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 [...]

Everglades Illustrated: SB 2508 is still a danger to Florida’s environment

The fight to kill Senate Bill 2508 isn't over. We outlined the reasons that this bill is still a danger to Florida's environment in a recent Clean Water Conversation. The long-story-short explanation is listed in the graphic above. You can find more information about why we still have major concerns by clicking here. Though amended to remove some of the most damaging provisions, there is no reason to let our guard down, and we need your help rallying others to help us kill this bill for good. If you haven't already, use the button below to send a message to Senate President Wilton Simpson, Senator Ben Albritton, Representative Chris Sprowls, and Representative Josie Tomkow today. If you've already done so, [...]

Everglades Illustrated: Cane burning risks human health

https://youtu.be/_89aQ3YSt-g Watch this video. Orange flames spit through the air as sugarcane leaves are burned from the stalk for harvest. Thick black smoke swirls and a single white bird wings its way above the fire. Florida Forest Service Active Burn Tracking Satellite Map - Feb. 8, 2022 Now look at this map. Each of those cones on the map indicates a sugarcane burn notice happening today and the direction of its plume. Dozens of these burns can happen on any given day from October to May, filling the air of surrounding towns with smoke and soot that can travel miles from the initial burn sites. At greatest risk are the children and the elderly residents of the Glades [...]

2022-02-08T11:38:53-05:00February 8th, 2022|All Posts, Everglades Illustrated, Sugarcane Burning|

Everglades Illustrated: The power of seagrass

Last week’s 37th annual Everglades Coalition Conference has us thinking about the importance of a particular building block throughout the greater Everglades ecosystem: seagrass. During the conference, Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava reminded us of an astounding fact: Florida wetlands, including mangroves, salt marshes and seagrass meadows, are much more efficient at sequestering carbon than even rainforests — making them some of the most efficient natural carbon storage environments in the world and considerably boosting our natural resilience to the impacts of climate change. In Florida, seagrass benefits don’t just end there. Seagrasses provide critical nursery habitat and feeding grounds for countless fish and aquatic animal species. Years of unchecked pollution and algae blooms have caused mass die-off events [...]

2022-01-11T11:27:32-05:00January 11th, 2022|All Posts, Everglades Illustrated|

Everglades Illustrated: LOSOM must protect the estuaries

The Everglades is vast, and restoration is complex. We're breaking it down visually for you. Are Throwback Tuesdays a thing? We’re making them one today, as we take a look back at an image from 2016. The photo above was taken in a neighborhood canal off of the St. Lucie River during a time that is infamously remembered as the toxic summer of 2016. That summer, images like this one were not uncommon in the coastal community of Stuart, Florida — the east coast ground zero for Lake Okeechobee discharges. For those who lived through it, this picture brings to mind a particularly horrific smell. The guacamole-thick mats of blue-green algae emitted a stench so overwhelming that residents had trouble being outdoors. [...]

2021-11-09T12:25:55-05:00November 9th, 2021|Everglades Illustrated, LOSOM|