Category Archives: wildlife

Florida’s Flood System Built on 1947 Hurricane Season, Now Irma, SLR/IRL

Florida hurricane of 1947 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PgAHv_Z5wqE

As the possibility of a direct hit from Hurricane Irma approaches, I can’t help but reflect.

Looking back, we see that it was the severe flooding and the hurricane season of 1947 that led Florida and the U.S. Government down the track to where we are today through the creation of the Florida Central and South Florida Flood Project, (CSFP).

In 1947, during the United States’ post World War II boom, Florida had a very active and destructive hurricane season. This slightly edited excerpt from the  ACOE’s book  River of Interest does a good job giving a short overview of that year:

 “…Rain began falling on the Everglades in large amounts. On 1 March, a storm dropped six inches of rain, while April and May also saw above average totals. The situation became severe in the summer…

As September approached and the rains continued, the ground in the Everglades became waterlogged and lake levels reached dangerous heights. Then, on 17 September, a hurricane hit Florida on the southwest coast, passing Lake Okeechobee on the west and dumping large amounts of rain on the upper Everglades, flooding most of the agricultural land south of Lake Okeechobee.

George Wedgworth, who would later become president of the Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative of Florida and whose parents were vegetable growers in the Everglades, related that his mother called him during the storm and told him, “ this is the last call I’ll make from this telephone because I’m leaving. . . . “We’ve got an inch or two of water over our oak floors and they’re taking me out on a row boat.”

Such conditions were prevalent throughout the region. Before the area had a chance to recover from the devastation, another hurricane developed, moving into South Florida and the Atlantic Ocean by way of Fort Lauderdale. Coastal cities received rain in large quantities, including six inches in two hours at Hialeah and nearly 15 inches at Fort Lauderdale in less than 24 hours.

The Everglades Drainage District kept its drainage canals open to discharge to the ocean as much of the floodwater in the agricultural area as it could, exacerbating coastal flooding. East coast residents charged the District with endangering their lives in order to please ag- ricultural interests, but this was vehemently denied…

Whoever was to blame, the hurricanes had devastating effects. Although the levee around Lake Okeechobee held, preventing the large numbers of deaths that occurred in 1926 and 1928, over 2,000 square miles of land south of the lake was covered by, in the words of U.S. Senator Spessard Holland, “an endless sheet of water anywhere from 6 to 7 feet deep down to a lesser depth.” The Corps estimated that the storms caused $59 million in property damage throughout southern Florida, but Holland believed that the agency had “under- stated the actual figures.” The destruction shocked citizens of South Florida, both in the upper Everglades and in the coastal cities, and they demanded that something be done.”

Cover of the “Weeping Cow” book. (South Florida Water Management District)

Well, what was done was the Central and South Florida Flood Project.

Key Florida politicians, and the public demanded the Federal Government assist, and as both the resources and will were present, the project was authorized in 1948 with massive additional components making way not only for flood protection, but for even more agriculture and development. In Martin County and St Lucie County this happened by the controversial building of canals C-23, C-24, C-25 and “improving” the infamous C-44 canal that connects to Lake Okeechobee. This construction was basically the nail in the coffin for the St Lucie River and Southern Indian River Lagoon.

Map showing the Jacksonville District’s initial comprehensive proposal, 1947. (Claude Pepper Collection, Claude Pepper Library, Florida State University, Tallahassee, Florida)

But before the death of the environment was clear, the Corps developed a plan that would include 1,000 miles of levees, 720 miles of canals, and almost 200 water control structures. Flooding in coastal cities and in the agricultural lands south of Lake Okeechobee would be minimized and more controllable.

Yes, a goal of the program was to provide conservation areas for water storage, protecting fish and wildlife habitat. Although water conservation areas were constructed, conservation of wildlife did not work out so well, and has caused extreme habitat degradation of the Everglades system, Lake Okeechobee, the southern and northern estuaries, the Kissimmee chain of lakes, and Florida Bay.  Nonetheless, this project made possible for over five million people to now live and work in the 18,000 square mile area that extends from south of Orlando to Florida Bay “protected from flooding” but in 2017 living with serious water quality issues.

With problems apparent, in 1992 the Central and South Florida Project was “re-studied” and we continue to work on that today both for people and for wildlife…

Irma many be the system’s greatest test yet…

Yesterday’s Army Corp of Engineer Periodic Scientist Call was focused on saving people’s lives and safety. After the built-system was discussed, Mr Tyler Beck of the Florida Wildlife Commission, and Mr Steve Schubert of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reported on the endangered Everglades Snail Kites and their nests at Lake Okeechobee. Like most birds, pairs mate for life. There are presently fifty-five active nests, thirty-three in incubation, and twenty-three with baby chicks…

In the coming days, as the waters rise on Lake Okeechobee, and the winds scream through an empty void that was once a cathedral of colossal cypress trees, Mother Nature will again change the lives of Florida’s wildlife and its people, just as she did in 1947. Perhaps this time, she will give us vision for a future where nature and humankind can live in greater harmony…

Hurricane Irma as a category 5, 2017
Everglades Snail Kite, Florida Audubon
SFWMD basin map for SLR showing S-308 and S-80 along with other structures.
South Florida today…
Florida map 1500s

Links:

1947 Hurricane: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1947_Cape_Sable_hurricane

1947 Hurricane, 2: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1947_Fort_Lauderdale_hurricane

Central and South Florida Flood Project full text: https://archive.org/stream/centralsouthernf00unse/centralsouthernf00unse_djvu.txt

Restudy of CSFFP: http://141.232.10.32/about/restudy_csf_devel.aspx

Central and South Florida Flood Project Restudy, 1948Sofia: https://sofia.usgs.gov/sfrsf/entdisplays/restudy/

River of Interest, ACOE, Chapter 2: http://141.232.10.32/docs/river_interest/031512_river_interests_2012_chap_02.pdf

US Fish and Wildlife: The endangered and beautiful Everglades Snail Kite:https://www.nps.gov/ever/learn/nature/snailkite.htm

What Happened to all the IRL Horseshoe Crabs? SLR/IRL

Young horseshoe crabs, public photo, 2017

When I was a kid, I often walked to the Indian River Lagoon and just stood there in amazement watching the hundreds, if not thousands, of baby horseshoe crabs winding their way through the sands. They left circular trails, crossing over and over again…

Where were they going? What were they doing? Why were there so many?

Photo by Anthony J. Martin

Every once in a while, I would pick one up and place it carefully in the palm of my hand. Its sharp tail and prickly feet pushed against me. I watched in wonder at its strength as it bent in half. Once returned to the sand, the little crab went back to work immediately as if nothing had happened at all.

My mother had told me the horseshoe crabs were more ancient than the dinosaurs and had been here “forever.” “They are living fossils” she would say. “And they can live over 20 years and take 10 years just to mature.”

Although I picked them up with such care, today, forty years later, when I try to find them, they’re gone.

What happened to the horseshoe crabs of the Indian River Lagoon? How did a creature so ancient, resilient, and prevalent almost “disappear?”

Although there is quite a bit of literature on the Central Indian River Lagoon, I could not find much on the Southern Lagoon. Some of the best documentation came from Gretchen S. Ehlinger and Richard A. Tankersley. On line, they are cited multiple times for their paper “Reproductive Ecology of the American Horseshoe Crab, Limulus Polyphemus, in the Indian River Lagoon: An Overview.”  I was also able to read “Evaluation of the Horseshoe Crab Fishery in the Indian River Lagoon Using Catch Data From Two Power Plants,” and a September 2014 “FPL Cape Canaveral Energy Center Horseshoe Crab Deterrent Fence Specifications” publication.

All of these lead to the following observations: decline of the species has been noted  for around three decades. There  have been UME’s or “Unexplained Mortality Events” where up to a 100,000 have died in the same area around the same time.

Factors that are related to their overall decline in the lagoon include intense coastal development, shoreline breeding grounds destruction, and unbridled  human population growth; expansion of agriculture drainage watersheds into the IRL; deteriorating water quality; power plants sucking up as many as 100,000 a year into their intake canals; and over-fishing. The crabs are used as bait, collected for marine purposes, and more recently captured live and bled for their “blue-blood”that is invaluable to human health.

Unfortunately, for many years, the value and importance of the horseshoe crab was not recognized. For instance, Ehlinger and Tankersley note  a one year study in the early 2000s at two Indian River Lagoon power plants that recorded a total of 39,097 crabs trapped on the intake screens at Cape Canaveral, and 53,121 at the Orland Utilities Plant. The scientists also mention a previous study from 1975 that estimated 69,662 at the Canaveral Plant, and 104,000 trapped annually at the Orlando Utilitility’s Indian River plant. “This alone could easily account for a decline in the Indian River population.” (Ehlinger and Tankersley 2007)

The St Lucie Power Plant  located here in the southern lagoon did not agree to be part of the study and there is very little research one can now find on the subject.

In any case, the good news is that just recently the Cape Canaveral plant has installed a wall to protect the horseshoe crabs and science’s recognition of the species has people wanting them to come back.

The Florida Wildlife Commission notes:

“Horseshoe crabs are extremely important to the biomedical industry because their unique, copper-based blue blood contains a substance called “Limulus Amebocyte Lysate”, or “LAL”.This compound coagulates in the presence of small amounts of bacterial toxins and is used to test for sterility of medical equipment and virtually all injectable drugs.  Anyone who has had an injection, vaccination, or surgery has benefitted from horseshoe crabs!”

…”in March 2000, a series of management measures for horseshoe crabs went into effect in Florida. The regulations required a license to harvest and set a limit on the number of animals each licensee could harvest per day (25 to 100 animals allowed per day per person depending on the permit). In 2002, a biomedical permitting rule created a mechanism to allow for biomedical collection.”

Yikes!

Horseshoe crabs being bled. Image as shared by FWC in 2017, first published in Popular Science.

Personally, looking at these photos of the horseshoe crabs being bled is like a science fiction movie to me. Never as a kid would I have imagined my little friends with needles in their heads being milked for their blood.

….But if this is what is going to save them… I must say, if they could talk, I bet now is the strangest part of their 450 million year journey. In my mind, they will always be free and drawing circles in the sand.

Ancient horseshoe crab fossil. CREDIT CARBON NYC / FLICKR CREATIVE COMMONS

 

Horseshoe crabs gather under a full moon to procreate. Photo, National Park Service.

Links:

Horseshoe crab eye, JTL.

Ehlinger and Tankersley: http://www.horseshoecrab.org/research/sites/default/files/DONE%20Ehlinger%20and%20Tankersley.pdf

http://articles.orlandosentinel.com/1999-08-22/sports/9908220099_1_crabs-mosquito-lagoon-titusville

FPL wall to protect marine life, central lagoon:
http://www.nexteraenergy.com/energynow/2015/0915/0915_marinelife.shtml

St Lucie Power Plant effects on IRL and environment: https://www.nrc.gov/docs/ML0214/ML021430397.pdf

Changing Global Perspectives on Horseshoe Crab Biology and Conservation Management: https://www.kobo.com/at/en/ebook/changing-global-perspectives-on-horseshoe-crab-biology-conservation-and-management

Bleeding Horseshoe Crabs for Human Health: http://www.americanpharmaceuticalreview.com/Featured-Articles/167236-The-Incredible-Horseshoe-Crab-Modern-Medicine-s-Unlikely-Dependence-on-a-Living-Fossil/

FWS: https://www.fws.gov/northeast/pdf/horseshoe.fs.pdf

FWC:
http://myfwc.com/research/saltwater/crustaceans/horseshoe-crabs/fishery/

http://myfwc.com/research/saltwater/crustaceans/horseshoe-crabs/facts/

continued….

Me with horseshoe crab on my head, Spoil Island family boat outing, IRL, 1980. Photo Sandra Thurlow.

Ehlinger and Tankersley Links:

Addendum to FPL CCEC Horseshoe Crab Fence ERP Application

Ehlinger and Tankersley 2007 Fla Sci

Power Plant Study

The Amazing Dupuis Alligator March; Too Many to Count Indeed! SLR/IRL

https://clydebutcher.com

I love alligators. Their population comeback is one of the great success stories of Florida conservation. They are an ancient and modern-day inspiration. https://www.fws.gov/endangered/esa-library/pdf/alligator.pdf

The video I am sharing today was filmed by the late Dr. Dale Hipson. Born and raised in Stuart, Dr Hipson was an avid wildlife lover, and very involved at the Stuart Heritage Museum. http://www.stuartheritagemuseum.com

Through the help of my mother, Dale’s family, and the community, I share one of Dr Hipson’s most famous videos from 2006 filming what seems to be hundreds of alligators marching across Powerline Road in the Dupuis Wildlife Area. I recall asking Dr Hipson why they were all crossing the road. “They are seeking more water,” he said,  “levels change abruptly all the time.”

In the video, Dr Hipson and Shirley Corley’s “amazements” can be heard in the background. The video is quite delightful, even funny at times,  and deserves to be reintroduced to the public. I know you will enjoy it.

Go Gators!

(video:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PRbOjKbbfk0)

Dupuis, FWC: http://www.myfwc.com/viewing/recreation/wmas/cooperative/dupuis

*Thank you to Treasure Coast Multi-Media for transferring the original VHS to digital formant!http://tcmultimedia.net

Aerials of Our Rain Stained Lagoon, SLR/IRL

Recently, it seems to rain almost every day!

TCPalm’s Elliott Jones reported this morning that Stuart has received a whopping 11.30 inches of rain just so far this month! (The average being 7.14.)

Although due to the recent drought, the ACOE/SFWMD are not dumping Lake Okeechobee through Canal C-44, canals C-23, C-24, C-25, and areas along C-44, as well as our own basin, are draining right into the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon. Very little of this water is cleansed before it enters and thus is damaging to the eco system. Next time you see water draining through a grate in a parking lot, think about this. Remember too that before the major canals were constructed the 1900s, the river received less than half the water it gets every time it rains today.

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SLR at “Hell’s Gate” looking at Sewall’s Point, Sailfish Point and the St Luice Inlet
photo drainage basin
Drainage changes to the SLR. Green is the original watershed. Yellow and pink have been added since ca.1920. (St Lucie River Initiative’s Report to Congress 1994.)

The aerials below were taken 6-13-17 by my husband Ed Lippisch and pilot Dave Stone. It is important to monitor the river all of the time so we can view changes.

“Rain stained” we are; please remember not to fertilize during the rainy season. The birds on Bird Island will appreciate it! (http://befloridian.org)

Canals

TC Palm, Elliott Jones, 6-19-17
Bird Island, IRL east of Sewall’s Point
Bird Island
IRL St Lucie Inlet and Sailfish Point
Sailfish Flats, IRL
Crossroads, confluence SLR/IRL off Sewall’s Point
Spoil Island off Sailfish, bird also roosting here!
Sick looking seagrass beds in IRL looking south towards Jupiter Narrows
SL Inlet near Sailfish Point, no black plume but darker colored waters
Jupiter Island’s state park at St Lucie Inlet
Sailfish Point
St Lucie Inlet looking south
inlet again
Clear ocean water at jetty, St Lucie Inlet
Looking back to St Lucie Inlet mixed colored waters but not black as with Lake O water releases
St Lucie Inlet between Jupiter Island’s state park and Sailfish Point
inlet again
Looking north to SL Inlet
Jetty
Hutchinson Island and Sailfish Flats in IRL. Sewall’s Point in distance.
Parts of the Savannas near Jensen , IRL and Hutchinson Island in distance
Savannas State Preserve Park

Canals draining water into SLR/IRL after rain events:

C-23 http://www.dep.state.fl.us/southeast/ecosum/ecosums/c23.pdf

C-24 http://www.dep.state.fl.us/southeast/ecosum/ecosums/c24.pdf

C-25 http://www.dep.state.fl.us/southeast/ecosum/ecosums/c-25.pdf

C-44 http://www.dep.state.fl.us/southeast/ecosum/ecosums/C-44%20Canal%20.pdf

Watching Over His “Legacy of Beauty,” Mr Jack Crain’s Orange Avenue Peacocks, Ft Pierce, SLR/IRL

Peacock sitting atop wall, Orange Avenue, Ft Pierce, Florida. 5-8-17, JTL
Crain Building Orange Ave, Ft Pierce, home of the peacocks
Orange Avenue, Ft Pierce

I love Ft Pierce. Every time I’m there I feel like I see a good friend I haven’t seen in awhile: “Old Florida.”

Not only does Ft Pierce have a rich history, a great revived downtown, sit along the beautiful Indian River Lagoon, offer a river and sparkling beaches not contaminated by Lake Okeechobee discharges, the city just has so much CHARACTER.

Yesterday was an absolutely gorgeous day and as I drove past the iconic Crain house on Orange Avenue, decorated with special tiles and styles, my eyes locked with a peacock. I was captivated and pulled over my car to take a look around. Numerous birds crossed the busy street, jumped in the large oak trees, loudly calling to their mates. The busy cars darted around corners, merging off US1, and then stopped politely and patiently as the peahens, especially, decided if they really wanted to cross the road.

It was quite a sight.

I winced a couple of times thinking this was the end for one or more of the birds, but somehow there was a consciousness, an awareness, and the dance between the cars and the peafowl appeared almost scripted, as if a greater power were watching, maybe even  intervening…..

“This is awesome,” I thought. Just how did this come to be, I wondered. I saw CRAIN on the eccentric, large building where the peacocks were gathering. I knew of the gentleman because I had actually called once years ago to inquire about the birds….But who was he really? When I got home and researched, this is what I learned:

Jack Crain’s obituary photo, St Lucie County.

Jackson Crain, Obituary, Legacy.com

Fort Pierce, FL

Jackson Crain, age 90, of Fort Pierce, Florida, passed away at his home on October 17, 2016.

Jack was born in East St. Louis, Illinois, and has been a longtime resident of Fort Pierce. Jack attended school in St. Louis before serving in the United States Army for a brief period of time. After being discharged he went to work for the railroad in Missouri. While in Missouri, Jack met Mary Lee Steinhoff, whom lived next door to his aunt. He married her February 9. 1952. After moving to Orange Avenue in Fort Pierce, Florida, Jack opened Buccaneer Building and Tile Company, and American Travel Agency, which he opened and operated along with his wife Mary Lee for 29 years. Jack also served as a Scout Master for the Boy Scouts of America.

Jack was a member of St. Anastasia Catholic Church, and had an affinity for peacocks and peahens, which he raised at his home on Orange Avenue. He also enjoyed coin collecting, traveling, and collecting knives, swords, fine art and paintings from around the world. Jack and Mary Lee traveled around the world nine times.

Jack was the devoted and loving husband of Mary Lee Crain for the past 64 years; beloved brother of Margaret Ray of Enterprise, AL, Dorothy Cardinale of St. Charles, MO, Hazel Dalton of St. Louis, MO, and Richard Berthold Crain of Orlando, FL; and many nieces and nephews.

Full obituary: http://m.legacy.com/obituaries/tcpalm/obituary.aspx?n=jackson-crain&pid=182002295&referrer=0&preview=false

Thank you to Mr Crain for watching over your legacy of beauty that makes Ft Pierce an even a cooler place. I promise to be careful when I see one of your birds crossing the road!

A peahen

Link to me trying to video peacock: (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QtAEZKzdT-0)

Amusing articles of interest about the Orange Avenue Peacocks:

Ft Pierce Net: http://fort-pierce.net/fort-pierce-residents-urge-city-to-put-up-peacock-crossing-signs/

TC Palm: http://archive.tcpalm.com/news/fort-pierce-woman-says-fecund-peacocks-damaged-her-roof–photo-gallery-ep-384925179-344403612.html

Other:

PeafowlWiki: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peafowl

City of Ft Pierce web site: http://www.cityoffortpierce.com/224/About-Fort-Pierce

St Lucie County Historical Society: http://www.stluciehistoricalsociety.net

“Inspiration Osprey,” SLR/IRL

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Osprey with fish, St Lucie River, courtesy of Todd Thurlow

image001.jpgIMG_9401.JPG

As much as I romanticize my youth along the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon in the 1960s, 70s, and 80s, one thing I did not see were birds of prey. Populations had plummeted here and across our nation. The use of DDT, for mosquito control, especially, had drastically reduced bird populations. I truly do not recall even once seeing an osprey fly over the Indian River Lagoon when I was a kid….Hard to believe, isn’ it?

Today, forty years later, every single time I walk the Ernie Lyons Bridge to Hutchinson Island I see multiple ospreys sitting on light posts and diving like missiles into the shallow waters of the Indian River Lagoon. On the Roosevelt Bridge in Stuart there is a resident osprey I count on seeing each time. He sits on the railing completely unaffected by the stream of civilization passing by. Last week, while driving home from Belle Glade, I saw a bald eagle near the Dupuis Wildlife Management Area. “An eagle!” I exclaimed out loud pulling over my car to watch its unmistakable white head and magnificent wing span glide over the tops of the pine trees. “Amazing…” I thought to myself.

The point is, good things happen. Good things are happening now too, but like the birds of prey we may not see the difference until many years have passed. Have hope. Know your work is making a difference for our river and our environment. Things can change for the better. The osprey and the eagle, they are proof. When you see them, be inspired!

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Osprey with fish GBraun.JPG
Photo by Greg Braun
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Harbor Ridge eagles, Scott Kuhns

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_NIK7377.JPGHistory DDT

FWC ospreys/DDT: http://myfwc.com/wildlifehabitats/imperiled/profiles/birds/osprey/

FWC eagles/DDT: http://myfwc.com/media/433971/Eagle_RecoveryManagementPlanBrochure.pdf

EPA/DDT: https://www.epa.gov/ingredients-used-pesticide-products/ddt-brief-history-and-status

WFS: https://www.fws.gov/midwest/eagle/recovery/biologue.html

Silent Spring, Rachel Carson’s book that changed national and state legislation: http://www.nhptv.org/wild/silentspring.asp

JTL former blog eagles: https://jacquithurlowlippisch.com/tag/ddt/

OspreyB-52.jpg
Osprey and military plane, Todd Thurlow

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