This weekend I had the honor of being asked by the Citrus County Historical Society to speak on the final day of the county’s “Save Our Waters Week.” The theme “Make a Difference!” Citrus County houses multiple springs, three holding the title of “first magnitude.” These once “pellucid” waters form Crystal River and then flow out to the the Gulf of Mexico.
Although my most recent title is Governing Board, SFWMD, I was clear to say the presentation was my own words and that I have been acting and speaking out as a water advocate for eleven years.
Although I cannot share my words, I think it is important to share my presentation. See if you can add the words yourself…What do Florida’s Springs and the Everglades’ Northern Estuaries have in common? How can we work together to be an even more powerful political force?
Thank you to Florida nature photographer, John Moran, for sharing his aerial photographs of the Crystal River region and for his documentation of the deterioration of Florida Springs. As with the St Lucie River, we must look below the surface to see what is really going on…and we must speak out to stop it!
Recently, the Florida House of Representatives announced its committee appointments made by new House Speaker Jose Oliva. Today, I will note those appointed to environmental committees which, of course, function in the dark ages, bound together with agriculture. Advocates should know these key players and build relationships now, and during the committee process that beings January 8, 2019 ~not once Legislative Session begins in March. Too late!
So here we go…
The really all-powerful Speaker of the House is Jose Oliva who will reign from the end of 2018 to 2020. He is from Miami Lakes and is C.E.O. of Oliva Cigar Co. Read about him below and the committees and representatives over which he has great influence. Congratulations to him on attaining this leadership role that very few achieve.
Speaker Oliva’s environmental appointments are below with an article or two giving background on each appointee. Agriculture and Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee Chair, Rep. Holly Raschein is from Key Largo and a Health Care Special Projects Manager. Vice-chair, Rep. Rick Roth is from West Palm Beach and his heritage is linked to a multi-generational family-farm in the Everglades Agricultural Area. Holly has a track record supporting environmental issues such as the EAA Reservoir and Rick works for the environment within the goals of the EAA Environmental Protection District and the 1994 Everglades Forever Act. Read below about both representatives and what they have to say.
Interestingly, Holly Raschein also serves on the Subcommittee for Agriculture as and Natural Resources as vice-chair to, chair, Chuck Wesley, a College Administrator from Newberry (near Gainesville). Rep Wesley notes that “sustainable agriculture and the environment are some of his top goals.” You can read what he wrote in an op-ed for below. All this sounds good. But what does that really mean? Our job is to hold all of these politicians accountable.
Yes, it is important we know and communicate with who is in charge. I hope you will reach out to all of them through letter best, but email, or phone call helps too. I wish all my readers a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays! Thank you for reading my blog in 2019. I’m looking forward to seeing what 2019 will bring…
For more information on Florida House of Representatives go here https://www.myfloridahouse.gov. Look at their calendar, see when committees meet, follow what they are reviewing and call, write their office to let them know how much you love Florida and that water is key!
I am very fortunate to have a small army of people helping me document the Lake Okeechobee discharges this year. Presently, it is the tremendous rate of government sponsored discharge from Lake O that is destroying the regions’ economy and ecology, right before our eyes, ~once again.
Friends of my husband, pilots Dave Stone and Scott Kuhns, took these aerials yesterday, 11-8-17 around 5 pm. When I asked Scott about the plume, he relayed that it went 15 miles south almost all the way to Jupiter Inlet, and since there is also rain driven, fresh, dark- stained water flowing out of the Jupiter Inlet (not over-nutrified, black-sediment water from Lake O) there was no clear delineation of blackened plume to aqua ocean water, like usual–rather, the waters are all dark….
“How far did the plume go east from the St Lucie Inlet?” I asked. “From the coast, as far as the eye could see…”
*The ACOE has been discharging from Lake O since Hurricane IRMA hit on Sept 2oth, 2017. The rate of discharge has gone up and down, however increasing over recent weeks. Word is the St Lucie could be dumped on for many more months, possibly through the end of the year. So don’t count on taking your visiting relatives out fishing this holiday season even though you moved here for the water. This ecological disaster is finally seeing light at the end of the tunnel as Senator Joe Negron, alongside the public, and “River Warrior” groups, particularly Bullsugar, has pushed so hard that the SFWMD and ACOE are finally working towards building an EAA Reservoir that will begin the long journey of changing water drainage culture in South Florida, and “sending the water south.” Please get involved and learn more by viewing this SFWMD EAA RESERVOIR website:https://www.sfwmd.gov/our-work/cerp-project-planning/eaa-reservoir
*Thank you to the people, and the children, groups such as the C4CW, Rivers Coalition, grandparents’ HOA email chains, leadership at Martin Health System, and to the those working for the agencies trying to help the St Lucie. As the River Kidz say:
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.
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 draining water into SLR/IRL after rain events:
Today, May 12th, at 9:45 A.M. Governor Rick Scott is scheduled to sign Senate President Joe Negron’s “Senate Bill 10” in of all places Clewiston. Clewiston is “America’s Sweetest Town” and the headquarters of U.S. Sugar Corporation…
According to the article in the Glades County Democrat announcing the signing: “Earlier this week Senate Bill 10, a move to secure funding for a water storage reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee was approved. In its amended form, Senate Bill 10 became a measure that we in the Glades could stand behind. The bill no longer stated that additional farmlands be taken out of production but rather the state would utilize the property that it already owns to create a reservoir with a much smaller footprint.”
Although I am scratching my head, you know what? Sometimes you just have to be happy for what you get, no matter where you get it. I am tremendously thankful to Governor Scott for signing the bill ~ although I do wish he had decided to sign it in Martin County since we’ve worked so hard to get it.
When I read the announcement officially last night, it got me thinking about Clewiston before I went to sleep. It brought back memories of 2013 and famed paddle boarder Justin Riney’s idea to hold the Sugarland Rally in Clewiston on September 1st, 2013 to unite the movement. This was one of the early rallies for the river during the devastation of the “Lost Summer.”
Since Governor Scott is going to sign in Clewiston I think it’s a good time to walk down memory lane and be proud of how far we’ve come and to get ready for how far we have to go! The point of the location of the Sugarland Rally was to “meet halfway.” Hopefully Governor Scott is thinking the same, in that Joe Negron helped us meet half way and we are all thankful.
Now let’s remember the past, enjoy today, and then take it to the finish line!
“The Sugarland Rally will unite the east and west coasts of Florida in a peaceful, historic demonstration to speak out against the pollution of our estuaries from Lake Okeechobee discharges. We support both immediate and long-term solutions, but ecosystems and communities along the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee Estuaries are in crisis. We cannot afford to wait for ecological and economic collapse. We urge all stakeholders–especially local, state and federal governments–to act immediately. We chose Clewiston as a central location to unify east and west at Lake Okeechobee, the source that is polluting our estuaries, and because we believe Florida’s sugar industry can be part of the solution. Please don’t misinterpret our intentions–we are NOT holding a rally at Clewiston to protest or point fingers at “Big Sugar.” It’s quite the opposite, actually. We invite Florida’s powerful sugar industry to join us in crafting an immediate solution to the ecological and economic crisis caused by discharges from Lake Okeechobee.” (Press release from Justin Riney, Aug. 2013)
Advocacy has many faces, but none perhaps more powerful than a handwritten note or letter. Why? Because it takes effort; because it is thoughtful; and because it is old-fashioned, rare, and special. My mother taught me this…
In a world where furious Tweets and Facebook posts, or better yet, a Snapchat allows one to “live in the moment and then erase it,” we are surrounded by communication that holds impermanence. The hand written note leaves a lasting impression… especially in the “rough and tumble,” yet traditionally based world of politics.
Mind you, your note or letter need not be long; it must just be sincere.
I am asking you to please get out your stationery and write Speaker of the House, Richard Corcoran, and ask for support of House Bill 761 in matching format to updated Senate Bill 10. Right now this bill is being held; should finally be heard in committee soon; and of course, is certainly being negotiated with the Senate President Joe Negron.
Remember that Representative Corcoran is one of the authors of “Blueprint Florida” whose goal it to “leave a legacy for future generations and overcome the corruption and influence of special interests”. I wrote about this the day before yesterday.
Over the past hundred years, agricultural special interests, with little or no thought of the long-term consequences, have absolutely decimated one of the greatest wetlands of the world and thus its wildlife… our Florida Everglades.
House Bill 761 and Senate Bill 10’s goal of reducing the damaging discharges from Lake Okeechobee to the St Lucie River and Indian River Lagoon, Caloosahatchee, and sending clean water south to Florida Bay and the Everglades is a legacy not only of a lifetime but, for a millennium.
Please write Speaker Corcoran today and ask for support:
Committee Members: Senator Bradley, Chair; Senator Book, Vice Chair; Senators Braynon, Hukill, Hutson. Mayfield, and Stewart
Yesterday, January 11th, Florida’s Appropriations Subcommittee on the Environment and Natural Resources met in Tallahassee. The Legislative Session has not formally started, but as most things in life, the most important stuff happens ahead of time….”in committee.”
The topic was “Discussion and testimony relating to the options for reducing harmful Lake Okeechobee discharges and Everglades Restoration.”
This meeting is being held because of Senate President Joe Negrons’ proposal to buy 60,000 acres of land in the EAA south of Lake Okeechobee for a Reservoir.
Yesterdays’ meeting was just informational, but first impressions are very important. And anything can be killed in committee.
I think the meeting went very well. “Everyone was represented:” East Coast; West Coast; Florida Bay; The Glades and agencies or organizations of those who presented. I thought it was great. Great to see people in power and those with knowledge talking about this important issue. Remember that just a few years ago, many in Tallahassee thought the Indian River Lagoon was a movie from the 50s.
Many people drove over 12 hours to speak but Chair Bradley did not allow public comment. Bullsugar, River Kidz, Glades Residents, Islamorada, Florida Bay, CaptainsForCleanWater, Stuart residents, Ft Meyers residents, Realtors, Hotel Owners, Business Owners and more…This is very disappointing, but certainly “The Powers That Be” knew everyone was there, and surely “They” are taking about it behind closed doors. It makes an impression when the chamber is full because those politicians know that for every person there, there are hundreds, if not thousands behind him or her who did not come…The “Powers that Be” know this. And Senator Negron knows who came too. Surely he does. He appreciates this! He is motivated by this!
Having a full-house in a sub-committee room is not an everyday occurrence for these folks. Unlike our county government the State is not as practiced at this. They generally get to operate in a vacuum–Tallahassee being so far away! Not good!
Time was short and messages many, so Chair Bradley decided to cut the meeting presenters basically in half. Thus not all the presenters who came were allowed to speak either.
Those who presented were: Senate lawyer for the committee, Ashley Istler; UF’s Wendy Graham; ACOE’s Lt Col. Jennifer Reynolds; Independent, Dr Gary Goforth; and Exec. Dir of the SFWMD, Pete Antonacci .
Those moved to January 25th were: Dr Tom Van Lent, Everglades Foundation; Drew Bartlett, DEP; and Ernie Barnett, EAA Landowners.
There was a common theme: “we need more water storage everywhere. North, South, East and West and concerns about where the reservoir should first be or if it should be….
This is clearly a very exasperating experience for many. But isn’t it great that we are actually talking and learning about it. Together.
2016 has been an incredible year, and 2017 will be as well. In 2016, both Lake Okeechobee and the St Lucie River blew up with toxic algae, and #GladesLivesMatter was established as a voice for a way of life that could be lost…
As far as 2017, as I write this post, deals are being cut, and advocates on both sides are working to get legislative support for their positions. But during this season of light, may we also remember our interests, as they hold things we share in common rather than apart: a Healthy Lake Okeechobee and St Lucie River, as well as Local Economic Prosperity for All are certainly goals both the Glades and the Coast desires…right now, in most areas of our combined worlds, this does not exist…
Yesterday, I toured the Glades once again with former Pahokee mayor, J.P. Sasser, someone I don’t always agree with, but definitely get along with. Someone who is teaching me a ton about the Glades, a history linked to my history, the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon….
Along the journey, a noteworthy thing happened right of the bat at Canal Point, our first stop. Here, I met an older gentleman fishing along the original locks of the historic West Palm Beach Canal. As I was taking photos, I thought I should introduce myself.
“Hello,” I said, extending my hand.
“Catching much?” I asked.
“Not today, but usually, yes.”
“Do you live around here?” I inquired.
“Wow Tequesta? That’s pretty far away…”
“Not really,” he said. “Maybe thirty minutes. I used to come here with my father in the 1950s.”
“And where are You from?” He inquired.
The fishing line bobbed in the water. I saw noticed a dead gar fish float by. The water doesn’t look so good, I thought.
“Have things changed a lot?” I asked.
“Yes they have,” he said, “but not a lot out here at Canal Point. That’s why I come.”
An alligator silently swam the shoreline…
“You know your bridge is here.” the fisherman softly said,” pulling on the line.
“Wow, funny you should know that…my mom…she’s a historian. Torry Island right? They used part of the Roosevelt Bridge in Stuart to build out in here in Belle Glade in 1938. It’s still here today…a swing-bridge….right?”
He looked at me holding his gaze. “Right young lady, the bridge is here….”
J.P. called from the car. The fisherman and I locked eyes.
“The bridge is here.” I repeated.”The bridge is here.”
As we drove away, I wrote something on my notepad: “2017 #GladesCoastMatters … ”
Torry Island Bridge is located in Belle Glade about a 15 minute drive around Lake O from Canal Point.
“The story of the bridge’s origins flow smoothly from Corbin… The 1928 hurricane that ravaged the Glades set in motion the chain of events that would bring the bridge to Belle Glade. The storm destroyed the original dike that surrounded the lake. To build the replacement dike, the federal government spooned out a canal, separating Torry Island from Belle Glade, and used the dirt for the dike. The new canal, called the Okeechobee Waterway, needed a bridge. In 1938, state contractors built the Point Chosen Bridge, replacing a pontoon bridge with a swing bridge that was built in 1916 and relocated from the St. Lucie River near Stuart. The bridge consisted of the movable portion and wooden trestles on each end.” Associated Press article, 2009.
Post Hurricane Matthew, I am sharing Dr Gary Goforth’s “Updated Lake Okeechobee Discharges to the Estuaries and Everglades,” dated yesterday, October 10, 2016 as sent to state and local officials, as well as the press. Many helpful visuals are attached.
Dr Goforth continues to lead in documenting the destruction of what was once lauded as North America’s “most biodiverse estuary,” our beloved St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon…
Through shared knowledge, we advocate for a better Florida water future.
More than 204 billion gallons of polluted Lake water has been discharged to the St. Lucie (25% of total Lake discharges); more than 456 billion gallons of polluted Lake water has been discharged to the Caloosahatchee (55% of Lake discharges). By contrast, only 20% of Lake discharges has been sent to the south, with only 6% sent to the STAs/Everglades.
Ag runoff continues to contribute significant amounts of flow and pollution load to the St. Lucie: 39% of flow, 53% of total phosphorus and 42% of total nitrogen.
I added a chart comparing monthly Lake flows to the STAs – 2016 releases to STAs has been significantly less than 2014 and 2015.
Dr Gary Goforth has been kind enough to update his “Flows South Comparison”report. I posted his previous one just this week on 2-22-16. His most recent comparison is included below in slide format. Please click on the slides to enlarge and view information.
The numbers are staggering.
At this point, more than 171,000 acre feet (55.99 billion gallons) of Lake Okeechobee water (blackwater) has been dumped to the river/estuary during just the first 26 days of the 2016 Lake releases; this is equal to 41% of the entire 2013 releases and 16% of the 1997/98 El Nino event. …
We are in for a very difficult, long year of discharges for our St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon; and they have more than likely “just begun.” We must remain updated, educated, and vocal —and documenting–take photos share what you see. Last night I was told there are dead fish in the area of Sailfish Marina. If you see such a thing take a photo and post it or send it to me with location etc….(email@example.com) Also continue contacting our state and federal partners and advocating that land be purchased south of the lake to offset these type of events. We shall and are turning this Titanic.
“Time flies”… “Time waits for no one”… “Time is of the essence”….
There are hundreds of sayings about time, and none of them can truly encompass its passage and what it feels like to know it is slipping away….
Having no children of my own, I am dependent on the children of others to really see time “fly.” As time seems to fly fastest when it comes to children turning into adults–right before our eyes, while we of course feel “exactly the same…”
I deeply believe that all kids are River Kidz!
The two closest to me are my niece Evie Flaugh, and Naia Mader, two Town of Sewall’s Point girls that founded River Kidz in 2011 when I was mayor. Sometimes they come and visit me. These are some of my favorite days. When they visit, I am struck by how they are changing. They are growing up. They are becoming women.
“10ish” years old when their endeavor started, I think they are now both “15.” Three months apart. Evie is a bit older but they are in different grades. I can’t keep up actually. But I do know they were both once well below my shoulder and they now stand almost a full foot taller than me. I noticed recently, when I sat on the bench with them for a picture, that my feet hardly reached the ground. Their knees were bent…
I look at them in awe.
“Was I that young once?
I was, and boy did want to be older…. This I remember.
Things are going to start changing even more quickly.
They will be driving soon….Gulp….
And where have “we” all driven the river since 2011? The St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon is in really in the about same predicament it was in 2011. In some areas worse. A lot has happened, and good has been achieved, however, the biggest killer, discharges from canals C-23, C-24, C-25, C-44 and Lake Okeechobee will continue to slowly kill the river with no end in sight, because our state in is denial of the depth and timing of our pollution and water crisis. They think we have 30 years…Oh let’s make that 50 years….no 100….
However awareness is high. As Amendment 1 and our local River Movement has shown, the public is pushing for change; and not giving up. WE ARE MAKING PROGRESS even though it seems sometimes it may take forever, or that we will return to our maker not having achieved the goal.
I am certain that one day there will be substantive positive change for the Indian River and all of Florida’s precious waters. There must be in order for the state to survive. To feed this change and the human will for survival which requires clean water, we must continue to put “gas in the car,” or better yet, use solar energy—- we have to keep making “River Kidz out of kids.” We have to keep driving.
One day soon, these kids will take the wheel of life. I am confident they will drive with more care than previous generations did; they will do all they can to navigate the crash we will be leaving them.
The River Kidz, Naia and Evie, they inspire me. But my heart aches for them. For them we must work harder to change the tide of legislative and agency complacency. We must make more people realize that we do not have 30 years. We have now.
One of the great things about living in the town you grew up in is watching people you know “grow-up,” and be recognized for their contributions to the Treasure Coast community.
One of these people, for me, is Mark Perry, who I have known since my earliest memories. Today, Mark is the Executive Director for Florida Oceanographic Society, (http://www.floridaocean.org), the epicenter in Martin County for education, protection, and advocacy for the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon. He has been leading the organization for 35 years…
Mark is older than me. I was born in 1964, and I believe Mark is about ten years my senior. When you’re a kid, that’s “a lot.” But it’s just enough to for constant admiration “from younger to older.” I have been admiring Mark Perry my entire life…
Mark, his brother Chris, and his parents Clifton and Mimi Perry attended St Mary’s Church as my family did and does today. I first met Mark at St Mary’s…I was probably 3 or 4 years old.
As I grew up, I remember my parents talking about the “older kids” in the youth group getting to go on a canoe trip down the Peace River, chaperones, sleeping bags, marshmallows, etc….It was the 1970s….I wanted so badly to be older and get to do the “cool” things the older kids did, but I was just a “kid,” and had to stay home…
Over the years, my parents kept me abreast of the Perry family and what was always most interesting to me was Mark’s journey with Florida Oceanographic, an organization his father helped found in 1964 that was originally located in my childhood neighborhood of St Lucie Estates, along Kruegar Creek, in Stuart. I often visited there on my bicycle.
Over the years I grew up, moved away, attended University of Florida, lived and worked in California, Germany, and Pensacola, and when I came home in 1997 to Stuart, to continue my teaching career, Florida Oceanographic had expanded from that neat place I saw on my bicycle to become the showcase institution it is today–-An organization that symbolizes the love and fight for the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon-and the life of Mark Perry.
Tonight at FAU/Harbor Branchs’, “Love Your Lagoon” gala, (http://www.indianriverlagoon.org/Love-Your-Lagoon-Dinner-.html) Mark Perry will be honored for his St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon work. It is the foundations’ fourth annual, and those who preceded Mark in being honored are: 2012, Nathaniel Reed; 2013, Bud Adams; 2014, Alma Lee Loy.
Mark follows in big footsteps, and he has filled them, “completely.” Thank you Mark Perry for a lifetime of admiration, respect, and guidance in our love and fight to save the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon!
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.
“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?
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.
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!
Some things never change, like the wonder of a kid catching his or her “first fish.”
I still remember mine. A puffer fish! It was 1968, and my parents took me fishing along the Indian River Lagoon…
Fishing is a powerful experience for a young person. There is no better way to teach youth how to appreciate and protect the St Lucie/Indian River Lagoon than by “taking a kid fishing.” It is well documented that hunters and fishermen/women are some of our county’s most outspoken and powerful conservationists.
In keeping with this Treasure Coast fishing legacy, on October 18th, 2014, something really remarkable is happening. Kids in our area have organized a fishing tournament for kids! The event is called “Lines in the Lagoon.” (http://www.linesinthelagoon.com/#!about/mainPage)
Vero Beach freshman high school student, Quinn Hiaasen and his friends organized the event. Quinn is obviously on his way to “stardom” himself, but it must be mentioned that his father is none other than satirist and writer Carl Hiassen, (http://www.carlhiaasen.com/bio.shtml), a well-known proponent of our rivers and Everglades. Quinn’s mother, Fenia, has also been working for the event and assisting her son for months– “spreading the word” and communicating with River Kidz momz here in Martin and St Lucie Counties. Martin, St Lucie, and Indian River counties are one, as the lagoon knows no county lines or political districts; it is a Tri-county tournament.
Early on, Mrs Hiaasen let us know that pre-fishing/fishing tournament events included:
September 6th: LAGOON CLEAN UP DAY
October 27th: INDIAN RIVER SCIENCE FAIR DAY
October 1st: CHIPOTLE IN STORE PROMOTIONS 3-7pm 50% DONATION TO ORCA AND EVERGLADES FOUNDATION
October 18th: FISHING TOURNAMENT AND AWARDS BANQUET AT THE BACKUS MUSEUM IN FT PIERCE
From what I am told by River Kidz mom, Nicole Mader, the group is also working on displaying a “responsible fishing tent” to teach children care with fishing line and hooks, as careless discarding of such is a serious threat to wildlife and of course the tournament is primarily “catch and release.”
Isn’t this a great thing?
So sign up…
Support the kids; support conservation; and support the Hiaasen family!
And remember, by taking a kid fishing, you are creating future advocates for our Indian River Lagoon.
“Let us throw off everything that hinders, and run with perseverance, the race marked out for us…” Hebrews
We might still be a long way from the finish line, but no one can say that the Indian River Lagoon hasn’t hasn’t been “heard.” In 2012, few state legislators, not even the Governor, sitting in his chair in Tallahassee knew what, or even where, the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon was… Today literally, “everyone” in Tallahassee knows about the, dying manatees, sick dolphins, toxic waters, the disappearing seagrasses, and deadly releases from Lake Okeechobee. On top of that “Tally” is watching the IRL positioned to walk away with a large chunk of the pie, a pie that others wanted too. Others who had been fighting longer than the IRL and were very much know by name… Remarkable.
(Specifics of Negron’s Senate/House negotiated IRL/L.O. 3-year budget for 231.9 million dollars. This “recommendation” must still go before the Governor’s pen.)
How did this happen? How did the Indian River Lagoon get so well known so quickly?
This happened because the the people, River Kidz, and local officials of Stuart, Port St Lucie, eventually all eight counties along the lagoon, rose up, demanded change, exposed health, safety, and moral issues, and then the local press, Scripps, took that flame of the people, threw kerosine on it, and has continued to keep the fire going. State and Congressional politicians along with state and federal agencies, usually free to do whatever they pleased, were taken off guard, suddenly their constituency was watching where officials got their money, how they were voting, and if they were supporting the lagoon.
Senator Joe Negron listened and made the Indian River Lagoon his first priority creating the budget list above, held a Senate Hearing that took the topic “viral,” possibly under-cutting his Senate presidency because of his outspoken support, and then proceeded to tell the ACOE they needed to give up their control of the lake and that they were “killing us;” Rep. Gayle Harrell made a memorial in DC her “top”priority; newcomer Rep. Larry Lee voted against party line for the sake of the lagoon; and freshman Rep. Mary Lynn Magar passed out bottles of muck ridden toxic river water and aerial photo booklets to her colleagues, Rep. Debbie Mayfield called her closest contacts… At the federal level, Congressman Patrick Murphy did every single thing possible to familiarize the ACOE leaders with the C-44 IRL project, and even invited the public to DC for a special meeting. In walks Nancy Pelosi, and then this bipartisan group helps get the WRDA (Water Resources Development Act) bill passed in the US House of Representatives where usually people can’t make a decision to save their lives. Holy Cow!
OK, let’s pull back for a moment, because I come from a group of erudite and very skeptical river supporters. And although I am excited, I am not wearing rose colored glasses and never have. I know politicians can dance like marionettes when they need to; I know that a lot more has to be done, like a flow way south; I know that if it starts raining intensely tomorrow and doesn’t stop, a repeat of the “Lost Summer” will happen all over again. But Karl…Michael….the others….even you, the harshest, most honest critics, have to admit that the end of 2013, and so far 2014, has been one remarkable year. Less than a year actually…
Just May 8th of last year, the releases from Lake Okeechobee began releasing for 5 months, and set off a series of events that galvanized public outcry. Thousands of people rallied at the locks and shoreline; social media whipped the situation to a frenzy, and today we are still today talking about it, fighting for it, and defining ourselves and our children by it. There are no social, age or economic boundaries. It is all of us. We are making history.
Yes, a great disappointment, the ACOE’s recent denial of CEPP (Central Everglades Planning Project) into the WRDA Bill last week is a huge setback, but the Army Corp of Engineers has forgotten something. When passions are repressed, they only get stronger.
This Saturday at 9 AM, locals have organized a “Funeral Services for the Lagoon” at St Lucie Locks and Dam in response to the ACOE’s inaction. (Go to Facebook for information.) Here again locals will plead their case to “send the water south.”
When I reminisce about the past year and even present, I am reminded of Dr Suess’ famous children’s book, Horton Hears a Who. The story is about the miniature city of people who live on the speck of dust. After being lost, Horton the elephant and the other animals hear the screaming “We’re here!” “We’re here!” of the tiny people of Who-ville, and agree to protect them. But they wouldn’t have protected them if they did not hear them. Remember?
Like the story, the Indian River Lagoon has finally been heard! Be proud of this. It is a huge accomplishment. We are certainly not yet at the finish line, but let’s be happy that 2013/14 has been, “The Year of the Indian River Lagoon,” and that everyone knows our name!
At the request of the Florida and US government, the Army Corps of Engineers channelized the Kissimmee River between 1962 and 1970 to improve flooding that had specifically occurred in 1947. Almost immediately this channelization was recognized as problematic to Lake Okeechobee and the estuaries. In 1997 Congess approved efforts to restore parts of the Kissimmee to its natural design.
With ranch, agricultural and other land purchases that were made in the former flood plains, restoration is/was complex and difficult. Nonetheless the ACOE has completed an approximate twenty mile restoration. This is one of the few great accomplishments made so far to improve the misjudgments of the Central and South Florida Flood Project of 1948.(http://www.evergladesplan.org/about/restudy_csf_devel.aspx)
The problem with the Kissimmee was that it was straightened, let’s try to simplify what has led to the destruction/problems of the Indian River Lagoon by listing what has led to its poor health:
too much shoreline development, building the C-44 canal from Lake Okeechobee to the St Lucie a River, diking Lake Okeechobee, channelizing the creeks that are now the C-23 and C-24 canals, the channelizing of the Kissimmee River, dredging a channel in the lagoon and St Lucie River, runoff from agriculture and urban development that runs into the lagoon, automobiles and the thousands of Department of Transportation canals that also lead to lagoon, causeways that block the flow of water in the lagoon, marinas and boat traffic, fishing line and trash left to harm wildlife, rains that may carry mercury and other pollutants from thousands of miles away, inlets that have been dug and made permanent or at least not allowing the ocean to break through when and where it desired as it did for tens of thousands of years, the invention of synthetic fertilizer and septic tanks, suburbia, herbicides and pesticides and even laundry detergent, drugs and antibiotics that many of us take that seep into the waters of the lagoons causing disfunction to animal life like antibiotic resistant dolphins, (http://www.cehaweb.com/documents/2_000.pdf) the list goes on…
Fixing the Indian a River Lagoon is actually more historic and multilayered than fixing the Kissimmee River. Thankfully we know we have the will to make our government and to make ourselves fix it.
light, noun: “understanding of a problem or mystery; enlightenment”
If you have ever had the chance to drive along Indian River Lagoon in the early morning or at sunset, you have probably been taken by it’s light.
No matter how “bad” the health of the river itself can get, at sunrise or sunset, there is the river’s glorious illumination. It’s one of those otherworldly gifts in a life that is often otherwise quite commonplace.
In the new or fading light of the Indian River Lagoon, we are renewed, and find our inspiration to fight, and to save it.
River Kidz-St Lucie County member, Adian Lewy, 10, speaks at the Clean Water Rally in Tallahassee 2-18-14 as Indian Riverkeeper, Marty Baum, proudly looks on…
River Kidz, a program that was started by two Sewall’s Point fifth grade girls in 2011, now has hundreds of members, has a workbook, is taught in many private and public schools, and has divisions in St Lucie and Lee counties. Kids have been taught about the environment for years, so why is River Kidz different?
River Kidz is different because it teaches kids how to advocate. River Kidz’ mission is to “speak out, get involved and raise awareness because we believe kids should have a voice in the future of our rivers.”
All the River Kidz do includes “art, action, and advocacy.” Kids create art in the classroom and in public about the Indian River Lagoon, St Lucie River, focusing on its animals, seagrasses, as well as the damaging discharges from the canals and especially releases from Lake Okeechobee. This artwork is compiled by teachers and parents along with letters the children write and sent, or personally given, to local commissioners, mayors, policy makers, congressmen and women, state representatives, senators and even the president of the United States.
Kidz learn to speak in public. Last summer in 2013, 11 year old Veronica Dalton, ask if she could speak at the River Rally at the St Lucie Locks. She delivered her own speech in front of 5000 people.
When I was a kid they taught us about sea grasses and seahorses and it was fun; I learned to love the St Lucie River and Indian River Lagoon but today’s children, if they are going to have the river for their children, have to learn early about its wonders and its issues, environmental and political, so they are prepared to protect and creatively save it in the future.
As a former teacher I know, a child likes nothing more than to have a purpose, responsibility, to be trusted. These kids are rising to the occasion and learning at a young age, to write letters to politicians, to speak out in public, “to do” by deploying oysters and reef balls and to create art to get their message across. If this is what they are accomplishing at ten, what will they do in the future?