Keeping up the Lake Okeechobee algae bloom documentation, Ed and I flew from Stuart to Lake Okeechobee during a hazy, hot high-noon, on Sunday, July 5, 2020. The algae was much toned down from our previous flights in June. Nonetheless, one could see the pattern, the outline, of the giant bloom from above. Rain may have disrupted its perk but the bloom remains in the water column. The most visual appeared to be in the middle of the lake and again, about a mile or so off Port Mayaca.
I have included photographs of the journey: St Lucie River at Palm City; flying over western lands and under construction C-44 Reservoir/STA ; FPL cooling pond; algae in Lake O; Clewiston; south rim of lake with agriculture and sugar fields; Indiantown and Hwy. 710; DuPuis and Corbett Wildlife Areas; one glance back to Lake Okeechobee; and an updated 2020 “Covid-19 portrait” of Ed and me.
We will continue to document throughout the summer. Keep up the fight! Stop the Discharges! Stop the Algae!
~Your eye in the sky
Jacqui & Ed
This shot, below, was taken flying back east over the Village of Indiantown. Highway 710 is seen bisecting neighboring Dupuis and Corbett Wildlife Area and John and Mariana Jones Hungryland Wildlife Area. I will be writing more about the protected areas and the highway that cuts through them in the future.
If one drives to end of Kanner Highway adjacent to the C-44 Canal connecting the St Lucie River to Lake Okeechobee, there is a gem to see. A place that will take you back to an earlier time. The name of this place is the “Cypress Lodge,” in Port Mayaca.
According the “History of Martin County,” this beautiful lodge first opened its doors in 1938 and is *now operated by Mr and Mrs Charles Dorrell functioning as a resting stop for tired motorist crossing the state from north to south, or east to west.”
Page 253 reads: “The lodge, boasting an outstanding cellar, is colonial in design, built originally as a tavern, has been operating ever since. The two-story all cypress building with a large dining room, is staffed mostly by residents of Pahokee, Canal Point, and surrounding towns. It is said more people work in Port Mayaca than live there.”
Just last week I learned that friend, and long time Stuart resident, Elsie Jean Stewart, has deep ties to the property as her parents were married there. She recently shared with me a wonderful family photo of the young couple. Their tremendous smiles in black in white were full of color. What days these must have been…
I recently drove out past the lodge on my way to Belle Glade while daydreaming what the area was like as in the mid-1800s between Seminole Wars. I saw a giant cypress forest full of wildlife and there was no dike around the lake, so from horseback, I could see over the wide expanse of Lake Okeechobee….
Those things are gone and the lodge was built later, but it is still connected. I have been curious to see the structure as I have been missing it on my recent drives to Belle Glade. On my last trip, I figured out that at some point the historic Connors’ Highway had been rerouted so now at the Lake, one must turn north rather than south to see the familiar structure.
When I found the lodge, I took some photos to share. Still beautiful. Still timeless. I believe today it is a private residence. Thankfully it is still here and remains a gem of Martin County’s fascinating history around Lake Okeechobee.
Today I figured out, thanks to an article by the Luckhardts, that although not mentioned in the “History of Martin County” on page 252-3 , it was Paul M. Hoenshel of Miami who originally built and operated the lodge. Hoenshel is the grandfather of Elsie Jean Stewart whose “parents were married in the lodge” that I mention…. Jacqui
The past two days, I feel like I have been a guest on the TV series “Storm Chasers,” except I have been running from the storms.
Yesterday, I decided I really needed to go look at Lake Okeechobee myself to see the toxic algae bloom that has been reported through social media, TC Palm, and the internet. –The algae bloom that inspired Senator Negron to ask Col. Dodd of the ACOE to refrain from opening the gates, which they did not do. On Tuesday’s, at 2:00 PM, are the Army Corp of Engineers’ “Periodic Scientist Call for Lake Okeechobee” of which I have participated in for almost three years…
“Perfect,” I thought, “I’ll go to the lake for the call a bit early and take some photos. I will be out in Palm City around that time anyway; it’s really not that far…” The drive is about 20 miles.
In spite of the previous day’s inclement weather, I had not checked the weather closely as I can never figure out how to get radar maps on my phone. Not checking the weather, turned out to be a big mistake.
Around 1:00 PM, as I approached Port Mayaca going west along Highway 76, suddenly grey clouds in the distance converged overhead spilling out over the sky like black oil. Huge bright lightning bolts struck the ground in the direction of the lake, thunder followed almost immediately; rain dumped out of the sky. …”Oh no, not again…” I thought.
The winds screamed across the landscape. Large trucks coming towards me in the opposite direction splashed wakes hitting my car full force. Eventually, I pulled over at the entrance of DuPuis Wildlife Reserve;” the water was rising on the dirt road. Looking at my surroundings, I realized I was next to the Port Mayaca graveyard where thousands of people were buried in a mass grave after perishing in the 1928 hurricane. I turned on the radio, my windshield-wipers whipping back and forth. The unnerving sound of the Emergency Broadcast System blared and a calm computerized voice said: “Tornado warning for western Martin County.” Shaking, I forced my self to try to find radar on my phone. I found a written tornado warning for Indiantown. I was at ground zero.
All alone with the elements, I wondered what possessed me to do such a thing….I closed my eyes…I prayed…
Within thirty minutes the storm had passed. Thankfully it was not my day to die. I shook off my fear, got my self together, and completed my drive to the lake. This is what I found:
The lake seemed oddly calm after such rage. You could hear a pin drop. I looked around…
Storms tend to break up algae blooms, but under the right conditions of heat and over nitrified water (over-fertilized basically), they come back. In my opinion, this toxic algae issue really forces us all, from the public, to city government, to the office of the Governor, to the state legislature, to the President of the Untied States, and Congress, to ask ourselves the most critical of questions.
“Is it legal for a federal agency to knowingly release toxic water into a local community?”
To me this is situation is different than a toxic algae bloom simply forming in a localized body of water. What we are talking about here is toxic algae being purposefully transferred from one body of water to another, by the government no less…This seems wrong. Un-American.
Then of course there is the other issue, flooding south and around the lake. As I experienced yesterday, things happen very fast around this giant lake, this “big waters,” this Lake Okeechobee.
Take a look again at the first photo I show of S-308 from the bridge. This photo gives perspective of how fragile this dike and structure-gate system is. It is like trying to hold back an ocean with a cement wall. There has got to be a better way to keep our families, healthy and safe….
Today I want to share what I consider a huge recent success of the River Movement and our ability to network and work together to protect our St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon.
On August 25th, Jensen Beach activist Jackie Trancynger sent out an email blast featuring a photograph taken by Paul Shidel of an awful looking algae bloom he found while photographing birds at Port Mayaca. Port Mayaca is where structure S-308 is located that allows water from Lake Okeechobee to be released into the C-44 canal to the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon.
Here’s the photo. You may recall reading about it in one of my previous blogs or seeing it in an email exchange:
So anyway after I saw the photo, I called Jackie Trancynger and got Paul Shidel’s email in order to verify the location of the bloom-certainly appearing to be toxic algae. Paul not only verified the location but provided a map!
On Tuesday, August 26, I participated as I have for almost two years now, in the ACOE Periodic Scientists Call in my capacity as an elected official from the Town of Sewall’s Point at the invitation of Ms Deb Drum, who oversees Martin County’s Ecosystem Restoration & Management Division.
During this call I sent Paul’s photo and map to the ACOE stating concern that if S-308 were opened this possibly toxic algae would head straight into our SRL/IRL.
Then an amazing thing happened..
The ACOE ask the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to test the algae.
Yesterday, Deb Drum from Martin County reported that the testing came back positive as “Microcystis, a toxic blue-green algae.” The county in turn notified the ACOE that the algae exists in that location to document their concern. If the ACOE were to open the locks at S-308, the algae could travel downstream with the water flow into the SLR/IRL. This knowledge could actually make a difference in a decision of the ACOE to open up those structures.
Wow. Thank you Paul!
I have complained before on the ACOE call about toxic algae being released from Lake Okeechobee as the SLR/IRL does not seem to “go toxic” from its local canals, but only when Lake Okeechobee’s waters are unleaded to our shores. Toxic algae has been seen in the area between S-308 and S-80 many times but we need to start documenting this. Documentation is a powerful tool in changing the tide of destruction.
So thank you for your teamwork! Together we can help KEEP THEM CLOSED! The “Gates of Hell” that is…
Subject: Lake Okeechobee, Okeechobee/Glades/Hendry/Palm Beach/Martin Counties: Florida CyanoHAB Tracking Module has received a record update
On August 27, 2014, Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s Southeast District staff sampled an algal bloom found in Lake Okeechobee. A single grab sample was collected of surface scum at the Port Myakka Lock (C-44.) Following are the laboratory results for this sample:
Result: Class Toxin potential * The dominant taxon was: Microcystis aeruginosa Class Cyanophyceae yes
Other taxa present: Dolichospermum circinale ** Class Cyanophyceae yes Pseudanabaena sp. Class Cyanophyceae undetermined Eudorina elegans Class Chlorophyceae – Pediastrum simplex Class Chlorophyceae – Glenodinium sp. Class Dinophyceae
* Information based on literature searches and personal communications; information is continually being updated. “Undetermined” refers to specimens for which the lowest practical level of taxonomic identification is genus and some, but not all, species within that genus have the potential to produce toxins or toxin information not available for the identified species but is available for genus level.
Historical marker of mass burial site for Florida’s 1928 hurricane, near Port Mayaca, Indiantown. (Photo by Evie Flaugh)
If you drive west from Stuart, on Highway 76 towards Port Mayaca, you’ll eventually see a large graveyard on the left hand side of the road. It is well kept and reminiscent of an old Florida, a Florida of pioneers, the Klu Klux Clan, and the Indian Wars. Large oak trees line the property and the unusually massive grave stones stand like sentinels to a time long past.
At the entrance is a memorial sign dedicated to the approximately 3000 people who were killed in the Florida hurricane of 1928. An earthen dike, barely holding back the waters that had naturally flowed south for thousands of years, breeched, killing mostly black agricultural migrant workers, while flooding sugar, vegetable farms, and personal property built in the path of the natural flow way south of the lake. Thousands of bodies were laboriously buried in mass graves, one in Martin and another in Palm Beach County. (http://www.srh.noaa.gov/mfl/okeechobee)
African American, Etonville writer, Zora Neale Hurston, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zora_Neale_Hurston) writes in her classic novel, Their Eyes were Watching God, about migrant workers “looking back” as they were running to escape the furry of the 1928 hurricane.
“Above all the drive of the wind and the water…and the lake. Under its multiplied roar could be heard the almighty sound of grinding rock and timber and a wail….people trying to run in raging waters and screaming…The monstropolous beast had left his bed. The two hundred miles an hour winds has looses his chains. The sea was walking the earth, with a heavy heel.”
All work for blacks during the late 1920s was difficult and filled with the prejudice and hardship of the Jim Crow Laws. In the sugar industry there were complaints of “controlling” black harvest labor, aided by law enforcement, debt peonage, forced labor and even killings.
Today when people speak about the hurricane of 1928, the death of the workers south of the lake is credited as the source for pushing for “flood protection.” This is not full disclosure.
The truth of the matter is that the storm was also an opportunity for the struggling sugar industry, south of Lake Okeechobee, not only to “protect” their poorly treated laborers, but to rally local, state and national government officials to support legislation to “invest” in the area against future flooding for the benefit of their fields, and the future riches of the industry. (Source Raining Cain in the Glades, Hollister, http://www.press.uchicago.edu/ucp/books/book/chicago/R/bo5704198.html)
This was no easy feat and insanely expensive in a time around the U.S. Great Depression. Politicians and businessmen were creative and put emphasis the Okeechobee Waterway for “navigation, “rather than focusing solely on “flood protection.” At the time, navigation funds were much easier to get from the federal government than funds for “drainage” or flood control of the newly created Okeechobee Flood District.
These funds came to fruition in the construction of the “Cross State Canal,” also known as the “Okeechobee Waterway, “which links the Caloosahatchee River to Lake Okeechobee, to the St Lucie River and Indian River Lagoon and conveniently doubles as a giant drainage canal for the sugar industry, diverting as much a 92% of the flow of water south of Lake Okeechobee.
You may have seen an arch in Rio that says “Gateway to the Atlantic.” That arch was built in celebration of he Cross State Canal…
Local people at the time had no of idea the greater repercussions of such to their greatest local resource, the St Lucie River, Indian River Lagoon. We still sit open mouthed today when S-308 at Port Mayaca is opened by the Army Corp of Engineers, and our area’s river resources are destroyed. Certainly we have our own local canal and runoff problems, but Lake Okeechobee’s tremendous waters, all the way from Orlando, are most destructive.
It’s exhausting. The Cross State Canal was completed in 1937, and we in Martin County have been fighting ever since, the changing winds of Florida’s hurricane of 1928.