All posts by Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch

The Destruction of the Kissimmee River, an Historic Flyover

Our recent focus on the Kissimmee River has inspired my brother Todd Thurlow to create a very special Time Capsule Flight. He has geo-referenced more than twenty 1940s historic aerials and topography maps revealing the destruction of this once remarkable, not just river, but vast floodplain. The outcome is epic! You will see this historic mistake as you’ve never seen before.

The 1962-1971 channelization of the two mile wide Kissimmee floodplain into a thirty foot deep C-38 Canal was perhaps the all-time worst act of the State of Florida and the Army Corps of Engineers. Why was the channelization of the Kissimmee any more destructive than any other of the Central and South Florida Plan atrocities? Because the Everglades south of Lake Okeechobee was already very compromised. This act not only  killed the Kissimmee, but just about everything below it.

Like a knife through flesh, the engineers cut deep, draining the life blood, water, from the surrounding marshes and curves to now shoot down, unfiltered into the Lake. In short order, with devastating ecological consequences, over ninety percent of the waterfowl that once graced the region, disappeared. Fish and other wildlife’s health and bio-diversity plummeted.  Today the ACOE and SFWMD recognize this huge mistake and are working hard to restore parts of the Kissimmee. But before we witness that, Todd will lead you through a time capsule flight of what indeed, we did do…

Please watch video directly below.

(The Destruction of the Kissimmee River, click here for YouTube with Todd’s full write up: https://youtu.be/xChsxU8Nv5s)

This video compares 23 USDA aerials from 1941 and 1944 to historical aerials from 1999. The early aerials predate the transformation of the river into a canal in the 1960s. The 1999 aerials show the canal before recent restoration efforts. Beginning in 1999, the U.S. Army Corps. of Engineers began restoring sections of the river by dismantling the canal. Twenty-four miles of river have been restored. Aerials of those restoration projects will be the subject of future videos. ~ Todd Thurlow

SFWMD “Weekly Environmental Report” of the Entire Everglades

One thing is for sure, the South Florida Water Management District puts out a lot of information. One publication I am slowly acquiring the patience to read in the weekly “Environmental Conditions Report.” The District has been great about sharing this important information on Twitter and Facebook, but it is still difficult to find on the website.

Today I am going to share how I read this report hoping that you will start to read it too.  You’ll notice that right off the bat there is a disclaimer: “Information contained in the report addresses environmental conditions only and is not the official South Florida Water Management District operations recommendation or decision.” 

Disclaimer or not, this document  is very important because it is given from the perspective of the entire environment of the Everglades System and of the wildlife if they could talk. The report  is 30 pages long and scientific; how can we make it easier for the layperson to read?

For me, as I begin, I ask myself, “What is this week’s problem?” “What should I know first?” To get myself engaged, I have started reading at the bottom of the document first. I go directly the last page where it says “…Recommendations.” Then I read it all.

The first sentence under the February 13, 2020 Water Management Recommendations reads:  “Current stages in WCA-3A are low for this time of year and salinities are high in Florida Bay.” Hmmm. I know high salinities are not good for Florida Bay because it can cause a massive sea grass die off, and what is this about WCA-3A? What is a WCA?

WCA means “Water Conservation Area.”

Below  is the SFWMD recommendation and a map from the National Academies showing the three Water Conservation Areas. WCAs are protected just like the Everglades and they are part of the Central and South Florida Project of 1948. They have many important functions for people and for wildlife: https://www.sfwmd.gov/sites/default/files/documents/fyi_wca_management.pdf

So now with these “problems” in mind and of course thinking about the importance of my own St Lucie River. (I am so thankful we have not had toxic algae discharges from Lake Okeechobee this year!) I read it all because I want to know about the environment for the entire Everglades as I’m sure you do as well!

Please click here to read. 2-13-10 SFWMD Weekly Environmental Report: wkly_env_conditions_ops_report_2020_02_13

A mullet jumps at sunset, St Lucie River. (Photo Todd Thurlow)

On SFWMD website:The February 13, 2020 Ecological Conditions Report is posted to the portal:https://www.sfwmd.gov/science-data/operational-planning under Operational Reports, lower left-hand side.

Aerial Photo Explanation ~Kissimmee River Restoration

Aerial, Kissimmee River restoration, Gary Goforth, 2-9-20

My most recent blog post included the above photograph of Kissimmee River Restoration north of Lake Okeechobee taken by Dr Gary Goforth. My mother, Sandy Thurlow, commented: “ I would so like for Dr. Goforth to explain what we are seeing in his aerial of the restoration of the Kissimmee River.”

I wrote Gary on behalf of my mother and he provided such comprehensive and helpful insight that today I am sharing not just for my mother, but for everyone! Please read below.

 

~Dear Gary, 

When time allows my mother was hoping to get an explanation of the wonderful Kissimmee River restoration photo you shared in my blog post. Could you please write something? Thank you so much. 

Jacqui 

~From Gary

Hi Jacqui,

 

The Kissimmee River Restoration (KRR) Project is one of my favorite projects on the planet!  In the 1960s, the historic 105-mile meandering Kissimmee River was transformed into a 56-mile ditch by the Corps of Engineers at the request of the State of Florida to help relieve flooding upstream.  Public activism convinced Gov. Bob Graham to support restoration of the River in the 1980s, and as a US Senator he was instrumental in having Congress authorize the Corps to proceed with restoration.  The SFWMD was way out ahead of the Corps (again) and had completed several phases of engineering design and prototype testing.  The initial backfilling of the C-38 Canal was begun in 1999, and when completed later this year, the project will re-establish flow in 40 miles of the old river and rehydrate about 12,400 acres of former wetlands that were over-drained by the canal.

 

There are many reasons I love the picture taken Sunday as Ed was flying Mark and I north of the Lake:

·        In the foreground of the photo you see a section of the meandering restored Kissimmee River!  The construction work in this section of the river consisted of backfilling the 300-ft wide and 30-ft deep canal.  It also included “re-carving” some sections of river channel that were destroyed during C-38 canal construction.  This work has routed water to the native channel and floodplain of the Kissimmee River, and reestablished hydrologic continuity between the river and floodplain for the first time since the C-38 canal was completed in 1971!  How amazing!

 

·        The photo also shows smaller secondary river channels and a colorful mosaic of wetlands on their way to restoration!  What has been amazing is that despite almost 50 years of over-drainage, there are tens of thousands (maybe millions) of resilient seeds of the former marsh vegetation in the soil that have regenerated upon reflooding!  This is truly amazing!

 

·        The photo shows the restoration area known as Phase II, located roughly in the middle of the KRR project.  This phase is almost complete, with the remaining canal backfilling to be completed later this year.  By the way, the balance of the restoration project should also be completed this year!!!

 

·        The left hand side of the photo, where the road crosses the floodplain, shows the location of what was the water control structure and navigation locks known as S-65C.  As part of the restoration project, structure S-65C was demolished in 2017.  For spatial reference, the old structure was located about 5 miles upriver from the Hwy 98 bridge and about 23 miles upstream of where the C-38 canal empties into the Lake.  About 30 miles to the north (left in the photo) is where the C-38 Canal exits Lake Kissimmee.

 

·        A Google Earth image taken in 2017 is attached below.  This image shows the S-65C structure prior to demolition.

 

·        In the photo taken on Sunday you can see the footprint of the backfilled C-38 canal in the center of the photo – on either side of the rectangular open water. You’ll need to zoom in to make out this detail since the inundated floodplain has almost covered up the former canal footprint!

A map of the project and a summary table are attached. Additional details are found in Chapter 9 of the SFWMD South Florida Annual Report. https://www.sfwmd.gov/science-data/scientific-publications-sfer

Hope this helps!

Gary Goforth http://garygoforth.net

 

~To say the least my mom was thrilled. Hope you are too! So interesting! So inspiring! Thank you Dr Goforth!

 

 

 

2020 Aerial Update! St Lucie River to Kissimmee!

Pilot my husband, Dr Ed Lippisch, Dr Gary Goforth, Mark Perry Feb. 9, 2020

Between the rain and the FAA’s Presidential Temporary Flight Restrictions, it has been difficult this Florida winter to get photos of the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon. Luckily, yesterday, there was an opportunity to get up in the air!

Ed took Florida Oceanographic https://www.floridaocean.org Executive Director, Mark Perry, and board member, Dr Gary Goforth up for a ride. Mark wanted to check on the seagrasses and near shore reefs. Gary – the restored Kissimmee https://www.sfwmd.gov/our-work/kissimmee-river as he was very much part of this success that is still underway. As it was quite windy and I have a delicate stomach, I stayed on the ground. I didn’t  want to ruin the outing asking for an air-sick bag!

Today, I share some rare photos of the St Lucie River after being “Lake Okeechobee discharge free” for almost one year. As you can see, her seagrass beds still need a few more years to recover, but rhizomes and grasses are back in some areas, ~but not what we want- historic “all.”  The ocean waters were very turned up so it was hard to see the reefs, but the water sure was blue and for that we are beyond thankful!

Ed and I and the River Warrior Community will continue to document and fight for the continued health of our St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon!

South of Sewall’s Point, Crossroads, photo Gary Goforth
St Lucie Inlet, near shore reefs, photo Ed Lippisch
Another view, photo Ed Lippisch
Indian River Lagoon, Sailfish Flats, photo Ed Lippisch
Sailfish Point, IRL/SLR Crossroads, photo Ed Lippisch
Restored area of the Kissimmee River, photo Gary Goforth

Mayor Oravec and the City of PSL Welcome the SFWMD

~Photos courtesy of the SFWMD

Saturday https://www.flickr.com/photos/sfwmd/albums/72157712931573927/

Friday https://www.flickr.com/photos/sfwmd/albums/72157712922225308/

Thank you to Mayor Greg Oravec and the City of Port St Luice for welcoming the South Florida Water Management District https://www.sfwmd.gov  to the Treasure Coast in order to hold a “Consumptive Use Permits” Workshop on Friday, January 31st, and a Governing Board Business Meeting on Saturday, February 1st. Wonderful, unconventional meeting dates for an unconventional time in history as Governor DeSantis’ 2019 appointed Governing Board, led by Chairman Mr Chauncey Goss, reaches out throughout South Florida to build relationships and transparency. It was so special to have many area local elected officials, the new IndianRiver Keeper,  and members of the public participate in “our own back yard.”

You might not know, but the City of Port St Lucie is the 8th largest city in Florida! https://www.cityofpsl.com/discover-us/about-psl  After a hard 2008 Great Recession, the city in now blossoming into one of Florida’s most “new-thinking,” pushing water quality initiatives that are beyond bold. https://www.cityofpsl.com/government/departments/utility-systems/water-quality-initiatives

Now that the economy is much improved, the city’s literature proudly touts “Growing Together,” and that they are. Over the past decade, the affordability of Port St Lucie compared to other Treasure Coast areas has brought in a tremendous number of young professionals and modern-families looking for a better water future and a place to call “home.” This vision is apparent in the cities elected officials and staff.

On a personal note, I am proud to call Mayor Oravec my friend having known him since my Treasure Coast Council of Government days beginning in 2008. We have watched a long needed cultural shift occur regarding water. The mayor  is a true visionary and has been a huge inspiration in this hard fought movement.

Thank you for hosting the new SFWMD. Tother with Martin, Palm Beach, Okeechobee, and Indian River counties, we are building a Treasure Coast future, as part of a greater South Florida, of which our children and grandchildren will be proud.

Shared below are LINKS TO THE WORKSHOP & MEETING.

JTL & Mayor Oravec 2020

Basin map: the C-23 canal boarders St Luice and Martin County.

 

WORKSHOP VIDEO:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q5Wo8nM9fyg&t=3514s

GOVERNING BOARD MEETING VIDEO

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s7SdPAgzeCY

 

In closing, I thought the photo below appropriate to share. It is a python football from the recent SFWMD Python Challenge “Super Bowl.”

https://www.sfwmd.gov/news/80-pythons-submitted-during-2020-python-bowl

*Congratulations to the Kansas City Chiefs for their Super Bowl win last evening ~even though I was born at Travis Air Force Base next to San Francisco!

~For all of us, it’s about getting the ball to the finish line!

The Return of the Majestic Mastic

The mastic tree had been in my yard for many years before I noticed it. Cradled next to a giant strangler fig, the trees’ high branches are mixed together in a very high canopy. Over the years,  I realized it was a special tree that I should know more about. Mastic trees are high hammock trees native to Florida, attracting much wildlife and growing slowly to great size. The mastic tree, the hammock tree, the forgotten tree, the tree mindlessly chopped down in my hometown of Sewall’s Point…

There used to be a large mastic at the entrance to High Point at River Road. It was cut a few years ago in favor of pentas and mulch. A few months ago, I  discovered another one on an empty lot located at about Ridgeview and River Roads. Covered in a thorny vine, few would notice the huge trunk covered in different colored fungi, like a piece of God’s art. Ancient and otherworldly. A reminder of days long past before non-native plants, floratam grass, fertilizers, and pesticides would replace a tangled forest and contribute to the death of the St Lucie River.

Just recently, my mastic dropped gooey, orange berries and the wildlife ate them with relish. I have been trying to grow the seeds, now wrinkled and brown, in my quest to bring my yard closer to what it was prior to development and help the river and soil, but the squirrels and raccoons raided my pots! Proud to outsmart my four-legged friends, I “ingeniously” figured out how to protect the seeds in an old aquarium. But just today,  I learned that mastic trees are male and female. Dropping the orange seeds, I believe I have a female.

I am afraid I might have one of the last mastic trees in Sewall’s Point. She needs a companion if there is to be the return of the majestic mastic. We are calling your name…

http://sfrc.ufl.edu/extension/4h/ecosystems/_plants/Mastic/index.html

Historic photo of Sewall’s Point’s once “tangled forest”: Andrews in Sewall’s Point Hammock, approaching a giant mastic tree, 1905. Courtesy Thurlow Archives, Sandra Henderson Thurlow.

Everglades Coalition, The Big Water, Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch SFWMD

#EVCO2020

Greetings to my blog readers! Hope your new year is off to a good start.

For me, 2020 started with the Everglades Coalition (EVCO) Conference January 9-11 at South Seas Island Resort in Captiva Island, Florida. The theme for the conference was “All Hands on Deck,” and I would certainly say that the inspirational event achieved such! (https://www.evergladescoalition.org)

As a member of the South Florida Water Management District, (https://www.sfwmd.gov), I was asked by EVCO Co-Chair Mark Perry, to sit on the panel “Lake Okeechobee Management, The Big Water.” Other panelist were: Dr Dale Gawlik, Director and Professor, Environmental Science Program, Florida Atlantic University; Dr Paul Gray, Everglades Science Coordinator Audubon Florida; David E. Hazellief, Okeechobee County Board of County Commissioners; and Col. Andrew Kelly, Jacksonville District Commander, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Thank you to long time River Warrior, Gayle Ryan, for taping and you can find the entire panel video taped on her Facebook page dated January 10, 2:07pm. To say the least, I felt very privilege to sit with such a group. Today, I would like to share my slides and the 13 minute recorded talk below. Thank the Everglades Coalition for the opportunity to share and the SFWMD for helping me prepare.

I am ready. Both of my hands are on deck!

Historic Phytogeography of South Florida with Present Day SFWMD Features Map, 2019

 

When East Ocean Blvd. was Just a “Rock Road”

Rock Road, Stuart, Martin County, FL ca. 1907. Courtesy archives Sandra Henderson Thurlow.

“This is thought to be our school house where the courthouse is today. So this would be today’s South East Ocean Boulevard. I would say the year is about 1907.” Mom

This quaint photograph is a far cry from what one sees toady. It was taken along the well traveled South East Ocean Boulvard near today’s Martin County Court House. The photo is believed to have been taken around 1907 and reveals that the area was a sand pine habitat with an understory of palmettos and other scrub like plants. These sandy soils are ancient sandbars. They remain today under inches of fill, floratam grass, and pavement.

Roads…

They are interesting because we are traveling along them “all the time.”

According to the History of Martin County one of the reasons there were rumbling in our area, starting around 1915, -to brake away from Palm Beach County- was that there were no paved roads:

The book states on page 441: “There were no paved roads, for example, between Stuart and Indiantown, or between Jensen and Stuart, or from Palm City to Tequesta. The roads that had been built were narrow “shell” roads. ~By the middle 20s then citizens of this area were tired of getting stuck in the sand. They decided the only way they would get good roads was to break away and form their own county.”

Which they did in 1925. (https://jacquithurlowlippisch.com/tag/counties-florida/)

Personally, I would enjoy it  if we had left a few more “Rock Roads.” I find this photo above relaxing and absolutely beautiful! Rock over Pavement! 🙂

________________________________________________

Google Earth map of 2019. SE Ocean can be seen just south of wide St Lucie River. There are maybe three sand pine trees left.

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The Long Forgotten Wetlands of East Ocean Blvd. https://jacquithurlowlippisch.com/2017/05/19/the-long-forgotten-wetlands-of-east-ocean-boulevard-slrirl/

Lover’s Lane, Today’s US1:https://jacquithurlowlippisch.com/tag/todays-us1/

*Today this habitat is endangered as most all sand pine scrub types along Florida’s east coast have been developed. Certainly, prior to development, there were many scrub jays and gopher turtles that had lived and adapted to changes in this area for thousands of years

WWF Sand Pine Scrub: https://www.worldwildlife.org/ecoregions/na0513

Antique Stuart, Fl postcard ca. early 1900s, with native Sand Pines, courtesy Sandra Henderson Thurlow.
Photo of Downtown Stuart area. The house now is owned by the law offices of John Sherrard. This is 6th Street. Note sand pines and white sand. The building being constructed is today a yoga studio 2019. Photo courtesy of Sandra Henderson Thurlow.

“Lover’s Lane,” Today’s US1?

Jacqui, This looks like the same image of Avenue E. Look what Josephine Kitching Taylor wrote on it.” Mom

When you are driving around today, do you ever wonder what things looked like before humans changed things so much? I do.

I think about it mostly in the context of deteriorating water quality and trying to wrap my head around the story of how we got to where we are today.

My mother, historian Sandra Henderson Thurlow, recently shared these photos. I think they make a point. Both photos belonged to Stuart’s renowned pioneer Kitching family. The first photo was hand titled “Lover’s Lane,” by Josephine Kitching and is marked 1907. That same photo was used by Mr Stanley Kitching to made into a beautiful color postcard to market our area. According to my mother, the quality color printing  was only offered in Germany pre World War 1, (1914-1918).

Compare the images. You can see that the second post card is the same image as the first, but now colorized and professionally entitled: “Tall Trees through the Pines, Stuart, Fla.”

My mother wrote of this photo: “Jacqui, This postcard was printed in Germany so it was before WWI. I think it was printed around 1907. It was one of a series ordered by Stanley Kitching and is very early. I think this is the trail that became U. S. 1 (Avenue E.) Mom”

In any case, if indeed this is the old Avenue E that became Stuart’s US1 look what it used to be – a Sand Pine Community, now one of the the rarest in the world. A community whose white sands used to clean and purify the water…There were thousands of acres in today’s Stuart, Martin County, and along all of Florida’s east coast and central high ridges. (https://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00000505/00001/1x)

Poof! It’s gone. Oh well, “progress,” right?!

To see what this habitat looked like before it was developed, you can still have a wonderful “Lover’s Lane” experience visiting Seabranch State Park in Martin County just south of Cove Road (https://www.floridastateparks.org/parks-and-trails/seabranch-preserve-state-park)
or Haney Creek Park near Baker Road in Stuart (https://conservemartin.weebly.com/haney-creek.html)

I am thankful for those who saved these habitats so we can see how rain water was once cleansed, naturally.

German printed post card, Stuart, FL c. 1907 ordered by Stanley Kitching

Sand Pine Habitat has a fascinating ecological history. Our history. You can read more here:

“Scrubs dominated by a canopy of sand pine are usually found on the highest sandy ridgelines. The pine canopy may range from widely scattered trees with a short, spreading growth form, to tall thin trees forming a dense canopy of uniform height. The sand pine scrub understory is characterized by either scrub oaks or Florida rosemary.”(https://www.fnai.org/PDF/NC/Scrub_Final_2010.pdf)

Sand pine grows in well-drained to excessively drained, acidic sandy soils of marine origin. These soils are primarily Entisols derived from quartz sand.
(https://www.fs.fed.us/database/feis/plants/tree/pincla/all.html)

History US1:https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/U.S._Route_1_in_Florida

Identifying Our Virgin Pine Forests, Not as Easy as You’d Think!

Deer Camp in Stuart, FL when pine forests were prevalent, historic postcard, date unknown, possibly pre-1900 as identified by Richard Roberts. Courtesy archives Sandra Henderson Thurlow.

For a number of weeks now, I have been on this quest to be able to identify pine trees as the history of our forests are connected to the our St Luice River. To get me started, my mother, historian Sandra Henderson Thurlow, lent me a number of books, historic photographs, and great old newspaper articles. What I thought would be easy has ended up being hard.

Today, I am going to begin my pine tree series, asking for your help, starting with the example of the post card above. This ca. pre 1900 post card shows something we do know: Stuart, Martin County was once covered in pine forests, mostly sand pines or slash pines,  but throughout varied texts that are references to other types of pines too.

According to column entitled “Memories of Early Forests In This Area” written on January 24th, 1974 by Stuart News editor, Ernie Lyons “most of the virgin longleaf yellow pines…were logged off from 1918-1928.” It has been confusing to me that Mr Lyons an avid naturalist, mentions longleaf yellow pines, rather than slash pines, but as all the trees were cut,  I doubt I will ever know for sure the answer to this question: “Were there any longleaf pines in the lands that became Martin County?

Mr Lyons also notes: “They were magnificent trees, some towering to 60 feet. Where the big pines prevailed there was almost no undergrowth , just a forest floor carpeted with pine needles and giant cones.

Pine identification is hairsplitting but it is easy to see that the longleaf pine has the giant pine cones, not the two varieties of slash pine, nor a sand pine. This leaves one wondering, could Ernie Lyons possibly be talking about longleaf pine? https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/pdffiles/FR/FR00300.pdf

 

Below is Ernie Lyons’ column. What pine or pines do you think he is taking about? 🙂

 

Memories of Early Forests in This Area
by Ernie Lyons, 1-24-74 https://flpress.com/hall_of_fame/ernest-lyons/

Most of the virgin longleaf yellow pines in this part of Florida were logged off form 1918 to 1928. They were magnificent trees, some towering to 60 feet. Where the big pines prevailed there was almost no undergrowth, just a forest floor carpeted with pine needles and giant cones.

The big stands were practically immune to the ravages of fire. There simply wasn’t enough undergrowth to send the flames high enough to reach viable limbs and branches. But the lumberman’s crosscut saw was a different matter.

This not to say that all of Martin and St Lucie counties was tall yellow pine country. The big pines did not favor high water tables. The were most avoidant on the high ground along the North and South Forks of the St Luice. There were scattered strands on high ridges in western Martin County and dense forests between Indiantown and Okeechobee.

Three big mills operated in the area at that time. One of the largest was at Rio, with a logging railroad which ran from there across the North Fork at about the site of the present Port St. Lucie bridge over the river. Another mill, which left a giant pile of sawdust was located on the upper North Fork about half a mile west of the present mouth of C-24, then called Cane Slough Creek. There was a giant lumber and turpentine operation at Sherman west of Indiantown.

By the time the Florida Boom collapsed in 1928, there were not enough big trees left to make it worthwhile to operate large mills and the bottom had fallen out of lumber prices.

Then began the era of the small “hit and run” portable saw mills. These gathered in the few big trees overlooked becasue they were in dense hammocks and so hard to get out that the effort had not been worth the trouble.

The small operators cut anything big enough to saw a two-by-four from. Timber leasing was often overlooked entirely. If leasing was observed, the usual practice was to lease a quarter section and then timber the sections around it on all sides.

By the early 1940s, the county was practically denuded of pines bigger than three or four inches in diameter. It was a scraggly, ugly county, its natural beauty demolished shamefully. There has been a remarkable recovery in the past 34 years, but the pines of any size that you see now are mostly second growth and will never equal the old virgin forests.

The only evidence of the the former forests in most of the county is pitch pine stumps, and in recent years most of these have been removed and shipped off to make resin, turpentine, and dynamite.

I saw the virgin yellow pine forests up the North Fork and they are a marvelous sight to remember. They were the haunt of the huge Florida fox squirrels, big as cats- black, black and white, grey and reddish. When the big pines went, fox squirrels became scarce.

Some of he tallest pines, especially near lakes and along the river, had stick nests of bald eagles in their crowns. One over near the south end of Mile Lake, had a pair of the most aggressive eagles I ever saw, especially when there were newly hatched eagles up above. I discovered it was not safe to come within a few hundred feet of that tree without being dive -bombed in turn by Ma and Pa.

Wild turkeys used to stroll singe file through the tall pine forests as also did sandhill cranes.

Ernest Lyons: Memories of Early Forests 1947 2019_11_16_09_27_22Identifying Virgin Pine Forests, Not as Easy as You’d Think!

Links:

Common Pines of Florida, IFAS:https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/pdffiles/FR/FR00300.pdf

Slash Pine – Pinus Elliottii, U.S. Forest Service 1954, variation elliiotti vs densa https://www.srs.fs.usda.gov/pubs/rp/osp_se036.pdf

The term “yellow pine” refers to many pines:”https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yellow_pine_(disambiguation)

The Once Tangled Forest of Sewall’s Point

“1905, the Andrews walk through Sewall’s Point’s hard wood hammock, note the giant mastic tree.” Courtesy, Thurlow Archives.

 

“This 1905 photo is of Margaret Andrews and Rudolph Tietig walking through the property that, at the time, belonged the Twichells – located between today’s Hillcrest and Heritage subdivisions.” Historian, Sandra Henderson Thurlow

Today’s historic photographs, shared by my mother, allow us to imagine what the high west side of Sewall’s Point in Martin County looked like before it was cleared for agriculture and development. Yes, although today a few prize trees remain, once, the peninsula’s entire high west side was covered in a hardwood hammock: https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/pdffiles/UW/UW20600.pdf; https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/uw206

We still see many Live Oaks, Sabal Palms, and a few Gumbo Limbo, but other names such as Paradise Tree; Mastic;  Srangler Fig; Hickory; Satin Leaf;  Marlberry,  Myrsine, Ironwood, and Pigeon plum are much more rare.

As was the custom of the day, and remains so, these trees were cleared. Perhaps some were used for lumber. But for the most part, there was little thought of saving them, nor of the birds and wildlife that depended on the tangled forest for shelter and food.

I think this is worth thinking about. We walk about today somewhat unaware of what the land previously looked like, forgetting forest’s relationship to water, and how many  creatures have been impacted by these human changes.

Could we recreate the forests? This is doubtful, but we could bring some of it back. In order to do this, we need more than photographs, we need a native hardwood hammock -“to see.”

The St. Lucie River bank in today’s Hillcrest ca. 1907, album found by historian Alice Luckhardt on eBay.
Much of the hammock was still in tact in this Sewall Point ca. 1950 aerial by Aurthur Rhunke. Courtesy, The History of Sewall’s Point, by Sandra H. Thurlow.
2019 Google showing a almost completely developed Sewall’s Point with little of original hard wood hammock remaining. The town today https://sewallspoint.org is a TREE CITY 🙂

We are very lucky to live in Martin County, a county that has a history of  conservation.  When researching the Sewall’s Point hammock, I realized I had never visited Maggy’s Hammock Park in Port Salerno. (https://www.martin.fl.us/MaggysHammock). Named after environmentalist and long time county Martin County commissioner, Maggy Hurchalla, this park is a treasure, a walk back into time. This native site, just a few miles south and across the St Lucie River from Sewall’s Point, preserves ancient live oaks, paradise trees, strangler figs, and many, many others as well as the important understory.

It is a true hardwood hammock!

.

Considering the location, these trees must  be similar to native Sewall’s Point’s. This was my first visit and I will be back as I try to rediscover the beauty and the benefits of the “Once Tangled Forest.”

.Martin County 20 year commissioner & environmentalist Maggy Hurchalla
Walking path
Marlberry
Paradise trees

. Inside the Hammock

Gumbo limbo
Snowberry
Wild coffee up close
. Wild coffee
. Not sure what this is…
.Large Oak and Paradise trees inside the hammock
. Tall strangler fig, sabal palm, spanish moss
Strangler fig with wild coffee and resurrection fern
Strangler fig and ferns
Strangler fig trunk swallowing an oak tree
. Strangler fig and oak with other trees and underbrush
Beauty berry
leaf cover on ground
. Not sure
Hickory
Spanish moss
. Young marlberry, vines and budding sabal palms
. Cathedral in the hammock
Wild lime
Hickory
Saw palmetto
. Wild lime and marlberry with others
Air plant
Vines
. Various inside the hammock
Resurrection fern
. Oak or bay tree
. Oak or bay tree
. Wild coffee and other budding plants
.Air plants
.looks like boston fern
.Light is what all are fighting to capture as branches and leaves are raised
.There are many lichens and such on the large trees
Cocoplum
.Strangler fig
.Walkway to yesteryear that is still here!

A Fly-over, a Field Trip, and Watching the Governor Activate the C-44 STA

Google Map area of C-44 Reservoir and STA in Indiantown, FL, Martin County.

Work on the C-44 Reservoir and Storm Water Treatment Area started back in 2004 and is one of a few gigantic water projects of the Army Corp of Engineers and South Florida Water Management District. The mammoth construction site is part of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan, Indian River Lagoon South. In Martin County, the foundation for this was laid back in 1996 and 1998, and then again in 2006 when the public supported environmental land purchases through a sales tax: https://www.martin.fl.us/land-acquisition

There were years of planning and design with stops and starts. Time has gone by and when funding has been in place, the Army Corp of Engineers has been building the reservoir (since 2015) and the South Florida Water Management District has been building the storm water treatment area (since 2014) : https://www.saj.usace.army.mil/Missions/Environmental/Ecosystem-Restoration/Indian-River-Lagoon-South/

Recently, the SFWMD has made great progress for water quality projects with strong backing from the public (fed up with toxic algae blooms), Governor Ron DeSantis and the Florida Legislature.

Today I will be sharing three things: a flyover with my husband Ed; a field trip led by the SFWMD to C-44 with Florida Sportsman Magazine; and the grand finale, the visit of Governor Ron DeSantis to allow the first waters of the C-44 Canal to flow into the STAs.

Why has everything taken so long? We’ll there are many reasons but we must note the 2008 Great Recession, politics, and most of all, the project’s size!

The map above and below can give you an idea of the project’s 12, 000 acres!

Years ago, I wrote a post about the Minute Maid Groves that were once on this property and shared awesome photos my mother gave me from 1964. Groves to Water, amazing how times change: “A Look Back to the Orange Groves of Today’s ACOE SFWMD C-44 Reservoir/STA, 1964, SLR/IRL” https://jacquithurlowlippisch.com/tag/c-44-storm-water-treatment-area-and-reservoir/

Looking at the Google Map, you’ll notice that you can easily see the outline of the former groves. Perusing the map below, you can see the reservoir will be in the north west corner and the six cells of the storm water treatment area on the east. You will also notice that Allapattah Flats, once a gigantic marsh through St Lucie and Martin County, is north of the project along with Troup’s – RB Ranch – upper east. Star Farms is west and grows sugar cane at the present time. There is a long intake canal off the C-44 canal that brings in the polluted water – primarily from local farm runoff. 2/3 of Martin County is agricultural. It is important to keep these lands in agriculture as developed lands would be even harsher on the  wildlife and the environment. We all, coast or inland, must work to clean things up!

 

SFWMD map of site
  1. FLYOVER C-44 RESERVOIR & STA,  ED LIPPISCH and JTL, SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 10, 2019.

 

on Sunday, November 10, Ed and I flew over and took aerial photos. Below you can see the airplane over the reservoir looking over the cells of the storm water treatment area. Also note the long intake canal to the C-44 Canal.
Looking over Cell 2 C44 STA

2. FIELD TRIP TO C-44 RESERVOIR & STA WITH FLORIDA SPORTSMAN MAGAZINE, and JTL led by Alan Shirkey, Bureau Chief, Engineering and Construction, SFWMD and Buff Searcy, Lead Engineer and Construction Manager, SFWMD. THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 7, 2019. This was a great opportunity and thank you to Blair Wickstrom for recommending we do such from the ground. This is were one really sees what is going on!

 

Entrance sign along Citrus Road in Indiantown
On Thursday, Blair Wickstrom and Tray Wheeler of Florida Sportsman Magazine and myself took a tour or the property and really got to see it from the ground.  Buff Search, JTL, Blair Wickstrom, Alan Shirkey
Pumps pull in water from below
Buff Searcy, Lead Engineer, Alan Shirkey, Bureau Chief SFWMD, Florida Sportsman publisher, Blair Wickstrom, reporter Tray Wheeler. Large gate strains.
Buff Searcy, Lead Engineer SFWMD with reservoir dike in background.
Buff Searcy, Blair Wickstrom, Tray Wheeler, Alan Searcy discuss…
Indigo Snakes are an endangered species and live in this area
The wildlife was most interesting to me as many types were in the area. We saw numerous deer resting in the grass. I was assured they would move when the reservoir and STA were up and running. It pains me they do not have more wild habitat.
Signs regarding threatened/endangered eastern indigo snake
Alan Shirkey explains the reservoir and STA.

 

3. GOVERNOR DESANTIS ACTIVATES THE C-44 STA, INDIANTOWN, FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 8, 2019. A great day and an honor for me to be there up close to our wonderful new Governor!

“The SFWMD recently completed three of the six cells of the 6,300-acre treatment area and expects to have the entire STA completed next year. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is building a 3,400-acre reservoir next to the STA that is expected to be completed in 2021.
The C-44 Reservoir will store 50,000 acre-feet of water, including local basin runoff and Lake Okeechobee releases. This will reduce harmful releases reaching the St. Lucie Estuary that can fuel harmful algal blooms. The C-44 STA will treat the water stored in the reservoir before it is released into the estuary.
“I can’t help but smile. Water flowing into this treatment area marks a momentous day in the history of the Everglades, the Treasure Coast, and the St. Lucie Estuary,” said SFWMD Governing Board Member Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch. “This is the start of the road to a healthier estuary and Everglades. Under the leadership of Governor DeSantis, progress on Everglades restoration is moving at a rapid pace.”” 

Please see Press Release from the Governor’s Office: Governor Ron DeSantis Activates C-44 Stormwater Treatment Area

Cleaner water coming to St. Lucie River, Indian River Lagoon as SFWMD opens C-44 project, by Tyler Treadway:https://www.tcpalm.com/story/news/local/indian-river-lagoon/health/2019/11/08/water-pumped-into-sta-desantis-celebrates-lake-o-project-indiantown/2506354001/
The Governor hits the button and the first waters flow into the C-44 STA. It can take months for these to slowly fill. Later plants (mostly cattails) will grow and filter water before from the Reservoir before it goes back into the C-44 Canal and St Lucie River.
Water entering the STA
People gather to await the governor!
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.
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Gov. DeSantis speaks, photo Carolyn Timmann
Carolyn Timmann and Alan Shirkey stand before cell 2 of the C-44 STA as water enters for the first time
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Former posts on C-44 Reservoir and STA

October 13, 2014: Seeing Results C-44: https://jacquithurlowlippisch.com/2014/10/13/seeing-results-c-44-storm-water-treatment-areareservoir-st-lucie-river-indian-river-lagoon/

Sept 15, 2015: Reaching the Finish Line: https://jacquithurlowlippisch.com/2015/09/15/reaching-the-finish-line-c-44-storm-water-treatment-areareservoir-slrirl/

October 29, 2015: A Look Back to the Orange Groves of Today’s ACOE SFWMD C-44 Reservoir/STA, 1964, SLR/IRL https://jacquithurlowlippisch.com/tag/c-44-storm-water-treatment-area-and-reservoir/

Panther Hit and Killed in Martin County

 

Florida Panther, photo FWS.

FWC Florida Panther: https://myfwc.com/wildlifehabitats/wildlife/panther/

Today is November 6th. On November 4th, friend, Clerk of Court Carolyn Timmann contacted me noting that the Florida Wildlife Commission https://myfwc.com had reported that on November 2, a panther was hit and killed in Martin County.

“The remains of an adult male Florida panther, UCFP368, were recovered on 11/2/2019 in Martin County, Florida (558227, 2984817). The suspected cause of death was vehicle collision.”

FWC: Panther Pulse reporting deaths and births: https://myfwc.com/wildlifehabitats/wildlife/panther/pulse/

What a tragedy! Here in Martin County?

What: Male panther

When: 11-2-19

Time: approx. 1 am

Where: About two miles south of Indiantown on Highway 710 known as Beeline Highway

Sometimes we do not realize that these spectacular and rare creatures usually associated with West and Central Florida are sometimes also in our eastern Martin County ~ in our presence. While driving (especially through a Wildlife Management Area) we must be looking;  be aware; slow down; and share the road. In this unfortunate instance, Highway 710 (Beeline Highway) cuts right through prime wildlife habitat and is very near Indiantown, Florida. I have written earlier blog post about panthers being reported in western Palm City. They are here…

UCFP 368 PantherMortalityForm

Comments of interests of my conversations with very helpful FWC. Thank you to FWC for all of your work.

1.

“It is not rare for it to be uncollared.  In fact, most panthers are not radiocollared.  Currently we only have 7 panthers radiocollared; the current population range is 120-230.  In years past, we had many more panthers collared.  But our research focus has changed over the years and we don’t need to have as many collared at the moment.

We don’t have many panthers in that part of the state (Martin County) but they can turn up just about anywhere.  We had a couple of recent sightings (trail camera photos) from Corbet (management area south of there) so we knew at least one was in that general area.  There’s no way to know if this was the same one photographed.  Only time will tell if we get any more photos from there.

I’ve attached our data sheet (above) that we fill out when we recover panther carcasses.  Because of the location, this panther never passed through our office so we don’t have much of the information we typically collect (age, weight, etc).  That information will be determined when a necropsy is performed.  An FWC officer recovered the carcass and took it to a nearby field office.  The location information is on here though.”

Mark Lotz, Panther Biologist, Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission, Naples

______________________________

2.

Here is what I got from our panther team:

FWC recovered the remains of an adult male Florida panther (Puma concolor coryi), UCFP368, on 2 November 2019 in Martin County, Florida.  The suspected cause of death for UCFP368 is vehicular trauma.   The carcass was recovered at these coordinates: UTM easting 558227, northing 2984817.  The carcass is currently at the FWC Fish Eating Creek Field Office and will be sent to the FWC Research Lab in Gainesville for a complete necropsy. 

 We had received a couple of trail camera photos from the Dupuis WMA back in August so this road kill could possibly be that panther.

[The identifier UCFP368 stands for Uncollared Florida Panther Number 368]

Kipp Frohlich, Director, Division of Habitat and Species Conservation, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Tallahassee

_________________________________

Like Facebook page for Panther Refuge:
https://www.facebook.com/FloridaPantherNWR/

Wildlife underpasses, the best alternative: https://www.bradenton.com/opinion/opn-columns-blogs/article159037664.html; https://www.fwfonline.org/site/Articles/ArticleId/27/letter-to-the-editor-august-2018;

Remembering the Scrub Jays of Our Childhood Backyard

A Florida Scrub Jay: https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Florida_Scrub-Jay/id

When I was a kid, my brother, sister and I lived on Edgewood Drive in Stuart. My parents were great about teaching us to appreciate, respect and love wildlife. Today, many of our actions would be frowned upon. We fed the animals, and at one time or another, had wild pets. It was wonderful!

This weekend unable to garden trapped inside by relentless rain, I started thinking to myself “what did the ecosystem of my childhood backyard really look like?” That was the late 1960s and early 1970s.

Could I find anything that looked like it today? Does my yard, today, resemble it at all? 

So I took a drive to the old neighborhood.

St Lucie Estates looks a lot the same but our family house has been knocked down and replaced by one much larger. Also every lot is developed. When I was growing up, our house was surrounded by a number of empty lots and as kids we roamed freely.  These undeveloped lots allowed my siblings and I to have native nature right in our “backyard.” 

I racked my brain to think of where I might find a comparable lot to the ones in St Lucie Estates. I wanted to see what plants were on it. What trees. The color of the sand.

I drove east on East Ocean Boulevard.

Near Kingswood Condominium I found one lot that looked a lot like the ones I ran around in as a kid. Although drained and full of invasives, the space held a few recognizables: a sand pine, a stand of sand oaks, yucca, palmettos, prickly pear cactus, and other flowering plants and grasses whose names I never learned.  

Seeing the Kingwood lot brought back a lot of memories and I thought about how this once familiar habitat is basically gone. This rare Florida Scrub has  been covered with shopping malls and subdivisions most sporting heavily fertilized floratam along with a variety of ornamentals.

I wondered why developers just cleared the natives. I am realizing that my childhood home must have been a Florida Scrub environment. For goodness sake, one of our favorite wild friends was the very smart Scrub Jay! We never thought  that our house may have destroyed their favorite bushes. We just smiled and lifted our arms strong and high -palms perfectly flat balancing one nut. Always, they came. So smart! So consistent!

Of course Scrub Jays are now a threatened species whose habitat is considered to be one of the most endangered in the world…

~The location of my childhood backyard.

After getting the photos from Kingwood, I decided to drive north to Jensen to visit Hawk’s Bluff off of Savannah Road. Here I could walk and remember the some of the sights of my childhood. This is one of the few places the Florida Scrub Ecosystem has been saved.

~The wind whistled through the trees. I felt timeless. The rain had brightened the usually muted colors. I sat on the bench. Lake Henderson’s grey and purple reflection resembled a Monet. It was beautiful!

I was alone in my childhood backyard…

I raised my arms above my head, hands upright bent -perfectly flat.

Would a Scrub Jay come to visit?

I held my arms up until I could no longer -putting them down- I got up to walk my adult path.

My little sister, Jenny, proudly feeds a neighborhood Scrub Jay, St Lucie Estates, Edgewood Drive, Stuart, ca.1972. (Family Album)
Cousin Drew Hudson and I feed the Scrub Jays 1972, St Lucie Estates, Stuart, FL (Family Album)

Visit #1 one of the last undeveloped lots near Kingswood Condominium, East Ocean Drive, Stuart, Florida, still reveals native scrub vegetation:

Somehow this cactus garden has grown and survived! Prickly pear is a common scrub plant and a favorite of gopher turtles.
Prickly pear.. Ouch!
Scrub oak and palmetto in a remaining lot off East Ocean Blvd.
A rare sand pine of the Florida Scrub was once prolific requiring fire for pine cones to open and take seed.
Flower of the scrub
Prickly pear in sandy soil with other ground cover

Florida Scrub:

http://www.sfrc.ufl.edu/Extension/florida_forestry_information/forest_resources/scrub.html

https://www.worldwildlife.org/ecoregions/na0513

Scrub Jays:

https://www.audubon.org/field-guide/bird/florida-scrub-jay

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Florida_scrub_jay

 

Visit #2 Hawk’s Bluff in Savannas Preserve Park is rare gem of the Florida Scrub landscape and it’s wildlife:

New signs including Scrub Jay and Florida Scrub Habitat signs, Florida Park Service, photo album below from Hawk’s Bluff, 11-3-19

 

 

 

Breaking Ground ~Caloosahatchee River’s C-43 Reservoir

Construction site at the C-43 Reservoir, Hendry County, morning October 25, 2019

The sun’s first light rose over a gigantic crane that was displaying both the American and Florida flags. Gusts burst through the C-43 construction site as the earth slowly warmed, the giant banners flapping loudly in the wind. I smiled to myself thinking, “it really is a new day for the Caloosahatchee.”

Press Release SFWMD awards contract C-43 Reservoir: https://www.sfwmd.gov/news/sfwmds-governing-board-awards-contract-build-caloosahatchee-c-43-west-basin-storage-reservoir

Governor Ron DeSantis would be coming for the groundbreaking of the C-43 Reservoir…

SFWMD C-43 Reservoir (https://www.sfwmd.gov/sites/default/files/documents/lass_portfolio_westcoast_c43res.pdf)

~Confusing for those of us on the east coast, unlike the St Lucie, the Caloosahatchee sometimes needs water. The idea of the C-43 Reservoir is to both reduce the amount of water released from Lake Okeechobee that makes it to the estuary during the wet season and to store water to be released during dry season in order to help maintain an ideal salinity in the upper estuary. Right now, it is often the case that the Caloosahatchee has to “compete” with other interests for water.

With this in mind, on his second day in office, Governor DeSantis called for expediting the important long-awaited reservoir as well as adding a water quality component. People on the west coast are bold to say that DeSantis has done great things for the Caloosahatchee since day one.

Executive Order 19-12 calls for expediting the C-43 Reservoir and calls for a water quality component: (Sec. 1 E & F) https://www.flgov.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/EO-19-12-.pdf

SFWMD C-43 West Basin Storage Reservoir: http://www.hendryfla.net/SFWMD%20Hendry%20BOCC%20January%202019.pdf

Knowing  I would be traveling in lands unfamiliar, I drove a day early to the C-43 site with Sean Cooley, Communications Director, South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD)  and his assisting, Mr. Carter. Thus I was able to tour before and during Governor DeSantis’ visit. It was rare opportunity to learn more about Florida’s west coast.

How would I describe the expericence?

“Emense!”

Let me explain…

Video of going driving up the 45 foot mound to view the site of the C-43 Caloosahatchee Reservoir, 10-25-19.  

Mr Flood points to the construction site outside of the footprint.

 

On Thursday, Mr Phil Flood -SFWMD West Coast Regional Representative – was the first to give me a tour. We drove a truck up a huge mound that was weighing down clay to be used in the reservoir’s surrounding dike. When we got to the top of the 45 foot hill, Mr Flood pointed in every direction: “See that tree line? See the horizon? See the edge of that old packing house? All this all will include the reservoir…”

The wind whipped by; I held my hair out of my face, eyes squinting. I thought about the once natural flow of water from Lake Okeechobee to Florida Bay. I though about how much things have changed in a hundred years.

“Just like my friend Mr Haddad told me,” I shouted across the way,” we spent a hundred years taking the water off the land and we’ll spend the next hundred years putting it back on…”

Mr Flood broke into his wonderful smile directing my eyes, again, to the horizon.

“The C-43 will be huge!  The lands consists of 10, 500 square acres of former orange groves, will have 19 miles of dam embankment, 15 miles of perimeter canal, 14 major water control structures, 3 pump stations, and 3 bridges.”

“And most important, it will help save the Caloosahatchee!” I replied. We drove back down the giant mound watching the excitement as all prepared for the Governor’s arrival.

Caloosahatchee River: (http://www.sccf.org/water-quality/caloosahatchee-condition-reports)

Footprint

These photos in this post are from both Thursday, October 24 and Friday, October 25, 2019. They were taken as SFWMD staff along with Lane Construction Corporation, a U.S. subsidiary of Salini Impregilo prepared for the groundbreaking ceremony. The was great fanfare! We all know it’s time to fix the water!

JTL with Sean Cooley, Comm. Dir. and Carter Comm. SFWMD. 10-24-19
C-43 location
Welcome!
The construction site was buzzing with energy and excitement
One of many mounds
View of C-43 site from the top of the 45 foot mound. Photo Phil Flood 10-24-19
Looking west 10-24-19
Looking east 10-24-19
Looking in north with construction site below. This area will is not in reservoir’s footprint10-24-19.
Executive Director Drew Bartlett speaks to Phil Flood and others. This shot is looking southerly 10-25-19.

It’s now October 25th, waiting for the Governor and First Lady to arrive!

People gather waiting for the Governor and First Lady
It’s almost time!
Get ready!
Is everything just right?!
Look Governor!
JTL, Shannon Estenoz, Ellin Goetz, Daniel Andrews

Governor DeSantis speaks!

Governor and First Lady DeSantis surrounded by guests

 

Office of Gov. DeSantis: https://www.flgov.com/2019/10/25/governor-ron-desantis-breaks-ground-on-embankments-and-canals-to-complete-caloosahatchee-c-43-west-basin-storage-reservoir/

Getting to the EAA Reservoir

At the end of a long journey, SFWMD Jennifer Leeds, Interim Division Director Ecosystems Restoration & Capital Projects, and JTL stand before the future location of the EAA Reservoir’s Storm Water Treatment Area, 10-18-19.

The initial goal of my South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) field trip was to tour Storm Water Treatment Area (STA) 3/4 and the A1 Flow Equalization Basin (FEB). When I saw the location, I asked if it would be possible to also see the A-2 lands to the west that will become the EAA Reservoir.

Later on, I realized that although the future site of the EAA Reservoir “wasn’t that far away,” it certainly wasn’t easy to get to!

After a long and bumpy truck ride atop levees and back roads we arrived. I was led by two talented South Florida Water Management staff: Ms. Jennifer Leeds, Interim Division Director of Ecosystem Restoration, and Mr. LeRoy Rodgers, Lead Invasive Species Biologist both respected experts in their fields.

After leaving SFWMD Headquarters in West Palm Beach, our first stop was STA 3/4. Tracey Piccone, Chief Consulting Engineer of Water Quality, and Nathan Ralph, STA 3/4 Site Coordinator provided an airboat tour through open areas that were once cattails. Since 2007, the cattails in the northern part of the STA are slowly dying off. This is of great concern to Tracy and Nathan as the cattails are what clean the nutrient rich water leaving the Everglades Agricultural Area. Under certain circumstances, water from Lake Okeechobee is also sent through this STA as well. Strict laws 1994 Everglades Forever Act laws require the exiting water to meet water quality standards before being sent south to Everglades National Park. The scientists spoke to me about resting, replanting, and diversifying the vegetation. I asked how we can send more water south…

It’s complicated. STAs are living systems, not machines. In fact, this 16,300 acres in western Palm Beach County is the largest constructed wetland in the world!

STA 3/4: https://www.sfwmd.gov/our-work/wq-stas
A1 FEB: https://www.sfwmd.gov/recreation-site/a1-flow-equalization-basin
Rotenberger and Hoely Land Wildlife Management Areas/Invasive Species: https://bugwoodcloud.org/mura/ECISMA/assets/File/summit10/7A-SFWMD_FWC.pdf
EAA Reservoir: https://www.sfwmd.gov/our-work/cerp-project-planning/eaa-reservoir

Tracey Piccone, Chief Consulting Engineer Water Quality, JTL, and LeRoy Rodgers Lead Invasive Species Biologist STA 3/4.
Map of STA 3/4 showing where vegetation is absent and present.
Nathan Ralph, STA 3/4 Site Coordinator provided an airboat tour

Airboat video: