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Nettles Island, a Star of the Show, “Indian River Lagoon”

Nettles Island, westerly view JTL/EL

Over the years, 2013-2019, flying over the St Lucie River and Indian River Lagoon, my husband Ed and I have taken thousands of photographs. Near the border of Martin and St Lucie counties, Nettles Island, a village, jutting out into the river, like a movie star, is “impossible not to recognize.” Today it is a popular place to live and well-known for its strong sense of community. Nonetheless, looking at the crowded island from the air, concerned about today’s environmental standards, one has to wonder about its history as it would be almost impossible to create such today.

So how did it arrive?

My mother, historian Sandra Henderson Thurlow, (,  provided me with notes about the island, from an interview she held with beloved Stuart resident of country-music fame, Bobby Lord, ~whose sons, Rob Lord, and Cabot Lord, continue their father’s legacy ~especially for our St Lucie River. I have left my mother’s notes in their raw form as I find them most interesting.  Please read below.

Sandra Henderson Thurlow’s Notes From an Interview with  Bobby Lord, February 24, 2002 


Outdoor Resorts of America

Out of Nashville

E. Randall Henderson, an attorney was president

They developed a R. V. Campground in Gatlinburg, TN

They developed Holiday Resorts adjacent to Nettles Island.

Nettles was owned by Sir Dennis Losen, a former Lord Mayor of London

Losen had already acquired dredge and fill permits for Nettles Island.

Nettles Island had been owned by Gene Dyer who offered to sell it to Bill Pitchford for $1500. Bill declined because he did not want to pay taxes on it. Bill did want to grow beans on the island and offered to sharecrop with Dyer. Gene Dyer’s share of the bean crop was $1500 so he said Bill Pitchford could have Nettles Island. He still declined because he did not want to be responsible for the taxes. 

Outdoor Resorts purchased Nettles Island in 1969. They began excavating the 80 upland or Hutchinson Island acres and hired Norfolk Dredging to pump 1,850,000 cubic yards of fill from the bottom of the Indian River. The dredge sank on the south side of the island during a violent storm. It was underwater for several weeks and environmentalists were screaming. Finally divers raised the dredge using inflatable tubes. Then the dredging operation continued. 

The resort includes 100 acres on Nettles Island and 80 acres on Hutchinson Island. The land where Shuckers is was sold off. The resort owns cabanas and a clubhouse and swimming pool on the ocean.

The permit for dredging was from the Internal Improvement Fund. When Bobby Lord went to Tallahassee in 1971 and asked what they would be told if they asked for a permit to fill Nettles Island they were told they would be laughed out of the office.

Outdoor Resorts built four miles of seawall and five miles of roads. Misner Marine of St. Petersburg built the seawalls, and Dickerson, Inc. of Stuart built the roads.

Lot sales began in 1971. There are 1585 lots on Nettles Island. Original prices were $5,000 for inside lots and $14,000 for waterfront lots. There are tennis courts, a miniature golf course, a swimming pool and a clubhouse. 

Historic photo Nettles Island ca. 1920, courtesy Debra Duvall

When I first ask my mother about the island, I inquired if it was a spoil island created by the dredging  of the Intracostal Waterway like so many of the islands in the Indian River Lagoon. “No,” was her quick answer and to prove such she provided me with the wonderful photograph shared by Water Point Realty Group broker, Debra Duvall. I love this photo, seen above,  as it doesn’t just show the little island that became “Nettles Island,” but the stunning, rolling, dune coastline of Hutchinson Island prior to development.

Just after Nettles Island was developed, the Clean Water Act’s 404-Regulations, made it much more difficult to “dredge and fill.” This occurred in 1972, under President Nixon. His environmental advisor? None other than Martin County’s Nathaniel Reed! (

One of my favorite sayings of the late Mr Reed was this: “If you don’t know your history, you’re walking into the middle of a movie.” Well, hopefully this short piece reveals some of the plot without giving away the entire story and happy ending of our Indian River Lagoon.


Nettles Island postcard, ca. 1970s, courtesy Sandra H. Thurlow
Nettles Island, looking east to Atlantic Ocean, photo JTL/EL
During discharges water quite brown having been pushed north in the IRL 2013, JTL/EL
Nettles Island with setting sun, JTL/EL
Historic photo in book written by real estate agent Dr Blaine Ellingson, photo Lucille Rights
Book on history of and modern era of Nettles Island written in 2004 by Dr Blaine Ellingson


Florida’s DEP:

JTL former post on subject:

Federal Gov’t EPA:


Intracoastal Waterway:

Nettles Island info and more history: Gabe Sanders:

Nettles Island’s web-site:

*If you are wondering, I was told by the real estate office the island is on sewer! 


RealEstate Office Nettles Island:

Florida, a Lake Filled Sponge!

Major Causes of Pollution: Agriculture and Bio-Solids; Sewage Treatment Plants; Septic Tanks; Urban Suburban Fertilizers; Storm Water

Google Earth image of Florida north of Lake Okeechobee reveals thousands of Lakes, not all visible, 2019


From the air, one really notices that Florida is like a lake filled sponge! This past weekend, Ed and I flew to Gainesville in Alachua County, and then to Titusville, in Brevard County. This time, I was looking at lakes more than rivers. From the air, Florida is a patchwork of ponds and lakes reflecting like mirrors in the sun, a strange and beautiful landscape, or shall I say “waterscape?”

During the flight, I started thinking that if water bodies could talk, it would be the lakes that would have the strongest lobby. According to a 2006 article by Sherry Boas of the Sun Sentinel, the state of Florida has over 30,000 lakes! Many like Lake Apopka, in Orange County, historically, were altered because shoreline wetlands supported successful agricultural endeavors, kind of a smaller version of Lake Okeechobee; and again, just like Lake Okeechobee, although a great industry arose, this led to the demise of the lake. But like the Indian River Lagoon, and Caloosahatchee, people rose up to “Save Lake Apopka” and continue to work on this today: Orlando Sentinel Article 2018, shared by Janet Alford: (

Yes indeed, Florida appears to float like a sponge in a sea of water. How we could think that our agriculture fertilizers and human sewage issues would not catch up with us on a broader level was naive. Excessive nutrients coming from humans on land are polluting waterbodies throughout the state which in turn also drain to pollute more waterbodies.  Whether it be ponds, lakes, estuaries, or the Everglades, we must wipe up our mess, clean out our sponge!

In 2018, almost pristine, Blue Cypress Lake in Indian River County was compromised ~becoming full of very toxic #cyanobacteria #BlueGreenAlgae due to application of #biosolids (human sludge from sewage treatment plants “treated” and then spread on ground of fertilizer. Biosolid application that has been supported by our state government and the Dept of Agriculture is finally coming to light as a tremendous problem. DR Edie Wider of ORCA has been instrumental in bringing to light this issue: ( (Orlando Sentinel, Blue Cypress Lake:
Lake Apopka in Orange & Lake Counties is the poster-child for death and destruction and the beginnings of rebirth #Florida #LoveFloridaLakes Save Lake Apopka!
Beautiful Lake Lochloosa in Alachua County very close to better known Lake Newnan, and Orange Lake. (

In wet times, Paynes Prairie in Alachua County becomes a lake and can be seen from many miles away ~a totally unique ecosystem, many animals even horses and buffaloes!


Approaching Titusville, I saw a phosphate mine and many, many lakes!
The many ponds and wetlands seemed to run into Lake Oclawaha that has a history with the controversial Rodman Reservoir and Cross State Barge Canal (
Lake George in Volusia and Putnam Counties is now the second largest lake in #Florida (Apopka was largest before shoreline used for Ag.) and #brackish ~Explorer, John Bartram gave the lake its name in honor of King George lll in 1765. “Welaka” was previous name from the Timucua Indians (

Historic Photos from Florida Memory:

General Collection Florida Memory, Lake Apopka, ca. 1910
General Collection Florida Memory, Juniper Creek at Lake George, 1888
General Collection Florida Memory, Carraway Fish Camp, Lake Lochloosa ca. 1969


Department of Environmental Protection, Lakes:

Water Atlas Program for Florida Lakes:

Florida Lake Society:

JTL blog “wetlands/ponds:”



A Closer Look at DeSantis’ Executive Order 19-12: “Achieving More Now For Florida’s Environment”

On January 10th, Florida’s Office of the Governor, under very newly elected Ron DeSantis, issued Executive Order 19-12. The title of this order is “Achieving More Now For Florida’s Environment.” It is a remarkable and voluminous piece.

Today, I am going to share it in full as you may have only heard about parts of it in the newspaper.

*For entire Executive Order 19-12 link here; you may wish to print out for your files:

Here we go–

First, note the “Whereases…” giving background and laying foundation for the order.

Whereas, water and natural resources are the foundation of Florida’s communities, economy and way of life; and

Whereas, protection of water resources is one of the most critical issues facing our state and requires immediate action; and

Whereas, recent algae blooms have resulted in an increasing threat to our environment and fragile ecosystems, including our rivers, beaches, and wildlife, as well as causing the issuance of health advisories, closures of recreational areas and economy losses in adjacent communities; and

Whereas, as the Governor of the State of Florida, a primary mission of my tenure is to follow in words of President Theodore Roosevelt by having Florida treat its “natural resources as assets which it must turn over to the next generation increased, and not impaired, in value”;

Now, Therefore, I Ron DeSantis, as Governor of Florida, by virtue of the authority vested in me by Article IV, Section (1) (a) of the Florida Constitution, and all other applicable laws, do hereby issue the following Executive Order, to take immediate effect:

The order is five pages long, with three sections:

Section 1: Focus on Rapid Improvement of Water Quality, Quality, and Supply (A-O) 15 parts directed to the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP); the Department of Health; Visit Florida; and the Department of  Economic  Opportunity.

Section 2: Restructuring, to Focus on Accountability, Transparently, and Science  to Achieve More Now for Florida’s Environment (A-C) 3 parts directed only to the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP)

Section 3: Ensure Florida’s Valuable and Vulnerable Coastlines and Natural Resources are Protected (A-B) 2 parts, again,  directed only to the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP)

There are a total of 20 parts to the executive order. Note state’s organizational chart: DEP’s place is as an executive agency under the governor, Executive Branch. Water Management Districts are under the governor but fall in the “local government” section as the Water Management Districts have the power to levy taxes within their districts,  but are appointed by the Governor.

Please peruse entire executive order below. Read at least first line or underlined and know that it is not one, but all of these “declarations within the declaration” that will empower government structure, if steered by true captains, to abate water woes for all Springs, Estuaries, Rivers, Lakes, and the Everglades of Florida. Thank you Governor DeSantis for this map!

Governor’s website:

Watching the Lunar Eclipse’s ~Super Blood Wolf Moon~ From Our Pale Blue Dot

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’s 1994 book “Pale Blue Dot” and was inspired by an image taken, at Sagan’s suggestion,
by Voyager 1 on 14 February 1990 from a distance of about 6 billion kilometers.

Please see link for PALE BLUE DOT video:



Preliminary Summary of 2018 Lake and Estuary Flow and Pollution Loads ~Gary Goforth, P.E. PhD.

Gary Goforth, P.E., PhD. Everglades Coalition 2019, Duck Key. All photos JTL

~Knowledge is power! The power to change our water-world!

Goforth, P.E., Ph.D.

It is an honor to once again to share the work of Dr Gary Goforth.

Dr Goforth recently presented on a number of panels at the Everglades Coalition ( in Duck Key, January 10-12;  you can access all of his remarkable presentations here: (

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.

“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).

READ FULL REPORT HERE: Goforth draft – 2018 summary 1 4 2019


The Pin That Changed the World ~for Sailfish! SLR,IRL

Vintage Catch and Release pin designed by the late Curt Whiticar, a gift of Jay Potsdam. Photo Sandra Thurlow.  

The foresight to protect what we love, what we value. This is a power we all hold as citizens of Stuart, Florida, in Martin County; yesterday, and today.

This January 10, beloved Treasure Coast’s Newspaper reporter, Ed Killer, composed this headline: Grandslam Shatters Sailfish Record With 38 in a Single Day

“What a wild, wet and woolly week for the fleet fishing the Pelican Yacht Club Invitational Billfish Tournament.

First, the fleet of 30 fishing teams crushed all the records for the 39th annual tournament, and for the 65-year history of sailfish tournaments fished in Treasure Coast waters.

The final tally was 969 sailfish caught and released.” Ed Killer

Full story:

Incredible?  Yes, it is. And what is even more incredible is that decades ago this 2019 bonanza day of sailfishing was put into action by the Stuart Sailfish Club of the 1930s.

Let’s read some history:

“Immediately after the clubs incorporation, Ernie Lyons announced the next immediate goal was the creation of a release button to be given to individuals who consistently release their sailfish”. (Sandra Thurlow, Stuart on the St Lucie)

This was indeed done but not before a carnage ensued motivating  the club even more so.

“Ironically right at the heels of the Sailfish Club’s official charter to promote conservation, the largest sailfish run in Florid’s history occurred off the St Lucie Inlet at Stuart. Records show that more than 5000 sailfish were caught in the 90 day period. January through March 1941. Many sportsman let their sailfish go free but thousand were slaughtered only to be dumped into the river, carted off by garbage collectors, or used for shark bait. Stuart’s reputation as the Sailfish Capital of the World was affirmed, but so was the need for conservation of the species if its fame was to endure. Because of the efforts of the Stuart Sailfish Club, anglers soon began to compete for Curt Whiticar’s beautifully designed release button in preference to all the rest.” 

Vintage Catch and Release pin designed by the late Curt Whiticar, a gift of Jay Potsdam.

Kudos to  those before us, who held the line giving the successes we have today!

Stuart on the St Lucie, Sandra Henderson Thurlow

Former blog, when Stuart was the Tarpon Capitol of the World, they never got a pin.

Ed Killer:

Sandra Henderson Thurlow: