Take a look at the photo above. This aerial image, taken by Ed Lippisch of Sewall’s Point, is part of a series he captured while flying over the St. Lucie River and Indian River Lagoon in the early afternoon on February 8 — 17 days after Lake Okeechobee discharges conducted by the Army Corps of Engineers and supported by the South Florida Water Management District started in an effort to lower the lake. 

The impact is striking. Dark plumes of polluted Lake O water invade the local waters traversed and lived along by residents of Martin County, drastically impacting water quality. Blue water seen here clearly illuminates the barren moonscapes of Stuart’s shallow-water sandbars, which were once lush with seagrass. 

The Army Corps continues to discharge about 500 cubic feet per second from Lake Okeechobee, as it has since January 22. In total, eyeonlakeo.com reports 15,506 acre-feet have been discharged into the St. Lucie estuary, the equivalent of 7,655 olympic-sized swimming pools. With the lake currently at 15.90 feet and capacity in man made marshes south of Lake O prioritized for Big Sugar’s runoff, water managers have reported that these discharges may continue until June

We are grateful to Ed and his wife, South Florida Water Management District Governing Board member Jacqui Thurlow-Lippish, for sharing these eye-in-the-sky updates that provide crucial visualization of how quickly our fragile ecosystems are impacted by unnatural Lake Okeechobee discharges.  

See more of Ed’s images from his latest flight by visiting Jacqui’s blog, Indian River Lagoon.