I am very fortunate to have a team of people, “River Warriors” who help me document from sky to water the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon. Today, I share photos taken by friend Mary Radabaugh who overnighted in the area over Father’s Day weekend, June 18-19, 2022. She took amazing photos of nature: live sand dollars, growing seagrasses, wading birds, manatees, and sea turtles. Life is returning to the area.
Next, Dr Scott Kuhns shares five aerials he took the same weekend, on June 18, around 11:30am. These photographs reveal clear waters with rain runoff plume over St Lucie Inlet and nearshore reefs. There is also a photo of the C-44 Reservoir filled to just over ten feet. This reservoir sits on the C-44 Canal and was just completed this past year as the first major CERP project. It is scheduled to be operational by 2023, although the ACOE is trying for earlier.
My husband, Dr Ed Lippisch, took his plane up yesterday. He shares four photos from June 22, 2022 around 12:30 pm that encompass the estuary from a higher altitude. The darker rain runoff is more visible. The estuary still looks good in the region near the St Lucie Inlet. Higher up the north and south forks the water is darker. There have not been major discharges from Lake Okeechobee in over three years. This is a very good thing and we must continue to make this our goal.
When I was I kid, I loved to watch Looney Tunes. For some reason, my favorite cartoon was the story of “Michigan J. Frog,” the singing frog that would stop singing when its “owner” would take it out of the box to perform.
Although our St Lucie cyanobacteria issues are no performing frog, and are anything but funny, sometimes I do feel like I am in Looney Tunes. And most certainly, the singing frog analogy stands.
Recently, when some big-names came to visit our area to “see” the algae, I must admit, when it wasn’t, I wanted it to be there. This happened with famed conservation photographer Max Stone, and the next day with gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis’ ToxicTour with Congressman Brian Mast.
In both cases, just a day apart, we would be staring at an area famous for caked, stinking algae, photographed thousands of times, and the area would look “clean,” completely devoid of the thick green-blue mats. In a desperate attempt for credibility, I’d be showing Max Stone or Congressman DeSantis pictures on my phone displaying how the algae looked “just last week”….”just yesterday!” “See those grey lines on the seawall, they were blue!”
They believed me of course, they’d seen the national news, but it would have been so much more convincing if I had been able to show them the fierce algae face to face! AGGG!
But that’s not my decision. The algae comes and goes. And most important, thick or thin, it is always there. The particulate algae is just as bad as the mats, just not as emotionally charged.
And of course, the moment these big names left, just the next day in fact, the algae started coming back ~like these photos shared this morning by Mary Radabaugh from famed Central Marine in Rio.
Maddening! Isn’t it?
I guess the lesson is, and what we must know, and be able to explain, is that the algae, like the character Michigan J. Frog, during times when Lake Okeechobee is being discharged, the algae whether performing or not, is always there in the box/in the river. Only the cyanobacteria/blue green algae will decide if and when it will sing…
And it probably won’t when you want it to, and it probably will when you wish it would not…it is a living creature with a mind of its own in tune with temperature and nutrients (food) not thinking of people at all.
In closing, take Bathtub Beach yesterday for a final example, now closed due to cyanobacteria. The same thing! I went to visit after hearing the beach had been closed, but by the time I got there the tide and winds had pushed most of the cyanobacteria out to sea. But it was still there, just quiet. Looking closely, the particulate clumps were gathered at the shoreline waiting to perform. Be certain, the frog, one day, of its own accord, will sing.
“Jacqui, get dressed and come on over here to Central Marine! It’s happening again, and this time there are logs, algae logs. I have never seen this before.”
since May 23rd, Mary and I had been exchanging photos of the water in the St Lucie River at the marina she and her husband have managed for many years. The marina that brought national toxic algae coverage in 2016. The marina that the SFWMD and DEP did core samples of river bottom in 2005, but have been quiet since. The marina that is the ground zero of zeros…
So I got dressed and headed over.
The waters have slowly been changing, worsening since the C-44 basin waters opened into the river about March 15th. And Mary has documented this change on her Facebook page. After June 1st, when the ACOE opened S308 to discharges of Lake Okeechobee, things have sped-up and are starting to crescendo.
Only three days ago the waters of the St Lucie River were primarily a dark cloudy coffee brown sometimes with little specs. Then as winds and tides push the specks and foam in the river into the pocket of the marina, the now green specks of particulate start to organize. It is incredible to see that just from yesterday, to today, the algae has bloomed in bright fluorescent green slicks. In 2016, this happened all over the river, primarily in marinas, coves, along shorelines, against dock pilings and any other place the forever thickening algae would get “hung up.”
It is happening now too, but not as extreme. Yet.
This all happens because over the past 100 years the St Lucie River’s basin has been expanded tremendously, erroneously, taking on developed-land’s, and agricultural canal water (C-44, C-23, C-24) that pollutes and turns the brackish estuary fresh. Once the canals have almost killed the river, then the ACOE opens the gates of Lake Okeechobee without even checking the water quality from the SFWMD, or better yet, the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). Just let ‘er roar!
This time, as was the case in 2016, an algae bloom in the lake is being transferred into the river through C-44. This is totally obvious with arial photography. The blooms start in the lake.
But since the river is now fresh, from all the canal water, the microcystis algae coming and once living in Lake O can live here too, and bloom toxic…
That the federal and state governments do this to their own people is mind-boggling. I know there are many water bodies around the county with algae issues, but we are certainly the only place in America where the government is knowingly dumping it on to a community of people.
There have been many opportunities over the years to fix the situation, but no, pure crises of the past few years is necessary before considering a fix….yes and thank God the EAA Reservoir is on the horizon. We must hold fast!
Today, I am sharing the photos of the Central Marina algae and its blooming.
Tomorrow we shall see what else it brings….this algae has not been tested yet, but one thing is for sure, if history repeats itself, it surely will be toxic.
In closing, be sure too to watch the poor manatee eating the algae off the seawall. Having survived millions of years as a species, he or she certainly deserves better.
TIMELINE TWO DAYS
Tuesday, June 12, 2018 7:58 AM
By afternoon it was swirling into designs.
Tuesday, June 12, 2018 2:59PM
And then by today, it was filling in those shapes with fluorescent green.
“Here is the basin right now. It may not be the blue-green algae but I am willing to bet it has some of the same properties that created the algae bloom.” —Mary Radabaugh, Central Marine
Central Marine…the epicenter for the St Lucie River’s “Algae Crisis of 2016.” More photographed than a movie star, the marina became home-base for reporters, politicians, as well as state and federal agencies. All witnessed something beyond human imagination. It is something we will never forget…
Mary and Dutch Radabaugh, who manage Central Marine, bravely and eloquently handled the situation, and kept working….
Mary became the spokesperson for Martin County on local, state, national, and international media. Her confident and calm southern manner gave stability when it was difficult to breathe.
This year, in 2017, Mary has remained low-key. Although the ACOE is not discharging Lake Okeechobee waters in to the St Lucie River, the marina definitely has been showing signs of a possible coming bloom…
The “circus” too fresh in Mary’s memory, she has not spoken, until now.
The photos below are Mary’s; they are dated. As one can see, although there is no blue-green algae visible, there are the signs. The signs we learned to recognize in 2016. The bubbles, the foam, the nutrient swirls of seeming organization…
So, with no dumping where are the nutrient bubbles coming from? These nutrients (phosphorus and nitrogen) are known side effects from years of careless agriculture and development—- that feed the “algae…”
Is it there from last year, or before? Is is rising from the putrid muck of the river where the blooms sunk and died only to rise again?
Most important. Is it now endemic to the system? Will it affect our health?
~Just to look and see if we could follow the bubble/foam for Mary, Ed and I flew on Sunday, July 30th, from the St Lucie Locks to the St Lucie Inlet. It was early morning, and the light was not great, but one could see the intermittent bubble swirls like a gigantic serpent to the Inlet. In the video they are most visible rounding the peninsula of Sewall’s Point.
Mary just happened to be at the Sandbar and St Lucie Inlet on Sunday, just off Sewall’s Point. She texted a photo and wrote:
“I really have a hard time watching people swim in the water when it is that gross brown color. I truly believe if they were dumping the lake right now we would be way worse than last year. This that we are seeing I believe is remnants of algae settled in our river bottom being churned up in combination with natural runoffs. Keep up the documentation so when they do decide they need to open them we can show it will be a catastrophe to human health.”
Mary’s photos of dark river water flowing out towards the St Lucie Inlet, July 30th, 2017:
There is incredible footage of the 2016 toxic algae event caused primarily by forced discharges by the ACOE and SFWMD from Lake Okeechobee into the estuaries, St Lucie and Caloosahatchee. South Florida locals such as Mary Radabaugh, Dr Edie Widder, Dr Brian LaPointe, Mark Perry, Phil Norman, Dr Larry Brand, Dr Steve Davis, and Col. Jennifer Reynolds are prominently featured. Edie Widder’s political commentary at the end is priceless.
CHANGING SEAS Toxic Algae: Complex Sources and Solutions. Aired: 06/21/2017
Water releases from Lake Okeechobee periodically create putrid mats of blue-green algae. Scientists think water pollution is to blame, and if something isn’t done about it there could be irreparable damage to the environment, the local economy and people’s health.
You can Like Changing Seas on Facebook and attend their DIVE IN Summer series on this topic June 28th, 2017. See link: