Water Quality and the St. Lucie River

  • Port Mayaca June 13, 2018
  • St. Lucie Inlet at low tide June 13, 2018
  • St. Lucie Locks Boat Ramp July 3, 2018
  • 96th Street Bridge at C-44 July 2, 2018
  • 96th Street Bridge looking Upstream July 2, 2018

Monday, July 17

Algae was observed this week at the 96th Street Bridge and while there is visible algae in the canal, it has reduced since discharges began on Sunday; Algae was  also observed at Riverland Marina, Army Corps Campground boat ramp, Stuart Boardwalk and Central Marine.

Lake Okeechobee Level -14.44 feet, previous day 14,47ft, one week ago 14.46 ft.

The NOAA 7 day prediction for rainfall is 2 – 3 inches east of Lake Okeechobee and 1.25 – 1.5 inches over the Lake.

Friday, July 13

The Army Corps of Engineers began discharges from Lake Okeechobee Friday, July 13. The S-80 will be discharging 1,800 cubic feet per second (cfs) to the St. Lucie River and the S-79 will be discharging 3,000 cfs to the west. Releases will operate on a pulse schedule with 11 days of releases followed by three days off to the St. Lucie River and 10 days of releases followed by 4 days off to the Caloosahatchee River to the west.

Monday, July 9

Gov. Rick Scott issued an emergency order in Glades, Hendry, Lee, Martin, Okeechobee, Palm Beach and St. Lucie counties on July 9 to help combat algal blooms caused by Lake Okeechobee water discharges from the Army Corps of Engineers. (Read Executive Order No. 18-191)

Sunday, July 8

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Jacksonville District will suspend water releases from Lake Okeechobee to the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie Estuaries effective Monday morning to conduct a full assessment of system conditions.

While no water will be released from Lake Okeechobee, the Corps will continue to allow runoff from rain that accumulates in the Caloosahatchee or St. Lucie basins to pass through downstream structures. (Read more)

Thursday, July 5

Commissioners are meeting with Senator Bill Nelson and other community leaders to discuss the Indian River Lagoon and water quality issues in our community. Locks remian closed through Saturday. Lake Okechobee level is currently at 14.32 ft., with the previous day at 14.30 ft. and one week ago, the level was 14.10 ft. Total inflows are 4,890 cubic feet per second (cfs) and outflows at 1,623 cfs. 

Tuesday, July 3

Staff is beginning to place advisory signs at locations on county-owned property where blue green algae is visible including Leighton Park (Palm City), Phipps Park, Hosford & Timer Powers Parks. Other locations will be added.

Monday, July 2

Algae was observed today at the 96th Street Bridge from bank to bank, at S-80 with fluorescent green algae from bank to bank and a thick green mat in the lock itself. Algae was also observed at Riverland Marina, Leighton Park and at the de la Bahia and Sunset Drive marinas. Conditions at both marinas had improved from Friday’s observations.

Lake Okechobee level is currently at 14.26 ft., with the previous day at 14.24 ft. and one week ago, the level was 14.05 ft. Total inflows are 5,907 cubic feet per second (cfs) and outflows at 370 cfs. Bottom salinities are improving with an average between 14-15 parts per thousand (ppt), with surface salinities remaining between 1-4 ppt.

Thursday, June 28

Martin County continues to be a strong advocate for the residents and environment. On Tuesday's periodic scientist call with Jacksonville District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and other stakeholders, Martin County requested stopping releases to the St. Lucie River and Estuary. 

At the Rivers Coalition meeting on Thursday, June 28, the Corps announced they will stop releases at S-308 for 9 consecutive days and then proceed with pulse releases. They will also be utilizing pulse releases to the Caloosahatchee on the West Coast.

Should South Florida experience a rain event, basin runoff will still occur. (Read more)

The Indian River Lagoon

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 within the basin, 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.  

Martin County’s Role

Monitor. Communicate. Advocate. Martin County Ecosystems and Restoration 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. 

Stay Informed

Beach safety: Martin County Ocean Rescue manages the safety of beach goers at four guarded beaches. For guard tower locations, click here. Advisory signs are posted at all non-guarded beaches. For daily updates on current beach conditions throughout Martin County, call (772) 320-3112 for a pre-recorded message. 

Florida Department of Health (DOH): Through the Healthy Beaches Monitoring program, 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. View DOH's sampling results here

The Florida Department of Health provides education to the public to prevent and reduce illnesses caused by harmful algae blooms.

Algae bloom toxicity levels: The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and Florida’s water management districts collect samples when algae blooms are observed. View DEP's sampling results here

Citizens are advised, if they have any suspected algae-related illness or health effects due to exposure, to see their physician and report illness to the Florida Poison Control Center at (800) 222-1222.

Report an Algae Bloom

Martin County reminds residents they should avoid any contact with algae blooms and stay out of waters where it is present. Please report algae blooms or sightings to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) at (855) 305-3903 or online here.

Report Impacts on Fish and Wildlife

Fish kills or other wildlife impacted by poor water quality should be reported to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission (FWC) at (800) 636-0511 or online here.