Category Archives: Everglades

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!-On the boardwalk-Nic found a ghost orchid, though not yet in bloom!

FIU Libraries: logging in region of Big Cypress/Naples

Thank you to my old-friends Cristina and Nic for sharing their photos for this post and for a wonderful trip! Next? Big Cypress Bend Boardwalk and Fakahatchee Strand!

Everglades Coalition Conference #EVCO22

The 37th Annual Everglades Coalition Conference took place at Hawk’s Cay in Duck’s Key, January 6-8 2022. I’ve attended almost all of the conferences since 2012 and this year’s was another one for the history books: Everglades Restoration: “Investing in a Climate Resilient Future.”

I am sharing all pages that include the program schedule and award winners. You can reference full program from above link. I will also include various photographs, and a my phone’s video of legend, Mr Dick Pettigrew’s acceptance speech – He was awarded the “Hall of Fame” award. He is 92 years old and still going strong! What a wonderful conference. 

It was impressive to see almost the entire SFWMD board and executive staff in attendance and the ACOE’s Col. Jamie Booth, and LTC Todd Polk – along with ACOE staff. So many participants from so many perspectives! We are listening and all have the same goal: to adapt and restore America’s Everglades.

-Martin County legend  Mark Perry, was awarded the Conservation Award (Ed and JTL, Nancy and Mark Perry, Eve Samples)

Historic look at EVCO through the years! 

-Rev. Houston Cypress was awarded the Grassroots Award (w/Eva Velez USACOE)Dr Evelyn Gaiser was awarded the Public Service Award

-Various photo gallery, sorry I have not named all, will try later!

-Photos of presentation slides and gallery photos

-Mr. Dick Pettigrew Hall of Fame awardee (L) with Ernie Cox

Dick Pettigrew’s acceptance speech

 

-Below: Old friends reunited! Dick Pettigrew, Maggy Hurchalla, James Murley, Kim Taplin, Rock Salt, Daniella Levine Cava.

Great Water Projects on the Horizon for 2022

-A bit overwhelmed, Okee reviews the ACOE’s Integrated Delivery Schedule As the final days of 2021 come to a close, it is natural to be asking: “what is in line for 2022?” And although the world may seem as confusing as ever, and trying to read the Army Corp of Engineers’ -“List of Things to Do 2021 – that will be followed in 2022,” known formally as the “IDS,” or Integrated Delivery Schedule,”- impossible – things are looking really good for water.

IDS FINAL 2021 ACOE 

Historic funding is in place for Everglades restoration, and a lot of that work will be happening right here at home in Martin and St Lucie Counties. There have been a few ups and downs, but now the IDS looks more favorable than ever.

Today, I am going to hone in on two areas of the IDS. The first, Indian River Lagoon South, that county commissions are owed the most thanks for their leadership; and the EAA Reservoir, that the River Movement of the Lost Summer of 2013, with the leadership of Senate President Joe Negron, made happen.

When these two major projects are fully completed, the St Luice River/Indian River Lagoon will have an opportunity to heal. As a postscript, I must mention some of my readers have said I appear to be completely “sold by the engineering – the problem that got us where we are in the first place.” And I must say, that is not the case. I agree, engineering alone is not enough. We all must do our part on our own postage stamp of land. These postage stamps add up to millions of acres and they all flow to the river.  A great book about this is called “Nature’s Best Hope” A New Approach to Conservation That Starts in Your Yard, by Douglas W. Tallamy. Fixing Florida is a team sport and must include everybody!

So, back to our engineering team of the Army Corp of Engineers and the South Florida Water Management District’s CERP or  Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan, let’s take a look. If you are like most people, when you look at this long list your eyes glaze over. So let’s zoom in.

The green area, two sections down, includes Indian River Lagoon South. This is a huge project that includes both Martin and St Lucie counties and the St Lucie River and Indian River Lagoon. When we peruse the green section, we see C-44 Reservoir; C-23/C-24 Reservoir; and C-25 Reservoir. Other major factors listed such as Storm Water Treatment Areas, an Interconnect Canal, Natural Water Quality Storage, Muck Removal, and Artificial Habitat Creation are also broken out. For simplicity, I will focus on the reservoirs as all else accompanies them.

You can study the entire list to see when the project goal of completion falls. All is before 2031. Mind you these projects are gigantic and complex. Like nothing else in the entire world. The C-44 Reservoir, the southern project of Indian River Lagoon South, in Martin County,  went on line just recently as the first major completed CERP project. Incredible! Now to get C-23/C-24 and C-25- the rest of “Indian River Lagoon South-” to the finish line!

INDIAN RIVER LAGOON SOUTH, PART OF CERP -LEARN MORE BELOW.

A. -IRLS C-44 Reservoir ACOE 

IRLS C-44 Reservoir ACOE Ribbon Cutting

The rest of IRLS that will be completed

B. IRLS C-23/24 Reservoir

C. IRLS C-25 Reservoir (SFWMD completes land purchase 2021)

The next section to focus on is the forth section down in a cream color;  it includes the EAA Reservoir that is located south of Lake Okeechobee near the southern part of Palm Beach County. This project  is dear to my heart as this is why I entered the fight, in 2008, in the first place. Sending more water south is the best way to send less water to the estuaries and open up the system to get water south to the Everglades as Nature would have…

Below we see different components of the EAA Reservoir; it too, is planned to be complete by 2031. 2031 may seem a long way from 2022, but in CERP time, it is “tomorrow.”

We must continue to fight in 2022 and beyond to keep this IDS “as-is” and complete these projects. In the meanwhile, please make your yard a conservation area. Individually and collectively, there are many reasons to be optimistic in 2022 about Florida’s Water Future.

EAA RESERVOIR, PART OF CERP. LEARN MORE BELOW.

-EAA RESERVOIR ACOE 

FLOW AFTER CERP:

MAPS FLORIDA SFWMD – See how Florida used to be and more.

What is the IDS? LOSOM postponed?

Last week was a big week for Everglades restoration. Today I will share two important  “informationals” that you may have missed. Both announcements were made last Friday, October 29, 2021.

I.

IDS- Integrated Delivery Schedule Final 2021, Army Corps of Engineers. 2021 SFER Integrated Deliver Schedule_Final Draft_29 October 2021. This colorful and somewhat overwhelming chart is updated each each year as a timeline for the Central and Southern Florida Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan, or CERP.

The St Lucie and Loxahatchee watersheds as well as the EAA Reservoir are all noted on this schedule. The big recent additions are the C-23/C-24 Reservoir/STA components in St Lucie County and the Loxahatchee River watershed in southern Martin and Palm Beach counties. The C-44 Reservoir -that has been on the IDS for many renditions- is located in Indiantown and will be going on-line this year as the first completed major CERP project!

To study this chart, click on link above, familiarize yourself with the key at the top, note color coding by timeframe/Congressional approval, and type. It’s pretty cool once one figures out how to read it!

-Excerpt with Indian River Lagoon South’s C-23/C-24, C-44 etc…-Excerpt Loxahatchee River just authorized in WRDA 2020

Click here to see all slides from the ACOE’s IDS presentation: Public Engagement Workshop_IDS Final Draft_29 October 2021

II.

LOSOM – Lake Okeechobee System Operation Manual

By now you have certainly heard of LOSOM (Lake Okeechobee System Operation Manual) that is replacing LORS (Lake Okeechobee Regulation Schedule.) If you haven’t, basically the operation schedule for Lake Okeechobee is being updated in line with the anticipated completion of improvements of the Herbert Hoover Dike.

For over two years, the ACOE has patiently taken input from stakeholders and the public. They had originally expected to announce their final output on November 2, 2021, but have decided to postpone their final announcement until November 16, 2021. Why did they postpone? Read here:  ACOE LOSOM press release. Even after November 16th the process will continue as the operations manual is written. LOSOM is on the IDS above and listed as a “Non-CERP” project (light blue at top.)

A lot of exciting things are happening for the St Lucie and for the Greater Everglades. Most definitely there is a reason for hope.

Keep the pressure on, be empathetic to all, and never forget how hard we have worked since 2013.

-River Kidz art contest 2013. Winner TCPalm competition.
-Rio, St Lucie River, Jeff Tucker, toxic algae 2016
Algae pouring into St Lucie River  from Lake Okeechobee  at S-80, 2016. JTL

-Lake Okeechobee at Port Mayaca and C-44 Canal 2018. Photo JTL/EL

Alligators have lived on Earth for millions of years, but they shouldn’t have to put up with this!

 

What’s Happening at the “Gun Club?”

Historic Photos of Palm Beach County, Seth Branson 2007

It’s fun having a mother who is the “history lady” because if I ask a question, it’s answered. Recently I ask her why the address of the South Florida Water Management District was 3301 Gun Club Road, West Palm Beach, Florida, 33406. It always kind of hits me as I exit from I-95 onto GUN CLUB ROAD before our governing board meetings. Mom answered: “That’s of course because the Gun Club used to be located in the western lands after it was moved from its original location two miles north of the famous Royal Poinciana Hotel. So originally it was located along the Lake Worth Lagoon. In those early days, all revolved around Henry Flagler’s creations.” “Were they hunting animals? Killing them all?” I asked. “Jacqui I think it was more ground birds and skeet shooting. As seen in the photo, there was an audience. All was part of the extensive social life of the wealthy during the Florida boom of the early 1900s.”

Dolph’s Atlas showing location of Gun Club Road, undated but people were also traveling to Havana, Cuba, c.1940s.

Interesting! So what’s going on today along Gun Club Road? The Gun Club is long gone, the airport has expanded and now the SFWMD sits on this road.

SFWMD 2021, Gun Club Road

A lot is happening that is helping Nature, not shooting at it. Today I’d like to share some photos of recent Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Projects as the SFWMD is the local sponsor to the Army Corp of Engineers. They share the costs 50/50.

1.~Picayune Strand: July 9, 2021, water flowing south to restore thousands of acres of land in Collier County for the very first time. Photo SFWMD. This project was pushed forward with the help and passion of Governing Board member Col. Charlette Roman.

2.~Kissimmee River Restoration Completion, Lorida, Florida, July 29, 2021. Photos. Watch ACOE Col Kelly lead ceremony.

Ribbon Cutting The Destruction of the Kissimmee River, an Historic Flyover. This day was based on decades of work from those before us.
Mike Connor, Indian RiverKeeper bright the shovel from the first groundbreaking in the 90s. Mike’s wife’s grandfather was the great Johnny Jones who was key in getting Kissimmee River Restoration supported my state and federal policy makers.