The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has created an interactive daily Lake Release Schedule map that displays the flows to the St. Lucie estuary in real-time. Discharges are measured in cubic feet per second (CFS).
The St. Lucie River is part of the larger Indian River Lagoon system, the most diverse estuarine environment in North America, with more than 4,000 plant and animal species.
Extensive historical modifications to the St. Lucie River and its watershed have altered the hydrology of the region. As a result, heavy rainfall can bring large influxes of freshwater into the St. Lucie Estuary from stormwater runoff, Lake Okeechobee releases, or both.
The additional freshwater is often darker in color than Atlantic water, and a distinct line forms where the freshwater meets the salt water. The darkness of the freshwater is caused by tannins in the water.
Tannins are natural, organic matter commonly found in freshwater systems. The increased lake water and basin discharges lower salinity levels and reduce water quality in the estuary, causing environmental and economic damage.
Video caption: This video demonstrates the effect of a large freshwater discharge from the St. Lucie Lock and Dam structure on the St. Lucie River and Estuary, as well as the near shore coral reef. These large freshwater inflows have a devastating effect on our aquatic resources both inside and out of the inlet, and can extend offshore for several miles.
Martin County’s Role
Monitor. Communicate. Advocate. Martin County Ecosystems Restoration and Management staff conducts visual checks on sites throughout our area and continues to participate in weekly calls with the Corps and other partner agencies. Additionally, staff reports algae sightings to DEP for notification and consideration of testing.
Through our website and social media pages, staff communicates relevant information about the St. Lucie River and estuary and water releases. The Martin County Board of County Commissioners and staff advocate on behalf of our citizens and waterways through our relationships at the state and federal levels.
Beaches: Martin County Ocean Rescue manages the safety of beach goers at four guarded beaches. Advisory signs are posted at all non-guarded beaches. For daily updates on current beach conditions throughout Martin County, please call Martin County's Beach Information Hotline at (772) 320-3112.
Florida Department of Health: The Florida Department of Health provides education to the public to prevent and reduce illnesses caused by harmful algae blooms. The Martin County Health Department conducts beach and river water sampling to test for enterococci bacteria, which normally inhabit the intestinal tract of humans and animals. If higher than normal levels of bacteria are present, advisory signs will be posted and residents are urged to avoid contact with the water.
Algae bloom toxicity levels: The Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and Florida’s water management districts collect samples when algae blooms are observed.
Suspected algae-related illness: Citizens are advised, if they have any suspected algae-related illness or health effects due to exposure to algae, to see their physician and report any suspected illness to the Florida Poison Control Center at (800) 222-1222.
Report an Algae Bloom
Blue-green algae: Martin County reminds residents they should avoid any contact with algae blooms and stay out of waters where it is present. Please report blue-green algal blooms or sightings to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection via their Algal Bloom Hotline at (855) 305-3903 or submit a report online.