Tag Archives: Jana Eschbach

History’s Stairway-From the “Greatest Fishing Waters in America” to the Home of Toxic Algae 2016, SLR/IRL

Stairs leading to the former home of Hubert W. Bessey, the Perkins family and later William H. and Lucy Anne Shepard ca. 1890-1947 via historian Sandra Henderson Thurlow.
Stairs leading to the former home of Hubert W. Bessey, the Perkins family, and later William H. and Lucy Anne Shepherd ca. 1890-1947- via historian Sandra Henderson Thurlow.
Courtesy of "Stuart on the St Lucie," by Sandra Henderson Thurlow.
Courtesy of “Stuart on the St Lucie,” by Sandra Henderson Thurlow.
Shepherd's Park, Stuart 5-30-16. JTL
Shepherd’s Park shoreline, St Lucie River, Stuart 5-30-16. The ACOE in collaboration with the SFWMD and other state agencies has been discharging waters that cannot go south to the Everglades from Lake Okeechobee as they are blocked by the EAA. The ACOE has been releasing this year since January 29, 2016. The estuary is now fresh and breeding the algae blooms of Lake Okeechobee. JTL

My earliest memories of Stuart include stairs…stairs leading to the river…

Walking in Shepherd’s Park as a child, I would ask, “Where did those stairs go Mom?” Her answer may have gone something like this…

“Jacqui, those stairs led to a great house, one of Stuart’s first, built by pioneer, Hubert Bessey. It later became the residence of William and Lucy Ann Shepherd who first came to Stuart in the early 1900s. They came, like so many did at that time, for the fishing. Stuart, you know, was “the fishing grounds of presidents” and known as “the greatest waters in America” for this sport. Mr Shepherd was president and owner of T.H. Brooks and Company, a steel corporation in Cleveland. He and his wife were generous citizens of our community.  In 1947 the house was almost demolished by a hurricane, but repaired. Then in 1949, disaster struck. Right in the middle of the winter season, the house mysteriously burned to the ground, but the stairs still stand today…” (Adapted from “History of Martin County”)

Yesterday, with these 50-year-old lessons ringing in my ears, I approached the remains of the old Shepherd residence that became today’s Shepherd’s Park. I was here on Memorial Day to meet reporter Jana Eschbach, from CBS affiliate Channel 12 News in West Palm Beach. It was Jana who had alerted me to a large fluorescent green algae bloom-more than likely toxic.

I arrived early and walked around. Lots of memories. Seeing the old stairs, I thought about how they used to lead to “the fishing grounds of presidents and the greatest fishing grounds in America.” And today, less than 100 years later, they are leading to toxic algae blooms. Never in my wildest dreams would I have foreseen this as a child.

Walking around the breakwater, I thought to myself:

“I will not give up on this place–this former paradise. It could recover if given the chance. History can repeat itself in some form here for the positive.  Yes, and I will remember the words of Ernest Lyons who my mother taught me about too—the writer and editor of Stuart’s early paper–a leader and inspiration in fighting against the digging of the excessive agricultural canals that have destroyed our St Lucie River.

I mused for a second and remembered his inspirational quote:

“What men do, they can undo. And the hope for our river is in the hundreds of men and women in our communities who are resolved to save the St Lucie.” 

Yes.

The recovery of this river is in the people, for no government can exist in today’s age knowingly bringing this upon its people…It continues to be our time to change history.

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CBS 12 report: http://cbs12.com/news/local/toxic-green-slime-invades-waterways-for-miles-in-martin-county#

http://cbs12.com/news/local/toxic-green-slime-invades-waterways-for-miles-in-martin-county#
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OTHER PHOTOS FROM STUART, 5-30-16, Dusty Pearsall.

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Rain, Flooding, Drainage/Building a Better Future for the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon

 

Riverview and South Sewall's Point Road flooded in the Town of Sewall's Point 9-17-15 (JTL)
Riverview and South Sewall’s Point Road flooded in the Town of Sewall’s Point 9-16-15 (JTL)

When I was a kid growing up in Indialucie, named so as it is located between the Indian River Lagoon and the St Lucie River….it flooded a lot. We kids loved it. We would  play and play! Just like kids did in the Town of Sewall’s Point when it rained so hard the past couple of days. I was told yesterday by Pam Hopkins, water quality specialist, at Florida Oceanographic that their gauge showed 8.5 inches!

Kids play in the retention pond in Sewall's Point. (Photo Simone McPhee)
Kids play in the retention pond in Sewall’s Point, 9-16-15. (Photo courtesy of Simone McPhee)

Rain is not the problem. It’s the drainage…

Florida was drained so agriculture and development could flourish. But we have literally outgrown the plumbing system of the 1920, 30s, 40, 50, 60, and 70s….we must begin to  think anew.

Rain events like the past couple of days allow us to clearly see the problem and to be creative in thinking about solutions. —-One thing is clear, when Lake Okeechobee’s water is added on top of such events, “not only are we flooded, but we are drowning.”

Whether it is the overflow waters of Lake Okeechobee, runoff from area canals, or “local flood waters,” such experiences highlight the need for storage, as fresh water is a resource and should not be wasted.

I have used the basin/canal map a lot recently as it applies to just about everything.  Here you can see the drainage system draining the lands into the SRL/IRL; of course there is other local infrastructure drainage such as street “gutters,” drains, and underground piping that do not show up on this map. In any case,  the goal is to “get the water off the land as soon as possible” and drain it to the lowest point, the river……

Well that has got to change.

SFWMD canal and basin map. C-44 canal is the canal most southerly in the image.
SFWMD canal and basin map. C-44 canal is the canal most southerly in the image.
South Sewall's Point Road 9-16-15....(JTL)
South Sewall’s Point Road 9-16-15….(JTL)
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BELOW, HUTCHINSON ISLAND, FLORIDA OCEANOGRAPHIC AREA/PUBLIX

Video of storm water going into local drainage system:(http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aTN51n6ICMI)

 

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A flooded Publix parking lot on Hutchinson Island....
A flooded Publix parking lot on Hutchinson Island….
Oil atop the water from parking lot and street. This all drains into the river.
Oil atop the water from parking lot and street. This all drains into the river.

To get the current conditions of drainage from canals around Lake O excluding C-23, C-24, and C-25 see this ACOE link; also the drainage from around the coastal area like Stuart, Sewall’s Point etc…is not shown here but estimated in other models.
Current Conditions report ACOE drainage: (http://w3.saj.usace.army.mil/h2o/reports/StatusDaily_files/slide0178.htm)

ACOE J-ville, C-44 (http://w3.saj.usace.army.mil/h2o/reports.htm)

SFWMD shows canals C-23, C-24 and C-25 but it is deeply imbedded and hard to find: (http://www.sfwmd.gov/portal/page/portal/sfwmdmain/home%20page)

What’s the Difference Between C-44 Basin Runoff and Lake Okeechobee Releases along the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon?

The S-80 structure at St Lucie Locks and Dam. C-44 canal in background goes to Lake Okeechobee. (Photo Scott Kuhns, 2013)
The S-80 structure at St Lucie Locks and Dam. C-44 canal in background goes miles to Lake Okeechobee where the S-308 structure is located at the eastern edge of Lake O. (Photo Scott Kuhns, 2013)
Basins whose water runoff flows into the St Lucie River, note C-44 south. (SFWMD, 1999.)
Drainage basins into the St Lucie River, note C-44 south. (SFWMD, 1999.)

The locks are back in the news again. WPTV, “hard working for the river reporter,” Jana Eschbach, broke the story yesterday, that the Army Corp of Engineers did not alert the public that they would be releasing polluted canal, C-44 basin water through the S-80 structure into the St Lucie River. Jana, like most people, feels that the public should be alerted when polluted water will be coming into the estuary in that we swim and fish. She is also concerned the water in the area of Palm City and the Roosevelt Bridge, which has been reported to have high levels of bacteria, will be pushed to the popular Sandbar area.

Video WPTV: (http://www.cbs12.com/news/top-stories/stories/vid_16935.shtml?fb_action_ids=10204339758793609&fb_action_types=og.comments&fb_source=aggregation&fb_aggregation_id=288381481237582)

This can be confusing. Don’t we just care about lake water? Also, if the locks are open, doesn’t that mean the ACOE is releasing Lake Okeechobee water? Not necessarily, and the basin water can be just as damaging to the estuary and the public. So how does releasing basin or lake water work? 

There are two structures along the C-44 canal which runs along the side of Highway 76 from the South Fork of the St Lucie River, to Lake Okeechobee: S-308 at the edge of  Lake Okeechobee, and S-80, 20 miles or so, east, at the St Lucie Locks and Dam.

This ACOE canal and structure map shows S-308 at Lake O. and S-80 20 miles east.
This ACOE canal and structure map shows S-308 at Lake O. and S-80 along the C-44 inland.

S-80 serves duel purposes. First to release water through Lake Okeechobee, but only if S-308, at the lake, is open first, allowing water into the C-44 canal. Then S-80 lets the water pour into the St Lucie River.

Second, S-80 can be opened just to allow water from the C-44  to flow into the St Lucie River, as the C-44 canal is surrounded by a 185 square mile basin, mostly agriculture, that has been directed to flow into the canal when it rains. Agriculture also uses this water in the C-44 canal to water their crops. To make things more confusing, C-44 can “deliver” local basin runoff in both directions: to Lake Okeechobee and to the St Lucie Estuary. The ACOE decides where the water “needs” to go by opening  and closing the structures of S-308 and S-80.

It must be noted that the  water from the C-44 basin is polluted, as is the water from Lake Okeechobee. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection writes: “…the construction of the C-44 canal has had the greatest impact of the St Lucie Estuary–and nearly all of that impact has been bad, FDEP 2001.) The charts below show how much nitrogen and phosphorus come into the river from the C-44 and other basins. C-44 is the highest.  Phosphorus and nitrogen mostly from fertilizer, feed toxic algae blooms in the hot summer months.

Chart shows amounts of nitrogen and phosphorus runoff into the SLR. Note C-44 basin is the highest. (SFWMD, 1995.)
Similar charts shows amounts of nitrogen and phosphorus runoff into the SLR. Note C-44 basin is the highest. (SFWMD, 1995.)

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Fortunately, there is good news due to the help of our local, state and federal governments. The almost 3 billion dollar “C-44 Storm Water Treatment Area/Reservoir” has received first stage fundings and is under construction in Indiantown. It has been since 2011. This reservoir will hold the release water from the C-44 basin and clean it before it is returned to the St Lucie River. This is a huge positive, although it will not stop the releases from Lake Okeechobee.

An educated public is the best defense against the continued destruction of the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon. Thank you for being part of the solution and hopefully, next time, the ACOE opens any structure for any reason, they will alert the public, because here in Martin and St Lucie counties, we want to know!

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Cool video SFWMD C-44 STA/R. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4BsC0BoIPJ4)SFWMD (http://www.hdrinc.com/portfolio/c-44-reservoir-stormwater-treatment-area-project)

FDEP C-44 Canal: (http://www.dep.state.fl.us/southeast/ecosum/ecosums/C-44%20Canal%20.pdf)