Tag Archives: gates

Sucking-in the Algae Bloom, Lake Okeechobee’s S-308, SLR/IRL

Lake Okeechobee's S-308 at Port Mayaca, Ed Lippisch, May 13, 2016.
Lake Okeechobee’s S-308 at Port Mayaca, Ed Lippisch, May 13, 2016.

The first time I ever laid eyes on Lake Okeechobee, I was eleven years old. I remember thinking that I must be looking at the ocean because I could not see across to the other side. Just enormous!

In spite of its magnificent size, over the past century, Lake Okeechobee has been made smaller–around thirty percent smaller– as its shallow waters have been modified for human use–pushed back, tilled, planted, diked, and controlled. Today, it is managed by the South Florida Water Management District and the Army Corp of Engineers. Sprawling sugar fields, the Everglades Agricultural Area, (EAA), canals, highways, telephone poles, train tracks, processing facilities, a FPL power plant, and small cites surround it.

S-308, (the “S” standing for “structure), opens easterly into the St Lucie Canal, also known as  C-44, (Canal 44).  About twenty miles east is another structure, S-80, at the St Lucie Locks and Dam. It is S-80 that is usually photographed with its “seven gates of hell,” the waters roaring towards the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon, and the City of Stuart, but it is actually S-308 that allows the waters of Lake Okeechobee “in” from the lake in the first place.

Such a fragile looking structure to be the welcome matt of so much destruction…a sliver unto an ocean. So strange…

Today I will share some aerial photos that my husband took on Friday, May 13th, 2016 at about 700 feet above the lake. I asked Ed if from that height he could see the algae bloom so much in the news last week even though over time blooms migrate, “bloom” and then sink into the water column, becoming less visible but still lurking.

“Yes.” He replied.

” It’s harder to see from that altitude, and it depends on the light, but it’s still visible. It’s green in the brown water. The lighting shows were it is. You can see a difference in texture about 100 yards west of S-308. It is not right up against the structure, but further out. Boats are driving through it leaving a trail. It’s appears that is slowly being sucked in to the opening of the S-308 structure , like when you pull the drain out of the sink….”

S-308
S-308 at Port Mayaca, Indiantown, Martin County. Ed Lippisch, 5-13-16
Dike around Lake Okeechobee near S-308
Dike and rim canal around Lake Okeechobee near S-308. Ed Lippisch, 5-13-16
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opening S-308
opening S-308 EL
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…Looking towards S-308 from Lake O, boat going through bloom. Ed Lippisch, 5-13-15
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Remnants of bloom seen bunched in waves. Ed Lippisch 5-13-16.
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…EL
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C-44 or St Lucie Canal
C-44 or St Lucie Canal that is connected by S-308 to Lake Okeechobee.EL
Algae bloom in C-44 near Indiantown just east of Port Maraca and S-308.
Closer view of algae bloom in C-44 near Indiantown “downstream” of Port Maraca and S-308 headed to Stuart. (JTL 5-10-16)
SFWMD basin map for SLR showing S-308 and S-80 along with other structures.
SFWMD SLR basin and canal map showing S-308 and S-80 along with other structures.
This aerial was taken last week by Will Glover and shows a larger bloom not far from Pahokee in Lake Okeechobee. Pahokee is south of S-308 on the southern rim.
Algae Bloom in Lake Okeechobee: This aerial was taken last week by Will Glover as he was flying over Lake Okeechobee in a commercial airplane. It was shared on Facebook.

TC Palm’s Tyler Treadway reported on 5-13-16: “The lake bloom was spread over 33 square miles near Pahokee, the South Florida Water Management District said Thursday. The Florida Department of Health reported Friday the bloom contains the toxin microcystin, but at a level less than half what the World Health Organization says can cause “adverse health impacts” from recreational exposure.”

Map of cities around Lake O and trail you can take to see this area.

Pahokee is south and west of Port Maraca and S-308. (Florida Trails)

The Future of Oranges, Sugarcane, and Drainage Gates, National Geographic, SLR/IRL

National Geographic magazine's February 2015 issue article "Treading Water," discusses among other things, the loss/threat to sugarcane south of Lake Okeechobee. (NG, photo of page 119.)
National Geographic’s February 2015 issue has an article entitled “Treading Water,” which discusses among other things, sea level rise and the future loss/threat to sugarcane and oranges south and around Lake Okeechobee in Florida. (NG, photo of page 119.)

My husband Ed was out of town on Friday, so I thought I would get some reading done on something other than the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon. That evening, with the dogs at my feet, I began reading the February issue of National Geographic magazine, a publication my parents filled our family home with, and I have kept subscribing to as a window to the outside wonders of our world.

After reading articles on the terrible trauma of “blast force” to US soldiers that served in Iraq and Afghanistan; Hawaiian identity and the sea; and the amazing microscopic revelations of mites; —–at the very end of the magazine, there was an article entitled: TREADING WATER about climate change, seal level rise, and South Florida.

The article focused quite a bit  on a Dutch company that sees “profit rather than loss” in floating houses in trendy Miami, but also mentioned a few things that had little silver lining such as an insert on page 112, entitled, “Home on the Water.” This insert briefly noted the 2,100 miles of canals, (that we are all so familiar with), that have been built over the past century to drain the Everglades and empty the state’s water mostly into the Atlantic Ocean. (FOS, 1.7 billion gallon a day on average….)

According to the article, if there is two feet of sea level rise, conservatively predicted by 2060, the gates  draining the lands around lake Okeechobee and the Everglades,  “will no longer work…”

I’ll be 95 in 2060….hope I can get out of the nursing home to see….

National Geographic page 112. "Given two feet of sea level rise, more than 80 % of the gates will no longer work."
National Geographic page 112. “Given two feet of sea level rise, more than 80 % of the gates will no longer work.”

The article also notes “two key” very threatened and very profitable agricultural industries: sugarcane and oranges.

National Geographic magazine's February 2015 issue article "Treading Water," discusses among other things, the loss/threat to sugarcane south of Lake Okeechobee. (NG, photo of page 119.)
National Geographic magazine’s February 2015 issue article “Treading Water,” shows locations of sugarcane in the Everglades Agricultural Area, and orange groves both north and south Lake Okeechobee.  (NG, photo of page 119.)

Food for thought….

Sea level rise is a factor I deal with as a commissioner in the Town of Sewall’s Point and have been exposed to through the Florida League of Cities. The sea has risen before and it is rising again. Too bad humanity is speeding things up, but we are…

After listening to many state agencies and scientists speak on the issue, I  personally do not believe Florida will be abandoned or”sink.” I think it will rise in new form, adapting to change as humanity has done for thousands if not millions of years.

Nonetheless,  if I owned sugar groves in the Everglades Agriculture Area, I’d have an exit strategy; if I worked for the Army Corp of Engineers, or South Florida Water Management District, I would reexamine the plumbing; and if I were Florida’s governor, or legislature, I would be talking to scientists about the advantage of fresh water on the land south of lake, pushing back salt water coming up from below and providing drinking water in the future to all those people living on floating houses in Miami…

So much for reading about the “rest of the world”…our St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon/ Everglades issues are inescapable!

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National Geographic Magazine: (http://www.nationalgeographic.com)

FOS: (http://www.floridaocean.org)

Town of Sewall’s Point: (http://sewallspoint.org )—FEMA houses being lifted, flood map changes are just a few of the things the town is dealing with in regard to sea level rise.