25 May 2018 Using observation networks to examine the impact of Lake Okeechobee discharges on the St. Lucie Estuary, Florida
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The St. Lucie River Estuary (SLE) in southeast Florida has a very large watershed comprised of several natural rivers and a network of artificial canals used for water supply and flood control. One of the largest and most critical of these canals is the C-44, which connects Lake Okeechobee to the South Fork of the SLE and is one of the primary means by which excess water is drained from the lake. Major discharges from the lake at the start of the 2016 summer wet season resulted in one of the most severe harmful algal blooms in the SLE in recent history, causing millions of dollars of economic losses in the area. Despite similar discharges from Lake Okeechobee in 2017 following Hurricane Irma, no such bloom occurred. However, algae blooms are not the only hazard associated with lake discharges. Large influxes of freshwater harm organisms adapted to life in a brackish estuary. Observation networks, augmented with ad hoc sampling, can speak volumes about the status of the ecosystem and the impact of water management decisions. Examination of historical data can begin to reveal the causes of negative ecological events in the SLE and the conditions correlated to the termination of the event. Stakeholders can use this data to inform choices about potential discharges, including timing and volume, and verify expected outcomes via real-time network data, thereby mitigating ecological and economic harm to the SLE.
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Nicole D. Stockley, Nicole D. Stockley, James M. Sullivan, James M. Sullivan, Dennis Hanisak, Dennis Hanisak, Malcolm N. McFarland, Malcolm N. McFarland, "Using observation networks to examine the impact of Lake Okeechobee discharges on the St. Lucie Estuary, Florida", Proc. SPIE 10631, Ocean Sensing and Monitoring X, 1063109 (25 May 2018); doi: 10.1117/12.2309797; https://doi.org/10.1117/12.2309797

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