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.
Evan Miller grew up in Stuart, Florida, not far from the St Lucie Locks and Dam. He attended Crystal Lakes Elementary School, Hidden Oaks Middle School, South Fork and Martin County High Schools, graduating in 2002.
As a kid, Evan would ride his bike down to the St Lucie Locks and Dam with his friends. He knew the sad story of the lake and St Lucie River. He knew about the long history and steady destruction of the waterways he loved that one day would come to a head. But little did he know, that it would happen in his lifetime, and he would lead the message.
The story is this—
After graduating, Evan was sponsored as a professional surfer and lived in Costa Rica, and came home in 2012. Upon his return, he saw the river’s decline and innocently put a message on his Facebook page during the “Lost Summer os 2013,” when the river was posted by the Health Department as “off-limits.” Evan’s message read: “Who wants to meet me at the locks?”
Believe it or not, this request turned into a rally of over 5000 people!
Two weeks later, Evan organized a beach rally, putting down stakes and having a surveyor friend help him create the letters–over 2000 people came and spelled out in the sand SAVE OUR RIVER.
Destiny had found its man…
Now in 2016, under even worse conditions, after the St Lucie River and area beaches turned into a toxic-soup from an onslaught of releases from Lake Okeechobee since January—- that in time were dumping toxic algae from the lake into the river—- Evan has used his Facebook talents again.
This past Saturday, on July 3rd, the Martin County Sheriff’s Department reported that over 3500 people, from every walk of life, came out to spell in the sand the message of the masses to fix the lake and river debacle: BUY THE LAND.
This event played out over the 4th of July weekend on national media outlets. People in Martin County were getting phone calls from people in other states they had not spoken to in years. My father got a call from a man in his wedding from 1962 who lives in California. They had not spoken in years…
“What’s going on down there?”
Yes, the world has “seen” the peoples’ message thanks to Evan.
In our continued documentation of the 2016 Lake Okeechobee event, my husband Ed and I flew over the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon around 5:00pm on Father’s Day, 6-19-16, at the very end of an outgoing tide. Being a stormy day, there was poor lighting, but it was easy to see the darkness that enveloped the river due to the discharges of surrounding agricultural canals, and tidal runoff, and especially the high and long-going releases from Lake Okeechobee. The dark plume hugged the coast and jutted far out into the Atlantic having no clear edge as it was churned up from high winds and waves. Nonetheless from above, it’s shadow was visible for miles all the way south to the Jupiter Inlet.
Over the weekend there were multiple reports of algae blooms throughout the river and canals. Below are photos from a family boat ride in the vicinity of the Harborage Dock in Downtown Stuart yesterday, showing foam and algae at the shoreline and tiny specks of algae dispersed throughout the entire river.
“One resident nearby of Stuart, Dr Vopal, texted: “The river is pea green! …It is time for the legislators to look at this river and consider the health of the people that live on it. ”
Over the weekend just to me and on Facebook there were reports of algae blooms not only in Stuart but along the C-44 canal, the condo/marinas along Palm City Road, the eastern area of Lake Okeechobee itself, the St Lucie Locks and Dam, the St Lucie River near Martin Memorial Hospital, Sandsprit Park, Phipps Park, and Poppleton Creek. Certainly there were many others.
As most of us know, the Army Corp of Engineers has been discharging into the St Lucie River since January 29th, 2016. The river is almost completely fresh thus these freshwater blooms— that are in the lake and upper agricultural canals prior to being released into our river (cyanobacteria is a freshwater bloom)—and then they spread throughout the river once it too is fresh from all of the discharges. Since the ACOE has been releasing since January and there has been so much rain conditions are really bad.
Ed and I will continue to document. Our region’s entire quality of life is at stake. Nothing affects our local economy more than our river. We all must continue pushing to send water south to be cleaned and conveyed to Everglades National Park as Nature intended. Call our elected officials at every level. And vote on Aug 30th in the primary.
Jacqui and Ed, #Skywarriors since 2013
Photos of SLR/IRL -Sewall’s Point, Sailfish Point, St Lucie Inlet, Sailfish Flat’s former seagrass beds, Jupiter Island, Atlantic Ocean’s “protected” nearshore reefs.
Photos shared over weekend: Phipps Park, C-44 canal, St Lucie Locks and Dam, Sandspsprit Park also from family Father’s Day boat ride Harborage Marina, Downtown Stuart.
Lake O algae bloom shared by boater and posted by M. Connor just prior to weekend.
Today I will share aerial photos of the Manatee Pocket area around Sandsprit Park taken yesterday by my husband, Ed Lippisch, and a short written update by Dr Gary Goforth dated 6-12-16.
Manatee Pocket lies close to the St Lucie Inlet just across from Sewall’s Point. It once was the mecca for the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon commercial fishing business. The Lake Okeechobee discharges continue having started by the Army Corp of Engineers January 29th of this year and are approaching the level for all of 2013. Lake Okeechobee yesterday was reported to stand at a very high for this time of year 14.77 feet—-There is no end to discharges in sight for the St Lucie River. Conditions are very bad and the state and federal government are stuck in a pattern that is killing our quality of life and economy.
There must be a better way…
For the St. Lucie, the 2016 Lake discharges: – exceeded 133 billion gallons (compared with 136 billion gallons for 2013) – dumped more nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment than the “Lost Summer” of 2013 – dirtier than 2013 (higher concentrations of nitrogen, phosphorus and suspended sediment) – have exceeded the nitrogen and phosphorus TMDLs for the C-44 Canal by 600% For the Caloosahatchee, the 2016 Lake discharges: – have exceeded 302 billion gallons (compared with 456 billion gallons for 2013) – are dirtier than they were in 2013 for nitrogen and phosphorus
One of my favorite aerial photographs from my mother’s history books on Martin County is of the infamous Hugh Willoughby flying over the St Lucie River at Sewall’s Point and Willoughby Point. In more familiar terms for boaters, this location is known as “Hell’s Gate” due to the bottle-necking of the rushing tide.
Mr Hugh de Laussat Willoughby, one of the “early birds” of aviation, and a resident of Sewall’s Point, (http://earlyaviators.com/ewilloug.htm) had the idea of locating the New York Yacht Club at the southern tip of the peninsula as envisioned in the map below. It is difficult to see in the aerial, but the insignia of the New York Yacht Club is on the side of the biplane.
The yacht club never materialized as the market crash of the late 1920s and following depression of the 1930s dashed that dream. Today many local pilots fly over the St Lucie River at this same location to photograph a different dream. –By showing the devistation, inspiring a dream for our state and federal agencies, of clean water…
Would Mr Willoughby ever have imagined his paradise would be one of controversial pollution? Never in a thousand years….
This year, the ACOE has been discharging from Lake Okeechobee since January 29th 2016; in 2013 they released May through October, and in 2014 nothing…
May the photographs or today’s ailing river inspire change, and may the spirit of Mr Willoughby keep adventure and love alive in our hearts—and the wind— ever at our backs.
The 2014 post told the story of seeing cyanobacteria’s fluorescent blooms in the lake when my husband Ed and traveled through the St Lucie River to Lake Okeechobee by boat passing the St Lucie Locks and Dam (S-80) and Port Mayaca, (S-308) in 2009. This was just when I was beginning to focus my interests on the health of the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon as I had been elected to office in the Town of Sewall’s Point in 2008. During this trip it hit me that the algae started in the lake. Ed and I had traveled throughout the St Lucie River and C-44 canal, and when we got to Port Mayaca, at the lake, there it was….the fluorescent green algae.
Not being a scientist or biologist –it finally hit me “this is a fresh water bloom.” It blooms in the lake….not in the river that is more saline. But once the river is fresh from releases from the lake and canals, it can spread there too.
The story of the blog continues into 2013, when I saw the SFWMD testing the water at S-80, St Lucie Locks and Dam, and to my surprise I could see the unmistakable flourescent green cyanobacteria that often becomes “toxic”going right though the gates! I found this unsettling. Obviously the SFWMD, the ACOE, DEP, the Florida Health Dept and other official entities were in full knowledge that these dangerous blooms were being sent down the river to the residents of Stuart, Florida. Here I was an elected official representing a peninsular community and I had no clue. I had never even heard of this. Something is weird here, I thought. There is no warning to local governments. There is no press for the public. This is just everyday business….the everyday business of quietly poisoning Martin County’s citizens.
How could this be? I wondered…Maybe I am missing something? Maybe I am exaggerating?
Over time, I wrote other posts about this too.
I decided that this concept could be widely shared and understood, but we needed a good visual.
Well the ultimate visual is here…
Thank you to my husband, Dr Ed Lippisch for these photos and two short videos taken on Memorial Day, May 30, 2016 of tremendous blooms knowingly being sent through the open gates at S-80 towards the St Lucie River. We don’t have to wonder anymore.
In broad daylight, for all to see. State and Federal agencies….you’re busted.
*Thank you to the Stuart News, the River Warriors, Bullsugar.org and other river advocates for all of their work identifying and reporting the blooms especially in the lake and around Lake O this 2016.
Toxic Algae blooms (Microcystis/Cyanobacteria) :https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Microcystis_aeruginosa
I was on the Army Corp of Engineers Periodic Scientist Call this past Tuesday. These are excellent calls and one learns quickly the difficulties and the burdens of water management for our state and federal agencies in the state of Florida. I have participated in the calls as an elected official for the Town of Sewall’s Point since 2012.
This past Tuesday, something was said that struck me. Mark Perry, of Florida Oceanographic, reported something to the effect that over 600 acres of seagrasses inside the St Lucie Inlet are now “sand bottom.” Six hundred acres….
I went home and asked my husband that night at dinner…”Ed could it really be six-hundred acres? The seagrasses dead?”
“Easy.” He replied. “Just think of when I lived at the house at 22 South Sewall’s Point road when we first got married in 2005, and we’d walk out with the kayaks and there was lush seagrass all the way out ….well that’s gone–its gone all around the peninsula–you can see this from the air.”
Ed took some aerial photos the day after this conversation. Yesterday. I am including them today.
—-So it’s true, 600 acres of seagrasses are dead in one of the most bio-diverse estuaries in North America, the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon or southern IRL —for many years, as many of us know, confidently cited as not “one of,” but rather, “the most diverse…”
The Army Corp has been releasing from Lake Okeechobee this year since January 29th, 2016. We are only in June and there is more to come. Yes there is…there is “more to come” from us. There has to be. Because we are losing or have lost —everything.
Please compare the 1977 photo and then the 2012 map to photos taken yesterday. Please don’t give up the fight to bring back life to this estuary.
The first time I ever laid eyes on Lake Okeechobee, I was eleven years old. I remember thinking that I must be looking at the ocean because I could not see across to the other side. Just enormous!
In spite of its magnificent size, over the past century, Lake Okeechobee has been made smaller–around thirty percent smaller– as its shallow waters have been modified for human use–pushed back, tilled, planted, diked, and controlled. Today, it is managed by the South Florida Water Management District and the Army Corp of Engineers. Sprawling sugar fields, the Everglades Agricultural Area, (EAA), canals, highways, telephone poles, train tracks, processing facilities, a FPL power plant, and small cites surround it.
S-308, (the “S” standing for “structure), opens easterly into the St Lucie Canal, also known as C-44, (Canal 44). About twenty miles east is another structure, S-80, at the St Lucie Locks and Dam. It is S-80 that is usually photographed with its “seven gates of hell,” the waters roaring towards the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon, and the City of Stuart, but it is actually S-308 that allows the waters of Lake Okeechobee “in” from the lake in the first place.
Such a fragile looking structure to be the welcome matt of so much destruction…a sliver unto an ocean. So strange…
Today I will share some aerial photos that my husband took on Friday, May 13th, 2016 at about 700 feet above the lake. I asked Ed if from that height he could see the algae bloom so much in the news last week even though over time blooms migrate, “bloom” and then sink into the water column, becoming less visible but still lurking.
“Yes.” He replied.
” It’s harder to see from that altitude, and it depends on the light, but it’s still visible. It’s green in the brown water. The lighting shows were it is. You can see a difference in texture about 100 yards west of S-308. It is not right up against the structure, but further out. Boats are driving through it leaving a trail. It’s appears that is slowly being sucked in to the opening of the S-308 structure , like when you pull the drain out of the sink….”
TC Palm’s Tyler Treadway reported on 5-13-16: “The lake bloom was spread over 33 square miles near Pahokee, the South Florida Water Management District said Thursday. The Florida Department of Health reported Friday the bloom contains the toxin microcystin, but at a level less than half what the World Health Organization says can cause “adverse health impacts” from recreational exposure.”
Pahokee is south and west of Port Maraca and S-308. (Florida Trails)
Today, I was looking though my family library of photos and saw one from 2005, the year Ed and I got married.
“Boy we looked young,” I thought…”We have really changed…”
Then I noticed these SFWMD nutrient loading maps in the same file, as they were “published” in 2005 as well. These awesome maps were shared by SFWMD’s Boyd Gunsalus, such a helpful and smart person when it comes to water.
These SFWMD maps were very helpful to me when I was first learning about phosphorous and nitrogen loading by basins and Lake Okeechobee. The lake’s cumulative pollution is even higher than the different canals/basins. I would bet these numbers have not changed much. The state’s approach with BMAPS and TMDL’s is to be appreciated but just too slow.
Well, Ed and I have clearly aged and changed… but the maps–I bet if they made new ones for 2005-2016, the numbers would look about the same. I can’t say I’m envious. We are meant to change. To get better.
Maybe a scientist will chime in and let me know???
Seagrass….it has had a rough few years in the Indian River Lagoon-south,central, and north. Seagrass is a flowering plant, and just like plants that grow on land, it “comes and grows” with the seasons. We are just going now into spring…maybe it hasn’t flowered yet? Maybe it really grows in summer? Anyway…
My husband, Ed, brought home these photos yesterday of the area between Sewall’s Point and Sailfish Point. The area looks pretty naked to me. Ed will fly over again and we will watch whether the seagrass comes back or not. At least these are good baseline photos for 2016.
We all know the seagrasses have been terribly compromised throughout the years of due to agriculture and developments’ rampage in Florida, and Mother Nature’s too. For instance, 2004 and 2005’s hurricanes, 1998 and this year’s El Nino…Tough times were especially visible in 2013 with the toxic Lake O “Lost Summer,” and again this year in 2016—-with the constant releases from Lake Okeechobee since January. But even with these tough conditions the seagrass usually comes back, although weaker than before.
At the end of the blog I linked a post from August 2015, where you can see the seagrasses here in 2015 that looked dark and full of algae but were visible.
Just in case you don’t know, the location between Sewall’s Point and Sailfish Point is considered the cradle of the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon. For years it has been labeled the “heart of the most biodiverse estuary in North America,” with more fish species that any other, over 800 (Grant Gilmore, formerly of Harbor Branch).
What a crime to allow this fishery to go into to such demise. A nursery that affects all of Florida’s east coast. An engine for our economy and quality of life for all species.
To conclude, the photos Ed took below are in two groups: taking off from Witham Airport in Stuart (1-11) and then from Jupiter Island over the waters of Sewall’s and Sailfish Point (12-26). Parts of these waters are known as the Sailfish Flats. You will notice the waters of Lake O slowly exiting the St Lucie Inlet.
Thank you to my husband Ed for taking these photos once again of our east coast Indian River Lagoon inlets: Sebastian, Ft Pierce, and St Lucie– in this order. He took them Saturday, 3-12-16, around 4pm.
How to recognize a photo up close if you are not sure? Sebastian is recognized by its bridge over the inlet, Ft Pierce by the discharges exiting C-25 into the IRL at Taylor Creek near the marina, and Stuart’s St Lucie by “ball-like” Sailfish Point and undeveloped Jupiter Island south across the inlet.
Each inlet is unique, but all share that destructive channelized discharge waters running through them to the Atlantic Ocean—carrying sediment covering seagrasses, oysters, and reefs—too much freshwater for healthy fisheries and wildlife….and over nutrification—–
The rare, old-fashioned, 1987 “IRL Joint Reconnaissance Report “map below shows the Indian River Lagoon basin as a whole all the way from Ponce de Leon, in Volusia County to Jupiter Inlet, in Palm Bach County. The image shows the various freshwater discharge points into the Indian River Lagoon “basin.”
Yes, the Florida we know was “built on drainage” of the lands, but if the Florida of tomorrow is going to thrive, this system must be re-plumed/reorganized.
As we are aware, and have been aware, we are slowing killing our treasured ecosystem with these discharge outlets. It is time to rethink the drainage equation. Hopefully, in the future, “the canal map” will not look like this, nor will the aerials. To view series of aerials below, please click image and then direct with arrows.
Today I am sharing a “gallery” of discharge photographs from my husband Ed’s flight over Ft Pierce, Sebastian, and Stuart’s St Lucie Inlets. The photos were taken yesterday, March 6th, 2016, around 2pm.
A picture speaks a thousands words…(In this case through about 106 frames.) Yesterday was an absolutely beautiful day, yet area waters estuarine and ocean were not necessarily so. —-Certainly not those surrounding the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon near the St Lucie Inlet.
These aerial photos were taken around 4PM by my husband, Ed Lippisch, this past Sunday, 2-21-16. They show the Lake Okeechobee/area canals’ plume moving south along Jupiter Island over nearshore reefs. There are photos of the exclusive neighborhood, Sailfish Point, at the mouth of the St Lucie Inlet as well.
High levels of Lake Okeechobee and canal discharge water (7000 cfs +/- at S-80) continue to decimate the seagrasses, oysters, fish, and bird life of the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon. Our reef communities and property values are also affected.
Unfortunately, even with unprecedented state and federal actions of the South Florida Water Management District and the Army Corp of Engineers to “move water south” from the Water Conservation Areas to Everglades National Park, there is presently no end in sight for the northern estuaries.
There has to be a better way. “Finishing the projects” is not enough….
Over the weekend at my niece Julia’s lacrosse game I ran into a former fellow commissioner, and long time Martin County resident, Dr Paul Schoppe.
“Hey Jacqui,” he said. “I was just thinking about you…”
“Oh really, ” I replied.
“Yes. I was thinking about you when I went down to my dock and saw a dead Snook floating in the foamy dark water….. What are we doing about this river…..?”
Yesterday, I received a call from a Sewall’s Point resident informing me of a phone call he got from a friend in real estate. The friend was photographing the water at his listing on the St Lucie River and forwarding the photos saying: “I hope the buyers don’t cancel when they see the water. They are doing their walk through today.”
At Publix, that evening, I ran into an old-timer of Stuart. He said to me: “Jacqui of course there have been releases from the lake for years…the difference now is that the water is so polluted….”