East and west, an important water alliance.
According to Ed, “the algae was bright and visible over the majority of the western, and southern-central portion of the lake, but became less dense as one approached Port Mayaca.”
“Were you surprised the cyanobacteria had returned?” I asked.
Ed had a very simple answer: “yes.”
Ed also said it was a great to hosts the Captains. What an honor.
Below are some of Ed and Captain Daniel’s photographs from Wednesday, July 29, 2020. You will see, with the sun shining, the lake is once again, visibly, full of algae. This is important documentation for the Army Corp of Engineers as we possibly face a very wet weekend.
On Sunday, before we celebrated Father’s Day with family, once again, my husband and fellow River Warrior, Ed, flew the Baron for necessary time on the engines. As he was walking out the door I asked: “Could you please fly over Lake Okeechobee again? I’m curious about that bloom.”
“OK, but I’m going north first.”
Ed and I have been documenting this year’s algae bloom since May 3rd.
Upon Ed’s return, he told me that this time, the algae bloom appears to be located further north, as well as south. You can see the algae near King’s Bar Shoal-the distinct “island” looking structure, visible now, near mouth of the Kissimmee River.
These aerials are taken from 10,000 feet, much higher than usual, so the effect is different. When you seen the “wrinkles” on the water, that is the bloom.
One day, may there be an algae-free Lake Okeechobee, for future fathers and for future father’s kids.
C-44 Reservoir and Storm Water Treatment Area (STA)
After weeks of algae Lake O shots, when my husband, Ed, went up in the Baron on June 17th, 2020, I looked at him and said: “Could you please also take some photos of the C-44 Reservoir and STA for an update? I need a positive fix.”
Thus today’s photos of the C-44 Reservoir/STA in Martin County, off the C-44 canal near Indiantown, share good news. Most important for me, the pictures reveal that many more of the STA cells are slowly getting filled with water -in December 2019 they started with one as Governor DeSantis pulled the lever. One can see many more cells are now filled. When complete, these cells will cleanse tremendous amounts of nutrient polluted water prior to entry into the St Lucie River. The ACOE projects that construction will be completed by next year. It has been in progress for many years and is a” cooperative” between the ACOE (reservoir) and SFWMD (STA) and a component of CERP.
Program: Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP)
“Located on approximately 12,000 acres on the northern side of the St. Lucie Canal in western Martin County, the C-44 Reservoir and Stormwater Treatment Area (STA) project will capture local basin runoff…” ~SFWMD“Achieve More Now”
There are maps and links at the bottom of this post should you like to learn more. Thank you to all over the years and today helping with the completion of the C-44 Reservoir STA as we work to save the St Lucie River.
Because the Baron needs hours on the engine, my husband Ed and I have been up in the sky a lot lately. Sometimes I am with him and sometimes I am not, but through technology we are always connected.
Today I am sharing all aerials Ed took yesterday, 6-17-20, that continue to document a very expansive algae bloom in Lake Okeechobee.
So where exactly is the algae? I can tell you, from the sky, flying over the central and southern part of the lake -at two, to five thousand feet -going two-hundred miles per hours -it sometimes becomes one giant blur of green. Right now, the bloom is visible mostly in the south central (east, west and central) areas of the lake, not in the north.
Seeing the algae depends on lighting and some areas are brighter than others, but when the sun hits the water just right, a sheen is everywhere.
About a mile and a half off Port Mayaca’s S-308 on the east side is the brightest and weirdest of all often displaying geometric formations due to boat traffic through the channel.
The ACOE has been flowing C-44 into the lake at S-308 but this certainly is not the cause of all the algae. Ed and I have years of documentation. The lake is eutrophic. Winds also affect the collection and formation of the algae. For a deeper dive into this you can visit my brother Todd Thurlow’s website EyeOnLakeO.
Here are all photos 6-17-20 with some comment clues and GPS. I have made one comment and then all photos that follow are the same location just a different angle. Use the GPS too. Question? Just ask!