The algae in Lake Okeechobee is Mother Nature’s political checkmate, the time in chess in which the King cannot escape…
Thank you to Department of Environmental Protection Secretary, Noah Valenstein, whose Emergency Order directed by Governor Rick Scott, announced yesterday, will implement an array of new actions to move more clean water south into the conservation areas and away from the estuaries.
Make no mistake about it, this order happened due to Mother Nature’s “check.” The algae in Lake Okeechobee is exploding at record speed – see above image from yesterday, 6-20-18.
Sending algae that is potentially toxic to the communities of the St Lucie River and the Caloosahatchee is political suicide even for the Army Corp, an entity that is basically untouchable, like a King.
But since the state is legally in charge of water quality, not the Corp, the order comes from Florida’s Executive Branch as they, became aware of the seriousness of the problem. The Corp has reported they were lessening discharge amount anyway, however, they did not recognize the health threat of the algae…
Nobody wants to purposefully poison the estuaries, but the Federal Government and the State of Florida does when algae, potentially toxic, is sent through gates connected to Lake Okeechobee. We are all in a difficult situation, a chess game whose rules are outdated and were created years ago…
And even if there is “limited capacity” to move water south, it can be done. “Something” is “everything” in this water game of chess. We must take what we can get, check the King, and then go back for more – the goal to close the gates forever. “Checkmate.”
In my opinion, this emergency order is a real move that will send more water south and help reinforce a “send water south,” political culture that all Florida must embrace!
God Save the Queen, our one and only, “Mother-Nature.”
(I have updated this post due to spelling errors, etc.. 6-24-18. Sorry. I, like everyone, am exhausted. JTL)
The South Florida Water Management District did a great job “sending water south,” from May-September last year, so how are they doing so far this year comparatively? Recently I asked Dr Gary Goforth (http://garygoforth.net) if I could share his calculations:
Jacqui, As you know, my mantra has been to send the Lake water south – slowly but steadily – throughout the year.
This was echoed by Robert Fennema describing historical flows from the Lake to the Everglades in the same 2008 Greater Everglades Ecosystem Restoration (GEER) workshop as the Chris McVoy piece you referenced recently: “Persistent outflow along the southern shore provided the head to maintain constant flow through the Everglades.”
All the best, Gary
Here are Dr Gary Goforth’s numbers:
2 years ago May-Sept: 32,032 acre feet to STAs Last year May-Sept: 187,125 acre feet to STAs This year May – Sept.: 95,600 acre feet to STA/FEB
He adds: “Jeff Kivett stated there was 60% probability of above average rainfall during the upcoming dry season and now is the time to keep the Lake low by sending it to the Everglades.”
Thank you Dr Goforth.
I have noticed, at recent meetings, speakers and scientists for the SFWMD note that rainfall and other issues have a lot to do with how much water they can send south. It would be wonderful if someone from the District could explain this in simple terms for the public and noting the goal for this year. Please feel free to participate in this blog.
Hope (noun) 1. “a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen”. b. “grounds for believing that something good may happen.” 2. archaic “a feeling of trust.”
When looking at the water issues facing the St Lucie/Indian River Lagoon, it sometimes appears that we are doomed to an endless repetition of discharges from Lake Okeechobee and regional canals for ourselves, our children, and our grandchildren. We are not; we must have hope.
I am clearly aware that the Central Everglades Planning Project, (CEPP) will not alleviate all of the waters killing our rivers. In fact, from what I think I understand, it will deal with about 250,000 acre feet of water of a needed at least 200 million. US Sugar Corporation will probably quote 450 million. For me, the number is not the issue right now, the issue is getting started. By getting started, a groundwork is laid for “more” in the future.
Yes, I wish that the state of Florida had purchased the US Sugar option lands and we could have storage and a “flow way south” to the Everglades from Lake O of sorts, but the state did not. We must still fight for this concept, but also for CEPP.
As right now, CEPP is the only thing “on the books” to send water south and thus our only hope for “sending water south” in the future. The last time I wrote about CEPP I was furious because after all of the hard collective advocacy work to get it in the Water Resources Development Act of 2014, it did not make it. Well now we have another chance, and I have hope that it will.
CEPP was intensely reviewed across South Florida by many. It was led by environmental lead Dr Gretchen Ehlinger, ACOE/Jacksonville, and locally, by West Palm Beach’s, project supervisor, Kim Taplin/ACOE. Both tirelessly worked this project. It was truly a miracle in itself that the project was fast tracked. As we know, government is the world of molasses and quicksand….
To review CEPP:
“The goal of the Central Everglades Planning Project (CEPP) is to deliver a finalized plan, known as a Project Implementation Report (PIR), for a suite of restoration projects in the central Everglades to prepare for congressional authorization, as part of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP). The Central Everglades Planning Project will identify and plan for projects on land already in public ownership to allow more water to be directed south to the central Everglades, Everglades National Park and Florida Bay….”
On August 31st, 2015, something big happened. Jo-Ellen Darcy, Assistant Secretary to the Army, finally signed the “record of decision” for the project. Thank you.
So now the project is approved to “move forward” by the Army Corp. The Final Integrated Project Implementation Report and Environmental Impact Statement has been “approved.” (Please read document above.) So what has to happen now? A lot! The project has to become part of the next Water Resources Development Act, (WRDA), that moves through the US Congress only once every 2-7 years….
If CEPP becomes part of the next WRDA bill, then it would have funding to start with, then the funding has to be continued of course….as politics shift and sands sink and rise…. and yes, the project has to be built….and the water has to be there to flow!….Excruciating isn’t it? But we are on our way. ——The business of hope is not for the weak of heart, it is for the strong.
I was a teacher for many years. I taught 8th, 9th, and 11th grade English and German. Throughout my career, whether the students were 13 or 17 years old, there was nothing better for them than “getting an A.”
I don’t think in my ten-year career, I ever gave an A plus.
Until now that is…. 🙂
The South Florida Water Management District deserves an A plus for their creative, determined, and difficult work “sending water south” in a politically explosive environment. —-Probably the worst mine fields in the state…
For “WATER YEAR REGIONAL FLOWS May 2014, through April 2015” at least 585,000 acre feet of water was sent south to the Storm Water treatment Areas and into the Water Conservation Areas. This translated into 565,000 acre feet of water to starved Everglades National Park.
To appreciate this achievement one must compare:
The chart above, courtesy of Dr Gary Goforth, shows acre feet of water going to STAs from 1995-2015. The highest number ever. The colors show the different STAs the water went through.
Sometimes when studying “sending water south” it gets VERY confusing as more water was sent south in 1995, but this water was sent when there were very few STAs and so Florida Bay got pounded with nitrogen and phosphorus laden Lake Okeechobee, and I would think some water from the Everglades Agricultural Area….
The Storm Water Treatment Areas clean the water…
It must be noted that some grading the system may think differently as South Florida certian water users and agriculture have been afraid we were, or are almost going into a drought or that the STA were overused. Some may say the ACOE and SFWMD district “should not have sent so much water south, but rather stored it in the lake…” Maybe they are right. Today I will not judge, but reward.
So anyway, “to repeat myself IRL students,” 🙂 THIS YEAR THE SOUTH FLORIDA WATER MANAGEMENT DISTRICT HAS SENT MORE WATER SOUTH TO THE STAs THAN EVER BEFORE.
You may recall that the Army Corp of Engineers opened the gates to the St Lucie River on January 16th 2015 and this did not stop until late May. This water charted going south this year helped alleviate our destruction. It could have been worse… If they weren’t sending it south, it may have gone to “us.”
My hope is that water management becomes the top-cool thing to do for future generations, and that many River Kidz and even more young people from all over the world and our nation, come to our state to work, learn and study water management. It is a politically explosive and difficult work environment, but nothing is more important for the people and the for wildlife of our state.
I admit that I am part of that politically explosive environment..but my heart really is with the living creatures of the Earth and its waters. May we overcome our genetically wired warlike behavior, send the water south, and save the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon….
Thank you South Florida Water Management District for your outstanding work! Yes there are great difficulties, but for a better water future, we are counting on you!
This week, in our attempt to save and be knowledgeable about the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon, we have learned about the STAs, Strormwater Treatment Areas, and the WCAs, Water Conservation Areas; today, will we will ask the question, “Where do the WCAs end, and where does Everglades National Park begin?”
After all, “send the water south” means to the Everglades…
The point is: in order to save the St Lucie/Indian River Lagoon, we have to keep an eye on the “big picture,” saving the Everglades…or what’s left, as “Everglades National Park.”
We have developed and altered this area so much very little is remaining–the drainage of the land, the redirection of the Lake Okeechobee’s waters through the estuaries, the construction of the Everglades Agricultural Area, as well as development of the coast and inland, is a testament to the impressive determination of humankind and our ability to alter our environment; but it is also an embarrassment of our inability to constrain ourselves or think long term. (See below.)
So back to the original question, where do the WCA stop and Everglades National Park begin? Well, looking at the map below, we can see that Everglades National Park “proper” pretty much starts right under the Tamiami Trail. And we can tell from the other maps that the WCAs are above this area, as well as above the development on the south-east coast and inland areas of Florida, especially the City of Homestead. (See image 2 down.)
Knowing about the STAs, the WCAs and ENP will help us to save the SRL/IRL!
Well, time to get to start my day; I hope you learned something that you did not already know! 🙂
The 2014 mid-term election is now over, but our job is just starting.
We must watch the governor; we must watch his administration and agencies; we must watch our town, city, county, state, and congressional candidates. We are tired yes, but we must not take our eyes off them, not for a second.
Whether you voted for them or not, “winning the election” means that these candidates are working for you. But if you do not communicate with them, or watch what they are doing, don’t be surprised if they wander from their promises and goals. It is only through the pressure and support of the people that the representative process works.
The stately hawk in the photo above was taken by my brother Todd Thurlow, (http://thurlowpa.com) at his North River Shores home this past weekend during the Stuart Air-Show. I think the hawk is symbolic for what we must do and how we must conduct ourselves. The hawk was not afraid of my brother or the loud and larger airplanes in the sky. It just kept watching……
As far as identifying the hawk, I cannot tell if it is a red-shouldered, red-tailed or another type as the bird’s markings have not yet matured, and I am no expert of the avian species. If you know, please share!
What I do know though, is that this bird’s eyesight, particularly because it is a “bird of prey,” is one of the very best in the animal kingdom.
“The visual ability of birds of prey is legendary, and the keenness of their eyesight is due to a variety of factors: eyes size to body mass; eyes shape and make up– with more receptors, foveae, rods and cones giving the bird spectacular long distance vision, seeing more than 6-8 times better than humans.”
Let this young hawk inspire us. Let’s not take our eyes off our elected officials!
Help me watch them; help me push them; help me encourage them to fight the next four years for sending more water south from Lake Okeechobee, and over all water quality for our area canals, St Lucie River and Indian River Lagoon.
I am big supporter of Senator Joe Negron. I believe that his intervention has “changed the game” for the Indian River Lagoon and put the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon squarely on the map in front of every politician and agency in the state. Now we have a chance to save it.
Yes, there have been champions for the lagoon before, but in my opinion, no one has ever done what Senator Negron has done.
I had been aware of Joe Negron for years but it was not until 2012 that I had any contact with him and that contact changed my life and improved my efforts for saving the Indian River Lagoon.
For half of 2011 and all of 2012 I was the mayor of the Town of Sewall’s Point and in 2011 the River Kidz had started on their own, authentically, in the Town. Two fifth grade girls, Evie Flagh, (my niece) and Naia Mader, held a lemonade stand in Indianlucie giving their proceeds to “those old gentlemen,” the River’s Coalition, who said they “needed youth in their organization.” Columnist, Eve Samples, had written about this and the children filled the calling. River Kidz ended up becoming a force with hundreds of kids joining and spreading to other counties. They even came up with their own mission statement: “Our mission is to speak out, get involved and raise awareness, because we believe kids should have a voice in the future of our rivers.”
As mayor, I made it my priority to help these kids as I have none of my own and am a former teacher. As a lifetime resident, I knew the dying river was a gigantic issue for the town and this all looked like a “good fit.”
Myself, my sister Jenny Flaugh, and good friend Nic Mader, started advocating along with these kids. Many other parents and children joined.
In the late summer of 2012, I thought of who could help the cause of the river and the kidz? Who was in a position to help. “Joe Negron,” I thought. He is our senator and he is the head of the Appropriations Committee, one of the most powerful positions in the state. I was nervous. I really did not know him. He was friends with my husband’s business partner as they had both gone to the Hope Sound Bible School in their youth. I had seen him once at a birthday party. I was certain he had no idea who I was. After much angst, one day I called him. Somehow I got his phone number from my husband Ed I think. I was shaking.
“Hello, Senator Negron. This is Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch from the Town of Sewall’s Point. I am the mayor. May I speak to you for a minute please?
“Yes,” he replied.”
I was a wreck. Believe it or not, I am not good at “asking.”
“Sir, I am calling for your help. I am calling about the river….and the future…..about the kids….”
By the end of the short conversation, Joe Negron said he had an op-ed idea for awhile…maybe he would send it in to the paper? It had to do with the river. I encouraged him.
“Yes. Yes.” I said, “Please. We need your help. Thank you.”
The day I saw the op-ed, I said to myself, “Wow, he did it.”
In spite of one’s opinion on the situation, this article shook the foundations of the status quo. A state senator, chair of the Appropriations Committee, had said something, written something so taboo and it got the state and federal government’s attention and started a scrutinizing dialogue of the management of the lake and the deathly discharges to our estuaries.
Things ramped up. The ACOE starts releasing water from Lake Okeechobee into the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon in June of 2012. The River Kidz held a protest at the locks with their friends and parents. Joe Negron along with Martin County commissioner, Sarah Heard attended. It poured rain but they came. The Kidz feel important. The movement’s volume turned up. More kids and parents got involved. The river seemed to always be in the Stuart News.
Skip forward to the “Lost Summer” of 2013. The ACOE began dumping in May due to early rains. The river is a putrid, toxic mess. The kids can’t go in the water. The River Kidz rally at the locks again. Joe Negron attends, again….
And then Joe Negron, Senator Joe Negron, pulls a rarely used and ultimate political card from his pocket going where he, and we, had never gone before. He organizes the “Senate Select Committee on the Indian River Lagoon and Lake Okeechobee Basin.” It occurs August 22, 2013 at the Kane Center in Stuart. All eyes of the state are upon us. The media, state and national and local, take over. We are on the map like never before. It is an explosion. Even newspapers in Europe cover the story. (http://www.flsenate.gov/Media/Topics/irllob)
By the end of the following year’s legislative process in 2014, more than 200 million dollars goes towards the Indian River Lagoon and related projects supporting “some more” water going south. Everyone is Tallahassee know about the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon and Lake Okeechobee. Not a fix but a start. A large start. Senator Negron has put his neck on the line as he is tapped “to be” Senate President. Some are angered by his complete focus on the IRL. He stands firm.
Between the Select Committee and the threat to cut ties with the Army Corp’s abusive relationship over us, change is in the air.
As an aside, I must admit, I have been criticized by some people, for my blatant support of Joe Negron. That is OK. I knew that could happen. Politics is emotional. People are allowed to have their opinions and I have mine.
At my recent Florida League of Cities meeting in Hollywood, all comments were positive. Elected officials were coming up to me from the panhandle, to Tallahassee, to Miami saying they had seen the commercial or heard of it and were impressed with our campaign for the Indian River Lagoon. “I never knew the estuaries got damaged by Lake Okeechobee…” They said.
Now the University of Florida is charged by the Select Committee with “a technical review of options to move water from Lake Okeechobee to the Everglades…” Will it fix the problem, I doubt it, but it will begin to and have some of the most outstanding minds in our state working on the problem now and in the future. In time, it could help solve the problem…
In conclusion, I was raised to repay my debts and to Senator Joe Negron I am indebted. And I am honored to be so. I will do everything I can to help him and keep him in office and to encourage him to help the Indian River Lagoon.
Recently, Eve Samples wrote an article about PACs and monies for Joe Negron’s campaign, which included campaign contribution from US Sugar. What do I have to say about that?
Politics is a hard and imperfect game and everyone is trying to influence powerful people however they can. Thankfully, I have a tool more powerful than money. I appeal to “conscience.” And Joe Negron is a man who listens to his. Of that, I am convinced.
Today I am going to share an entire 25 piece slide presentation from the Army Corp of Engineers’ Periodic Scientists Call, 7-25-14. It’s a lot of slides, but I think you’ll enjoy trying to interpret them, and I’ll help the best I can. These presentations include a lot of information and show how the ACOE decides how much Lake Okeechobee water is going to go the estuaries, south, to the Everglades, and held, or released, to other places. This information is UNCLASSIFIED so I can share it.
I first was invited to sit in on these calls in 2012, as I was former mayor and continued commissioner, as today, for the Town of Sewall’s Point. I have talked about this before in my blog but I will restate. I felt like a complete idiot for the first six months as the ACOE kind of speaks in their own language. A military language.
Eventually, I started to catch on, and even gained the confidence to comment. Although not a scientist, as an elected official I am allowed to give succinct perspective.
These calls take place approximately every two weeks depending on the circumstances. During the terrible 2013 releases from Lake Okeechobee into the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon and the Caloosahatchee, calls took place every week. “Stakeholders” from the lakes south of Orlando to the Everglades participate in these calls. Representatives from agriculture, the state agencies, counties and others are present.
Here is the entire presentation from the last call on July 25, 2014.
In the slides one sees weather outlooks; inflows/outflows (west, east, south) from Lake Okeechobee and/or the southern flow of water from the EAA or Storm Water Treatment Areas into the Water Conservation Areas and Everglades; position/historical analysis of water levels in the lake; Lake Okeechobee Regulation Schedule (LORS) guidance for releases; estuary salinities; basin and lake runoff/releases into the estuaries; ongoing emergency storage of water…
In all honesty, it’s a lot for me. I mostly pay attention to the level of Lake Okeechobee and how much they may or may not decide to release into the St Lucie River/IRL. Here the LORS guidance said they could release 1170 cfs cubic feet per second into the SLR/IRL but the ACOE chose not to. Yes, many times the ACOE actually cuts us a break. But when the lake is really high, over 15 feet or so, there is no break.
I also pay more attention to how much water is going south, as this would help alleviate our situation. It appears to me that usually the water “going south” is from the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA), not from the lake, as in this presentation, the canals just south of the lake are not noted or say “0.” Understandably, the agriculture people like to hold the water in the lake, in case a drought comes, as they need water for their crops.
I will never interpret these calls like a scientist and some the scientist may cringe when I make my non-scientific statements. But that’s OK. I am “trying.”
I think the ACOE and shared South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) slides have gotten better and show more information than when I first started attending. I think they know the people and some politicians of Martin and St Lucie Counties, really all over the state now, are watching like hawks and demanding more disclosure and transparency in how the ACOE and SFWMD decide to manage Lake Okeechobee and surrounding areas.
I do hope you find this information interesting and not overwhelming. You can find some of it on the ACOE Facebook page (Jacksonville District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers) or on their website (http://www.saj.usace.army.mil).
Personally, I still find the info for the SLR/IRL hard to find. I wish the ACOE would devote a special area on their website to us like the SRWMD has because the more we as citizens can easily learn and pay attention, the better chance we have, one day, for a healthier St Lucie River Indian River Lagoon for our children.