Tag Archives: Ed Lippisch

John Moran’s “Florida’s Summer of Slime: Stuart and Lake Okeechobee”

It’s an honor to present:

“Florida’s Summer of Slime: Stuart and Lake Okeechobee,” photo essay by John Moran, August 2018

I reported last month on the plight of the Caloosahatchee River and its befouled waters flowing from Lake Okeechobee; delivering slime to waterfront neighborhoods in Fort Myers and Cape Coral along the way to the Gulf Islands of Southwest Florida.

Next up on our Summer of Slime photo tour is a visit to Stuart and Lake O…Stuart and environs is a glistening jewel born of water. It may well top the list of Florida cities in shoreline per capita. There’s simply water everywhere. Two forks of the St. Lucie River, the Indian River Lagoon, canals and peninsulas and islands, and the Atlantic Ocean beyond. Stuart is pictured above; below is neighboring Hutchinson Island.

But it wasn’t Stuart’s reputation for abundant clean water that drew me south from Gainesville with my cameras. In effect, I’ve become a traveling crime scene photographer—and slime is the crime. A devastating outbreak of toxic algae has once again hit the St. Lucie River and the Treasure Coast, fueled by the polluted waters of Lake Okeechobee and the Kissimmee River basin to the north. Damaging headlines trumpet the story to the nation and the world and Governor Scott has declared a state of emergency. It’s déjà vu all over again.

My hosts in Stuart were water blogger Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch and her husband, Ed Lippisch.

Ed took me up for a photo flight in his Piper Cub so I could get the big picture.

Seen from a small plane at 500 feet, Florida is a beautiful place.

Here’s Lake Okeechobee and the western terminus of the St. Lucie C-44 Canal. Administered by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Port Mayaca Lock and Dam has the capacity to discharge 14,800 cubic feet of water per second downstream to Stuart and the St. Lucie River Estuary, 26 miles away.

Sugar industry representatives say the water coming out of Lake Okeechobee is not the problem and that the algae outbreak in Stuart is primarily caused by Stuart’s own septic tanks and urban stormwater. This claim is contradicted by the extensive algae mats seen along the C-44 Canal between the Port Mayaca and St. Lucie Locks, well upstream from Stuart.

Lake Okeechobee historically drained south to Florida Bay, not east and west to the Atlantic and Gulf. The C-44 canal was built in 1916 to divert floodwaters to the coast.

A view of the St. Lucie Lock and Dam, several miles southwest of Stuart. On the day of my photo flight in late July, the dam gates were closed, visibly holding back algae from flowing downstream. Look closely and you can see what some people call The Seven Gates of Hell.

The St. Lucie Lock and Dam are an integral part of South Florida’s complex web of water management structures, born of an age when the Everglades was reviled as a watery wasteland and America was driven to drain it.

Below the St. Lucie Lock and Dam, in Palm City and Stuart, you can still find waterfront homes untouched by the algae bloom. But that’s no consolation for the thousands of Martin County residents whose lives are in upheaval once again this summer. The familiar pattern of algae outbreaks is fueled by fertilizer, manure and urban sources of nutrient pollution, including septic tanks.

All of this is compounded by denial and neglect by elected officials and agencies to whom we entrust the important work of environmental protection and public health.

Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch took me on a driving tour of the C-44 Canal from Stuart to enormous Lake O, which is more like a stormwater treatment pond than a biologically healthy lake. “There are toxic algae blooms across the globe, but only one place where the government dumps it on you: Florida,” she says.

It’s not just the algae from Lake Okeechobee causing headaches along Florida’s east coast; the sheer volume of freshwater discharges is an environmental pollutant that overwhelms the estuary.

The Lake O gunk visible in the satellite view, above, is shown in the detail photo below.

Fishermen are still drawn to Port Mayaca. On the day we visited, I counted nine.

Dinner in hand (speckled perch), Felix Gui, Jr. has been fishing Lake O for 30 years. “The algae doesn’t affect the fish,” he says. “They eat the same, algae or no algae, and I haven’t gotten sick.” Experts have warned against eating fish exposed to the algae.

A Martin County Health Department sign at Port Mayaca warns against contact with the water but I saw no messaging about whether fish caught in these waters is safe to eat.

Enroute home to Stuart, Jacqui and I stopped at deserted Timer Powers Park on the St. Lucie Canal in Indiantown.

At the St. Lucie Lock, a surreal scene of impaired water, above, and a vortex of slime, below, waiting to be flushed downstream.

A pair of jet-skiers signaled for the lock to be opened, and another pulse of algae-laden water is released towards Stuart and the coast.

Wouldn’t want to anyway, thanks.

Further downstream, the algae spreads…

Nearing the coast, Rio Nature Park and the neighboring Central Marine in Stuart are slimed again. This was the epicenter of the infamous Treasure Coast algae outbreak of 2016.

Reporter Tyler Treadway of TCPalm gathered a sample of the polluted water from a canal behind the offices of Florida Sportsman magazine in Stuart.

Staff complaints of headaches, nausea and dizziness prompted Florida Sportsman publisher Blair Wickstrom to temporarily close the office in late July. “It smells like death,” he said.

The Shepard Park boat ramp parking lot in Stuart was nearly empty on the day we visited.

A man on a mission, Mike Knepper, above and below, posts videos on his Youtube channel documenting the degradation of natural Florida.

“It’s totally unacceptable to me what we’re doing to this planet because we’re very rapidly destroying it,” Knepper says. “My children and grandchildren will be paying the price for all the bad decisions we’re making today. I want to be able to look them in the face and say, ‘I tried to make a difference.’”

Dead-end canals along the St. Lucie River with their limited water exchange have been hardest hit by the toxic blue-green algae, which scientists refer to as cyanobacteria.

A growing body of medical research links exposure to cyanobacteria with neurodegenerative diseases including Parkinson’s, ALS and Alzheimer’s. Google it.

Meanwhile, we’re getting conflicting messages from officialdom. Martin County has erected signs warning against contact with the water but the Florida Dept. of Health website, under the heading How to Keep Your Family Safe While Enjoying Florida’s Water Ways, has this to say: “Cyanobacteria/ blue-green algae…are naturally occurring in Florida’s environment and are also found all over the world. They are part of a healthy ecosystem and help support a wide variety of aquatic life.” (http://www.floridahealth.gov/environmental-health/aquatic-toxins/cyanobacteria.html) In other words, Lighten up, Florida. This is just nature being natural.

An open question remains: What will become of the value of the Florida brand when the world fully sees what we have done to our waters?

Even in disaster, strange beauty emerges.

Greg Fedele has lived in his water-front home since 1991. He grieves for his loss. “I have three kids who can’t enjoy the waterways of Martin County like I did growing up.”

The sign at Ocean Blue Yacht Sales in Stuart echoes a wide swath of community sentiment. Asked to describe in a word how the algae outbreak has impacted his business, president Bryan Boyd replied, “Horrible. The last three years, our bay boat sales have been a third of what they used to be.”

A roadside sign seen in Stuart in late July. If you’re wondering what you can do about the ongoing crisis of Florida waters, we are called to consider our own water footprint, learn about the issues and get involved. And never forget that elections have consequences. Vote for Clean Water. (https://www.bullsugar.org/#)

What we have here in Florida is not just a crisis of water, we have a crisis of democracy and civic engagement.

From the beleaguered springs of North Florida to the sickened rivers and coasts of South Florida, we must understand that no savior is waiting on the horizon who will fix this thing for us.

It took a group effort to create this mess and we need all hands on deck if are to reclaim our waters. Florida needs environmental patriots willing to face down politicians funded by wealthy interests who think nothing of sacrificing our public waters on the altar of their private profits.

We don’t have the luxury of time to get this right. We are losing our waters now. This is our moment. It’s time to set aside our differences and focus on what is at stake, for this is nothing less than a battle for the soul of Florida.

The pictures don’t lie. We the people of Florida bear witness today to nothing less than a crime against nature, and a crime against the children who shall inherit our natural legacy.

A long time ago, Florida political leaders—Republicans and Democrats in common cause—understood there can be no healthy economy without a healthy environment. They wisely enacted laws and regulatory safeguards accordingly.

But that was then and this is now. It’s time to end the popular fiction in Florida that we can plunder and pollute our way to prosperity.

Gov. Reubin Askew said it best when he declared in 1971, “Ecological destruction is nothing less than economic suicide.”

In this, our Summer of Slime, can I get an amen?

by John Moran
August 2018

web: http://johnmoranphoto.com
email: JohnMoranPhoto@gmail.com
cell: 352.514.7670

Feel free to forward or post this photo essay as you wish; attribution is appreciated. Please share this with elected officials and ask them: what’s their plan to clean up our waters?

“Cockpit With a View,” Explosive Algae Bloom in Lake O, SRL/IRL

The pilots, our “Eyes in the Sky”- like satellites – are the key to “seeing” the extent of the algae problem in Lake Okeechobee, and provide a clear cockpit-view showing how algae gets into our St Lucie River.

I thank all of the pilots, east coast, west coast who have recently shared their cockpit-views.

Today’s photos are from pilot Steve Schimming who sat right seat, at about 1500 feet,  during Ed’s fly over of Lake O on Saturday when the two men were on their way back from Venice mid morning where they had gone to meet other pilot friends.

This enormous bloom, 102 square miles approximately, was reported, by me, to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection the same day. Hopefully, they are testing it in multiple locations. Although the ACOE holds the power to decide when to discharge from Lake O, it is DEP in coordination with the SFWMD, and the Water Quality Dept. (Best Management Practices) of the Dept Agriculture, that is in charge/responsible for water quality for Florida.

To report an algae bloom: https://floridadep.gov/dear/algal-bloom

Thank you Steve for sharing what you saw.

Almost like being there…

Steve Schimming, 6-16-18, Lake Okeechobee

___________________________________________________________________________

Ed Lippisch photo same day, same flight:

Ed Lippisch 6-16-18. Lake O algae bloom

For more photos go to this link: https://jacquithurlowlippisch.com/2018/06/16/real-time-eye-in-the-sky-of-102-sq-mi-lake-o-algae-bloom-6-16-18/

Sentinel Satellite image 6-15-18

Approximate size of bloom as seen from Sentinel satellite. See link to most recent satellite images made public and easy to find, by Todd Thurlow:http://www.thurlowpa.com/LakeOImagery/

#toxic2018

Real-Time Eye in the Sky of 102 sq.mi. Lake O Algae Bloom, 6-16-18

Things are happening almost in real-time today. My brother, Todd, sent me the L7 and Sentinel satellite images from yesterday revealing an approximate 102 square mile bloom in Lake Okeechobee.

I, in turn, wrote a blog post and sent the image to my husband, Ed Lippisch, who had flown across to west coast of Florida this morning.

Not too long after sending Ed that image, I look at my phone and it says “shared” photos from Ed, so I start looking at them. They are of the bloom in L.O. – over the broad area where the satellites had detected algae.

The phone rings, it’s Ed, he says” I just landed in Stuart.” I reply, “Great photos. Horrible. Thanks.”

He says: “Jacqui it was unbelievable. Very large bloom, it ran above Port Mayaca to about the southern shore of the lake and westerly. Very much like the satellite image you sent me, but even further north…”

So here are Ed’s unedited photos taken and then sent to me at 1:14pm, 6-16-18. Today.

#toxic2018

Documenting the Discharges, June 2018, SLR/IRL

When the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon start to deteriorate due to discharges, things start going downhill fast. And when my husband Ed and I start taking and sharing aerial photos, my world becomes a bit chaotic.

Sometimes there are days of hundreds of photos to look through, and knowing the importance of getting them out immediately, choices have to be made. Facebook is a better medium than my blog for real-time info as it takes less time, but my blog is better for historic documentation as it is “permanent.”

So today I am sharing more of Ed’s photos from 6-5-18, and some you may have already seen. Mind you, after heavy rains, stormwater has been pouring in from many canals but, always, like clockwork, after the ACOE starts discharging from Lake Okeechobee, the river looks not just cloudy-coffee brown, but contaminated.

The ACOE started discharging from Lake Okeechobee on  6-1-18, and as most of you know, now, there are not only algae blooms spotted in the lake, as Ed accidentally found on 6-2-18, and others also documented, but also in the St Lucie River. More than likely, there will be more and more  algae bloom popping up as the Lake O water makes its way down the estuary, over the tip of Sewall’s Point, towards the St Lucie Inlet. Algae floating down the river is disgusting enough, but toxicity is the real question…

Ed and I will take and share more aerials  in the future, to document the algae blooms should they explode, but until then, here are some photographs from 6-5-18 that I had not yet archived on my blog. Sadly enough, although there is no algae in these pictures, I cannot say they will make you feel any better.

Never take the pressure off politicians to build the EAA Reservoir and get it to where it needs to be to clean and filter this water to send south as Nature intended.  Government knowingly contaminating its citizens is not an option. Health, Safety and Welfare is a responsibility.

Photos taken 6-5-18 showing SLR/ILR near Sewall’s Point; Jupiter Narrows; Atlantic Ocean/beach over nearshore reefs along Jupiter Island just south of St Lucie Inlet; out in ocean near Peck’s Lake; Sailfish Point/Sailfish Flats area; and Bird Island, a Critical Wildlife Area, for many threatened and endangered birds.

SLR on west /IRL on east – looking towards Sewall’s Point
Jupiter Narrows near St Lucie Inlet
A Coffee Ocean along Jupiter Island just south of St Lucie Inlet
Discharges in waves looking east to Peck’s Lake
Discharges going over near shore “protected” reefs
Discharge plume
Plume out about 2 miles in Atlantic/documented at 5 over days by fisher people
Similar photos give felling of flying over
Reefs with plume coming on
Selfish Point and Sailfish Flats area one the “most biologically diverse in North America.” Seagrass is gone due to receptive discharges episodes
Circling home- close up souther tip of Sewall’s Point
Again circling ove Sailfish Flats on way back to Witham Field.
Bird Island just off of southeast Sewall’s Point is home to hundreds/thousands of birds. Many threatened and endangered species raise their young on this island that was designated a CWA or Critical Wildlife Area by FWC in 2014. At the time it was the first to be designated in 20 years.

The Algae Comes From the Lake, Documenting the Discharges, 2018, SLR/IRL

Since my husband, Ed, accidentally spotted an algae bloom in Lake Okeechobee, while running new engines on the Baron, I have posted many photos on Facebook and the word is out.

Nonetheless, for purposes of documentation, I am going to post some of the photos again on my blog for historical purposes and for those who do not use Facebook.

~Ed noticed the “lines of algae” in the lake on June 2, two miles or so northwest of Port Mayaca, the day after the ACOE started discharging from Lake O into the St Lucie River. Absolute chance, fate, or a tip from above, however you decide to look at it.

Since this time others have documented on the ground and DEP should be testing for toxicity.

So, after seeing the bloom on Friday, Ed went back the following day on Saturday in windy conditions so I stayed home–in the yellow plane, the Cub, getting more pictures of bloom, looking about the same but more dispersed from rain perhaps. These photos at lower altitude also include drainage structures around the lake, as well as the destruction of the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon at Sewall’s Point and the St Lucie Inlet.

Photos will continue to be taken as we once again, document the discharges, and once again have seen first-hand, like we did in 2016, without the warning of our government, that the algae that contaminates the St Lucie River starts in Lake Okeechobee.

Saturday, June 2, 2018

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Don’t be Fooled by Beauty; Our Barren River… SLR/IRL

My husband, Ed, took these photos of the Indian River Lagoon at the St Lucie Inlet on 2-28-18, just a few days ago. They are certainly beautiful enough to sell real estate…The turquoise water is so pretty one could easily overlook the sand desert below the surface waters.

Enjoy the blue water, but know that especially since 2013, our seagrass beds have been decimated by black sediment filled waters and toxic discharges from Lake Okeechobee. Seagrasses are the nursery for all sea life, especially the baby fish. These beds need time to reestablish if they ever will.

True beauty has something to offer, not just “surface water.” Keep your eye on the lake and fight against any coming releases this summer so we can get life back in our dear dead river.
 

Lake O level, ACOE: http://w3.saj.usace.army.mil/h2o/currentLL.shtml

The Importance of Seagrasses, FWC: http://myfwc.com/research/habitat/seagrasses/information/importance/

Documenting the Discharges 12-27-17

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…

Therefore, I will not say “thank you.”

http://www.saj.usace.army.mil/Media/News-Releases/Article/1402349/corps-transitions-to-lower-flows-from-lake-okeechobee/

http://www.saj.usace.army.mil/Media/News-Releases/Article/1402349/corps-transitions-to-lower-flows-from-lake-okeechobee/

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

http://www.thurlowpa.com/LakeOLiveData/2017/

http://www.thurlowpa.com/LakeOImagery/LakeO3x7days.html

http://tfr.faa.gov/tfr_map_ims/html/index.html http://tfr.faa.gov/tfr_map_ims/html/ns/scale5/tile_14_15.html http://tfr.faa.gov/tfr_map_ims/html/ns/scale6/tile_28_29.html
All photos of SLR/IRL by Ed Lippisch 12-27-17

ACOE data is for previous weeks. Obviously the St Lucie gets enough redirected and area runoff without Lake O. ACOE 12-21-17