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.
Aerial SLR/IRL near St Lucie Inlet, courtesy Dr Scott Kuhns, 8-11-21.One of the difficult things about trying to keep an eye on the St Lucie River’s health is that destructive forces are coming from so many directions. It’s basically a “three front war.” During and after heavy rains, water is water pouring in, unfiltered, from the northwest, C-23, C-24, and C-25, and also from the southwest through C-44. When things are really bad, and the lake is high, the ACOE can discharge Lake Okeechobee as well. Some may consider this a two front war as Lake O and C-44 basin water are discharged through the same canal (C-44) but as they are separate “animals,” I consider it three.
So in recent weeks, as the rainy season has arrived, C-23, 24, and C-25 have been discharging stormwater runoff form the northwest, and now that C-44 is lower than Lake O (14. 38 feet), the ACOE’s operation is discharging C-44 too. Not yet, has the ACOE started discharging from Lake Okeechobee.
If you have been out on the river you have probably noticed the color is darker and it is going to get even darker as C-44 basin runoff also enters the river.
There are CERP projects set to improve these situations, the C-44 Reservoir and the C-23/24/25 Reservoirs. The C-44 Reservoir will be on line by the end of this year so long as when the ACOE starts filling it up this October, all goes well. The C-23/24/25 are in design and if the economy holds out and our advocacy continues should be done by 2030 or a couple of years before. This is great news! Also the EAA Reservoir, that will accept waters form Lake Okeechobee sending south, should break ground this year and is slated to be complete by 2028. The SFWMD is already well into building the storm water treatment component as the local partner in all of these projects. Thus relief is on the horizon, but until these all up and running, it’s the same old —-.
Below is a slide from the most recent SFWMD Governing Board Meeting on August 12. Mr Glenn’s slide shows how much runoff was entering the St Lucie. The number is 2432 cubic feet per second daily flow. Over 1400 or 2000 is “off the cuff” considered “destructive.” And now C-44 basin is coming in on top of this. This began through S-80 this Saturday, thus the C-44 runoff is unaccounted for in this slide.
We can look at my brother, Todd Thurlow’s, website and see in real time (almost) how much C-44 water is entering the St Lucie. Yesterday, when I texted Todd at 11pm it was 1049.18 acre feet on 8/14 and 1043.31 acre feet on 8/15. Sorry to be going from cfs to acre feet, but the bottom line is -this is a ton of water that never entered the St Lucie before the canals were dug. These canals are what is what is killing our river as they carry agricultural fertilizers and pesticides together with all the pollution coming from our yards: septic tank effluent, fertilizer, pesticides-FDOT road runoff too!
These aerial were taken from the SuperCub by Dr Scott Kuhns last Wednesday, August 11, 2021, and this is before Saturday when S-80 began discharging to the St Lucie for the C-44 “basin.” Bottom line, the St Lucie is now in a two front war against the northern and western canals, let’s fight for it not to become three. #NoLakeO to the St Lucie. Compare what the river looked on July 28, 201 and as the rains began.
Aerials August 11, 2021, Dr Scott Kuhns
Crossroads SLR/IRL-South Sewall’s Point-Looking south towards Jupiter Narrows-St Lucie Inlet with plume but still able to see nearshore reefs north of inlet-St Lucie Inlet with plume but plenty of blue water-note this is prior to C-44 basin runoff-St Lucie Inlet
LAKE OKEECHOBEE same day. Algae visible in lake off Port Mayaca and S-308 structure-View of S-308 no algae visible from this altitude-Close up of water near S-308. See GPS below.
RAIN RAIN RAIN
Friday night, August 13, 2021, my rain-gage in South Sewall’s Point overflowed! More the 7 inches of rain fell in about three hours causing flash flooding in Martin County, FL. These rains are now exiting our canals.
-St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon March 27, 2021. Photos Dr Scott Kuhns.As we all know, the ACOE began discharging 500 cubic feet per second of Lake Okeechobee water to the St Lucie River on March 6, 2021. At this time the lake was at 15.23 feet. There were/are great concern as wet season is rapidly approaching…
Since March 6th, Ed and I have been documenting the discharges for 2021 so that visually we have a record of changes as time goes on. We have been doing this since 2013’s Lost Summer that spurred a River Movement that turned over the tables, has evolved in many directions, and continues to work on changing Florida water policy today.
In today’s blog post it not Ed and I, but friend Dr Scott Kuhns who is documenting the discharges. Unlike me addicted to my iPhone, Scott uses a professional level camera. Wow!
Presently, Ed’s plane is in the shop so I am very grateful to pilot Steve Schimming and pilot/photographer Kuhns, for filling in and taking these excellent aerials yesterday, March 27, 2021 around 10:30 am. It was a full incoming tide with full moon rising today, March 28th. The water looks beautiful. The photos even reveal the near shore reefs!
Such conditions can push back against 500cfs coming from S-80 as presently there are no discharges from canals C-23 and C-24 because it is bone dry right now. Lake Okeechobee is evaporating and is now at 14.56 feet. This remains high. Please view the information I have included at the end of this blog for details of conditions from Florida Oceanographic as well as SFWMD & ACOE content. No discharges are good discharges but it is wonderful to see these blue aerial photographs as Spring is sprung and wildlife is procreating! Hopefully oysters, fish, and bird life will have a good season and mature before summer storms are arrive.
In closing, thank you Scott and Steve for a classic view from the Cub also known as the “River Warrior II;” so good to see her! She was and remains the “original!”
~Documentation St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon, March 27, 2021. Scott Kuhns & Steve Schimming reporting from the Piper Super Cub.
-Over nearshore reefs off Peck’s Lake, all photos by Dr Scott Kuhns.-Wide views St Lucie Inlet State Park and St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon.-Sailfish Point and St Lucie Inlet note near shore reef! Beautiful! Also damaged by discharges as documented by Harbor Branch. -Great shot of nearshore reefs off the St Lucie Inlet.-Looking towards Stuart and the Crossroads over St Lucie Inlet.-Part of Sandbar area. Could that be seagrass coming up?-Opening to Jupiter Narrows. Note dredge.-Sailfish Flats still devoid of seagrass.-Sewall’s Point between St Lucie River on west and Indian River Lagoon on east-Over south Sewall’s Point looking towards Stuart -Hell’s Gate, bottleneck between Stuart and Sewall’s Point, St Lucie River.-Witham Field, Stuart and looking west.-Below: Over Langford Landing that still looks like an atom bomb hit after five years of development-after they tore down all of Francis Langford’s beautiful trees and flattened the historic bluff that pirates used to use for an outlook. I hope they plant some vegetation soon! Aggg!-Roosevelt Bride over St Lucie River.-Looking west towards the Roosevelt Bridge, Palm City and Rio in foreground. South Fork and Beginning of North Fork visible-Another view of Langford Landing with no trees after five years, the former home of the famous and generous Frances Langford.-Langford Landing marina is filling up and is located at the merging point of north Sewall’s Point and Rio. This would look a lot better with some stately trees.-Here we see the Harborage Marina near the Roosevelt Bridge in Stuart/Rio. River water is not blue here as flushing is poor compared to St Lucie Inlet. The St Lucie has been ravaged by discharges from C-44, Lake O, C-23 and C-24 beginning in the 1920s.-Looking west over the Roosevelt Bridge note C-23 Canal in distance that separates Martin and St Luice County. Over-drainage is the root of Florida’s water problems today. As a farmer once told me, “We spent 100 years taking the water off the land, and we’ll spend 100 years putting it back on…”
On almost any summer day, Lake Okeechobee is green with algae.
A recent press release states:
“Congressman Brain Mast has introduced legislation to prohibit toxic discharges from Lake Okeechobee to the St. Lucie Estuary and the Indian River Lagoon. This legislation would make it illegal for the Army Corps of Engineers to discharge water containing algal blooms with a level of toxicity above the Environmental Protection Agency’s human health standard of 8 parts per billion microcystin.”
(Microcystins are hepatotoxins (liver toxins) produced by cyanobacteria, blue green algae.)
Such a law regarding blue-green algae would push back and change everything. ~The toxic algae, the discharges, the years’ long built up non-point pollution that has made Lake Okeechobee eutrophic.
Some people in opposition to this bill say it is outlandish. I think it is outlandish that any business interests, neighboring communities, or level of government would think it is OK to literally dump toxic water onto the citizenry of Martin County.
Thank you Congressman Mast!
Please be familiar with this press release and accompanying bill.
Stuart, Fla. – U.S.Congressman Brian Mast (FL-18) today introduced legislation to prohibit toxic discharges from Lake Okeechobee to the St. Lucie Estuary and the Indian River Lagoon. This legislation would make it illegal for the Army Corps of Engineers to discharge water containing algal blooms with a level of toxicity above the Environmental Protection Agency’s human health standard of 8 parts per billion microcystin.
“The Army Corps has proven that if left to their own devices, they will continue to poison our communities with toxic discharges from Lake Okeechobee that they have acknowledged to be toxic. No Floridian should tolerate being poisoned by their government,”Rep. Mast said.“The EPA has told us exactly what level of microcystin is too toxic for human contact, and now we must tell the Corps to stop these discharges that are destroying our waterways and putting our health at risk!”
The legislation is supported by Captains For Clean Water and Friends of the Everglades.
For decades, Florida’s coastal communities have been on the receiving end of toxic discharges, including recently discharges that have tested more than 60 times more toxic than the Environmental Protection Agency considers safe for human contact. These discharges put public health at risk, damage the economy and destroy the environment. Last year, Rep. Mast worked with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) toset a new public health standard for microcystin (8 parts per billion), which in turn forced the Army Corps of Engineers toadmit to knowingly discharging toxic waterto the coastal estuaries. Despite acknowledging that these releases are toxic, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has continued to poison Americans.
The photos below were taken just today, 8-12-20, at 9:30 am, by pilot Dr Scott Kuhns from the SuperCub. They show algae clusters in Lake Okeechobee. These algae clusters can grow very rapidly. Following are aerials of S-80 in the C-44 canal: when opened by the ACOE this structure allows water to discharge from Lake Okeechobee into the St Lucie River. Photo#1 JTL & Congressman Mast today at the Riverwalk along the St Lucie River, Stuart, Florida.
Documenting St Lucie River and Lake Okeechobee, Saturday, June 13, 2020
Today’s post includes two sets of photos taken from two different planes: the Supercub and the Baron. The Supercub is the classic yellow “River Warrior” open-air plane, and the Baron is a closed cockpit twin-engine with the distinctive upturned wing-tip. The Supercub can fly low and slow, the Baron can fly higher and faster. Both offer unique perspectives to photograph our waterways.
Dr. Scott Kuhns and Steve Schimming shared photos taken from the Supercub in the morning hours of Saturday, 6-13-20. Scott uses a quality Nikon camera thus his photos offer a wider or closer perspective. Thank you Scott and Steve, long time River Warriors and friends. Their photos reveal the coffee color of the St Lucie following torrential rains.
This next set of aerials was taken by my husband, Ed Lippisch, and myself the same day, 6-13-20, a few hours later, closer to noon. Again, it is important to note the St Lucie area recently experienced particularly heavy rains, only Broward County and parts of Miami- Dade had more. So we can learn about this, I am sharing the most recent Water Conditions Report of the SFWMD for details of all the St Lucie and all south and central Florida. See link under Rainfall Distribution Comparison slide below.
The first group of photos from Ed and I in the Baron is of the St Lucie River and the second set is of algae blooms in Lake Okeechobee. NOTE THE ACOE IS NOT DISCHARGING INTO THE ST LUCIE AT THIS TIME.
We continue to document and thank all who are working towards projects and ways of life that better water quality in the state of Florida. We know what we need to do!
Family friend Scott Kuhns is a great dentist, pilot, and photographer. For years, Scott has been one of our “eyes in the sky,” taking flight over the St Lucie River-Indian River Lagoon -and west out to Lake Okeechobee.
Today, Sunday, May 3, 2020, before noon, Scott forwarded these striking photos. He wrote “I can see some algae at Port Mayaca.”
When I first reviewed the impressive photographs -coast to lake- I found it hard to believe, but indeed looking very closely, there is a wisp of algae close to S-308 at Port Mayaca in Lake Okeechobee.
Can you see it? When things are so beautiful, like right now, it’s easy to miss!
Thanks Scott for your continued service “River Warrior” extraordinaire! We will continue to keep an eye on the water as we move closer to hurricane season.
ST LUCIE INLET, CROSSROADS OF INDIAN AND ST LUCIE RIVERS DIVIDED BY SEWALL’S POINT, ~ALL PHOTOS BY DR SCOTT KUHNS
JUPITER NARROWS & ATLANTIC OCEAN SOUTH OF ST LUCIE INLET
C-44 CANAL at ST LUCIE LOCKS AND DAM, S-80
S-308, CONNECTION OF C-44 CANNAL to LAKE OKEECHOBEE
VERY TIP of S-308 with ALGAE WISPS SLIGHTLY VISIBLE, BUT DEFINITELY THERE
INSIDE STRUCTURE S-308, PORT MAYACA LAKE OKEECHOBEE ALONG C-44 CANAL. S-53 ON ANOTHER CANAL. ALSO FPL COOLING POND SURROUNDED ON WEST BY WHAT APPEARS TO BE SUGARCANE FIELDS
Thank you to pilots Scott Kuhns and Steve Schimming for providing a “wider perspective.” This morning, March 18th, their photos reveal an unravaged St Lucie River-Indian River Lagoon ~from 2500feet. These are shots I definitely could not get with my iPhone!
Thank you for the good news that shall be documented for all. ~The St Lucie, Indian River Lagoon -a year and a half into no Lake Okeechobee discharges- looks GREAT!
CROSSROADS ST LUCIE RIVER/INDIAN RIVER LAGOON, ST LUCIE INLET, MARTIN COUNTY, FL
SAILFISH POINT, HUTCHINSON ISALND
THE FAMOUS HOUSE OF REFUGE, BUILT IN 1876, HUTCHINSON ISLAND ocean and IRL
JUPITER NARROWS, INDIAN RIVER LAGOON SOUTH OF ST LUCIE INLET, ST LUCIE INLET STATE PARK
THE ST LUCIE RIVER-INDIAN RIVER LAGOON, COMING BACK, WHEN ALLOWED TO BE, IT IS “THE MOST BIO-DIVERSE ESTUARY IN NORTH AMERICA!”
I am very fortunate to have a small army of people helping me document the Lake Okeechobee discharges this year. Presently, it is the tremendous rate of government sponsored discharge from Lake O that is destroying the regions’ economy and ecology, right before our eyes, ~once again.
Friends of my husband, pilots Dave Stone and Scott Kuhns, took these aerials yesterday, 11-8-17 around 5 pm. When I asked Scott about the plume, he relayed that it went 15 miles south almost all the way to Jupiter Inlet, and since there is also rain driven, fresh, dark- stained water flowing out of the Jupiter Inlet (not over-nutrified, black-sediment water from Lake O) there was no clear delineation of blackened plume to aqua ocean water, like usual–rather, the waters are all dark….
“How far did the plume go east from the St Lucie Inlet?” I asked. “From the coast, as far as the eye could see…”
*The ACOE has been discharging from Lake O since Hurricane IRMA hit on Sept 2oth, 2017. The rate of discharge has gone up and down, however increasing over recent weeks. Word is the St Lucie could be dumped on for many more months, possibly through the end of the year. So don’t count on taking your visiting relatives out fishing this holiday season even though you moved here for the water. This ecological disaster is finally seeing light at the end of the tunnel as Senator Joe Negron, alongside the public, and “River Warrior” groups, particularly Bullsugar, has pushed so hard that the SFWMD and ACOE are finally working towards building an EAA Reservoir that will begin the long journey of changing water drainage culture in South Florida, and “sending the water south.” Please get involved and learn more by viewing this SFWMD EAA RESERVOIR website:https://www.sfwmd.gov/our-work/cerp-project-planning/eaa-reservoir
*Thank you to the people, and the children, groups such as the C4CW, Rivers Coalition, grandparents’ HOA email chains, leadership at Martin Health System, and to the those working for the agencies trying to help the St Lucie. As the River Kidz say:
Evan Miller grew up in Stuart, Florida, not far from the St Lucie Locks and Dam. He attended Crystal Lakes Elementary School, Hidden Oaks Middle School, South Fork and Martin County High Schools, graduating in 2002.
As a kid, Evan would ride his bike down to the St Lucie Locks and Dam with his friends. He knew the sad story of the lake and St Lucie River. He knew about the long history and steady destruction of the waterways he loved that one day would come to a head. But little did he know, that it would happen in his lifetime, and he would lead the message.
The story is this—
After graduating, Evan was sponsored as a professional surfer and lived in Costa Rica, and came home in 2012. Upon his return, he saw the river’s decline and innocently put a message on his Facebook page during the “Lost Summer os 2013,” when the river was posted by the Health Department as “off-limits.” Evan’s message read: “Who wants to meet me at the locks?”
Believe it or not, this request turned into a rally of over 5000 people!
Two weeks later, Evan organized a beach rally, putting down stakes and having a surveyor friend help him create the letters–over 2000 people came and spelled out in the sand SAVE OUR RIVER.
Destiny had found its man…
Now in 2016, under even worse conditions, after the St Lucie River and area beaches turned into a toxic-soup from an onslaught of releases from Lake Okeechobee since January—- that in time were dumping toxic algae from the lake into the river—- Evan has used his Facebook talents again.
This past Saturday, on July 3rd, the Martin County Sheriff’s Department reported that over 3500 people, from every walk of life, came out to spell in the sand the message of the masses to fix the lake and river debacle: BUY THE LAND.
This event played out over the 4th of July weekend on national media outlets. People in Martin County were getting phone calls from people in other states they had not spoken to in years. My father got a call from a man in his wedding from 1962 who lives in California. They had not spoken in years…
“What’s going on down there?”
Yes, the world has “seen” the peoples’ message thanks to Evan.
The blue-green algae, the cyanobacteria–sometimes toxic— that we first saw in aerial photos over Lake Okeechobee weeks ago, is not only here, it is everywhere…our river has been made completely fresh by our government. Now the algae is blooming fluorescent green-blue, dying a putrid brown-green, flowing out of our inlet, and poisoning not only or rivers’ shores but our beaches.
On the widest level, this is a health hazard brought upon us by a “knowing government.” Our state, federal, and local governments have seen this coming for years. The slow and steady destruction of the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon is well documented.
Now, in 2016, all of Martin County’s beaches and the southern most beach of St Lucie County are closed. Palm City; Stuart; Rio; Sewall’s Point, Jensen. All waters are off limits. “Don’t Touch the Water.” –A health, safety and welfare issue for the people, a nightmare for local government, and a complete environmental and economic disaster for us all.
Included for purposes of documentation– to be added to the thousands of other posts on social media this weekend— I share the following, some that were shared with me…Divided into 8 sections: 1. Algae in the waves at Bathtub Beach, by JTL; 2. algae aerials at C-44, S-80, and S-308, by Dr Scott Kuhns; 3. Lake Okeechobee and St Lucie River’s extensive algae bloom, by jet pilot Dave Stone, and local pilot Ron Rowers; 4. Rio, a residential disaster, Jeff Tucker; 5. Sewall’s Point as seen from the Evan’s Cray Bridge with a river full of algae by walker Tracy Barnes; 6. Rebecca Fatzinger’s duck eating algae; 7. my Uncle Dale Hudson’s lead to Snug Harbor’s Marina “a multimillion dollar disaster,” and 8. Really blue-algae at Central Marina, Stuart/Rio.
The outpouring of the public is immense, and the powers that be, must look our way. Document, call, write, demand, and VOTE.
I am supposed to be on a blog break, but I did not want to miss the chance for Dr Scott Kuhns’ photos to be documented. Dr Kuhns has a much better camera than Ed or myself who use our iPhones. These photos were taken on Saturday, October 3, around 11:00am, 2015, with a Nikon D750.
So far this year, the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon has avoided the releases from Lake Okeechobee, and we were fortune that Hurricane Joaquin did not hit Florida which certainly would have filled up that lake. Nevertheless, we have been getting the discharges from regional canals C-23, C-24, C-44 and C-25 up in Ft Pierce.
While this fresh water is running off Martin, St Lucie, Okeechobee, and Indian River County, and being dumped to tide through our ailing rivers, Lake Okeechobee is filling up from the Kissimmee and other tributaries.
Lake Okeechobee’s level today is at 14.77 NGVD. (http://w3.saj.usace.army.mil/h2o/currentLL.shtml) Hurricane Season officially ends November 30th….When the lake gets over approximately 15.5 feet there is a high chance its waters will be directed through C-44’s S-308 and S-80 to the St Lucie River/IRL by the SFWMD and the ACOE.
Presently according to NOAA, there is an El Nino (complicated, but basically a wet “winter” predicted/fewer hurricanes in summer) so this 2016 winter and Florida-spring, during what is normally the “dry season,” it may be rainy.
We must keep an eye on Lake O’s level every day, all year-long. I would still like to get a bank in Stuart to sponsor a “Lake O. Level Screen,” next to the temperatures….like they do in Clewiston. Like Clewiston, the lake affects our lives and livelihoods along the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon on an everyday level—– whether we can “see” it or not.
Thank you Dr Scott Kuhns for the quality aerial photographs! Let’s keep documenting, learning, advocating, and affecting change.