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!
This blog post is a follow-up to my previous post: https://wp.me/p3UayJ-9Vm, entitled “Top 25 Discharge Years” to the St Lucie and Caloosahatchee . Here I wrote that the SFWMD’s DBHydro systems’ discharge dates were not the same for the St Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries and speculated on why. To review, the St Lucie’s dates available on DBHydro are 1953-2019, whereas the Caloosahatchee’s is 1967-2019. Thirteen years are “missing.”
Of course my brother Todd, was able to locate and give insight into those missing numbers explaining that comparisons could be found in another system, the USGS system, that actually shares information about the entire planet.
Todd has created the above charts using the USGS data for the Caloosahatchee and the DBHydro data for the St Lucie, and we can now see the 1959/1960 discharge comparison of the St Lucie and Caloosahatchee for 1959 and 1960 in the above charts and excerpts below. Cool!
Delving into all this is a lot of work, and sometimes imperfect, but isn’t it great that the internet allows both the state and federal government to put all this raw data out there for anyone to analyze? Although it takes time and expertise, at the local level it is really our responsibility to individually, through non-profits, and as local governments, tap into this available data and present it in a fashion that everyone can understand, and perhaps inspire!
So now, the lost numbers of the Caloosahatchee are found revealing that the St Lucie River has the highest discharge number on record – 1960- at 3,093,488 acre feet!
“The throat of our river was cut by the canals.” ~Ernest Lyons 1905-1990
Today, I begin a series of blog posts under the title: “Destruction by the Numbers,” based on new information my brother Todd has added to his website: http://eyeonlakeo.com.
The first slide we will study is calculated under Historical Discharge Graphs for “S-80, Calendar Year 2010 to 2019.” S-80 is the Army Corp of Engineers’ structure located at the C-44 Canal that discharges water to the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon from two sources. First, from the basin surrounding the C-44 Canal; and second, through S-308 at Lake Okeechobee.
Todd’s chart allows us to isolate the most recent decade, 2010-2019, and see that the highest discharging year during this time was 2016 at 847,773 acre feet. 2016 was by far the worst year in recorded history for cyanobacteria blooms being discharged from Lake Okeechobee and spreading throughout the river system. There was such massive blue-green algae build-up at Bathtub Beach that the waves and shoreline were completely green.
Don’t be intimidated by the left axis’ measurement of acre feet. Acre Feet is easy to calculate as it means exactly what it says. The acreage noted, in this instance, 847,773 acres, would be covered by one foot of water.
For reference, I will use the Everglades Agricultural Area, (EAA), located underneath Lake Okeechobee that we talk about all the time. This farmed area, mostly sugarcane, is 700,000 acres. So 847,773 acre feet of water —dumped into the St Lucie River from S-80, in 2016 –would cover the entire EAA, and more, by one foot of water!
~The map below shows the EAA in a salmon color.
Back to the chart. The next worst year, following 2016, was infamous 2013, the year that became known as the “Lost Summer,” and really started the river’s revolution at 671,067 acre feet. At one foot deep, the amount of water discharged would just fit inside the boundaries of the 7000,000 acres of the Everglades Agricultural Area. It is interesting to note that 2017, a year not often mentioned, closely followed with 661,000 acre feet.
2018, a horrible water year, fresh in our memories, actually came in fourth at 402,116 acre feet! Obviously timing and temperature are factors too.
~2010, 2015, 2012, 2014, 2019, and 2011 follow. Of course 2019 is not even finished. It will be interesting to see where it ends up.
As we would have guessed, 2016’s toxic algae health hazard was the highest destruction by the numbers year in the past decade. But what we would never have estimated is how much water was discharged to the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon through S-80 in the 1950s and 60s. This number will truly blow your mind. But we’ll save that for the next “Destruction by the Numbers.”