It is human nature to “miss something once it’s gone.” This is true whether it’s the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon, or something else.
Such was the case for me this weekend and I tried to prepare for the “miss.” My husband’s red and white Cessna 340 is being sold. Knowing the plane would available no more, I arranged a date yesterday for videographer and River Warrior, Kenny Hinkle to fly in the plane. I had been wanting to do this for a long time, but as is so often the case, “never got a round tuit.”
Kenny and Mike Connor’s big win with their video of the toxic algae bloom at S-308 last Friday at Lake Okeechobee causing Senator Joe Negron to immediately call Army Corp of Engineers Col. Dodd, who then stopped the discharges was a big win! Thank you to all involved. Reeling from this positive occurrence, I thought I would like to help Kenny get some more footage for his “next big win.” The 340 is the perfect “vehicle” for that…
The plane provides a great “overview” flying 1500 feet or much higher, and can cover long distances quickly.
Thank you to my husband for providing this trip, this farewell…In fact thank you to my husband for all of this. If it were not for him, the river would not be documented as it is!
It was actually this plane, the Cessna 340, that took the first photo on June 28th of 2013, during the toxic Lost Summer, that inspired me to start taking photos of the river and discharges regularly. As you can see below, this photo was/is so alarming, showing the impact and damage caused to property values and the environment by the releases from area canals and by Lake Okeechobee. Lake Okeechobee always the nail in the coffin….
So today, I am going to provide the farewell videos I took, and one other You Tube video I finally published so that if you ever want to, you can see for yourself what it looks like to fly from Stuart over the St Lucie River and C-44 canal, around the south rim of the “ocean of water” known as Lake Okeechobee, and then along the lake’s rim passing areas/cities of Pahokee, Bell Glade, and South Bay, then turning south along the New River Canal, flying through the sugarcane fields, (the Everglades Agricultural Area), until finally seeing the water conservation area/s, and Alligator Alley (even though I think I mistakenly say Tamiami Trial in the video….) and then flying back up the Miami canal to Clewiston before I stopped filming due to turbulence.
The videos are raw footage. Nothing fancy, the reality of a low plane ride. Many try to convince me to make them more professional. I like them as they are. Real. They show the view, the conversations, the thoughts, the heat, the noise, the turbulence….the miracle of being above ground!
The videos are split into 5 parts covering most of the trip and I included one other at the end that was taken in 2014 by Ed with a Go-Pro as it shows clearly the US Sugar option lands that are now being so hotly debated for Everglades restoration and purchase with Amendment 1 monies.
To use another cliché, “seeing is believing.” Yes, see, believe, and know, that we are changing our world.
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…
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.”
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.
Here are some more photos Ed took yesterday, 3-8-15, of the SLR/IRL.
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….
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…
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!