Update April 1:
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Jacksonville District continues to monitor conditions and has adjusted releases from Lake Okeechobee accordingly.
Starting Saturday, March 30, the Corps reduced the pulse release to the Caloosahatchee estuary to a 7-day average rate of 1,000 cubic feet per second (cfs) from the W.P. Franklin Lock and Dam (S-79), as planned. In addition, the Corps reduced flows to the St. Lucie estuary down to zero cfs as measured at the St. Lucie Lock and Dam (S-80). Additional runoff from rain in the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie basins could occasionally result in flows that exceed one or both targets.
Read the entire press release by visiting the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' website.
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 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 (DOH) 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. View DOH's sampling results.
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.
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
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 submit a report online.