Tag Archives: storage

Avoiding the Perfect Toxic Algae Storm in the St Lucie River/IRL

LC80150412016264LGN00 - Crop 2.jpg
Lake Okeechobee Landsat 8 satellite image shows as clear lake, 9/22/16.

http://www.thurlowpa.com/LakeOImagery/Landsat%2030m%20Resolution/index.html#LE70150412016256EDC01%2520-%2520Crop.

Click to see recent satellite images of Lake Okeechobee and algae-full images from this summer: http://www.thurlowpa.com/LakeOImagery/ (Compiled by Todd Thurlow)

 

I am lucky to know a lot of people who are smarter than me. And one of them is my brother. Ever since we were kids Todd read meteorological books or the Guinness Book of World Records. He likes data.  Today, over forty years later, he is helping me apply his knowledge of data to the St Luce River/Indian River Lagoon.

If you are a regular blog reader, you know that this past summer Todd helped publicly identify what became a 240 square mile algae bloom in Lake Okeechobee that was being released into the C-44 causing our river to become toxic. Today, I will share his ideas on avoiding the perfect toxic algae storm.

Here is a photo of Todd and I when we were young in the 70s, when the river was in better shape and we were having fun fishing on Ronnie Nelson’s dock on Hutchinson Island.001 (485).jpg

Here is a photo of Todd and me today. As you can see we have changed a lot and the river has changed too…

IMG_3163 - Version 2.JPG

So recently, this Friday when the Army Corp increased releases to the St Lucie Estuary I wrote Todd. (Press release: http://www.saj.usace.army.mil/Media/News-Releases/Article/952594/lake-okeechobee-flows-to-increase/)
I think the exchange is insightful so I am going to share:

Jacqui: “Todd, how does the lake look? ”

Todd: “Clear. I have been posting every 8 days.

After studying these satellite aerials for a while, I can tell that the blooms are definitely related to sunlight and wind..Our scientists friends would sarcastically say, “no kidding?!”

High pressure system -> a lot of sunlight + no wind = bloom. Clouds + wind = less algae.

The fresh water, phosphorus and nitrogen are always in the lake, but not necessarily the river. Luckily, cloudless days are also the perfect time to spot the algae by satellite.

Maybe the ACOE  should add to their discharge schedule that they will hold back the releases when it is forecast to be calm and sunny for several days to prevent the risk of and bloom in the estuaries? Then they can pulse the releases again when the clouds and wind pick up and the algae blows away in the lake – kind of like mother nature.

Jacqui: “Always better if we go with Mother Nature so we don’t end up with such ecological disasters…”
Todd: ” I think Gary Goforth, Mark Perry and others would tell us that the disaster timeline sets up like this:

– A low pressure weather system moves into Florida and dumps a bunch of rain, local runoff begins and the lake starts to rise
– They keep S-308 at Mayaca an other lakeside gates closed and open S-80 because the priority is always to transport the “local” runnoff first and not add to flooding problems by sending lake water through the coastal canals
– The local basins start to drain out and a high pressure weather system moves in. It gets sunny, hot, and the wind dies down to zero.
– With a lot of sun and no wind, the lake starts to bloom. With local runoff subsiding, the tides help flush all to local runoff out to sea but not completely.
– Just when conditions in the lake are “the perfect storm”, the estuaries would otherwise be recovering from the local runoff, the lake is in full bloom and rising, S-308 is now opened to drop the lake at the worst time. All the algae that just exploded in the lake is transported down C-44 through S-80 and into to estuaries. Salinity in the estuaries stays low instead of naturally recovering. With the sunny conditions and unnatural discharges, the estuaries explode with algae blooms.

If they would just delay opening S-308 for just a few days, maybe a week, allowing clouds and wind to return, could the perfect storm be avoided?”

T3

You can access more of Todd’s shared data here under FIRM FAVORITES: http://www.thurlowpa.com
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Thank you Todd! Hope the ACOE thinks on this. We don’t want to get in the Guinness Book of World Records 2016 for the estuary with the most toxic algae blooms!

What are Our Options for “Sending it South?” St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon

 

Chronology of Water Management Changes map. Reconstructed pre-drainage landscapes, source, McVoyet al., 2011. Presentation of Robert Johnson with words added: "Water Started Flowing South 2014."
“Chronology of Water Management Changes” map. Reconstructed pre-drainage landscapes, source, McVoyet al., 2011. Presentation of Robert Johnson, Director of South Florida Natural Resources Center at Everglades National Park,Everglades Coalition, 2015. (With words added: “Water Started Flowing South 2014, JTL”.)

After the horrendous “Lost Summer of 2013,” and public outcry, more water has been sent south to the Everglades by the Army Corp of Engineers and South Florida Water Management District in 2014/15 than in the past ten years. But we are still drowning…

Hanging over our heads is the fact that Lake Okeechobee is at 15.04 feet today, and chances are that to prepare the lake for a predicted El Nino rainy winter/spring, the ACOE is going to “have to” start releasing water soon. Although it’s being worked on right now, the system is not even close to being able to hold the ocean of overflow-lake water and “send it south….” plus we are handcuffed by 10 parts per billion phosphorus goals.(http://www.sfwmd.gov/portal/page/portal/xrepository/sfwmd_repository_pdf/derivation_wqbel_stas_toc_4-20-10.pdf)

With this in mind, the Everglades Coalition’s 30th Annual Conference (http://evergladescoalition.orgwas a whirlwind; its theme “Send it South: Water for America’s Everglades.”

Let’s begin, by looking at some water/land maps and think about the big picture.

The image below is a “simplified chronology of water management changes,” and shows the canals and structures that waste water to the ocean destroying our precious estuaries. This map was shared by Robert Johnson during the coalition meeting. It made a big impression on me, because it gives historical perspective, is simple, and is clear.

Chronology of Water Management Changes map. Reconstructed pre-drainage landscapes, source, McVoyet al., 2011. Presentation of Robert Johnson with words added: "Water Started Flowing South 2014."
Map again from above to review.

The red lines are canals that drain lake Okeechobee. We know them well: the Caloosahatchee (C-43); the Miami: the North New River: the Hillsboro: the West Palm Beach; and our own St Lucie (C-44). The grey shows the Herbert Hoover Dike built around Lake Okeechobee in the 1930s after the terrible hurricanes of the late 1920s; the Eastern Protective Levee is also in grey, on the far right, and basically is like a giant underground wall between the Everglades and eastern coastal development; the Everglades Agricultural Area Levee System, which I think is the grey line depicting a structure built south and almost around the Everglades Agricultural area; the Water Conservation Area Levees (WCAs-areas where water slowly travels south after being cleaned in Storm Water Treatment Areas (STAs) above them) are the grey lines around the WCAs; and last on this chart, the South Dade Conveyance System…

There are other canals as well. Thousands of miles of them….

These canals make our lives a living hell along the Indian River Lagoon, and must be re-plumed, but we must note that they also have allowed South Florida to rise above the poverty of our ancestors, and to develop some of the world’s most “productive” sugar and vegetable farms. Too bad they had to build their riches south of Lake Okeechobee blocking the flow of the lake! Also, much of this drainage system has allowed  development of the east coast of south Florida, inside the Everglades’ boundary which is in yellow on the map above and red below.

The red line, shows were development has “crept into the Everglades.”  This is obviously a problem for sending water south. Therefore, whatever is created to “send more water south,” must be created so as to avoid destroying lives or property.

West of the red lines shows the edge of what was once the Everglades in South Florida. Development has crept and continues to creep over this edge. (Photo/map courtesy of Chappy Young,/GCY Surveyors, 2014.)
West of the red lines shows the edge of what was once the Everglades in South Florida. Development has crept and continues to creep over this edge. (Photo/map courtesy of Chappy Young,/GCY Surveyors, 2014.)

So narrowing this down to “our” needs, how does one build a way to send more water south? And aren’t we already doing that? Let’s look at the projects being built first before we conclude our goals for more storage.

There are many projects on the books to help with sending water south: some include CERP (http://www.evergladesplan.org/about/about_cerp_brief.aspx) and CEPP…(http://www.evergladesplan.org/docs/fs_cepp_jan_2013.pdf), in fact parts of the Tamiami Trail are being raised right now, but according to many experts at the coalition, one thing is missing, enormous amounts of LAND. Land would help these projects come into being. There must be land to hold some of the tremendous amounts of water, and to clean it. Also realistically, the above projects will take generations to complete. Land purchase or no land purchase. 

One thing  is for sure, more land south of the lake would help the situation tremendously. As even a five year old can see, lack of lands south of the lake is the true disconnect. But where is there that much land and what are our options?

Below is a map of “Option 1,” and “Option 2”, lands in the Everglades Agricultural Area, lands that US Sugar agreed to sell in 2008. These lands remain for sale.

Perhaps US Sugar rather not sell these lands anymore. In 2008 they were going broke, but today, ironically after an infusion of cash from the South Florida Water Management District that was given to buy the paired down 26,800 acres  purchased, and since the economy has improved since, US Sugar is thriving again.

But a “contract is a contract,” and thus there remains a contract allowing for the state of Florida to buy the option lands.

General consensus for many  at the Everglades Coalition meeting was “buy the lands” with the new Amendment 1  (http://ballotpedia.org/Florida_Water_and_Land_Conservation_Initiative,_Amendment_1_%282014%29monies starting with Option 1 because it is less expensive than Option 2, and can be traded for other lands, and because the option expires in October of 2015. The second option expires around 2020.

Option Lands Map SFWMD River of Grass
Option Lands Map SFWMD River of Grass

Would purchasing these slow everyone down even more, taking moneys  and energy away from other projects?

Hmmmm? Maybe, but according to some very seasoned River/Everglades Warriors, it is worth it.

At the Everglades Coalition meeting Nathaniel Reed, Maggie Hurchalla, Mary Barely,  former governor Bob Graham, and Mark Perry gave the group a “call to action” to purchase these option lands. It is a lofty goal and one that would change the game forever.

But there is not much time, and the legislature is in committee meetings “now.” (January through Feburary) and convenes (starts) March 3, 2015,  and then ends in May! A rabbit race!

There is not a second to spare.

So long story short, there may be options as far a purchasing the sugar lands, but there is no option when it comes to advocating for such. Should this be your goal, you must start today! Start writing and calling below and thank you for being a part of history!

Governor Rick Scott: (http://www.flgov.com/contact-gov-scott/email-the-governor/0)

House of Representatives: (http://www.myfloridahouse.gov)

Florida Senate: (http://www.flsenate.gov)

Senate site for future Amt 1 lands purchasing: (http://www.flsenate.gov/Media/PressReleases/Show/2159)