Dr Mark Ian Cook is smiling. And he should be. It is looking like the the birds and wildlife of the Everglades may end up having one of the best years ever! Dr Cook is the Scientific Section Lead of the Systemwide Everglades Group for the South Florida Water Management District. He received his B.S. at Bangor University; his M.S. at the University of Durham; his Ph.D at the University of Glasgow; completed Post Doc work at UC Berkley; then in 2004 was hired SFWMD Lead Scientist rising to his position today. Cook’s seventeen years of SFWMD scientific photography and publication has required him to take hundreds of helicopter flights throughout the greater Everglades-and literally hundreds of thousands of aerial photographs (data). Dr Cook has seen it all. He was there last year when the rains came early and thousands of wood storks and other wading birds watched their almost fully fledged chicks starve. But this year, this year is different! This year, more chicks may fledge than Mark has ever witnessed…
Before I wrote this post we spoke by phone. “Hello Dr Cook,” I said. “Please call me Mark,” he replied. “We just landed in Homestead to fuel up.” I could hear the helicopter blades swishing.
“How are the birds? Are they still doing well? “ I asked, speaking very loudly.
“They are phenomenal! They are in heaven!” He replied in a wonderful English accent.
“That’s great!” I said.“Tell them hello!” I heard him laughing.
Thank you to the Arts Council of Martin County for featuring Dr Cook’s 2021 Virtual Gallery, “When Flows Return to the River of Grass.” I invite you to partake in this wonderful year for our Everglades wildlife. Take a look at what happens “When Flows Return to the River of Grass.”
(Click on highlighted link above to walk through virtual galley)
*You can also learn and enjoy from Dr Cook’s work on Facebook.
With winds of over 185 miles per hour, Hurricane Dorian struck Elbow Cay, just east of Great Abaco Island’s Marsh Harbor, on September 1, 2019. Dorian is considered to be the worst natural disaster in the county’s recorded history and one of the most powerful Atlantic hurricanes on record. (NOAA)
Today I share a special interest story…
From April 11-14, 2021, my husband, Ed Lippisch, and Dr Daniel Velinsky, continued a tradition. They traveled to Marsh Harbor in the Abaco Islands of the Bahamas, to go bonefishing with local guide and friend, Justin Sands.
I asked Ed and Dan if I could share what they saw and experienced, especially because I know that the Army Corps was preparing for this hurricane to stall not over the Bahamas, but over Lake Okeechobee…
Thank you Ed and Dan for sharing your impressions ~JTL
-Mangroves of the Marls around Marsh Harbor have not recovered from Category 5 Hurricane Dorian. Photo Dan Velinsky, April 12, 2021.-Pine forests around Marsh Harbor have also not recovered due to Hurricane Dorian. Dorian struck on September 1, 2019. These photos were taken 18 months later. Photo Dan Velinsky, April 12, 2021.
BY DAN VELINSKY
Ed and I flew to Marsh Harbor, Abaco, Bahamas last Monday to bone fish. It had been almost 2 years since our last visit due to Hurricane Dorian and Covid-19 issues. We had been in constant contact with our friend and multi generational Bahamian bonefish guide, Justin Sands. Ed had flown aid missions bringing water and necessary supplies directly after DorianWe had received photos from our friends and the news media. Nothing prepared us for the reality that slapped us in the face when we landed and ventured into the Marls to fish.
The ecological disaster was beyond belief. It has been 18 months since the storm. On land, there are no pine trees that are alive. On the water, there are no mangroves alive. I have been in florida since the 60s, thru hurricane Donna, Andrew, Francis, Jean and the rest. I have seen Miami, Stuart and the Bahamas after all the storms. Nothing prepared me for this. In areas of the direct path, nothing alive after almost 2 years. It will be generations for the pines to come back. Without a planting program, they may not. Im sure it will effect the small animals, but also the weather patterns. No greenery to hold the cool air, to clense the air.
On the water, no mangroves to act as nursery for all the fish, crabs, turtles and other sea life. As the roots decompose the balance to the ecosystem will change. I expected to see new growth after this amount of time, but it was minimal at best, and none in many areas. There is a program there, spearheaded by the fishing guides to plant mangrove shoots, which should help, but it will only be a drop in the bucket. It is horrible.
The devastation to the land and residents is also beyond description. It looks like a war zone after heavy bombing. We were so focused on finally getting to bone fish, and getting to the Bahamas and back with the Covid restrictions, I really didn’t think about the damage. What a reality check it has been.
Yes, we had fun with our friend Justin, caught over 25 fish, learned to cast into 20 mph wind. But my takeaway from this trip is the picture of the devastation in my mind. We were extremely lucky here in Stuart. The Bahamians were not. ~Dan Velinsky, April 17, 2021.
MARSH HARBOR, April 11, 2021. Photos, Ed Lippisch.AREA EAST OF MARSH HARBOR, April 12, 2021. -A beautiful bonefish. Their mangrove habitat was impacted.-Guide, Justin Sands and Ed.-Author of this blog post, Dan Velinsky.April 13, 2021. “The Marls” west of Marsh Harbor where the bonefish reside.April 14, 2021. Takeoff from Marsh Harbor heading west homebound. “Years past, these were healthy, mangrove islands, now destroyed.” Ed Lippisch.
Today, I am honored to share “Timeless Waters ~Suwannee Springs,” a recent photo essay by renowned Florida nature photographer, friend, and fellow water warrior, John Moran. https://www.johnmoranphoto.com/about.html
Timeless Waters ~ Suwannee Springs, by John Moran
Hello Springs Lovers,
Happy Fourth! I’m pleased to share my latest night-time photographic collaboration with my friend, David Moynahan.
The object of our attention (and affection) this time is historic Suwannee Springs. A series of photos sets the stage for our nocturnal photo adventure to follow.
Photography is ordinarily a solo pursuit but David and I have collaborated on many such light-painting photos over the past decade. We gratefully acknowledge the on-site assistance of our friends, Anthony Ackrill and Oscar Psychas.
Today I share a humorous column by our beloved local hero and inspiration, Ernest Lyons, The piece is about “wishing for something.” For years, my mother, local historian Sandra Thurlow, has shared old columns from her transcribed works of Mr. Lyons’ writings about the old days along the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon. With patience and love, mom types out these old columns buried in the micro-fiche chambers of our local library so we can enjoy them today. Here is a new one she found. Timeless, funny, and classic Ernie, enjoy!
If you want anything intensely enough, somehow you will get it, but that’s no guarantee it will be good for you.
The high voltage of your desire produces the results. Weak wishers get nowhere. Back when I used to enjoy catching plain, ordinary fresh fish, Chuck Schilling called up one Saturday morning and said that he was bringing Jason Lucas to my home that evening “so you can get acquainted. You know about Jason of course.”
“Oh, Sure,” I said. “He’s on the staff of Sports Afield Greatest authorities on black bass in the United States probably the world. Catches them in those big western impoundments. Catches them in Minnesota when it’s freezing and no one else can. I have his book. Love to meet him.”
But in truth, I was seized with an awful wish. I suddenly desired to catch a bigger black bass than ever before in my life‒maybe not bigger than Jason had, but one that would give him a run for his money. While I was running around getting my tackle ready, my wife noticed the gleam in my eye. “You’re wishing again,” she accused. A high-powered wish can no more be hidden than the evil eye. “And whatever it is,” she said sadly, “it’s not going to do what you think it will.”
I brushed her aside. My desire pulled me with the intensity of a laser beam to a little backwoods pond covered with bonnets. I paddled out in a tiny bateau only seven feet long and two feet wide, the sort in which you have to part your hair in the middle to keep it from capsizing. Unerringly, I pushed my way to the edge of the only clear hole in the mass of vegetation.
I sat quietly for five minutes by the edge of that hole, which was not much larger than a dining room table, knowing that it held the big bass I was going to catch. It would be impossible of course to check the run of a large fish once it started off through that maze of bonnet stems. What’s impossible? I took one cast the surface of the hole welled up in a tremendous strike and I struck back. The giant bass leaped in air two feet from the bateau and I grabbed it by the jaw in mid-leap.
I sat on it all the way back to shore. A monster bass over 12 pounds not under 14, (I never weigh my bass) just exactly what I wished for. While we were sitting in the living room that evening, I artfully led the conversation around to how small bass would occasionally strike plugs. Jason Lucas agreed. “Why just today,” I said, “a little old minnow-sized bass hit my plug and gill-hooked itself so deeply that there was no use releasing it. I brought it in to show you.”
I went to the icebox, walked back into the parlor and held that giant fish under my guest’s nose. Did you ever in your whole life,” I asked, “see a smaller bass than this hit a plug?”
Well, I made my point all right but my wife remarked later that she didn’t think I had made a hit with Mister Lucas.
“But it proves,” I said, “that if you want something bad enough you can get it. Like if you were stranded on a desert island and you really, really wanted some ice cream, a yacht would come along, rescue you and the first thing you would get would be a big heaping dish of ice cream.”
“And, it would probably make your teeth ache,” she said. “As long as you’re wishing, why don’t you wish for something important, like a beautiful home on the river, a big bank account or an income for life?”
“Because it won’t work if you’re selfish” I replied. “It has to be something of peculiar value only to yourself.” She said she couldn’t see any difference but I can. I wish real hard for two early editions of Jonathan Dickenson’s Journal. Within a week, two sixth editions showed up printed in archaic English around 150 years ago. Then I wished real hard for some Cape of Good Hope triangles for my British Colonial collection. A dealer in London wrote that he was liquidating a philatelic estate and sent me a dozen for practically nothing.
My horizons widened, I announced that I deeply desired a fossilized fish. “Of all things,” said my wife. “And why would you want a fossilized fish. What earthly good would it be? I replied that the important thing was wanting it, that I was wanting it harder and harder every day and pretty soon it would appear.
It did. All wrapped up neatly in a package from the Collector’s Shop of the Cincinnati Museum of Natural History, a gift from a special friend of mine up there. There was a little note. It went two live million years old was the best I could do. Thanks, Beano, you don’t know what this means to me.
My Fossil fish is from the Green River Shales of Wyoming. Its silvery body fluttered down in a long-vanished sea mid-way in the Oligocene Epoch. Its bones are delicately imprinted eons before the appearance of primitive man on earth. Nature’s tip-off to Gruenberg.
Someday, some fisherman is going to come into the office bragging about his catch and I am going to ask slyly, “But how old was your fish?” I can’t help it, I’ve got to do it. I’ve resisted so far but one of these days, I will completely, absolutely floor whoever it is. Else what use is there in having the oldest fish in town?
The creative seed for this blog post dates back to 2011. On November 1st in 2011, my mother forwarded Bill Lyons, son of famed Stuart News conservationist and newspaperman, Ernest Lyons, an email that had been sent to me by Mrs. Sheri Anker of the St Lucie County Conservation Alliance. Sheri had come up with an idea to erect a series of signs throughout the St Lucie River highlighting the favorite spots that “Ernie” so passionately and lovingly wrote about throughout his career.
The following essay is Ernie’s son Bill’s response to my mother’s inquiry for guidance on creating a historic Ernie Lyons’ St Lucie River tour, as Sheri envisioned: “Travels with Ernie on his Rio de Luz.”
Bill’s reply was insightful, poetic, and bittersweet. Bill updated the piece in 2014 -after reading about the St Lucie’s “Lost Summer” of 2013, the tipping point causing a tsunami river movement resurgence that even from the grave, through republished essays in the Stuart News, was inspired by the spirit of Ernie Lyons. Recently my mother rediscovered Bill’s essay in her files and now seems like a good time to rethink the sign idea.
It is my wish that after we read Bill’s tribute to his father, we follow through on Sheri’s idea for signage along the St Lucie River. Indeed, it is difficult to mark what is “favorite” when you love it all, but one thing is certain, we must ensure that our beloved river and the spirit of Mr. Ernest Lyons continues so that “progress” in the future won’t mean a bulldozer.
Favorite Places on the River, by Bill Lyons
Ernest Lyons, my father, first came to Stuart, Florida in 1913 and lived there for most of his life. He worked at the Stuart News for 40-some years, retiring as editor in 1975. Dad loved to fish and above all he loved the St. Lucie River, an affection evident in his writings. A few years ago an admirer of that writing suggested erecting signage at Dad’s favorite places on the River. This is my response.
Dad’s favorite places changed with the moods of the River. For instance, I’m fairly sure North Fork Bay wasn’t his favorite place the day he couldn’t find shelter there from what he called a Blue Norther. He had gathered my mother, my sister and me in his boat and set off up the River to look at a piece of land. It rained and blew all the way up the River, abated for a while as he walked over the property, and then poured buckets all the way back to Stuart. Dad never owned a boat with a cabin or a cover, and I don’t recall that Mother ever got into one of his boats again.
Dad really did love the North Fork, though. Willard Kiplinger commissioned Florida artist Beanie Backus to do a painting for Dad – “Just contact Beanie and tell him what you want” — so Dad requested a view from the shore where the narrow North Fork opens out into North Fork Bay. Beanie took a boat out there, sketched the scene, and the finished painting hangs in our home today. Many times in the nineteen forties and early fifties, Dad drove us to Burt Pruitt’s Fish Camp, rented a skiff, and motored down to where two branches of the North Fork converge. The River then was alive with fish and birds and alligators, but by the late fifties, it was gone. Drainage from the Rim Ditch Canal (C-24) did so much damage to that part of the River that it lost its sparkle. I don’t think Dad ever went back to the North Fork; after that, he just lived with the memories.
When Dad wrote about festoons of asters along the banks and sprays of orchids hanging from oaks over the River, he was thinking of the South Fork in summer. He took me there many times and we caught lots of fish, but the magical memories are of the flowers and of the tarpon and manatees that came rolling by while we sat quietly watching. During summer, sheet-flow from the Allapattah Flats converged in tiny rivulets into a deep pool with a sand bottom, the first of a series of pools connected by shallow streams of clear water that formed the headwaters of the South Fork. Dad loved that place, not just for its beauty but for its solitude. It could only be reached by Jeep during the wet season, so we hitched rides with the local game warden, who would drop us off and return for us later. Clyde Butcher’s photos of the upper Loxahatchee River are the nearest thing I’ve seen to what once was the upper South Fork. Then in the fifties, construction of the Florida Turnpike cut off the flow of freshwater to the River. Soon saltwater intrusion crept up the South Fork, impeding the spawning of its fish, and the River began to die. In 1962, a friend and I drove to the former site of the headwaters. The area had been bulldozed and the pool had become a cattle watering hole.
Dad loved many places on the River. Some nights he would drive over to Lighthouse Point (the one with the restaurant on US 1, not the development). He took a lantern, a single-tined spear, and a croaker sack and went wading for flounders. He knew just where they would be, hanging at the edge of the bar waiting for unwary fish and shrimp to wash by. A few hours later he would come home, dump a bag of flounders into the kitchen sink, and start cleaning them. Then the mud from Lake Okeechobee washed down the River and the flounders went away.
Dad loved the widest part of the River, where vast schools of mullet gathered along the north shore. Tarpon and snook, seatrout and jack crevalle would attack the mullet and drive them grey-hounding in waves across the River, often all the way to the shores of Stuart. Interactions between Plains wolves and bison were no more dramatic. Much of the action happened at night as we lay in our beds, listening to the mullet thundering across the River. When hurricane season approached, immense schools of fingerling mullet moved down the River, sometimes taking several days to pass Stuart. They too ran the gauntlet of snook and jacks, and residents flocked to the shore to fish. Who then could not love the River, unless he were a mullet?
In my early years, Dad loved the lower St. Lucie around Hell Gate, that part of the River that separates lower Sewall’s Point from Port Sewall. Again, it was the fishing that brought him there. When winter storms blew, he could find shelter in the lee of Sewall’s Point, and that’s where he would be, trolling for bluefish or bottom-fishing for weakfish. After the months-long runoff from the ’47 and ’49 hurricanes, though, the fish did not return.
Where the River rounds Sewall’s Point it meets the Indian River Lagoon and together their waters flow over large seagrass beds on their way to St. Lucie Inlet. Dad loved casting for large seatrout on the grass flats, and it was there that he and I were fishing in Dale Hipson’s iconic photo that graces one of Dad’s books.
And of course he loved the inlet, where the River meets the sea. Dad was enchanted by the place he called the Sun Parlor, the channel that hooked north around Sailfish Point and spread out to feed the adjacent grass-beds. Ancient black and red mangroves hung in the water along the channel, and sheepshead and snappers could be seen swimming among the snags in the gin-clear waters on flood tides. Sharks were not uncommon in the channel, and queen conchs and large horse conchs lived in the grass-beds. If you wanted to see a roseate spoonbill in Martin County in the fifties, that’s where it would be. Dad spent countless hours in the Sun Parlor. Then the developers came in the late fifties, and it was lost.
Dad loved Bessey Creek, a tributary of the lower North Fork, and once in the early fifties he accompanied me and two other boys on a camping trip to the upper reaches of the creek. Around the campfire at night, Dad told us of a remote pond connected to the main creek by a hidden stream that he found in his youth. We boys searched until we found it, and we took Dad back there to fish. Judging from the abundance of hungry bass in that pond, I don’t think anyone had been there for decades. There were no houses on Bessey Creek then, and we could spend days without seeing another human being. But around 1960 the county built a new road to extend Murphy Road across C-23 Canal. The road cut across upper Bessey Creek virtually on top of our old campsite and passed within 100 yards of the hidden pond. When I returned from the Army in 1962, I walked across a sand lot from the road to the bank of the pond and gazed at the empty bait cups and beer cans on its shore. Humpty Dumpty was off the wall.
Aerial maps suggest that Mile Lake and a few adjacent lakes in southern St. Lucie County may be ox-bows, formed as part of the North Fork but pinched off as the River meandered away. In his boyhood Dad camped and fished around Mile Lake, and he took me there many times. I don’t know if Dad knew Mile Lake had once been part of the River, but it may explain his affection for the place. He loved the River in all of its many parts, but I don’t know how he’d have felt about Mile Lake surrounded by homes and golf courses as it is now.
Dad had a love/hate relationship with the St. Lucie Canal. Its discharges damaged the River downstream, and he campaigned tirelessly but futilely for the Army Corps of Engineers to manage it responsibly. Still, when many of his favorite places were gone, fishing remained good in the canal, and Dad could drive out and fish along its banks. Then, testing found some of the nation’s highest readings for pesticides and heavy metals in fish from the canal. That’s when Dad gave up fishing.
If anyone were to put up signage at Dad’s favorite places on the River, they would need lots of signs. And the signs should say “This was one of Ernest Lyons’ favorite places, a place of magic, until progress did it in. Sit quietly, look closely and try to imagine the sparkle that once was here.” If you can’t see the sparkle, it just looks like water. Or, more recently, like guacamole.
~Bill Lyons, son of Ernest Lyons
Biography of Bill’s father, Ernest Lyons
Florida Newspaper Hall of Fame, Ernest Lyons, 1994
Lyons began working as a reporter for The Stuart News in 1931. He also worked as an advertising salesman, printing salesman, then as advertising director for the paper. He became editor in 1945, serving until his retirement on March 1, 1975. He died April 6, 1990, at age 85.
Under Lyons the paper grew from a tiny independent weekly to a lively Scripps Howard daily. As editor, Lyons practiced community journalism at its best. He had a keen sense of what local people wanted to read and a zeal to guard their interests. Fearing that rapid population growth and urbanization might ruin coastal Florida, Lyons fought for protection of endangered water resources and wildlife habitats.
In 1965, his newspaper columns won the nationwide Edward J. Meeman Award for conservation writing. His writings, some composed 30 or more years ago, still are quoted by conservationists because they ring with enduring concepts and timeless values.
Today, I wanted to share new map images, “Selected Release Volumes, November 1st, 2018, to May 7, 2019,” being presented at the South Florida Water Management District by Chief District Engineer, John Mitnik P.E. Thank you to Mr Mitnik and his staff for these great images. I really like them and I think you will too as they specifically break down the movement of water from north to south, using color-coding and arrows, making it easier to see and understand the water flows of the complicated Lake O system.
Looking above, notice that the map starts at the top with Orlando’s free-flowing creeks, the often forgotten headwaters of Lake Okeechobee and Kissimmee Chain of Lakes: Their names? “Reedy,” “Shingle” and “Boggy.” Sounds like names from an Everglades’ Seven Dwarves, don’t they?
I’m not going to review each line, just some highlights…but please read through it all!
If you live in Martin or St Luice County, you may find of particular interest RED, RELEASES TO THE INDIAN RIVER LAGOON, (C-25 at Taylor Creek); and BROWNISH-RED, UPPER EAST COAST, DISCHARGES TO THE ST LUCIE ESTUARY, (C-23 and C-24); for all of us BLUE, TOTAL RELEASES SOUTH, is always important! 550.6 thousand acre feet is really a lot of Lake water “going south.” The original Everglades Forever Act proposed 250,000 acre feet, but it has not always worked out that way. Some years have been basically null. We should be very happy about 550.6!
On the southern map you’ll see some of the same colors and number and new ones like OLIVE GREEN, LAKE RELEASES EAST AND WEST; and many more. Most interesting to me right now as the estuaries are not getting bombed is LIGHT GREEN, WATER CONSERVATION AREA 3 RELEASES TO EVERGLADES NATIONAL PARK linked to the L-29 Canal along the Tamiami Trail. It is not just how much water is going south, but how much is getting to the right part of Florida Bay as it is hyper-saline, in parts, leading to massive seagrass die-off. This problem was the first to inspire change and it is still messed up….
In any case, I hope you enjoy these images as much as I do! And following such will certainly help us attain our goals!
The “Crying Cow Report” was of interest to many readers, so today I continue down that timeline, in fact, a bit before…
After reading the report, my mom, historian Sandra Thurlow, shared the following note and images from one of her many files. The small booklet is entitled, “Palm Beach County Florida,” and was published with a colorful tropical-farm cover around 1920. You’ll see that it was written to entice others. Also, one must remember that until 1925, Martin County did not exist and was part of Palm Beach County!
~For me, it is so interesting to read these old publications within the context of where we are ecologically today: “Nature’s Masterpiece; Man’s Opportunity.” It sure was! Now we have an opportunity to clean up the lands and waters made impaired by our dreams.
Please view below:
“Jacqui, I enjoyed reading about your viewing the Crying Cow booklet. It made me look in my rare booklet box and when I looked through this little 4 1/2 by 6 inch booklet I thought you’d like to see it. I chose these pages to scan. It is undated but it cites 1920 numbers and was published before Martin County was created in 1925. I wonder if Hector Harris Ritta is connected to Ritta Island? Mom”
From my brother Todd, after he read this post. 🙂
“Good Stuff. Yes definitely “Ritta” refers to Hector Harris’ home town, like the others. The town of Ritta can be seen clearly on the map you included – at Ritta Island. Interesting notes about Ritta:”
Shockingly, the worst year, 1960, displays 3,093,488 acre feet of water coming through S-80 into the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon. For comparison, the highest year in the past decade was 2016 at 857,529 acre feet. ~A difference of 2, 235,959 acre feet.
We know now that an “acre foot” is an easy calculation, “one foot of water covering one acre of land.” 3,093,488 acre feet of water would have just about covered St Lucie, Martin, Palm Beach, and Broward counties as the acreage of these counties combined adds up to 3,293,440 acres. Hard to believe!
Even though in 1960, the lake was not yet prone to massive cyanobacteria blooms, fresh water itself is destructive to a brackish estuary, and over three million acre feet discharged into the river by, what would have been at that time, the Central and South Florida Flood Control District, (the predecessor to the South Florida Water Management District), must have wiped out just about everything.
Of course the question is: “Why such high a high number in 1960?” One would deduce, that the primary reason would be because there were three tropical storms and one hurricane that crossed over Florida during this era. According to NOAA’s Tropical Cyclone Rainfall in Florida chart: Judith, October 1959, 7.90 inches; Donna, September 1960 13.24 inches; Florence, September 1960 15.79 inches, and we do not know for the Unnamed 1959 storm.(https://www.wpc.ncep.noaa.gov/tropical/rain/tcflorida.html)
But this is conjecture…
Going back to Todd’s graph, you’ll notice that thirteen out of the twenty-five years listed had higher discharge number than 2016. Sobering, isn’t it? Staggering numbers, for a river that by Nature was never connected to Lake Okeechobee, and only a portion of the so-called C-44 Basin. We have drowned her, indeed…
Now for one final question.
The Caloosahatchee has data too, but only for years 1967-2019. Thus the Caloosahatchee’s highest year for discharge of its top 25 years is 2005, at 3,731,056 acre feet; followed by 2016, at 2, 950,926 acre feet and so on. Please click on the graph.
So what about the missing thirteen years of 1953-1968? Where did this water go? Did it go to the St Lucie? Was the Caloosahtchee off-line? Did it go through the Calooshahatchee but was not recorded? These are questions I cannot answer. But in any case, both rivers need a break, or they shall break themselves. History allows us to see the long-standing destruction and ecological disregard for our treasured Northern Estuaries.
The following are two rare accounts of pioneer life documenting the extreme rain event of 1878. The first is from A. Hendry Sr., and the other by Emily Lagow Bell. These related families lived along the banks of Ten Mile Creek at the time of this flood. Their stories give us insight into a world we cannot even image today.
Historian Sandra Henderson Thurlow, (http://www.sandrathurlow.com)
had transcribed these accounts from old newspaper articles and a book. Apparently, the News Tribune had the wonderful idea of a “contest for old timers” and people wrote in.
Sandra, my mother, recently came across her transcriptions again, after I visited the Richard E. Becker Preserve in St Lucie County and started asking questions.
Today I put these valuable recollections out for all to read. I think you will find them as interesting as I do.
We must not forget that are living in a Land Remembered!
TWO RARE ACCOUNTS
Transcribed by Sandra H. Thurlow
Nov. 26, 1978
by Charles S. Miley
A. Hendry was one of the first settlers of this area, and one of the pioneer cattlemen.
Born near Bartow, he came here with his parents at the age of 14, when there were but a handful of settlers in the area. As was the case with most other early settlers, he engaged in the cattle business during his late youth hood and all his adult life, reportedly being among the largest cattle owners in the state. He and K. B. Raulerson established the East Coast Cattle Co., which later became the Raulerson Cattle Co., forerunner of some of the present-day cattle operations.
He died at the age of 87 and he and his wife are buried in the Fort Pierce cemetery.
A son, A. A. “Buck” Henry, Jr., presently lives at 3576 N. E. Skyline drive, Jensen Beach, but spent most of his life in Fort Pierce and is well known among many of our residents.
When the News Tribuneconducted an old timer’s letter writing contest in February of 1934, the senior Hendry wrote a letter relating some of his experiences as an early settler of the area.
Here is the letter.
Fort Pierce, Florida
February 20, 1934
Within less than eight miles of White City, where I hope this will be read as a prize-winning letter, has been my home for 62 years, one month and one week.
For early in January, 1872, my father and mother and eight children left Polk County with two wagons drawn by oxen. After two weeks slow traveling over the old government trail, Ft. Meade, Ft. Kissimmee, Ft. Drum, we arrived at Fort Pierce. We drove our cattle with us and camped where night caught us.
We settled on the south side of Ten Mile creek, where later was located the Lisk and Roden Gove, later owned by B. J. Selvitz.
Of my father’s eight children, seven are still living, three still in this neighborhood, Mrs. Frank Bell, John Hendry and myself.
At the time of our arrival Henry Parker lived in Fr. Drum and Elias Jernigan lived on what is now the Standard Growers grove at Ten Mile; on the south lived Lang on St. Lucie River bluff just south of White City, clearing what has since become the Edwards grove, now owned by Mr. Martin East was the trading post. of the old fort, run by Alex Bell (who had arrived the year before) and a Mr. Smith; on the north lived Jim Russel and the Paine family at Ft. Capron. Beyond these points, outside of possible wandering trappers and hunters, there were no settlers short of Ft. Bassenger, Ft. Jupiter, where lived Captain Armour and Mr. Carlin, and Sebastian, where Col. Gibson lived.
An occasional band of Indians stopped on their way to the “fort,” where they would swap deer skins and other hides for beads, cloth, ammunition, salt, etc.
Their main cooking was what they called “sofkee,” ─ a tick soupy mixture of meat, grits, meal, potatoes, beans, or anything they might happen to have, boiled in a copper kettle swung over a slow fire. When done, they would squat around the kettle and pass around the one big spoon for individual use or would gorge out a handful and pour or suck off their fingers. First the bucks would eat till they had enough, then the squaws and pickaninnies. They liked white man’s cooking and lost no opportunity to enjoy it. They were especially fond of milk, never having any milk cows of their own. They would always divide with us whenever they had anything to eat that we did not have.
These Indians were of Old Parker’s band. They were known also as the Cow Creek Indians.
There were about a hundred of them in all. Their headquarters were in the Indiantown section.
September 7, 8, 9, and 10thin the year of 1878, there was a gale with a heavy rain. The Ten Mile creek’s banks overflowed. When the water came up in the floor of our cabin I built a rough boat in the hall and poled my people across the creek to Asbury Seller’s place. Finding them gone, I became somewhat alarmed. Then I poled on east to John Sellers and spent the night there with their family. Next day we all took refuge on the “mound” ─ still standing, what is left of it, just south of the road about a mile west of Five Mile.
There were 32 of us men, women and children and we spent there two days and one night. We had no shelter and were drenched to the skin. We managed to build a fire which we kept going with driftwood. We brought provisions along but were gladdened by the addition of a deer which swam up and which we killed with a pole. On returning home we found the water had been up two of three feet in the house, according to the marks on the walls.
We lived a rough, hard but healthy life. Plenty of clean food and plenty of outdoor exercise getting it. We had no Sunday schools or churches for years. We soon had a few months school for the younger children and we older ones picked up reading and writing as best we could. Mail, at best, came once a week by sail boat, newspapers were scarce, and magazines scarcer.
I have seen and used ox carts, mule teams, horse and buggy, railroad cars and automobiles on land, and the rowboat, sailboat and steamboat on the water; and overhead the airplane. What next?
A. HENDRY, SR.
About the Williams Mound:
Emily Lagow Bell, My Pioneer Days in Florida, 1928
I have a copy of this rare book
April 26, 2003
…Alexander Bell and family, also Mr. Archibald Hendry’s family, Mr. Sellers and family were living at Ten Mile Creek. This was the 1878 storm.
The gale lasted 24 hours and the creek began to rise and James Bell and brother, Frank, and others found they had to get something to save the women and children, so took the floor out of the house , made a raft, and the water was in the house then! Well, he took his mother and children first to an Indian mound, which I think is near Ten Mile creek yet. He had to make several trips before he got them all and forgot his horse, and it drowned in the yard.
There were cattle, hogs, deer, snakes, and coons, possums, turkeys all coming to the mound. Hundreds of stock and animals drowned. They built fires on the mound and the second day the water was receding and all came into Fort Pierce.
…Then there were several men hunting the frostproof part of the state for new groves, and my father-in-law had died, and the family decided to sell the Ten Mile place and a Mr. Sid Williams came about 1894 or 1895, and he bought the place at a very low figure, something like five or six hundred dollars, and he built up something like one hundred acres of groves which sold for a fabulous price. Now it is owned by the Standard Growers.
If you look in the upper right corner of this 1884 map of Florida, you will see the Ten Mile Creek area near Ft Pierce, in today’s St Lucie County. This area was one of the most beloved places as written about by Stuart News editor (1945-1975) and St Lucie River advocate, Ernie Lyons.
Much to Lyons and others dismay, over time, this area became channelized by canals C-23, C-24 and C-25 as part of the Central and South Florida Project. Although these canals are not connected to Lake Okeechobee, they are very destructive to the health of the St Lucie River. These lands once marsh like and sacred to mound building Indians, were drained for citrus and development in the early 1950 and 60s. Pollution contamination became a serious issue in these “protected headwaters.” (https://jacquithurlowlippisch.com/tag/ten-mile-creek/)
Today, a reservoir and storm water treatment area are functional, finally, to begin to mitigate the situation. St Lucie County itself is doing great things having to do with restoration. The area is so special and remains full of remnants of Old Florida, “a land to be remembered.”
I plan on doing a series of posts on this subject, and today I begin with presentations by Dr Gary Goforth. Who better to begin our journey of learning more about 10 Mile Creek!
Last month I was invited to give a presentation on the North Fork of the St. Lucie River by the Conservation Alliance of St. Lucie County and the Oxbow Eco-Center.
Link to YouTube video of the presentation – warning – it’s about an hour-long!
THERE was never anything more beautiful than a natural South Florida River, like the North and South Fork of the St. Lucie and the winding cypress-bordered Loxahatchee.
THEIR banks of cabbage palms and live oaks draped with Spanish moss and studded with crimson-flowered air plants and delicate wild orchids were scenes of tropical wonder, reflected back from the mirror-like onyx surface of the water.
EVERY BEND of their serpentine lengths brought new delights. Here would be clumps of fragile white spider lilies in bloom, there an alligator easing down, an otter swimming or an anhinga, the snake bird or water turkey, drying its spread wings on a dead snag. If its wings weren’t dry enough to fly, the water turkey would plunge into the river and swim off under water.
THERE were pileated woodpeckers pounding away on dead pines, egrets and herons, occasionally flocks of wild turkeys thundering over. But the most wonderful thing was the water itself, pure, sweet, cool fresh water. For miles down from the headwaters you could lean over and drink your fill. Water the way God made it. No Chlorine. No chemical additives. No salt.
IN THIS marvelous fresh water there was an incredible population of black bass and blue gills and all other finny tribes of the freshwater. There were catfish, gars and mudfish, and that strange fish with green bones called the Chinese pike or “sleeper, ” also snook and tarpon which had come up from the brackish into the fresh water zone.
THERE had always been fresh water in the upper zones, furnishing some of the most marvelous sport fishing conceivable. The fresh water was constantly replenished by a steady flow from saw grass swamps and cypress lakes, as well as by thousands of little trickles in the banks from a high ground water level. True, the tides pushed the fresh water back and diluted it with a brackish mixture in the lower zones, but there was always enough more fresh water coming in so that the headwaters held their own.
DRAINAGE canals, mostly for agricultural purposes, cut the throats of the upper rivers. During the periods of heavy rainfall, muddy waters gushed down and turned the formerly clear streams into a turbid, silted mess. During dry spells, gated dams held back water for irrigation. The ground water table was lowered. Salt marched upstream, turning the formerly fresh waters brackish and eventually so salty fresh water fish could not procreate.
THE MARVELOUS fresh water fishing expired, majestic cypresses along the banks of the Loxahatchee began to die. The banks are still beautiful, but just a shadow of what they had been.
WHAT brings all of this to mind is that, at long last, South Florida Water Management District plans to begin an “experimental release” of around 1,000 cubic feet per second of fresh Lake Okeechobee water from St. Lucie Canal into the St. Lucie River. All South Florida rivers require a reasonable amount of fresh water. Too much is disastrous.
NOW, if they can devise ways to reintroduce steady flows into the North and South Forks and the Loxahatchee, some paradises might be restored.
Today I share Dr. Gary Goforth’s (http://www.garygoforth.net/Other%20projects.htm) comments to the Army Corp of Engineers’ LOSOM scoping process that occurred on Tuesday, February 19, 2019, in Stuart: (https://www.saj.usace.army.mil/LOSOM/). Dr Goforth’s comments are helpful for all of us. I am publishing them today with his permission as a reference. You can read in PDF file link, or below. Thank you Dr Goforth for your continued scientific advocacy on behalf on the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon! Never, Never, Never Give Up!
Next Tuesday’s Stuart meeting and others of the ACOE, for input on updating the Lake Okeechobee Operations Schedule, are quickly approaching; if you cannot attend in person, please write. Today I share the letter of Geoffrey Norris PhD, FRSC, who my blog readers are familiar with as he has been a guest writer many times. His is an excellent letter, and can give you ideas of how to compose your own, if you cannot attend in person.
Stuart Tuesday, February 19, 2019, 1 p.m. – 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. – 8 p.m.
Indian River State College
The Clare and Gladys Wolf High-Technology Center
2400 SE Salerno Road, Stuart, FL 34997
Thank you everyone for being part of the River Movement that is changing state politics and policy so we can leave something better to the children of today, and in the future.
Re: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Jacksonville District’s meetings for input on the development of a new Lake Okeechobee System Operating Manual (LOSOM) (https://www.saj.usace.army.mil/LOSOM/)
SCIENCE AND STRATEGY FOR MITIGATING CYANOBACTERIAL AND ALGAL BLOOMS IN FLORIDA WATERS
My name is Geoffrey Norris, and I am a resident and property owner in Martin County, Florida. I have recently provided the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers with written input to your scoping meetings in the way of anecdotal evidence suggesting that the ACE-mediated water releases are having a devastating impact on the ecosystems of the coastal areas in east Florida. This, in my judgement, is having a severe negative impact on the economy of Florida, which is largely built on and sustained by the natural aquatic ecosystems. I now wish to provide you with my scientific opinion on the cyanobacterial (blue-green) blooms and dinoflagellate blooms (red tides) that are associated with the destruction of ecosystems of the lacustrine, estuarine and coastal waters of much of Florida’s littoral zone.
In the following discussion, the acronym ACE refers to the United States Army Corps of Engineers.
But first let me outline my credentials: I have been actively involved as an earth scientist in the study of microscopic algae (dinoflagellates) and associated organic micro-organisms for about 50 years. My expertise is as a paleontologist, not as a biologist, but I am familiar with earth science and life science literature pertinent to fossil and living dinoflagellates and associated organisms. I have written many research papers on the subject, and am a co-author of a seminal book on the classification of living and fossil dinoflagellates, which continues to be widely referenced by research scientists. I am a Professor Emeritus at the University of Toronto where I directed a research laboratory devoted to organic-walled algal microfossils for more than three decades prior to retirement, and was Chair of Geology for a decade. I was a visiting scientist for several months at the Florida Marine Research Laboratory, St Petersburg (now incorporated in the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission) researching aspects of the life cycle of certain dinoflagellates. I have taught students about marine-estuarine ecosystems in field trips to Florida Bay, the Everglades, and the Keys. I am old enough to remember how Florida once was in the 1960s before habitat destruction had become so severe. More recently I have been involved in extensive applied paleontological research on the geology of the outer continental shelf and continental slope flanking the Gulf of Mexico, including documenting the evolutionary history and ecology of marine and brackish dinoflagellates over the last 60 million years in the Gulf and the adjacent southern states. I am a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, which is more or less equivalent to the U.S. National Academy of Sciences that recognizes the country’s leading research scientists for outstanding achievements.
Background to the problem
As you know, Lake Okeechobee has been converted over the decades from a once-dynamic lake system to a virtually static reservoir. In the early days, input to the Lake was provided upstream by a variety of rivers. Output occurred over the southern rim, discharging water seasonally into the uniquely very wide and very shallow “River of Grass” that traversed the Everglades, and eventually drained into Florida Bay. Over the years (1930-1960), in response to various circumstances, the southern rim was raised and strengthened and eventually became the Herbert Hoover dike. At that point, the lake ceased to exist functionally as a dynamic system, and might now be better called the Lake Okeechobee Reservoir. It is a semi-static system with no natural outflow, and now functions to trap nutrients and hold them indefinitely until the water managers make decisions regarding discharges. This is the nub of the problem – how to control and release water, in what quantities and in what directions, and how to remove the nutrient and microbial overload from the water. For many years the problem was simplistically stated as a flood control measure, but as the nutrient loading and consequent lake eutrophication became more apparent it also became clear that dumping excess water from Lake Okeechobee into outflow canals directed to the east and west coasts was creating a major problem, not solving one.
Cyanobacteria and the Army Corps of Engineers
During the latter two or three decades of the 20th century, phosphorus in the Lake Okeechobee Reservoir increased markedly. High phosphorus content tends to favor cyanobacteria such as the toxic Microcystis, and tends to exclude microscopic and generally benign algae which otherwise might be expected in a lake, for example: dinoflagellates, diatoms, green algae, and other planktic or benthic photosynthetic organisms. Major blooms of blue green toxic cyanobacteria became more frequent and intense in the early 21st century, and now are close to becoming a persistent annual feature in Lake Okeechobee and in the ACE water-dumping grounds. The seasonal release from the Lake by the Army Corps of Engineers of highly toxic water infected with cyanobacteria is simply not acceptable. This is not a solution – this is a travesty and a betrayal of trust by ACE for the American people it serves through their elected representatives in Congress.
The Mission of ACE is clear: “The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ mission is to provide vital public engineering services in peace and war to strengthen our Nation’s security, energize the economy, and reduce risks from disasters” (emphasis is mine).Unfortunately, you seem to be doing the exact opposite. How secure can the public feel when you poison our water? How can you claim to energize the economy when you are driving Florida’s principal industries into the ground? How can you claim to be reducing risks from disasters when you are pumping toxic effluent into our environment and endangering the lives of humans and animals alike with disastrous consequences for the ecosystem?
No, clearly you are on the wrong track, and you need to reevaluate how you handle the remediation of the Lake Okeechobee Reservoir. Here are some ideas that might be worth exploring as you re-formulate your strategy.
Get rid of the phosphorus from Lake Okeechobee Reservoir
High phosphorus loadings in bodies of water are not new, particularly since the advent of the green revolution in the 1970s. Fertilizer mixes are applied liberally to agricultural land on a global basis, and nutrient pollution of freshwater and marine water bodies is becoming commonplace. Getting rid of bio-available phosphorus (dephosphatisation) in the water and the bottom sediments of the Lake Okeechobee Reservoir would help to reduce the probability of toxic cyanobacterial blooms forming. One possibility is the use of lanthanum-modified bentonites, kaolinites, or zeolites to permanently remove the phosphate from the water. These dephosphatisation agents have been used elsewhere in the world to remediate lakes that have undergone eutrophication and massive cyanobacterial infection. Why not the Lake Okeechobee Reservoir?
Other alternatives to clay minerals used for dephosphatisation include such substances as fly ash. Fly ash is produced in abundance in the Everglades Agricultural Area when the sugar cane is burned off during harvesting– could these tens of millions of tons of vegetation accruing annually be converted to fly ash and captured and collected and used to lock up the phosphorus, rather than continue the present practice of discharging fly ash into the atmosphere and polluting the area for miles around all the way to the coast?
Get rid of the toxic microcystins from the Lake Okeechobee Reservoir
Just a few days ago, a paper was published showing that microcystins (toxins associated with cyanobacteria) from Lake Erie could be removed by using treated rice husks as a sorbent material, and then recycled or disposed of using sand (“Treated rice husks as a recyclable sorbent for the removal of microcystins from water, Dilrukshika et al, Science of the Total Environment, available online 5 February 2019, Elsevier.”) Perhaps there are other agricultural waste products that could be used for this purpose in addition to rice husks. Now is the time to come up with big bold ideas with the potential to address this huge issue. Sitting with your hands on the flood gate controls will solve nothing.
Army Corps of Engineers – stop killing our brackish estuaries with freshwater discharges
Even if nutrients and toxins can be removed from Okeechobee water, the Army Corps of Engineers must stop displacing brackish water that occurs naturally in our estuaries and lagoons with massive amounts of lacustrine freshwater. Freshwater is certain death to estuarine sea grasses, shell fish, bonefish, marine vertebrates and other estuarine fauna and flora. Sending massive amounts of freshwater to offshore marine areas is also not an option for similar reasons and must be stopped forthwith.
ACE should think big! Send the water south again, into the wetlands where it was once a vital component. ACE should think Marjorie Stoneman Douglas’s “River of Grass”! Reconstructed wetlands to bio-cleanse effluent are not new technology, having been used since the mid-20th century, and are now being aggressively installed to efficiently cleanse polluted water in areas such as Lake Erie which has huge nutrient pollution problems and attendant toxic cyanobacterial problems.
Stop using glyphosate/Roundup to kill cattails (Typha) in and around Lake Okeechobee Reservoir.
The Army Corps of Engineers has been killing cattails and other littoral zone plants in and around the Lake Okeechobee Reservoir with glyphosate (Roundup) since at least the year 2000, according to the ACE website. This efficient vegetation killer is known also to magnify the effects of phosphate release in sediments, hence favoring the growth of cyanobacteria. The cyanobacteria in turn are known to be potentially capable of becoming genetically resistant to glyphosate toxicity. Glyphosate is suspected of being harmful to human health, although its putative harmful effects are controversial. Recent court judgements, however, support its status as a carcinogen. For all these reasons, ACE must discontinue the use of glyphosate/Roundup in the Lake Okeechobee Reservoir, and must enforce the ban of back-pumping potentially toxic effluent from the sugar cane fields to the Lake Okeechobee Reservoir.
Red tides and the Army Corps of Engineers
The continued release by the Army Corps of Engineers of massive amounts of nutrient-rich water from the Lake Okeechobee Reservoir into the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico is contributing to the problem of red tides in marine coastal waters caused by blooms of the dinoflagellate, Karenia. Red tides have plagued Florida for a long time, but in recent years blooms of Karenia have changed from being an occasional seasonal nuisance, to a chronic, multi-seasonal, multi-year threat to human health. Nutrient pollution is one of several factors implicated in the rise to prominence of Karenia red tides. The Army Corps of Engineers has a continuing responsibility to preserve the marine ecosystems of Florida as well as reduce the risks to human health by discontinuing the discharge of nutrient-rich water from the Lake Okeechobee Reservoir to the marine coastal waters.
In conclusion, the Army Corps of Engineers is faced with a huge problem, but this should be looked upon as a huge opportunity for your organization to exert its leadership and provide the vital engineering services to the people who so desperately need them.
Thank you for reading my views on this really important issue. I cannot emphasize enough how important it will be when ACE makes the transition to a modern environmentally-conscious organization that truly provides vital public engineering services in peace and war to strengthen our Nation’s security, energize the economy, and reduce risks from disasters.
I sincerely wish your organization both good luck and adequate funding from Congress and elsewhere to carry out your mission effectively.
Geoffrey Norris PhD, FRSC
~2008 Lake Okeechobee Operating Schedule (LORS)
~2019: Lake Okeechobee System Operating Manual (LOSOM), a component of the Central & Southern Florida (C&SF) System Operating Plan
Custard Apple Swamp, An Ecological History of Southern Lake Okeechobee by Zachariah A. Cosner
The document I share with you today, is one I fell in love with two years ago. At the time, Zachariah Cosner was a student writing his thesis at the University of Miami, today he works for the City of South Miami.
Zac’s ecological history of the destruction of Lake Okeechobee’s Custard Apple Forest is a metaphor for the ecological destruction of all South Florida. What was lost? What was torn from the earth, roots sprawling, piled up like bodies and burned? 32,000 acres of ancient trees, bird rookeries, wildlife habitat, tangled linen-colored moonvine, as well as God’s sieve “to filter and purify the waters of Lake Okeechobee before they began the long southerly route through the ridges and sloughs of the river of grass… ”
This story, this ecological genocide was the beginnings of the Everglades Agricultural Area and is a story basically untold, forgotten. I post it here today with Zac’s permission for reference and access for all. Please click on link below:
Investment FLORIDA WILDLIFE CORRIDORS, or greenways, is the best way to help bears and other wildlife move through out their needed range even as Florida will continue to develop. We don’t want to live in a shopping mall; we want to keep parts of Florida wild.
Today I am sharing photos of the super blood wolf moon taken last night by my bother, Todd Thurlow. Hopefully, you had a chance to see it too. Ed and I sat in fascination, with binoculars, feeling as if we could pluck this “red marble” from the clear night sky. Included after Todd’s photos is a video, “Our Pale Blue Dot,” by Carl Sagan, from 1979. Experiences like last evening, help remind us how magical, beautiful, and fragile life on Earth is and that of course, we must cherish and protect it…
This link below is from Carl Sagan’s1994book “Pale Blue Dot” and was inspired by an image taken, at Sagan’s suggestion, byVoyager 1 on 14 February 1990 from a distance of about 6 billionkilometers.
On January 4, 2019, Dr Goforth released his“Preliminary Summary of 2018 Lake and Estuary Flow and Pollution Loads.”
It is linked below for purposes of documentation. So many of my readers have written in appreciation of these reference documents in the past. I remain forever grateful for Dr Goforth’s lifetime of dedication to the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon, the waters of Florida, and for allowing me to share his work. I am including short biography below.
Dr. Gary Goforth has more than 30 years of experience in water resources engineering, encompassing strategic planning, design, permitting, construction, operation and program management. For the last 25 years, his focus has been on large-scale environmental restoration programs in the Kissimmee-Okeechobee-Everglades ecosystem. He was the Chief Consulting Engineer during the design, construction and operation of the $700 million Everglades Construction Project, containing over 41,000 acres of constructed wetlands. He is experienced in public education, water quality treatment design and evaluation, engineering design and peer review, systems ecology, statistical hydrology, hydrologic modeling, hydrodynamic modeling, water quality modeling, environmental permit acquisition and administration, hydrologic and water quality performance analyses. http://garygoforth.net/index.htm
“Preliminary Summary of 2018 Lake and Estuary Flow and Pollution Loads” ~Gary Goforth, PhD.
The phosphorus pollution entering Lake Okeechobee reached historically high levels during calendar year 2017, with an estimated 88 percent from agricultural land uses.
Heavy rains from during May 2018 raised the water level of Lake Okeechobee to such an extent that the US Corps of Engineers began making regulatory discharges to the coastal estuaries beginning in June 2018. Approximately 331 billion gallons of polluted Lake water was discharged to the estuaries, including the Lake Worth Lagoon. A State of Emergency was declared for both coasts.
o On July 2, a massive bloom of toxic blue-green algae was reported to cover up to 90% of the open water of the Lake, yet discharges continued for several months afterward.
o Approximately 87 billion gallons of polluted Lake water were discharged to the St. Lucie River and Estuary.
The Lake discharges to the St. Lucie River and Estuary contained more than 145,000 pounds of phosphorus, 1.3 million pounds of nitrogen, and more than 30 millionpounds of suspended sediment.
Massive algae blooms from Lake Okeechobee were present in the St. Lucie River and Estuary, and along the ocean beaches, necessitating multiple beach closures. In addition, a red tide was present that adversely affected public health.
o Approximately 234 billion gallons of polluted Lake water were discharged to the Caloosahatchee Estuary.
The Lake discharges to the Caloosahatchee Estuary contained more than 303,000 pounds of phosphorus, almost 2.4 million pounds of nitrogen, and more than 20 million pounds of suspended sediment.
Massive algae blooms from Lake Okeechobee were present in the Caloosahatchee River and Estuary. In addition, extensive red tide devastated wildlife and adversely affected public health.
o Approximately 11 billion gallons of polluted Lake water was discharged to the Lake Worth Lagoon.
Overall, the St. Lucie River and Estuary received more than 467,000 pounds of phosphorus, more than 2.5 million pounds of nitrogen, and more than 35 million pounds of suspended sediment from the Lake and local watersheds, which are predominately agricultural.
o The water quality of Lake discharges to the St. Lucie Estuary is particularly polluted: in addition to toxic algae, the phosphorus concentrations have averaged 200 parts per billion – 5 times the target for the Lake.
o Nitrogen loading from septic tanks is estimated at approximately 231,000 pounds, or about 9 percent of the total nitrogen loading to the St. Lucie River and Estuary.
o Despite the destructive magnitude of Lake discharges, stormwater runoff from agricultural lands in the St. Lucie watershed contributed almost twice the phosphorus loads to the estuary as did Lake discharges.
Lake discharges to the STAs during the year leading up to the 2018 discharges to the estuaries were the lowest in the last 6 years. However, Lake discharges to the STAs during 2018 were the highest in history, at almost 500,000 acre feet (163 billion gallons).
Greetings! My long-term readers may recall Dr. Geoffrey Norris whose shared 2017 writings on agriculture and glyphosate usage were extremely popular. Well, Dr Norris has returned from freezing cold Canada to tropical Hutchinson Island and has another work to share. He has written on a question many ask :”Red vs. Green Algae: What’s an Easy Way to Understand the Difference?” Please link below for yet another outstanding piece written for the everyday person, by our dear Canadian friend, Dr Geoffrey Norris.
I am enclosing a discussion piece I have just completed entitled:
Florida Red Tides (Dinoflagellates) and Blue-Green Algal Blooms (Cyanobacteria): Questions and Answers for the Treasure Coast
It is attached as a pdf. It is quite long, and I have included an Executive Summary for those who might need it. It is abundantly illustrated, including a couple of aerial shots by you and Ed.
If you would be willing to include it in your website/blog I would be really happy. There is so much confusion about red tides and blooms, and hopefully this clarifies things a little.
All the best
Florida Red Tides (Dinoflagellates) and Blue-Green Algal Blooms (Cyanobacteria): Questions and Answers for the Treasure Coast
By Geoffrey Norris, PhD. Hutchinson Island, Martin County, Florida; 2019
Contact Dr Norris at: email@example.com
introduction, EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
This discussion centers on the issues of water quality in Florida’s lakes, waterways and coastal waters, as related to algal and bacterial blooms. It is written in plain language, in question and answer format, using as few technical terms as possible to help explain and clarify the various factors involved that lead to colored waters and toxic outbreaks in Florida’s lakes, estuaries and coastal waters.
I think for this Friday’s blog post, I will keep it short as the words of the late Ernest Lyons resonate for themselves, especially for those of us who knew our waters in better days. This poetic piece fills one with inspiration to see healthy waters once again, but reminds us, that in spite of all our troubles, the force of beauty remains.
In her email to me ~sharing this piece, my mother simply wrote:
“This was in a 1953 Fishing Guide. The man in the photo is Capt. Francis A. Adams. Ernie surely could write. He never went to church but….” Mom
The Fisherman, by Ernest Lyons
His is a measure of the peace that comes to the man of wide waters and in quiet places. Clouds, sea, and rain, the wind and sun accept him into their company.
He sees the creatures that the Lord hath wrought in the deeps…the sawfish with its armored flail, the remora with sucking cups atop its head to fasten onto shark or ray, the mullet always fleeing. He feels the presence of creation’s magic close at hand.
He knows the beauty of the morning and bright fullness of the day upon the sea and rivers. He sees the swift and dreadful, the timid, and the fierce. And within him there is wonder that such miracles should be.
I first met Michelle Jones Connor during 2013’s “Lost Summer,” the year coffee colored, sediment-filled water flowed through the gates of the Army Corp of Engineers for most the year, from Lake Okeechobee into our St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon. At that time, with energy surging as thousands of peoples’ anger ramped-up the River Movement, at a rally Michelle told me about her environmental-legend grandfather and grandmother, Johnny and Mariana Jones.
Ironically, not too long after this, my mother and father discovered the above plaque while on a field trip to the Hungryland, an area also named after the couple.
Who were these incredible people?
The Florida Wildlife Commission’s dedication to Hungryland explains:
“The Hungryland Wildlife Environmental Area honors the conservation legacy of Johnny and Marianna Jones, passionate advocates for the protection of fish and wildlife resources throughout Florida. During their 61-year marriage, the couple lobbied for environmental issues, were leaders of the Florida Wildlife Federation and were instrumental in the establishment of over 3 million acres of public lands, including the John C. and Mariana Jones/Hungryland Wildlife Environmental Area.”
The list of their achievements is incredible! Almost impossible. Could we ever do something like that today? Of course we could; we just have to learn the tricks of the trade before they are forgotten.
Michelle’s grandparents have recently passed as have so many other of the “greats.” We must fill their shoes. We have no choice but to do so. And learning from the past can be a great help along our journey.
Thankfully, Michelle has given us some of the treasures of her late grandparents.
Today I share with you, with the permission of Michelle, three things from the Joneses and their library. First, a fascinating and insightful 2001 University of Florida interview where Mr Jones answers the question: “What are the two or three most important contributing factors that have led to the present problems in the Everglades?”; Second, “The Marshall Plan, Repairing the Florida Everglades;” and third Johnny Jones’ “The Rain Machine,” my favorite, about how human greed, development, and canalization, and drainage of Lake Okeechobee and surrounding areas altered Florida’s water cycle ~and thus Florida’s weather itself ~by removing so much water from the land.
Upon reading, you will notice names, such as Marjorie Stoneman Douglas, Arthur R. Marshall, and Nathaniel Reed ~just to name a few. In spite of the difficulties, pressures, and of course the hottest potato, politics, it was relationships and perseverance that allowed the Joneses to achieve so much. We must do the same.
Thank you Michelle for sharing these rare and valuable documents. We shall honor the legacy of your grandparents and be inspired..
UF/Interview of Johnny Jones by Brian Gridley, 2001:
Why the name “Hungryland:”…in the mid-1800s, Seminoles seeking to escape the U.S. Army hid out in these wetlands. The Army destroyed and cut off their food supplies, leading local ranchers to refer to the region as “Hungryland.” The slough that still runs through the area was called the Hungryland Slough and was primarily used for grazing cattle.”
I am once again honored to share Dr. Goforth’s work:
Excerpt from: A Brief Discussion of Lake Okeechobee Pollution G. Goforth, PhD. 9/18/2018:
“For calendar year 2017, the phosphorus loading to the Lake Okeechobee approached 2.3 million pounds, the highest level ever recorded, and the 5-yr average phosphorus loading to the lake was more than 5 times the pollution allocation established for the watershed. This pollution target is called the “Total Maximum Daily Load” or “TMDL.” The result: an algae bloom covered 90 percent of the lake this summer (NOAA 2018).
In addition, the state’s annual “progress report” on efforts to reduce pollution of the lake underestimates the actual loading to the lake. For the last two years the FDEP has published reports indicating phosphorus loading to the lake has decreased – yet these claims conflict with the measured loads to the lake, e.g., the average load measured in 2017 was 60% higher than reported by FDEP…”
It really says something about the state of Florida waters, when our most renowned Nature photographers visit to photograph the decline of what was once most beautiful. They cannot lie. To only photograph what is beautiful, is not to tell the story of what is happening to Florida’s waters.
On August 19, my husband Ed and I had the pleasure of taking award-winning Florida conservation photographer, Mac Stone, https://www.macstonephoto.com for a flight over the St Lucie River, Lake Okeechobee, and afterwards, for a Sunday toxic drive.
Today, I share Mac’s photos, a testament to the terrible we must change…
To be around Mac himself was very uplifting. His message, I offer below. Please visit his Facebook page to view how Mac presented his St Lucie algae experience and to see his other work that is entirely inspirational.
Thank you Mac for sharing. Thank you Mac for caring! It meant so much to have you visit the dear St Lucie and your story reaches the world.
“Cities and estuaries, homeowners and businesses, beach goers and anglers, dems and repubs, people and wildlife, we are all affected by polluted water, no matter where you live. It’s heartbreaking to see my beloved coasts and wetlands like this and to hear the desperation in residents’ voices as algae-laden water courses through the arteries of their backyards. Let’s make sure this doesn’t happen again. Elections are coming up and no matter how you lean, please vote for water.” ~Mac Stone
#noworneverglades #florida #algae #everglades @ Martin County, Florida
Dr. Gary Goforth has more than 30 years of experience in water resources engineering, encompassing strategic planning, design, permitting, construction, operation and program management. For the last 25 years, his focus has been on large-scale environmental restoration programs in the Kissimmee-Okeechobee-Everglades ecosystem. He was the Chief Consulting Engineer during the design, construction and operation of the $700 million Everglades Construction Project, containing over 41,000 acres of constructed wetlands. He is experienced in public education, water quality treatment design and evaluation, engineering design and peer review, systems ecology, statistical hydrology, hydrologic modeling, hydrodynamic modeling, water quality modeling, environmental permit acquisition and administration, hydrologic and water quality performance analyses.
Once again, I am honored to share the work our favorite local advocate scientist, Gary Goforth. His news about our St Lucie River is not always pleasing, but it is so helpful to have his insights on important issues. Being educated is our best defense. Please see Gary’s note below with links to his most recent updates.
Hi Jacqui – attached is the Executive Summary of the paper in jpeg format – easier to share!
“Florida’s Summer of Slime: Stuart and Lake Okeechobee,” photo essay by John Moran, August 2018
I reported last month on the plight of the Caloosahatchee River and its befouled waters flowing from Lake Okeechobee; delivering slime to waterfront neighborhoods in Fort Myers and Cape Coral along the way to the Gulf Islands of Southwest Florida.
Next up on our Summer of Slime photo tour is a visit to Stuart and Lake O…Stuart and environs is a glistening jewel born of water. It may well top the list of Florida cities in shoreline per capita. There’s simply water everywhere. Two forks of the St. Lucie River, the Indian River Lagoon, canals and peninsulas and islands, and the Atlantic Ocean beyond. Stuart is pictured above; below is neighboring Hutchinson Island.
But it wasn’t Stuart’s reputation for abundant clean water that drew me south from Gainesville with my cameras. In effect, I’ve become a traveling crime scene photographer—and slime is the crime. A devastating outbreak of toxic algae has once again hit the St. Lucie River and the Treasure Coast, fueled by the polluted waters of Lake Okeechobee and the Kissimmee River basin to the north. Damaging headlines trumpet the story to the nation and the world and Governor Scott has declared a state of emergency. It’s déjà vu all over again.
My hosts in Stuart were water blogger Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch and her husband, Ed Lippisch.
Ed took me up for a photo flight in his Piper Cub so I could get the big picture.
Seen from a small plane at 500 feet, Florida is a beautiful place.
Here’s Lake Okeechobee and the western terminus of the St. Lucie C-44 Canal. Administered by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Port Mayaca Lock and Dam has the capacity to discharge 14,800 cubic feet of water per second downstream to Stuart and the St. Lucie River Estuary, 26 miles away.
Sugar industry representatives say the water coming out of Lake Okeechobee is not the problem and that the algae outbreak in Stuart is primarily caused by Stuart’s own septic tanks and urban stormwater. This claim is contradicted by the extensive algae mats seen along the C-44 Canal between the Port Mayaca and St. Lucie Locks, well upstream from Stuart.
Lake Okeechobee historically drained south to Florida Bay, not east and west to the Atlantic and Gulf. The C-44 canal was built in 1916 to divert floodwaters to the coast.
A view of the St. Lucie Lock and Dam, several miles southwest of Stuart. On the day of my photo flight in late July, the dam gates were closed, visibly holding back algae from flowing downstream. Look closely and you can see what some people call The Seven Gates of Hell.
The St. Lucie Lock and Dam are an integral part of South Florida’s complex web of water management structures, born of an age when the Everglades was reviled as a watery wasteland and America was driven to drain it.
Below the St. Lucie Lock and Dam, in Palm City and Stuart, you can still find waterfront homes untouched by the algae bloom. But that’s no consolation for the thousands of Martin County residents whose lives are in upheaval once again this summer. The familiar pattern of algae outbreaks is fueled by fertilizer, manure and urban sources of nutrient pollution, including septic tanks.
All of this is compounded by denial and neglect by elected officials and agencies to whom we entrust the important work of environmental protection and public health.
Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch took me on a driving tour of the C-44 Canal from Stuart to enormous Lake O, which is more like a stormwater treatment pond than a biologically healthy lake. “There are toxic algae blooms across the globe, but only one place where the government dumps it on you: Florida,” she says.
It’s not just the algae from Lake Okeechobee causing headaches along Florida’s east coast; the sheer volume of freshwater discharges is an environmental pollutant that overwhelms the estuary.
The Lake O gunk visible in the satellite view, above, is shown in the detail photo below.
Fishermen are still drawn to Port Mayaca. On the day we visited, I counted nine.