Tag Archives: 2013 toxic waters

Toxic Real Estate and the Loss of “Full Market Value,” St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon

Toxic real estate is not real estate at its full market value. (Google map of Stuart, Sewall's Point, and Hutchinson Island area of Martin County, words JTL)
Toxic real estate is not real estate at its full market value. (Google map of Stuart, Rio, Sewall’s Point, and Hutchinson Island- areas of Martin County, words JTL.)

Real estate taxes are paid in arrears, so one learns about the property values of a calendar year, a year later. In the Town of Sewall’s Point, the 2014 (really 2013) tax value increased .14%. This seemed low compared to other similar areas of the state. During this time,  I contacted Laurel Kelly, our Martin County property appraiser. She had her staff research the issue, and assured me that the answer to my question: “Did the toxic St Lucie River/Southern Indian River Lagoon of 2013 have anything to do with lower property values?” was a negative– or at least could not be verified.

Rather, data showed it had to do with other things like the number of homesteaded properties and a limited commercial district….I saw the picture and understood, but I was still unconvinced.

As someone who has worked in the real estate industry, as a commissioner of Sewall’s Point, as a home owner,  as someone with more than three brain cells in my head, I know that, of course, a clean, beautiful, waterway is more desirable than a toxic one. Also I know that numbers “right away” don’t show the big picture….

South Sewall's Point, January of 2015. Releases began Jan. 16th, 2015 from Lake O as lake of is"high."
South Sewall’s Point, January of 2015. Releases began Jan. 16th, 2015 from Lake O as lake of is”high.”

Yesterday, a report entitled: “The Effects of Water Quality on Housing Prices” was released by Florida Realtors, and the Everglades Foundation. The study focuses on Lee and Martin Counties with estuaries St Lucie (Martin) and Caloosahatchee (Lee) running through their boarders. These once life-filled, property-value-enhancing estuaries have reached a tipping point as the conduits for polluted water from Lake Okeechobee compounded with area growth, put them “over the edge.”

Some may say any report attached to the Everglades Foundation is biased. Here, I think not. In this case the report reflects a simple reality. People don’t pay full market value for real estate on rivers that “go toxic.” The greatest contributor to that toxicity is Lake Okeechobee’s fresh and dirty water released by the Army Corp of Engineers and South Florida Water Management District that destroys the salinity and visibility within these water ways.

An article today in the Palm Beach Post about the study states:

“The study found that “as water quality degrades, home values decrease and could potentially cost Florida’s real estate market nearly $1 billion in Lee and Martin County alone,” said 2015 Florida Realtors® president Andrew Barbar, in a statement released Tuesday. Barbar is a broker with Keller Williams Realty Services in Boca Raton.

The loss is attributable to polluted discharges from Lake Okeechobee, according to the release put out by the Foundation and Florida Realtors® – the largest professional trade organization in the state.” (http://www.floridarealtors.org)

The 48 page study can be found here: (http://www.floridarealtors.org/ResearchAndStatistics/Other-Research-Reports/upload/FR_WaterQuality_Final_Mar2015.pdf) 

I do believe water quality affects home values. Don’t you? I believe the releases by the ACOE and SFWMD, overseen and directed by our governor, state legislature, and Congress, destroy our property values. Don’t you?

The state and federal government don’t  want to admit this openly as truly fixing the Lake Okeechobee issue is costly beyond human proportion and requires going against the seats of power and influence.  I imagine they are probably thinking “tourism is doing just fine in the great state of Florida…”

Well guess what? Florida can’t be a “great state” and America can’t be a great county with an environmental disaster on its hands for almost 500,000 people every few years. And 500,000 people won’t tolerate repeditive losses on their greatest investment. The river has reached a tipping point and its coming for the people. This problem needs a BIG FIX. Best to address the problem before it gets worse.

Releases from Lake Okeechobee on top of area canals flows out of the St Lucie Inlet next to Sailfish Point, one of the areas most exclusive communities. (Photo Ed Lippisch, 2013.)
Releases from Lake Okeechobee on top of area canals flows out of the St Lucie Inlet next to Sailfish Point, one of the areas most exclusive communities. (Photo Ed Lippisch, 2013.)
The plume from releases from Lake Okeechobee on top of area canals flows south of the St Lucie Inlet in Martin County along Jupiter Island one of the most exclusive communities in the United States. (Photo Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch,  2013.)
The plume from releases from Lake Okeechobee on top of area canals flows south of the St Lucie Inlet in Martin County along Jupiter Island one of the most exclusive communities in the United States. (Photo Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch, 2013.)
St Lucie River middle estuary, February 2015.
St Lucie River middle estuary, February 2015.
March 18, 2015 photo of SLR/SIRL flying north over St Lucie Inlet and the east side of Sewall's Point. (JTL)
March 18, 2015 photo of SLR/SIRL flying north over St Lucie Inlet and the east side of Sewall’s Point. (JTL)

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Everglades Foundation: (http://www.evergladesfoundation.org)

DO THE ACOE AND SFWMD RELEASE TOXIC WATER INTO THE SLR/IRL? (http://jacquithurlowlippisch.com/2014/07/28/do-the-acoe-and-srwmd-release-lake-okeechobee-into-the-slr-when-there-is-toxic-algae-in-the-lake-st-lucie-riverindian-river-lagoon/)

How the People Helped Create SFWMD’s “Restoration Projects Map 2014,” Indian River Lagoon

SFWMD simplified publication list of RESTORATION PROJECTS, 2014.
SFWMD’s simplified publication list of RESTORATION PROJECTS, 2014.

If there is anything I believe in, it is the “power of the people,” and it has given me great pleasure to watch this American principal at work over the past year. For me, presently there is nothing more evident of this than a small, simplified pamphlet that was officially released at last week’s Water Resources Advisory Commission (WRAC) on Thursday, September 4th, 2014; it is simply entitled RESTORATION PROJECTS and could fit in your pocket it you folded it in half.

This little pamphlet was greatly inspired by the people, the river protesters in particular, at a meeting that occurred in September of last year and took place at Indian RiverSide Park, in Jensen Beach. At this meeting the WRAC met for its regular meeting within the South Florida Water Management District, but also  to hear the voices of the protesters in light of  the toxic releases from Lake Okeechobee during the summer of 2013. In August of that year over 5000 people had  protested at the St Lucie Locks and Dam. The District took notice.

As did the press….

You may recall Kenny Hinkel’s video that went viral of  many people at the meeting on their cell phones? You may remember locals speaking before the WRAC asking for clarity, in  understanding exactly “what and when” the SFWMD was doing to “save our river.” You may remember people being mad. You may remember myself and others begging for a simplification of presentation as the presentations from the District are so erudite only a scientist can understand them.

Well, we got part of what we asked for one year later. A simplified list of prioritized SFWMD projects. Here is the link to view it in full: (http://my.sfwmd.gov/paa_dad/docs/F574462673/Project_Table_and_Maps_080614.pdf)

Note the top priorities have to do with attempting to “send Lake O. and others waters south through the Tamiami Trail area and the Indian River Lagoon South projects in Martin and St Lucie County for water storage from polluted local canals. Great.  And it may have been that way before, but we needed to see it on paper!

Many people deserve credit for this simple but huge accomplishment, the River Warriors and SFWMD staff in particularly but I must note that on the day of that meeting, it was Chief of Staff, Dan Delisi, who called me aside after that meeting and said:  “That simplification idea…so the public can understand….that is a good idea….we will work on that.”

And they did.

Also, the queen of the publication is Ms Temperince Morgan who compiled tons of information and put it before the WRAC to be digested and fought over and did it with a smile.

And the greatest of all,  the pearl  in the oyster created by that constant irritation, that grain of sand, is the people!

You created this, you demanded this. You insisted your government talk to you in such a way that you “get it.”

Corruption is easily shrouded in complexity. Simplicity is the light, our light for a cleaner and healthier  St Lucie River and Indian River Lagoon.

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Video of August 3, 2013 Lake Okeechobee Protest SLR/IRL, St Lucie Locks and Dam by Kenny Hinkle: (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TPmu4CQtNuo)

Dan Delisi SFWMD:(http://www.sfwmd.gov/portal/page/portal/xrepository/sfwmd_repository_pdf/delisi_bio.pdf)