Indian River Lagoon Rally on Saturday the 3rd

STUART — As many as 2,000 people said they’ll join forces at Phipps Park on Saturday to show they’ve had enough of the pollution being pumped into the St. Lucie Estuary from Lake Okeechobee.

That’s how many RSVPs people had posted on the Save the St. Lucie River rally’sFacebook page as of Friday morning.

“My hope is that enough people will show up to prove that Martin County is willing to stand up and fight for its rivers,” said Clint Starling, who co-organized the rally with Evan Miller.

Attendees are encouraged to bring signs and posters and even dress in costumes that illustrate their agitation, the most creative of which will receive prizes donated by local businesses.

The rally will kick off at 10:30 a.m. with several speakers, followed by a march at 11 a.m. from Phipps Park to the adjacent government property where the infamous locks are located.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says it must drain water from Lake Okeechobee to prevent a levee breach and flooding of the surrounding communities. Water is discharged through several South Florida Water Management District canals, including one that flows into the Indian River Lagoon via the St. Lucie River.

High levels of nitrogen, phosphorous and freshwater that reduces salinity in the brackish estuary can cause potentially toxic algae blooms, such as the lagoon is experiencing now, and other issues that kill wildlife.

Some say the government should protect the lagoon instead of sugar farmland around the lake, and advocate flooding their fields.

“We’re trying to educate the crowd,” Starling said. Miller added, “People know the river is screwed up, but we want to educate them as to why and how.”

IF YOU GO

What: Save the St. Lucie River rally

When: 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday

Where: Phipps Park, 2175 S.W. Locks Road, Stuart

Information: http://on.fb.me/16MHL2H

SCHEDULE OF EVENTS

10:35 a.m.: Florida Water and Land Legacy

10:40 a.m.: Larry Jones, Snook & Gamefish Foundation

10:45 a.m.: Mark Perry, Florida Oceanographic Society

10:50 a.m.: Leon Abood, Rivers Coalition

10:55: Protest across the locks

Noon: Return to rally point for costume and sign awards

LOGISTICS

Traffic: Expected to be heavy due to tight entrance on Locks Road; attendees are encouraged to arrive early.

Parking: Martin County Sheriff’s Office volunteers will assist; attendees are encouraged to carpool.

Food/drinks: Bring your own. None will be available for purchase because the permit/insurance does not cover the presence of vendors.

Restrooms: There are permanent facilities at the park.

Donations: Welcomed to cover costs, including the $50 permit and $365 insurance, and to support the Rivers Coalition.

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Research Groups

Article from TC Palm: http://www.tcpalm.com/news/2013/jul/07/our-indian-river-lagoon-research-costs-908m/

Throughout the 156-mile length of the Indian River Lagoon, researchers are taking water samples, analyzing marine life and digging into muck to try to better understand what’s in the lagoon and what’s damaging it. According to a 2008 study commissioned by the Indian River Lagoon National Estuary Program, $90.8 million a year is spent on lagoon research, restoration and education.

HARBOR BRANCH OCEANOGRAPHIC INSTITUTE

Researchers are studying everything from the loss of about 47,000 acres of seagrass to the health and environmental risks to bottlenose dolphins — 200 of which scientists have captured, examined, sampled, marked and released since 2003.

Brian Lapointe, a Harbor Branch research biologist, is studying the effects of the approximately 300,000 septic tanks in the lagoon’s watershed. Human waste from leaking tanks, Lapointe said, is more than a significant contributor to increased pollution in the lagoon.

“It’s the smoking gun,” Lapointe said.

Nitrogen and phosphorous, which septic tank systems do not remove, play a major role spreading algae in the lagoon, which kills seagrass, eliminating a primary food source for wildlife.

Read more of Lapointe’s research publications.

OCEAN RESEARCH CONSERVATION ASSOCIATION

The Fort Pierce-based nonprofit is trying to raise $6 million to take sediment samples and deploy 50 water monitors, called Kilroys, throughout the 156-mile lagoon.

ORCA has deployed 10 Kilroys so far, with plans for another four in Indian River County in late June or early July. All six St. Lucie County Kilroys are in the Fort Pierce Inlet area. The four in Martin County are near Hell’s Gate, Willoughby Creek, the St. Lucie Inlet and outside the Florida Oceanographic Institute. After ORCA receives permits, four more Kilroys will be deployed in Indian River County, near the Vero Beach Yacht Club and the Main, North Relief and South Relief canals.

Kilroys measure:

• Water depth

• Water flow, direction and speed

• Salinity

• Turbidity

• Temperature

• Wave conditions

• Barometric pressure

A live data feed is available online.

SMITHSONIAN MARINE STATION

Researchers who have been studying seagrass in the lagoon for almost 40 years say they not only serve as nurseries for small fish and other marine creatures and provide food for larger species such as manatees and sea turtles. They also store almost three times as much carbon in their roots and the soil around them as rainforests do. That’s 83,000 metric tons per square kilometer for seagrass versus 30,000 metric tons per square kilometer for rainforests.

Scientists have been have been focusing on the high diversity of species in the lagoon’s environments, including mangrove swamps, oyster and seagrass beds, sand and mud flats, as well as the coral and worm reefs along the Treasure Coast’s shoreline.

Read the Indian River Lagoon Species Inventory and the Field Guide to the Indian River Lagoon.

ST. JOHNS RIVER WATER MANAGEMENT DISTRICT

Its four-year, approximately $3.7 million Indian River Lagoon Protection Initiative will increase scientific understanding of the lagoon system through:

• Monitoring

• Data collection

• Field and lab work

• Model development

Now in its first phase, work is focusing on:

• Water quality monitoring

• Seagrass transplant experiments

• Studies of drift algae.

By the end of the four years, the knowledge gained will be applied to managing lagoon resources. Projects will be focused on the Mosquito, northern Indian River and Banana River lagoons.

Available online is the 2011 superbloom investigation.

LIONFISH

A new problem, the invasive and venomous lionfish, was first discovered in the lagoon in 2009. The spiny predator has no natural local predators and threaten the hundreds of species of fish and shellfish that use the lagoon as a nursery.

The only research on lionfish being conducted in the lagoon is by Emily Dark, a master’s degree candidate at Antioch University under the mentorship of Jeff Beal, a biological scientist with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

According to Dark, lionfish are widespread in the Atlantic off the Treasure Coast, and their larvae float into the lagoon on the tides. They can be found under ledges and among mangrove roots.

Video of a lagoon lionfish.

Click here to return to the main story.

Click here to return to the main Our Indian River Lagoon page.

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