Tag Archives: St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon

Twilight Flight Over the St Lucie River, SLR/IRL

Last night’s twilight flight was a first for me, but not for my husband Ed. Usually, we fly in daylight chasing algae blooms or black Lake Okeechobee water…

Last night was just for fun, but one still feels the pull to protect this sacred place.

The beauty of the lands lighting up beneath us was almost as inspiring as the sunset. Humanity, such promise.

We do live in a beautiful place. A place to protect and call home…

Aerials of Our Rain Stained Lagoon, SLR/IRL

Recently, it seems to rain almost every day!

TCPalm’s Elliott Jones reported this morning that Stuart has received a whopping 11.30 inches of rain just so far this month! (The average being 7.14.)

Although due to the recent drought, the ACOE/SFWMD are not dumping Lake Okeechobee through Canal C-44, canals C-23, C-24, C-25, and areas along C-44, as well as our own basin, are draining right into the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon. Very little of this water is cleansed before it enters and thus is damaging to the eco system. Next time you see water draining through a grate in a parking lot, think about this. Remember too that before the major canals were constructed the 1900s, the river received less than half the water it gets every time it rains today.

SLR at “Hell’s Gate” looking at Sewall’s Point, Sailfish Point and the St Luice Inlet
photo drainage basin
Drainage changes to the SLR. Green is the original watershed. Yellow and pink have been added since ca.1920. (St Lucie River Initiative’s Report to Congress 1994.)

The aerials below were taken 6-13-17 by my husband Ed Lippisch and pilot Dave Stone. It is important to monitor the river all of the time so we can view changes.

“Rain stained” we are; please remember not to fertilize during the rainy season. The birds on Bird Island will appreciate it! (http://befloridian.org)


TC Palm, Elliott Jones, 6-19-17
Bird Island, IRL east of Sewall’s Point
Bird Island
IRL St Lucie Inlet and Sailfish Point
Sailfish Flats, IRL
Crossroads, confluence SLR/IRL off Sewall’s Point
Spoil Island off Sailfish, bird also roosting here!
Sick looking seagrass beds in IRL looking south towards Jupiter Narrows
SL Inlet near Sailfish Point, no black plume but darker colored waters
Jupiter Island’s state park at St Lucie Inlet
Sailfish Point
St Lucie Inlet looking south
inlet again
Clear ocean water at jetty, St Lucie Inlet
Looking back to St Lucie Inlet mixed colored waters but not black as with Lake O water releases
St Lucie Inlet between Jupiter Island’s state park and Sailfish Point
inlet again
Looking north to SL Inlet
Hutchinson Island and Sailfish Flats in IRL. Sewall’s Point in distance.
Parts of the Savannas near Jensen , IRL and Hutchinson Island in distance
Savannas State Preserve Park

Canals draining water into SLR/IRL after rain events:

C-23 http://www.dep.state.fl.us/southeast/ecosum/ecosums/c23.pdf

C-24 http://www.dep.state.fl.us/southeast/ecosum/ecosums/c24.pdf

C-25 http://www.dep.state.fl.us/southeast/ecosum/ecosums/c-25.pdf

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

Road Trip to the Glades, Canal Point, SLR/IRL

My “Road Trip to the Glades” series is meant to be an experience of exploration. Exploration into a world many of us from the Coast have not seen. It is my hope that through learning about the Glades communities we can forge insights and hopefully friendships that assist us in our journey for a solution to Lake O’s discharges, Senate President Elect Joe Negron’s land purchase proposal for 2017, and a restored Everglades including a healthy St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon.

At this point, as river advocates, we must make clear that we wish to attain these things, not at the expense of the communities of Lake Okeechobee. The best way to begin this conversation is to educate and visit there ourselves, because yes, #GladesLivesMatter.

We begin first our journey driving west from Stuart on Kanner Highway, named for Judge A.O. Kanner. “A.O.” had an accomplished legal and legislative career, and in 1925 was chosen to move to Martin County by longtime friend and colleague, Governor Martin, to get newly founded Martin County “off to a good start.” A note of interest is that “Abram” and his wife Mary were one of Martin County’s few Jewish families.  At the time,  Jews were not allowed to buy in certain subdivisions. But thankfully Kanner was embraced by the Martin County community, and became one of its most respected citizens. He lived in Stuart until his death in 1967. As a legislator, Kanner fought for roads. State Road 76, was the result of his effort to get good roads to the Glades. It is on his legacy that we will drive forward.


FullSizeRender 2.jpgDriving west about twenty miles outside of Stuart, we pass Indiantown. We see train tracks, agricultural fields, and wonderful open natural lands such as DuPuis Wildlife Area. All the while the C-44 canal is to our right. An eagle flies overhead. The blue and white clouded sky seems bigger here.

Just a few miles before reaching the Lake we see the looming Port Mayaca Cemetery. In this cemetery are buried in a mass grave 1600 of the 3000 dead from the horrific 1928 Hurricane. A stark reminder of the past, the power of Mother Nature, and how we live dangerously so in a drained swamp. There are graves of others not associated with the hurricane too. Old families. People whose blood and sweat laid the ground for South Florida’s development.  Many of the family plots go back to the 1800s. IMG_6492.JPGIMG_6496.JPG

Getting back into the car and back on Kanner Highway, we drive past sod farms and sugarcane fields. King Ranch has a sign with their brand atop. After about 10 minutes, slowly and with caution we approach Port Mayaca. It is impossible to see Lake Okeechobee herself as a gigantic berm and structure surround her. We do see the ACOE’s S-308, the structure that allows water to enter the C-44 from Lake Okeechobee that eventually flows and destroys the St Lucie River. Strangely, we notice an “advisory” blue-green algae sign prominently displayed while at least four people are fishing in the canal. IMG_6432.JPGIMG_6437.JPGPulling onto the once famous toll road of Connors Highway and going south, we see the berm of Lake Okeechobee. We leave Martin and enter Palm Beach County. Large trucks fill the road. It is nerve-wracking but exciting. Some beautiful old homes stand amoungst thickets of royal palms and tropical vegetation. Roses and honey are for sale if one has the nerve to pull over. IMG_6440.JPG

After about twelve miles we reach Canal Point. Canal Point is not incorporated, but part of Palm Beach County. At this location is S-352 built in 1917, today’s SFWMD’s structure allowing water into the West Palm Beach Canal, Water Conservation Area 1, as well as being used for irrigation.

We take a sharp turn into the Canal Point Recreation Area praying not to get rear ended. Here we can drive on top of the dike and take a look at Lake Okeechobee and across the street. Fishermen fish near the structure. An alligator waits nearby. It’s nice to see some wildlife.

IMG_6448.JPGIMG_6449.jpg IMG_6462.JPGIMG_6459.JPGIMG_6456.JPGIMG_6450.JPGIMG_6471.jpg

A beautiful Baptist church stands among tidy homes. A U.S.Department of Agriculture Research Service Sugarcane Station also sits along the Connor Highway that hugs the lake not too far from S-352.


Sugarcane fields
Connors Hwy. allowed the Glades to develp
Homes with dike in background


Canal Point has about 525 people and the town is very small located between Lake Okeechobee and sugarcane fields.  From what we can see there is also a post office, one elementary school, and a store. Larger, Pahokee is just a few miles away.

This little town has a rich and important history. In the coming days we will learn about Canal Point’s mark on the Northern Everglades of which we are part.


Judge A.O. Kanner: http://historicpalmbeach.blog.palmbeachpost.com/1999/12/19/most-respected-judge-of-the-treasure-coast-ao-kanner-nov-2-1893-april-13-1967/

Dupuis Wildlife and Management Area: http://myfwc.com/viewing/recreation/wmas/cooperative/dupuis

Canal Point: http://canalpointfl.com

USDA Sugarcane Field Station Canal Point: https://www.ars.usda.gov/southeast-area/canal-point-fl/sugarcane-field-station/

“Death by a Thousand Cuts,” Time to Stop the Bleeding, St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon

SLR/IRL St Lucie Inlet 207-16 by Ed Lippisch.
SLR/IRL St Lucie Inlet 2-7-16 by Ed Lippisch.
SFWMD canal and basin map. C-44 canal is the canal most southerly in the image.
SFWMD canal and basin map. C-44’s S-80  is the canal most southerly in the image.
SFWMD 1955-2015 discharges at S-80.
SFWMD 1955-2015 history of discharges at S-80.

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.

River Warriors protesting before the MCBOCC 7-9-16. Photo JTL.
River Warriors protesting before the MCBOCC 7-9-16. Photo JTL.
SFWMD 1955-2015 discharges at S-80.
SFWMD 1955-2015 discharges at S-80.
With SFWMD info on bottom
With SFWMD info on bottom of slide.
Plume, Ed Lippisch 2016
Plume, Ed Lippisch 2-7-16.
SL Inlet
SL Inlet, 2-7-16, Ed Lippisch.
Plume, Sailfish Flats discharges, photo Ed Lippisch 2016.
Plume, Sailfish Flats discharges, photo 2-7-16 Ed Lippisch 2016.

Glimpses of Cuba Two Generations Apart, St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon

Ed and I at a bus stop for tourists east of Havana.
Ed and I at a bus stop for tourists east of Havana.
A new bridge. Wild royal palms were scattered across the hilly horizon.
A new bridge at the tourist stop. Wild royal palms were scattered across the hilly horizon. The ocean to the east…

It has been awhile since I have blogged; a lot has happened. I think I’ll start with Cuba.

One of the stories my father relays to me with great relish is his 1954 Stuart High School senior trip to Havana, Cuba. Can you imagine that? A senior trip to Cuba? My dad grew up on Riverside Drive in Stuart, Florida, in the 1950s, on the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon.

With a broad smile and sparkling eyes, he tells of magnificent buildings, music, art, restaurants, and night clubs around Port of Havana, and having “lots of fun.” “In fact one of the students had so much fun, he was sent back to Stuart!” My dad laughs out loud, with thoughts of the “good old days.”

My father’s Stuart High School class traveled with chaperones before Fidel Castro’s 1958 rise to power over Batista and later the embargo and tumultuous history that the world has watched unfold for over a half century.

My husband, Ed and I, traveled for a very different reason during a very different time. Two weeks ago we left on a journey with the Episcopal Diocese of South East Florida and we were classified by the government as”pilgrims.”

Stuart High School senior trip 1954. My father, Tom Thurlow, is standing in the back row far right.
Stuart High School senior trip 1954. My father, Tom Thurlow, is standing in the back row one from far right.

Our journey was led by Bishop Leo Frade of Miami and his wife.

The trip took about fifty people, including other priests, to Havana, Cardenas, Lemonar, Bolondron, Metanzas and back again to Havana. We visited churches that were rebuilding since the communist government allowed them in the 1990s to once again worship. They have few resources but great spirit.

Group in Old Havana square.

It was a great education for me. If I had to describe the experience in one sentence I would say: “Government is corrupt, not its people.”

To see the smiles and hear the appreciation of those we met along the way, to think about all they have endured, to realize more than ever before how much I take for granted.

I have visited  poor countries before. I lived and taught in Berlin, Germany in 1990 just after the Berlin Wall came down and East Germany was emerging from the brace of communism…I think what was so different for me about Cuba, is that it is so close to home and I know some people who lost everything.  Also, the flight took less than an hour. Cuba’s climate is much like Florida; it is geologically considered part of North America.

Although most of the buildings were falling apart, it is a beautiful, beautiful country…So here are some photos. May the next generation of Thurlows see something better, but may the smiles and the warm spirits of the Cuban people stay the same.

With our guide.
With our guide.
Church in Limonar
…Limonar’s church.
…..There was no roof.
….The priests.
…School kids in uniform. Cuba is highly literate.
…Old American cars still running…
Sugarcane has a long history in Cuba that is very ties to the U.S.
Sugarcane has a long history in Cuba and  is very tied to South Florida in the U.S.
…Fixing up old buildings


Last night dad and I take out his souvenirs from his 1954 senior trip to Cuba.
Last night my Dad and I took out the souvenirs from his 1954 senior trip to Cuba.
School bus from 1954 senior trip.
Photograph my dad saved of the school bus taken from Stuart to Miami in 1954.

Cuba: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cuba

Flight Over the Shifting Inlets of Hutchinson Island 1515-1900, St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon

Hutchinson Island 1947, via archives of Sandra Henderson Thurlow.
From bottom  to top: Atlantic Ocean, Hutchinson Island, Indian River Lagoon, Sewall’s Point, St Lucie River, Stuart…1947. One notes here Hutchinson Island– so thin… (Fairchild aerial survey ca. 1940s-photo courtesy of Sandra H. Thurlow)
My mother's business card shows a map with the St Lucie Inlet right across from mid S. Sewall's Point. This area is not an inlet today as it was in the 1800s. (Sandra Thurlow)
Look closely–My mother’s business card shows an historic map of the mid 1800s with an Inlet across from Sewall’s Point at today’s A1A and SP Road. This area is not an inlet today as it was in the 1800s. (Sandra H. Thurlow)

Inlets, the shifting sands of time on our barrier islands. Fascinating, and a reminder of the power of Nature and the limited control of human endeavors….

Recently I looked closely at my mother’s business card and asked “Why is the St Lucie Inlet so far north?” Looking closely one can see it once was located midway across from South Sewall’s Point. “It looks like it was there, because at that time, it was,” she replied.

Such is the matter-a-factness of coastal change…

Today, I am going to feature one of my brother Todd’s amazing flight videos incorporating historic maps and today’s Google images to show the changing sands of time, our barrier islands, in a way you may never have seen before. Todd has a talent for this rare communication format and he will be teaching us more before the end of the year!

This is his write up”

This video is a time capsule review of the inlet of Hutchinson island that appeared on maps between 1515 and 1900.  It is a rough draft of a larger project that I wasn’t going to post yet.  I planned to drop the music and break it down into 5 shorter videos which were kind of the chapters of the long one: 1.  1515 to 1871 Freducci, Jeffreys and Romans 2.  St. Lucie Sound 1763 to 1834 – 5 maps 3.  Gilbert’s Bar 1850 to 1861 – 4 survey maps 4.  Hurricanes and The Gap 1871 to 1882 – hurricane tracks and 2 maps 5.  Digging the St. Lucie Inlet 1887 to 1900 – 2 maps   I believe there was an inlet, referred to on the old maps as “The Gap”, that reappeared in the mid 1800s.  It was in the general area of today’s Florida Oceanographic Society and probably opened and closed many times like the other inlets.  Coincidentally the area was struck by back-to-back Cat 2 and Cat 3 hurricanes around that time (sound familiar?).  “The Gap”  will be the topic of another project the I would like to post some day on Jonathan Dickinson because I believe that it could be described in his journal.   I will update this summary later… Todd Thurlow

Don’t lean too far out of the airplane; enjoy!


Link to video: (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZhYQz4P1ELM&feature=youtu.be)

Todd Thurlow PA: (http://www.thurlowpa.com)

FCIT Changing Coastlines, Florida: (http://fcit.usf.edu/florida/teacher/science/mod2/changing.coastlines.html)