Tag Archives: LORS

Is it Time to Address South Florida’s Greatest Taboo? “Shared Adversity,” SLR/IRL

LAKE OKEECHOBEE REGULATION SCHEDULE (LORS) http://www.saj.usace.army.mil/Portals/44/docs/h2omgmt/LORSdocs/2008_LORS_WCP_mar2008.pdf

The second she said it, I was at full attention. This past Tuesday, Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation Director, Ms. Rae Ann Wessel, spoke on the Army Corps of Engineers Periodic Scientists Call. In seven years of listening, in seven years of agency and public comment, I had never heard, seriously, and scientifically, someone address South Florida’s greatest taboo.

Ms Wessel said something like this:

Part of the LORS (Lake Okeechobee Release Schedule 2008)  addresses “shared adversity.” Lake Okeechobee is approximately 470,000 acres. Would it be possible to put the water the Corps plans  to release from the lake over approximately 484,000 acres of  crop lands just south of the lake, rather than into estuaries? The Caloosahatchee algae situation is already at its absolute worst…

You could hear a pin drop…

Wessel was recommending options to the Army Corps and stakeholders regarding the ACOE restarting discharges to the estuaries. Since the previous week’s call, due to NOAA images showing 90% of the lake covered in cyanobacteria blooms, and crisis of algae in both estuaries, the Governor and other powerful politicians asked the federal agency to temporarily stop discharges considering all options before discharging, once again.

Just the previous day, before Wessel’s comment, after viewing the putrid algal mess in the Caloosahatchee, Gov. Rick Scott called for a State of Emergency encompassing seven counties.

Some history, earlier this year, the Caloosahatchee was almost begging the South Florida Water Management District and ACOE for water, but was denied. Now the Caloosahatchee is receiving so much water, with algae to boot, that they are experiencing a toxic summer similar to what the St Lucie experienced in 2016. The Caloosahatchee has had it especially tough this year.

The elephant in the room, or perhaps better described as the Tyrannosaurus rex in the room, is that with Lake Okeechobee over 14 feet, and the fact that we are now approaching the most turbulent part of hurricane season, the ACOE “has to start releasing again,” like now! And everybody knows this.

Therefore, Rae Ann was looking for options, for sharing adversity, and this was fair as the Calloosahatchee has bore most of the adversity this year. She wasn’t talking about flooding the cities in the EAA, she was inquiring about flooding the fields, by less than a foot of water that would evaporate quickly at that extension and depth, maybe stressing but not killing the crops. Sugarcane in particular, is a hardy and durable crop for intermittent periods of water.

Shared adversity… Certainly, the estuaries have have their “fair” share…

So why does the ACOEhave to dump to the estuaries? Why is it taboo to talk about flooding the fields? Because although the 2008 LORS talks about shared adversity the EAA is federally protected by an older and more important document. 

The ACOE in not a teacher picking favorites, they are the military taking orders from Congress.

The federal “law,” connected to the Central and South Florida Project (http://141.232.10.32/about/restudy_csf_devel.aspx) is complex, but perhaps best explained by sharing an excerpt from the book, River of Interests, by the Army Corp of Engineers. Page 35, discusses the 1948 Central and South Florida Project, what it did, and requires of the ACOE.(http://sccf.org/downloadable-files/5b465bf85f38152b048d1cce.pdf)

First, the Corps would build a levee from northwest Palm Beach County to the south of Dade County along the east coast, thereby preventing flooding from the Everglades to the coastal communities. Second, the Corps would modify control facilities and levees around Lake Okeechobee in order to create more water storage, and it would increase the discharge capacity from the lake in order to prevent flooding. Third, the Corps would create three water conservation areas in Palm Beach, Broward and Dade counties for water storage. Fourth, the Corps would construct canals, levees, and pumping stations to protect 700,000 acres of agriculture south of Lake Okeechobee in Palm Beach, Hendry, and Glades counties, known as the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA). Fifth, the Corps would build canals and water control structures to handle drainage in Dade, Broward, Palm Beach, Martin, and St. Lucie counties.

This bolded section is the key, this is why Rae Ann Wessel’s question rung so loudly in the silence of the ACOE call. For the ACOE, it is “understood,” that no matter the case, even with LORS, and in spite of “shared adversity,” that 700,000 acres of agriculture fields, south of Lake Okeechobee is to be protected from flooding destruction.

But as we all know, nothing lasts forever.

Just like other laws of our great county, some do, indeed over time, become outdated for the times. Things change. Among other issues, in 1950, when the Central and South Flood Project law was structured and voted upon to protect the crops in the EAA as part of flood control  2.81 million people lived in Florida. Today, 20 million people reside here. In the old days, the discharges did not have the impact as they do today, the rivers were healthier, and the Lake, it wasn’t so polluted. But now, seventy years later, water quality, pollution, and human health issues have risen to a point of question. “In emergency situations”, is discharging cyanobacteria water from Lake Okeechobee into the now heavily populated areas along the estuaries to prevent flooding of the Everglades Agricultural Area in the state’s best interest, or is it archaic, like the T-Rex in the room?

It might be time to re-evaluate South Florida’s greatest taboo.

s.wordpress.com/2018/07/img_2525.jpg”> Caloosahatchee algae bloom 7-6-18, photo courtesy Dave Stone.

[/caption]Links:

What is the Everglades Agricultural Area: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Everglades_Agricultural_Area

Gov.Rick Scott State of Emergency proclamation: https://www.flgov.com/2018/07/09/gov-scott-issues-emergency-order-to-combat-algal-blooms-in-south-florida/

SCCF: (https://fortmyersbeach.news/rae-anne-wessel-of-sanibel-captiva-conservation-foundation/)

What are the ACOE Periodic Scientists Calls? Former blog post 2014: https://jacquithurlowlippisch.com/2014/03/06/the-acoes-periodic-scientists-call-and-the-indian-river-lagoon/

“Tom Sawyer, Huckleberry Finn Days” of the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon…

The Tom Sawyer Days of the Indian River Lagoon, SRL, IRL
Local boys under the Ernie Lyons Bridge, Indian River Lagoon. (Jeff Burkey, Theron Gibson, and Todd Thurlow, photo Sandy Thurlow, 1981.)

I love this old photo! Isn’t it great? Young adventurers right here along the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon!

The young boys in the photograph include my little brother, Todd, (far right) and his two best friends just “livin’ it” on a homemade raft sometime in the early 80s. I remember my sister Jenny and I used to yell: “Where’s Todd?” And my mother would be peeling potatoes and just shrug her shoulders–“at the river?”  We knew he was somewhere exploring and or fishing with his friends. What a beautiful time and place…

 

St Lucie Inlet earlier photo, date unknown, ca 1980's. Promotional Water Pointe Realty Group achieves.
St Lucie Inlet an earlier photo, (Photo, Chris Perry, ca 1983.) Promotional photo, Water Pointe Realty Group archives.

I read a great book a few years back by Bahamian actor, Sidney Poitier, “The Measure of a Man.” Poitier is the handsome, black actor who broke ground and starred in the controversial 1964 film, “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?” In his autobiography, Poitier says he learned everything he needed to know about navigating the hot racial politics of Hollywood by being a kid growing up in Cat Island because his parents gave him full reign to make decisions in the elements of nature …

A certain degree of freedom during childhood allows for great character building, critical thinking skills, and self-esteem. These traits of course translate into adulthood…

For me, “this” is perhaps the primary reason why we must fight hard today for our rivers. We must give the children of today and the future a place where kids can go and “just be kids”…..and learn….It may never agin be like it was in 1880, or 1930, or 1970 but something happens when a kid gets to play—to imagine….we must support and encourage this freedom of development.

The Army Corp of Engineers this week has kindly decided to lower the releases into the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon at the request of Martin County to fulfill bacteria testing that cannot be accomplished with the gushing waters of Lake Okeechobee pouring through C-44 into the St Lucie River. This is good news and thank you.

We had tremendous rain yesterday and last night, but maybe, just maybe the waters by the St Lucie Inlet and southern Indian River Lagoon will be bluer and cleaner this weekend and coming week. If so, please do what Mark Perry of Florida Oceanographic (http://www.floridaocean.orgcharged us all to do at the Rivers Coalition (http://riverscoalition.orgmeeting: “Get out there and enjoy the river!” Take your kids! Take your parents! Let you kids be Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn for a day! 🙂

I will include below some of the latest data from the ACOE and SFWMD but you know, one day, I dream of not having to study this stuff so much, and just enjoying “our good nature” while watching the kids run around and  play by a clean, healthy river…

Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn (On line photo.)
Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn (On-line image.)
ACOE slide from Periodic Scientists Conference Call. 3-13-14 basins of SLR.
ACOE slides from Periodic Scientists Conference Call, 3-13-14 (Basins of SLR.)
Slide shows discharges from Lake O into SRL/IRL in blue. Not much area canal runoff last week. The lake is now at 14.27, going down but sill "high'" for this time of year.
Slide shows discharges from Lake O into SRL/IRL in blue. Not much area canal runoff last week. The lake is now at 14.27, going down but sill “high'” for this time of year.
Salinity went very low but since release have lightened up a bit, it is going up. The ACOE should be lowing levels again this coming week if they can based on rain or no rain.
Salinity went very low but since release have lightened up a bit, it is going up. The ACOE should be lowing levels again this coming week if they can based on rain or no rain. Thanks!
The SFWMD is to be thanked and commended for the over 500,000 Acre Feet of water that has been send south through the Storm Water Treatment Areas in 2015. Dr Gary Goforth has helped a lot in promoting this.
The SFWMD is to be thanked and commended for the over 500,000 Acre Feet of water that has been send south through the Storm Water Treatment Areas in 2015. Dr Gary Goforth has helped a lot in promoting this. More water getting cleaned and going south is less water destroying the estuaries. The water is not cleaned when dumped into the SLR/IRL and too much fresh water is bad for an estuary…
ACOE Release Guidance
ACOE Release Guidance.
ACOE Lake Okeechobee Release Schedule would allow up to 1140 cfs dumped into SLR/IRL. Discusting....
ACOE Lake Okeechobee Release Schedule (LORS) would allow up to 1170 cfs dumped into SLR/IRL. Disgusting….this does not allow children to have healthy fun in our rivers.

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hmmm?

Both Mark and Kevin have a point.

My non-scientific perspective?

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

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

_____________________________________

 

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