Category Archives: Everglades

Lake O Discharges 2023

St Lucie Canal, aka, C-44 at S-80, Ed Lippisch 1-22-23. ~Discharges began by ACOE from Lake O at 500 cfs on 1-22-23. For comparison, at worst times 5000 to 9000 cfs flooded the St Lucie on and off in 2013, 2016, 2018. 500cfs (cubic feet per second) is not good, but it is not high-level discharges. JTL

The St Lucie Canal, also known as, the C-44 Canal, is the property of the U.S. Government. Martin County public records show that in the early 1930s, as a result of the 1928 hurricane, the right of way of the Everglades Drainage District was taken as part of the Okeechobee Waterway.

The U.S. Army Corp of Engineers holds jurisdiction and decision making over the canal and the water that flows through it from basins and Lake Okeechobee. Since the great flood of 1947 and the creation of the Central and Southern Florida Plan, there has been a “local partner” in decision making. That partner today is named the South Florida Water Management District, formerly the Everglades Drainage District…

In a modern world, every week, there are conditions calls regarding Lake Okeechobee and the environmental envelope, etc.  As in all things, these calls start with the “higher ups” and then end with a public call. The public call is the ACOE Periodic Scientist Call. During this call, stakeholders share conditions and concerns from all over south and central Florida. Most participants are government people or elected officials, but also heads of NGOs and members of the public chime in.

Grey is environmental envelope for Lake O

The process generally works as such: after all these calls, the SFWMD, the local sponsor, puts out an operations statement or recommendation to the ACOE. All of this information is available on line, but its like trying to find a needle in hay stack.

SFWMD Ops_Position_Statement_Jan_17_23_2023

Of course the ACOE and the SFWMD have been communicating all week. At the end of the day, because the U.S. ACOE holds jurisdiction over the C-44 Canal the ACOE is the final decision maker. More than ever, though, they are listening and even seeking public input. This is refreshing!

Pulse to average 500cfs -releases to the SLR from LO, via ACOEO and https://eyeonlakeo.com, Todd Thurlow

The ACOEs has been announcing their decision on the Jacksonville District’s media call on Friday of the week of all the other calls. This past Friday, the day after the SFWMD operations report was submitted, and all the “calls”, January 20, 2023, the ACOE held its media call, and the decision to start discharging from Lake Okeechobee was made make Col. Booth.

https://www.usace.army.mil/About/Leadership/Bio-Article-View/Article/2768770/col-james-l-booth/

Going back a couple of years, Col. Kelly, at the ACOE, came up with an operations plan called a HAB DEVIATION or Harmful Algae Bloom Deviation. This was done after Governor Ron DeSantis put forth Executive Order 19-12 that did all possible to avoid harmful and toxic discharges to the northern estuaries, St Lucie and Caloosahatcee, as years 2013, 2016 and 2018 had been disasters. HAB DEVIATIONS, like all things Army Corp, is engineering-like and complicated, but goal was to allow a deviation from lake operations (LORS or LOSOM) if there was algae in the lake or it was possible there could be algae in the lake, like after a Category 4 hurricane stirs everything up and brings massive runoff…

I am not sure if what the ACOE is doing now qualifies as a technical HAB Deviation, but it is certainly in the spirit of one. Both SFWMD and ACOE have stated they are expecting a large post Ian cyanobacteria blue-green algae bloom in Lake Okeechobee this summer. High lake water in summer would set off releases so they are hopefully dodging a bullet by lowing the lake now.

Due to Hurricane Ian, a Category 4 storm, that obliterated the lower west coast of Florida, coming in just north of Sanibel Island and Ft Meyers, Lake Okeechobee has risen four feet since September 28, 2022 cresting at around 16.47 feet. Because the Herbert Hoover Dike was almost complete, the ACOE did not discharge right away. If the lake had been at the 15.50 limit as before dike completion, there would have been discharges, input or no input.

Yesterday, January 25, 2023, was the ribbon-cutting for the Herbert Hoover Dike Rehabilitation. It took eighteen years. This does not mean there is unlimited allowance of water in Lake Okeechobee, but it allows for more flexibility as will LOSOM. Sediment has been settling in the lake since September/October.

I for one, appreciate the flexibility of the ACOE. In the old world when I entered in 2008, they just followed the book and opened the gates toxic algae or no toxic algae. Now there is awareness and thought. And water quality remains the responsibility of the state. If the ACOE believe/agree a HAB deviation is necessary after a Category 4 hurricane in order to try to avoid toxic discharges in summer when the lake often cooks into a toxic soup, I am all for it. I do not want to go through those type of years again!

These charts below from my brother Todd’s eyeonlakeo.com website show how water was discharged to the St Lucie in 2016, 2018, 2021, and 2022. Although the ACOE is discharging at 500 cfs average now to the SLR, all will be done to avoid another “Lost Summer!”

2016 Lost Summer 2

2018 Lost Summer 3

2021 nice summer even with LO releases (green)

2022 great summer, no releases LO

Photos of Ed Lippisch taken on Sunday, January 22, 2022, the day the 500 cfs discharges began to the St Lucie. These photos are baseline photos to compare to the future. I takes a day or more for discharge water to reach the St Lucie Inlet. The differences in these photos is due to tide and light.

SLR/IRL 1-22-23 at 11am, Ed Lippisch

SLR/IRL 1-22-23, 5:45pm

Part III -The Boon of the Huge Monster Ditch, St Lucie Canal

-Stuart News 50th Anniversary Edition, 1964.Today I will complete part three, the final portion of my transcription of an historic 1964 Stuart News, anniversary edition from my mother’s archives. She actually shared this article with me over a year ago and I was so taken by it that I thought it may be an inspiration for a book. I never got around to it, thus now I am sharing on my blog as part of my 2023 new year’s resolution to write more and learn more about the St Lucie Canal. 2024 is the official 100 year anniversary of the St Lucie Canal according to the Department of Environmental Protection.

Here are links to Parts I and Part II.

~Interesting references in part three of the article are the mentioning of a “release canal,” south to the Everglades, something that never materialized; reference, once again, to cutting edge “scientific water control” and the amazing success of the agriculture industry; 1933 noted as the first extreme discharge year from Lake Okeechobee to the St. Lucie River and damaging effects to fisheries and tourism; and in the final paragraph, a future plan linking a new “C-23 Canal on Martin County’s northern border with a major channel which would extend westward to Lake Okeechobee, with a side link to St Lucie Canal, and another channel from St. Lucie Canal southeastward down toward Pratt & Whitney and the Loxahatchee Marshes;” Gulp!

This is a reference to part of the canal system proposed in the 1948 and many following editions of the Central and Southern Florida Plan that thankfully was never built. This reference also leads me to believe that I was incorrect in part two when I wrote the article was written around 1937 or 1920 in part one. With these references to C-23, the article must have been composed after the great flood of 1947 as it is referring to the Central and Southern Florida Project of 1948.  I am learning all the time as I sludge through this stuff. The St. Lucie Canal has had so many face lifts! It is hard to know what cut they are referring to!

~As we learn, we are more informed and able to change the future of this huge “ditch” that has defined, benefited, and destroyed the region of our St Lucie River.

So here is a transcription of Part III.

I have entitled my post “The Boon of the Huge Monster Ditch, St Lucie Canal,” as both terms “huge” and “monster,” are noted in full article. To me, the canal is a monster continuing to haunt and terrify. And just like in the movies, I know that until I meet this monster face to face, it wont go away. I hope you will encounter it with me.

You can click on images to enlarge.

Begin transcript paragraphs 11-25:

The great hurricane of 1928, which drowned about 4000 persons in the Lake Okeechobee area, resulted in the widening and deepening of both the St. Luice Canal and the Caloosahatchee River as well as major outlets from the lake. The widened and deepened canal was officially dedicated at ceremonies headed by Secretary of Commerce, Daniel Roper on March 22, 1937.

In the intervening years, the canal’s “good and bad” points have been the cause of growth in the agricultural lands of the interior and of damages to the fisheries and resorts on the coast in periods of excessive discharge. Today, as ever since 1933, when the first heavy discharge from hurricane rains was experienced, efforts are under way to so shape the discharge so that the canal’s benefit can be enjoyed without attendant harm. The U. S. Engineer Corp’s plans for a higher lake level by diking the entire lake may result in less necessity for discharge and a long-range plan has been advanced for diversion of excess water to Everglades National Park by means of a relief-valve canal.

However in the half century which has ensued since the canal was approved, one indisputable fact not clearly seen in the beginning has emerged stage by stage to justify it.

It is “scientific agriculture by water control.”

Thousands of pleasure craft and hundreds of barges, shrimp boats, and other commercial craft use the waterway today, but it never did develop into the “thriving artery of commerce” that was predicted in which ocean ships would sail up to Stuart and load the products of the Everglades Empire brought to the coast by the St. Luice Canal.

Nor did a plan advocated during World War II jell out to make it a major barge and oil transport canal to escape the submarines which infested the Straits of Florida, Yucatan Channel and the Gulf Stream.

What did “jell out” was an expansion all along the route of the the scientific water control for agriculture that was  proven at Port Mayaca by that pioneering agricultural beginning in 1925.

G.C. Troup and Troup Brothers at Indiantown on their former 20,000-acre holdings, demonstrated that the combination of irrigation and good drainage would unlock agricultural riches. Today the Minute Maid and Hood corporations are among the huge citrus firms which have planted some 10,000 acres of new citrus and the largest lemon grove in the world on former Troup lands and lands opened to agriculture through water control by P. L. Hinson and others.

On both sides of the St. Lucie Canal, in the entire twenty-five miles of its length, there are spreading pastures, ranches where blooded cattle graze, and the Indiantown area also has some of the country’s largest diaries.

The Bessemer firm that proved it could be done is “in there pitching” with some of the most outstanding modern developments including Westbury Farms 1, 2, and 3, the new Westbury Farms Valencia Groves on the south side of the canal, and the spreading Green Ridge Groves on the north side. George Oliver who manages the giant spread and Michael Phipps of the major corporation are proud of the agricultural and ranching growth but prouder still of St. Lucie Training Park, unique race horse training facility where, “hopefuls” of some of the nation’s top stables get their “running” starts.

They can be found at dawn watching the work-outs on the oval track. Both are skilled polo players.

“Scientific water control with ample supplies from the St. Lucie Canal, and drainage into the canal, is the key to our county’s solid growth,” commented Oliver.

Currently being pushed by Martin County agricultural interests is a new over-all water control plan for the county which would spread the advantages of irrigation and drainage to areas not continuous to the St Lucie Canal.

The new plan would link in C-23 Canal on Martin County’s north border, where huge  citrus planting have recently been made, with a major channel which would extend westward to   Lake Okeechobee, with a side link to St Lucie Canal, and another channel from St. Lucie Canal southeastward down toward Pratt & Whitney and the Loxahatchee Marshes. Private landowners would link in with these new canals by irrigation pumps and drainage outlet as they have done along the St. Luice Canal.

-End of transcript and article JTL

Draining Palm City

My recent blog post featuring my brother Todd’s time capsule flight of Palm City 1966 Then & Now received great interest. So today I am going to take the subject a bit further in our study of area canals that drain wetlands into the St Lucie River.

If you have never seen the 1940s Aerial Photos UF Collection, you must! These historic aerials were taken when the United States had new-spy plane technology. They are our earliest comprehensive, aerial wetland accounts of Martin County, St Lucie County, and all of central and southern Florida. (All the dark in the photos is little ponds and sloughs!)

Just recently, through the help of archivists at the South Florida Water Management District, I was able to verify important historic information regarding canals C-23, C-24 and C-25. Again, these canals were constructed as part of the Central and Southern Florida Plan after the great flood of 1947. What is most interesting is that these canals were dug atop already existing local drainage ditches…

According to the SFWMD:C-23: “Acquisition began in April 1951 and concluded in 1961. There was an existing creek and ditch known locally as the Bessey Creek Canal. The Corp’s As Built Survey is dated November 18, 1964.

*I would think this local ditch had been dug by the Palm City Drainage District.

C-24: Acquisition began in August 1958 and concluded in October 1962. There was a existing canal know as the Diversion Canal, which was under the jurisdiction of the North St Lucie River Drainage District and they converted their interest in the canal to the SFWMD in August 1958. The Corps’ As Built Survey dates June 22, 1962.

NO PHOTO for C-25. (1940 aerials do not contain the Belcher Canal as the plane did not fly that far north. There are later aerials of the Belcher Canals after 1940, but I am sticking with 1940 today! the Belcher Canal, now C-25 is starts in Ft Pierce at Taylor Creek dumping into IRL.)

C-25: Acquisition began in October 1949 and concluded in September 1962. There was an existing canal known as the Belcher Canal, which was under the jurisdiction of Fort Pierce Farms Drainage District and they converted their interest in the canal to the SFWMD in January 1961. The Corp’s As Built Survey is dated July, 8 1964.”

Full view 1940’s Aerials  1 & 2

For me,  it is important to know the history of these canals. The C-44 south, and connected to Lake Okeechobee is our greatest water quality nightmare, however C-23, C-24, and C-25 are also extremely destructive. Yes, they allowed great growth of agriculture and development,  but they, as all the canals of the Central and Southern Florida Plan continue to killing our environment and the wildlife that once flew, roamed, ran, hopped, and dug freely, not to mention water quality issues.

The ACOE and the SFWMD are in the process of Northern Everglades restoration through the Indian River Lagoon South component of CERP.  This is wonderful news! We must be mindful of this before we continue to allow more growth and development and more drainage within these lands.

Indian River Lagoon South an overview

C-23/25 Recevoir & STA under construction

 

SFWMD basin map for SLR showing C-canals draining lands into the SLR.

Celebrating the 75th Anniversary of Everglades National Park!

Yesterday, December 3, 2022, Ed and I drove to Flamingo in Everglades National Park for a very special day, the park’s 75th anniversary celebration. It was unforgettable! Today I share the event program, historic postage, and some of my photographs.

The event featured an open house of the newly renovated Guy Bradley Visitor Center, a rededication ceremony with a list of impressive speakers including ENP Superintendent Pedro Ramos, live music by once Artist in Residence in Everglades, Grant Livingston, historic re enactments of Marjorie Stoneman Douglas,  Ernest F. Coe, Guy Bradley, May Mann Jennings, Ruth Bryan Owens, and John Pennekamp. Under a  blue sky and perfect weather the crowd looked out over Florida Bay and could see white pelicans, brown pelicans, and a plethora of other wading birds in the distance. The mood was jovial led by ZooMiami’s Ron Magill -master of ceremonies. Throughout the day many noted the moving speech of President  Harry S. Truman at the December 6, 1947 dedication of Everglades National Park in Everglades City. We walk in the footsteps of giants…

-Historic time-stamped 1947 Everglades City envelope and stamp in celebration of the dedication of ENP. From the stamp collection of the late Thomas H. Thurlow Jr., courtesy of historian Sandra Henderson Thurlow.

“Not so often in these demanding days are we able to lay aside the problems of the times, and turn to a project whose great value lies in the enrichment of the human spirit. Today, we make the achievement of another great conservation victory. We have permanently safeguarded an irreplaceable primitive area. We have assembled to dedicate to the use of all the people for all time, the Everglades  National Park…” –President Harry S. Truman December 6, 1947

It was wonderful to participate in this historic day in 2022 that so many before us worked so hard to attain. We all hold the baton for remarkable  Everglades National Park!

HAPPY ANNIVERSARY ENP! 

-Click on image to enlarge

-Order of the Day & List of Speakers -President Truman’s historic 1947 speech -Historic Figures  -Superintendent ENP, Pedro Ramos beaming on this special day! -with Craig Van Der Heiden PH.D and wildlife dept. Miccosukee Tribe of Indians of Florida -With Ernest Coe as portrayed by Mr Lee Jacobs.-Manatee drinking fresh water running down seawall, Florida Bay.-Mr and Mrs Chauncey Goss, Chauncey is Chairman of the SFMWD -together with Sean Cooley, Communications Director for the SFWMD. Drew Bartlett, Ex. Dir, Libby Pigman, Reg. Rep., her husband, and fellow governing board members Ben Butler and “Alligator” Ron Bergeron also attended. -Juan Cueto, Executive Director, The Alliance of Florida’s National Parks, Superintendent Ramos, and Maimi-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava.-Col. Jamie Booth speaks on behalf of the ACOE.-Reenactment: Mary Mann Jennings presented the bill for Palm Hammock and Paradise Key in 1915. -Historic display showing Great Egret plumes- destructive fashion for ladies hats in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Guy Bradley was killed as Audubon’s first warden trying to protect wading birds from this terrible fate.-Great Egret photograph showing a bird extending its plumes during mating season, public domain. What a  sight to behold!-Video reenactment of Marjorie Stoneman Douglas who wrote the famous book River of Grass.

-Grant Livingstone and Ernest Coe. Ernest Coe, the major inspirer for the park, almost did not attend the 1947 dedication as he felt the park should have been larger as originally planned.-Tina Osceola, Sup. Ramos, Debbie W. Schultz, Shannon Estenoz, Talbert Cypress, Ron Magill right. (See program for titles)-Rep. Wasserman-Schultz, Superintendent Ramos, and Assistant Secretary of the Interior, Shannon Estenoz celebrate the rededication proclamation of ENP.

 

125 Years Later, Retracing Willoughby’s Across the Everglades

-Across the Everglades was written in 1897 by Hugh Laussat Willoughby, Thurlow Library.“Hugh Laussat Willoughby, a Sewall’s Point winter resident for 32 years, was one of the Treasure Coast’s most colorful characters,” writes my mother Sandra Thurlow in her book Sewall’s Point, The History of a Peninsular Community on Florida’s Treasure Coast. 

While in my youth, the stories I heard about Hugh Willoughby really shaped my Weltanschauung. My historian mother often referred to him a “braggart,” but he certainly earned it! He led a life of adventure even “at home.” He flew an early airplane over the St Lucie River taking some the first aerials photographs; he partnered with Captain Henry Sewall for whom Sewall’s Point is named, together they developed Port Sewall. As a kid, I thought that parts of the War Hawk aeroplane Willoughby built could be found at his Sewall’s Point property on the St Lucie River, Mandalay. Willoughby’s life was the stuff of dreams and he lived in my hometown. I still think of him every time I take a walk. Over the past few years, I watched the remains of his beautiful estate get developed and endured witnessing the clueless developer tear down the ancient night blooming cactus vines and giant old trees…

So why am I speaking of Hugh Willoughby? I am writing this blog today because right now Willoughby’s memory is being honored for another famous and remarkable accomplishment of his -in 1897, he crossed the Florida Everglades and in 1898 wrote Across the Everglades, an American classic.As I write, a team of adventurers and scientists, are retracing a modern day Willoughby path. Their website reads: “In  recognition of the 125th anniversary of Hugh Willoughby’s daring Everglades crossing and the 75th anniversary of the creation of Everglades National Park: The Willoughby Expedition.”

Willoughby was the first to test Everglades’ waters, this team will test for many substances but one especially Willoughby would never have imagined, micro-plastics. Another, through the help of Dr Fred Sklar, SFWMD, invasive apple snails.

The group pushed off from the Harney River on October 27th, and as of October 31, 2022 at 12:26 pm, the team was located, along the Tamiami Trail’s L-29 Canal. Of course when Willoughby explored these waters 125 years ago Florida was a wilderness unlike today. In fact today, cities, airports, and roads have been built out into the once Everglades. These are the words of Chief Navigator Charlie Arazoza explaining to me the path from today until the last day:

“The 31st we come out of the wilderness and into civilization. We launch from the North bank of the Tamiami canal across from the bridge and paddle to the Tamiami Canal Park on 6th Street and 127 ave. Straight line canal paddling with several portages, come for the day or come for a slice. Halloween at Belen!

On the 1st of November we leave the park and paddle down the Tamiami, hang a left at the Palmetto, come through Blue Lagoon and spend the night under the LeJeune overpass into the airport. Join us for the paddle, or join us for a drink when it’s over.

The last day of the expedition, we launch under the overpass, paddle 50 yards, and get out again to drag our boats across Melreese golf course around the last floodgate. That puts us less than a mile from the river and then down the river we go. Final destination, Bayside.”

You can follow along on their website and on November 19th they will be giving a report of their travels at 1pm at the Cox Science Center in West Palm Beach. May we continue to work to educate and revive the Everglades health. Gratitude and thanks to the all reliving history and setting new scientific baselines 125 years later by retracing Willoughby’s Across the Everglades!

LEARN ABOUT THE THE WILLOUGHBY EXPEDITION 2022

MEET THE TEAM

Support Team Members

Listen to Co-Expedition Leader Harvey Oyer’s Willoughby Expedition presentation to the SFWMD

-Map insert of Willoughby’s track across the Everglades 1897, Across the Everglades.

-Hugh Willoughby in aviation attire. He flew often over the St Luice River after his adventure across the Everglades. Historical Society of Martin County.

11-1-22

A message and some photos sent from expedition co-leader Harvey Oyer: Awesome!

“Being greeted by Mayor of Miami Dade County last night when we landed at Belen Jesuit School on banks of Tamiami Canal. Three canoes of Belen students paddled with us from our exit from the sawgrass back to Belen where they hosted a dinner for us.” Harvey Oyer -Screen shot of location 11-1-22 6:25pm. 

11-3-22

Co-expedition Harvey Oyer wrote: “We finished yesterday. 7 days, 6 nights, no major injuries…”

So exciting! I can’t wait to hear more about this modern day historical journey! I will be reporting. ~jacqui tl

11-9-22

Thank you to Captain Frank Adams of Naples who sent these photos from Hugh Willoughby’s first edition of Across the Everglades. There were four.

12-11-22

Channel 10 ABC Affiliate report on Across the Everglades and its impact on students.

Field Trip of a Lifetime: EAA Reservoir/STA

At 8am on Friday, July 29, 2022, a group of realtors, environmentalists, reporters, and professionals met at SFWMD headquarters in West Palm Beach. The day had finally arrived for our field trip to the EAA Reservoir/Storm Water Treatment Area south of Lake Okeechobee. The Army Corp will be building the reservoir scheduled to be complete in 2029, and the SFWMD is under construction with the storm water treatment area or “STA” to be complete in 2023. The project, became part of CEPP, the Central Everglades Planning Project, and was reborn through public outcry due to toxic summers and the grit and leadership of Martin County’s 2017/18 Senate President, Joe Negron (SB10). And thus today, like a phoenix, the EAA Reservoir and STA is rising, and will one day be the first structure built to encompass sending cleansed Lake O water south to the Everglades. Make no mistake, this reservoir is the greatest hope for the health of the Northern Estuaries that for decades have been subjected to damaging discharges from Lake Okeechobee.

Well located between the Miami and New River Canals, and neighboring the A-1 Flow Equalization Basin, the 6500 acre STA’s gigantic water cleaning marsh and the 10,500 acre, 23 feet deep reservoir, will be a game changer. Listen the videos below by SFWMD Executive Director for insights.

What a day! What an experience!It was sobering to make the long drive from headquarters through the Everglades Agricultural Area and historic City of Belle Glade knowing this is where Marjorie Stoneman Douglas’ “River of Grass” once flowed. Today Taco Bells replace sawgrass. Over an hour later arriving at the construction trailer along Highway 27, SFWMD engineers Tim Harper, Alexis San-Miguel, Jennifer Leeds, Leslye Waugh and Drew Bartlett were available to educate us. Next we returned to the vehicles dodging the hot sun, weaving our way through the sugar cane fields that will soon be replaced with one of the most extensive environmental restoration projects not just in the country, but in the world! For myself, having been visited in 2019 and 2021, it was inspiring to see and compare the EAA Reservoir/STA today -now really coming out of the ground and taking form with the inflow/outflow canal (across the top) and C-640 (between STA and reservoir). Of course, there are controversies as there always are; this is the essence and history of Everglades Restoration. I am confident, that these water and cultural concerns will be ameliorated in friendly fashion, just as SFWMD mascot Freddy the Alligator emphasizes. I for one, am thankful for all who got us here, particularly Joe Negron. Through participation, education, and inspiration, we will continue the work to “rebuild and restore” the waters of South Florida.

Group portrait with SFWMD mascot Freddy the Alligator L-R: Max Chesnes, reporter TCPalm; Jennifer Leeds, SFWMD Bureau Chief-Ecosystem Restoration Planning;  Anne Schmidt (realtor), Deb Drum, Director PBC En. Res. Dept; Todd Thurlow, (website eyeonlakeo); Eve Samples, Exec. Dir. Friends of the Everglades; HB Warren, (realtor); JTL, SFWMD G.B.; Kathy LaMartina, SFWMD Reg. Rep.;  Rob Lord, former President of Martin Health/Clevland Clinic); Crystal Vanderweit, photographer TCPalm;  Alexis San-Miguel, Section Leader EAA Res./STA; John Gonzalez, (realtor); Ike Crumpler, (realtor assoc. consultant /Upstairs Communications; Drew Bartlett, Ex. Dir. SFMWD; Gil Smart, Friends of the Everglades;  Leslye Waugh, SFWMD Eco. Restoration Admin.; Sean Cooley, SFWMD Communications Dir.; Kym Hurchalla, Friends of the Everglades. -SFWMD official group shot 🙂

  • Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA) Features
  • Reservoir aka “A2 Reservoir”: 10,500 acres with 240,000 acre-foot storage at about 23 feet deep
  • STA aka “A-2 Stormwater Treatment Area”: 6,500 acres
  • Adds 160,000 to CEPP’s 210,000 for a total of 370,000 average annual acre-feet of new water flowing through to the central Everglades ~ ACOE 

Blue line = path from SFWMD Headquarters in West Palm Beach to the EAA R/STA and back-My vehicle: JTL, Alexis, Gil, Max, Crystal, Drew, Todd, John, HB, Kym, Eve.-Construction Manager Principal, Tim Harper, shares maps, information and answers questions.-SFWMD Exec. Dir Drew Bartlett explains videos 1&2 -extremely helpful!

VIDEO #1 DREW BARLETT

#VIDEO 2 DREW BARTLETT

 

-Exec. Dir. Drew Bartlett and JTL arrive on site: smile and wave to Freddy the Alligator! “Freddy the Alligator has come to say hello!” Freddy helps other animals during drought and he and his friends need more and clean water! -Reviewing the site is overwhelming; the reservoir and STA by vehicle cover over eight miles!-Dyno-mite! C-640 Canal divides the STA and the Reservoir. We were treated to a blast during lunchtime. Guest, Eric Eichenberg, CEO Everglades Foundation, and I prepare. We have been waiting for this a long, long time! 

-Realtor Anne’s new hat! -John Gonzalez, JTL, HB Warren, Deb Drub, Rob Lord, Eve Samples -Realtors: John Gonzalez, Anne Schmidt, Ike Crumpler, and HB Warren-all worked in Stuart when the horrific harmful discharges from Lake Okeechobee destroyed the estuary and home sales in 2013, 2016 and 2018. “We want clean water!” -My brother, Todd Thurlow, author of eyeonlakeo website, stands before the C-640 Canal that divides the STA and the Reservoir is also part of Friends of the Everglades. This photo was for my mother. 🙂-Thank you SFWMD STAFF! -with David Anderson, RYAN inspector, whom I had met on my previous trip. Thanks David! -TCPalm’s photographer, Crystal Vanderweit, JTL, and environmental reporter, Max Chesnes.-Drew Bartlett, E.D. SFWMD and Bradley Watson, Everglades Foundation.Great that Bradley and Eric Eichenberg joined us too! -JTL and Eve Samples, Friends of the Everglades contemplating the future…-Site photographs, Strorm Water Treatment Area.-My favorite photo of the day, Kym Hurchalla, granddaughter of Martin County’s late environmental leader, Maggy Hurchalla, looks over at  what will become the STA. If anything, everglades restoration is generational…-“Black Gold” from the site. Muck, scraped and stored, now used to grow vegetation to protect the levees.-Everything feels big out here! Everything  is big out here! -Sugarcane fields transforming into the EAA Reservoir/STA…

Thank you to SFWMD‘s Flicker and my brother, Todd Thurlow, for photos included in this post – all are public!

Never, Never, Never Give Up!

It is really great to be learning more about Florida’s west coast. My recent girls’ trip with high school friends Nic Mader and Cristina Maldonado was the “best-west” yet! What is so interesting is that no matter where I go, it seems my home town of Martin County follows, or is already there. When I opened the book I took along the trip for reference, Everglades, The Ecosystem and Its Restoration, guess who had written the forward? Martin County’s Nathaniel Reed. His final words after quoting Winston Churchill were “I count on you to never giver up!”

God, it’s hard sometimes isn’t it? In fact, part of the west coast trip was to get our minds off all happening on the east coast. And then there is SB 2508. But Mr Reed is right, we must never give up.

Another important fact is that after Mr Reed’s death, the Big Cypress Visitor’s Center was named in his honor. How awesome is that? The U.S.Hobe Sound Wildlife Refuge on the east coast and Big Cypress on the west. What a man!Mr Reed…

He was almost mythical…attending Rivers Coalition meetings in his 80s standing there speaking to us about the importance of the EAA Reservoir with his eyes partially closed, as in a trance. His arms folded, scarred, and weathered from his hundreds of fishing trips around the globe. At these meetings, he revealed insights from his days working in Tallahassee and Washington D.C. and many of the hurdles encountered.

In 2017, it meant the world  to me, when Mr Reed wrote a letter to the editor of the Stuart News in support of a bill I sponsored, “A Right to a Clean and Healthy Environment.” I was getting hammered by Gunster lawyers during my appointment to the Constitution Revision Commission. Oh such a threat! Even the River Kidz were being humiliated. Mr Reed wrote in his letter:

“As one of the authors of the 1973 Clean Water Act. I attempted late in process to include agricultural pollution in the bill, but the major congressional supporters of the pending bill felt that by adding the controls on agricultural pollution the bill would fail.

Now, 54 years later, fertilizer and dairy waste are the main contributors to the pollution of the waters of our nation. Algal blooms are all too common even on the Great Lakes.

The “usual suspects” may defeat Thurlow -Lippisch’s brave effort, but you are right: The issues won’t go away! “

I never forgot these kind words, it made it all worth while when I felt like crying or walking into a corner. The bill failed. Time moves on but I never forgot. For me to see both Reed’s smiling face at the Big Cypress Visitors’ Center during our girls’ trip, and then ironically when I opened the Davis/Ogden book; it makes me feel like Mr Reed is still alive. He is speaking to us. Yes. Even when we are getting crushed, we cannot give up.

As I stood at Big Cypress something occurred to me that I had not realized before. The west coast is full of lands that were created because Mr Reed and others of his era did not give up even after tremendous disappointment.

  1. Audubon Corkscrew Swamp and Sanctuary (north west off map) est. 1953
  2. Picayune Strand State Forest est. 1995
  3. Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge est. 1989
  4. Fakahatchee Strand State Preserve est. 1974
  5. Big Cypress National Preserve est. 1974
  6. Everglades National Park est. 1947

In 1947, after going through the political blender, Everglades National Park ended up being half the size originally negotiated. Ernest F. Coe, who inspired many and envisioned a national park dedicated to the preservation of the Everglades, almost boycotted the park’s ribbon cutting he was so angry at the reduction in size. In the end, Mr Coe attended, but only after those the likes of Ms Marjory Stoneman Douglas insisted.

And years later as the list above shows, Corkscrew, Picayune, the Panther Refuge, Fakahatchee, and Big Cypress were established to a patchwork of pieces near or contiguous with Everglades National Park. The “titles”are different, but to the wildlife and our waters its all the same whether private, state forest, national wildlife refuge, national preserve, or national park…

My recent trip with childhood friends Nic and Cristina really brought Mr Reed’s message home! We must work on saving Florida a piece at a time, a drop of water at a time.  Heads up! Even when the “usual suspects” get you down, get up, brush yourself off, hold your head high and keep walking. Go visit one of these treasured places. May we never, never, never give up!   -Nic Mader, Cristina Maldonado, and JTL – Girls’ Trip 2022 -With the only panther we saw at the Nathaniel Reed Big Cypress Visitors’ Center! “Never give up!” We’ll be back! -Mr Reed’s Forward to EVERGLADES, by Davis and Ogden below-Timeline outside of Nathaniel Reed Big Cypress Visitors’ Center-Mr Reed, Everglades Coalition 2012. Photo JTL 

Old Growth Cypress, Old Friends-Corkscrew Swamp

~Old growth cypress trees, Audubon Corkscrew Swamp SanctuaryLong before our waters were impaired, our state’s most stately trees were cut for timber. But in Collier County a portion of Florida’s original old growth bald cypress forest remains. Audubon’s Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary  boardwalk allows access into this majestic place considered the world’s largest old growth bald cypress forest. Amazing! 

On Saturday, February 26, 2022, two of my “oldest” friends, Nic Mader, and Cristina Maldonado, and I, drove south below Lake Okeechobee and then west. This tour includes other destinations, but for this post, I will focus on Audubon’s Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary. The sanctuary includes wet prairie, pond cypress, bald cypress and a sprawling central marsh. These photos are from the bald cypress section. The giants were just growing their fernlike, delicate leaves, some were bare.

As mentioned, Florida’s once glorious forests were raped and pillaged mostly in the years after the Civil War, the 30s, and post World War II. These ancient natural resources built the county at the expense of lost habitat, displaced wildlife, and certainly laid the groundwork for the the degradation of our waters. I can’t image seeing what was done then today!

Collier County Historic Photos

Thankfully, some small portions are remaining. Corkscrew is one of them. Although bald cypress are dated to live 1700 years or older,  the remaining trees in Corkscrew are estimated to be a “mere” 500 to 700 years old! Looking up Nic, Cristina and I almost toppled over, the trees’ branches reaching to Heaven, beautifully decorated by Mother Nature’s ornaments: bromeliads, lichens, mosses, and strangely shaped, draping strangler-figs.

“I feel young here!” noted Cristina. We laughed!

Young or old, unfortunately, the story of this swamp gets even bloodier. The plume trade also existed in this region. Local rookeries, because of the money attached to the trade of ladies hats, led ruthless plume hunters deep into the swamp. Hundreds of thousands of gorgeous wading birds, often with chicks, were slaughtered.  This of course is what brought Audubon to action. Audubon realized that even thought so much was already lost; they must now fight not just to save the birds, but also the birds’ habitat. And thus today, we have Audubon Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary. Ending with more good news, Nic, Cristina and I saw an incredible number of birds in the sanctuary! Great Egrets, Blue Herons, Night Herons, Little Blue Herons, White Herons, Red Tail Hawks, Tri-Colored Herons, Pileated Woodpeckers and even a non-forgettable fast, circle-flying, click-sounding, Kingfisher that flew inches over the alligators!

My favorite part was when Nic said incredulously: “Is this like an old Florida post card or what?” She was spot on. Like an old Florida post card come alive!

#therealFlorida still lives!-Old growth bald cypress tree, Corkscrew-Old friends, JTL, Nic, and Cristina in an old growth forest!