Tag Archives: fertilizer runoff

Why A 4-Year-Old Can Tell You That Our Fertilizer Ordinances are Working, SLR/IRL

"Be Floridian. Don't Fertilize." Photo adapted from Beauty of Nature photos sent to me by Anna Marie Wintercorn, 2015. (http://mp.weixin.qq.com/s?__biz=MjM5MjE0NTQ4Mw==&mid=200115697&idx=6&sn=74ffa17c3f3374553c6261be656fbb15&scene=1&from=groupmessage&isappinstalled=0#rd)
“Be Floridian. Don’t Fertilize.” Photo adapted from “Beauty of Nature” photos sent to me by Anna Marie Wintercorn, 2015.*

The “Be Floridian” program was born over a decade ago of the Tampa Bay area. This program has many elements, but most noteworthy is that “strict” fertilizer ordinances evolved collaboratively along the counties and cities of Florida’s “southerly” east coast.

Today, Tampa Bay has more seagrass than it did in the 1940s. This is in spite of the area’s high population. Certainly, they have different issues than we, and “no Lake O,” but the goal is clear: “if they did it there; we can do it here…improve our waters.”

On Florida’s east coast, in 2010,  the peninsular Town of Sewall’s Point, my community,  was the first to implement in a strong fertilizer ordnance. With the 2011-2013 melt down of the Indian River Lagoon due to super-algae blooms killing approximately 60% of the northern/central lagoon’s seagrasses, and the toxic “Lost Summer” of excessive dumping from Lake Okeechobee and area canals along the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon, communities all along the Indian River pushed their governments to implement strong fertilizer ordinances. —Making a statement that they were “fed-up” with dead waters, and were willing themselves to put “skin in the game.”

In case you don’t know, there are variations, but basically a “strong fertilizer ordinance” is one that does not allow fertilization with phosphorus and nitrogen during the summer rainy/hurricane season.

Recently there was an article in the “Stuart News” asking the question of whether or not these strong fertilizer ordinances are “working” along the IRL. The expert on hand replied it is “too soon to tell…”

I beg to differ, and here is why.

Of course they are working.

A four-year old can tell you they are  working.

Ad in Stuart News. Martin County has a strong fertilizer ordinance and is now promoting the BE FLORIDIAN program here in Martin County. Dianne Hughes and Deb Drum deserve applause for these great ads, 2015.
Ad in Stuart News. Martin County has a strong fertilizer ordinance and is now promoting the BE FLORIDIAN program here in Martin County. Dianne Hughes and Deb Drum deserve applause for these great ads, 2015.

I use this analogy a lot when discussing Lake Okeechobee and the Everglades Agricultural Area’s 700,000 acres south of the lake blocking the natural flow of water from the northern estuaries to the Everglades.

In spite of the sugar and vegetable empires south of the lake trying to convince us that it is water from Orland and the Kissimmee River killing our St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon, any four-year old studying the River Kidz program will point to the area directly south of the lake as biggest problem forcing the water up and out the estuaries rather than allowing it to flow south as nature intended…We need a third outlet south of the lake. There is too much water to hold it all north. End of story. I don’t need a study to tell me this. I know it. A four-year old knows it. You know it.

Back to fertilizer….last night it rained hard here in Sewall’s Point. My rain gauge says two inches. Seemed like more than that. If my yard had been fertilized of course that fertilizer would have gone into the gutter and down the drain and into the Indian River Lagoon. You can go out and watch this from my driveway.

It must be noted that until the ACOE and SFWMD (collaborating at the direction of our government) stop dumping from the lake and out over expanded canals, we will never know our “area’s” levels of phosphorus and nitrogen.

For example, the ACOE began releasing into our SLR/IRL this January and just stopped a few weeks ago, so if a scientist had done her or her study recently, they would be measuring nutrients that came into our river from “other places” too.

But we, here, are doing our part and can feel good about this…keeping our house in order will help push order in the houses of the state and federal governments that are presently quite un-orderly.

Enforcement? Let’s focus on education. As we can see. It’s working! Five years ago people weren’t even aware that fertilizer was an “issue.”

As a sidebar before I close, I recently had the pleasure of meeting Mr Woody Woodraska who headed the SFWMD in the 1980s before it was  under the anvil of the governor and the state legislature. The topic of visiting Cuba arose. My husband Ed and I will be visiting Cuba this fall with our church, St Mary’s.

Mr Woodraska said: “Oh, you are going to love it..”

In the course of telling his story visiting as a competitor in the Ernest Hemingway competition, he alluded to Cuba’s long repressed economy and how this kept fertilizers, via the agriculture industry, from ruining  Cuba’s waters, fish and wildlife. Thus overall, Cuba’s waters are healthy and beautiful today.

We here in Florida, on the other hand, have developed every piece of land right up to edge of every river, some with septic tanks, and torn out the native plants and replaced with plants that we must fertilize; agriculture is a corporate producer going through literately tons of fertilizer every day; canals not only to drain our land, but  we build houses along them; a turf grass industry flourishes in South Florida that sells 25% of all turf-grass in the WORLD; wonderful universities, like my alma mater and family connected University of Florida, do research and watch the industry’s back to “keeping our economy rolling!”

Yeah…rolling right over our fish, and our wildlife, and over ourselves as we see our own economy suffering from dirty waters.

Whew. I need a cup of coffee.

Sorry to be so opinionated, but I just can’t stand it. Fertilizer that is. In fact I have a file on my computer called DEATH BY FERTILIZER. Here are some pictures; thanks for reading my rant, have a good day, and I will not say “happy fertilizing!”   🙂

Grass going right over edge of canal....photo DEP.
Grass going right over edge of canal….photo DEP.
Ag runoff DEP photo.
Ag runoff from fields into canals DEP photo.
An ad running on the west coast of Florida in the area of Lee County, put together with the collaboration of interested parties and local governments, 2014. (Shared by former council lady Marsha Simmons, Bonita Springs.)
An ad from the west coast of Florida, 2014.
When it rains hard all runoff from yards goes into the SLR/IL taking fertilizer, pesticides and herbicides with it. This kills seagrasses and animal life. (JTL)
When it rains a lot all runoff from yards goes into the SLR/IL taking fertilizer, pesticides and herbicides with it. This kills seagrasses by supporting algae blooms Animal and fish suffer. (JTL)
Ad west coast near springs.
Ad west coast near springs.
Ad on bus west coast or Gainesville.
Ad on bus west coast or Gainesville.
River Kidz protest Florida legislature's trying to outlaw local governments from creating stricter fertilizer ordinances than the states. 2012. (Nic Mader)
River Kidz protest Florida legislature’s trying to outlaw local governments from creating stricter fertilizer ordinances than the states. 2012. (Nic Mader)

 

RK artwork  2011. Save the dolphins. Fertilizer is not good for their skin or for the fish they eat.
RK artwork 2011. Save the dolphins. Fertilizer is not good for their skin, or seagrasses needed by the fish they eat.

BE FLORIDIAN: (http://befloridian.org)

MARTIN COUNTY’S FERTILIZER ORD. (http://www.martin.fl.us/portal/page?_pageid=73,4448073&_dad=portal&_schema=PORTAL)

The National Research Council’s book “Clean Coastal Waters, Understanding and Reducing the Effects of Nutrient Pollution,” National Academy’s Press, 2000, is the best book I have read on this subject. It can be ordered on line.

*Photo of Flamingo, source: (http://mp.weixin.qq.com/s?__biz=MjM5MjE0NTQ4Mw==&mid=200115697&idx=6&sn=74ffa17c3f3374553c6261be656fbb15&scene=1&from=groupmessage&isappinstalled=0#rd)

Documenting the Destructive Discharges While “Keeping Our Eye on the Ball”-The River, 3-31-15, SLR/ILR

The Crossroads of the SLR/IRL with discharges from Lake O and Area canals. (Photo by Ed Lippisch, 3-30-15, 5:PM.)
The Crossroads of the SLR/IRL as seen during incoming tide with discharges from Lake O and area canals. (Photo by Ed Lippisch, 3-30-15, 5:PM.)

With all the fanfare of President Obama’s visit and the confrontation that seems likely at the April 2nd SFWMD, Water Resources Advisory Board meeting between “Stop the Land Grab” (http://goo.gl/2YVLXTand the River Warriors, it is important to keep our “eye on the ball.” THE RIVER.

Since January 16th of 2015, the ACOE and SFWMD have been overseeing the releases from Lake Okeechobee into the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon. (The ACOE technically oversees this; however, collaboration includes the science of both agencies.)

January is very early to start releases, but the lake “is high” for this time of year. Due to releases and evaporation, it is slowly going down and now at 14.04 feet. The goal 13.5 (?) or so, but they won’t say that  because  one must  “be sensitive to water supply” for agriculture and other users…(http://w3.saj.usace.army.mil/h2o/currentLL.shtml)

Today, I will share photos by my husband, Ed Lippisch,  that were taken yesterday around 5pm during the onset of an incoming  tide. Ed was piloted by friend Scott Kuhns. Thank you Scott and Ed! 🙂

As mentioned in an earlier blog, the ACOE is PULSE RELEASING and lowering releases into the SLR through S-80 right now in an attempt to help Martin County evaluate bacteria testing that cannot be done during heavy discharges. It is interesting to note that pulse releases mimic nature so that the estuary is not continually pounded, and can recover a bit. Just like during a rain event, the water flow is intense, salinity drops, and then salinity increases when the water lets up. You can see the schedule below.

ACOE pulse release schedule May 26, 2015.
ACOE pulse release schedule May 26, 2015. S-80 is the structure from the C-44 to the SLR letting in water from S-308 at Lake O.

One of the most interesting photos is of Sailfish Point’s marina where the runoff into the SLR/IRL is very apparent. There is always runoff from land into the rivers, yet we must remember the rain takes everything on the land with it: fertilizer, pesticides, herbicides, loose sediment….Martin County’s strong fertilizer ordinance rules don’t begin until June 1st, so it is likely that this runoff is full of pollution that like releases from Lake Okeechobee or area canals is not good for seagrasses.

For me the aerials of the seagrasses are most depressing. The once  healthy beds look horrible. One can see they have algae all over them . Maybe I’m  hyperbolizing, but the seagrasses do not look good to me. Having grown up here and swam in these area waters  as a kid when they were lush and full of life—-the present condition is not acceptable.

Anyway,  let’s keep our eye on river and we move through all these politics, and here is a look from above at YOUR RIVER!

1. SLR/IRL Crossroads with Willoughby Creek in foreground looking towards Jupiter Narrows and the SL Inlet.
1. SLR/IRL Crossroads with Willoughby Creek area in foreground looking towards Jupiter Narrows and the SL Inlet.
2
2 Confluence of SLR/IRL off west side of Sewall’s Point.
The Crossroads of the SLR/IRL with discharges from Lake O and Area canals. (Photo by Ed Lippisch, 3-30-15, 5:PM.)
The Crossroads of the SLR/IRL with discharges from Lake O and Area canals making it dark brown. (Photo by Ed Lippisch, 3-30-15, 5:PM.)
4
4. Sewall’s Point looking towards Hutchinson Island, IRL.
5.
5. Unhealthy looking seagrass beds off of Sewall’s Point and Sailfish Point.
6.
6. Sad looking seagrass beds seem to have algae on them thus so dark and flat looking….
7.
7. The Sandbar.
8.
8. Sailfish Point and Simpson Island.
9.
9.Sailfish Flats.
10. Martina at Sailfish Point with runoff from land due to rains.
10. Martina at Sailfish Point with runoff from land due to rains.
Another shot of Sailfish Point Marina.
11. Another shot of Sailfish Point Marina.
Long shot of Sailfish Point marina with runoff clearly seen.
12. Long shot of Sailfish Point marina with runoff clearly seen and Ed’s thumb!
SL Inlet with plume on left as incoming tide enters.
13. SL Inlet with plume on left as incoming tide enters.
Hole in the Wall with plume and incoming tide.
14. Hole in the Wall with plume and incoming tide.
15.
15. SL Inlet.
16.
16. Sailfish Point and inlet; north side is clean incoming tide-water. Plume goes south….

 

basins of SLR/IRL SFWMD
Basins of SLR/IRL SFWMD
ACOE/SFWMD discharge most recent discharge chart. Most is from Lake O in this chart as seen in blue.
ACOE/SFWMD discharge most recent discharge chart. Most is from Lake O in this chart as seen in blue.
ACOE S-308 structure showing water released into SLR/IRL from Lake O.
ACOE S-308 structure showing water released into SLR/IRL from Lake O.

ACOE excerpt —Info that goes with the above pulse release schedule; it is from 3-26-14. Another will call will occur today and updates will be considered.

UNCLASSIFIED ACOE

Caveats: NONE

“Based on the current lake levels, tributary hydrologic conditions, and multi-seasonal forecast, 2008 Lake Okeechobee Regulation Schedule (2008 LORS) Part D guidance is up to 3000 cfs at Franklin Lock and Dam (S-79) and up to 1170 cfs at St. Lucie Lock and Dam (S-80). We have considered stakeholders input and recommendation from the South Florida Water Management District.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Jacksonville District will be continuing discharges at S-79 at the same level as last week. However, the target discharges are reduced at S-80. The target flows over a 7-day period will be an average of 2500 cfs at S-79 and 500 cfs at S-80 cfs. These discharges will be made in a pulse-like manner (see attached).

These releases will start Friday, 27 March 2015 at 0700 hrs and end on Friday, 03 April 2015 at 0700 hrs.”

________________

ACOE Jacksonville: ((http://w3.saj.usace.army.mil/h2o/currentLL.shtml))

SFWMD: (http://www.sfwmd.gov/portal/page/portal/sfwmdmain/home%20page)