Remembering and Comparing the 1997/98 El Nino to Today’s, SLR/IRL

Remembering and Comparing the 1997/98 El Nino to Today’s, SLR/IRL

Sofia slide on fish lesions in SLR 1999.
Sofia slide on fish lesions in SLR 1999.
Slide from Dr Gary Goforth's December 2015 update on SLR/IRL Lake Okeechobee.
Slide from Dr Gary Goforth’s December 2015 update on SLR/IRL Lake Okeechobee.

Today I would like to briefly remember 1997 and 1998 and recall why this year is so important to our St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon history. I would also like to note for some who may not know why these years are  being brought back into the ACOE/SFWMD discussion this year.

To remember issues of 1997-98 and see full SOFIA write-up on the issue go to

Today’s slide is complements of a recent document shared by our friend, Dr Gary Goforth. ( “Draft – Wet Season 2015 Lake Discharges – December 9, 2015.” This slide shows that Lake Okeechobee today is lower than it was in 1997.

Why is Dr Goforth comparing 1997? He is comparing 1997 because in 1997-98 there was a strong El Nino (rainy winter), just as we are experiencing right now in 2015/2016.

Certainly we have all noticed how much it is raining this winter so far!

The difference  as far a Lake O management in 1997-98 was that there was no”LORS” schedule then….The 2008 LORS or “Lake Okeechobee Release Schedule” did not go into place until 2008 so prior to that year the lake was allowed to be over a foot higher. Since 2008,  the lake is required to be lower because of work and safety issues on the Herbert Hoover Dike.

This benefits the estuaries in some ways  in that not so much water is stored and can be discharged upon them at once, but on the other hand when it rains the lake is not allowed to “store water” so that water is released into the estuaries…..thus the need for much more storage….(
—-In any case in the slide below are some Dr Goforth’s remarks from his presentation you may find interesting.

It is important that as we move forward to also look back. We must remember what happened in 1997-98, a similar El Nino to what is happening right now…. 1997-98 were not  good years for the river…So much water was released into the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon in 1997-1998 that there were more reported fish lessons than ever before– due to too much and too long of exposure to fresh water. This is also why, in 1998,the Rivers Coalition was born. (

Section of Dr Goforth's report on Lake O levels December 9, 2015.
Section of Dr Goforth’s report on Lake O levels December 9, 2015.

1999 SOFIA SLR fish lesion report:

Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch

Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch

About Jacqui:

Although born at Travis Air Base, California, Jacqui considers herself a native of Stuart, Florida, having moved there at eight months old. Her father’s family, originally from Syracuse, New York, has lived in Stuart since 1952. Her mother is a 5th generation Floridian from Gainesville.

Jacqui is journalism and German graduate of the University of Florida, and an education master’s graduate of the University of West Florida. She went on to teach both English and German and after a serious accident of breaking her neck, started selling real estate. In 2008 she ran for the Town of Sewall’s Point Commission and has served since 2008; She is former mayor. During this time she saw the opportunity to help showcase the work of a locally formed river group, the River Kidz, and this has been her passion ever. She incorporates youth/river education into her political work for the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon.

Jacqui is the treasurer/secretary of the Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council; has chaired the Florida League of Cities Environmental and Energy Committee; was chair, and long time member of the Treasure Coast Council of Local Governments; is an alternate for the Water Resources Advisory Commission for the South Florida Water Management District; and a board member for Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute Foundation. She also serves as an (ex-officio) board member for the Rivers Coalition Defense Fund, and is head administrator for the River Kidz.Jacqui is a Daughter of the American Revolution.

Jacqui’s reach involves not only local, but state and federal government. In 2013,  she served on Senator Joe Negron’s panel for the Select Senate Hearing on the Indian River Lagoon and Lake Okeechobee. In 2014, she actively supported the elections of both Senator Joe Negron and Congressman Patrick Murphy who have both been strong supporters of Indian River Lagoon issues. In 2015, she is part of the Florida League Cities Treasure Coast Advocacy team. Jacqui received the Everglades Coalition’s prestigious 2015 “John V. Kabler Award” for “Grassroots Activism.” Most recently she has been recruited as a fellow by the University of Florida/IFAS’s Natural Resources Leadership Institute Class XV. Jacqui is running for Martin County Commissioner District 1, 2016.

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