My earliest memories of Stuart include stairs…stairs leading to the river…
Walking in Shepherd’s Park as a child, I would ask, “Where did those stairs go Mom?” Her answer may have gone something like this…
“Jacqui, those stairs led to a great house, one of Stuart’s first, built by pioneer, Hubert Bessey. It later became the residence of William and Lucy Ann Shepherd who first came to Stuart in the early 1900s. They came, like so many did at that time, for the fishing. Stuart, you know, was “the fishing grounds of presidents” and known as “the greatest waters in America” for this sport. Mr Shepherd was president and owner of T.H. Brooks and Company, a steel corporation in Cleveland. He and his wife were generous citizens of our community. In 1947 the house was almost demolished by a hurricane, but repaired. Then in 1949, disaster struck. Right in the middle of the winter season, the house mysteriously burned to the ground, but the stairs still stand today…” (Adapted from “History of Martin County”)
Yesterday, with these 50-year-old lessons ringing in my ears, I approached the remains of the old Shepherd residence that became today’s Shepherd’s Park. I was here on Memorial Day to meet reporter Jana Eschbach, from CBS affiliate Channel 12 News in West Palm Beach. It was Jana who had alerted me to a large fluorescent green algae bloom-more than likely toxic.
I arrived early and walked around. Lots of memories. Seeing the old stairs, I thought about how they used to lead to “the fishing grounds of presidents and the greatest fishing grounds in America.” And today, less than 100 years later, they are leading to toxic algae blooms. Never in my wildest dreams would I have foreseen this as a child.
Walking around the breakwater, I thought to myself:
“I will not give up on this place–this former paradise. It could recover if given the chance. History can repeat itself in some form here for the positive. Yes, and I will remember the words of Ernest Lyons who my mother taught me about too—the writer and editor of Stuart’s early paper–a leader and inspiration in fighting against the digging of the excessive agricultural canals that have destroyed our St Lucie River.
I mused for a second and remembered his inspirational quote:
“What men do, they can undo. And the hope for our river is in the hundreds of men and women in our communities who are resolved to save the St Lucie.”
The recovery of this river is in the people, for no government can exist in today’s age knowingly bringing this upon its people…It continues to be our time to change history.
Today I have posted pictures from the front page of the Stuart News, and I am also providing Dr Gary Goforth’s “Lake Event Update” for May 2016. This report gives an update on nutrient, sediment, and polluting fresh water loads into the St Lucie Estuary from Lake Okeechobee. Numbers from Lake O are at/or close to “Lost Summer “2013 levels now.
Today, the ACOE reports Lake Okeechobee at 14.38 feet – a very high level going into hurricane/rainy season beginning June 1st.
Thus the Army Corp of Engineers and the South Florida Water Management District, with the knowledge of other state agencies and entities such as the Dept. of Environmental Protection, the Florida Department of Health, the Florida Legislature, and the Governor will be opening the flood gates to begin releasing more water from the lake today.
Cyanobacteria of toxic levels (as determined by the World Health Organization) is now reported in the lake and canals leading to the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon. This is a fresh water bloom and as the estuary becomes more fresh from lake releases the bloom will be able to survive throughout the river and estuary. I do not understand how this is legal in spite of the safety issues of the dike. The federal government in cooperation with our state government is knowingly releasing toxic algae into our waterways –Worse than a third world country.
SLR/IRL conditions report, Dr Gary Goforth 5-26-16 http://garygoforth.net With poor water quality conditions in the Lake, the nutrient and sediment loads to the River/Estuary have already exceeded the 2013 Lake event. Feeding the bloom …
Since January 30, 2016: Nitrogen – more than 1.6 million pounds Phosphorus – more than 190,000 pounds Sediment – more than 34 million pounds
Average flow – more than a billion gallons per day …
I was on the Army Corp of Engineers Periodic Scientist Call this past Tuesday. These are excellent calls and one learns quickly the difficulties and the burdens of water management for our state and federal agencies in the state of Florida. I have participated in the calls as an elected official for the Town of Sewall’s Point since 2012.
This past Tuesday, something was said that struck me. Mark Perry, of Florida Oceanographic, reported something to the effect that over 600 acres of seagrasses inside the St Lucie Inlet are now “sand bottom.” Six hundred acres….
I went home and asked my husband that night at dinner…”Ed could it really be six-hundred acres? The seagrasses dead?”
“Easy.” He replied. “Just think of when I lived at the house at 22 South Sewall’s Point road when we first got married in 2005, and we’d walk out with the kayaks and there was lush seagrass all the way out ….well that’s gone–its gone all around the peninsula–you can see this from the air.”
Ed took some aerial photos the day after this conversation. Yesterday. I am including them today.
—-So it’s true, 600 acres of seagrasses are dead in one of the most bio-diverse estuaries in North America, the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon or southern IRL —for many years, as many of us know, confidently cited as not “one of,” but rather, “the most diverse…”
The Army Corp has been releasing from Lake Okeechobee this year since January 29th, 2016. We are only in June and there is more to come. Yes there is…there is “more to come” from us. There has to be. Because we are losing or have lost —everything.
Please compare the 1977 photo and then the 2012 map to photos taken yesterday. Please don’t give up the fight to bring back life to this estuary.
The photos below of a severe algae bloom were shared yesterday by Rick Solvenson and Brenda Brooks who live on the Caloosahatchee River near Olga. This is on the south side of Caloosahatchee River near Fort Myers’ shores, just downstream of the Franklin lock. There is a second set of photos taken last Sunday and yesterday by Michael and Michelle Connor of Martin County along the side of Lake Okeechobee and at Port Mayaca.
So far in 2016, algae blooms have been reported in Lake Okeechobee, the St Lucie Canal, Palm City, (C-44) and the Caloosahatchee (C-43). The ACOE continues to discharge these algae filled waters from the lake into the estuaries St Lucie and Caloosahatchee with the support of the South Florida Water Management District, the Department of Environmental Protection, the Florida Department of Health, and the knowledge of the Governor and Florida State Legislature.
From what I have read to date, the cyanobacteria toxic algae blooms reported thus far have not yet tested “high enough” to warrant concerns at the level of the World Health Organization…not yet, but if they do, —-expect some information, but don’t expect protection. Florida is not providing such these days, not to us anyway.
The following was written by Dr Gary Goforth as a response to U.S. Sugar Corporation’s months long ad campaign in the Stuart News. http://garygoforth.net
· The health and economies of the St. Lucie River and Estuary, the Caloosahatchee Estuary, and Florida Bay have been sacrificed for decades by the management of Lake Okeechobee for the protection of US Sugar and other agricultural lands south of the Lake.
The recent ad blitz by US Sugar appears to be an attempt to divert the public’s attention away from this preferential treatment and from an egregious betrayal of south Florida taxpayers perpetrated by US Sugar, the Florida legislature and the Governor’s administration – the failure to exercise the willing seller contract to purchase US Sugar land south of the lake. Failure to secure needed land south of the Lake is the single biggest obstacle to long-term protection of the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries from destructive Lake discharges, and providing Florida Bay and lower east coast wellfields with needed water.
· Water storage necessary to reduce high flows to the estuaries by about 90% will require about 10% of the land in the EAA – not complete elimination of farming in the area. The recent UF Water Institute study reconfirmed what scientists have been saying for decades – additional storage and treatment beyond what is currently planned in CERP and CEPP is needed south of the Lake: “If this required storage were to be provided strictly though deep 12-ft reservoirs, new land area between approximately 11,000 and 43,000 acres would be required south of Lake Okeechobee.” The upper limit – 43,000 acres – is less than ¼ of the amount of land US Sugar was willing to sell to the state (187,000 acres).
· Regarding the numbers in the ads – some are accurate, some are completely fictitious (e.g., the distribution of water from Lake Okeechobee), and many critical numbers are missing, e.g.,
-millions of pounds of nitrogen and phosphorus from lake Okeechobee that feed algal blooms and wreak havoc on the ecology of the river, estuary, lagoon and near-shore reefs. (million off pounds of nutrients that the State of Florida ignores in their BMAP progress reports for the St Lucie River.) – the hundreds of millions of pounds of Lake Okeechobee sediment that turned a once sand-bottom clear water estuary into a muck-filled lagoon that belches blackwater every time it rains. – the hundreds of millions of dollars of economic impact to local businesses, tourism and real estate values attributable to poor water quality If you’re interested go to the SFWMD’s (or my) website.
· Most of the area that the ads calls “local waterways” did not flow into the St. Lucie River (SLR) until after the major agricultural drainage canals (C-23, C-24, C-25 and C-44) were dug, connecting more than 250,000 acres to the SLR. Historically these areas flowed north into the St. Johns River watershed, south into the Loxahatchee and Everglades watersheds, evaporated or recharged the groundwater.
· The ads ignore the fact that more than half of the “local watershed” is agriculture, and that more than half of the flows and nutrient loads to the St. Lucie River and Estuary come from agricultural land use.
· Nutrient loads from septic tanks along the Indian River Lagoon need to be addressed in cost-effective ways based on good science. Nevertheless, nutrient loading and sediment from Lake Okeechobee and agricultural runoff constitute a far greater threat to the health of the St. Lucie Estuary than does loading from Martin County septic tanks. The loading from septic tanks in Martin County have been overstated by upwards of 200-300%.
· The 2016 Florida Legislature was an unmitigated disaster for the environment of Florida, with misappropriations of Amendment 1 funds for the second year in a row and the passage of a water bill that rolled back environmental protection for the benefit of agricultural interests. What role did lobbyists for US Sugar and other agricultural interests play in this debacle? —–Dr. Gary Goforth
*Dr. Goforth has more than 30 years of experience in water resources engineering encompassing strategic planning, design, permitting, construction, operation and program management. For the last 25 years, his focus has been on large-scale environmental restoration programs in the Kissimmee-Okeechobee-Everglades ecosystem. He was the Chief Consulting Engineer during the design, construction and operation of the $700 million Everglades Construction Project, containing over 41,000 acres of constructed wetlands. He is experienced in public education, water quality treatment design and evaluation, engineering design and peer review, systems ecology, statistical hydrology, hydrologic modeling, hydrodynamic modeling, water quality modeling, environmental permit acquisition and administration, hydrologic and water quality performance analyses. (Website: http://garygoforth.net)
The first time I ever laid eyes on Lake Okeechobee, I was eleven years old. I remember thinking that I must be looking at the ocean because I could not see across to the other side. Just enormous!
In spite of its magnificent size, over the past century, Lake Okeechobee has been made smaller–around thirty percent smaller– as its shallow waters have been modified for human use–pushed back, tilled, planted, diked, and controlled. Today, it is managed by the South Florida Water Management District and the Army Corp of Engineers. Sprawling sugar fields, the Everglades Agricultural Area, (EAA), canals, highways, telephone poles, train tracks, processing facilities, a FPL power plant, and small cites surround it.
S-308, (the “S” standing for “structure), opens easterly into the St Lucie Canal, also known as C-44, (Canal 44). About twenty miles east is another structure, S-80, at the St Lucie Locks and Dam. It is S-80 that is usually photographed with its “seven gates of hell,” the waters roaring towards the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon, and the City of Stuart, but it is actually S-308 that allows the waters of Lake Okeechobee “in” from the lake in the first place.
Such a fragile looking structure to be the welcome matt of so much destruction…a sliver unto an ocean. So strange…
Today I will share some aerial photos that my husband took on Friday, May 13th, 2016 at about 700 feet above the lake. I asked Ed if from that height he could see the algae bloom so much in the news last week even though over time blooms migrate, “bloom” and then sink into the water column, becoming less visible but still lurking.
“Yes.” He replied.
” It’s harder to see from that altitude, and it depends on the light, but it’s still visible. It’s green in the brown water. The lighting shows were it is. You can see a difference in texture about 100 yards west of S-308. It is not right up against the structure, but further out. Boats are driving through it leaving a trail. It’s appears that is slowly being sucked in to the opening of the S-308 structure , like when you pull the drain out of the sink….”
TC Palm’s Tyler Treadway reported on 5-13-16: “The lake bloom was spread over 33 square miles near Pahokee, the South Florida Water Management District said Thursday. The Florida Department of Health reported Friday the bloom contains the toxin microcystin, but at a level less than half what the World Health Organization says can cause “adverse health impacts” from recreational exposure.”
Pahokee is south and west of Port Maraca and S-308. (Florida Trails)
It’s easier to communicate your message when you have billions of dollars, but it is not a limiting factor if you don’t…
Today, I will share a “Draft Report” from Dr Gary Goforth. This report is a response he has created specifically to U.S. Sugar Corporation’s May 1st full- page ad in the Stuart News entitled: “The Water That Ends Up In Our Local Waterways.”
This is one of multiple full-page ads U.S. Sugar Corporation has run in the local Martin County paper over that past months trying to “educate” our citizenry. Why are they spending so much money doing this? Why all the propaganda? Because they know that though our advocacy for the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon, we are changing the course of human events. For the first time, many people and some important politicians and are looking at South Florida and saying “It needs to be re-plumbed…..”
Dr Goforth (http://garygoforth.net) is no stranger to these water issues, nor to the controversy and ability to manipulate the numbers complicated by the historic and supportive relationship between those doing business in the Everglades Agricultural Area south of the lake and today’s South Florida Water Management District. Thus the intertwined propaganda.
So here we go, each idea is presented on a separate slide. You can click the slide to enlarge if you need to. Thank you Dr Goforth!
Today, I was looking though my family library of photos and saw one from 2005, the year Ed and I got married.
“Boy we looked young,” I thought…”We have really changed…”
Then I noticed these SFWMD nutrient loading maps in the same file, as they were “published” in 2005 as well. These awesome maps were shared by SFWMD’s Boyd Gunsalus, such a helpful and smart person when it comes to water.
These SFWMD maps were very helpful to me when I was first learning about phosphorous and nitrogen loading by basins and Lake Okeechobee. The lake’s cumulative pollution is even higher than the different canals/basins. I would bet these numbers have not changed much. The state’s approach with BMAPS and TMDL’s is to be appreciated but just too slow.
Well, Ed and I have clearly aged and changed… but the maps–I bet if they made new ones for 2005-2016, the numbers would look about the same. I can’t say I’m envious. We are meant to change. To get better.
Maybe a scientist will chime in and let me know???
This year, the Army Corp of Engineers– with input from the South Florida Water Management District, and other stakeholders— has been discharging from Lake Okeechobee into the St Lucie River and southern Indian River Lagoon since January 29th, 2016. Today will review an April update.
We as citizens must pay attention and know what is happening to the river so that we can intelligently fight for its future.
Dr Goforth’s chart above gives a good visual comparison of 2016’s discharges, thus far, compared to those of 1997/98, another El Nino year with fish lesions, fish kills, and toxic algae reports. This chart also compares 2013, our recent “Lost Summer,” when toxic algae blooms filled the river, on and off, for about three out of five dumping months. (–Running May through October, 2013.)
One can see, that Lake Okeechobee’s 2016 discharge amounts are quickly approaching the total numbers released in 2013— although well below those of 1997/98.
Although discharges have been lessened lately, with the Army Corp of Engineers reporting a possible La Nina indications for the 2016 Hurricane season, (4-26-16 ACOE Periodic Scientist Call) considerably more rain could be on the way.
With the lake sitting at 14.29 today, —a high level going into “wet season,” starting June 1st—we should all be watching the situation very closely. Hopefully 2016’s total Lake O release numbers will be nowhere close to 1997/98.
We must continue to advocate hard for a third outlet, and land purchase south of the Lake Okeechobee, as this is the only way to spare our rivers’ repeated total destruction.
Thank you to Dr Goforth for his contribution today.
The following is from an email dated from Dr Gary Goforth on April 26, 2016 including the slide used for today’s blog and others of interest. Click on image to enlarge.
1. Summary of the 2016 Lake discharge event to the St. Lucie River and Estuary.
2. Preliminary Water Year 2016 (May 1, 2015 to March 31, 2016 – missing April 2016) summary, including a. Inflows to Lake Okeechobee by basin, with comparison to last year b. Outflows from Lake Okeechobee by region, with comparison to last year c. Flow diagram for Lake releases, with comparison to last year d. Lake releases to STAs, with comparison to last year e. Nutrient and TSS load from Lake discharges to the St Lucie and Caloosahatchee Estuary f. The graphs are shown for both acre feet and billion gallons
Today I am sharing a “gallery” of discharge photographs from my husband Ed’s flight over Ft Pierce, Sebastian, and Stuart’s St Lucie Inlets. The photos were taken yesterday, March 6th, 2016, around 2pm.
A picture speaks a thousands words…(In this case through about 106 frames.) Yesterday was an absolutely beautiful day, yet area waters estuarine and ocean were not necessarily so. —-Certainly not those surrounding the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon near the St Lucie Inlet.
These aerial photos were taken around 4PM by my husband, Ed Lippisch, this past Sunday, 2-21-16. They show the Lake Okeechobee/area canals’ plume moving south along Jupiter Island over nearshore reefs. There are photos of the exclusive neighborhood, Sailfish Point, at the mouth of the St Lucie Inlet as well.
High levels of Lake Okeechobee and canal discharge water (7000 cfs +/- at S-80) continue to decimate the seagrasses, oysters, fish, and bird life of the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon. Our reef communities and property values are also affected.
Unfortunately, even with unprecedented state and federal actions of the South Florida Water Management District and the Army Corp of Engineers to “move water south” from the Water Conservation Areas to Everglades National Park, there is presently no end in sight for the northern estuaries.
There has to be a better way. “Finishing the projects” is not enough….
Over the weekend at my niece Julia’s lacrosse game I ran into a former fellow commissioner, and long time Martin County resident, Dr Paul Schoppe.
“Hey Jacqui,” he said. “I was just thinking about you…”
“Oh really, ” I replied.
“Yes. I was thinking about you when I went down to my dock and saw a dead Snook floating in the foamy dark water….. What are we doing about this river…..?”
Yesterday, I received a call from a Sewall’s Point resident informing me of a phone call he got from a friend in real estate. The friend was photographing the water at his listing on the St Lucie River and forwarding the photos saying: “I hope the buyers don’t cancel when they see the water. They are doing their walk through today.”
At Publix, that evening, I ran into an old-timer of Stuart. He said to me: “Jacqui of course there have been releases from the lake for years…the difference now is that the water is so polluted….”
Today I am sharing in full Dr Gary Goforth’s ( http://garygoforth.net/resume.htm) note and summary of Lake Okeechobee releases for 2016 compared to 2013 and the last big El Nino event (1997-1998) as presented to Martin County. Please click on slides for larger view and thank you Dr Goforth for helping us with the numbers.
From the desk of Dr Gary Goforth regarding slide presentation:
1. More than 113,000 acre feet (36.9 billion gallons) of Lake water (“blackwater”) has been dumped to the River/Estuary during the first 20 days of the 2016 Lake releases; this is equal to 27% of the entire 147-day 2013 event, and 11% of the 1998 event.
2. The 2016 average daily rate of Lake releases is slightly less than the average 1998 rate, and more than twice the 2013 rate.
3. A distinguishing feature of the 2016 event is exceptionally high rates of C-44 Basin runoff in combination with the high Lake releases.
4. The 2016 average daily C-44 Basin runoff rate is 4 times the runoff rate of 1998, and more than twice the 2013 rate.
5. The 2016 average daily rate of combined flows through S-80 is more than the 1998 rate, and more than twice the 2013 rate.
6. The 2016 maximum daily rate of combined flows through S-80 is less than the 1998 maximum flow, but more than the 2013 maximum flow.
7. The 2016 Lake releases have already contributed more than twice the annual TMDL for phosphorus and nitrogen.
2016 data are preliminary and subject to revision.
I was on the IRL yesterday and travelled from the St. Lucie Inlet to the Ft. Pierce inlet – I saw no pockets of clear water and visibility was only 6 inches – 18 inches. I can’t imagine the sea grasses are getting any sunlight; I certainly didn’t see any sea grasses from the surface.
Notes: 1. More than 113,000 acre feet (36.9 billion gallons) of Lake water (“blackwater”) has been dumped to the River/Estuary during the first 20 days of the 2016 Lake releases; this is equal to 27% of the entire 2013 releases, and 11% of the 1997-1998 event. 2. The 2016 average daily rate of Lake releases is slightly less than the average 1998 rate, and more than twice the 2013 rate. 3. The 2016 average daily C-44 Basin runoff rate is 4 times the runoff rate of 1998, and more than twice the 2013 rate. 4. The 2016 average daily rate of combined flows through S-80 is more than the 1998 rate, and more than twice the 2013 rate. 5. The 2016 maximum daily rate of combined flows through S-80 is less than the 1998 maximum flow, but more than the 2013 maximum flow. 6. The 2016 Lake releases have contributed more than twice the annual TMDL for phosphorus and nitrogen. 7. 2016 data are preliminary and subject to revision.
“—Here it is graphically vs 2013 – The year of ‘The Lost Summer.’ As you can see, as we approach 75 billion gallons we are already one-third of the way to the amount released in of all of 2013. It took us until July 30, 2013 to accumulate 75 billion gallons of discharges in that year.” —-Todd Thurlow(http://www.thurlowpa.com)
Today I am sharing numbers from my brother, and photos from my husband. Documenting the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon is a family effort. I am very fortunate to have such help.
The St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon is not so fortunate. Right now as you can see from the two slides above, the cumulative discharges into the rivers are already one-third the total amount released by the ACOE/SFWMD into the estuary during 2013’s “Lost Summer.” We are experiencing another complete ecological disaster and rainy season doesn’t even begin until June 1st…
Sometimes I am speechless… Sometimes my eyes swell with tears thinking about all this and the sun hasn’t even risen….but I take a deep breath and know my duty.
We will not give up. We will shine a light on this issue for all the world to see; and for us to change. And we will.
Just last year, Florida Realtors, “The Voice for Real Estate in Florida,” published a final report on the impacts of water quality on Florida’s home values. “March 2015 Final Report.”
The first page of the executive summary states:
“There has long been a belief that there is a connection between home values and the quality and clarity of Florida waterways. The objective of this study was to determine whether that belief is in fact true.
We examined the impact of water quality and clarity on the sale prices of homes in Martin and Lee counties over a four-year period, from 2010-2013. What was clearly found was that the ongoing problem of polluted water in the Caloosahatchee and St Lucie rivers has indeed resulted in a negative impact on home values.
In addition, the study found a significant economic impacts resulting from improved water quality and clarity. Lee County’s aggregate property values increase by an estimated $541 million while Marin County’s aggregate property values increase by an estimated $428 million. These increased property values also provide additional revenue for city and county governments.”
Unfortunately this report, very much like the University of Florida Report, was basically ignored by the South Florida Water Management District and the state legislature when speakers came before them last year using this document and asking for relief.
As we enter yet another long summer of water pollution, may we re-familiarize ourselves with this report; we are going need to reference it again. Even though this is certainly “common sense,” it helps to have the formal report in hand when speaking.
Here is the full document for your reference. Reading through you will see the story of Lake Okeechobee’s worsening polluting discharges and our property values’ decline.
The idiomatic expression “death by a thousand cuts” has been used by many people in many situations…but the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon is the expression’s poster child…
Idiom: Death of a thousand cuts Idiom Definitions for ‘Death of a thousand cuts’
“If something is suffering the death of a thousand cuts, or death by a thousand cuts, lots of bad things are happening, none of which are fatal in themselves, but which add up to a slow and painful demise.”
The St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon has been dying, has been “being killed” by our local, state, and federal governments since before I was born. Since the 1940s when the 1915 “slice” between Lake Okeechobee and the South Fork of the St Lucie River was deepened, widened and made permanent by the ACOE as requested by a state protecting agriculture and development interests.
Does this make it “right?” —That it has been happening for so long? Does this mean we should have nothing to say about the present very high level discharges killing our estuary? Absolutely not.
As in most instances righting cultural wrongs takes time. It takes many years of pain and realization. And then it takes people rising up for change.—- It takes bravery, determination, and exposure.
For instance, it wasn’t until the first TV stations in the 1960s showed black Americans displaying non-violence in the face of attack dogs and beatings; it wasn’t until a few brave women spoke out publicly and were arrested as displayed in the first newspapers of the day that these hundred year old issues began to change.
For Florida, we are that new issue. Our river is that “new issue.” Without the advent of social media and Go Pros allowing a pilot, like my husband Ed, to attach a camera to his plane and share formerly unseen images with the world, the cuts of Lake Okeechobee and area canal discharges at S-80 would happen again and again and again. But since 2013 images have been shared, social media has ripped through the hearts of people who want something different. Not just here but on the west coast and all across our state. The River Warriors, the Rivers Coalition and thousands of others have stood up. We are primed to do this again but even more effectively. Film it. Share it. Expose it.
The SFWMD chart below, found by my brother Todd, shows the Lake Okeechobee and C-44 area canal releases from Structure-80 displayed from 1955-2015. Dr Gary Goforth has shown us in a blog I wrote in 2013 that in the 1920s the release levels were even higher. We can see the destructive releases have happened many times at horrific levels. They are going down. Now they must stop.
These red lines are the historic destruction that is driving our actions today. Each line a new cut causing a weaker estuary. ——-We are the chosen generation to change this. We are the chosen generation to save the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon.
Yesterday, after the vocal encouragement of the River Warriors and others our Martin County Commission unanimously voted to send a resolution to Governor Scott asking for a “State of Emergency.”
In my opinion, this means that not some, but every commissioner must support the purchase of land south of Lake Okeechobee. Because the propaganda of “finishing the projects” as the answer— just isn’t going to cut it.
It is important to know how to “speak the language” of the ACOE and SFWMD.
The St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon is once again under siege. The Army Corp of Engineers and the South Florida Water Management District are doing the will of the reigning powers and discharging tremendous amounts of water and pollutants from Lake Okeechobee and altered surrounding lands (basins) into the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon.
We must learn how to interpret this destruction and how to use their language of “cubic feet per second,” (cfs), when talking about discharge amounts from Lake Okeechobee and area canals into the SLR/IRL.
I am not good at this interpretation, but someone I know is….
As in most families, each chid in my family was born with different talents. My brother, Todd Thurlow, got all the number and sharp analytical skills that I did not. I am very thankful to him for helping with my St Lucie/Indian River Lagoon educational efforts.
Todd has created a VERY EASY way to convert cubic feet per second (the language of the ACOE/SFWMD discharges) into gallons. All you have to do is click on this link below and put in the numbers. Seriously.
For instance if you click on the link today, it will show that S-80 is last reported to be releasing approximately 6800 (cfs) cubic per second, down from just under 7600. Just enter 6800 in the top box and it will be converted to 1. gallons per second; 2. gallons per day; and 3. “olympic size swimming pools” (in honor of Stuart News reporter Tyler Treadway’s common example for communicating with the public.)
Go to this link now, and try it! You will be amazed at how east this is. To win this war, we must be able to speak “their” language and to understand.
Click on chart below to get started. Save the link to have it handy for this year. It is going to be a difficult one and we are going to need to know what we are talking about in order to negotiate and to communicate.
After much controversy, today the South Florida Water Management District has halted its recent “backpumping.”
“Backpumping” —kind of an odd word isn’t it? What does it mean? And why in spite of multiple law suits, some changes, appeals, and “back and forths” on what is allowed is it still going on?
Basically, in reference to Lake Okeechobee, backpumping means that water that would normally be flowing south is pumped north—Pumped back into Lake Okeechobee to keep it out of the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA).(https://nicholas.duke.edu/wetland/eaa.htm)
The satellite/GIS image below gives one an idea. This image is from 2005, also a rainy year. Through this satellite image shared by the Captiva Conservation Organization one can see how the EAA remained dry(er) and yet southern and central parts of the state are wet. This is basically what the EAA is trying to achieve now.
My explanation and example is certainly oversimplified but gives an idea to those who may not quite understand all the controversy surrounding backpumping.
Many do know that when Lake Okeechobee is “too high” the ACOE and SFWMD work together to dump the water into the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon and the Caloosahatchee estuaries usually with devastating effects. Thus locals are protesting again.
So why does the ACOE and SFWMD dump?
People, property, and farmlands are south of the lake. In 1926 and 1928 there were horrific hurricanes that killed thousands of people and destroyed property. We live in fear of this happening again, and oh yes, we need those sugar fields dry…don’t we?
So what is the answer for not destroying the estuaries and not flooding Bell Glade and other communities south of Lake Okeechobee?
That is for the experts to work on, and the “we, the people” to encourage….
One thing is for sure, there has to be a better way. We must have vision.
Please note this correction to this blog post from Mark Perry. My post originally read under the first and second photos: “An “S” structure south of Lake Okeechobee as seen on flight to Clewiston passing Bell Glade. (Photo JTL, pilot Shawn Engebretsen 2014). These structures can pump forward (downhill) into the EAA to water fields or backwards (up hill) into Lake O when there is “too much” water.”–These pumps can work in both directions.”
Mark Perry, Florida Oceanographic, kindly corrected my mistake and I am thankful for the correction. We all learn from each other as we try to understand things. Thank you Mark!
Thanks for you post of “Backpumping 101” but I need to offer a correction.
Below your aerial photo of the S2 pump station you stated that “These pumps can work in both directions”. This is incorrect as the S2 and S3 pumps only go in ONE DIRECTION, from the EAA canals INTO the Lake. The gate structures next to the pumps (S-351 & S-354) can flow both ways depending on which side has higher water elevation. (See Attached Photo- Note Blue Arrows for flow). As of yesterday, 1-31-16, the Lake was at 16.16 feet and the canals were at 11.11 feet (at S-354see below) so if the gates were opened, the water would flow from the Lake into the canals that is why they are keeping them closed. You can see the pump flows in cfs for S3 (745) and S2 (856) as of yesterday.
The ACOE and South Florida Water Management District are scrambling….they will have to start dumping from the lake and the local basin runoff is exceeding targets ….But is all the runoff into the C-44 really from a local basin? No it’s not.
Let’s drill down a bit.
The ACOE’s recent press release reads:
“FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Corps to increase flows from Lake Okeechobee
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Jacksonville District intends to release
more water from Lake Okeechobee starting this weekend as it continues to
manage the lake level in the midst of El Nino conditions.
Starting Friday (Jan. 29), the new target flow for the Caloosahatchee
Estuary will average 2,800 cubic feet per second (cfs) over seven days as
measured at W.P. Franklin Lock (S-79) near Fort Myers. The new target flow
for the St. Lucie Estuary is a seven-day average of 1,170 cfs as measured at
St. Lucie Lock (S-80) near Stuart. However, runoff from rain in the Caloosahatchee or the St. Lucie basins could occasionally result in flows
that exceed targets as the water passes through the spillway gates at the
Franklin or St. Lucie structures…”
What we have to remember is that the “basin,” the lands that water runs off of into the St Lucie River has been altered by agriculture and development ….so to call “all the water” going into the St Lucie its own basin water is really misleading and not respectful of history….
Let’s look at S-153 for instance, a spillway that is presently dumping approximately 1.2 billion gallons into the C-44 which then goes into the St Lucie River. If man had not altered this area, much of this water would naturally be flowing back into the lake…so again we really should not refer to it as “basin runoff” that belongs to the St Lucie River. Today large portions of this area are agriculture fields and an FPL energy plant so the run off water of this area has been redirected from the lake to us.
Let’s reflect for a moment on this information from my brother Todd:
According to my C-44 page the gates at the locks are up 2ft and dumping 4451cfs which equals 2.8 billion gallons per day.
Nothing is coming from the lake so they will say that this is all local runoff because S-308 at Port Mayaca is at 0? That S-153 spillway is dumping 1.2 billion into C-44. It seems to pull water west of Indiantown that would have otherwise gone into the lake not to the St. Lucie?
Todd of course is right. And 1.2 billion gallons of extra fertilized, dirty water is worth noting. Don’t you think? The least they could do is filter it!
Todd and I will look into this further with historic maps of the old creek and ridge system prior to development and how the water historically flowed prior to S-153 flows, etc—– but for now, let’s not entirely be sold “up the creek,” by believing the all this water is “local” basin runoff.
There are only a handful of people who are qualified to help us navigate the turbulent and murky waters of Lake Okeechobee and its effects on our beloved St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon….
One of these rare individuals is Dr Gary Goforth. “Gary” has more than 30 years of experience in water resources engineering, encompassing strategic planning, design, permitting, construction, operation and program management.
For the last 25 years, his focus has been on large-scale environmental restoration programs in the Kissimmee-Okeechobee-Everglades ecosystem. He was the Chief Consulting Engineer during the design, construction and operation of the $700 million Everglades Construction Project, containing over 41,000 acres of constructed wetlands.
With all this experience Gary spends a tremendous amount of time at River Coalition and SFWMD meetings, and with every day people, advocating to local, state, and national officials telling the story in a manner that the average person can understand but with the power and expertise of a scientist.
Dr Goforth teaches us that we CAN HOLD THE ACOE, AND ESPECIALLY THE SOUTH FLORIDA WATER MANAGEMENT DISTRICT ACCOUNTABLE.
We can ask such questions as “are you sending the maximum practicable amount of water south?” “Is it 28% more than in 1994 as required by the Everglades Forever Act?” ” Is an average per year of 250,000 acre feet going south from the lake to the Everglades as required by the Everglades Forever Act?” “Are the Storm Water Treatment Areas being used to full capacity?” “Is the truth of the destruction of the estuaries being reported?” “Should 2008 LORS, Lake Okeechobee Regulation Schedule, been revised?” “Should the Everglades Settlement’s Q-Bell (limit of Phosphorus) be reviewed-is it realistic?” “Is a large reservoir being created in the Everglades Agricultural Area as is called for in the Central Everglades Restoration Plan?” “Who are the Lake and the STAs really serving?”
In order to hold the agencies accountable we must be educated! We must ask questions. We must look at the figures for water flowing south of the lake every year and compare.
Dr Goforth provides regular public updates on these issues, directly and indirectly holding the fire to the agencies. Today I am publishing in full his DRAFT–WET SEASON 2015 LAKE DISCHARGE report.
Please read it, study it, familiarize yourself with it. Dr Goforth has a website if you have any questions. Thank you Dr Goforth for the gift of shared knowledge. It is the greatest gift of all.
Draft – Wet Season 2015 Lake Discharges by Dr Gary Goforth:
Goforth – December 18, 2015
Flows into and out of Lake Okeechobee were examined for the period May 1, 2015 – October 31, 2015, corresponding to the first half of the annual water year (May 2015 to April 2016), and roughly corresponding to the south Florida wet season. The flows and associated Lake water levels were compared to same period from last year. In light of the influence of the current strong El Nino, Lake water levels were compared to the levels that occurred during May- November 1997 which preceded over 1 million acre feet (347 billion gallons) of destructive Lake releases to the St. Lucie Estuary between December 1997 and May 1998.
Flows into Lake Okeechobee – excluding rainfall. For the period May 1 to October 31, 2015, surface inflows to Lake Okeechobee amounted to 1.43 million acre feet (466 billion gallons) (Table 1). This is 20 percent less than for the same period in 2014 (Table 2 and Figure 1).
Flows out of Lake Okeechobee – excluding evapotranspiration. For the period May 1 to October 31, 2015, surface outflows from Lake Okeechobee amounted to 780,000 acre feet (254 billion gallons) (Table 3). This is 37 percent more than for the same period in 2014 (Table 4 and Figure 2). Approximately 30 percent more Lake water was sent to the EAA and L-8 Canals during 2015 than 2014, likely in response to higher water supply demands (due to lower rainfall than in 2014).
Lake Okeechobee water levels. The level of Lake Okeechobee varied from 13.81 ft on May 1 to 14.55 ft on October 31, 2015, reaching a low level of 11.96 ft on July 16 (Figure 3). For 2014, the level of Lake Okeechobee varied from 13.07 ft on May 1 to 15.85 ft on October 31, reaching a low level of 12.32 ft on June 11. Lake water levels rose only 0.74 feet during the 2015 wet season compared with a rise of 2.78 ft during the same period in 2014. The Lake level on October 31, 2015 was approximately 1.3 ft lower than it was a year earlier, and approximately 0.5 ft lower than October 31, 1997 (Figure 4). In addition, the Lake level on November 30, 2015 was approximately 1 ft lower than it was on November 30, 1997, which preceded over 1 million acre feet (347 billion gallons) of destructive Lake releases to the St. Lucie Estuary between December 1997 and May 1998. Two important differences between 1997 and today that could influence Lake discharges to the estuary include rainfall over the Lake Okeechobee watershed and the regulation schedules governing Lake operations. According to the South Florida Water Management District (District), November 2015 was the wettest November since 1998, indicating inflows to the Lake over the next month may be substantially larger than average. Additionally, the Lake is currently operated under the LORS2008 schedule which was anticipated to result in increased frequency and magnitude of Lake releases to the estuaries compared to the regulation schedule in place during 1997-1998.
Lake flows to the STAs. Beginning in August 2015, the District began operating the EAA A-1 Flow Equalization Basin (FEB), which is approximately 15,000 acres in size and can store water up to 4 feet deep. The FEB can receive Lake releases and EAA runoff, and distribute flows either to STA-2, STA-3/4 or to the EAA for irrigation. At this time incomplete flow records are available to the public through the District’s DBHYDRO database to fully account for the various flow paths, and until additional data are available, the estimates of Lake releases and runoff to STA-2 and STA-3/4 will be subject to revision. Using these preliminary estimates, approximately 13 percent less Lake water has been sent to the STAs in 2015 compared with 2014 (Figures 5 and 6 and Table 5). During the same period, approximately 32 percent less basin runoff was sent to the STAs, reflecting less wet season rainfall in 2015.
Flows to the estuaries. Lower rainfall in 2015 resulted in less basin runoff to the estuaries for the period May to October than occurred in 2014 (Table 6). However, due to the Lake releases that occurred during January through May 2015, Lake discharges to the estuaries in 2015 far exceeded Lake releases during 2014.
SUMMARY. Lower rainfall during the May to October 2015 period resulted in about 20 percent less inflows to Lake Okeechobee than in 2014. However, outflows from the Lake increased compared to 2014, likely in response to higher water supply demands (due to lower rainfall than in 2014). Lake water levels rose only 0.74 feet during the 2015 wet season compared with a rise of 2.78 ft during the same period in 2014. The Lake level at the end of October 2015 was about 1.3 ft lower than in 2014. In addition, the Lake level on November 30, 2015 was approximately 1 ft lower than it was on the same date on November 30, 1997, which preceded over 1 million acre feet (347 billion gallons) of destructive Lake releases to the St. Lucie Estuary between December 1997 and May 1998. However, differences in rainfall and Lake regulation schedules prevent a forecast of potential 2016 Lake discharges compared to the 1997-1998 discharges to the estuaries based on Lake levels at the end of November.
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.
Art has always been political. It is by nature. It makes us think. It makes us feel—whether we want to or not. Our reaction to art is ancient and deeply programmed into our innermost being….
Today, I say “Kudos!” to 10-year-old Aiden Serafica, a student at Lynn Barletta’s “Visionary School of the Arts,” in Stuart. As you probably know, the school is doing a wide range of amazing things with area youth. (http://www.visionaryschoolof-arts.org)
So this past Sunday, I was at Carson’s Tavern having dinner with my husband, Ed, and friends Anne and Peter Schmidt, when an adorable ten-year old boy walks up to me and says: “My grandmother told me I should show you this…”—he was smiling from ear to ear! He reaches out and shows me a phone, and this is what I saw: