Work on the C-44 Reservoir and Storm Water Treatment Area started back in 2004 and is one of a few gigantic water projects of the Army Corp of Engineers and South Florida Water Management District. The mammoth construction site is part of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan, Indian River Lagoon South. In Martin County, the foundation for this was laid back in 1996 and 1998, and then again in 2006 when the public supported environmental land purchases through a sales tax: https://www.martin.fl.us/land-acquisition
Recently, the SFWMD has made great progress for water quality projects with strong backing from the public (fed up with toxic algae blooms), Governor Ron DeSantis and the Florida Legislature.
Today I will be sharing three things: a flyover with my husband Ed; a field trip led by the SFWMD to C-44 with Florida Sportsman Magazine; and the grand finale, the visit of Governor Ron DeSantis to allow the first waters of the C-44 Canal to flow into the STAs.
Why has everything taken so long? We’ll there are many reasons but we must note the 2008 Great Recession, politics, and most of all, the project’s size!
The map above and below can give you an idea of the project’s 12, 000 acres!
Looking at the Google Map, you’ll notice that you can easily see the outline of the former groves. Perusing the map below, you can see the reservoir will be in the north west corner and the six cells of the storm water treatment area on the east. You will also notice that Allapattah Flats, once a gigantic marsh through St Lucie and Martin County, is north of the project along with Troup’s – RB Ranch – upper east. Star Farms is west and grows sugar cane at the present time. There is a long intake canal off the C-44 canal that brings in the polluted water – primarily from local farm runoff. 2/3 of Martin County is agricultural. It is important to keep these lands in agriculture as developed lands would be even harsher on the wildlife and the environment. We all, coast or inland, must work to clean things up!
FLYOVER C-44 RESERVOIR & STA, ED LIPPISCH and JTL, SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 10, 2019.
2. FIELD TRIP TO C-44 RESERVOIR & STA WITH FLORIDA SPORTSMAN MAGAZINE, and JTL led by Alan Shirkey, Bureau Chief, Engineering and Construction, SFWMD and Buff Searcy, Lead Engineer and Construction Manager, SFWMD. THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 7, 2019. This was a great opportunity and thank you to Blair Wickstrom for recommending we do such from the ground. This is were one really sees what is going on!
3. GOVERNOR DESANTIS ACTIVATES THE C-44 STA, INDIANTOWN, FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 8, 2019. A great day and an honor for me to be there up close to our wonderful new Governor!
“The SFWMD recently completed three of the six cells of the 6,300-acre treatment area and expects to have the entire STA completed next year. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is building a 3,400-acre reservoir next to the STA that is expected to be completed in 2021. The C-44 Reservoir will store 50,000 acre-feet of water, including local basin runoff and Lake Okeechobee releases. This will reduce harmful releases reaching the St. Lucie Estuary that can fuel harmful algal blooms. The C-44 STA will treat the water stored in the reservoir before it is released into the estuary. “I can’t help but smile. Water flowing into this treatment area marks a momentous day in the history of the Everglades, the Treasure Coast, and the St. Lucie Estuary,” said SFWMD Governing Board Member Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch. “This is the start of the road to a healthier estuary and Everglades. Under the leadership of Governor DeSantis, progress on Everglades restoration is moving at a rapid pace.””
Thank you to Rotarians Mr Larry Lavargna and Ms Elmira Gainey for co-chairing Stuart-Sunrise Rotary’s 2nd Annual Water Forum, Public Health as it Relates to the St Lucie River. There are few instances where so many influential water voices come together to speak on the river as it relates to public health and for a question/answer period after each to boot. A excellent public forum!
I noticed that of all the speakers, Dr Gary Goforth had written out his talk, thus in case you were unable to attend, I asked if he would share. His words are included below. You can also find many of the presentations recorded and posted at Treasure Coast on Facebook.
The most powerful things happen when we all get involved and include others! Thank you Sunshine-Rotary!
We are so blessed to live in Paradise! Like you I love this river, its estuary, its mangroves, its beaches, its near-shore reefs. But as many of you know, it is a Paradise with a tragic problem. Below the surface of this serene river lies poison.
Ms. Sandra Thurlow recently provided the following treasure: In 1885, Homer Hine Stuart, Jr. for whom Stuart is named carried around a small woodcutting representing the confluence of the North Fork and South Fork of the St Lucie Rivers. This carving showed the river as 20 feet deep at the location of the future Roosevelt Bridge. Imagine that!
Thirty years later Ernie Lyons described looking down into the River 15-20 ft through clear tea-colored water to a sandy bottom below.
The area behind us was known worldwide as “Giant Tarpon Kingdom” with regular catches of silver kings above 175 pounds. The world record was reported as 220 pounds, caught just up river.
In 1913, the State of Florida decided to construct a canal connecting Lake Okeechobee with the Atlantic Ocean. The primary intent was to divert the overflow of Lake Okeechobee away from its natural course south through the Everglades, thereby allowing the sawgrass plains south of the lake to be developed for agriculture. A secondary benefit was to provide cross-Florida transportation of produce and other commerce.
On June 15, 1923, the first recorded discharges from Lake Okeechobee passed through the newly constructed St. Lucie Canal, which connected the St. Lucie Estuary to the Lake. But an unintended consequence was the discharge of countless tons of muck and dirty freshwater from the Lake that forever changed the landscape of the St Lucie River and Estuary.
Within 10 years the Martin County Commissioners had asked the State to stop the discharges “for the reason that the continued discharge of a large volume of dirty freshwater has killed all the shell fish, driven all salt water fish from the river, filled the river with hyacinths and so polluted the St Lucie River as to completely take away the attractive features and ruin its commercial value to the community.” (December 15, 1930 MCBCC)
The lake discharges drove out the king tarpons – the 150-200 pounders – and the small city of Stuart recast itself as the “Sailfish Capital of the World.”
Ernie Lyons described the damage in this way:
“We turned our good, sweet water into a cup of poison and changed a laughing little river into a reeking abomination – in the latter part of an ordinary lifetime. Clean rivers are not “forever and forever” like the sunrise.” (from The Last Cracker Barrel (1976) p 62)
As a professional engineer I’ve had the honor of working to protect the environment of south Florida for more than three decades – in the Everglades, in Lake Okeechobee, along the Kissimmee River and its headwaters, and in the magnificent estuaries –the St Lucie and Caloosahatchee. My wife and I raised three kids here along the St Lucie River and I’ve taught my two grandsons to fish and appreciate the incredible biological diversity throughout the river and estuary and near shore reefs. But unfortunately, we don’t eat the fish we catch in the River because of the public health risk.
I recently had the misfortune of being in the emergency room of our local hospital. One of the very first questions I was asked was if I had had any recent contact with the St Lucie River.
During the 2016 discharges I walked along Stuart Beach with Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch and we collected the names and stories of over 100 people who had gotten sick after coming in contact with the water.
A beautiful dog, Finn, died that summer after morning frolic in the water. Several other dogs suffered acute liver failure, and suffer to this day.
2016 was a watershed year in understanding the relationship between the discharge of polluted water from the Lake and public health. The media began to focus on toxic blue green algae – particularly the microcystis form. While parts of our beloved estuary were covered in foul smelling neon green guacamole, the media began reporting on the effects of microcystis and human health. An Ohio State University study reported that those of us in Martin and St Lucie County have twice the national average rate of death for non-alcoholic liver disease. They correlated this high rate with one thing – discharge of polluted water carrying blue green algae from Lake Okeechobee. This particular form of blue-green algae – microcystis – carries a dangerous toxin that can cause serious liver disease which can lead to death. Additional human health risks have also been identified – Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and Lou Gehrig’s disease.
In the last year – thanks to the efforts of Congressman Brian Mast – the Corps of Engineers acknowledged for the first time that Lake discharges to the estuaries carrying microcystis are toxic to humans, and the US Government makes these discharges knowingly and with the understanding that they are poisoning us – the public that they serve.
Numerous public health advisories have been issued in our region in association with lake discharges – warnings to the public to avoid contact with the water. But none have ever been issued when Lake water is sent south – the environmental conditions south of the lake are not advantageous for sustaining toxic blooms. So the alternative to knowingly poisoning the public are clear – send the water south.
Col. Kelly is now in charge, and we are truly grateful for his leadership. As the Corps revises its operation schedule of the Lake, I am sure that Col. Kelly will ensure that the public health, economies and environment of our region are given equal weight as the public health, economies and environment of the area south of the Lake. Hundreds of millions of dollars in economic loss are felt by the regions around the estuaries during years of heavy lake discharges. Public health is adversely affected. There is no acceptable level of lake discharges. There is no level of Lake releases to the St Lucie Estuary that is beneficial.
Lake discharges contain pollutants include toxic blue green algae, sediment (muck), low salinity water, and nutrients. However, even if all the Lake water was sent south, our beloved St Lucie would still be in trouble. Our local watershed has its challenges – particularly high levels of nitrogen and phosphorus in agricultural runoff. Our watershed suffers from the same lack of pollution regulation as the Lake Okeechobee watershed: landowners are not held accountable for pollution from their property.
But the problem is not just ag runoff – WE ALL ARE RESPONSIBLE. For the St Lucie Estuary, approximately 5-10% of the total nitrogen loading is from our septic tanks. If you have a tank – have it inspected and maintained. Water quality data show an improvement in nitrogen levels due to positive actions taken by the City of Stuart, Martin County, Port St. Lucie and homeowners – conversion of more than 8,000 septic tanks to centralized sewer. The City of Stuart has one of the best programs for converting septic tanks to sewers: a voluntary system that allows homeowners the option of waiting until their tanks or drainfields need replacing before hooking up. But converting septic to sewer doesn’t solve the problem of nutrient overload – it just moves the problem to other areas. The majority of the residuals from wastewater treatment plants are returned to our watersheds as “biosolids” that contain high concentrations of phosphorus and nitrogen. An article in this morning’s Stuart News documented the presence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in dolphins, and the researchers attribute much of the problem to pharmaceuticals that pass generally untreated through centralized sewers and are returned to the watershed through biosolids. We still need a better strategy for managing biosolids. Sen. Harrell – we look to you for leadership in the Legislature to require additional oversight and regulation of the application of all biosolids in our watershed.
The Florida Legislature is the single most influential group that can positively affect the public health in the state of Florida. The Legislature has an obligation to understand that allowing continued pollution of Lake Okeechobee and the estuaries will directly and adversely impact the health of the public you represent. Unless the State begins holding landowners accountable for the pollution they generate, there is absolutely no reason to believe that our water quality will improve and as a result, our public health will continue to decline. No matter if the Corps and SFWMD implement all the projects on the books – there will still be Lake discharges of toxic water to our estuaries – and unless the Legislature reverses its direction, the water quality and public health problems will persist.
I ask Sen. Harrell to work with the Legislature to hold the state’s Dept. of Environmental Protection (DEP) accountable for protecting our environment. Their current program for improving water quality going into the Lake is terribly broken. Pollution loading to the lake reached an all-time high in 2017. And compounding this problem is that annual DEP reports to the Governor and legislature and public are misleading – as they allege that pollution loads are decreasing – when the reality – as documented by the SFWMD – is that average pollution loads are higher than the Starting Period. For 2017 the measured phosphorus loads to the Lake were 60% greater than they reported in their annual report. For 2018, the measured loads were 40% greater than they reported. Who holds the DEP accountable for transparency and accuracy in reporting to the Governor, the Legislature and the public? Sen. Harrell – please demand accountability on the part of DEP.
USEPA recently established draft guidelines for microcystin in water. We urge the legislature to direct DEP to expeditiously embrace and adopt those guidelines to protect human health. We support Col. Kelly’s efforts to prevent Lake discharges to our estuary that contain blue green algae, and urge him to adopt the microcystin guideline into the new version of the Lake operating manual.
I want to thank Ms. Thurlow-Lippisch on behalf of the SFWMD – for exploring more ways to sending Lake water south through the STAs, into the Everglades and on to Florida Bay. The SFWMD is also the agency responsible for collecting water quality data documenting the state of the water. Thanks to the leadership of Ms. Thurlow-Lippisch, they are initiating steps to establish a regulatory program that if done properly will hold landowners accountable for reducing nutrient pollution. The SFWMD will need our support as they develop an effective program – and we the public need to turn out and support them in their efforts.
We’ve heard Col. Kelly and others describe projects to be completed in the next 2-3 years. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the first discharges from the Lake with a promise to stop the toxic discharges?!
I’d like to end with a challenge for all of us from an idol of mine – Timer Powers – Timer was a former Martin County commissioner and water management board member and Executive Director:
“The greatest challenge in front of us is to take the steps that are necessary to assure that our younger generation has the rivers, the creeks and the critters that are at the heart of our whole society. There’s not many people representing the critters, and if we fail to represent those who can’t represent themselves, either nature or people, then we have failed.”
So to my fellow clean water advocates – let’s rise up to meet this challenge! We can do this people!
Thank you all, and to the Rotary for bringing us all together on this beautiful day along side this beautiful estuary!
Dr Goforth (http://www.garygoforth.net/Other%20projects.htm ) is a familiar and trusted friend in our fight to protect the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon. Today, I am sharing his comments made during the development of the Basin Management Action Plan for the St Lucie River; and also his easy to read charts presented at the June 10, 2019, SFWMD Northern Estuary Workshop. It is my hope, that my very oversimplified post from yesterday can be complemented by Dr. Goforth’s input.
From Dr. Gary Goforth, Ph.D
Subject: Estuary Water Quality Protection, July 8, 2019
Looking forward to a productive workshop on Wednesday…
2. Subject: RE: Estuary Water Quality Protection, July 12, 2019
Thank you for a very productive workshop Wednesday on water quality and its impacts to the northern estuaries.
I’ve been asked for copies of the documents I held up during my public comments. These were developed pursuant to the 2007 Northern Everglades and Estuary Protection Program (NEEPP), and were to serve as the technical foundation for an expanded Works of the District (Rule 40E-61) regulatory program administered by the SFWMD. These documents summarize the most comprehensive analyses of water quality and hydrology for the Lake Okeechobee and estuary watersheds. These were presented to DEP during the development of the BMAPs – but DEP chose not to take advantage of them. Even worse, prior SFWMD management worked with an agricultural lobbyist to remove all references to these documents from the 2015 SFWMD annual environmental report (“In 2014, South Florida water managers were on the verge of an agriculture pollution crackdown, but at the last minute reversed course. TCPalm obtained emails that show how a lobbyist influenced water policy. The South Florida Water Management District changed course immediately after a Dec. 3, 2014, meeting with U.S. Sugar Corp. lobbyist Irene Quincey, eventually halting its planned policy in favor of a plan that takes polluters at their word and holds no one accountable if water quality suffers.” http://www.tcpalm.com/story/news/investigations/2017/08/30/u-s-sugar-lobbyist-influence-over-florida-water-pollution-rules/464671001/).
They can be downloaded from the following links; I’m sure staff could provide hardcopies (they’re several hundred pages in length).
When I was a kid growing up in the 60s and 70s in Stuart, summer vacation meant carefree swimming at the Stuart Causeway, the beach, and the Sunrise Inn. This was such an anticipated time of year that my parents would splurge and buy us new bathing suits from TG&Y.
Here I am pictured with my little sister, Jenny, outside our family home on Edgewood Drive. We were proudly displaying our matching new bathing suits!
Today, things are different. It is important for parents to check the water first. Is it safe? Has an algae bloom been reported? Is the Army Corp dumping Lake Okeechobee?
Today, I share two websites: Martin County, and the Martin County Dept. of Health. Both have been updated to reflect today, and though it’s not all “good news” with this much open government, I am confident things are on their way to getting better.
I, as many, have seen and received multiple algae reports via Facebook, text, and through the tremendous reporting of Tyler Treadway of the Stuart News. Now, I am encouraging everyone to take the time, and it doesn’t take much, to report their algae sightings in the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, (DEP).
It was Mike Connor who reminded me to do this, after my husband Ed accidentally spotted the algae lines by plane off Port Mayaca ~in Lake Okeechobee~ on June 2nd, the day after the ACOE started discharging.
At first I thought, “I’m too busy for that…” and then I realized of course I need to report to DEP because then the state is obligated to document and to test it for toxcidity.
Better yet, if everyone who is reporting via social media and text called DEP, there would be so many test sites for DEP to test, it would exhaust their resources.
Since our resources are gone, this is only fair.
As they say: “All is fair in love in war.”
Please report algae sightings; see link below.
If you can’t figure it out this unclear website, call the Governor’s office: 850-488-7146 or Noah Valenstein the head of DEP: 850-245-2118.
These aerial photos over the St Lucie Inlet were taken by my husband, Ed Lippisch, Sunday, October 29, 2017, at 1:45pm.
The number one issue here is the polluted waters of Lake Okeechobee being forced into the SLR/IRL because they are blocked by the Everglades Agricultural Area from going south.
The ACOE has been discharging Lake O waters into the St Lucie since mid-September. These over-nutrified and sediment filled waters continue to destroy our economy and ecology on top of all the channelized agricultural and development waters of C-23, C-24 and C-25. Stormwater from our yards and streets also adds to this filthy cocktail.
Near shore reefs, sea grasses, oysters, fish? A human being? Better not have a cut on your hand…Not even a crab has an easy time living in this.
We move forward pushing the SFWMD and ACOE for the EAA Reservoir with these sad photos and the fact that our waters are putrid at the most beautiful time of year as motivation. We will prevail. One foot in front of the other.
Recently, I attended the ribbon-cutting for Martin County High School’s Administration and Classroom Building. They even opened a time capsule from the school’s origins in 1964. I hardly recognized the place…having graduated in 1982. It was so much bigger and better than when I attended. The place has come a long way from being what was literally once the county dump.
When I got home my mother had sent me a historic photograph via email (above.) I looked at it wondering what it was. I wrote back: “Where is that? Somewhere near Frances Langfords? IRL?”
I couldn’t believe it when she replied that it was an aerial of Martin County High School in 1964. I didn’t even recognize it! All these years, and I have never really realized the school lies so close to the St Lucie River. In fact, it lies not too far from where the South Fork of the St Lucie River was connected to the St Lucie Canal, today known as C-44. The link that allows polluted water in from Lake Okeechobee. A link that should be closed…
In her Vignettes, local historian Alice Luckhardt writes about the first school in Stuart. ~Stuart became the county seat of Martin County in 1914:
“Stuart’s first school was a one room building, about 12 x 16 feet, built in 1891 on the banks of the St. Lucie River, to accommodate the community’s children; the first teacher was Kate Hamilton whose salary was about $30 a month, but at that time there were not 12 grade levels and very few students.”
Imagine being taught, along the shores of a clean, beautiful, fish filled, St Lucie River….what a day, what an education, that must have been….
Prior to the 1970s, we used to dump sewage directly into the ocean; now we make fertilizer out of our own human waste and spread it on agricultural lands throughout our state. When it rains, nutrients and metals run right back into our estuaries….is this the answer, or another disaster? What are our options?
If you live close by, please attend this Thursday’s Rivers Coalition meeting to learn more. It was Mr. Gary Roderick who inspired me in 2008, when I was a new commissioner for the Town of Sewall’s Point, to take a deeper look at the causes of environmental destruction of our rivers. He is a knowledgeable and versed having worked both in government and as an environmental consultant.
Please join us!
Below, I am including two former blog posts on the subject: 1. Drowning in Our Own Human-Excrement-Fertilizer; and 2. Spreading Refined Human Waste on the Lands, “Biosolids,” St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon.
Drowning in Our Own Human-Excrement-Fertilizer, SLR/IRL:
Informational links and summary of where name biosolids came from:
“As public concern arose about disposal in the United States of increasing volumes of solids being removed from sewage during sewage treatment mandated by the Clean Water Act, the Water Environment Federation (WEF) sought a new name to distinguish the “clean,” agriculturally viable product generated by modern wastewater treatment from earlier forms of sewage sludge widely remembered for causing offensive or dangerous conditions. Of three-hundred suggestions, biosolids was attributed to Dr. Bruce Logan of the University of Arizona, and recognized by WEF in 1991.” The story of “biosolids” WIKI
Guest blog an photos by Geoff Norris, Indian River Plantation POA Group:
Guest blog an photos by Geoff Norris, Indian River Plantation POA Group:
These photographs of the Indian River Lagoon were taken on 11 October 2017, between the bridge at East Ocean Blvd, Stuart and north to Indian Riverside Park and Jensen Beach, Florida. The lagoon waters have been polluted for several days with run-off from Lake Okeechobee making the lagoon various shades of brown, orange, red and grey, with dirty scummy foam a feature at the shorelines and also as foamy windrows and wave crests in open water. The St Lucie River is in much the same state.
During this time the Army Corps of Engineers has been opening the locks at Port Mayaca to discharge water from Lake Okeechobee down the St Lucie Canal to the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon estuarine system. Rates vary from 4500 to 5500 cubic feet per second, equivalent to 2.9 to 3.5 billion gallons per day. It has been calculated that this amount of discharge would cover the Stuart peninsula north of Monterey Road with four feet or more of water in one day.
The Florida Oceanographic Society reports for 10 October 2017 that salinities in the Lagoon have been drastically reduced by this lake discharge to between 1 and 3 parts per thousand sufficient to kill many estuarine fish and other plants and animals (normally the salinity would be between about 20 and 25 parts per thousand in this section of the lagoon). The Society has graded the overall health of the Lagoon on either side of the East Ocean Bridge as “Poor to Destructive”. See this link:
The Army Corps of Engineers is aware that they are killing the St Lucie/Indian River Lagoon estuarine system by their actions, but consider it more important to lower the Lake Okeechobee level from the current level of 17.2 (feet above mean sea level) to a desired level of between 12 ft and 15 ft.
These are the facts. It is also a fact that politicians have not managed to stop this destruction.
Yesterday, I asked Ed to take me up in the plane, once again to document the discharges. In the wake of much rain and an active hurricane season, the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon continues to sacrifice its economy, health, and ecosystem for the EAA and South Florida drainage. A standard operating procedure that is outdated and dangerous.
The discharges from Lake O. have been on and off since Hurricane Irma hit on September 20th. Presently they are “on,” and it shows. Right now our river and ocean shores near the inlet should be at available to boaters, fisher-people, and youth, in”full-turquoise-glory.” Instead, the estuary, beaches, and near offshore is a ghost-town along a chocolate ocean and a black river. The edge of the plume can hardly be distinguished as all is dark, sediment filled waters. A disgrace.
Hurricane Irma may be gone, but her waters are not. Our now black river and the giant plume off the St Lucie Inlet attest to this. Clean rain that fell in our region during the hurricane is now filthy “stormwater” discharging, unfiltered, through manmade canals C-23, C-24, C-25, and C-44. Nature did not design the river to directly take this much water; this much water kills.
Every plume looks different, and this one is multilayered with no clear border. Sediment soup, black-brown in color, yesterday it extended out about 2/3 of a mile into a stirred up Atlantic and flowed south, in the rough waves not quite having made it to Peck’s Lake.
Since Hurricane Irma’s rains, area canals dug with no environmental foresight in the 1920s and 50s for flood control, and to facilitate agriculture and development, have been flowing straight into the river. On top of this, in anticipation of the hurricane, three days prior to IRMA the Army Corp of Engineers began discharging from Lake Okeechobee. During the hurricane they halted, and then started up again at high discharge levels reaching over (4000 cfs +/-) this past Friday, September 15th. As Lake Okeechobee rises and inflow water pours in from the north, and is blocked by the Everglades Agricultural Area in the south, we can expect more Lake O discharge on top of the canal releases themselves.
As advocates for the St Lucie River we continue the fight to expedite the building of the EAA reservoir and to create a culture to “send more water south.” In the meantime, we, and the fish and wildlife, and the once “most bio diverse estuary in North America,” suffer…
At the recent Bullsugar “Fund the Fight” event, Captain Mike Connor introduced me to Montana based, award-winning fishing and hunting journalist, Hal Herring. I looked Hal straight in the eye, shook his strong hand and said, “It’s so nice to meet you Mr Herrington.” He smiled, eyes sparkling, and replied, “Herring mam. Like the fish.”
Fly Life Magazine writes: “Herring, one of the leading outdoor writers of our time, co-manages the Conservationist Blog for Field & Stream, is the author of several books and is a regular contributor to numerous other well-known outdoor news outlets including High Country News, Montana’s Bully Pulpit Blog and the Nature Conservancy magazine.”
To say the least, I felt honored to be chosen as a tour guide for Hal Herring as my husband and Mike Connor arranged an aerial journey for the visiting journalist. After researching Hal, checking out his website, and reading his article on the Clean Water Act, I knew I was dealing with a gifted journalist. What a great person to have learn about the problems of our St Lucie River!
We prepared the Baron for Saturday. My husband Ed invited friend and fellow fisherman Dr Dan Velinsky. The flight stared with a rough take off. I steadied myself. “Please don’t let me puke Lord…” As Ed gained altitude, things settled down and we were on our way…
After taking off from Witham Field in Stuart, we followed the dreadful C-44 canal west to Lake Okeechobee; diverting north at the C-44 Reservoir under construction in Indiantown; traveled over the FPL cooling pond and S-308, the opening to C-44 and the St Lucie River at Port Mayaca. Next we followed Lake Okeechobee’s east side south to Pahokee, and then Belle Glade in the Sugarland of the EAA; here we followed the North New River Canal and Highway 27 south to the lands spoken about so much lately, A-1 and A-2 and surrounding area of the Tailman property where Senate Presidient Joe Negron’s recently negociated deeper reservoir will be constructed if all goes well; then we flew over the Storm Water Treatment Areas, Water Conservation Areas, and headed home east over the houses of Broward County inside the Everglades. Last over West Palm Beach, Jupiter, north along the Indian River Lagoon and then back to the St Lucie Inlet. Everywhere the landscape was altered. No wonder the water is such a mess…
I explained the history, Dan told fish stories, Ed ducked in and out of clouds. All the while, Hal Herring took notes on a yellow legal pad with calmness and confidence. Nothing surprised him; he was a quick study in spite of all the variables. He was so well read, not speaking often but when he did, like a prophet of sorts. He spoke about this strange time of history, the time we are living in, when humans have overrun the natural landscape. He spoke about mankind being obsessed with transcending the limits of the natural world…and the control of nature…but for Hal there was no anger or disbelief, just wisdom. In his biography, he says it best:
“My passions as a writer and storyteller lie where they always have – in exploring humankind’s evolving relationship to the natural world, and all the failures, successes and deep tensions inherent in that relationship…”
In the Everglades region, Hal may just have hit the jackpot!
We all know that young people are the largest key to a “better water future” for our great state of Florida. Recently I opened my mailbox to find the “Florida Coastal Law Review’s Special Symposium Issue: A look into the 2017 Florida Constitution Revision Commission/Fall Issue, Volume 18.” It is very excited to see what topics the students are covering. I read the whole thing! All of the articles are powerful expressions. My favorite? “Sugar, Politics, and the Destruction of Florida’s Natural Resources,” by Jaclyn Blair.
After such a difficult few weeks watching the state legislature pass the ball back and forth and finally catch SB10 and HB761, and then the false cry that Florida Forever could not be funded, the Law Review publication really lifted my spirits. I was so excited that I decided to call the law school, garnering more information and received permission to share.
The best way I know how, and with my limited time today, I am just going to photograph the article and post it. Even if you read the first few pages, you will be impressed. I have a better format, but cannot post PDF format on my blog. Email me if you’d like a PDF or call the law school at 904-680-7700. The Editor-in Chief, Dylan W. Retting, is a great help.
In closing as I’m off to Panama City, more than anything…more than any bill or any politicking…. seeing young people pick up the torch for our waters and our environment is an inspiration. An inspiration for a true and longer-lasting, “better water future.”
Thank you to the students of Jacksonville’s Florida Coastal Law Review! I am impressed!
If we look into the mirror of history, we begin to see…
We begin to see how we destroyed one of the most famous and beloved inland fishing waters in North America and how we learned to do better. And if we are able, in time, not only to do better, but to return “health and glory” to the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon, it should be the tarpon, not the sailfish, that becomes our symbol, our king.
The first formal fishing club documented in Stuart was the 1916 St Lucie River Tarpon Club. The late 1800s and early 1900s were an era of great fame for the St Lucie River, build upon President Grover Cleveland and other presidents fishing trips to the area. Yes, the St Lucie was known as the “Fishing Grounds of Presidents.”
Ironically, at this same time, the Commercial Club, that evolved into today’s Chamber of Commerce, was promoting not just Stuart’s remarkable fishing, but also enthusiastically encouraging and awaiting the completion of the St Lucie Canal.
“Once the muddy water flowed into the St Lucie River, they began to realize that the canal was not the blessing they envisioned,” writes Sandra Henderson Thurlow. Historian Alice Luckhardt more directly notes, “at one time tarpon were often caught in the St. Lucie River, but “disappeared” from those waters soon after the opening of the canal system to Lake Okeechobee in 1923.”
Ingeniously, and with more insight, in the years following the loss of tarpon and other river fish as seen in the McCoy map above, the ocean-going sailfish was marketed to replace the tarpon and become “the most prized fish of all…” as well as in time the symbol for both the city and county governments.
The magnificent Silver King? Just a dying memory, or no memory at all…
By the mid 1930s the Chamber of Commerce began publishing the “Stuart Fishing Guide.” In 1941 the largest sailfish run in Florida’s history occurred off the St Lucie Inlet. Remarkable! More than 5000 sailfish were caught in a 90 day period. “Thousands were slaughtered only to be dumped in the river, carted off by garbage collectors, and used for shark bait.” Stuart as the Sailfish Capital of the world was affirmed, but as my mother states, if “Stuart’s fame was to endure, so was the need for conservation of the species.”
The idea for conservation/protecting the industry had been in the works, the Sailfish Club had been talking about it and a few sailfish were returned to the ocean…. But after the sailfish run of “41, the idea of an organized conservation effort was solidified, and Sailfish Club of ’31 updated their charter in “41 “to further and promote sports fishing and conservation in the waters of the City of Stuart and Martin County.” Visiting sportsmen were awarded and inspired to work for the most coveted bronze, silver, and gold lapel pins based on the size of the sail they caught and released, not killed.
This is a great story, but what of the tarpon?
I can see his giant, ancient, dorsal fin rising from the waters of a healthier St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon. For me, no fish will ever compare. As we restore our rivers, it is he who shall be KING! 🙂
Over time, some of the most obvious things become forgotten…such was it for me with the original connection point of the C-44, or “St Lucie Canal,” and the South Fork of the St Lucie River.
I have actually written about this before, but I came across the survey maps that really proves the point so I will share today….
Florida’s early flood districts and soon after, the Army Corp of Engineers, ACOE, were tasks by the state of Florida and the people to build the St Lucie Canal which came to be known as the C-44 canal. Today, this canal, that connects lake Okeechobee to the St Lucie River is one of, if not the greatest overall contributor, to the death of the St Lucie River that at its “end” blends together with the southern Indian River Lagoon. (See DEP link at end of this blog.)
After coming across some of my old, filed information lately, I stumbled upon this question of location that I was particularly interested in about five years ago. With the help of Sandra Thurlow, my mother, a historian, and famed surveyor founder–GCY, Chappy Young, “X-marks the spot” was finally really identified.
Mr Young’s survey map below shows the location. The easiest way for me to “see” it, is to note the almost figure 8 shape in the South Fork at the bottom of this survey sheet which is the same one in the photo above. So the location is northeast of this area close to where Four Rivers subdivision is located today.
I think it would be a good idea if the county put a sign up. Don’t you?
What is really weird to me is how “perfectly” the canal blends into the beautiful swerving South Fork. As so many things in life, It is not easy to see where one stops and the other starts….