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.
Martin County and UF/IFAS Sea Grant Extension have partnered to offer the Water Ambassador training program to help you change your practices and to educate your friends and neighbors to meet this goal. This unique training program creates knowledgeable and motivated volunteers ready to make a difference.
What is the Martin County Water Ambassador training program?
The Martin County Water Ambassador training is a one day education program that unites and empowers residents and volunteers who have an interest in protecting local waterways and giving back to their communities. For upcoming dates and class locations, visit the Water Ambassador Program website.
Beginning February 1, 2019 The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Jacksonville District will target 7-day average flows of 1,000 cubic feet per second from the W.P. Franklin Lock and Dam (S-79) to the Caloosahatchee Estuary when local basin runoff from recent rains subsides.
Lake Okeechobee and the surrounding area received significant rainfall this past weekend. Lock operators along the Okeechobee Waterway are still managing local basin runoff in the canals on both sides of the lake. January rainfall was twice the normal amount throughout the system and one of the wetter Januarys on record.
Starting Friday, February 1, a pulse release will be implemented with a target 7-day average flows of 1,000 cubic feet per second (cfs) as measured at W.P. Franklin Lock and Dam (S-79) near Fort Myers, continuing the use of Additional Operational Flexibility. The St. Lucie target will remain at zero cfs. Runoff from rain in the local Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie basins will occasionally result in flows that exceed one or both targets, especially as required to manage canal levels in the Okeechobee Waterway.
Read the entire press release by visiting the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' website.
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.
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 submit a report online.