Everglades Illustrated: Persistent Red Tide

Along the coast of Southwest Florida, red tide is lingering. Through January 6, 2023, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission detected low to high concentrations in 59 samples collected from Pinellas to Charlotte County, as detailed in the image above.  Conditions have varied since October when the blooms first appeared, due to ever-changing wind and currents that move blooms inshore and offshore, as well as up and down the coast. Marine animals and residents alike are feeling the repercussions, as fish kills and respiratory irritation reported by beachgoers are linked to the persistent blooms.  In Sarasota Bay, researchers have discovered that bottlenose dolphins tracked by marine scientists will “cough” and “sneeze” when they swim through strong red tide blooms, [...]

2023-01-10T09:25:51-05:00January 10th, 2023|Everglades Illustrated, Red Tide, Wildlife Habitat|

Everglades Illustrated: Sanibel Red Tide Report

Take a look at these photos from Friends of the Everglades Multimedia Producer Leah Voss. The images from a recent visit to Sanibel Island offer a sobering look at a community still very much in distress after Hurricane Ian made direct landfall along Florida’s west coast on September 28. Much of the island remains off limits to visitors as the local population continues the hard work of recovery. The latest threat exacerbating the post-storm situation hangs heavy in the air and the surrounding water — red tide. Along the shoreline, Leah described a nauseating smell and an unmistakable tickle at the back of her throat. A dead seabird laid in the [...]

2022-12-14T09:56:29-05:00December 13th, 2022|Caloosahatchee Estuary, Everglades Illustrated, Red Tide|

Everglades Illustrated: Wrong project, wrong place

Last week, Miami-Dade County Commissioners voted 8-4 to approve the South Dade Logistics and Technology District, effectively gutting the Urban Development Boundary in favor of sprawling, industrial development at the expense of our natural environment. The original footprint of the project, identified in the map above, has since been reduced in size from 800 acres to a 311-acre mix of warehouses, call centers and other commercial uses south of Florida’s Turnpike. Regardless, it remains the wrong project in the wrong place, with construction slated for “Coastal High Hazard Area'' in dangerous proximity to Everglades National Park, Biscayne Bay and ongoing Everglades restoration projects. As another tropical storm approaches Florida's coast, it's more clear than ever: It's reckless to bend [...]

Everglades Illustrated: A system overwhelmed

Hurricane Ian barreled into the west coast of Florida on September 28 as a powerful Category 4 hurricane. As relief efforts remain rightly focused on the heartbreaking human toll of the storm, the environmental fallout has yet to come front and center. Satellite images are helping to piece together the beginnings of a story that has only just begun to play out. In the NASA satellite image above, swirls of sediment stirred up in Florida’s coastal water, “lifted from the seafloor as Ian neared the coast,” starkly contrast with dark plumes of stormwater runoff exiting the land. Though this tannin-colored runoff is not altogether unusual, the sheer volume of water coming off the landscape is out of the ordinary, [...]

2022-10-11T12:58:37-04:00October 11th, 2022|Caloosahatchee Estuary, Everglades Illustrated|

Everglades Illustrated: Lake O levels and the “water shortage management band”

    It’s been a relatively dry summer. As of September 11, Lake Okeechobee stood at 12.55 feet. That’s about 2 feet lower than this time last year. Last week, the lake officially entered what’s known as the “water shortage management band” — a point where water managers can implement water restrictions if necessary and South Florida Water Management District steps in to determine release volumes from Lake O. But let’s not sound the drought alarm bells just yet. Typically the biggest concern during rainy season is that Lake O will rise too fast, threatening the integrity of the Herbert Hoover Dike and triggering damaging discharges to the northern estuaries — but that has not been the case this summer. [...]

2022-09-14T16:43:47-04:00September 13th, 2022|All Posts, Everglades Illustrated, Lake Okeechobee, LOSOM|

Everglades Illustrated: Breaking down LOSOM

How will water move in and out of Lake Okeechobee over the next decade? The image above offers a glimpse of the new Lake Okeechobee System Operating Manual, better known as LOSOM. Allow us to explain. The arrows pointing to the left of the chart indicate lake flows going west to the Caloosahatchee Estuary. The arrows pointing to the right of the chart are going east to the St. Lucie. Zone A (above the red line) represents the highest lake stages. Under LOSOM, when the lake level jumps over 17 feet, all bets are off for the northern estuaries. Maximum releases can be sent east and west to protect the integrity of the Herbert Hoover Dike. These high-level discharges are [...]

2022-08-09T08:09:05-04:00August 9th, 2022|Everglades Illustrated, LOSOM|

Everglades Illustrated: This is what recovery looks like

Satellite image of the Sailfish Flats in Stuart, FL, courtesy of eyeonlakeo.com The compilation of images above shows satellite imagery of the Sailfish Flats in Stuart, Florida, during the summer months of 2018, 2019 and just recently in 2022. They tell a story of slow but sure recovery. Across Florida, the summer of 2018 was a nightmare for water. To the east and the west, a stew of toxic blue-green algae-laden water from Lake Okeechobee was discharged in both directions. People and pets got sick, marine animals died by the tons (literally), businesses suffered and the most destructive red tide in years persisted along the west coast with the help from the constant source of nutrients. In Stuart, [...]

2022-07-11T19:34:09-04:00July 12th, 2022|Everglades Illustrated, St. Lucie Estuary|

Everglades Illustrated: Eye on Toxic-Algae Season

It's summer in Florida, AKA toxic-algae season. Around the world, regional shifts in temperature and weather mark the start of fall and winter, spring and summer. But here in Florida, visitors and residents have become accustomed to another season that coincides with heavy rains and longer, hotter days of summer: toxic-algae season. In the satellite image above from National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science, a neon green mass accumulates in the northwest portion of Lake Okeechobee, spanning the western shoreline in a bloom that covers 160 square miles. If you’ve lived in Florida long, or have followed the news in recent years, the image evokes a familiar wariness that has become common across the sunshine state from mid-May to mid-October, [...]

2022-06-14T10:24:20-04:00June 14th, 2022|Big Sugar, Everglades Illustrated, Toxic Algae|

Everglades Illustrated: Stormwater Treatment Areas — Your tax dollars at work

Take a look at the graph above, showing data collected by the South Florida Water Management District and consider the following: There are roughly 60,000 acres of taxpayer-funded stormwater treatment areas (STAs) south of Lake Okeechobee. These man-made wetlands are designed to store and treat water before it reaches the southern Everglades. For each of the last 10 water years depicted above, the yellow portion of the bars represent the volume of water sent to the STAs directly from Lake Okeechobee. The much larger blue portion represents runoff sent to those same STAs by sources including indistrial sugarcane farms in the Everglades Agricultural Area. So what’s the problem? Coastal communities downstream of Lake Okeechobee are familiar with the horror that [...]

2022-05-11T10:03:26-04:00May 10th, 2022|Everglades Illustrated|

Everglades Illustrated: The Scientific Uncertainty of ASR

Photo Credit: South Florida Water Management District The Scientific Uncertainty of ASR Each of the red outlines in the map above indicates a proposed cluster of aquifer storage and recovery (ASR) wells. Pitched as an answer to water-storage needs north of Lake Okeechobee, the wells’ feasible use within Everglades restoration and exorbitant cost have been at the center of heated debate in Florida’s environmental community. Proponents claim the technology offers a way to store large volumes of water deep in the aquifer — water that would otherwise pour untreated into Lake Okeechobee. But scientific concerns abound. Some experts say they’re inefficient and won’t have enough capacity to relieve toxic discharges, and they warn that metals dissolved in the [...]


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