Tag Archives: S-308

Teamwork’s Success, Reporting S-308’s Toxic Algae Bloom to the State and ACOE, St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon

The collective teamwork of the SLR/IRL River Movement has had a tremendous effect on state agencies such as the ACOE and SFWMD. "KEEP THE GATES CLOSED!" (Photo of  River Warrior and River Kidz mom, Cristina Maldonado, donning her homemade protest shirt at the St Lucie Locks and Dam River Rally. Photo Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch, 2013.)
The collective teamwork of the SLR/IRL River Movement has had a tremendous effect on state agencies such as the ACOE and SFWMD. “KEEP THE GATES CLOSED!” (Photo of River Warrior and River Kidz mom, Cristina Maldonado, donning her homemade protest shirt at the St Lucie Locks and Dam River Rally. Photo Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch, 2013.)

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:

August 24, 2014 photograph of blue-green algae bloom east of S-308, Lake Okeechobee/C-44 Canal area/ (Photo courtesy of Paul Shindel.
August 24, 2014 photograph of blue-green algae bloom east of S-308, Lake Okeechobee/C-44 Canal area/ (Photo courtesy of Paul Shidel.)

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!

Map of algae bloom's location on east side of S-308, C-44 canal. (Paul Schindel.)
Map of algae bloom’s location on east side of S-308, C-44 canal. (Paul Schidel.)

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…

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REPORT:

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.

** Dolichospermum circinale (synonym = Anabaena circinalis)

 

 

 

Harmful Algal Blooms, (HABs), St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon

August 24, 2014 photograph of blue-green algae bloom east of S-308, Lake Okeechobee/C-44 Canal area/ (Photo courtesy of Paul Shindel.
August 24, 2014 photograph of blue-green algae bloom east of S-308, Lake Okeechobee/C-44 Canal area. (Photo courtesy of Paul Shindel.

Does the above photo make your stomach turn? What is it?

It is a HAB or Harmful Algae Bloom, taken four days ago, right here in Martin County.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture, “over the past century, alterations of land use and acceleration in the rate of cultural eutrophication have led to widespread increases in harmful algal blooms in Florida, including toxin-producing species.”

First,  what is “eutrophication” and why is it “cultural”?

Eutrophication is is when a body of water becomes enriched in dissolved nutrients (such as synthetic phosphorus and nitrogen from fertilizer) that stimulate the growth of aquatic plant life usually resulting in the depletion of dissolved oxygen and a “bloom.” These algae blooms can be toxic.

“Cultural means “created by humans.”

So what are we doing about this especially since “we” caused it?

In 1997 the Florida Department of Environmental Protection formed a Task Force on Harmful Algae Blooms and in 1999 they produced a scientific document, a White Paper: HARMFUL ALGAE BLOOMS, (http://myfwc.com/media/202228/HAB_whitepaper2006_UPDATE.pdfIt is extensive. 

In my opinion, as usual, our state governors and legislatures did not pay significant attention to these studies, and failed to implement policies that would help overcome this crisis issue. How many of them even read the report?

Case in point, recently, it was the local governments and local residents of the towns, cities and counties along the west and east coasts of Florida who advocated and achieved strong fertilizer ordinances not allowing fertilizer use during the rainy season while the state continues to fight and support less restrictive rules.

According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife website there are four ongoing studies regarding HABs in Florida: (http://myfwc.com/research/redtide/research/scientific-products/)

1. Time-Series Sampling in Pinellas and Manatee Counties) Researchers conduct detailed sampling to better understand when, where and under what conditions harmful algal blooms form.

2. Tampa Bay Monitoring Program Researchers monitor 10 sites in Old Tampa Bay for the presence of, or conditions favorable to, harmful algal blooms.

3. Red Tide Offshore Monitoring Program
Encouraging  people to learn about the program and learn how to become volunteers, collecting water samples around the state to help scientists monitor the Florida red tide.

4. Monitoring Toxic Algae Species and Shellfish in the Indian River Lagoon (2002-present)
Periodic testing of water samples and clams provides an early warning of bloom occurrences and shellfish toxicity and minimizes the risk of human exposure to saxitoxins.

Those are great present HAB programs, so why don’t we hear more about them and why don’t they include Lake Okeechobee, obviously the toxic algae is there as well…

Here at home, when the gates of S-308 open from Lake Okeechobee to the C-44 canal that is connected to the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon, the algae in the photo above goes directly into the our river system.

Google Earth image of S-308, structure at Lake Okeechobee that opens to the C-44 canal where above photo was taken. This area always has some spill through the gates. Look at the agriculture right up to the lake...
Google Earth image of S-308, structure at Lake Okeechobee that opens to the C-44 canal where above photo was taken. This area always has some spill through the gates. Note the agriculture lands right up to the C-44 canal…

It is 2014. The state has been studying this problem since 1997. They do not have all the answers but we do know by now that HABs are fed by cultural eutrophication due to clearing of land that can no longer clean water on its way to estuaries, rivers and lakes; building of towns and cities that create concrete and asphalt barriers to water reabsorption;  fertilizer and other runoff;  oil/chemicals from thousands of miles of highway and roads;  septic effluent; canals and redirection of water such as Lake Okeechobee to the St Lucie and Caloosahatchee; agriculture’s heavy destruction of native lands and the fertilizer and chemical runoff associated with their business, unregulated golf courses fertilizer run off and re-use of high nutrient water resources….it’s endless.

It is said that “ignorance is bliss,” well the state of Florida doesn’t have that luxury anymore.

Blue Green Algae is as ancient as the beginnings of our planet...

Blue Green Algae. (Public photo.)

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USDA HABs: (http://www.reeis.usda.gov/web/crisprojectpages/0209332-harmful-algal-blooms.html)

FWC HABs: (http://myfwc.com/research/redtide/general/harmful-algal-bloom/)

What’s the Difference Between C-44 Basin Runoff and Lake Okeechobee Releases along the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon?

The S-80 structure at St Lucie Locks and Dam. C-44 canal in background goes to Lake Okeechobee. (Photo Scott Kuhns, 2013)
The S-80 structure at St Lucie Locks and Dam. C-44 canal in background goes miles to Lake Okeechobee where the S-308 structure is located at the eastern edge of Lake O. (Photo Scott Kuhns, 2013)
Basins whose water runoff flows into the St Lucie River, note C-44 south. (SFWMD, 1999.)
Drainage basins into the St Lucie River, note C-44 south. (SFWMD, 1999.)

The locks are back in the news again. WPTV, “hard working for the river reporter,” Jana Eschbach, broke the story yesterday, that the Army Corp of Engineers did not alert the public that they would be releasing polluted canal, C-44 basin water through the S-80 structure into the St Lucie River. Jana, like most people, feels that the public should be alerted when polluted water will be coming into the estuary in that we swim and fish. She is also concerned the water in the area of Palm City and the Roosevelt Bridge, which has been reported to have high levels of bacteria, will be pushed to the popular Sandbar area.

Video WPTV: (http://www.cbs12.com/news/top-stories/stories/vid_16935.shtml?fb_action_ids=10204339758793609&fb_action_types=og.comments&fb_source=aggregation&fb_aggregation_id=288381481237582)

This can be confusing. Don’t we just care about lake water? Also, if the locks are open, doesn’t that mean the ACOE is releasing Lake Okeechobee water? Not necessarily, and the basin water can be just as damaging to the estuary and the public. So how does releasing basin or lake water work? 

There are two structures along the C-44 canal which runs along the side of Highway 76 from the South Fork of the St Lucie River, to Lake Okeechobee: S-308 at the edge of  Lake Okeechobee, and S-80, 20 miles or so, east, at the St Lucie Locks and Dam.

This ACOE canal and structure map shows S-308 at Lake O. and S-80 20 miles east.
This ACOE canal and structure map shows S-308 at Lake O. and S-80 along the C-44 inland.

S-80 serves duel purposes. First to release water through Lake Okeechobee, but only if S-308, at the lake, is open first, allowing water into the C-44 canal. Then S-80 lets the water pour into the St Lucie River.

Second, S-80 can be opened just to allow water from the C-44  to flow into the St Lucie River, as the C-44 canal is surrounded by a 185 square mile basin, mostly agriculture, that has been directed to flow into the canal when it rains. Agriculture also uses this water in the C-44 canal to water their crops. To make things more confusing, C-44 can “deliver” local basin runoff in both directions: to Lake Okeechobee and to the St Lucie Estuary. The ACOE decides where the water “needs” to go by opening  and closing the structures of S-308 and S-80.

It must be noted that the  water from the C-44 basin is polluted, as is the water from Lake Okeechobee. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection writes: “…the construction of the C-44 canal has had the greatest impact of the St Lucie Estuary–and nearly all of that impact has been bad, FDEP 2001.) The charts below show how much nitrogen and phosphorus come into the river from the C-44 and other basins. C-44 is the highest.  Phosphorus and nitrogen mostly from fertilizer, feed toxic algae blooms in the hot summer months.

Chart shows amounts of nitrogen and phosphorus runoff into the SLR. Note C-44 basin is the highest. (SFWMD, 1995.)
Similar charts shows amounts of nitrogen and phosphorus runoff into the SLR. Note C-44 basin is the highest. (SFWMD, 1995.)

photo 3

Fortunately, there is good news due to the help of our local, state and federal governments. The almost 3 billion dollar “C-44 Storm Water Treatment Area/Reservoir” has received first stage fundings and is under construction in Indiantown. It has been since 2011. This reservoir will hold the release water from the C-44 basin and clean it before it is returned to the St Lucie River. This is a huge positive, although it will not stop the releases from Lake Okeechobee.

An educated public is the best defense against the continued destruction of the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon. Thank you for being part of the solution and hopefully, next time, the ACOE opens any structure for any reason, they will alert the public, because here in Martin and St Lucie counties, we want to know!

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Cool video SFWMD C-44 STA/R. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4BsC0BoIPJ4)SFWMD (http://www.hdrinc.com/portfolio/c-44-reservoir-stormwater-treatment-area-project)

FDEP C-44 Canal: (http://www.dep.state.fl.us/southeast/ecosum/ecosums/C-44%20Canal%20.pdf)