Tag Archives: Nearshore reefs

Blue vs. Brown–More Contrasting Photos, 2013/2015 St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon

Atlantic shoreline just south of St Lucie Inlet contrasted 6-20-18 and 9-8-15. Dark waters reflect discharges from Lake Okeechobee and area canals  C-23; C-24, and C-44. (Photos Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch and Ed Lippisch)
Atlantic shoreline just south of St Lucie Inlet along Jupiter Island contrasting 6-20-15 clear waters to of 9-8-13’s dark waters. Dark waters reflect discharges from Lake Okeechobee and area canals C-23; C-24, and C-44. Blue waters reflect “no rain” and no dumping for one month from the ACOE and SFWMD. (Photos Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch and Ed Lippisch)

Monday’s blog contrasting the beautiful, blue-waters of the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon this summer in 2015, ¬†to the silty, dark-brown waters of the “Lost Summer” of 2013 was well received, ¬†so today will post some more photos of this “contrast.”

My husband, Ed, encouraged me to do more framed contrast photos; however, time does not permit so there is just one “framed” photo above and the rest will be separate photos. I will try to do more framed ones in the future.

Also, although Ed and I have taken thousands of photographs, they do not always “match up” in location so the visual perspectives are not “exact.” My goal while in the plane is simply to hold on to the camera, hoping it does not fall into the river. It is always very windy in the open Cub. Getting a good photo is just secondary! I mostly just use my iPhone.

Well, a picture speaks a thousand words….” so I’m not going to “say” anything else…All photos are contrasting June 20th 2015 with either August 11th or September 8th of 2013.

Thank God we having a beautiful summer!

Bo and Baron, our dogs, sitting by the Cub Legend, the plane used for most of the photographs. (JTL) In 2013 it was christened the "River Warrior" plane. :)
Bo and Baron, our dogs, sitting by the Cub Legend, the plane used for most of the photographs. (JTL) In 2013 it was christened the “River Warrior” plane. ūüôā
St Lucie Inlet looking west towards Stuart, Sailfish Point barely visible on far right of photo. June 2015.
St Lucie Inlet looking west towards Stuart, Sailfish Point barely visible on far right of photo. Jupiter Narrows and “Hole in the Wall “on right. June 2015.
St Lucie Inlet September 2013 looking north east towards Sailfish Point.
St Lucie Inlet September 2013 looking north east towards Sailfish Point. Plume heading towards St Lucie Inlet.

 

Looking northerly towards Sewall's Point. Sailfish Flats between Sewall's Point and Sailfish Point not seen on far right. (june 2015.)
Looking northerly towards Sailfish Point and St Lucie Inlet. Sailfish Flats between Sewall’s Point and Sailfish Point are visible here. Sewall’s Point is to the right or west of this photograph. (June 2015.)
Looking north toward Sewall's Point on east/left. The Sailfish Flats are to the right/east as is Sailfish Point. (September 2013.)
Looking north toward Sewall’s Point on east/left. The Sailfish Flats are to the right/east as is Sailfish Point. (September 2013.)

 

Shoreline of Jupiter Island 2015.
Shoreline of Jupiter Island June 2015.
Jupiter Atlantic shoreline Sept 2013.
Jupiter Island ‘s Atlantic shoreline Sept 2013.

 

Sailfish Flats between Sailfish and Sewall's Point 2015.
Sailfish Flats between Sailfish and Sewall’s Point 2015.Seagrasses remain decimated and covered in algae.They come back very slowly.
Wideview of Sailfish Flats area between Sewall's (L) and Sailfish (R). Points. (Aug 2013)
Wideview of Sailfish Flats area between Sewall’s (L) and Sailfish (R). Points. (Aug 2013)

 

StLucie River, west side of Sewall's Point 2015. Point of Hell's Gate visible on to east/right. June 2015.
St Lucie River, west side of Sewall’s Point 2015. Point of Hell’s Gate visible on to east/right. June 2015.
St Lucie River, west side of Sewall's Point. August 2013.
St Lucie River, west side of Sewall’s Point looking towards Evan’s Crary Bride. Hell’s Gate is on east/right but not visible in this photograph. ¬†August 2013.

 

The remainder below do not match at all, but provide contrast:

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St Lucie Inlet June 2015.
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St Lucie Inlet June 2015.
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Hutchinson Island looking south to St Lucie Inlet, June 2015.
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Blurry but St Lucie Inlet in sight with near shore reefs south of of inlet very visible. (June 2015) These reefs have been terribly damaged by the years of releases from Lake O and the area canals (silt and poor water quality) even though they are “protected” by the State and Federal Government.

 

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Crossroads SLR/IRL to St Lucie Inlet (R) with Sewall’s Point on left. ¬†Looking at flats area full of seagrass that bas been damaged again and again by releases. Once surely considered the most “bio diverse estuary” in the North America–1970s Grant Gilmore. Photo August 2013, it is surely not today.
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Same as above but closer to Sailfish Point nearer St Lucie Inlet Sept 2013.
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Crossroads Sept 2013.
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Looking toward Palm City Bridge 2013. St Lucie River.
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IRL side east of Sewall’s Point September 2013.
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Inlet area looking at Sailfish Point and St Lucie Inlet 2013.
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South Sewall’s Point’s waters at Crossroads of SLR/IRL near inlet, ¬†2013.
2013.....
St Lucie Inlet 2013…..

Monday’s blog post from 6-22-15:(https://jacquithurlowlippisch.com/2015/06/22/paradise-and-hell-june-2015june-2013-st-lucie-riverindian-river-lagoon/)

Documenting the Destructive Discharges, Speak Out! 3-9-15, SLR/IRL

Confluence of St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon between Sewall's Point and Sailfish Point, Hutchinson Island, 3-8-15 showing releases from Lake Okeechobee and area canals. (Photo Ed Lippisch)
Confluence of St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon between Sewall’s Point and Sailfish Point, Hutchinson Island, “The Crossroads,” 3-8-15 showing releases from Lake Okeechobee and area canals. (Photo Ed Lippisch)

Usually, my husband, Ed, does not like it when I ask him to “do things”…like take out the trash or blow leaves off the driveway. But he always likes it if I ask him to go up in the plane. He did so yesterday, and was able to visually document the polluted discharges pouring into our St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon.

Yes, once again.

The Army Corp of Engineers (ACOE), and the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) agreed to have the Army Corp start releases this year on January 16, 2015 at 200 cubic feet per second (cfs) through S-308 into the C-44 canal which is attached to the South Fork of the St Lucie River, and then in turn is connected to the Indian River Lagoon “my town,” Sewall’s Point.

Exhausting isn’t it?

The ACOE is now discharging at a rate of “950 cfs.” This rate goes up and down. It is going up because Lake Okeechobee is not going down…

SLR basins. SFMWD, 2015.
This SFWMD basin map also shows S-308 at Lake O, the C-44 canal, S-80 at St Lucie Locks and Dam, SLR/IRL.

Today I will share Ed’s photos and show how to “see” how much the ACOE is releasing at S-308. (Structure 308) which is located at Port Mayaca, in Indiantown, Martin County.

Ofcouse, there are discharges from area canals C-44, C-23, C-24 and C-25 as well, but today for simplicity’s ¬†sake, I will focus on the lake discharges today, which in my opinion, are the worst of all anyway—because they are not at all “ours.”

So—–

You can search “Jacksonville, ACOE” or just go to this link: (http://w3.saj.usace.army.mil/h2o/reports.htm). You can then very quickly check two things: Lake Okeechobee’s level and how much the ACOE is dumping at S-308 from the lake.

To do so, after accessing the site, go to “Current¬†Lake¬†Okeechobee Water Level” at¬†the¬†top left: ¬†Always one day behind or so, the latest date reported is 3-7-15– Lake O is at 14.71 feet. Then go back to the main page to the last link: “Port Mayaca Lock, S-308 Spillway.” View by date; the last date shows 873 cubic feet per second (cfs) ¬†being discharged.¬†

Front page of ACOE Lake O website, 2015.
Front page of ACOE Lake O website, 2015.
3-9-15 Lake O level   14.71 feet NVGD. (A certain amt of feet above sea level>)
3-9-15 Lake O level 14.71 feet. NVGD.
S-308 report shows 8 cfs on 3-8-15 going into C-44 or SLR.
S-308 report shows 873 cfs on 3-7-15 going into C-44 or SLR.

 

Here are some more photos Ed took yesterday, 3-8-15, of the SLR/IRL.

East side of Sewall's Point, 3-8-15 showing St Lucie River.  (Ed Lippisch)
West side of Sewall’s Point, 3-8-15 showing St Lucie River. (Ed Lippisch)
West side of SEwall's Point, 3-8-25. (Ed Lippisch)
East side of Sewall’s Point, 3-8-25 showing Indian River Lagoon. (Ed Lippisch)
Southern tip of of Sewall's Point at Crossroads. (3-8-15.) (Ed Lippisch)
Southern tip of of Sewall’s Point showing SLR in foreground and IRL in background. 3-8-15. (Ed Lippisch)
Known as the "Crossroads" this area off of Sewall's Point is the confluence of the SLR/IRL. The St Lucie Inlet is just off of the the tip of S.Hutchinson Island and is known as Sailfish Point. 3-58-15. (Photo Ed Lippisch)
Known as the “Crossroads” this area off of S. Sewall’s Point is the confluence of the SLR/IRL. The St Lucie Inlet is just off of the tip of S.Hutchinson Island and is known as Sailfish Point and is blocked in the far upper right of this photo. 3-8-15. (Photo Ed Lippisch)
Confluence of St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon between Sewall's Point and Sailfish Point, Hutchinson Island, 3-8-15 showing releases from Lake Okeechobee and area canals. (Photo Ed Lippisch)
St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon near Sewall’s Point and Sailfish Point, Hutchinson Island. “Crossroads.” (Photo Ed Lippisch)
inlet
SL Inlet in distance, 3-8-15.  (EL)
3-8-15. IRL. (EL)
3-8-15. IRL. East of Sewall’s Point. (EL)

When Ed got home, he said I was lucky I did not go up with him as it was windy which means bumpy…He also said the plume looked different from what we have seen before. It looked “chalky” as is seen in these two photographs below and extended about two miles off shore and further south of the St Lucie Inlet.

I am no scientist, but I would imagine this is silt/suspended solids in the water as everything is “stirred up” from the wind. Suspended solids falling on and smothering our reefs….

Plume off St Lucie Inlet, 3-8-15. (EL)
Plume off St Lucie Inlet, 3-8-15. (EL)
Plume another view 3-8-15, 3-8-15.
Plume another view 3-8-15. (EL)
Map showing reefs in Marin and Palm Beach counties. The reef in MC is directly impacted by the discharges from Lake O. (map courtesy of state.)
Map showing reefs in Marin and Palm Beach counties. The reef in MC is directly impacted by the discharges from Lake O. (map courtesy of state.)

 

In closing, I must thank my husband for the photos, and I must point something out.

This area around Sewall’s Point and Sailfish Point, this “confluence” of the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon, in the not too distant past, has been documented as the most bio-diverse estuary in North America ¬†(Dr. R. Grant Gilmore, senior scientist with Estuarine, Coastal and Ocean Science, Inc., (ECOS)(http://www.floridaoceanscouncil.org/members/bios/gilmore.htm).)¬†

The map below allows us to see where these precious seagrass beds are/were located. The map above shows where our “protected” near shore reefs are located just outside the St Lucie Inlet where the discharges go out to sea. These reefs are the northern most “tropical reefs” on the east coast of Florida…

SFWMD seagrass map, 2015.
SFWMD seagrass map, 2015.

I think it is a truly a sin that the ACOE and SFWMD year after year discharge onto these productive sea grass beds and near shore reef habitats that are the breeding grounds for thousands of fish and sea creatures. Its loss is felt all the way up the food chain, including “us.”

Where is the Department of Environmental Protection? Where is the Florida Wildlife Commission? Where is NOAA?

Not to mention, last year a designation of ¬†“Critical Wildlife Area,” —the first in 20 years for Florida—for 30 plus species of nesting and resting ¬†protected birds, was established on “Bird Island,” located ¬†just 400 feet off south Sewall’s Point….”Now” is right before nesting season’s height. Where will the birds find food when the seagrass beds are covered in silt and the water is so dark they can’t really see? Chances are these releases will continue.

Don’t our state agencies have a duty to protect? Don’t they have a voice or has it been muffled? Not a word? Not a peep. Where is our governor? Isn’t this money? Isn’t the productivity our of waterways linked to our businesses? Our real estate values? Where is our local delegation? Have we all become numb to this destruction? Beaten down and manipulated so long we that have no reaction?

It breaks my heart.

Our state and federal government entities responsible for “protection” especially should hang their heads in shame.

If nothing else “speak out” about how bad it is. Recognize the loss. Address the “constraints,” killing this ecosystem and local economy. Take leadership!

Be true to our heritage. We are the United States of America. Be brave. Speak out!

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Florida Dept. of Environmental Protection: (http://www.dep.state.fl.us) 

Florida Wildlife Commission: (http://myfwc.com)

NOAA/National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration: (http://coralreef.noaa.gov)   (http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/species/mammals/)

Fresh Water Pollution, a Destructive Force in the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon

Fresh water releases from local canals C-23, C-24 C-44 and polluted fresh water from Lake Okeechobee cover near shore reefs off of Stuart and Jupiter Island, 2013. (Photo Ed Lippisch)
Fresh water releases from basin runoff through local canals C-23, C-24, and C-44 as well as  polluted fresh water from releases from Lake Okeechobee through C-44, cover near shore reefs off of Stuart and Jupiter Island. (Photo MC archives,  2011.)

The concept that fresh water is a “pollutant” is sometimes confusing as we typically associate pollution with heavy metals, nutrients like phosphorus and nitrogen from fertilizer, and muck accumulation, on the bottom of the river, from sediments running off of lands, through canals. Believe it or not, too much fresh water is just as polluting and has dire consequences for the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon.

This is historically ironic as well, as when the Ais Indians lived in this area, ¬†the St Lucie River was a large fresh water “stream.” Throughout history, most of the time, the “St Lucie,” was not connected to the ocean. The natural inlet at what was later called “Gilbert’s Bar” by the Spanish was ¬†sometimes open, sometimes not, but never for too long, and the inlet opening was much smaller and shallower than today’s St Lucie Inlet.

Yes, we are going back,  before we go forward, but history is important to know!

The “St Lucie Inlet” was permanently opened by hand using shovels, in 1892, by local pioneers who wanted access to the ocean for trade and communication. They had no idea that by doing this they would create “the most bio-diverse estuary in North America.”

As the salt water came in and mixed with the fresh water of the St Lucie and the “fresher than today’s water” of the Indian River Lagoon, one ecosystem, a freshwater ecosystem was destroyed by the salt, and another was born.

Over time, more fish and critters entered the St Lucie/ Southern Indian River Lagoon than at any other time in known history. The forks of the St Lucie, north and especially north, remained more “fresh” as the salt water usually did not go up that high into those areas. Perfect! Salt and fresh water fishing! It was a unique situation and as mentioned in the day before yesterday’s blog, presidents and other famous people swarmed to the St Lucie for its amazing fishing during this era, and all enjoyed.

Then things changed. In the late 1920s and early 30s, due to flooding ¬†of agricultural lands and bad hurricanes killing people living and working in the southern area surrounding the lake, the Army Corp built the C-44 canal from Lake Okeechobee to the south fork of the St Lucie River. ¬†Then in the 50s and 60s they built canals C-23 and C-24 as part of the Central and South Florida Flood System, another “flood protection project.” ¬†Although all of these drainage programs helped agriculture, especially the sugar industry south of the lake, and citrus, in mostly St Lucie and parts of Okeechobee counties, as well as greedy developers, it did not help the St Lucie River. In fact, these drainage canals have been slowly killing the St Lucie and Indian River Lagoon ever since.

How?

Through many things, but believe it or not, mostly through fresh water.

Once the estuary (St Lucie/IRL) became brackish, a mixture of fresh and salt water, this delicate balance was important to the fish, mammals and others critters that made the river/lagoon their home in this new found paradise.

Briefly, I will summarize some of the killer effects of fresh water on its residents:

1. Fish: When there is too much fresh water the fish get lesions. This is from a fungus that only can live and operate in a fresh environment. The name of the fungus is Aphanomyces invadans and its spores get into fish skin when temperatures are low and water is fresh causing horrible lesions. More lesions have been reported over time in the St Lucie River that any other site in Florida according to the FDEP report at the end of this blog. The worst outbreak was in 1998 after the ACOE had been releasing fresh water from Lake Okeechobee in the winter months due to heavy rains. Thousands of fisherman were reporting fish with lesions; it is well accepted in the literature of our state agencies that this outbreak was connected to the gigantic releases of fresh water from Lake O.

Striped mullet with lesions. St Lucie River, 1998. (Photo, DEP State of Florida.)
Striped mullet with lesions. St Lucie River, 1998. (Photo, DEP State of Florida.)

2. Bottle nosed dolphins: Dr Gregory Bossert formerly, of Harbor Branch, has done extensive research into lobo-mycosis, an awful skin disease, in dolphins of the SLR/IRL. The highest number of dolphins with lobo in the entire 156 mile Indian River Lagoon system from Jupiter to New Smyrna Beach, are in the Stuart to Sebastian area. Dr Bossert’s 2009-20014 “Application for a Scientific Research Permit” to NOAA states on page 59:

“Water quality in the central and southern segments of the lagoon, is influenced by infusion of water from flood control drainage canals, e.g., in particular, run-off form agricultural watersheds and fresh water releases from Lake Okeechobee. (Sime, 2005.) Discharges from these sources introduce higher amounts of nutrients, metals, pesticides and suspended solids into the system (Woodward-Clyde, 1994). Analysis of spatial distribution of presumptive cases showed that the highs rates occurred in the IRL ¬†segments 3 and 4 confirming our earlier observations.” (Mazzoil, 2003/Rief, 2006).”

(Sections 3 and 4 are the “south central” and “south” IRL/SLR-from-south of Sebastian Inlet, to Stuart’s St Lucie Inlet. IRL dolphins are “site specific” staying usually in a 30 mile range. The St Lucie River is considered part of the southern IRL.)

S. Indian River Lagoon Dolphin with lobo mycosis. (Photo Dr Gregory Bossert.)
S. Indian River Lagoon Dolphin with lobo mycosis. (Photo Dr Gregory Bossert.)

3. Seagrasses: Seagrasses are the basis of health for the entire SRL/IRL. Seagrasses that live in an “estuary” need sunlight and brackish (part salt/part fresh) water to survive. among other problems, the fresh water releases cause turbidity in the water so the grasses can’t get light and they die. Mark Perry of Florida Oceanographic states that during the Lake Okeechobee and canal releases from 2013, that lasted five months, up to 85 percent of the seagrasses died around the St Lucie Inlet. All nursery fishes are affected by this and of course it goes right up the food chain. Manatees, an endangered species, that live exclusively off of seagrasses, are very affected and reduced to eating drift algae that in some cases kills them. Dolphins are swimming around saying: “Where are the fish?!”

Unhealthy looking seagrasses coated in algae as seen 6-14 near Sewall's Point at low tide. (Aerial photo, Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch)
Unhealthy looking seagrasses coated in algae as seen 6-14 near St Lucie Inlet at low tide. (Aerial photo, Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch)

4. Near shore reefs: The reef system in our area is the northern most of a tropical reef system that goes all the way south to the Keys. It cannot survive with fresh water dumping sediment on its delicate system and altering the salinity of the St Lucie Inlet. Insaine. These reefs are supposedly “protected.”

Freshwater pollution and near shore reef, St Lucie Inlet. (Photo JTL, 2013)
Freshwater pollution and near shore reef, St Lucie Inlet. (MC archives, 2011.)

I could go on and on, but I will stop here. I’m sure you get the point. Salinity is a delicate and important part of a healthy estuary. Generally short lived fresh water releases during heavy rains by our local canals are bad enough, but long term dumping of Lake Okeechobee releases on top of that, is certain death. It must stop. Send the water south.

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FDEP, SLR Impairment/fish lesions: (http://www.dep.state.fl.us/southeast/ecosum/ecosums/SLE_Impairment_Narrative_ver_3.7.pdf )

WETLANDS Volume 25, SFWMD, Estuary in Distress: (SRL/IRL:http://www.evergladesplan.org/pm/recover/recover_docs/cems/cem_st_lucie_irl.pdf)