“Death by a Thousand Cuts,” Time to Stop the Bleeding, St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon

SLR/IRL St Lucie Inlet 207-16 by Ed Lippisch.
SLR/IRL St Lucie Inlet 2-7-16 by Ed Lippisch.
SFWMD canal and basin map. C-44 canal is the canal most southerly in the image.
SFWMD canal and basin map. C-44’s S-80  is the canal most southerly in the image.
SFWMD 1955-2015 discharges at S-80.
SFWMD 1955-2015 history of discharges at S-80.

The idiomatic expression “death by a thousand cuts” has been used by many people in many situations…but the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon is the expression’s poster child…

Idiom: Death of a thousand cuts
Idiom Definitions for ‘Death of a thousand cuts’

“If something is suffering the death of a thousand cuts, or death by a thousand cuts, lots of  bad things are happening, none of which are fatal in themselves, but which add up to a slow and painful demise.”

The St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon has been dying, has been “being killed” by our local, state, and federal governments since before I was born. Since the 1940s when the 1915 “slice” between Lake Okeechobee and the South Fork of the St Lucie River was deepened, widened and made permanent by the ACOE as requested by a state protecting agriculture and development interests.

Does this make it “right?” —That it has been happening for so long? Does this mean we should have nothing to say about  the present very high level discharges killing our estuary? Absolutely not.

As in most instances righting cultural wrongs takes time. It takes many years of pain and realization. And then it takes people rising up for change.—- It takes bravery, determination, and exposure.

For instance, it wasn’t until the first TV stations in the 1960s showed black Americans displaying non-violence in the face of attack dogs and beatings; it wasn’t until a few brave women spoke out publicly and were arrested as displayed in the first newspapers of the day that these hundred year old issues began to change.


For Florida, we are that new issue. Our river is that “new issue.” Without  the advent of social media and Go Pros allowing a pilot, like my husband Ed, to attach a camera to his plane and share formerly unseen  images with the world, the cuts of Lake Okeechobee and area canal discharges at S-80 would happen again and again and again. But since 2013 images have been shared, social media has ripped through the hearts of people who want something different. Not just here but on the west coast and all across our state. The River Warriors, the Rivers Coalition and thousands of others have stood up. We are primed to do this again but even more effectively. Film it. Share it. Expose it.

The SFWMD chart below, found by my brother Todd, shows the Lake Okeechobee and C-44 area canal releases from Structure-80 displayed from 1955-2015. Dr Gary Goforth has shown us in a blog I wrote in 2013 that in the 1920s the release levels were even higher. We can see the  destructive releases have happened many times at horrific levels. They are going down. Now they must stop.

These red lines are the historic destruction that is driving our actions today. Each line a new cut causing a weaker estuary. ——-We are the chosen generation to change this. We are the chosen generation to save the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon.

Yesterday, after the vocal encouragement of the River Warriors and others our Martin County Commission unanimously voted to send a resolution to Governor Scott asking for  a “State of Emergency.”

In my opinion, this means that not some, but every commissioner must support the purchase of land south of Lake Okeechobee.  Because the propaganda of “finishing the projects” as the answer— just isn’t going to cut it.

River Warriors protesting before the MCBOCC 7-9-16. Photo JTL.
River Warriors protesting before the MCBOCC 7-9-16. Photo JTL.
SFWMD 1955-2015 discharges at S-80.
SFWMD 1955-2015 discharges at S-80.
With SFWMD info on bottom
With SFWMD info on bottom of slide.
Plume, Ed Lippisch 2016
Plume, Ed Lippisch 2-7-16.
SL Inlet
SL Inlet, 2-7-16, Ed Lippisch.
Plume, Sailfish Flats discharges, photo Ed Lippisch 2016.
Plume, Sailfish Flats discharges, photo 2-7-16 Ed Lippisch 2016.

13 thoughts on ““Death by a Thousand Cuts,” Time to Stop the Bleeding, St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon

  1. Yes Jacqui you are correct, it does take bravery, determination and exposure. I know you will remember our fist conversations from three years ago on this same subject, to which I will add that it’s also going to take courage, bail money and a good attorney.

  2. That is absolutely correct. A state of Emergency and a couple of billion in federal funds could fix this. It is not a matter of “if” it can be fixed. The fix is simple; we just need the dedication of a few brave politicians. Read Nat Reed’s guest column in The Stuart News today, 2-10-16. We cannot wait for property values to come down; they may go up. The property should have been bought during the “bust” of 2008-2009. The reality is that the project would create thousands of jobs and improve the property values of all the currently impacted coastal properties, and there are literally trillions of dollars of coastal homes on both coasts which are devalued by the poison black muck which accumulates more with each discharge. In short, the project would pay for itself and then pay dividends.

    1. Mac, I agree with what you’re saying, however, since we’re using expressions like “Death by a thousand cuts”, I’ll just comment on your words “the fix is simple” to say that it is definitely not simple. As in Chicago politics, the phase “The fix is in” defines in large part the corrupt political power of the Sugar Cartel, and the enormous power that they wield over every politician, Governor and even the President of the United Sates. What we need is what Flint Michigan has… national attention.

  3. Jacqui – I’d just like to expand on what you mention in your 4th Paragraph… You mention the 1915 “slice” that connected Lake “O” to the South Fork of the St. Lucie – this initial connection, along with the connection to the Calosatchee River to the west coast were dual purpose canals – for navigation 1st – to provide a transport path from the coastal areas to the inland and secondarily for drainage to open up the rich muck lands East and South of the lake (the 760,000 Acres of “The EAA”) for farming – as were the Palm Beach, Hillsboro, North New River, and Miami canals. The 1940’s, and later, expansions of the Okeechobee Waterway were primarily drainage works (the least expensive directions to “do that”), although the navigation locks were also increased in size. (Please distinguish between LOCKS and SPILLWAY structures – they serve entirely different purposes.)

    I’ll close this with a copy of the comments I made last night to the video of the Spillway gates opened wide at S-80…

    In 1969 & 70 = I was stationed w/ the ACOE at the Clewiston Area Office (and for several years prior to that I worked as a surveyor with the C&SFFCD during summers while in College – The Everglades NP was “dying for water” then – but the “plumbing system” being built just couldn’t get it there. “Some” southward flow improvements have been made, but not “a lot” in 46 years! Just “because it’s there, the East/West Okeechobee Waterway DOES NOT HAVE to be the “sole or primary drains” for Lake “O”… IT was built for cross Florida Navigation – NOT primarily as a DRAIN. The Palm Beach, Hillsboro, North New River, and Miami Canals were there first for drainage and second for Navigation. “We” could have, 46 years ago, shifted back to the natural flow pattern and still need to – send it South (down those dug canals, into the WCA’s, then into ENP and Florida Bay) where it used to go! The existing Canals (modified) along with the necessary pump stations and diffusion Canal systems into the WCA’s along with the elimination of the WCA compartmentalization could restore “near” natural flow – and still retain the 760,000 +/- Acres of the EAA that was drained for Ag Production. AG IS NOT THE ENEMY FOLKS! The present diversion of all of the Kissimmee River Watershed’s flow to EAST/WEST flow – that’s the “enemy”.

    OF COURSE – if you’ve opened the gates wide and are discharging ~ 4 Billion GPG West and 3 Billion GPD East – that’s going to be “Impressive” as a “point source” discharge thru a 175′ wide set of 7 gate control structures (at Stuart) where the above film was taken. However, spread this flow across 66 MILES (the Northern perimeter edge of the WCA’s / Southern perimeter edge of the EAA and it would be not be nearly as “impressive” – BUT it would restore the natural flow down through the “River of Grass” !

  4. Love your writings. Death by 1000 cuts is a great analogy related to our water woes. I appreciate your writings and your insightful story telling. And your willingness to stand up for good.Thank you always,

    Martin County voter for JTL!

Leave a Reply