This makes me so sick. “Years of waiting ahead”

My thoughts:

I am literally sick to my stomach at the thought of this being a 10 year project.  While it is a realistic timeframe, these conditions are not something that the river can sustain for another decade.

ONE HUNDRED AND THIRTY-FOUR BILLION GALLONS OF WATER

That’s how much water is dumped YEARLY from Okeechobee into our estuary.  It’s killing every living creature in sight, some of whom have never left the lagoon and will certain all be killed off by the time the red tape around this water divergence gets lifted.

One of the wild dolphin feeding moments I captured on camera. Photo by Lindsey Auclair

Un-fun fact: the dolphins of Indian River Lagoon spend their entire lives in the lagoon.  The population once numbered 700, a staggering 10% have already been killed by our pollution this year.  They’ll all be gone.

Does that sink in?  

ALL of the dolphins in our estuary will be gone.  

The dolphins that are being found dead are so emaciated they must have been starving for an extended period.  You’ve all seen the photos, it’s horrific.

This got me thinking about some of my experiences with our lagoon dolphin.  Every.single.time. I’ve been out on our boat, we’ve seen dolphin.  Well that is, until now.

The last few times we were out fishing, the dolphins literally swarmed the boat waiting for our catch-and-release fish to be dropped back into the water.  They ate every one we gave them.  One dolphin repeatedly came right up to the boat, waited patiently for the fish to be unhooked and let us drop it right into his or her mouth.

At the time, I thought this was adorable.  Now, it’s overwhelmingly depressing.  I had no idea they were starving.  I thought they were just clever.  Now I know they were fighting to survive on a night I was just out for a sunset cruise.  Maybe you don’t care about dolphin (which you should by the way, who doesn’t care about dolphin?), but what about the recreational sporting shop owners who make their living showing off the gorgeous dolphin, manatee and wildlife?  What about the fishing guides who can’t book a charter in root beer brown water and feel right charging for a trip they know won’t produce any fish?  What about the kids who want to go tubing at Ski Island and can’t because of the bacteria?  What about the fish that you once were able to catch in the backyard and now

1) can’t find. Surprise: they’re gone!

and 2) can’t eat. Surprise: they’re toxic!

The list of travesties goes on and on.  And that’s why I am sick to my stomach about about a ten year plan.  In ten years, nothing will be left to save.

And all this in a body of water called “an estuary of national significance” for its once unparalleled diversity.  What’s more, now the pollution from the runoff is causing a bacteria harmful to humans, a toxic algae as it were.   With effects such as; hay fever, rashes, diarrhea, vomiting, burning eyes, etc etc etc.

Yet somehow law makers, the Army Corps of Engineers and even our Governor are OK with this?  It makes me want to scream.

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Originally found here: http://www.tcpalm.com/news/2013/aug/05/years-of-waiting-ahead-for-opponents-of-lake/

Years of waiting ahead for opponents of Lake Okeechobee discharges

By Tyler Treadway
Posted August 5, 2013 at 1:36 p.m., updated August 5, 2013 at 4:54 p.m.

TROPICAL FARMS — The 5,000-plus people who gathered here Saturday near the St. Lucie Lock and Dam demanding an end to discharges from Lake Okeechobee into the St. Lucie Estuary have a wait on their hands.

Getting the water now heading east to the St. Lucie and west to the Caloosahatchee estuary to flow south instead will take at least 10 to 15 years.

“I may not be around by then,” said Mark Perry, executive director of the Florida Oceanographic Society in Stuart, “but my kids will be. That’s why I refuse to give up hope; that’s why I tell people, ‘Don’t give up. Keep the pressure on.’ ”

The Army Corps of Engineers releases water from Lake O into the estuaries whenever heavy rainfall in southern and Central Florida, and the potential for rainfall, threaten the Herbert Hoover Dike.

Most recently, the Corps began releasing water through the dam May 8, most of it rain runoff in the St. Lucie Canal watershed.

The influx of fresh water has removed practically all the salinity from the naturally brackish estuary, killing oysters and seagrass and allowing coliform bacteria, which can’t survive in salty water, to thrive. Since late July, potentially toxic blue-green algae has been blooming in the estuary, a result of phosphorus and nitrogen in the water.

“The immediate outlook is pretty dismal,” Perry said. “There’s so much water coming into Lake Okeechobee and nowhere for it to go.”

Here’s a look at some of the short-term and long-term proposals to eliminate, or at least alleviate, the discharges.

SHORT-TERM

Perry and other have suggested levels of the lakes above Lake Okeechobee be raised to keep some of the water out of Lake O and thus out of the estuary.

“The water levels in the chain of lakes along the Kissimmee River are kept at a certain height by the Corps of Engineers and the water management district,” he said. “But if they could go above those levels by just a foot, even half a foot, all that water wouldn’t get dumped on us.”

Perry said stormwater treatment areas and water conservation areas south of the lake also could hold more water to help alleviate the discharges.

“Right now they’re not letting any water go south,” he said, “and that’s frustrating.”

In an email titled “Setting the record straight — Lake O water releases” sent Aug. 2, the Corps calls the idea that water facilities north and south of the lake aren’t being utilized a myth.

Canals and other structures north and south of the lake can’t be kept at maximum depths, the Corps stated, because of the threat of tropical storms.

“ … (A) heavy rain could generate runoff that can’t be discharged through the canals, resulting in street flooding and backup of water into yards, fields and possibly homes.”

Ernie Barnett, interim executive director of the water district, said last week about 25,000 acres for sugar in the 650,000-acre Everglades Agricultural Area already has been flooded. All of it, however, is fallow farmland already out of production.

An Aug. 22 state Senate committee headed by Stuart Republican Sen. Joe Negron will look into the possibility of renting farm land to provide short-term storage of water to keep it from being sent to the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries.

“Putting it anywhere is better than putting it in the estuary,” Perry said.

LONG-TERM

Kevin Powers of Stuart, vice chairman of the South Florida Water Management District Board of Governors, called a 12,000-acre project including a reservoir and stormwater treatment areas under construction along the C-44 Canal connecting the lake and the estuary “the closest thing we’ve got to getting some big relief for the estuary. ”

Still, the earliest the C-44 project could be complete is 2017; and that’s if the water district builds the stormwater treatment area at the same time the Corps, which is tasked with overall construction, builds the reservoir. Otherwise, completion won’t be until 2020 or 2021.

The project, estimated to cost between $750 million and $1 billion, will clean phosphorus and nitrogen out of the canal before it reaches the estuary and the Indian River Lagoon beyond; but the project won’t stop huge amounts of fresh water from pouring into the estuary.

The Central Everglades Planning Project, a $2 billion initiative to use publicly owned land to divert more water from Lake O to the Everglades, will take at least 10 years to complete and account for only a portion of the water dumped east and west from Lake O.

According to Perry, the project would be able to move south about 65.2 billion gallons of water each year.

But, Perry added, the St. Lucie Estuary gets an average of about 143.4 billion gallons of water in discharges from Lake O every year. And almost 326 billion gallons are sent west to the Caloosahatchee every year.

The project needs to be included in the federal Water Resources Development Act, which generally passes once every seven years, by Dec. 31. Everglades advocates worry about missing that deadline, since the water district and Corps still haven’t agreed on a first draft of a plan.

A proposal to complement that project and eliminate the Lake O discharges altogether calls for buying 21,000 acres in the Everglades Agricultural Area and building a 159-billion-gallon reservoir. It would take at least as long, and cost as much, as the Central Everglades project, but the two could done simultaneously.

The proposal, often referred to as Plan 6 in reference to an early plan to create a flow way from Lake Okeechobee to the south, also would cost about $2 billion.

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Lagoon Rally Recap + Second Rally on Sunday

Photos by Eric Hasert

Originally found here: http://www.tcpalm.com/photos/galleries/2013/aug/03/indian-river-lagoon-rally/140244/

The Save the St. Lucie River and Martin County Wildlife rally will be at 10 a.m. Aug. 11 at Stuart Beach.

Stuart residents Evan Miller and Clint Starling are organizing rallies to demand a stop to harmful releases of Lake Okeechobee water into the St. Lucie Estuary, which includes the Indian River Lagoon.

For more information, visit their facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/events/513371885399065/

ERIC HASERT/TREASURE COAST NEWSPAPERS  Images from the Indian River Lagoon Rally at Phipps Park and the St. Lucie Locks in Tropical Farms as residents protest the discharge of water pumped into the St. Lucie River from Lake Okeechobee on Saturday August 3, 2013

ERIC HASERT/TREASURE COAST NEWSPAPERS  Images from the Indian River Lagoon Rally at Phipps Park and the St. Lucie Locks in Tropical Farms as residents protest the discharge of water pumped into the St. Lucie River from Lake Okeechobee on Saturday August 3, 2013

ERIC HASERT/TREASURE COAST NEWSPAPERS  Images from the Indian River Lagoon Rally at Phipps Park and the St. Lucie Locks in Tropical Farms as residents protest the discharge of water pumped into the St. Lucie River from Lake Okeechobee on Saturday August 3, 2013

ERIC HASERT/TREASURE COAST NEWSPAPERS  Dona Corbett (front), and Greg Sapp, of Stuart, carry a mock manatee while protesting against the release of  water from Lake Okeechobee into the St. Lucie River Estuary during the Indian River Lagoon Rally at Phipps Park and the St. Lucie Locks in Tropical Farms on Saturday August 3rd.

 

 

Algae in River threatens wildlife

From TCPalm: http://www.tcpalm.com/news/2013/aug/01/blue-green-algae-bloom-threatens-wildlife-economy/

Blue-green algae bloom threatens wildlife, economy

  • By Jeff Skrzypek, WPTV NewsChannel 5
  • Posted August 1, 2013 at 8:59 p.m.

Photojournalist Christopher Arnold found this blue-green algae Monday afternoon at Shepard Park in Stuart.

STUART — The Florida Department of Environmental Protection continued on Thursday to analyze water samples linked to toxic algae in the St. Lucie Estuary.

Signs were posted by the Martin County Health Department at locations like Sandsprit Park warning of bacteria and blue-green algae in the water.

Sport fishermen like J.J. Klarmann of Jensen Beach said he is seeing the algae blooms all over the St. Lucie Inlet.

“Chocolate milk mixed with slime. I mean it’s getting pretty bad,” said Klarmann.

The bright, green clumps could be seen all over on Thursday bunching up along the shore.

“This place is such a beautiful place and to have slime all over the beach, no one wants to see that,” said Klarmann.

Researchers like Dr. Brian LaPointe at the Florida Atlantic University Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute said the algae could be floating around for awhile.

“Once the problem is here it’s very difficult to deal with it in this environment,” said La Pointe.

Researchers said other chemicals can be dumped in the water to deal with the algae, but it could be just as harmful to the environment.

“These blooms are harmful and that’s why we call them harmful algae blooms,” said LaPointe.

The longer the “green goo” remains in the water, LaPointe estimates the public could start seeing more and more dead fish or plant life and more cases of people reporting injuries from being too close to the algae.

Sport fishermen like Klarmann worry the situation could impact the local economy.

“A lot of people around here depend on fishing because they’re captains and run charters. They don’t want to take clients out in green sludge. I wouldn’t want to take a client out in green sludge,” said Klarmann.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said while it is aware of the toxic algae bloom, it has no plans to stop the discharge. Engineers said water levels at Lake Okeechobee remain critically high.

State investigators expect to have the result of three rounds of testing next week. The results are expected to shed more light on the intensity of the problem.

Toxins on Algae and Seaweed

CONTRIBUTED PHOTO
A researcher has isolated at least three varieties of toxins on microscopic algae sticking to a type of seaweed called gracilaria, the same seaweed found in the bellies of dead manatees in Brevard County. The seaweed also is eaten by fish that are eaten by dolphins and pelicans.

CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

A researcher has isolated at least three varieties of toxins on microscopic algae sticking to a type of seaweed called gracilaria, the same seaweed found in the bellies of dead manatees in Brevard County. The seaweed also is eaten by fish that are eaten by dolphins and pelicans.

A researcher working with Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute has discovered several toxins that could be killing manatees, dolphins and pelicans in the northern Indian River Lagoon.

Peter Moeller, a research chemist at the National Ocean Service in Charleston, S.C., has isolated at least three varieties of toxins on microscopic algae sticking to a type of seaweed called gracilaria, the same seaweed found in the bellies of dead manatees in Brevard County. The seaweed also is eaten by fish that are eaten by dolphins and pelicans.

In the past year, 111 manatees, 51 dolphins and about 300 pelicans in Brevard County have died from unknown causes.

Researchers don’t know, however, what type of microalgae on the seaweed is producing the toxins.

“That’s the next step,” said Brian Lapointe, a research professor at Fort Pierce-based Harbor Branch, a division of Florida Atlantic University. “We have to identify the organism producing the toxins. … Then we’ll look at tissues (from dead manatees, dolphins and pelicans) to see if the organism is there, too, so we can make the link.”

Lapointe said he collected six seaweed samples May 29 in the lagoon near Cocoa Beach, “one of the hot spots for manatee deaths,” and sent them to Moeller.

“Normally, gracilaria isn’t toxic,” Lapointe said. “In fact, it’s widely consumed by humans in various parts of the world. But I sent it to Peter to look at what’s growing on the gracilaria, not at the seaweed itself. Peter’s one of the best toxin sleuths around. Sure enough, he turned it around pretty quickly.”

Lapointe said Moeller found three “bands” of toxins that killed mammal cells, adding there “could be several more organisms producing toxins.”

TOXIC SHOCK

Researchers have suspected toxins were responsible for the manatee deaths because the animals appeared to be healthy but drowned due to toxic shock-like symptoms, Thomas R. “Tom” Reinert, a research administrator with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, told members of the Indian River Lagoon National Estuary Program Advisory Board at their spring meeting in Vero Beach.

Manatees’ normal diet consists primarily of seagrass, but the widespread disappearance of seagrass in the northern lagoon has forced the animal to eat seaweed, especially gracilaria.

“With the manatees, there’s a direct link to the toxins,” Lapointe said. Toxins discovered

The dead pelicans and dolphins, on the other hand, have been emaciated and parasite-ridden — apparently not victims of toxic shock, except that dolphins and pelicans eat fish that eat gracilaria.

Brian Lapointe: “So we could be looking at the same toxins,” Lapointe said, “killing in different ways.”

Lapointe said the toxins also pose a threat to humans.

“You would definitely not want to ingest the gracilaria that contains these toxins,” he said. “As for physical contact (from swimming or wading in the seaweed), we do not yet know the solubility of the toxin, but there is reason for concern.”

Typically, algae blooms thrive when there’s plenty of phosphorus in the water, Lapointe said. But when the phosphorus runs low, algae can begin producing toxins to out-compete other organisms.

“Basically, they’re fighting for the phosphorus,” Lapointe said.

STOP THE BLOOMS

The goal, Lapointe said, is to stop algae blooms from starting in the first place. Lapointe’s research so far suggests the excessive amounts of nutrients — including phosphorus and nitrogen — that feed the blooms come from several sources, including fertilizer runoff, septic tanks, sewer plants and reclaimed water.

“This is when we could really use those LOBOs,” Lapointe said, referring to Land/Ocean Biogeochemical Observatories, remote-controlled sensors that measure temperature, depth, salinity, turbidity, and the amount of chlorophyll and dissolved nitrogen and phosphorous in the water.

This spring, the Florida Legislature approved, but Gov. Rick Scott vetoed, a $2 million grant to help Harbor Branch set up a lagoon-wide “observatory” using LOBO devices.

Moeller, who could not be reached Monday, is funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Lapointe said he plans to apply for a grant through the National Science Foundation to ramp up Harbor Branch’s research into lagoon toxins.

“Right now we have limited funds for this kind of focused yet major research effort,” he said. “To do this work at the level it needs to be is quite expensive.”

Toxic algae bloom studied in Indian River

Updated 12:54 pm, Saturday, July 13, 2013

INDIAN RIVER, Fla. (AP) — A federal researcher has found three varieties of toxins from microscopic algae that he says are responsible for the deaths of manatees, dolphins and pelicans in the Indian River Lagoon in the past year.

Scientists said manatees have been eating more of the toxins, which stick to seaweed, because algae blooms have killed the seagrass they normally eat.

Peter Moeller, a research chemist at the National Ocean Service in Charleston, said he still doesn’t know which algae are producing them and they don’t know how to eliminate it.IRLalgalbloom

His lab collected the algae in May in a spot where many manatees were dying. More than 100 manatees, 51 dolphins and 300 pelicans have died from unexplainable causes in the lagoon in the past year.

Florida Today (http://www.ittybittyurl.com/Uq9) reports Moeller’s lab tested the algae toxins on mice neurological cells and human breast cancer cells.

Moeller said the next step is to describe the molecular structure of the three “suites” of toxins, then determine if the same toxins exist in the manatee, dolphin and pelican tissues.

The Indian River Lagoon, which is one of the largest estuaries on the East Coast, has been choked by a thick, brown sludge on and off for the past few years. At times, there’s been too much and other times, there’s too little. The excess algae is thought to be the result of excess nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorous. As the brown tide lingers, fish and sea grass are also disappearing.

The St. Johns River Water Management District committed up to $3.7 million in April to research a bloom of the same algae species that occurred last year and a toxic algal bloom that occurred in 2011.

Earlier this week, Florida Senate President Don Gaetz announced that a select committee will study the potential environmental impact of discharges from Lake Okeechobee into Indian River Lagoon and other nearby bodies of water. The discharges are controlled by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. There have been concerns that too much freshwater is coming from the lake into estuaries that rely on a mixture of both fresh and salt water.

Brian LaPointe, a researcher with Florida Atlantic University‘s Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute in Fort Pierce, suspects septic tanks, sewer plants and reclaimed water may be the culprit behind the harmful algae bloom. His tests on the algae showed it includes nitrogen in forms that normally occur after passing through a long digestive tract such as a human’s or through the biological processes at a sewage treatment plant.

In 2010, Nova Southeastern University used an acoustic sensor to survey the lagoon’s drift algae from Titusville to Sebastian Inlet. They found drift algae had increased by 46 percent in two years, to 102,162 metric tons over the 109 square-mile study area.

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Information from: Florida Today (Melbourne, Fla.), http://www.floridatoday.com