Between the rain and the FAA’s Presidential Temporary Flight Restrictions, it has been difficult this Florida winter to get photos of the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon. Luckily, yesterday, there was an opportunity to get up in the air!
Ed took Florida Oceanographic https://www.floridaocean.org Executive Director, Mark Perry, and board member, Dr Gary Goforth up for a ride. Mark wanted to check on the seagrasses and near shore reefs. Gary – the restored Kissimmee https://www.sfwmd.gov/our-work/kissimmee-river as he was very much part of this success that is still underway. As it was quite windy and I have a delicate stomach, I stayed on the ground. I didn’t want to ruin the outing asking for an air-sick bag!
Today, I share some rare photos of the St Lucie River after being “Lake Okeechobee discharge free” for almost one year. As you can see, her seagrass beds still need a few more years to recover, but rhizomes and grasses are back in some areas, ~but not what we want- historic “all.” The ocean waters were very turned up so it was hard to see the reefs, but the water sure was blue and for that we are beyond thankful!
Ed and I and the River Warrior Community will continue to document and fight for the continued health of our St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon!
Thank you to Rotarians Mr Larry Lavargna and Ms Elmira Gainey for co-chairing Stuart-Sunrise Rotary’s 2nd Annual Water Forum, Public Health as it Relates to the St Lucie River. There are few instances where so many influential water voices come together to speak on the river as it relates to public health and for a question/answer period after each to boot. A excellent public forum!
I noticed that of all the speakers, Dr Gary Goforth had written out his talk, thus in case you were unable to attend, I asked if he would share. His words are included below. You can also find many of the presentations recorded and posted at Treasure Coast on Facebook.
The most powerful things happen when we all get involved and include others! Thank you Sunshine-Rotary!
We are so blessed to live in Paradise! Like you I love this river, its estuary, its mangroves, its beaches, its near-shore reefs. But as many of you know, it is a Paradise with a tragic problem. Below the surface of this serene river lies poison.
Ms. Sandra Thurlow recently provided the following treasure: In 1885, Homer Hine Stuart, Jr. for whom Stuart is named carried around a small woodcutting representing the confluence of the North Fork and South Fork of the St Lucie Rivers. This carving showed the river as 20 feet deep at the location of the future Roosevelt Bridge. Imagine that!
Thirty years later Ernie Lyons described looking down into the River 15-20 ft through clear tea-colored water to a sandy bottom below.
The area behind us was known worldwide as “Giant Tarpon Kingdom” with regular catches of silver kings above 175 pounds. The world record was reported as 220 pounds, caught just up river.
In 1913, the State of Florida decided to construct a canal connecting Lake Okeechobee with the Atlantic Ocean. The primary intent was to divert the overflow of Lake Okeechobee away from its natural course south through the Everglades, thereby allowing the sawgrass plains south of the lake to be developed for agriculture. A secondary benefit was to provide cross-Florida transportation of produce and other commerce.
On June 15, 1923, the first recorded discharges from Lake Okeechobee passed through the newly constructed St. Lucie Canal, which connected the St. Lucie Estuary to the Lake. But an unintended consequence was the discharge of countless tons of muck and dirty freshwater from the Lake that forever changed the landscape of the St Lucie River and Estuary.
Within 10 years the Martin County Commissioners had asked the State to stop the discharges “for the reason that the continued discharge of a large volume of dirty freshwater has killed all the shell fish, driven all salt water fish from the river, filled the river with hyacinths and so polluted the St Lucie River as to completely take away the attractive features and ruin its commercial value to the community.” (December 15, 1930 MCBCC)
The lake discharges drove out the king tarpons – the 150-200 pounders – and the small city of Stuart recast itself as the “Sailfish Capital of the World.”
Ernie Lyons described the damage in this way:
“We turned our good, sweet water into a cup of poison and changed a laughing little river into a reeking abomination – in the latter part of an ordinary lifetime. Clean rivers are not “forever and forever” like the sunrise.” (from The Last Cracker Barrel (1976) p 62)
As a professional engineer I’ve had the honor of working to protect the environment of south Florida for more than three decades – in the Everglades, in Lake Okeechobee, along the Kissimmee River and its headwaters, and in the magnificent estuaries –the St Lucie and Caloosahatchee. My wife and I raised three kids here along the St Lucie River and I’ve taught my two grandsons to fish and appreciate the incredible biological diversity throughout the river and estuary and near shore reefs. But unfortunately, we don’t eat the fish we catch in the River because of the public health risk.
I recently had the misfortune of being in the emergency room of our local hospital. One of the very first questions I was asked was if I had had any recent contact with the St Lucie River.
During the 2016 discharges I walked along Stuart Beach with Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch and we collected the names and stories of over 100 people who had gotten sick after coming in contact with the water.
A beautiful dog, Finn, died that summer after morning frolic in the water. Several other dogs suffered acute liver failure, and suffer to this day.
2016 was a watershed year in understanding the relationship between the discharge of polluted water from the Lake and public health. The media began to focus on toxic blue green algae – particularly the microcystis form. While parts of our beloved estuary were covered in foul smelling neon green guacamole, the media began reporting on the effects of microcystis and human health. An Ohio State University study reported that those of us in Martin and St Lucie County have twice the national average rate of death for non-alcoholic liver disease. They correlated this high rate with one thing – discharge of polluted water carrying blue green algae from Lake Okeechobee. This particular form of blue-green algae – microcystis – carries a dangerous toxin that can cause serious liver disease which can lead to death. Additional human health risks have also been identified – Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and Lou Gehrig’s disease.
In the last year – thanks to the efforts of Congressman Brian Mast – the Corps of Engineers acknowledged for the first time that Lake discharges to the estuaries carrying microcystis are toxic to humans, and the US Government makes these discharges knowingly and with the understanding that they are poisoning us – the public that they serve.
Numerous public health advisories have been issued in our region in association with lake discharges – warnings to the public to avoid contact with the water. But none have ever been issued when Lake water is sent south – the environmental conditions south of the lake are not advantageous for sustaining toxic blooms. So the alternative to knowingly poisoning the public are clear – send the water south.
Col. Kelly is now in charge, and we are truly grateful for his leadership. As the Corps revises its operation schedule of the Lake, I am sure that Col. Kelly will ensure that the public health, economies and environment of our region are given equal weight as the public health, economies and environment of the area south of the Lake. Hundreds of millions of dollars in economic loss are felt by the regions around the estuaries during years of heavy lake discharges. Public health is adversely affected. There is no acceptable level of lake discharges. There is no level of Lake releases to the St Lucie Estuary that is beneficial.
Lake discharges contain pollutants include toxic blue green algae, sediment (muck), low salinity water, and nutrients. However, even if all the Lake water was sent south, our beloved St Lucie would still be in trouble. Our local watershed has its challenges – particularly high levels of nitrogen and phosphorus in agricultural runoff. Our watershed suffers from the same lack of pollution regulation as the Lake Okeechobee watershed: landowners are not held accountable for pollution from their property.
But the problem is not just ag runoff – WE ALL ARE RESPONSIBLE. For the St Lucie Estuary, approximately 5-10% of the total nitrogen loading is from our septic tanks. If you have a tank – have it inspected and maintained. Water quality data show an improvement in nitrogen levels due to positive actions taken by the City of Stuart, Martin County, Port St. Lucie and homeowners – conversion of more than 8,000 septic tanks to centralized sewer. The City of Stuart has one of the best programs for converting septic tanks to sewers: a voluntary system that allows homeowners the option of waiting until their tanks or drainfields need replacing before hooking up. But converting septic to sewer doesn’t solve the problem of nutrient overload – it just moves the problem to other areas. The majority of the residuals from wastewater treatment plants are returned to our watersheds as “biosolids” that contain high concentrations of phosphorus and nitrogen. An article in this morning’s Stuart News documented the presence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in dolphins, and the researchers attribute much of the problem to pharmaceuticals that pass generally untreated through centralized sewers and are returned to the watershed through biosolids. We still need a better strategy for managing biosolids. Sen. Harrell – we look to you for leadership in the Legislature to require additional oversight and regulation of the application of all biosolids in our watershed.
The Florida Legislature is the single most influential group that can positively affect the public health in the state of Florida. The Legislature has an obligation to understand that allowing continued pollution of Lake Okeechobee and the estuaries will directly and adversely impact the health of the public you represent. Unless the State begins holding landowners accountable for the pollution they generate, there is absolutely no reason to believe that our water quality will improve and as a result, our public health will continue to decline. No matter if the Corps and SFWMD implement all the projects on the books – there will still be Lake discharges of toxic water to our estuaries – and unless the Legislature reverses its direction, the water quality and public health problems will persist.
I ask Sen. Harrell to work with the Legislature to hold the state’s Dept. of Environmental Protection (DEP) accountable for protecting our environment. Their current program for improving water quality going into the Lake is terribly broken. Pollution loading to the lake reached an all-time high in 2017. And compounding this problem is that annual DEP reports to the Governor and legislature and public are misleading – as they allege that pollution loads are decreasing – when the reality – as documented by the SFWMD – is that average pollution loads are higher than the Starting Period. For 2017 the measured phosphorus loads to the Lake were 60% greater than they reported in their annual report. For 2018, the measured loads were 40% greater than they reported. Who holds the DEP accountable for transparency and accuracy in reporting to the Governor, the Legislature and the public? Sen. Harrell – please demand accountability on the part of DEP.
USEPA recently established draft guidelines for microcystin in water. We urge the legislature to direct DEP to expeditiously embrace and adopt those guidelines to protect human health. We support Col. Kelly’s efforts to prevent Lake discharges to our estuary that contain blue green algae, and urge him to adopt the microcystin guideline into the new version of the Lake operating manual.
I want to thank Ms. Thurlow-Lippisch on behalf of the SFWMD – for exploring more ways to sending Lake water south through the STAs, into the Everglades and on to Florida Bay. The SFWMD is also the agency responsible for collecting water quality data documenting the state of the water. Thanks to the leadership of Ms. Thurlow-Lippisch, they are initiating steps to establish a regulatory program that if done properly will hold landowners accountable for reducing nutrient pollution. The SFWMD will need our support as they develop an effective program – and we the public need to turn out and support them in their efforts.
We’ve heard Col. Kelly and others describe projects to be completed in the next 2-3 years. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the first discharges from the Lake with a promise to stop the toxic discharges?!
I’d like to end with a challenge for all of us from an idol of mine – Timer Powers – Timer was a former Martin County commissioner and water management board member and Executive Director:
“The greatest challenge in front of us is to take the steps that are necessary to assure that our younger generation has the rivers, the creeks and the critters that are at the heart of our whole society. There’s not many people representing the critters, and if we fail to represent those who can’t represent themselves, either nature or people, then we have failed.”
So to my fellow clean water advocates – let’s rise up to meet this challenge! We can do this people!
Thank you all, and to the Rotary for bringing us all together on this beautiful day along side this beautiful estuary!
Dr Goforth (http://www.garygoforth.net/Other%20projects.htm ) is a familiar and trusted friend in our fight to protect the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon. Today, I am sharing his comments made during the development of the Basin Management Action Plan for the St Lucie River; and also his easy to read charts presented at the June 10, 2019, SFWMD Northern Estuary Workshop. It is my hope, that my very oversimplified post from yesterday can be complemented by Dr. Goforth’s input.
From Dr. Gary Goforth, Ph.D
Subject: Estuary Water Quality Protection, July 8, 2019
Looking forward to a productive workshop on Wednesday…
2. Subject: RE: Estuary Water Quality Protection, July 12, 2019
Thank you for a very productive workshop Wednesday on water quality and its impacts to the northern estuaries.
I’ve been asked for copies of the documents I held up during my public comments. These were developed pursuant to the 2007 Northern Everglades and Estuary Protection Program (NEEPP), and were to serve as the technical foundation for an expanded Works of the District (Rule 40E-61) regulatory program administered by the SFWMD. These documents summarize the most comprehensive analyses of water quality and hydrology for the Lake Okeechobee and estuary watersheds. These were presented to DEP during the development of the BMAPs – but DEP chose not to take advantage of them. Even worse, prior SFWMD management worked with an agricultural lobbyist to remove all references to these documents from the 2015 SFWMD annual environmental report (“In 2014, South Florida water managers were on the verge of an agriculture pollution crackdown, but at the last minute reversed course. TCPalm obtained emails that show how a lobbyist influenced water policy. The South Florida Water Management District changed course immediately after a Dec. 3, 2014, meeting with U.S. Sugar Corp. lobbyist Irene Quincey, eventually halting its planned policy in favor of a plan that takes polluters at their word and holds no one accountable if water quality suffers.” http://www.tcpalm.com/story/news/investigations/2017/08/30/u-s-sugar-lobbyist-influence-over-florida-water-pollution-rules/464671001/).
They can be downloaded from the following links; I’m sure staff could provide hardcopies (they’re several hundred pages in length).
If you look in the upper right corner of this 1884 map of Florida, you will see the Ten Mile Creek area near Ft Pierce, in today’s St Lucie County. This area was one of the most beloved places as written about by Stuart News editor (1945-1975) and St Lucie River advocate, Ernie Lyons.
Much to Lyons and others dismay, over time, this area became channelized by canals C-23, C-24 and C-25 as part of the Central and South Florida Project. Although these canals are not connected to Lake Okeechobee, they are very destructive to the health of the St Lucie River. These lands once marsh like and sacred to mound building Indians, were drained for citrus and development in the early 1950 and 60s. Pollution contamination became a serious issue in these “protected headwaters.” (https://jacquithurlowlippisch.com/tag/ten-mile-creek/)
Today, a reservoir and storm water treatment area are functional, finally, to begin to mitigate the situation. St Lucie County itself is doing great things having to do with restoration. The area is so special and remains full of remnants of Old Florida, “a land to be remembered.”
I plan on doing a series of posts on this subject, and today I begin with presentations by Dr Gary Goforth. Who better to begin our journey of learning more about 10 Mile Creek!
Last month I was invited to give a presentation on the North Fork of the St. Lucie River by the Conservation Alliance of St. Lucie County and the Oxbow Eco-Center.
THERE was never anything more beautiful than a natural South Florida River, like the North and South Fork of the St. Lucie and the winding cypress-bordered Loxahatchee.
THEIR banks of cabbage palms and live oaks draped with Spanish moss and studded with crimson-flowered air plants and delicate wild orchids were scenes of tropical wonder, reflected back from the mirror-like onyx surface of the water.
EVERY BEND of their serpentine lengths brought new delights. Here would be clumps of fragile white spider lilies in bloom, there an alligator easing down, an otter swimming or an anhinga, the snake bird or water turkey, drying its spread wings on a dead snag. If its wings weren’t dry enough to fly, the water turkey would plunge into the river and swim off under water.
THERE were pileated woodpeckers pounding away on dead pines, egrets and herons, occasionally flocks of wild turkeys thundering over. But the most wonderful thing was the water itself, pure, sweet, cool fresh water. For miles down from the headwaters you could lean over and drink your fill. Water the way God made it. No Chlorine. No chemical additives. No salt.
IN THIS marvelous fresh water there was an incredible population of black bass and blue gills and all other finny tribes of the freshwater. There were catfish, gars and mudfish, and that strange fish with green bones called the Chinese pike or “sleeper, ” also snook and tarpon which had come up from the brackish into the fresh water zone.
THERE had always been fresh water in the upper zones, furnishing some of the most marvelous sport fishing conceivable. The fresh water was constantly replenished by a steady flow from saw grass swamps and cypress lakes, as well as by thousands of little trickles in the banks from a high ground water level. True, the tides pushed the fresh water back and diluted it with a brackish mixture in the lower zones, but there was always enough more fresh water coming in so that the headwaters held their own.
DRAINAGE canals, mostly for agricultural purposes, cut the throats of the upper rivers. During the periods of heavy rainfall, muddy waters gushed down and turned the formerly clear streams into a turbid, silted mess. During dry spells, gated dams held back water for irrigation. The ground water table was lowered. Salt marched upstream, turning the formerly fresh waters brackish and eventually so salty fresh water fish could not procreate.
THE MARVELOUS fresh water fishing expired, majestic cypresses along the banks of the Loxahatchee began to die. The banks are still beautiful, but just a shadow of what they had been.
WHAT brings all of this to mind is that, at long last, South Florida Water Management District plans to begin an “experimental release” of around 1,000 cubic feet per second of fresh Lake Okeechobee water from St. Lucie Canal into the St. Lucie River. All South Florida rivers require a reasonable amount of fresh water. Too much is disastrous.
NOW, if they can devise ways to reintroduce steady flows into the North and South Forks and the Loxahatchee, some paradises might be restored.
Today I share Dr. Gary Goforth’s (http://www.garygoforth.net/Other%20projects.htm) comments to the Army Corp of Engineers’ LOSOM scoping process that occurred on Tuesday, February 19, 2019, in Stuart: (https://www.saj.usace.army.mil/LOSOM/). Dr Goforth’s comments are helpful for all of us. I am publishing them today with his permission as a reference. You can read in PDF file link, or below. Thank you Dr Goforth for your continued scientific advocacy on behalf on the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon! Never, Never, Never Give Up!
On January 4, 2019, Dr Goforth released his“Preliminary Summary of 2018 Lake and Estuary Flow and Pollution Loads.”
It is linked below for purposes of documentation. So many of my readers have written in appreciation of these reference documents in the past. I remain forever grateful for Dr Goforth’s lifetime of dedication to the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon, the waters of Florida, and for allowing me to share his work. I am including short biography below.
Dr. Gary Goforth has more than 30 years of experience in water resources engineering, encompassing strategic planning, design, permitting, construction, operation and program management. For the last 25 years, his focus has been on large-scale environmental restoration programs in the Kissimmee-Okeechobee-Everglades ecosystem. He was the Chief Consulting Engineer during the design, construction and operation of the $700 million Everglades Construction Project, containing over 41,000 acres of constructed wetlands. He is experienced in public education, water quality treatment design and evaluation, engineering design and peer review, systems ecology, statistical hydrology, hydrologic modeling, hydrodynamic modeling, water quality modeling, environmental permit acquisition and administration, hydrologic and water quality performance analyses. http://garygoforth.net/index.htm
“Preliminary Summary of 2018 Lake and Estuary Flow and Pollution Loads” ~Gary Goforth, PhD.
The phosphorus pollution entering Lake Okeechobee reached historically high levels during calendar year 2017, with an estimated 88 percent from agricultural land uses.
Heavy rains from during May 2018 raised the water level of Lake Okeechobee to such an extent that the US Corps of Engineers began making regulatory discharges to the coastal estuaries beginning in June 2018. Approximately 331 billion gallons of polluted Lake water was discharged to the estuaries, including the Lake Worth Lagoon. A State of Emergency was declared for both coasts.
o On July 2, a massive bloom of toxic blue-green algae was reported to cover up to 90% of the open water of the Lake, yet discharges continued for several months afterward.
o Approximately 87 billion gallons of polluted Lake water were discharged to the St. Lucie River and Estuary.
The Lake discharges to the St. Lucie River and Estuary contained more than 145,000 pounds of phosphorus, 1.3 million pounds of nitrogen, and more than 30 millionpounds of suspended sediment.
Massive algae blooms from Lake Okeechobee were present in the St. Lucie River and Estuary, and along the ocean beaches, necessitating multiple beach closures. In addition, a red tide was present that adversely affected public health.
o Approximately 234 billion gallons of polluted Lake water were discharged to the Caloosahatchee Estuary.
The Lake discharges to the Caloosahatchee Estuary contained more than 303,000 pounds of phosphorus, almost 2.4 million pounds of nitrogen, and more than 20 million pounds of suspended sediment.
Massive algae blooms from Lake Okeechobee were present in the Caloosahatchee River and Estuary. In addition, extensive red tide devastated wildlife and adversely affected public health.
o Approximately 11 billion gallons of polluted Lake water was discharged to the Lake Worth Lagoon.
Overall, the St. Lucie River and Estuary received more than 467,000 pounds of phosphorus, more than 2.5 million pounds of nitrogen, and more than 35 million pounds of suspended sediment from the Lake and local watersheds, which are predominately agricultural.
o The water quality of Lake discharges to the St. Lucie Estuary is particularly polluted: in addition to toxic algae, the phosphorus concentrations have averaged 200 parts per billion – 5 times the target for the Lake.
o Nitrogen loading from septic tanks is estimated at approximately 231,000 pounds, or about 9 percent of the total nitrogen loading to the St. Lucie River and Estuary.
o Despite the destructive magnitude of Lake discharges, stormwater runoff from agricultural lands in the St. Lucie watershed contributed almost twice the phosphorus loads to the estuary as did Lake discharges.
Lake discharges to the STAs during the year leading up to the 2018 discharges to the estuaries were the lowest in the last 6 years. However, Lake discharges to the STAs during 2018 were the highest in history, at almost 500,000 acre feet (163 billion gallons).
“Death by Fertilizer” or “Our Sick Friends” was originally a booklet created by the River Kidz in 2012 to bring awareness to the ailing health of the bottlenose dolphins in the Indian River Lagoon; I think the message remains a relevant teaching tool today.
South Florida’s water issues~
~The Lake Okeechobee Watershed: 88% agricultural in nature running into a now sick, eutrophic, algae-ridden, Cyanobacteria filled Lake; a 700,000 acre Everglades Agricultural Area south of the Lake allowed to back bump when flooding occurs; all this water, in turn, discharged into the ailing St Lucie River and the Caloosahatchee Estuary by the ACOE while the SFWMD and FDEP, and their bosses, the Executive and Legislative branches of government look on. This putrid, polluted water runs out into the ocean. We think that’s the end of the water destruction, but it’s not, as red tide and seaweed are fertilized, growing into monsters we have never seen before.
Septic and sewer pollution is a type of fertilizer too. Some people around the world fertilize their crops with their own human waste; dog poop is also a “fertilizer,” and all this fertilizer leeches or runs off into our estuaries and ends up blending with the polluted Lake O water coming down the pike to the ocean. Every rain event runs right down the storm drains of our neighborhoods and shopping malls with all the “crap” it carries. We designed it that way, years ago, and have not changed this model. The fertilizer put put on our lawns, of course, runs off too.
Yes, it is death by fertilizer that we are experiencing this 2018. Eutrophication, Blooms of algae and cyanobacteria; red tide; too much seaweed suffocating the little sea turtles when they try to come up for air…
The fancy, confusing words of “nutrient pollution” must be replaced with “fertilizer,” something we can all understand. From the time we are children, we learn that “nutrients” are good, they make us strong. Fertilizer can be good, but we instinctively know it can also burn. We know not to eat it; it is not nutritious. Nutrient Pollution is an oxymoron created by industries and government so we have a hard time understanding what is going on.
In conclusion, fertilizer (phosphorus and nitrogen) from corporate agriculture; poop from animals and people, (mostly nitrogen) and it is feeding, “fertilizing” Lake Okeechobee’s cyanobacteria blue-green blooms that in turn are poured into the St Lucie and Calooshatchee, which in turn this year are feeding, “fertilizing,” tremendous sargassum seaweed blooms, and red tide in the Gulf of Mexico and now in the Atlantic. These blooms are giant multi-celled intelligent, organisms, kind of like a bee-hive. They are hungry and determined and we are feeding them. It is a vicious cycle that only we can stop by forcing our government to take charge and coordinate municipal, state and federal programs of education and coordinated implementation. We know what to do.
Developing an effective strategy for reducing the impacts of nutrients, easier understood as “fertilizer over enrichment,” requires all of us to change how we live and the powerful agriculture industry to lead.
Otherwise, it is, and will remain, death by fertilizer.
“Red tide was reported on the east coast in 2007 when it spread to the Treasure Coast south from Jacksonville where LaPointe said discharge from the St. John’s River may have aided its growth. LaPointe said this summer’s plethora of sargassum on southeast Florida beaches could feed red tide with a boost of nutrients leeching into the ocean when the seaweed dies.
Red tide is different from the freshwater blue-green algae, or cyanobacteria, that has spread in Lake Okeechobee, the St. Lucie Estuary and the Caloosahatchee River this summer. But red tide and the cyanobacteria both thrive in nutrient-heavy conditions.
“You have discharges coming out the Jupiter Inlet,” LaPointe said. “Red tide likes the kind of slightly reduced salinity in areas where there’s a river plume.” https://www.palmbeachpost.com/news/crime–law/new-stretch-beach-jupiter-closed-police-after-odor-sickens-beachgoers/cVD3CBHqrYDrLCFFDV4T7L/
Dr. Gary Goforth has more than 30 years of experience in water resources engineering, encompassing strategic planning, design, permitting, construction, operation and program management. For the last 25 years, his focus has been on large-scale environmental restoration programs in the Kissimmee-Okeechobee-Everglades ecosystem. He was the Chief Consulting Engineer during the design, construction and operation of the $700 million Everglades Construction Project, containing over 41,000 acres of constructed wetlands. He is experienced in public education, water quality treatment design and evaluation, engineering design and peer review, systems ecology, statistical hydrology, hydrologic modeling, hydrodynamic modeling, water quality modeling, environmental permit acquisition and administration, hydrologic and water quality performance analyses.
Once again, I am honored to share the work our favorite local advocate scientist, Gary Goforth. His news about our St Lucie River is not always pleasing, but it is so helpful to have his insights on important issues. Being educated is our best defense. Please see Gary’s note below with links to his most recent updates.
Hi Jacqui – attached is the Executive Summary of the paper in jpeg format – easier to share!
It is a journey the state, federal, and local agencies don’t always wish to take–a journey to face the numbers of our watershed…
Today, Dr Gary Goforth (http://garygoforth.net) shares his most recent report, “Water Quality Assessment of the St Lucie River Watershed, For Water Year 2017, DRAFT.”
Mind you, for non-scientist people like myself, a “water year” is reported from May of one year, through April the next year, as opposed to a calendar year.
The full report is linked at the bottom of the post and contains numerous helpful charts. I have just included the key findings below.
Dr Goforth wanted to get the draft assessment out before the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s Basin Management Action Plan workshop scheduled for this Friday Aug. 25th at 10:00 am at Martin County Building Permits Office, 900 Southeast Ruhnke Street, Stuart, FL 34994, Conference Rooms A & B because this is where the rubber hits the road! FDEP: (http://www.dep.state.fl.us/central/Home/Watershed/BMAP.htm)
Water Quality Assessment of the St. Lucie River Watershed –Water Year 2017 – DRAFT Gary Goforth, P.E., Ph.D.
Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? (Who watches the Watchers?)
1. Over the last water year (May 2016 – April 2017), the surface water entering the St. Lucie River and Estuary (SLRE) in general was of poor water quality. The best water quality entering the SLRE was from the highly urbanized Tidal Basins. The largest source of phosphorus, nitrogen and sediment pollution to the SLRE was Lake Okeechobee discharges. The C-44 Canal Basin contributed poor water quality, and was the only basin demonstrating a worsening in water quality over the last ten years.
2. It was estimated that stormwater runoff from agricultural land use contributed more flow and nutrient pollution than any other land use, even contributing more flow than Lake Okeechobee discharges.
3. The annual Basin Management Action Plan (BMAP) progress reports produced by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection continue to indicate water quality conditions in the tributaries of the SLRE are better than they actually are. Examples of flaws in the BMAP assessment process include the omission of Lake Okeechobee pollution loads, the use of simulated data instead of observed data, the inability to account for hydrologic variability, and the inability to assess individually each of the major basins contributing to the SLRE.
4. An alternative to the assessment approach presented in the BMAP progress reports was developed and used to evaluate water quality conditions of major inflows to the SLRE and to assess progress towards achieving the Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) load reduction goals. This alternative approach uses observed data, includes Lake discharges, accounts for hydrologic variability, and is applied to each of the major basins contributing pollution loads to the SLRE. For WY2017, observed nitrogen loads to the SLRE exceeded the Phase 1 BMAP target loads (adjusted for hydrologic variability) by 77 percent. Observed phosphorus loads exceeded the Phase 1 BMAP target loads (adjusted for hydrologic variability) by 53 percent.
5. The largest single source of total nitrogen, total phosphorus and sediment load to the SLRE was Lake Okeechobee discharges. In addition, total phosphorus concentrations in Lake Okeechobee discharges to the SLRE remained almost four times the lake’s TMDL in-lake target concentration of 40 parts per billion (ppb). In 2017, the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) reported that phosphorus loading to the lake from surrounding watersheds was almost 5 times the Lake’s TMDL of 105 metric tons, yet staff acknowledged the agency does not enforce permits that set numeric limits on phosphorus discharges to the lake (SFWMD 2016, SFWMD 2017). Unfortunately, despite the continued and well-publicized pollution of the lake, the Florida legislature in 2016 enacted a water bill that pushed back deadlines for achieving the lake’s TMDL by decades (Ch. 2016-1).
6. The best water quality entering the SLRE during WY2017 was observed in the highly urbanized Tidal Basins, with concentrations of 97 ppb and 819 ppb for TP and TN, respectively. Each of the remaining source basins, except the C-44 Canal Basin, exhibited a slight improvement in nutrient levels compared to their base periods, however, collectively these WY2017 loads did not achieve the alternative BMAP Phase 1 load target (Figures ES-1 and ES-2). The C-23 and Tidal Basins met the alternative BMAP Phase 1 target for TP, while the C-23, C-24 and Tidal Basins met the alternative BMAP Phase 1 target for TN. The predominantly agricultural C-44 Canal Basin exhibited poor nutrient conditions, and in fact, continued a trend of deteriorating nutrient conditions compared to its 1996-2005 base period. As a whole, the water quality entering the SLRE remains poor, although a slight improvement over the 1996-2005 period was observed.
In recent years we along the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon have been screaming because the ACOE and SFWMD have been discharging water from Lake Okeechobee and the C-44 basin into our waterways causing destructive toxic algae blooms and other issues to our area …
This year some are screaming because C-44 basin runoff water in southern Martin County is being pumped back into Lake Okeechobee. Yes, C-44 is “running backwards.” It’s a crazy world here in South Florida even through the water managers are working hard at “getting the water right…”
So two odd things are going on right now. First, water is being sent into Lake O from the C-44 canal as we were in a long-time drought, and also, now, water is being back-pumped into the lake from the south to help alleviate flooding in the Water Conservation Areas— as it has rained so much recently “down there.” This whole situation is exacerbated because the EAA, in the middle, “is kept dry to protect the property of the agricultural industry and safety of communities south of the dike.”
The graph and short write-up below are from friend and engineer Dr Gary Goforth. The graph “shows” the C-44 basin runoff (see image above) being sent to Lake Okeechobee in 2017 compared to other years since 1980 (other than ’81) “is at 100%.”
I have also included some articles and images on the other “back into Lake O” subject. Back-pumping was made illegal in the 1990s, but is allowed under certain circumstances such as endangering communities and agriculture in the EAA, and danger to wildlife in the conservation areas due to flooding…All of this is “back-pumping” not good for the health of the lake. In all cases, it is helping one thing while hurting another…
One day we will have to truly get the water right. Images below may help explain things.
ISSUE OF BACK-PUMPING:
ISSUE OF C-44 CANAL BASIN WATER BEING SENT INTO LAKE O RAHTER THAN TO SLR:
” For the period 1980-2016, about 32% of the C-44 Basin runoff was sent to the Lake, while 68% was sent to the St. Lucie River and Estuary. Historically (i.e., before 1923) virtually none of the C-44 Basin runoff went to the St. Lucie River and Estuary: some went to the Lake, some went to the Loxahatchee River and some went north to the St. John’s River. So far in 2017, virtually all of the basin runoff has been sent to the Lake.”
Senate Bill 10, the bill associated with Senate President Joe Negron and his goal to stop the damaging discharges of Lake Okeechobee to the St Lucie River and Caloosahatchee… my gosh, up and then down, and then up again…Why such a roller coaster ride?
The last time I went on a roller coaster ride was many years ago when I in my twenties and teaching German at Pensacola High School. I took my IB high school students and 14 visiting German exchange students to Six Flags. I got so sick on the ride that I had to sit on a bench the remainder of the day. The students? They loved it and went multiple times! Roller coasters are not fun for everyone. But one thing’s for sure, if you’re on the ride, and you feel sick, be assured that it will end, but when it hasn’t, hold on! This bill, this ride, won’t end for another month plus, as it has to be voted on by the full Senate and achieve a matching bill in the House….
Thus far, the bill has really gone “double-full-circle-upside down-roller-coaster” in that Stuart’s Dr Gary Goforth ( http://garygoforth.net) mentioned the many configurations available to achieve “the goal” during the January 11th 2017 meeting of the Senate Natural Resources Appropriations Committee. At this time he pointed out that some of those “loopy configurations” on his visual went back to CERP’s birth year of 2000 and the first goals the state and federal government had for an EAA reservoir!
You can watch Dr Goforth’s presentation and see his handout linked at the top of this post. Gosh, I kind of feel sick, yes, there have been so many changes and so many numbers… 60,000, 14,000, 360,000, 240,000, A-1, A-2, my head is spinning! There is so much back and forth! Yes there is, but goodness, you can’t say this isn’t exciting! The St Lucie River and Indian River Lagoon a roller coaster for the whole world to see! Personally, I am going to try NOT to sit out on the bench this time, how about you? 🙂
Here is a Senate staff summary of what part of the rollercoaster ride the bill is on today:
Establishes options for providing additional water storage south of Lake Okeechobee, including the:
o Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA) reservoir project with the goal of providing a minimum of 240,000 acre-feet of water storage; and
o C-51 reservoir project with the goal of providing approximately 60,000 acre-feet of water storage.
Authorizes the Board of Trustees of the Internal Improvement Trust Fund (TIITF) and the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) to negotiate the amendment or termination of leases on lands within the EAA for exchange or use for the EAA reservoir project.
Requires lease agreements relating to land in the EAA leased to the Prison Rehabilitative Industries and Diversified Enterprises, Inc., (PRIDE Enterprises) for an agricultural work program to be terminated in accordance with the lease terms.
Requires the SFWMD, upon the effective date of the act, to identify the lessees of the approximately 3,200 acres of land owned by the state or the district west of the A-2 parcel and east of the Miami Canal and the private property owners of the approximately 500 acres of land surrounded by such lands;
Requires the SFWMD, by July 31, 2017, to contact the lessors and landowners of such lands to express the SFWMD’s interest in acquiring the land through the purchase or exchange of lands or by the amendment or termination of lease agreements.
Requires the SFWMD to jointly develop a post-authorization change report with the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) for the Central Everglades Planning Project (CEPP) to revise the project component located on the A-2 parcel for implementation of the EAA reservoir project.
Requires that if, for any reason, the post-authorization change report does not receive Congressional approval by October 1, 2018, unless the district has been granted an extension by the Legislature, the SFWMD begin the planning study for the EAA reservoir project by October 31, 2018, and proceed with the A-2 parcel project component of CEPP in accordance with the project implementation report.
Requires the SFWMD to give preference to the hiring of former agricultural workers primarily employed during 36 of the past 60 months in the EAA, consistent with their qualifications and abilities, for the construction and operation of the EAA reservoir project.
Establishes the Everglades Restoration Agricultural Community Employment Training Program within the Department of Economic Opportunity to provide grants for employment programs that seek to match persons who complete such training programs to nonagricultural employment opportunities in areas of high agricultural employment, and to provide other training, educational, and information services necessary to stimulate the creation of jobs in the areas of agricultural unemployment. The program is required to include opportunities to obtain the qualifications and skills necessary for jobs related to federal and state restoration projects, the Airglades Airport in Hendry County, or an inland port in Palm Beach County.
Establishes a revolving loan fund to provide funding assistance to local governments and water supply entities for the development and construction of water storage facilities.
Revises the uses of the Water Protection and Sustainability Program Trust Fund to include the water storage facility revolving loan program.
Prohibits, beginning July 1, 2017, the use of inmates for correctional work programs in the agricultural industry in the EAA or in any area experiencing high unemployment rates in the agricultural sector.
Beginning in Fiscal Year 2018-2019, appropriates the sum of $100 million from the Land Acquisition Trust Fund (LATF) to the Everglades Trust Fund for the purpose of implementing the water storage reservoir projects, with the remainder of such funds in any fiscal year to be made available for Everglades projects.
The bill provides the following appropriations for the 2017-2018 fiscal year:
The sum of $30 million in nonrecurring funds from the LATF is appropriated to the Everglades Trust Fund for the purposes of acquiring land or negotiating leases pursuant to s. 373.4598(4), F.S., or for any cost related to the planning or construction of the EAA reservoir project.
The sum of $3 million in nonrecurring funds from the LATF to the Everglades Trust Fund for the purposes of developing the post-authorization change report pursuant to s. 373.4598, and the sum of $1 million in nonrecurring funds from the LATF to the Everglades Trust Fund for the purposes of negotiating Phase II of the C-51 reservoir project pursuant to s. 373.4598, F.S.
The sum of $30 million in nonrecurring funds from the LATF to the Water Resource Protection and Sustainability Program Trust Fund for the purposes of implementing Phase I of the C-51 reservoir project as a water storage facility in accordance with ss. 373.4598 and 373.475, F.S.
Thank you Dr Goforth for allowing me to share this update. Through knowing our subject, we shall prevail! Jacqui
Subject: Updated Lake discharge information, August 23rd, 2016
Updated flows and loads attached.
Since January 1:
· 178 billion gallons of polluted Lake water has been discharged to the St. Lucie estuary, equal to 24% of all Lake discharges. This foul water dumped millions of pounds of pollution into the estuary:
o 247,000 pounds of phosphorus
o 2.4 million pounds of nitrogen
o 47.5 million pounds of sediment
· 372 billion gallons of polluted Lake water has been discharged to the Caloosahatchee estuary, equal to 50% of all Lake discharges. This foul water dumped millions of pounds of pollution into the estuary:
o 325,000 pounds of phosphorus
o 4.7 million pounds of nitrogen
o 19.3 million pounds of sediment
· 21.4 billion gallons of polluted Lake water has been discharged to the Lake Worth Lagoon, equal to 3% of all Lake discharges.
· 45.4 billion gallons of treated Lake water has been discharged to the Everglades, equal to 6% of all Lake discharges, and 60% less than last year at this time.
· 12.6 times more Lake water has been sent to the estuaries than to the Everglades
Despite the high pollution load from the Lake to the St. Lucie estuary in 2016, agricultural runoff has contributed about 70% more phosphorus pollution, and almost as much nitrogen pollution.
Today I am sharing Dr Gary Goforth’s most recent update from July 26, 2016,entitled:
“Updated Lake Flows and Loads to the Estuaries”
This information is disturbing. Please take this information and fight for change in whatever way you can. Thank you. Jacqui
Some observations for the period January 1 – July 25, 2016:
· Inflows to Lake Okeechobee are more than twice what they were this time last year
· Approximately 20 times more Lake water has been sent to the estuaries in 2016 than has been sent to the Everglades; unbelievable…
· Only 20% of Lake releases have been sent south this year, including irrigation for the EAA and other users; only 5% of Lake releases have made it to the Everglades through the STAs this year
· Lake releases to the Caloosahatchee (1.1 million acre feet or about 360 billion gallons) have been about twice the Lake flows to the St. Lucie (0.5 million acre feet, or about 167 billion gallons)
· The duration of the 2016 Lake event for the St. Lucie (178 days) has now exceeded the durations of both the 2013 and 1997-1998 events. Fortunately the Lake discharges in 2016 has been about half the flow that occurred during the 1997-1998 event.
· Lake releases to the St. Lucie have carried more than 8 times the phosphorus TMDL for the entire C-44 Canal, and more than 9 times the nitrogen TMDL … yet FDEP refuses to include the Lake loadings when they assess the C-44 Basin for compliance with the TMDL – unbelievable …
· An estimated 37 million pounds of suspended sediment has been dumped from the Lake to the St. Lucie River and Estuary; much of this accumulates on the bottom as muck.
o Because of the filtration effect of the marsh along the western shore of the Lake, the sediment load to the Caloosahatchee Estuary has fortunately been less – about 20 million pounds.
· More than 220,000 pounds of phosphorus and 2.2 million pounds of nitrogen from the Lake has been dumped to the St Lucie Estuary
o Phosphorus loads from agricultural lands in the watershed have amounted to about 390,000 pounds – 75% MORE THAN FROM THE LAKE
o Nitrogen loads from agricultural lands in the watershed have amounted to about 1.5 million pounds
o Septic tank loading of nitrogen from Martin and St. Lucie counties is roughly 5% of the total nitrogen loading to the St Lucie
· More than 340,000 pounds of phosphorus and 4.8 million pounds of nitrogen from the Lake has been dumped to the Caloosahatchee Estuary.
All brought to you by our leaders in Tallahassee and Washington …
Dr Gary Goforth
I don’t know about you, but I love maps! As a visual person, a map helps me understand more than words…
In his “Student Guide to Map Making” Ralph Ehrenberg writes:
“Maps are one of the most important types of documents associated with exploration. A map is a graphic representation that facilitates a spatial understanding of things, concepts, conditions, processes or events in the human world. They are used by explorers to help find their way. They are also prepared by explorers to document or record what in fact they discovered.”
It may not be the 1800s, but we are still explorers. We are trying to find a way for a better water future. One of the best ways to achieve this is to study the past. Over the weekend Facebook friend, Jim Wilson, discovered a very interesting 1866 map of Florida and the Everglades:
I emailed Dr Gary Goforth about it and this is what he said: “Portions are accurate, but feel that other portions are not accurate, e.g., the southern shore of Lake Okeechobee. Regardless, it is an amazing compilation of “known” information from 1866!”
In spite of perfection or imperfection, the map has the ability to inspire and give us a visual of what the lands and area south of Lake Okeechobee may have looked like—-I have studied many maps, but I had never had a way to envision the rivers/rivulets running south to the Everglades—–yes, the multiple “fingers” so often reported by early explorers. For me the 1866 map, in one form or another, was an “ah-ha” moment. Thank you Jim!
Maps give “vision…”
We are still explorers…
—I think we should create a “map” of what we would like to see in the future for the waters of our state, particularly south of Lake Okeechobee. Not a drawing, or a satellite, but a good-old map.
Today I am going to share an adventure of engineer and St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon advocate Dr Gary Goforth. I will tie in his Lake Okeechobee experience with a few wonderful historic postcards from my mother, historian Sandra Henderson Thurlow. Although you couldn’t get my mother on a motorcycle if you paid her, there is a common thread. The lone cypress…
“The Lone Cypress…” You may have heard of it? As we know, cypress trees live for thousands of years. There were large forest of these magnificent trees prior to their being cut down around the turn of the last century. But a few still stand. Like this one in Moore Haven.
Dr Goforth’s account of his ride around the lake is inspirational. I have done it a couple of times by car, most recently during the final session of my UF Natural Resources Leadership Institute in Clewiston. During Dr Goforth’s ride, he visits the ancient cypress tree–the one in my mom’s historic post cards. I find this really cool. I hope you do too!
“Hi Jacqui – I know you’re very busy as always – in fact more so these days I imagine. I got around to reading a recent blog of yours entitled “Taking the Emotion out of “Clewiston”-UF’s Natural Resources Leadership Institute, SLR/IRL.” I enjoyed it so much I thought I would share a trip I took on Sunday afternoon – a motorcycle ride around Lake Okeechobee.
It started out as a leisurely Sunday afternoon ride around the Martin County countryside. When I got to Port Mayaca I decided to head south for a couple of mile to the trailhead of the Lake to Ocean Trail – a 55-mile hike I’ll get around to tackling during cooler weather. When I got to the trailhead, I said what the heck – might as well circle the Lake. I’ve done the route before, and love to roll through the small towns that we are linked to primarily because of the Lake releases. Probably my favorite stretch is along the eastern shore of the Lake where the old-growth linear forests still remain – the magnificent cypress, bay, and others. My companion for the entire way around the Lake was the Herbert Hoover dike – almost always in sight off to my right along the small roads I took. Before I knew it I was passing through Sand Cut and Pahokee on my way to Belle Glade with their motto “Our Soil is our Fortune.” I thought of my Dad’s cousin Jack Fullenweider who was a general manager of the old Talisman sugar mill (bought by the State prior to construction of STA-3/4), and whose son, Jack, Jr. was a sheriff’s deputy in Belle Glade. I thought of Fritz Stein – a former District Board member from Belle Glade and all around good guy.
The traffic was light and the weather was beautiful. Before long I was riding along US 27/SR 80 with the big dike/dam to my right. The site of the 1928 breach and untold deaths. Along this stretch the ground level is the lowest of the entire lake’s perimeter; the Lake’s water level that day was a foot or two above ground level, which has subsided more than 6 feet since records began decades ago due to the drainage canals and ag practices. Around the rest of the Lake, the actual lake level is below the surrounding ground level.
Soon I was in Clewiston where the banners were hung announcing the upcoming Sugar Festival (today through Sunday). I thought of the many good folks who worry about the State purchasing US Sugar lands with the purported 12,000 people who would be out of a job – the folks that get angry at the estuary folks – and wonder who they turned their anger toward when US Sugar announced they had struck a voluntary deal to sell the land to Gov. Crist. What a missed opportunity, and to think the Legislature and Gov. didn’t go through with the deal – likely out of spite towards Gov. Crist – they didn’t want anything to do with extending his legacy. Deplorable. I put that out of my mind as I rode through Clewiston – a lovely little town.
Before long I was in Moore Haven and thought about the big history of that small town – the early Indian canal excavations, the early dredging/draining activity of Hamilton Disston connecting the big lake to the Caloosahatchee, the farming community, the devastating hurricanes and the Lone Cypress Tree which has stood as a sentinel along the Caloosahatchee Canal since the days of Disston. The Lone Cypress Tree! I have always wanted to find that tree! So I rode around till I found it along the banks of the river/canal. It was beginning to send out the bright green needles and was remarkable in its majesty!
A few more miles on US 27 and I turned north onto SR 78 – a pleasant ride along the west side of the Lake. Pretty soon the road drops onto the floodplain of Fisheating Creek – the only unregulated tributary feeding Lake Okeechobee. I was reminded how the flows into the Lake from Fisheating Creek increased 6-fold this dry season compared to last year. All along the west side of the Lake are small mobile home and RV communities enjoying the good life!
Before long I crossed the Kissimmee River and was into the south side of Okeechobee. White pelicans ushered me along the road lined with hotels filled with seasonal fishermen and women. On around the lake and passing J&R Fish camp – busy with Sunday afternoon bikers. Many days I’ve enjoyed the free hot dogs and music. Before long I passed alongside of the FP&L cooling reservoir – site of the levee failure that occurred just before midnight in October 30, 1979.
Then I crested the bridge over the C-44 Canal with Port Mayaca off to the right. The calm water belied the massive and destructive discharges that were occurring, sending tons of sediment, algae and nutrients on their way to the troubled St. Lucie River and Estuary.
A quick turn back to the east onto SR 76, past DuPuis (my favorite public land to hike), past the sod and cane fields where once there was citrus and before long I parked the bike in the garage – it was a good ride.
The attached photo of me on the motorcycle was taken on a post card perfect day in 2009 at Port Mayaca – the wind was calm, the Lake was still and the air was so clear you could see all the way across to Moore Have, some 30 miles to the southwest! I love how the water and sky blend together on the horizon.
After reading Gary’s account I kept thinking about that lone cypress standing like a sentinel as all has changed around it… I wrote my mother to see what she had in her history files. She sent the following four postcards from her historic collection:
We should all go ride and see it and make post cards or Facebook posts of our own!
The maps and information in today’s blog is taken from an article entitled “Big Cypress Swamp,” by Benjamin F. McPherson, that is included in the 1974, “Environments of South Florida Past and Present,” complied by Patrick J. Gleason. As I have mentioned previously this week, this text was lent to my by Dr Gary Goforth who gives insight into understanding our St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon system and our Lake Okeechobee and canal issues.
This above map gives one an idea of how far east the Everglades used to go and how much development has crept in (see below)….how come agriculture and development didn’t totally take over Big Cypress? Well, perhaps they could not stop the water….
Big Cypress Swamp…we may not think of it too much over here on the east coast but we should study it as well. It is sister to the Everglades and people fought to save parts of it and were successful. It became one of our nation’s first national preserves in the same year Patrick Gleason’s text was published, 1974. I was ten years old and my family had just moved to a very undeveloped Sewall’s Point.
Today I will transcribe from the parts of the summary from McPherson’s work. I like reading the old texts. Sometimes they seem more clear and easier to understand. It helps us understand how things have changed looking an old book like we grew up with instead of today’s electronic media.
Excerpts from “Big Cypress Swamp,” by Benjamin F. McPherson
“The Big Cypress Swamp differs form the adjacent Everglades in topography, soil, water quality, and vegetation. Because the swamp has relatively more high land, inundation soil deposit are less extensive in the swamp than the Everglades. Soil in the swamp is usually a thin layer of marl sand or mixture of the two or is absent where limestone crops out where as soil in the Everglades is usually deeper organic peat. Vegetation in the swamp is closely associated with typography, water inundation, and soils, and is more diverse and forested than in the Everglades…
Big Cypress Swamp is a flat, swamp area of about 3120 square kilometers in SW Florida. It is seasonally inundated over as much as 90 % its surface area. Water moves slowly to the south by overland flow toward the estuaries. Fifty -six percent of the surface water that flows into Everglades National Park comes from the Big Cypress. A substantial amount of water also enters Conservation Area 3 from the Swamp. The western part of the Swamp is drained by canals and no longer floods extensively…
The quality of water in the big Cypress, particularly in the untrained parts is in generally of better quality that the water in the Everglades. Some contamination by metals pesticides and other potentially toxic chemicals does occur however….
Today we continue looking at parts of a 1974 text entitled: “Environments of South Florida, Present and Past,” by Patrick J. Gleason, lent to me by Dr Gary Goforth.
Today’s map of study was created by Frederick A. Ober.
Fred Ober was a man who once ran a shoe shop, but one day, with a dream in mind, literally “threw off his shoes.” He decided to go on an adventure and make something more exciting of his life. In 1974 he visited and documented our Lake Okeechobee and surrounding Everglades.
Our text ironically, looks at Lake Okeechobee 100 years after his visit–published in 1974.
To look at the map and see such notes as “commencement of cypress belt with sandy shore” along the east side; “custard apples, and marshy lands, —-sand beach on the south side”; and “palmetto ridge and Kissimmee Prairie in the north,” really take one to another world.
—A world that basically does not exist anymore.
We scraped it clean. We rearranged it. We built it out. We drained it. We diked it. We planted seed. We erected houses. Maybe one day the young people will try to put some of it back. It must have been spectacular.
What will it look like in another 100 years? Will today’s Google map below appear as obsolete as Ober’s? What do you think? Is there a way to go back? Envision 2074.
The South Florida Water Management District did a great job “sending water south,” from May-September last year, so how are they doing so far this year comparatively? Recently I asked Dr Gary Goforth (http://garygoforth.net) if I could share his calculations:
Jacqui, As you know, my mantra has been to send the Lake water south – slowly but steadily – throughout the year.
This was echoed by Robert Fennema describing historical flows from the Lake to the Everglades in the same 2008 Greater Everglades Ecosystem Restoration (GEER) workshop as the Chris McVoy piece you referenced recently: “Persistent outflow along the southern shore provided the head to maintain constant flow through the Everglades.”
All the best, Gary
Here are Dr Gary Goforth’s numbers:
2 years ago May-Sept: 32,032 acre feet to STAs Last year May-Sept: 187,125 acre feet to STAs This year May – Sept.: 95,600 acre feet to STA/FEB
He adds: “Jeff Kivett stated there was 60% probability of above average rainfall during the upcoming dry season and now is the time to keep the Lake low by sending it to the Everglades.”
Thank you Dr Goforth.
I have noticed, at recent meetings, speakers and scientists for the SFWMD note that rainfall and other issues have a lot to do with how much water they can send south. It would be wonderful if someone from the District could explain this in simple terms for the public and noting the goal for this year. Please feel free to participate in this blog.
I was a teacher for many years. I taught 8th, 9th, and 11th grade English and German. Throughout my career, whether the students were 13 or 17 years old, there was nothing better for them than “getting an A.”
I don’t think in my ten-year career, I ever gave an A plus.
Until now that is…. 🙂
The South Florida Water Management District deserves an A plus for their creative, determined, and difficult work “sending water south” in a politically explosive environment. —-Probably the worst mine fields in the state…
For “WATER YEAR REGIONAL FLOWS May 2014, through April 2015” at least 585,000 acre feet of water was sent south to the Storm Water treatment Areas and into the Water Conservation Areas. This translated into 565,000 acre feet of water to starved Everglades National Park.
To appreciate this achievement one must compare:
The chart above, courtesy of Dr Gary Goforth, shows acre feet of water going to STAs from 1995-2015. The highest number ever. The colors show the different STAs the water went through.
Sometimes when studying “sending water south” it gets VERY confusing as more water was sent south in 1995, but this water was sent when there were very few STAs and so Florida Bay got pounded with nitrogen and phosphorus laden Lake Okeechobee, and I would think some water from the Everglades Agricultural Area….
The Storm Water Treatment Areas clean the water…
It must be noted that some grading the system may think differently as South Florida certian water users and agriculture have been afraid we were, or are almost going into a drought or that the STA were overused. Some may say the ACOE and SFWMD district “should not have sent so much water south, but rather stored it in the lake…” Maybe they are right. Today I will not judge, but reward.
So anyway, “to repeat myself IRL students,” 🙂 THIS YEAR THE SOUTH FLORIDA WATER MANAGEMENT DISTRICT HAS SENT MORE WATER SOUTH TO THE STAs THAN EVER BEFORE.
You may recall that the Army Corp of Engineers opened the gates to the St Lucie River on January 16th 2015 and this did not stop until late May. This water charted going south this year helped alleviate our destruction. It could have been worse… If they weren’t sending it south, it may have gone to “us.”
My hope is that water management becomes the top-cool thing to do for future generations, and that many River Kidz and even more young people from all over the world and our nation, come to our state to work, learn and study water management. It is a politically explosive and difficult work environment, but nothing is more important for the people and the for wildlife of our state.
I admit that I am part of that politically explosive environment..but my heart really is with the living creatures of the Earth and its waters. May we overcome our genetically wired warlike behavior, send the water south, and save the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon….
Thank you South Florida Water Management District for your outstanding work! Yes there are great difficulties, but for a better water future, we are counting on you!
Some days I get really lucky because people send me cool stuff based on what I wrote the previous day in my blog. Yesterday this happened with both my mother, Sandra Thurlow, Dr Gary Gorfoth and a slew of other comments . I will be sharing some of my mother and Dr Goforth’s insights today.
After reading my post on sediment loads in the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon and how they have lessened the natural depths of the river/s, my historian mother, sent me the awesome image of a historic wood cut at the top of this post created around 1885 by Homer Hine Stuart Jr., for whom Stuart, Florida is named.
This historic wood cut shows the depth of the St Lucie River at 20 feet in the area of what would become the span for the Roosevelt Bridge. A contemporary navigation chart below, shows the depth of the water in this area at 11 feet. At least 9 feet of sediment and or —MUCK!
“Jacqui, Your post about sediments made me think of this little map. Homer Hine Stuart, Jr. for whom Stuart is named, had a little wood cut map that was about 4 by 2 1/2 inches and looked like one of those address stamps we use today made. Maps made from the wood cut were used to show his the location of his property and his bungalow “Gator’s Nest” to his family in New York and Michigan. This image was made from a photograph of the wood cut. It is printed is reverse so the writing, etc., isn’t backward. You can see that there was 20 feet of water depth between the peninsulas that would later be connected by bridges. The date of the map would be around 1885.” –Mom
Dr Goforth also wrote. He tells a sad story mentioning that Stuart News editor and famed environmentalist Ernie Lyons wrote prolifically about the great fishing in the St Lucie prior to the construction of the St Lucie Canal (C-44) in 1923.
“… the St. Lucie River and Estuary was known as the “Giant Tarpon Kingdom” before the Lake Okeechobee discharges began in 1923; after the Lake Okeechobee discharges began the muck from the Lake despoiled the clear waters and drove the tarpon offshore, and the area was recast as the “Sailfish Capital of the World” (Lyons 1975: The Last Cracker Barrel).
Thankfully, Dr Goforth gives an idea to fix and or improve the accumulation of muck sediments into the St Lucie River:
One effective means of reducing the sediment/much discharges from the Lake would be the construction of a sediment trap just upstream of the St. Lucie Locks and Spillway. This simple approach has worked well in other areas, most recently in West Palm Beach on the C-51 Canal just upstream of the Lake Worth Lagoon (see attached fact sheet). By deepening and widening the C-44 canal just upstream of the locks/spillway, a large portion of the sediment would settle out of the water in a relatively contained area before entering the River; with routine dredging, the material can be removed and spread over adjacent lands… —(perhaps using lands along the canal purchased by Martin County and SFWMD?). —-Dr Gary Goforth
Kudos to Dr Goforth’s ideas. Kudos to my mother’s history! Let’s get Governor Rick Scott towork and get to work ourselves too! We can do it. Together, we can do anything. 🙂
MUCK THEMED PHOTOS:
Muck coats the bottom of our beautiful river but determination coats our hearts. We and future generations will continue to fight to save our St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon!
One of the projects that was born from Senator Joe Negron’s led “Select Committee on the Indian River Lagoon and Lake Okeechobee Basin” Senate Hearing of 2013 is linked to an agreement between the Florida Senate and the University of Florida Board of Trustees. The project title is a “Technical Review of Options to Move Water from Lake Okeechobee to the Everglades.”
The project has been given $250,000, the “project period” ends March 1, 2015, and will be led by Wendy Graham of the UF Water Institute. Other great minds of our state university system will also be a part of this process. (http://waterinstitute.ufl.edu)
As a Florida Gator myself, Class of 1986, I am hopeful. Nonetheless, I recognize that the university is historically tied into the politics of development and agribusiness that has been part of the destruction of the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon and our state.
My Grandfather Henderson was an agronomist/soil scientist, UF graduate, and teacher. He taught citrus magnet and UF Bull Gator, Ben Hill Griffin. He was very proud of this. When I was kid and my grandfather would drive me from Gainesville to Stuart, he would try to make me memorize every scientific name and genetic history of every cow we passed along the Florida Turnpike, and also tell me what quality of soil was located where the cow was standing.
My grandfather, my mother’s father, was a farm boy, had lived through the Great Depression and was not thinking about “preserving” this state; he was thinking about using it for the “betterment of mankind, for progress.” I, on the other hand, have lived a kinder, gentler life, and so my goal is to save the beauty and nature of the state for future generations, and I see its connection to property values. My grandfather probably figured “what good are property values if there is no food on the table?”
These ideological conflicts still exist today just in a different way. For the University of Florida and people like my grandfather, historical friendships and connections run deep and it is difficult to not be affected by such in ones ‘ judgement, even if one is a scientist…
But in my opinion, today when thinking about this “conflict, we must think more about the future….and the future of this state is inexorably tied to the health and quantity of its fresh water resources…also we must trust and support those who have been charged to complete the project.
Yes, in spite of the political intricacies, I can think of no better place for a review of “moving water south,” than the University of Florida Water Institute.
According to engineer Dr Gary Goforth, of Stuart, now independent but formerly of the South Florida Water Management District, the UF team is “highly qualified.”
He states: “I am optimistic the review team will produce an excellent report after meeting with interested members of the public if they can make recommendations that may be in conflict with existing state and federal agency positions and policies. This is often difficult for agencies that depend on continued State funding as does the University...”
Kevin Henderson, also of Stuart, (no relation to my grandfather) engineer, and long-standing estuary advocate and Rivers Coalition member says:
“I believe the folks at UF understand the issues and will have a good handle on options that will work, could work, and will not work.
So my view is- let them do it, don’t believe everything you read in the papers, and read the scope below with an understanding of the political document it has to be to even get started.
What would be really useful is the Corps making clear that HHD cannot be made into a legal dam without having a very large flood discharge outlet that does not exist today.“
Me? I just want to wish Wendy Graham’s team luck, and let them know that I for one am rooting for them.
Below is a copy of the agreement between the Florida Senate and UF Board of Trustees. This is important for everyone to read.
Before I close, I can’t resist yelling out loud for all the souls of history and future generations to hear: GO GATORS!
The St Lucie Canal connecting Lake Okeechobee to the St Lucie River was constructed at the request of the state of Florida, the US Federal Government, and the local Martin County Chamber of Commerce, by the Army Corp of Engineers from 1915-1928. As this antique newspaper article of the Florida Developer above shows, by 1931 the Martin County Commission was already asking the state of Florida to close the gates and reporting clear evidence of the destruction of the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon.
I must thank my mother, historian Sandra Thurlow, for sharing this information and the photos in this post. She transcribed the 1931 article from the Florida Developer, a Stuart paper of the era. It reads:
South Florida Developer, November 6,
1931, LOCKS IN CANAL CLOSED; FISHING TO BE BENEFITED
Job of Checking Water Movement Was Completed Saturday TO KILL HYACINTHS; Fishermen Look For Decidedly Good Fishing the Winter
The east locks of the St Lucie Canal were closed Saturday, after being open nearly two years. In that time the level of Lake Okeechobee has been reduced from 18 to 14 feet.
The work of closing the locks began Friday morning under the direction of engineers for the Okeechobee Flood Control District. When they finished the job Saturday night, water continued to pour over the dam about as fast as before, in spite of the fact that the level of the canal had been raised 7 feet.
This morning the crew went to the west end of the St Lucie Canal to close the locks there and thus check the flow of water from the Lake.
The closing of these locks is regarded as highly important to the people of Stuart and adjacent communities, primarily because as long as they remain open, the ingress of water from the Lake made the St. Lucie River fresh, driving out the salt water fish and bringing in hyacinths. With the water cut off from the Lake, it is expected that the St Lucie River will again become salt and this should bring back the fish and kill the hyacinths. Fisherman say it will take about 30 days for the effects of the is change in water to be felt, but they are exultant that this change had come about in time to promote good fishing in local waters.
The minutes from the Martin County Commission meeting in 1931 also shown above are a bit harsher. The minutes state:
Be it resolved that the Board of County Commissioners herby instruct the Clerk to write the Trustee of the Internal Improvement Fund petitioning that they closed the gates at the Lake end of the St Lucie Canal until April 15, 1931, for the reason that the constant discharge of a large volume of dirty fresh water into the St Lucie River has killed all the shell-fish, driven out salt water fish from the river, filled the river with hyacinth and polluted the St Lucie River as to completely take away its attractive features and ruin its commercial value to our community.
According to local Everglades SLR/IRL expert, Dr Gary Goforth, (http://garygoforth.net/resume.htm), 1931 was the first year the amount of water released from Lake Okeechobee in to the St Lucie River was documented. Although there is no documentation of the releases that occurred prior to 1931, in 1931 it is documented that 1,414,414 acre feet of water was released from the lake into the river. This is over three times as much as was released into the SLR from Lake Okeechobee in 2013, (419,951 acre feet.)
The historic photos below document and show local people taking the water hyacinth issue into their own hands.
On August 3rd at 10AM the people of Martin and St Lucie counties, on behalf of their government, will ask one more time for the state to close the gates from Lake Okeechobee to the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon.
As we have seen this summer, we have enough problems with our own local runoff that has been expanded since 1931 to include the building of C-23, C-24 and C-25 as well as the widening and deepening of C-44 for its enlarged “local” runoff. Things must change, we have known this for a very long time. Finally there are enough of us to make a difference.
Hope to see you at the rally and may the state and federal government know that we will never stop asking, some would say demanding, that the ACOE, through the federal government and the state of Florida “close the gates!”
On Friday, July 18th, Dr Gary Goforth (http://garygoforth.net/resume.htm) and I met at Indian River State College just after noon. I jumped in his truck, wearing my dress and heels, and we drove the back roads to find our destination. Our destination was long time Martin grove, Caulkins Citrus, located off Citrus Boulvard, near Indiantown, adjacent to the C-44 canal which of course connects to the St Lucie River/IRL and to Lake Okeechobee.
Kevin Powers, of the South Florida Water Management District governing board, longtime Martin County resident, and family friend, had invited Gary and I to see a pilot project of “water farming.” Water farming is idea that has been in the works for the past few years and is now finding its reality. If it works, thousands of acre feet of polluted water along the C-44 canal, in this case, will not find its way to the St Lucie River/ Indian River Lagoon. Farmers are paid for this service and their lands are not sold to development.
How could this be? Farmers “growing” water?
First we have to go back a bit.
In a Stuart News article dated April of 2013, Doug Bournique, executive vice president of the Indian River Citrus League, is interviewed by reporter Paul Ivice. Ivice writes:
“Diseases, (greening and canker), hurricanes and urban expansion have all cut into Florida’s citrus acreage which is down 38% from 1996…Nowhere in Florida has acreage fallen as sharply as in Martin County. It has less than 15% remaining of the 48,221 acres in production in 1994. The county has suffered the greatest loss for four consecutive years and and been declining sine 1994.”
As the citrus industry is dying, so is our economy. While farmers figure out what else they can grown on their land, the idea for some farmers to hold precious fresh, all be it polluted, waters on their lands came into being. This helps the river and it helps the farmers and it helps our local economy. Boyd Gunsalus, among other scientist at the SFWMD, has worked long and hard for the past many years on this concept.
Caulkins Citrus is in a prime location and were one of the farms that competed for a bid to try out the new technology and receive a DEP/SFWMD grant.
When Gary and I arrived we were met by Tom Kenny, Kevin Powers, and Ronnie Hataway. After introductions, they explained to us how the “farm”operated, how it was created, their hopes for the future, and gave us a walking and driving tour. It was pretty amazing if not surreal. Egrets and herons perched in the dying orange trees surrounded by water. A deer track was at my feet. Water was everywhere and from what I was told could one day go to the horizon.
Although Gary and I had been somewhat skeptical, we left feeling very hopeful and impressed.
So how did they create it?
Basically the grove is fallow due to poor health, and although the farm is much larger, (thousands of acres) a berm was constructed around a few hundred acres of the grove for the pilot study. Then water was/is pumped from the C-44 canal into the old grove. The berm holds the water inside.
The water can go as high as four feet but according to Mr Kenny it is percolating so well through the soft sandy soils that basically the pump can stay on all the time. The nitrogen and phosphorus and other pollutants are cleaned and eaten by healthy bacteria as the water filters through the earth.
The pilot’s long term goal is to hold 6600 acre feet of water but things are looking like they will be able to hold more. The water is slowly filtered into the water table replenishing the aquifer about 40 feet below. Caulkins is installing a number of apparatuses that they call “wells” that will read where the water is going and what is happening underground. If things work out, Caulkin’s acreage to hold water will be expanded.
Although this is wonderful, we must note that it would take many water farms to offset the water flowing into the SLR/IRL.
Dr Goforth states in a recent writing: “For the 34 days between June 13 and July 17, approximately 51,000 acre feet of C-44 runoff was sent to the St Lucie River…”
With that in mind, if a water farm similar to Caulkins could hold 10,000 acre feet, we would need five just to hold the water that has come in this summer SO FAR from C-44 basin runoff. Of course in time, 2020 maybe, the C-44 Storm Water Treatment and Reservoir and Storm Water Treatment Area will be one line, and hopefully working, and that is said to hold about 56,000 acre feet. (http://www.tmba.tv/broadcastanimation/everglades-restoration/everglades-restoration/)
In the end, really though, no one knows how much water can be held until these projects are working. Hopefully all of them, like Caulkins Grove seems to be so far, will exceed expectations.
As we tied up our tour, shook hands and left the property Mr Hataway said, “I have been telling them for years to keep this fresh water on the land….”
Mr Kenny noted, “The goal is to have less water going into the river and out the inlet…”
It is an ironic twist of fate. We worked for 100 years to drain the lands so we could grow agriculture. Now we are trying to keep the water on the land for the health of the river, because fresh water is extremely valuable, and because the citrus industry needs a new crop.
Words such as these about “keeping the water on the land,” especially from successful agriculturally minded businessmen, are an inspiration to me, and give hope for a better water future.
After the fact, I am including this 2 page summary provided to me by the SFWMD when I asked about costs on behalf of blog reader George Gill. Click to enlarge.
The first time I saw Gary Goforth speak (http://garygoforth.net/services.htm) at Senator Joe Negron’s Senate Hearing on the Indian River Lagoon and Lake Okeechobee in 2013, I was very impressed. He was sitting next to Karl Wickstrom, the founder of Florida Sportsman Magazine, who I sit with on the Rivers Coalition Defense Fund. I knew if Dr Goforth had Karl’s “blessing” he belonged to an elite group of people in the River Movement, as Karl, who I love, is understandably critical of everyone.
I came to learn that this accomplished and well spoken man, had worked at the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) as a Ph.D. engineer, most of his esteemed career and in fact “built” the Storm Water Treatment Areas (STA) in the Everglades Agriculture Area (EAA) as head engineer for the district’s projects in 2004 on onward. Today he runs his own engineering company here in Martin County independent of the district. (See link above.)
An STA is an area that filters water through vegetation taking up nutrients like phosphorus and nitrogen and even pollution before it goes into a water conservation area and then to the Everglades. It is an area engineered to do what Mother Nature did before we transformed her into farmlands and urban landscapes.
When the Everglades Forever Act was passed by the Florida legislature in 1994, and after Governor Chiles “laid down his sword,” the SFWMD was required to build more STAs to filter the polluted water running into the Miccosukee lands and Everglades further south. The Miccosukee had sued the US government and the SFWMD, (a long, famous lawsuit starting in 1988), as specifically the high phosphorus from fertilizers and pollution from the EAA’s sugar farms was destroying their reservation’s waters and fauna and therefore all that lived there. The law suit accomplished two major things. It called for 10 parts per billion phosphorus rather than 200 plus so the STAs were built and it called for a certain amount of water to go south to sustain the life of the Everglades.
So in comes the law regarding amounts: In chapter 3773.4592, Florida Statues, “1994 Everglades Forever Act” the SFWMD was directed to send an additional 28 % water to the Everglades, including 250,000 acre feet of Lake Okeechobee water based on base flow statistics from 1979-1988. The Everglades needs water to live.
It is confusing, but although the STAs can send both EAA water and lake water south to the Everglades, the SFWMD gives the EAA water (from the lake, used to water their crops), priority in moving south. Lake water goes south only if the STAs have room….
OK. Here is the kicker.
Although in the recent past, the EAA spent tons of money removing toxic chemicals from the lands they had to give up for STAs and although the tax payers spent billions of dollars building the STAs on those lands for cleaning EAA water and Lake Okeechobee water, Gary Goforth’s charts and engineering show that since 2004, actually less lake water is going south to the Everglades. And most of the water going south is EAA water, very little Lake water comparatively ….Why?
Well, from what I think I understand, even though all this money has been spent in the EAA and tax payers building the STAs, the EAA and SFWMD who work together, are “scared” to send too much water south because if they go over the 10 parts per billion phosphorus limit (an annual limit) they could be sued again. Thus they hold the EAA water in the STAs letting it dribble out and therefore there is no room for Lake O’s water most of the time.
As Dr Goforth points out, it is the St Lucie River and Caloosahatchee that do not get what was legislated for them: a minimum of 250,000 acre feet of lake water sent south a year.
As stated in an email to me:
“The 1994 Everglades Forever Act (Florida legislation Ch. 373.4592, F.S.) directed the South Florida Water Management District to send an additional 28 percent water to the Everglades, including 250,000 acre feet of Lake water. The 1979-1988 base period flows to the Everglades included an average of 100,931 acre feet from Lake Okeechobee – resulting in a targeted increase of Lake water to the Everglades of 148 percent.
For the most recent 10-year period (May 2005-April 2014) an average of 71,353 acre feet of Lake water was sent to the Everglades – or an average decrease of 29 percent from the 1979-1988 base period.
So – the target was a 148 percent increase – and the reality was a 29 percent decrease. This was in exchange for a billion dollars of public funding for the STAs. Who holds the State accountable?” Gary Goforth
If you are like me, this all may remain confusing, but I think the point is made… I hope so anyway.
“Legally, not enough Lake O water is going south.”
This is a serious situation. Really, only the people can hold the state accountable, but do we really want to sue again? Can this be resolved?
Many say it is impossible to send the water south at 10 ppb. This may be the case. Nonetheless, I say the Miccosukee Indians finally won something after generations of sadness to their people, after being forced to live on a postage stamp, so as “tough as it sounds,” I believe the EAA, the SFWMD, and the state of Florida have some more work to do.