Tag Archives: Submerged Lands

St Lucie River, Indian River Lagoon-We’ve Really Mucked it Up…

Muck from the St Lucie River, Indian River Lagoon 2006. (Photo credit, Bob Voisenet,Rivers Coalition)
Muck from the St Lucie River, Indian River Lagoon. (Photo credit, Bob Voisinet, Rivers Coalition, 2006)

It has been described as “black mayonnaise,” and if you’ve ever stepped into parts of the St Lucie River or Indian River Lagoon it may have sucked you down, like quicksand. Muck is as deep as 12 feet or more in some areas and is one of the primary reasons that the St Lucie River, part of the Indian River Lagoon, was declared “impaired” by the state of Florida in the early 2000s.

According to the the Department of Environmental Protection, due to the area’s development, agricultural industry and the building and discharge from canals and Lake Okeechobee, muck sediments into the the St Lucie River have increased causing thick deposits to accumulate.

These muck sediments  are contaminated with pesticides, and metals that “may be toxic to indigenous species.”  The turbidity and algal blooms the muck sediments support have contributed to the near elimination of once abundant seagrasses,  decimation of oysters and outbreaks in fish abnormalities. http://www.dep.state.fl.us/southeast/ecosum/ecosums/SLE_Impairment_Narrative_ver_3.7.pdf

In 2004, with the help of then Senate President, Ken Pruitt, Kevin Henderson of the St Lucie River Initiative, published a study for the SFWMD entitled “Final Report: Characterization, Sources, Beneficial Re-Use, and Removal of Marine Muck Sediments in the St Lucie Estuary.”

This extensive and excellent report concluded that there really are no “beneficial uses” for muck. Because of its high salt content  it cannot be used as fertilizer and the cost of transporting it is often “cost prohibitive.”  Nonetheless, based of this study the county and district were able to coordinate the plans or execution  of muck removal from area creeks, such as Poppleton, Kruegar, Frazier and Haney.

For those of you really into this, it is worth noting that slow moving government policies such as SWIM, Surface Water and Improvement Management, CERP, Central Everglades Restoration Project as well as the Indian River Lagoon Restoration Plan, also deal with muck sediment removal.

There is hope, manatees came back to Kruegar Creek once it was cleaned and the muck sediments of some of the creeks went to build brims at Witham Airfield and “lined” the land fill. Mr Henderson’s report is a reference for all of us and the basis for future improvements.

Also,  right now,  in the central lagoon they are very close to getting monies from the state for muck removal in their area due to their area senator, Thad Altman’s involvement on  Senator Joe Negron’s “Subcommittee on the Indian River Lagoon and Lake Okeechobee.”

As depressing as the river situation is,  in the 1970s laws were created to halt destruction of submerged and coastal lands, like here in  Sewall’s Point where once developers and the local government could  just decide to “create a marina or make subdivisions out of mangrove filled spoil islands. It is a slow go, but in some ways we have been, and we are making  progress. 

I’m about mucked out, but in case you’d like to learn more about muck, this Saturday at 10am in Sewall’s Point, the River Kidz are tie-dying t-shirts with river muck and colors. They named their project: “Get the Muck Out!”  Scientists will be speaking; we will be teaching;  and we will be screaming GET THE MUCK OUT! Please join us.