Tag Archives: Florida Oceanographic

Kidz, 8 Steps to Becoming a “Toxic Algae Detective,” St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon

 

Become a toxic algae detective!
Become a toxic algae detective!
Dirty Water Kills. River Kidz art archives.
Dirty Water Kills. River Kidz art archives.
DEP Algal bloom report to agencies and elected officials. (5-18-15, DEP 2015)
DEP Algal bloom report to agencies and elected officials. (5-18-15, DEP 2015)

WRITTEN FOR THE RIVER KIDZ, but FOR ADULTS TOO!

I do love government, ¬†or I wouldn’t be involved in it, nonetheless, it has many faults. One of its greatest, in my opinion, is making information easy and accessible to the public. Whether this is a strategy, or just a failure of most government-systems, is up for debate.

Anyway, today, in the world of “government information on toxic algae,” I wanted to cut through the plethora of information found layers-down-inside-websites you probably don’t even know about and share are few links in case you have any interest in becoming a toxic algae detective. I believe through documenting toxic algae blooms, we will eventually be able to trace them back to their owners….those who dump high levels of nutrients into our waterways while fertilizing their fields and lawns, either not using “high-standard best management practices” or simply just not really caring about water quality like they should….

River Kidz toxic algae deceives track down algae blooms and report them. (River Kidz art)
River Kidz toxic algae deceives track down algae blooms and report them. (River Kidz art)

HOW TO BECOME A TOXIC ALGAE DETECTIVE

Tell your parents what you want to do….. ūüôā Then—-

1. Be on the lookout flourescnent green in the water. But it could be also brown, red, or blue yucky or strange looking water, usually in found during summer when its hot.

2. If  you see something suspicious, take a photograph on your phone and post it to the River Kidz or Rivers Coalition Facebook pages or my Facebook page; these pages are public.

3. Don’t touch it! It could be toxic!

4. Because you are dealing with “old people,” its best to call, not text…. ūüôā It’s worth it!

For local documentation call Dr. Vincent Ecomio at Florida Oeanographic: 772-225-0505 or email him at vencomio@floridaocean.org. Be sure to tell whoever answers the phone how important it is that they take a message, documenting your name, detailed location of bloom, your phone, and email address. Ask for someone to call you back and tell you what the level of toxicity was, if it was, after a sample is taken and tested by the state.  Ask if they can help you to interpret the data. Write down your findings. Keep a record. (http://www.floridaocean.org)

5. For state documentation, call the Department of Environmental Protection too. Trying to find the right number to call is like trying to find a needle in a haystack so let’s use one in nearby Ft Pierce: 772-467-5500.

6. Wait for a call back if you leave a message…again, tell your parents what you are doing.

7. If no one calls you back in two hours, call again and repeat the process. Once they talk to you, ask how you can find out how the testing went for the bloom to find out how toxic it was…

8. Go back and check on the bloom; report and post your findings. Did it move? Change color? What do you think could have caused this? Go on line and read about what can happen to algae blooms over time.

Maybe you want to start your own neighborhood website? Or share your clues and findings with at school or a community meeting? ¬†Whatever you do—-

NOW YOU ARE NOW A TOXIC ALGAE DETECTIVE! Pat yourself on the back. You are helping to create a better water future for our St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon!

The links below are very helpful.

The first one is from the Florida Department of Health and is informational. The second allows you to trace the history of blooms reported anywhere in the state. Just enter “St Lucie River…” The third is a DEP informational piece that in my opinion “waters down” toxic algae blooms and their sources, but does provide excellent information and contact numbers.

Congratulations, thanks again for helping to save our river, for us, the fish, the birds, and the animals;  hope to see you detectives on the water!

1. http://www.floridahealth.gov/environmental-health/aquatic-toxins/cyanobacteria.html

2. http://www.floridahealth.gov/environmental-health/aquatic-toxins/public-access-caspio.html

3. http://www.dep.state.fl.us/secretary/news/2015/files/Algal_Bloom_2015.pdf

Artist Julia Kelly's beautiful artwork will be featured in the River Kidz Second Edition Workbook. Her work was also featured in the first edition. (Photo 2014.)
Artist Julia Kelly’s beautiful artwork in the River Kidz workbooks features the animals of the SLR/IRL staring Marty the Manatee, 2014/15.
River Kidz drawing 2012.
River Kidz art archives.

Understanding Why Sometimes Some Things Don’t Make Sense, St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon

Waters in St Lucie River on west side of Sewall's Point, (Photo Ed Lippisch)
Lake O water and some area canal water flowing through SLR after ACOE opened  S-308 on 1-16-15. (Waters in St Lucie River east of Roosevelt Bridge) Photo taken  1-25-15 by  Ed Lippisch)

One thing to remember is that the St Lucie River and many parts of the Indian River Lagoon are “impaired,” as determined by the state of Florida at least by 2002 and 2008:

SLR impairment: (http://www.dep.state.fl.us/southeast/ecosum/ecosums/SLE_Impairment_Narrative_ver_3.7.pdf)

IRL impairment: (http://waterwebprod.dep.state.fl.us/basin411/indianriver/assessment/G5AS-IRL_Low-Res-Merge.pdf)

This basically means any number of things, but mostly, that there is too much “nutrient” (phosphorus and nitrogen) in the water. This comes from many sources and all of the sources should be addressed. These nutrients encourage algae blooms, sometimes toxic, ¬†destroying seagrasses, water clarity, and other “life.”

So no matter how “good” today’s water quality reports may be, or how good the water looks, or whether the Martin County Health Department reports “acceptable” levels of bacteria in the water, the waters of our area are “impaired.” This is especially true, “under the water” where one really can’t see unless you dive in with a mask and flippers.

The state saw this “impairment” status coming for decades due mostly to Florida’s ¬†development boom and the gigantic and historic role of agriculture, but…..

Yes, the key word is “but,” it happened any way…

 

More recently, on January 16th of 2015, the Army Corp of Engineers (ACOE)¬†started dumping from Lake Okeechobee into the SLR/IRL again. This is early in the year to start dumping and historically this foreshadows a bad summer—-BUT Lake O. was high and the ACOE and South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD)¬†like to have 3 to 4 feet of “freeboard” in the lake so if a hurricane comes in summer and the diked lake fills with ¬†3-4 feet of water, the Herbert Hoover Dike doesn’t break. They don’t like the lake to be over 15.5 feet or so. ¬†It is “best” if the lake is around 12 feet by summer–BUT they will never tell you that——something to do with “water supply…”

Chart  releases 2-15-14 by the SFWMD showing releases from Lake O since January into SLR/IRL.
Chart releases 2-24-14 by the SFWMD showing releases from Lake O since January into SLR/IRL.

The above chart provided by the SFWMD shows all releases since January into the SLR/IRL. Blue is Lake O. The ACOE stopped for one week starting  February 17th so Martin County could complete a bacteria study.

During this time I went up in the plane with my husband; the water looked great in the Crossroads by Sewall’s¬†Point and the St Lucie Inlet as it was an incoming tide and releases had been halted.

One might think: “Oh the water is healthy again!”

Remember, it is not.

SLR/ILR Crossroads 2-22-15. (Photo JTL)
SLR/ILR Crossroads 2-22-15. (Photo JTL)
SLR/IRL convergence waters between Sewall's Point and Sailfish Point 2-22-15. (JTL)
SLR/IRL convergence waters between Sewall’s Point and Sailfish Point 2-22-15. (JTL)

Another factor in all of this is—— if you look at the SLR/IRL reports from Florida Oceanographic (http://www.floridaocean.org)¬†over the entire time of the recent releases, ¬†measuring salinity; visibility; and dissolved oxygen, the reports are quite good. And they are good, but this does not remove the “impaired status” of the river.¬†

I apologize they are out-of-order below, but I could not achieve better with out great time and effort.

You can click on the images to enlarge the reports. These charts basically show a consistent grading of ¬†“B to A” ¬†water quality in the SLR/IRL since January 8, 2015—- other than the South Fork which of course is where the water from Lake Okeechobee is coming into the St Lucie River through C-44!

Anyway, to repeat again, one must remember that at all times and in all places right now no matter how pretty or how good a chart looks, ¬†our St Lucie River and parts of the Indian River are “impaired.”

We must work to improve the status of our rivers by lessening ¬†area freshwater canal runoff; our own “personal pollution” though fertilizer, septic and other stuff we put on our yards and down the sink; from roads/cars–Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT)¬†canals are everywhere and have no “cleaning;” ¬†and most of all, we must work to one day redirect as much water away from Lake Okeechobee as possible.

The purchase of land in the Everglades Agricultural Area south of the lake is about the only place this can be achieved.

It is all so confusing sometimes, BUT one thing is for sure, the more we learn, the more we can help and inspire others to clean up our rivers!

 

FOS
FOS 1. 1-8-15
2.
2.

photo 1 photo 2 photo 5 photo 3

FOS charts out of order showing water quality.
FOS charts out of order showing water quality.

 

 

Mark Perry “Loves His Lagoon,” FAU/Harbor Branch Honors His Life and Work, SLR/IRL

Mark Perry with his father Clifton Perry (right) and another Gentleman, (left), (Year unmarked, Tides of Time, Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Florida Oceanographic Society, 1964-2014-puiblication, FOS.)
Mark Perry (middle) with his father, Clifton Perry, (right) and another Gentleman, (left). Clifton Perry was on the original board with James H. Rand, for FOS that Mark took over and has led to greatness. (Photo from “Tides of Time,” Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Florida Oceanographic Society, 1964-2014, publication, FOS.)
Brothers, Chris and Mark Perry sit on the bench along Hutchinson Island that is  in honor of their father, Clifton Perry. (Photo Sandra Thurlow, ca. 2000.)
Brothers, Chris and Mark Perry sit on the bench along Hutchinson Island that is in honor of their father, Clifton Perry. (Photo Sandra Thurlow, ca. 2000.)
1970 Martin County High School, funeral for the SLR/IRL. Mark was one of the students who participated in this Earth Day event. (Thurlow Archives)
1970 Martin County High School, funeral for the SLR/IRL. Mark was one of the students who participated in this iconic Earth Day event. This event had a huge impact on me as a kid…(Thurlow Archives.)
Budding Florida Oceanographic Society, ca. 1970s (Tides of Time, FOS.)
A budding Florida Oceanographic Society, ca. 1970s (Tides of Time, FOS.)
A young Mark Perry, ca. 1980s. (Tides of Time, FOS.)
A young Mark Perry, ca. 1970s/1980s. (Tides of Time, FOS.)
Photo by Thomas Winter of Mark Perry from Tom's blog about Lake O. releases 2012: (http://thomaswinter.com/blog/?p=432)
Mark Perry today, always teaching, always leading. Photo by photographer, Thomas Winter from Tom’s blog about Lake O. releases 2012: (http://thomaswinter.com/blog/?p=432)

One of the great things about living in the town you grew up in is watching people you know “grow-up,” and be recognized for their contributions to the Treasure Coast community.

One of these people, for me, is Mark Perry, who I have known since my earliest memories. Today, Mark is the Executive Director for Florida Oceanographic Society, (http://www.floridaocean.org),¬†the epicenter in Martin County for education, protection, and advocacy for the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon. He has been leading the organization for 35 years…

Mark is older than me. I was born in 1964, and I believe Mark is about ten years my senior. When you’re a kid, that’s “a lot.” But it’s just enough to for constant admiration “from younger to older.” I have been admiring Mark Perry my entire life…

Mark, his brother Chris, and his parents Clifton and Mimi Perry attended St Mary’s Church as my family did and does today. I first met Mark at St Mary’s…I was probably 3 or 4 years old.

Me as a kid with my cat Misty, ca. 1968,. (Photo from Thurlow Family album.)
Me as a kid, with my cat, Misty, ca. 1968,. This is about how old I was when I met Mark Perry… ūüôā (Photo from Thurlow Family album.)

As I grew up, I remember my parents talking about the “older kids” in the youth group getting to go on a canoe trip down the Peace River, chaperones, sleeping bags, marshmallows, etc….It was the 1970s….I wanted so badly to be older and get to do the “cool” things the older kids did, but I was just a “kid,” and had to stay home…

Over the years, my parents kept me abreast of the Perry family and what was always most interesting to me was Mark’s journey with Florida Oceanographic, an organization his father helped found in 1964 that was originally located¬†¬†in my childhood neighborhood of St Lucie Estates, along Kruegar Creek, in Stuart. I often visited there on my bicycle.

Early FOS, Kreugar Creek, ca. 1970s. (Tides of Time)
Early FOS, Kruegar Creek, ca. 1970s. (Tides of Time)

Over the years I grew up, moved away, ¬†attended University of Florida, lived and worked in California, Germany, and Pensacola, and when I came home in 1997 to Stuart, to continue my teaching career, Florida Oceanographic had expanded from that neat place I saw on my bicycle to become the showcase institution it is today–-An organization that symbolizes the love and fight for the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon-and the life of Mark Perry.

Mark Perry today, FOS.
Mark Perry today, photo, FOS, 2015.)

Tonight at FAU/Harbor Branchs’, “Love Your Lagoon” gala, (http://www.indianriverlagoon.org/Love-Your-Lagoon-Dinner-.html)¬†Mark Perry will be honored for his St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon work. It is the foundations’¬†fourth¬†annual, and those who¬†preceded¬†Mark in being honored are: 2012,¬†Nathaniel¬†Reed; 2013, Bud Adams; 2014, Alma Lee Loy.

Mark follows in big footsteps, and he has filled them, “completely.” Thank you Mark Perry for a lifetime of admiration, respect, and guidance in our love and fight to save the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon!

LYL honoring Mark Perry
LYL 2015, honoring Mark Perry, invitation.
FAU Harbor Branch, Love Your Lagoon, 2015 honing Mark Perry.
FAU Harbor Branch, Love Your Lagoon, 2015 honing Mark Perry.(STD Cover)
Mark and hi swift Nancy at FOS 50th anniversary. (Photo from event.)
Mark and his wife, Nancy at FOS’ 50th anniversary. (Photo from event.)
LYL 20014. With Mark Perry and others. (Photo HBOI, Brian S.)
LYL 20014. With Mark Perry and others. (L to R to L: Comr. Doug Smith, Mark Perry, Joe Duke, JTL, Sen. Joe Negron, Sherri Plymale.) (Photo HBOIF, Brian S.)

(These are excellent resources):

View Mark Perry’s FOS Presentation Library power point’s on the SLR/IRL here: (http://www.floridaocean.org/p/177/presentation-library#.VNTBDFriuR8)

Palm Beach Post article: (http://www.palmbeachpost.com/news/news/local/florida-oceanographic-society-head-marks-35-years-/nWnzC/)

 

 

Water, Water, Everywhere…St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon

Water, water everywhere....
Water, water everywhere?

“Water, water, everywhere,
And all the boards did shrink;
Water, water, everywhere,
Nor any drop to drink.‚ÄĚ
‚Äē Samuel Taylor Coleridge, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner

In the “Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” the winds have died, and the sailors sit surrounded by ocean water and they are thirsty, but no water is drinkable…a Mariner passenger had shot the albatross following the ship, a sign of “good luck.” Now the sailors feel they are cursed—-surrounded by the ocean, having no fresh water….the water of life…The sailors glare at the mariner knowing he is the cause of their situation….They make him wear the dead albatross around his neck as punishment.

One could say, this tale applies to today’s South Florida as well…

The sailors are those living in Florida today wanting clean water.

The mariner, who¬†shot the albatross, would be yesterday/and some of today’s agricultural and development interests; state, local, and national governments; agencies; even some of our ancestors…..ourselves?

Perhaps it is not that simple to casts roles, but I’m sure you get the point. There are questions the tale makes us ask:

Is there someone to blame? Will it help if we change our ways and realize we did something unwise? Will we, indeed, make it to shore?

In any case, today, we all sit here on this grand peninsula of Florida wondering how it could be possible that we are surrounded by water and yet have so many problems because of it….

Could it be possible that one day we will wish “we” did not shoot the albatross by allowing the Army Corp of Engineers¬†¬†and the¬†South Florida Water Management District to send ¬†so much of our fresh water out to sea?

And then there is the knowledge that one day, truly, we may not have enough water…Desalination plants are an option, but they are tremendously expensive.

Right now, as we know, there is a movement to “send the water south.” To keep more water on the land.

The key for more water on the land ¬†is land acquisition. ¬†As Mark Perry of Florida of Oceanographic preaches over and over again: “store, treat, and convey…”

Mark Perry, life time advocate and Executive Director at Florida Oceanographic. (Photo courtesy of Harbor Branch where Mark is being honored at 2015's Love Your Lagoon.)
Mark Perry, lifetime advocate for the SLR/IRL and Executive Director at Florida Oceanographic.

Recently, I posted stating that according to Robert Johnson, the Director of South Florida Natural Resources Center, at Everglades National Park, 800,000 acre feet of water, goes south to the “southern estuaries.

“I made a mistake. “Southern Estuaries” ¬†refers to Biscayne Bay and such. “We” are the “northern estuaries”….So to correct myself, Mr ¬†Johnson’s slide below implies that only 67,000 acre feet of water a year goes to the SLR/IRL and 390,000 acre feet ¬†goes to the Calooshahatchee.

Slide from Robert Johnson's presentation, Everglades Coalition 2015.
Slide from Robert Johnson’s presentation, Everglades Coalition 2015.

Mark Perry of Florida Oceanographic (http://www.floridaocean.org) disagrees; he says it is more than that. His research shows that the amount of water coming into, the NORTHERN ESTUARIES, annually, is around 1.4 million acre feet, with 442,000 acre feet going to the St Lucie and 976,000 acre feet going to the Caloosahatchee.

More easily translated, this is 20% to the St Lucie/IRL; 44% to the Calooshahatchee; 23% to Agriculture in the Everglades Agricultural Area; and only 13% to the Everglades. (See slide below.)

Slide showing average annual  water dispersant, Mark Perry, 2013.
Slide showing average annual water dispersed , Mark Perry, 2013.

You know what?

In spite of the numbers, we all know “it” is a ton of water. More water than we can imagine. An ocean of water. Water we need for the Everglades and for the ourselves….

Option Lands Map SFWMD River of Grass
Option Lands Map SFWMD River of Grass

So let’s not end up like the sailors in the “Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” with no water to drink, or the Mariner who had to wear the albatross around his neck as punishment for killing “life and luck.”

In fact, let’s change our luck.¬†Let’s keep some of this precious water on the land rather than wasting it to tide.

As Mr Perry states in his slide show 1.7 billion gallons of water is wasted to tide per day through the canals of south Florida, translating into approximately, 5.9 million dollars a day.

Slide, Mark Perry.
Slide, Mark Perry.

Look up! Do you see an another albatross approaching our ship? I do.

Let’s allow it to fly with us this time, as we work for a better water future for the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon…

_____________________________________

ONLINE ASK: What does the Albatross symbolize in the rime of the ancient mariner?

The albatross in The Rime of the Ancient Mariner is supposed to symbolize a good omen. The ship’s crew thought that it brought good luck. However, the Mariner shot and killed the albatross and so it became a curse. He was made to wear the albatross around his neck.

Rime of the Ancient Mariner: (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Albatross_%28metaphor%29)

A Surprise Visit by Gubernatorial Candidate, Charlie Crist, St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon

Charlie Crist visits the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon October 3, 2014. Photo by Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch.)
Charlie Crist visits the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon October 3, 2014. (Photo by Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch.)

As you probably saw in the paper, Charlie Crist, Democratic gubernatorial candidate for Florida, visited Stuart on Wednesday, October 3, 2014. Very exciting! I have been waiting for the governor’s race to crank up and for the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon to be in the spotlight as it should be.

In my dream of dreams Governor Scott and Charlie Crist would come to Stuart debate. For now, I will be satisfied that this year both have visited and spoken and are aware of health issues facing the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon.

I had seen Charlie Crist speak before at the Florida League of Cites, in Hollywood, but it was fun to see “the man, the myth,” our former governor, up close, face to face, along with his beautiful wife Carol.

I shall tell you of my short experience…

As I did not learn of the visit until the day before, I already had commitments and thus was one hour and a half late to Mr Crist’s planned arrival to tour the lagoon at the invitation of Marty Baum, Indian Riverkeeper.

This was inconsequential as the Crist team was late itself, so when I arrived at Sandsprit Park, Mr Crist and his team had just gone out in the boat with Marty Baum, Mark Perry of Florida Oceanographic, and others.

Coming in off the boat
Coming in off the boat.
Marty Baum, Indian Riverkeeper, Kevin Stinnet, and
Marty Baum and friends.

As Mr Crist came off the boat I moved to greet him and grabbed his hand to help him onto the dock. ¬†I thanked him for his visit. His wife, Carol was at his side holding a sign that read, ¬†A FAIR CHANCE FOR FLORIDA. ¬†I knew that the couple had married in 2008 and that she was a very successful business woman¬†who ran the ¬†family business, Franco American Novelty Co . and was most well-known for ¬†inventing ¬†the slogan: “Where Fashion Meets Halloween,” and ¬†creating ¬†sexy Halloween costumes that were big sellers. She is a talented marketer.

I wondered what she thought so far of Stuart. She smiled, stepping off the boat in high heels.

Charlie Christ's wife, Carol, was at his side on the boat ride. (Public photo)
Charlie Christ’s wife, Carol, was at his side on the boat ride. (Public photo)

Once off the boat they got their sea legs as apparently a big wave had hit…the small crowd loved him and gathered around.

Mr Crist composed himself, a calm and confident speaker. This was obviously a man used to being in the public eye.

The questions from the reporters about the lagoon were many, and Mr Crist did a good job answering. Nonetheless there was an awkward moment that must be noted.

Tyler Treadway from the Stuart News asked Mr Crist about how he would stop the discharges from Lake Okeechobee and Mr Crist answered that “he would put the right people on the South Florida Water Management Board and the discharges would stop; like they did before, when he was governor…”

There was silence. Tyler’s lips quivered; he said something like …”Sir I don’t know how you can say that? …That you stopped the discharges….”

Charlie Crist repeated again that he had.

I watched this crowd who adored and appreciated Mr Crist but they were too educated and too far into this not to know that stopping the discharges is a lot more complicated that that….and that they have NEVER stopped for long.

The was the pregnant pause….Silence….Tyler looked at his writing pad….the crowd stared into space.

As usual I could not stop myself and I finally blurted out: “Temporarily…..”

Charlie Crist looked straight at me; I respectfully held my gaze, head slightly down.

We all looked at each other….and stared. It was time to go.

We all thanked him. It was a great visit.

I believe Mr Crist’s intentions are good, I just don’t think, he like all politicians, is ¬†used to speaking to such an educated public.

We know the truth, we need a third outlet from the lake and other water holding areas, there are no saviors, no boards that will fix our terrible St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon/Lake Okeechobee problem.

“Why didn’t he speak about his US Sugar buyout plan from 2008?” Said someone as we were all walking away?

“He didn’t know who he was taking to,” I answered. “The most educated public in the state. Politicians are not used to that…”

We waved goodbye. And Charlie flashed us that winning smile. We hope he’ll come again.

Pam Joy hold a sign SAVE OUR RIVER.
Pam Joy hold a sign SAVE OUR RIVER.
SAVE US
SAVE US
St Lucie River Kidz were there to meet Charlie Crist. Their mission is to speak out, get involved and raise awareness....
St Lucie River Kidz were there to meet Charlie Crist. Their mission is to speak out, get involved and raise awareness….

 

 

C-44 Basin Runoff 2014, Another Summer of Dirty Water For Our Indian River Lagoon, Why?

Aerial of the confluence of the SLR/IRL off of Sewall's Point, July 27th, 2014. (Photo courtesy of Scott Kuhns.)
Aerial of the confluence of the SLR/IRL off of Sewall’s Point, June 27th, 2014. (Photo courtesy of Scott Kuhns.)

If there is one thing constant about the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon’s problems, it is that they are multi-layered and complex. I believe this is one reason it has been so hard to “fix.” If there were just one problem, it would be easier, but there is not one problem, there are many.

So, today I wanted to focus  on C-44 basin runoff, again, as it has been in the news a lot, especially the two weeks since I was gone as I heard it really rained and we even got our first named hurricane.

The photo above shows the waters just off of the tip of Sewall’s Point on June 27th, 2014. Disgusting.

Basin map Martin/St Lucie SLR.
Basin map Martin/St Lucie SLR.

The basin map above reminds us of the C-44 basin’s location ¬†in southern Martin County. The “basin” is the large area surrounding the C-44 canal in black lines. ¬†As we know, this area is largely agricultural and was expanded over the years to drain more land than nature intended.

Through permits with the South Florida Water Management District the agricultural businesses are allowed to use water from the C-44 canal for irrigation when needed, especially during the “dry” season. The Army Corps of Engineers manages the level of the canal mostly for agricultural use; this is an historic relationship. In spite of “best management practices” much of the water used to irrigate their fields, runs back into the canal, over and over again, filled with fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, etc…This is the untreated, polluted water that goes straight into our rivers.

As we can see looking at the canal map, over the years, the C-44 basin has become tremendous in size in order to drain land for agriculture and development.  Millions of gallons of water come off these lands when it rains, as has been the case the past couple of weeks.

This recent photo below by local river activist and fishing guide, Michael Conner, shows what the C-44 basin water looks like when it comes out of the S-80 gates at St Lucie Locks and Dam, the same gates that are used when water is released from Lake Okeechobee when the ACOE opens S-308 at the lake. This can be confusing because usually we associate this type of photo with releases from Lake Okeechobee. S-80 can release just C-44 canal water or “just lake water,” or both lake and C-44 water…

S-80 releases water from S-80 into the C-44 canal at St Lucie Locks and Dam, July 2014. (Photo  courtesy of Michael Connor.)
Releases from S-80 from the C-44 canal at St Lucie Locks and Dam, July 2014. (Photo courtesy of Michael Connor.)

So why haven’t we talked ¬†about the C-44 basin until this summer, or seen or very much about it in the newspaper “before?”

Well, it is confusing to the lay person, and I don’t claim to know everything, but I will explain what I can.

Generally, in the past, ¬†the ACOE did not usually release the C-44 into the river during the summer…but this summer they are. Why?

Well according the the “Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the 2008 Lake Okeechobee Regulation Schedule (LORS),” the document the ACOE uses to manage Lake Okeechobee:

“All alternatives assume back flow from the St Lucie Canal, C-44, to Lake Okeechobee to be allowed to occur at lake stages of 14.50 ft or 0.25 from the bottom of the the lowest non-baseflow regulatory zone, whichever is lower.”

Basically this means that under most circumstances if the lake is under 14.5 feet, ¬†which it is now, (13.38), the ACOE will “back flow” C-44 canal runoff water into the lake through S-308, rather than sending it east to the SLR/IRL through S-80. This summer the ACOE ¬†has chosen not to do this, so we are getting C-44 basin water released into the SLR/IRL so the water looks gross. In the ACOE’s July 11th, 2014, public periodic scientist call email statement, explaining their choices, it reads:

“The Water Control Plan deliberately allow some flexibility to consider real time and forecasted conditions and decisions made within the guidance provided by the Water Control Plan…for the specific decision not to flow water from the C-44 basin into Lake Okechobee since 12 June 2014, the conditions that we took into consideration were rising lake levels, water supply, remaining duration of the wet season and proximity to the low sub band….the 8 July report from the South Florida Water¬†Management¬†District evaluates the condition of St Lucie Estuary and states “salinity at US1 is within the preferred range for oysters in the mid estuary.”

Photo of  SLR/IRL off Sewall's Point yesterday, 7-15-14. (Thank you Ed Lippisch)
Photo of SLR/IRL off Sewall’s Point yesterday, 7-15-14. (Thank you Ed Lippisch)

Hmmm? Obviously the SFWMD’s salinity report was not that of Mark Perry’s at Florida Oceanographic…Let’s read and take a look.

Mark Perry feels the ACOE should be back flowing the C-44 water into the lake. He says:

“According to the Water Control Plan for the Lake the Corps should be opening S-308 and back flowing this local basin runoff into the lake when the lake is below 14 feet and the C-44 is above 14.5 feet but they have chosen to make steady releases from the C-44 basin through S-80 into the St Lucie at near 1000 cfs since June 14. Not so good outlook for the St Lucie Oysters…”

Please view his chart below that shows what has happened to salinity levels since the C-44 has been flowing into the SLR/IRL. (Mind you C-23, and C-24 are also dumping their basin runoff water, but C-44’s basin area is larger.)

Salinity is going below safe levels for oysters since the C-44 has been opened.
Salinity is going below safe levels for oysters since the C-44 basin at S-80 has been opened.

On the other hand, friend of Mark Perry, Kevin Henderson, long time advocate for the SLR/IRL and founding member of the St Lucie River Initiative, feels the ACOE is perhaps trying a strategy that will help the St Lucie in the “future.” Kevin states:

“I firmly disagree that the Corps should always run C-44 drainage west until the Lake reaches 14.5. That is the pattern that gets us the most continuous lake and C-44 ¬†drainage into the fall, and the the patten that kills oysters…It is not basin runoff that kills the estuary, it’s months of continuous discharges at rates that never let salinity recover. This is why I advocate sending C-44 drainage west only when local salinity could recover for a while, then send it east again and do not let Lake O get high enough to wreck us with longer term discharges…”

I think he’s saying, the ACOE, by not consistantly filling the lake up with C-44 basin water during summer, may be avoiding long term runoff into the SRL/ILR in the future come fall…

Hmmm?

Both Mark and Kevin have a point.

My non-scientific perspective?

I think the ACOE was so taken aback by the wrath of the general public last year, the River Warriors, the River Kidz, the River Movement, the Stuart News/media, as well as some politicians, that they will do “almost anything” not to release water from Lake Okeechobee into the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon if they don’t have to.

By letting the C-44 basin water go into the river and not the lake, if a hurricane comes, there is just that much more room in the lake to hold the water so they don’t have to dump here and listen to us scream….

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ACOE Jacksonville/Lake O: (http://w3.saj.usace.army.mil/h2o/reports.htm)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fresh Water Pollution, a Destructive Force in the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon

Fresh water releases from local canals C-23, C-24 C-44 and polluted fresh water from Lake Okeechobee cover near shore reefs off of Stuart and Jupiter Island, 2013. (Photo Ed Lippisch)
Fresh water releases from basin runoff through local canals C-23, C-24, and C-44 as well as  polluted fresh water from releases from Lake Okeechobee through C-44, cover near shore reefs off of Stuart and Jupiter Island. (Photo MC archives,  2011.)

The concept that fresh water is a “pollutant” is sometimes confusing as we typically associate pollution with heavy metals, nutrients like phosphorus and nitrogen from fertilizer, and muck accumulation, on the bottom of the river, from sediments running off of lands, through canals. Believe it or not, too much fresh water is just as polluting and has dire consequences for the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon.

This is historically ironic as well, as when the Ais Indians lived in this area, ¬†the St Lucie River was a large fresh water “stream.” Throughout history, most of the time, the “St Lucie,” was not connected to the ocean. The natural inlet at what was later called “Gilbert’s Bar” by the Spanish was ¬†sometimes open, sometimes not, but never for too long, and the inlet opening was much smaller and shallower than today’s St Lucie Inlet.

Yes, we are going back,  before we go forward, but history is important to know!

The “St Lucie Inlet” was permanently opened by hand using shovels, in 1892, by local pioneers who wanted access to the ocean for trade and communication. They had no idea that by doing this they would create “the most bio-diverse estuary in North America.”

As the salt water came in and mixed with the fresh water of the St Lucie and the “fresher than today’s water” of the Indian River Lagoon, one ecosystem, a freshwater ecosystem was destroyed by the salt, and another was born.

Over time, more fish and critters entered the St Lucie/ Southern Indian River Lagoon than at any other time in known history. The forks of the St Lucie, north and especially north, remained more “fresh” as the salt water usually did not go up that high into those areas. Perfect! Salt and fresh water fishing! It was a unique situation and as mentioned in the day before yesterday’s blog, presidents and other famous people swarmed to the St Lucie for its amazing fishing during this era, and all enjoyed.

Then things changed. In the late 1920s and early 30s, due to flooding ¬†of agricultural lands and bad hurricanes killing people living and working in the southern area surrounding the lake, the Army Corp built the C-44 canal from Lake Okeechobee to the south fork of the St Lucie River. ¬†Then in the 50s and 60s they built canals C-23 and C-24 as part of the Central and South Florida Flood System, another “flood protection project.” ¬†Although all of these drainage programs helped agriculture, especially the sugar industry south of the lake, and citrus, in mostly St Lucie and parts of Okeechobee counties, as well as greedy developers, it did not help the St Lucie River. In fact, these drainage canals have been slowly killing the St Lucie and Indian River Lagoon ever since.

How?

Through many things, but believe it or not, mostly through fresh water.

Once the estuary (St Lucie/IRL) became brackish, a mixture of fresh and salt water, this delicate balance was important to the fish, mammals and others critters that made the river/lagoon their home in this new found paradise.

Briefly, I will summarize some of the killer effects of fresh water on its residents:

1. Fish: When there is too much fresh water the fish get lesions. This is from a fungus that only can live and operate in a fresh environment. The name of the fungus is Aphanomyces invadans and its spores get into fish skin when temperatures are low and water is fresh causing horrible lesions. More lesions have been reported over time in the St Lucie River that any other site in Florida according to the FDEP report at the end of this blog. The worst outbreak was in 1998 after the ACOE had been releasing fresh water from Lake Okeechobee in the winter months due to heavy rains. Thousands of fisherman were reporting fish with lesions; it is well accepted in the literature of our state agencies that this outbreak was connected to the gigantic releases of fresh water from Lake O.

Striped mullet with lesions. St Lucie River, 1998. (Photo, DEP State of Florida.)
Striped mullet with lesions. St Lucie River, 1998. (Photo, DEP State of Florida.)

2. Bottle nosed dolphins: Dr Gregory Bossert formerly, of Harbor Branch, has done extensive research into lobo-mycosis, an awful skin disease, in dolphins of the SLR/IRL. The highest number of dolphins with lobo in the entire 156 mile Indian River Lagoon system from Jupiter to New Smyrna Beach, are in the Stuart to Sebastian area. Dr Bossert’s 2009-20014 “Application for a Scientific Research Permit” to NOAA states on page 59:

“Water quality in the central and southern segments of the lagoon, is influenced by infusion of water from flood control drainage canals, e.g., in particular, run-off form agricultural watersheds and fresh water releases from Lake Okeechobee. (Sime, 2005.) Discharges from these sources introduce higher amounts of nutrients, metals, pesticides and suspended solids into the system (Woodward-Clyde, 1994). Analysis of spatial distribution of presumptive cases showed that the highs rates occurred in the IRL ¬†segments 3 and 4 confirming our earlier observations.” (Mazzoil, 2003/Rief, 2006).”

(Sections 3 and 4 are the “south central” and “south” IRL/SLR-from-south of Sebastian Inlet, to Stuart’s St Lucie Inlet. IRL dolphins are “site specific” staying usually in a 30 mile range. The St Lucie River is considered part of the southern IRL.)

S. Indian River Lagoon Dolphin with lobo mycosis. (Photo Dr Gregory Bossert.)
S. Indian River Lagoon Dolphin with lobo mycosis. (Photo Dr Gregory Bossert.)

3. Seagrasses: Seagrasses are the basis of health for the entire SRL/IRL. Seagrasses that live in an “estuary” need sunlight and brackish (part salt/part fresh) water to survive. among other problems, the fresh water releases cause turbidity in the water so the grasses can’t get light and they die. Mark Perry of Florida Oceanographic states that during the Lake Okeechobee and canal releases from 2013, that lasted five months, up to 85 percent of the seagrasses died around the St Lucie Inlet. All nursery fishes are affected by this and of course it goes right up the food chain. Manatees, an endangered species, that live exclusively off of seagrasses, are very affected and reduced to eating drift algae that in some cases kills them. Dolphins are swimming around saying: “Where are the fish?!”

Unhealthy looking seagrasses coated in algae as seen 6-14 near Sewall's Point at low tide. (Aerial photo, Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch)
Unhealthy looking seagrasses coated in algae as seen 6-14 near St Lucie Inlet at low tide. (Aerial photo, Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch)

4. Near shore reefs: The reef system in our area is the northern most of a tropical reef system that goes all the way south to the Keys. It cannot survive with fresh water dumping sediment on its delicate system and altering the salinity of the St Lucie Inlet. Insaine. These reefs are supposedly “protected.”

Freshwater pollution and near shore reef, St Lucie Inlet. (Photo JTL, 2013)
Freshwater pollution and near shore reef, St Lucie Inlet. (MC archives, 2011.)

I could go on and on, but I will stop here. I’m sure you get the point. Salinity is a delicate and important part of a healthy estuary. Generally short lived fresh water releases during heavy rains by our local canals are bad enough, but long term dumping of Lake Okeechobee releases on top of that, is certain death. It must stop. Send the water south.

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FDEP, SLR Impairment/fish lesions: (http://www.dep.state.fl.us/southeast/ecosum/ecosums/SLE_Impairment_Narrative_ver_3.7.pdf )

WETLANDS Volume 25, SFWMD, Estuary in Distress: (SRL/IRL:http://www.evergladesplan.org/pm/recover/recover_docs/cems/cem_st_lucie_irl.pdf)