Tag Archives: Wood Storks

Why are C-44 and S-2 flowing backwards into Lake Okeechobee? 

My brother, Todd,  wrote to me on June 8th noting that the C-44 canal was flowing westwards into Lake Okeechobee rather than dumping eastwards into the St Lucie as is standard operating procedure after a big rain…

Yes this canal, as most of the others, can “flow” in either direction, seemly “backwards.”

So how can this happen? This backwards flow?

Dr Gary Goforth says the following:

“Yes this is normal operations; generally when the Lake level is below 14 ft the Corps leaves the locks at S-308 wide open which allows any local runoff to flow into the lake.”

Another way Lake Okeechobee can receive water in an unusual way is if the water is pumped into it–back pumped. This has recently been done from the EAA. Back pumping into Lake O has been outlawed, but it is allowed if communities or farmland would flood.

According to an exchange yesterday on Facebook, with  Audubon’s Dr Paul Grey:

“St Lucie (C-44) backflows are just one of many southern inflows now, S-2 is backpumping, three other southern outlets are flowing backward into the low lake (L-8, S354, S-352) the Caloosahatchee was backflowing but appears equalized today. More water is flowing into the lake from downstream areas than upstream right now. Not the end of the world but not desirable either, it is very polluted water. http://w3.saj.usace.army.mil/h2o/reports/r-oke.html  “

When I asked Dr Grey if this was being done to gather water in the lake as we’ve recently been in a drought, or to keep the farmlands in the  EAA and surrounding areas dry, this was his response:

“Both, they want to fill the lake this summer, and so do I, in concept, but much of this backpumping and flowing is because the farmers have been pumping water so rapdily off their own lands they have made the canals too deep, and risk fooding the communities. And rather than tell the farmers the canal its too deep and they have to modererate their pumping, the SFWMD backpumps/flow it to the lake.”

In any case, when I visited yesterday during my trip to Belle Glade, S-308 was closed at Port Mayaca and no more water was entering Lake O from C-44. I’m not sure about S-2.

The water looks dark and full of sediment. The once beautiful beach is full of gritty rocks. Maybe the lake is healthy in the shallows south, near the islands, but by Port Mayaca it looks terrible. Algae has been reported by S-308 a few weeks ago according to a report from Martin County at the River’s Coalition meeting. But thankfully there is not algae reported in C-44 right now.

We have really made a mess of it. For our rivers and for Lake Okeechobee, the reservoir must be built and we must continue to advocate for sending cleaned water south and re -plumb this outdated system. Forward flow or backwards flow, just say NO.

6-13-17 JTL

____________________________________

Todd Thurlow notes 6-8-17

Jacqui,

Interesting note: if this data is correct, C-44 has poured 10.7 billion gallons (aka 13.82 Stuart Feet) of water into Lake Okeechobee in the last three days. With all the recent “local” runoff into the canal, they have opened S-308, sending the water west to the Lake to help get the low lake level up.

48.5 million gallons passed through S-80 to the St. Lucie on June 5th…

-Todd

C-44 back flow to Lake O, ACOE

Article in Okeechobee News by Katrina Elsken “St Lucie Water Flowing Into the Big O” http://okeechobeenews.net/lake-okeechobee/st-lucie-water-flowing-big-o/

SFWMD: https://www.sfwmd.gov

ACOE Lake O: http://www.saj.usace.army.mil/Missions/Civil-Works/Lake-Okeechobee/

Structures and canals south of LO
Canal and basin map, Martin and St Lucie Co,SLR/IRL. SFWMD
C-44 canal from Stuart to Lake O.
S-308 at Lake O and C-44 canal Port Mayaca

Numerous wood storks and great egrets eating fish in the polluted side canals of C-44:

Video:(http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z-7IwzHGZIM)

Bird Island/Indian River Lagoon, One of Florida’s Most Important Avian Breeding Grounds

Bird Island is one of the most productive breeding grounds for more than 15 species of birds and a rookery/visiting grounds to even more species. The island is owned by the state of Florida and managed by Martin County. It is located 400 feet from the Town of Sewall’s Point. (Most photos by Greg Braun, Sustainable Ecosystems International, story below.)

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Wood stork w nestling at MC-2 - GBraun OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Wood Stork w nesting material near MC-2 Braun

Just over three years ago, I was going through I guess a kind of mid-life crisis where I really was questioning what I was doing with my life. When I couldn’t seem to get it together, I decided to spend some time going back to “my roots,” to the things that made me happy as a kid. I called up family friend Nancy Beaver of Sunshine Wildlife Tours in Port Salerno, and asked her if I could volunteer on her boat a couple of times a week. She obliged, and slowly, I felt my passion for life return while being surrounded by the animals and birds in the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon. The highlight of every tour was “Bird Island,” located off my “very own” Sewall’s Point, as I was mayor of the town at the time.

I had seen the birds from far away, but to see the beautifully colored birds, especially their babies, through binoculars up close was incredible.

Bird Island, located in the Indian River Lagoon, just 400 feet off of the Sewall’s Point’s Archipelago is one of the most valuable nesting bird habitats along Florida’s east coast, really in all of Florida. Rarely are so many different kinds of birds in one location, breeding…

A wonder of nature, birds of all kinds fill the island, over 40 types visiting or roosting and at least 15 species of birds simultaneouly raising young.  At any time of late fall through spring hundreds of birds sometimes over a thousand, some say more, fill the island.

Greg Braun, of Sustainable Ecosystems International, was hired by Martin County for avian monitoring September 2011 thorough August 2012 and he documented observing 240  pairs of birds of 15 species nesting including the Wood Stork; Brown Pelican; Double-crested  Cormorant; Great Egret; Cattle Egret; Anhinga; Tri-colored Heron; Snowy Egret; Great Blue Heron; Litle Blue Heron; Black-crowned Night Heron; Great White Heron; Roseate Spoonbill; Black Vulture; Oystercatcher; and suspected White Ibis and a couple of  invasive Egyptian Geese.

So why this island? There are plenty of others to choose from in the area. Maybe it is for protection? Maybe its the eastern sandbar that keeps boaters at bay and gives the chicks a place to practice swimming and flying and the older birds can just hang out? Maybe its the nearby western seagrasses with its rich production of fish.

Nobody really knows but obviously the birds like it. Originally Bird Island, more scientifically known as “MC-2” was created in the 1940s as a by-product of dredging the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway, (Braun, Avian Monitoring). My mother, historian, Sandra Thurlow, says there are verbal accounts of birds nesting on the island since the 60s and 70s, but again nobody is really sure when it began…

Man’s involvement remains controversial with the removal of tall Australian Pines a few years  back that the amazing Frigate Birds sat on, and then the building of a $600,000, 400 foot long rip-rap on the island’s northern side by Martin County to offset documented erosion. Now in the process is the Florida Wildlife Commission’s (FWC) possible creation of a  CWA or Critical Wildlife Area so that trespassing onto or very near the island would be a crime.

Personally, I think the  bird’s habitat should be very protected as the importance of the island is obvious and it is a rare thing. As far as the CRA status, the County is working through issues with local fishermen who use the area for bait catching, and other users of the area surrounding the island. I do hope some higher level of protection can be met.

Right now, signs surround the island in hopes of giving the birds the privacy they need to  raise their chicks, but curious kayakers and others often go very close flushing the birds off their nest, with masses of crows waiting  close by, putting the chicks at risk.  Sun exposure can also kill the young chicks. People don’t mean to but they often do disturb the island.

Another common problem is fishing line. Nancy Beaver and the FWC when in the area often see birds entangled in monofilament caught in the mangroves. Many birds are taken to the Treasure Coast Wildlife Center and saved; but many more are euthanized due to emaciation.

Bird Island was definitely affected by last year’s putrid release water from Lake Okeechobee and the other canals as is visible in an aerial photograph included in this blog.  During the releases, 85 percent of seagrasses died last summer according  to Florida Oceanographic Society. The bird’s feeding was/is certainly affected by such loss.

In the end, I do believe everyone agrees that Bird Island is an amazing place. Let’s get along like the many birds do and protect it! And if you have not seen it, maybe put it on your list of things to do!

___________________________________

Sunshine Wildlife Tours: (http://sunshinewildlifetours.com)

Audubon Martin County: (http://audubonmartincounty.org/index.php/home/item/51-bird-island-martin-countys-special-place)

Sustainable Ecosystems International: (http://sustainableecosystemsinternational.com)bird island releases

Bird Island, Greg Braun OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA MC-2 GBraun Oystercatcher on beach - GBraun OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Green heron -GBraun Little Blue Heron - GBraun Frigatebirds at MC-2 GBraun greg, mike and pelican OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA IMG_1092 IMG_1166 susan Bird Island DSC_9203e OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA MC2 CWA Revised Boundary 5-20-13