Tag Archives: activism in Martin County

The Estuary-Ocean People-Government Relationship, St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon

Only a thin ribbon of land separates the Atlantic Ocean from the Indian River Lagoon.... (Photo Jacqui ThurlowLippisch and Ed Lippisch 2014.)
Only a thin ribbon of land separates the Atlantic Ocean from the Indian River Lagoon…. (Photo Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch and Ed Lippisch, 2014.)

As we all know, estuaries are the nurseries of our oceans. Sometimes we think of rivers and oceans as separate, but they are connected and the destruction brought upon one affects the other.

Looking above at this photograph of Hutchinson Island near the House of Refuge one can see how close the Indian River Lagoon estuary and the Atlantic Ocean really are. Not only that, when polluted water flows out of the St Lucie Inlet from the St Lucie River estuary, it covers and negatively affects our “protected” near shore reefs and the tremendous variety of life there.

A photo from Martin County shows polluted runoff flowing over nearshore reefs along Hutchinson Island, 2011.
A photo from Martin County shows polluted runoff flowing over nearshore reefs along Jupiter island south of Hutchinson Island and the St Lucie Inlet, 2011.

According to the Consortium  for Ocean Leadership (http://oceanleadership.orgof which locally FAU/Harbor Branch is a member:

“Ocean ecosystems have been subjected to decades of intense fishing, urban and agricultural runoff, and the loss and degradation of estuaries and wetlands. Furthermore, changes in ocean temperatures, salinity, currents and acidity are having significant impacts on marine living resources. The incidence of hypoxia, as in the Gulf of Mexico (http://www.ncddc.noaa.gov/hypoxia/(dead zones) has increased almost 30 fold in the United States since 1960 with more than 300 systems recently experiencing hypoxia.” 

As we all know, the entire St Lucie/Indian River Lagoon is often a “dead zone,” due to toxic algae blooms caused by too much polluted fresh water runoff from canals carrying nitrogen, phosphorus and other pollutants from agricultural canals along the lagoon, and Lake Okeechobee .

The recommendation of the Consortium is as follows:

“…support  conservation programs and services to reduce runoff of nitrogen and phosphorus, and sediment from agricultural activities which is causing harmful algae blooms and dead zones.”

Think about this for a minute.

The four agricultural canals we have here in Martin and St Lucie Counties: C-44, C-23, C-24, and C-25 have no filtering system. When it rains, the water falling on thousands and thousands of acres of agricultural as well as urban lands picks up fertilizer, pesticides, herbicides, oil, cow, horse, and pet waste, leaky septic tank effluent, and what ever else is out there; this water then runs into the canals that in turn are released directly  into our waterways. When Lake Okeechobee is dumped it too has no filtering process, so not only do we get our pollution but we get “Orlando’s” as well as the Everglades Agricultural Area south of Lake O. forces the lake water to flow east and west rather than south as nature intended…. Is it any wonder why we are a toxic mess?

Canal and basin map SLR/IRL. (Public)
Canal and basin map SLR/IRL. (Public)

It must be noted that Martin County, the state, and federal government for years have been working on the IRL South Project that is part of CERP. (http://www.evergladesplan.org/pm/projects/proj_07_irl_south.aspx) This project would help hold, filter, and clean polluted water for canals C-23, C-24, and C-25 before it enters the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon. These projects are so expensive and political they are a “slow moving slug,”but they are moving.

The C-44 STA/Reservoir (https://my.sfwmd.gov/portal/page/portal/pg_grp_sfwmd_wrac/portlet_subtab_wrac_archive_reportsdocs/tab772049/wrac_090606_c44_ray.pdf) is yet another tremendous project that miraculously got a second push to get underway, due to the pressures of last year’s “Lost Summer,” through the help of local, state, and federal politicians and agencies, but that project needs continual push for congressional funding to accomplish its goals too.

Clean water does not come easy. The public must push and push. There is fierce competition.

Yes, we the public must learn more about these projects and how to help get these projects funded, along with our fight for a flow way south of Lake Okeechobee.

The government will only move forward with these projects if they know the public is expecting it and helping with it. With Amendment 1’s passage the possibility is even more of a reality, but it is no guarantee. We must advocate.

The line between the estuary and the oceans is very thin, as is the line between the people and their government. Get involved! The river and the ocean both need you!



“Save Our Beaches Campaign, “Instilled Activism, 1974-2014, Indian River Lagoon

Save Our Beaches Kiwanis holiday ornament 1974-2014, 40 Years, in honor of Save Our Beaches program Martin County.
“Save Our Beaches  1974-2014,” Stuart Kiwanis Club holiday ornament  commemorating 40 years, in honor of the “Save Our Beaches” program, Martin County.

The older I become, the more I realize how incredibly wonderful it was to grow up in Martin County and where I get my sense of environmental activism. Yesterday, I attended Stuart Kiwanis with my dad, to see Congressman Murphy speak, and while I was there I saw the choice for this year’s Kiwanis holiday ornament, “Save Our Beaches.” This brought back a flood of memories as this program influenced me greatly as a child.

When I was 10 years old, the SAVE OUR BEACHES (SOB) program was getting into full swing in Martin County. You can’t see the entire shirt but you can see part of it (SAVE) below in this family picture where my father, brother, sister and I were trying on hats from the attic.

I am wearing my Save Our Beaches T-shirt in this family photo, 1974. (Photos Sandra Thurlow.)
I am wearing my Save Our Beaches T-shirt in this family photo, 1974. (Photos Sandra Thurlow.)

According to the History of Marin County, the original SOB campaign was brought forth in 1969 by civic-minded people who realized that although the ocean beaches along Hutchinson Island were available to local people, this would not continue unless measures were taken…

This same group had first fought to approve a set back line to protect the dunes of the beaches from development and were successful before the county commission and state making Martin County the first in the state to achieve this beach set-back protection.

So the group was already geared up and organized to implement the Save Our Beaches (from developers) program. With the advice of the Army Corp of Engineers, the group started organizing to purchase eight 100 foot strips of beach from the St Lucie/Martin County line to today’s Sailfish Point.

With great enthusiasm and leadership, the group found a way to raise money privately along with matches from the county and federal government. Most impressive was that the school children of Marin County raised $36,500; this was so outstanding that the youth movement contributions were recognized by the White House and even won a Freedoms Foundation award. I remember giving my nickels and some of my birthday money to this cause and feeling like the beaches “were mine,” throughout middle and high school…

These eight strips ensured the parking and public beach access we all enjoy today!

As I left the Kiwanis meeting, I bought an ornament, having seen it on the way out. It brought a tear to my eye when I read the insert, it reads:

“As the Treasure Coast faces once again a continued threat to one of our most valuable natural resources, the St Lucie River and the Indian River Lagoon, it is a great reminder, on the 40th Anniversary of the “Save Our Beaches Campaign” to recognize how much a determined community was able to accomplish in the efforts to save a precious and valuable resource for all.”


To purchase or learn about the ornament please see below a reading from the Stuart Kiwanis website:

“Each year the Kiwanis Club of Stuart designs and sells ornaments that represent a historical part of Martin County. Kiwanian, Virginia Lane Hill designs the ornaments. The ornaments are made by ChemArt, the same company that makes the ornaments for the White House. ChemArt is the last remaining ornament maker in the United States. Each ornament is laser cut, dipped in 14 K gold and hand enameled for a beautiful and long-lasting finish. Each ornament is accompanied by a history brochure which gives detailed information about the featured topic.

The current and past years ornaments, if not sold out, are available, year around, at The Stuart Heritage Museum, 161 SW Flagler Avenue in Stuart.”

This year’s ornament: 2014 Save Our Beaches Campaign – 40 years (http://kiwanisclubofstuart.org/Page/14261)


This is real estate agent Debbie Potter who after reading this blog went through all of her old stuff and found her original SAVE OUR BEACH sweat shirt!!!  Cool! Thank you Debbie!
This is real estate agent Debbie Potter who after reading this blog went through all of her old stuff and found her original SAVE OUR BEACH sweat shirt!!! Cool! Thank you Debbie!