Today I am trying my hand at posting while mobile. So if the two YouTube videos I share do not come through and eyeonlakeo.com is not linked I apologize.
Many of you who follow my blog know my brother’s “Time Capsule Flights, “and his web site eyeonlake.com. Todd and I have worked together for many years documenting South Florida’s water history-past and present.
For this post, by going back and forth between present and past Google Earth images, Todd gives us a comparative view of what just was and now is. Hard to watch, but important to know. Next time it could be any of us. Our hearts are with Florida’s West Coast in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian.
In July a post I wrote, “At Low Tide,“ made many waves of happiness as our seagrass recovery (albeit with macro-algae) was suddenly visible. Today I share “At Mid Tide,” not as dramatic, but certainly worth documenting as it too shows the improving state of our St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon since the damaging and toxic Lake O discharges of 2013, 2016 and 2018 eradicated all seagrasses.
These photos were taken at different times of day on Sunday, August 14, 2022 in the area of the St Lucie Inlet between Sewall’s Point and Hutchinson Island – an area often locally referred to as the “Sand Bar,” including Sailfish Flats.
Incorporated are photos from my sister Jenny, my brother Todd, friend Mary Radabaugh, and me. All on the water with family/friends on the same day! Ed and I were late getting out, and the tide was receding. While about, Ed and I are very careful not to disturb the budding seagrasses -staying on the edge. All mollusks/sea life if photographed is immediately returned to its original location. This habitat is delicate!
Yet another recent wonderful day on the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon since there have been no major damaging discharges from Lake Okeechobee in over three years and Mother Nature has not thrown a hurricane our way…
Approaching Ernie Lyons Bridge from Jensen Boat RampDo you see the fighting conch’s blue eyes? Video below gives perspective:
My sister’s photos: Zella-Sand Bar, earlier incoming tide, Jenny Flaugh
My brother’s photos: Todd Thurlow – daughter Julia water skiing off the House of Refuge
Mary Radabaugh, friend and nature photographer: Osprey & blue sky near Boy Scout Island
~Our wildlife, sea and sky, needs our continued support for a healthy St Lucie!
I posted most of these photos on Facebook, but today I will give explanations and document on my blog. From above, our St Lucie/Indian River Lagoon remains beautiful, but we must be sensitive to the losses beneath the waters. These aerials were taken during a “slack tide” between 12 and 2pm on December 9, 2020 by my husband, Ed Lippisch. December 9th was the last of five days the ACOE stopped discharging from Lake Okeechobee; however S-80 was discharging “local runoff.” (Click on chart above.) Unfortunately, due to high lake level and lack of storage reservoirs, since these aerials were taken, the ACOE has begun ramping up Lake discharges once again.
Below Lawrence Glenn of the South Florid Water Management gives a comprehensive ecological report covering low-salinities and loss of oyster spat in the St Lucie and other aspects, positive and negative, for the entire Everglades system.
Below is an explanation of aerials documenting discharges December 9, 2020. All photos by Ed Lippisch.
-S-80 at St Lucie Locks and Dam discharging local basin S-80 runoff on December 9, 2020
S-308 at Port Mayaca, Lake Okeechobee closed on December 9, 2020. No algae visible.
-Plume of along Jupiter Island south of St Lucie Inlet
-Dispersing plume in Atlantic Ocean just past Peck’s Lake in Jupiter Narrows
-St Lucie Inlet -St Lucie Inlet State Park, Sailfish Point, Sewall’s Point, Stuart, Jensen
-Looking north to Sailfish Flats between Sewall’s Point and Hutchinson Island. This area has greatly degraded since 2013 as far as loss of seagrasses and fishing opportunities
-The area below, especially around Sailfish Point, was once considered “the most biodiverse estuary in North America” as documented, first, by Grant Gilmore
-This photo reveals seagrass loss across many areas of the Sailfish Flats
-Another view between Sewall’s and Sailfish Point, a seeming desert…
-Close up, Sailfish Point
-Sewall’s Point, east Indian River Lagoon
-Sewall’s Point is a peninsula surrounded by the St Lucie River on west side, and Indian River Lagoon on east side
Ed Lippisch, selfie. Thank you Ed!
As you can tell, I have lots of people helping me. Whether it is Ed flying or my brother Todd who provides an incredible easy to read website called EyeonLakeO. You can click below to check it out. The more we know, the more we document, the more we can overturn the destruction of our beloved estuary…
“Thank you Jacqui! While this is bad for the East Coast, the West Coast has been inundated with nonstop discharges from Lake O. Can your brother update his Caloosahatchee chart to include 2020?” Mike Downing
Mind you, these numbers measured from S-79 (comparable to the St Lucie’s S-80) include basin runoff and Lake Okeechobee discharges. As of 12-1-20, the brown line of 2020 is creeping higher, just under 2018, to 1,409,269 acre feet! That’s one foot of water on 1,409,269 acres of land!
If we want to see a break-out of basin and Lake O discharges to the Caloosahatchee, we can view SFWMD, Division Director of Water Resources, Lawrence Glenn’s draft slide for the upcoming, December 10, South Florida Water Management District Meeting. (See below.)
In a color coordinated way, Lawrence’s chart splits out the basin and Lake Okeechobee discharges over the course of 2020. Look at all the dark blue representing Lake O in late October, November, and December. Also, look at all the basin runoff (green and gray)For Lawrence’s entire presentation -which includes the St Lucie- click here.
As a non scientist, non-technical type, what I notice looking at Todd and Lawrence’s charts is that although there has been notable discharge in 2020, the water was released by the ACOE later in the year. This is significant.
Back to Todd’s chart:
If you want to learn even more, use my brother’s eyeonlakeoacre feet calculator to get a visual for 1,409,269 acre feet of water. 1,409,262 acre feet would put 33.66 inches of water on the land area of Lee County and 48.66 inches of water on land area of Martin County!! Mind boggling! See here or chart below.
What helps keep things in perspective for me is a map created in 2019 by the SFWMD based on the famous historic 1913 Harshberger map that makes very clear -colored in light baby blue- the water that once covered the central and southern portion of Florida. The majority of this water is now sent through the Calooshahatee and St Lucie Estuaries…
A Ten Year View, Discharges to the St Lucie Estuary
Today I share images that help tell the story of the St Lucie Estuary over the past ten years. The first image is from the website eyeonlakeo. My brother, Todd Thurlow, takes data from D-Hydro of the SFWMD and puts it into a format that the average person can understand.
The chart above shows the “S-80 spillway at St Lucie Locks’ cumulative discharges by CALENDAR YEAR, 2011-2020.”
Scientists use Water Years, May 1 of one year, through April 30 of the next year. This splits up the years making it more confusing to remember or understand. We, as people, live our lives in calendar years.
We can see by looking at Todd’s chart that 2016’s calendar year is highest overall discharge year with 842,775 acre feet (one foot of water covering one acre) of water going to the St Lucie from what is called “local runoff” (all canals and surrounding areas) as well as discharges from Lake Okeechobee.
How large is 842,775 acres? Comparatively, Martin County is 347, 520 acres. 2020 is 188,723 acre feet and climbing. We are talking tremendous amounts of water!
In descending order, we see 2016; 2013; 2017; 2018; 2015; 2020; 2012; 2014; 2019; and 2011. The brown of line of 2020 crests 2015 as when the year is completed, 2020 will more than likely be higher than 2015.
“Could you please get me a chart or graph showing discharges to the St Lucie River for 2012-2020 by month. Please present this information from January through December of each calendar year and break it out from S-80 and S-308 and also give a total combined number. Please also note for each of those calendar years, the highest level Lake Okeechobee got that year.”
To view this information, click on Charts in red below for visuals, and data in red below for numerical charts. As mentioned this information below is from the SFWMD. This compiled information provides great perspective.
I, as many, participated in yesterday’s Army Corp of Engineers‘ Periodic Scientist Call. During the course of the call, it was alluded that the ACOE may be letting up or halting Lake Okeechobee discharges to the St Lucie Estuary soon. As soon as they do, we will begin to chart calendar year 2021. All things considered, everything in me believes it will be better than 2020!
Today is October 26, these photos/videos were taken over the weekend on October 24, 2020. The first is the St Lucie River looking off the Evan’s Crary Bridge at Sewall’s Point; the second is a video of the St Lucie River taken between Rio and Stuart; and the third is a video of a brown ocean at Peck’s Lake. The St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon and much of the east coast of South Florida have endured tremendous, repetitive downpours in 2020, causing massive “local basin runoff.” The St Lucie has been stressed for months, and since October 14, there are also discharges from Lake Okeechobee. Prior to that, there had been no Lake O discharges since March of 2019. This post is written to document this discharge era for today and for later reference.
1-Video visual water quality from boat, wide St Lucie River near Rio 10-24-20
2-Video visual water coloring, Atlantic Ocean at Peck’s Lake, south of St Lucie Inlet 10-24-20
DOCUMENTING THE DISCHARGES 2020
Covid-19, an active hurricane season, and the 2020 presidential election have captured our attention, but most of know, as this Tyler Treadway Stuart News article reports, much to our dismay, due to a high rate of Lake Okeechobee rise, and after weeks of media briefings, and warnings, a reluctant ACOE started discharging to the St Lucie River on October 14th. Thankfully, for much of the time, it has been difficult due King Tides. The discharges are expected at least another week longer if not a month depending weather and rainfall from Tropical Storm Zeta. See link below from the ACOE’s most recent, 10-20-20, Periodic Scientist Call for more info.
The most comprehensive place to keep track of all this is Todd Thurlow’s website (http://eyeonlakeo.com) that provides a multitude of easily interpreted information. Check it every day, especially LIVE DATA and Satelitte NCCOS HAB images of Lake Okeechobee.
Michael Conner, THE INDIAN RIVERKEEPER keeps an active Facebook page on Lake O discharge and other local issues and is often on the ground reporting.
Also on 10-14-20 The Florida Department of Environmental Protection put out a press release: “Governor Ron DeSantis Announces Preparation for Algae Bloom Mitigation Following Announcement by Corps of Releases From Lake O.” This technology has not been needed thus far.
I can’t forget to include that October 11, 2020, right before the discharges began, Ed and I took this video documenting a significant algae bloom in the middle of Lake Okeechobee. Since that time it has been too stormy, or cloudy to go up. Usually, rain and lack of sunshine minimize visual blue-green algae blooms as can be seen on Todd’s website. The algae does remain in the water column. This image/video was shared by many news stations and posted on Facebook.
3-Large algae bloom in middle of Lake Okeechobee, 10-11-20.
Next , I would like to document Florida Oceanographic CEO, Mark Perry’s recent op-ed as it gives us pause. “Why can’t, why aren’t we able to send more water south?” We know a lot has been done, and we are grateful, however, 2020 is not 1948, we must continue to advocate for a better water future…
OP-ED MARK PERRY, PUBLISHED IN STUART NEWS, October 15, 2020
Lake Okeechobee discharges can go south now.
As the water level rises in Lake Okeechobee, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is considering discharges to the coastal estuaries, the St. Lucie to the east and Caloosahatchee to the west.
According to the Lake Okeechobee Regulation Schedule, the Corps considers where the lake level is at this time of year within the “operational band,” which ranges from 10.50 to 17.25 feet of elevation. Then, based on the rainfall outlook and tributary conditions, they determine “allowable Lake Okeechobee releases” to the water conservation areas and to the estuaries.
The water conservation areas (900,000 acres) are the remnant Everglades, south of the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA) which is the 700,000 acres immediately south of the lake used primarily for growing sugarcane.
For “allowable Lake Okeechobee releases” to the estuaries, the Corps has specify flow amounts going to each estuary, which can be “up to 4,000 cubic feet per second (cfs) to the Caloosahatchee and 1,800 cfs to the St. Lucie.”
That is where they are right now with the lake at 16.02 feet elevation.
But the “allowable” releases to the water conservation areas are always “up to maximum practicable.” What does that mean? Well, they rarely talk about how much they can release to the water conservation areas, and never tell us how much should be considered to go south.
In fact, water has been flowing south into the water conservation areas all throughout this wet season, May through October.
But it is not coming from the lake.
About 955,000 acre feet (311 billion gallons) has been going into the water conservation areas from the EAA basin runoff. This means that they are keeping the EAA water table down to 10.5 feet — ideal for crops — by draining all this water through our 57,000 acres of stormwater treatment areas and into the water conservation areas — the Everglades.
Meanwhile, the Corps says they must discharge Lake Okeechobee to the estuaries because they can’t release it to the south. Well, they can — they have been doing it for months and they still are today, but it is all coming from the EAA basin runoff!
All this time, we could have been releasing lake water to the water conservation areas, and we could do the same right now instead of killing the estuaries with releases and wasting this water to tide.
But for that to happen, we need to tell the EAA to store and treat runoff on their own land so the stormwater treatment areas can be used for water flowing south from Lake Okeechobee.
The Corps and South Florida Water Management District are jointly responsible for managing water in south Florida. We need to have them focus on restoring more natural water storage and treatment north of the lake, in the 2.5 million acre watershed, so the lake doesn’t fill up so fast.
But we must also get them to flow south from the lake to the Everglades during the wet and dry seasons. We don’t have to wait for huge regional projects to be authorized and completed, we can do this now.
The lake is rising quickly because the EAA is using the capacity to send water south. Agricultural interests would like it to stay high because during the dry season, November thru April, the EAA will demand water from the Lake, about 350,000 acre feet, as water supply for their crops.
These are ideal conditions for the EAA, but not so good for the lake, the greater Everglades ecosystem and the coastal estuaries.
Mark Perry is executive director of the Florida Oceanographic Society in Stuart.
Below are Florida Oceanographic’s most recent St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon water quality reports
Finally: During Rivers Coalition meeting 10-22-20 more expansive documentation/reporting of on-going seagrass loss/slow recovery in the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon was requested. It was noted that SFWMD “Ecological Reports” cover only two historical seagrass areas of the once lush and healthy Sailfish Flats.
My brother Todd took a family fishing expedition on Saturday, June 28, 2020. 119 miles! His journey may not have revealed many fish out in the deep ocean, but there was tremendous visible life in the Indian River Lagoon and nearshore ocean. Good to see!
“Beautiful flat day. 119 miles and only a barracuda, but it was fun.
Saw hundreds of Pelicans diving on the silver minnows near the power plant. That is probably to most Pelicans I have ever seen in one place locally, including bird island.
Also in all my life I have never seen the fin of a shark at the sandbar. After looking at my photos, I am pretty sure is was a little Scalloped Hammerhead. I cropped a comparison from the online guide and a link to the entire guide. I couldn’t see the head but the fins seem to match. The few people who saw it thought it was a Bull Shark but I didn’t think so. A Bull Shark fin isn’t as sharp.”
Below are photos of the hundreds of happy brown pelicans and also photos of the juvenile scalloped hammerhead shark. Don’t be scared! It’s just a young shark. The estuaries are their home. These and all sharks are protected species and many like the scalloped hammerhead, globally endangered due to overfishing. Mostly for shark fin soup! Awful.
Well, there’s nothing like a day on the water! Fish or no fish. 119 miles is never for nothing around here!
This morning, for purposes of documentation, I am posting the path my husband, Ed Lippisch, flew over Lake Okeechobee yesterday (6-10-20) and all aerials taken. Thank you to my brother Todd Thurlow, who shares technical information on his website, for re-creating Ed’s path via Flight Aware, and for also sharing the latest satellite high resolution images of Sentinel 2 retrieved 6-9-20. All of Ed’s phots displayed in gallery format below were taken from 2000 to 1500 feet on return flight along southern portion of Lake Okeechobee ending at Port Mayaca, east central, Martin County. His flight to the west coast was at 5000 feet and Ed said he saw no algae visible from that perspective.
Chlorophyll, we learn about it in grade school and know it resides in plants, but really, if you’re like me, you may not think too much about it. I certainly wasn’t pondering until my brother Todd Thurlow sent me some of his exciting new eyeonlakeo publications.
These newer publications include: 1. Movie Sea Surface Temperatures and 2. Movie Chlorophyll. Even for the non-scientist type, they really are fascinating. The one that caught my eye is “movie 2.” revealing color-coded levels of chlorophyll swirling around Florida’s waters from June 2019, to May 2020. Like rainbow liquid fire, formations twirl and dance around our peninsular home. And what a home it is!
Todd points out, that If you watch closely, there is an eddy that begins off of Ft Meyers with an offshore “puff of red.” (10/22/2019 at 0:11 on the video). This eddy swirls all the way through November!
Then there’s “movie 2. sea surface temperature” with the weird gyrating underwater loop.
Bizarre! What was that?
“The loop seemed to be drifting southeast like a big underwater hurricane heading toward the west coast of Florida. (SEE IMAGES BELOW YOU-TUBE VIDEOS) After 9/5, it is blocked by clouds so the images don’t show it all. Day’s later an eddy forms off of Ft. Meyers. I actually have no idea if there was red tide at this time. Was there? I’ll have to look later but this is interesting. Maybe these will explain something. Are these underwater hurricanes, so to speak, picking up the deep nutrients and pushing them to shore? Pulling nutrients offshore and returning them later?
Another interesting point, which ties into my sea surface temperature movie – two days before, on 9/3/2019, the SST movie shows a “belch” of warmer and cooler water traveling north from the Yucatan and Cuba right before the chlorophyll loop current shows up.
Once again, maybe the scientist can explain….”
The untold secrets, temperature and chlorophyll. Take a look a both videos below! What do you think is going on?
*A series of images from the movie showing the loop current and the eddy that Todd was describing:
Florida Chlorophyll a and Martin County Chlorophyll a – MODIS (Terra)The “Florida Chlorophyll a” and “Martin County Chlorophyll a” products pull localized imagery from NASA’s Global Imagery Browse Services (GIBS) gibs.earthdata.nasa.gov. Eyeonlokeo.com queries two layers from the MODIS sensor on the Terra Satellite, cropping the imagery in separate products for Florida and Martin County. The queries pull the CorrectedReflectance_Bands721 (to show land and clouds), layered with the Chlorophyll_A bands (to show concentrations of chlorophyll in the ocean). Note that a concentration of chlorophyll does not indicate a Harmful Algae Bloom (HAB). These layers are provided to allow users to easily monitor the relationship, if any, between the concentration of chlorophyll off the Florida coasts and discharges from Lake Okeechobee through the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee Rivers. The “Martin County Chlorophyll a” product goes a step further by querying the South Florida Water Management District’s (SFWMD) online DBHydro database (www.sfwmd.gov/science-data/dbhydro). A script pulls the discharge data for the S-80 structure at the St. Lucie canal. S-80 is the spillway located adjacent to the St. Lucie Locks on the C-44 Canal. It is only one of several spillways that empty into the St. Lucie River but it is the terminus of the C-44 canal that carries discharge water from S-308, located at Port Mayaca, together with C-44 basin runoff to S-80 at the St. Lucie Locks. The daily discharge data is added to the bottom of each image. When discharge rates are high at S-80, a large plume of chlorophyll can usually be seen off of the St. Lucie Inlet in Martin County. The plume often moves south close to shore but further from shore the Gulf Stream carries the plume north.Additional layer information from gibs.earthdata.nasa.gov: “The MODIS Chlorophyll a layer provides the near-surface concentration of chlorophyll a in milligrams of chlorophyll pigment per cubic meter (mg/m3) in the ocean. Chlorophyll is a light harvesting pigment found in most photosynthetic organisms. In the ocean, phytoplankton all contain the chlorophyll pigment, which has a greenish color. Derived from the Greek words phyto (plant) and plankton (made to wander or drift), phytoplankton are microscopic organisms that live in watery environments, both salty and fresh. Some phytoplankton are bacteria, some are protists, and most are single-celled plants. The concentration of chlorophyll a is used as an index of phytoplankton biomass. Phytoplankton fix carbon through photosynthesis, taking in dissolved carbon dioxide in the sea water and producing oxygen, enabling phytoplankton to grow. Changes in the amount of phytoplankton indicate the change in productivity of the ocean and as marine phytoplankton capture almost an equal amount of carbon as does photosynthesis by land vegetation, it provides an ocean link to global climate change modeling. The MODIS Chlorophyll a product is therefore a useful product for assessing the health of the ocean. The presence of phytoplankton indicates sufficient nutrient conditions for phytoplankton to flourish, but harmful algal blooms (HABs) can result when high concentrations of phytoplankton produced toxins build up. Known as red tides, blue-green algae or cyanobacteria, harmful algal blooms have severe impacts on human health, aquatic ecosystems and the economy. Chlorophyll features can also be used to trace oceanographic currents, atmospheric jets/streams and upwelling/downwelling/river plumes. Chlorophyll concentration is also useful for studying the earth’s climate system as it is plays an integral role in the Global Carbon Cycle. More phytoplankton in the ocean may result in a higher capture rate of carbon dioxide into the ocean and help cool the planet.”
Before Hurricane Dorian came this way, my brother, Todd, was helping me answer a question. ~One I think will be interesting to you as well…
“Where were the rapids of Lake Worth Creek?” Yes, rapids!
To answer the question, we must first recognize that Lake Worth Creek has been altered as we can see comparing the images above and below.
This change happened slowly over time, but most notably in 1894 with the completion of the Intracoastal Waterway from Jacksonville to Maimi. The Google Map below shows the Intracoastal today. The 1855 survey above shows Lake Worth Creek pre-development. In both images, it’s the area between Jupiter Inlet and Lake Worth- the historic area of Lake Worth Creek.
To learn where these rapids were located let’s read an excerpt from Palm Beach County’s MANAGEMENT PLAN FOR FRENCHMAN’S FOREST NATURAL AREA, FCT PROJECT # 96-011-P7A, June 1998.
The Frenchman’s Forest Natural Area (located right under Frechman’s Passage, JTL) is part of a broad coastal swale that was separated from the Atlantic Ocean by coastal sand ridges and from the Loxahatchee Slough by a broad pine flatwood ridge. It was part of the headwaters of the former Lake Worth Creek, a meandering blackwater creek that flowed northward to join the Loxahatchee River near its mouth at the Jupiter Inlet. The earliest accounts of the site date from the 1840s, and were from U.S. Army Topological Engineer reports made during the Second Seminole Indian War (Corbett 1993). Eighty men from Fort Jupiter moved up Lake Worth Creek in seventeen canoes. Approximately two miles north of the natural area, they reached the “rapids”, a series of muck terraces that disappeared during periods of high water, but helped hold water at a higher level in the upstream sawgrass marshes. Another series of muck terraces may have been present 0.25 miles north of the natural area. After getting past these barriers, the troops entered a large sawgrass marsh, where they pulled the canoes for a mile to a haulover path over the sand ridge separating the marsh from Lake Worth. The southeastern portion of the natural area was part of the sawgrass marsh, and the soldiers may have crossed through the site. Once they reached Lake Worth, the soldiers raided Seminole Indian villages along its shores, capturing guns and canoes. The soldiers had followed an old Indian route for traveling between Jupiter Inlet and Lake Worth. When the last Seminole Indian war ended in 1859, pioneers began to use this route for coastal travel. Charles Pierce (1970) described his family’s travel to Lake Worth by small boat via this route in 1873. He noted his father’s difficulty in finding the right channel through the sawgrass to the haulover. Pierce and his family were among the earliest permanent settlers on the shores of Lake Worth. Pierce also provided the first direct reference to the natural area, noting that the bird rookery on Pelican Island (present-day Munyon)…
Another source we can use comes from the Atlantic and Gulf Coast Canal and Okeechobee Land Company 1881 Prospectus where it documents the advantage of making the cut through Lake Worth Creek. Nine lines from the bottom it mentions the rapids: “There is a depth of five feet of water in the channel from its mouth to the rapids…”
And the last shared source is from an 1884 USGS Survey Report noting the difficulty of working through the sawgrass route from Haulover Head on Lake Worth to the Rapids of Lake Worth Creek.
Fascinating and historic information, but what about X marks the spot? Where were those rapids?
Using the above information, below (look for yellow arrow) Todd shows more specifically on a topo map from his video “Lake Worth through the Haulover and Sawgrass Route to Jupiter Inlet – 1883” showing where Lake Worth Creek’s rapids may have been located. On today’s map that is very close to Frenchman’s Passage/Frenchman’s Creek.
Next time you’re in the area give a shout out to the once rapids of the former Lake Worth Creek, a wonder of old Florida that we shouldn’t forget!
9:16am 9-16-19: I was close! My brother just texted me this: Hey Jacqui. Sorry Dorian interrupted our discussion of the Falls. It was actually near the creek called Frenchman’s Creek on the old topos not Frenchman’s Passage which is a neighborhood today about a mile and a half south and inland from the old creek/rapids. 😬
Frenchmans Creek still appears on Google maps. It is where Cypress Island Marina is today off of Palmwood Road.
My recent post about “Holding Lake Okeechobee’s Algae at Bay” got a lot of responses with a few questioning whether the algae bloom in Lake O off Port Mayaca was caused by the waters of C-44 flowing back into the lake.
I do not know the answer to this question, but I do know flights over the C-44 canal in 2019 have shown no visible algae blooms, but many in the lake with some right off Port Mayaca. Nonetheless, we know the C-44 is full of nutrient pollution.
Today I want to share a chart from my brother Todd Thurlow’s website http://eyeonlakeo.com/ as well as our back and forth on the issue of how much water has been put into Lake Okeechobee from C-44 so far this year rather than going into the St Lucie River. The ACOE can flow C-44 flow both ways…
Be sure to read “Summary of Query Results” below for the answer.
Todd: Jacqui, I changed my DBKey on my daily spreadsheet to S-308 just to see what it would spit out. See below. It looks like S-308 has sent a net 17billion gallons of C-44 basin water (over 54,000 AF) into Lake O this year. I am pretty sure that means we get a “free” 17billion gallons in our direction before it is considered “Lake Water”.
Jacqui: Todd did the ACOE start sending the C-44 canal water back to Lake O May 29th? Looking at the chart this is what I see.
Todd: There has been little flows all year as can be seen on the chart too but the big flows started on May 13 at -2042cfs. There was a pause between June 4 and July 30. Then is started again with a few days off here and there. Here is the data that is summarized in that chart.
The May 29 date that you might see (its actually May 20) is where the “Cumulative Total Discharge” graph crosses the zero axis? That is where the net flows for the year were back to zero. In other words, it took from May 13 to May 20, 8 days of westward flow, to cancel out all of the net eastward flow for the year.
These DEP canal summaries are no longer available on-line but remain good references even though written in 2001.
Todd Thurlow gave a great presentation last evening about his website “EyeOnLakeO,” http://eyeonlakeo.com. The site is a cache of images, charts, data, videos, graphs, and mathematical conversion calculators. This information is all public, but hard to find because it is buried under layers and layers of government-agency material. Thanks to Todd, now much of this is in one place, and only a click away!
Last’s night’s presentation reviewed everything on the site, but focused mostly on “Descriptions of Satelite Imagery and Sources.” This you may have seen me post on Facebook where Todd juxtaposes the Lake Okeechobee NOAA Harmful Algae Bloom Images to Real Color Images.
You can see other subject boxes include: Florida Chlorophyll; Martin County Chlorophyll; Live Discharge Data; Historical Discharge Graphs (my favorite); Calculators and Tools (super helpful!); Satellites- Landsat 7 & 8; Terra, Aqua, Suomi Last 7 Days; Measurements (of algae blooms in Lake O); Landsat 1-4 Movies 1972-2013; Landsat 4-8 Movies 1982-2018 (compilations of satellite images over time); Lake O Surface Winds “Windy” (to see where the algae will be pushed and gather); Hurricane Matthew Video info (was 20 miles off Stuart/Cat. 4/2016); Terra/Aqua/Suomi Archives; and a movie of the Lake O Algae Bloom 2016 that Todd measured at 253 square miles being dumped into the St Lucie River at S-308…not a good year!
Todd noted all this got started with Mark Perry, CEO of Florida Oceanographic, asking Todd if he could measure the 2016 bloom. I’m so glad Mark asked!
The presentation was well received and left our heads spinning!
Todd noted during his introduction that he is not a scientist, but a lawyer and an interested citizen like the rest of us. He shared that there is a ton of information out there and that it is not the responsibility of the government to give us the information. It is our responsibility to get it ourselves. Thank God I have Todd as a brother because I don’t have the ability or the desire to mine all of this information. But he does, and we can all use it and all share it and hold our state accountable using it.
What a wonderful thing!
Please go to Todd’s website and explore, bookmark as a reference especially with summer coming: http://eyeonlakeo.com
In closing, I’d like to use this opportunity to compare the 5-18-19 NOAA image on Todd’s site with photographs of algae bloom in Lake Okeechobee taken by my husband, Ed Lippisch, just yesterday. Ed described this bloom as five miles long and a few miles wide. As with many other years, the cyanobacteria is back in the lake. But now we can watch it, and fight that it is not discharged into our river.
~Yes, it is from the air, and from outer-space, that we really can force the conversation for a better water future!
This blog post is a follow-up to my previous post: https://wp.me/p3UayJ-9Vm, entitled “Top 25 Discharge Years” to the St Lucie and Caloosahatchee . Here I wrote that the SFWMD’s DBHydro systems’ discharge dates were not the same for the St Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries and speculated on why. To review, the St Lucie’s dates available on DBHydro are 1953-2019, whereas the Caloosahatchee’s is 1967-2019. Thirteen years are “missing.”
Of course my brother Todd, was able to locate and give insight into those missing numbers explaining that comparisons could be found in another system, the USGS system, that actually shares information about the entire planet.
Todd has created the above charts using the USGS data for the Caloosahatchee and the DBHydro data for the St Lucie, and we can now see the 1959/1960 discharge comparison of the St Lucie and Caloosahatchee for 1959 and 1960 in the above charts and excerpts below. Cool!
Delving into all this is a lot of work, and sometimes imperfect, but isn’t it great that the internet allows both the state and federal government to put all this raw data out there for anyone to analyze? Although it takes time and expertise, at the local level it is really our responsibility to individually, through non-profits, and as local governments, tap into this available data and present it in a fashion that everyone can understand, and perhaps inspire!
So now, the lost numbers of the Caloosahatchee are found revealing that the St Lucie River has the highest discharge number on record – 1960- at 3,093,488 acre feet!
Shockingly, the worst year, 1960, displays 3,093,488 acre feet of water coming through S-80 into the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon. For comparison, the highest year in the past decade was 2016 at 857,529 acre feet. ~A difference of 2, 235,959 acre feet.
We know now that an “acre foot” is an easy calculation, “one foot of water covering one acre of land.” 3,093,488 acre feet of water would have just about covered St Lucie, Martin, Palm Beach, and Broward counties as the acreage of these counties combined adds up to 3,293,440 acres. Hard to believe!
Even though in 1960, the lake was not yet prone to massive cyanobacteria blooms, fresh water itself is destructive to a brackish estuary, and over three million acre feet discharged into the river by, what would have been at that time, the Central and South Florida Flood Control District, (the predecessor to the South Florida Water Management District), must have wiped out just about everything.
Of course the question is: “Why such high a high number in 1960?” One would deduce, that the primary reason would be because there were three tropical storms and one hurricane that crossed over Florida during this era. According to NOAA’s Tropical Cyclone Rainfall in Florida chart: Judith, October 1959, 7.90 inches; Donna, September 1960 13.24 inches; Florence, September 1960 15.79 inches, and we do not know for the Unnamed 1959 storm.(https://www.wpc.ncep.noaa.gov/tropical/rain/tcflorida.html)
But this is conjecture…
Going back to Todd’s graph, you’ll notice that thirteen out of the twenty-five years listed had higher discharge number than 2016. Sobering, isn’t it? Staggering numbers, for a river that by Nature was never connected to Lake Okeechobee, and only a portion of the so-called C-44 Basin. We have drowned her, indeed…
Now for one final question.
The Caloosahatchee has data too, but only for years 1967-2019. Thus the Caloosahatchee’s highest year for discharge of its top 25 years is 2005, at 3,731,056 acre feet; followed by 2016, at 2, 950,926 acre feet and so on. Please click on the graph.
So what about the missing thirteen years of 1953-1968? Where did this water go? Did it go to the St Lucie? Was the Caloosahtchee off-line? Did it go through the Calooshahatchee but was not recorded? These are questions I cannot answer. But in any case, both rivers need a break, or they shall break themselves. History allows us to see the long-standing destruction and ecological disregard for our treasured Northern Estuaries.
Last week, I presented a blog on discharges, 2010-2019, to the St Lucie River from both the surrounding basin, and Lake Okeechobee. Although we can separate Lake O’s numbers, it is important to know just how much water, thus sediment, nitrogen and phosphorus, the estuaries are taking “at once.” I have often said the worst thing about discharges from Lake Okeechobee is that the river is already on life support -from being drowned out by basin runoff- when Lake Okeechobee is leashed open.
So called “basins” around our rivers, like everything else in South Florida, have been altered to drain more efficiently than Nature intended. Thus with “basin discharges” these rivers (St Lucie and Caloosahatchee) are already being drowned out during high rain events, and thus when Lake O’s water comes on top, well, it is the “nail in the coffin” so to speak.
I just needed to explain that before we begin….
~ So today, as in the previous post, I will be speaking about both basin and Lake O water.
Referring to my brother, Todd’s, graph at the top of the page, you’ll notice right away the destructive-discharge numbers are much larger for the Caloosahatchee, than the St Lucie, as it is much larger estuarine system.
As we can see comparing the two charts labeled “Cumulative Discharges 2010-2019” below, both the St Lucie and the Caloosahatchee’s highest year for discharges, by far, was 2016. But whereas the St Lucie received 842,000 acre feet of water, the Caloosahatchee’s water number is a whopping 2,950,926 acre feet! That would mean one foot of water on 2,950,926 acres of land.
You’ll remember from last time that “acre feet” is a very easy way to calculate. “Acre feet” means one foot of water on top of one acre of land. This 2016 Caloosahatchee 2,950,926 acre feet of water would just about cover, by one foot, Lee County, Collier County, and Hendry County – counting land and water within boundaries – as the acreage of these three counties adds up to 3, 012,450 acres.
Again, this visual is meant to give perspective on the tremendous amount of land this amount of water would cover. Often when we hear “acre feet” we don’t put “two and two” together. Once one realizes the number of acres of land that would be covered, it is astounding!
~But then, of course! These waters used to flow naturally as sheet-flow from the Shingle Creek area up in Orange County all the way south to Florida Bay.
Continuing on, we see that in second place, although the St Lucie’s second worst year was 2013, for the Caloosahathcee it was 2017, and then 2013. The fourth worst, for both estuaries was 2018.
Please compare the charts below of both rivers to see other differences from 2010-2019. Interesting… In the future, perhaps we can ask why 2018, in fourth place, was by far the most horrific year for the Caloosahtchee. Certainly it has to do with that sediment, nitrogen and phosphorus feeding cyanobacteria. As we know, in 2018, Lake Okeechobee was 90% covered in a cyanobacteria (blue-green algae) bloom…
*Please note that the charts look similar below; look closely to see that the first is for the CALOOSAHACHEE and the second is for the ST LUCIE. Thank you Todd for these awesome visuals!
Go to http://eyeonlakeo.com, Todd’s website for more ways to easily access and compare Calooshatchee, St Lucie and other information.
“The throat of our river was cut by the canals.” ~Ernest Lyons 1905-1990
Today, I begin a series of blog posts under the title: “Destruction by the Numbers,” based on new information my brother Todd has added to his website: http://eyeonlakeo.com.
The first slide we will study is calculated under Historical Discharge Graphs for “S-80, Calendar Year 2010 to 2019.” S-80 is the Army Corp of Engineers’ structure located at the C-44 Canal that discharges water to the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon from two sources. First, from the basin surrounding the C-44 Canal; and second, through S-308 at Lake Okeechobee.
Todd’s chart allows us to isolate the most recent decade, 2010-2019, and see that the highest discharging year during this time was 2016 at 847,773 acre feet. 2016 was by far the worst year in recorded history for cyanobacteria blooms being discharged from Lake Okeechobee and spreading throughout the river system. There was such massive blue-green algae build-up at Bathtub Beach that the waves and shoreline were completely green.
Don’t be intimidated by the left axis’ measurement of acre feet. Acre Feet is easy to calculate as it means exactly what it says. The acreage noted, in this instance, 847,773 acres, would be covered by one foot of water.
For reference, I will use the Everglades Agricultural Area, (EAA), located underneath Lake Okeechobee that we talk about all the time. This farmed area, mostly sugarcane, is 700,000 acres. So 847,773 acre feet of water —dumped into the St Lucie River from S-80, in 2016 –would cover the entire EAA, and more, by one foot of water!
~The map below shows the EAA in a salmon color.
Back to the chart. The next worst year, following 2016, was infamous 2013, the year that became known as the “Lost Summer,” and really started the river’s revolution at 671,067 acre feet. At one foot deep, the amount of water discharged would just fit inside the boundaries of the 7000,000 acres of the Everglades Agricultural Area. It is interesting to note that 2017, a year not often mentioned, closely followed with 661,000 acre feet.
2018, a horrible water year, fresh in our memories, actually came in fourth at 402,116 acre feet! Obviously timing and temperature are factors too.
~2010, 2015, 2012, 2014, 2019, and 2011 follow. Of course 2019 is not even finished. It will be interesting to see where it ends up.
As we would have guessed, 2016’s toxic algae health hazard was the highest destruction by the numbers year in the past decade. But what we would never have estimated is how much water was discharged to the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon through S-80 in the 1950s and 60s. This number will truly blow your mind. But we’ll save that for the next “Destruction by the Numbers.”