“I can’t believe you are not marching in the streets with pitchforks; this is going to ruin your county.” Bob Crandall, 2016
There was something about him. Maybe it was the confidence that radiated, or the casual way he put his hands in his pockets while looking people straight in the eye…something about him let you know that you were dealing a legend… the kind of person they don’t make anymore…
On February 24th, I attended the Stuart Chamber’s Government and Transportation Committee’s guest speaker series. On this day it was Robert “Bob” Crandall, former chief executive of American Airlines who lives in Palm City. Mr Crandall and C.A.R.E. are leaders in the fight against All Aboard Florida. (AAF)
Trying to understand All Aboard Florida is difficult. It is multi-layered and after a while its easy to glaze over. Acronyms like FDFC; EIS; ROD and the discussion of extensions and bonds can turn off even the most interested. So today I am just going to share “the simple” and “the why” of Mr Crandall’s presentation and summarize why “we need to grab our pitchforks.” I will end with a true quote form Martin Health System.
AAF is a health and safety issue.
There will be less business, period. Noise and vibration will all facilitate less business in Downtown Stuart, and cause structural harm to its businesses, and historic Lyric Theatre.
Property values will decline.
A train going 55 miles per hour takes one mile to stop. These trains will go faster.
Pedestrians such as in Golden Gate, used to slower trains, will not correctly judge speeds. There will be accidents .
The costs to Martin County is estimated to be $323,000 in 2016; $1,000,000 by 2020; and $3,000,00 by 2040. Taxes WILL be forced up.
The Maritime industry will suffer greatly. Property values for marinas and homes on west side of bridge will decline. Boaters will be frustrated and leave the area.
The Roosevelt Bridge is now closed 3 hours and 30 minutes a day; with AAF it will be closed 9 hours and 30 minutes a day.
The 80-year-old bridge over the St Lucie River WILL get stuck…
Dangerous substances will eventually be coming through. Freight is the long-term goal.
We can’t win politically; we have to win legally.
For me things really set in my mind after Mr Crandall’s talk. During the question answer period the representative from Martin Health System said the following. I kid you not. He said the following: “If All Aboard Florida goes thorough, people will die.” He was speaking of ambulances stuck at tracks. Seconds count if you have a heart attack.
I thought to myself: “This is unbelievable. The most conservative of our community and the number one employer of our community just said ‘people will die.’ And the chamber has not taken a position. Why aren’t we out in the street with pitchforks?”
My recent trip to Brevard County allowed me after thirty-three years to reconnect with Patty Meyers, a classmate from Martin County High School. We both are “Tigers–Class of 1982!” Patty is now the director of the Brevard Museum in Cocoa. This trip helped me to understand NEPA, EISes, NAGPRA and other acronyms that give me a headache, but are good to know as they protect not only native peoples but the environment….I will try to tell a story to explain these acronyms and how they function.
-NEPA: NATIONAL ENVIRONMENTAL POLICY ACT; EIS: ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT STATEMENT; NAGPRA: NATIVE AMERICAN GRAVES PROTECTION AND REPATRIATION ACT.
As you have probably read, a lot is going on in Cocoa and Brevard County. Highway 528 was given as an easement by the state to “All Aboard Florida” from Orlando’s Airport to Port Canaveral (going over parts of the Indian River Lagoon); Port Canaveral will be expanded and deepened to meet the pressures of the Panama Canal; the Banana River lost 87% of its seagrasses between 2011 and 2013 and was connected to the UMEs or Unexplained Mortality Events of manatees, dolphins and pelicans near Melbourne; and NASA’s space industry is considering inviting a state-run commercial space market into its once “off-limits” Wildlife Refuge, as it is remaking itself…
WHEW! Can you say IMPACT? One way to understand impacts is to study the past….
The Brevard Museum features multiple aspects of the “Brevard story” along the Indian River Lagoon: its native peoples, the pioneers, Merritt Island’s famed “Indian River Lagoon Citrus,” and the space program’s evolution at Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral.
What stood out for me once I got there was realizing I had been there before with my husband Ed in 2005 to see the Windover Archeological site display. If this site were discovered today, there would be more protections in place…it is part of protecting the environment. Let me explain.
Windover, one of the most important archeological sites in North America, was discovered in 1984 while a contractor was building a subdivision in Titusville. He stopped construction and even donated to help unearth the area. The remains of over 200 ancient people were unearthed and proved to be 7000-8000 years old!
The people had been interred in a bog and were “perfectly” preserved and many contained in tact brain tissue. Being able to study this on such a scale was a first.
Studying the site revealed the people were exceptionally skilled tool makers and hunters, moved with the seasons between the St Johns and Indian Rivers, and that they were a compassionate people caring for their elderly and young, and ritually/religiously burying their dead. They were not the “savages” that had often been portrayed in years past and they were thousands of years older than expected.
This site changed the world of archeology. As wonderful a discovery as it was, how would you feel if those people were your ancestors? Aren’t graves sacred ground?
While Patty and I were having lunch, she told that in 1990 after the Windover site was discovered in 1984, a law called NAGPRA was enacted. NAGPRA stands for the “Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act” and is a United States federal law which falls under NEPA….
We know NEPA from our Treasure Coast fight with All Aboard Florida…
The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) was enacted in 1969, one of many legislative and executive responses to growing concern about the condition of the environment and about what human actions were doing to it. NEPA does two major things. First, it establishes national policy (U.S. government policy under NEPA) regarding the environment. Second, NEPA requires that agencies prepare a “detailed statement” of the environmental impacts of any “major federal action significantly affecting the quality of the human environment.” (This “detailed statement” is known as an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). This “detailed statement” requires federal agencies and institutions that receive federal funding to return Native American “cultural items” to lineal descendants and culturally affiliated Indian tribes . While these provisions do not apply to discoveries or excavations on private or state lands, the collection provisions of the Act may apply to Native American cultural items if they come under the control of an institution that receives federal funding. (–NAGPRA website)
So if Windover or a site anything like it were discovered or exists today, Native People would have a say in what happened to their ancestors and the site of their ancestors, should they wish….After studied, their ancestors would not be sitting on a shelf in Tallahassee…They would be reburied.
NAGPRA is part of NEPA and an EIS. —NATIONAL ENVIRONMENTAL POLICY ACT; ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT STATEMENT; NATIVE AMERICAN GRAVES PROTECTION AND REPATRIATION ACT.
Familiarity with these laws is really the only hope for our government not to mow down every sacred site, burial ground, and haven for endangered and protected species along our Indian River Lagoon Region. These laws apply right now to All Aboard Florida, Port Canaveral, and NASA’s and the state’s potential impact in the Mosquito Lagoon, Banana River of the Indian River Lagoon, and the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge.
Without these laws it would be like pioneer times, rough and wild with “no laws.” The “environment” and the people who once lived in harmony with it would basically have no protections.
NEPA, EIS and NAGPRA are “letters” all River Warriors should know!
Did you know that Henry Flagler’s Florida East Coast Railway was originally named “Jacksonville, St Augustine and Indian River Railway? ” I didn’t until I re-read The Railroad chapter my mother’s book “Stuart on the St Lucie.” The name was changed on September 9, 1895 to the infamous and famous “Florida East Coast Railway.” The train did and does, massively affect our Indian River Lagoon Region.
Yesterday, All Aboard Florida had a poster presentation at the Kane Center where the public was allowed to view and then put hand written comments in boxes. The Stuart News said 800 people showed up. When I was there, the tension was thick between the public and the paid, mostly young, working “presenters” in the room. These presenters looked exhausted. As usual business and outside politicians don’t know what they are in for when they come to Martin County. Like a mother bear protecting her cub, we fight for the beauty, tranquility and “quality of life” of our area. AAF met NOT All Aboard Florida. It was a train wreck…
I personally, am not against train travel at all, in fact I am for it, but I am against All Aboard Florida as there are no benefits, only unfunded mandated costs to the Treasure Coast area to maintain equipment and tracks and to alter the pleasant areas of downtown crossings that fill our counties.
Also it is so obvious that this is really about freight of course: the widening of the Panama Canal, the expansion of the Port of Miami, about feeding “all those people in Orlando” as it is encouraged to grow, consume, and excrete pollution that will drain down the Kissimmee then into Lake Okeechobee and be released into our rivers. It’s about Airglades Airport that really is not about the Sugarhill development “proper” as much as the already “approved” Airglades Airport Inland Port in Hendry County that will scare away every panther that has quietly walked that remote part of Florida over hundreds of years and yes affect Everglades restoration.
South Florida is headed to become a shipping center.
I recommend we lie down on the tracks. Honestly. I don’t want AAF’s freight corridor or fake passenger through trains. Not here.
Since a picture speaks a thousand words, I will stop “talking”and let you take a look at what we are, and you can image what we will become, how our real estate and marine industry will change, and what these new shipping tracks and trains will look like—unless of course, we rise up and change the course of history…never doubt that that can be achieved.
Yesterday morning, over 100 boats gathered at the Roosevelt Bridge in Stuart, forming a flotilla in opposition to “All Aboard Florida’s” high speed train which would close the bridges over the St Lucie River for unacceptable periods of time. A large red sign on Angie and Jeff Swenson’s boat read NO TRAINS.
(Above photo by Ed Lippisch and Scott Kuhns)
Just in case you are not familiar with the project, I thought today I would describe the basics of how All Aboard Florida’s father company, Fortress Investment Group, is structured, as the best ways to garner change, is to understand “how it works.”
We here in Martin County have certainly learned this with our St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon Issues. In fact, the river issues have already galvanized our community so it has not been that difficult to do the same for the train.
In my opinion, in order to derail All Aboard Florida, there are two options: to stop the line at its source, (Orlando) or to get it to “go west.”
To begin with, one must understand the basic structure of Fortress Investment Group of which “All Aboard Florida” is part. Fortress consists of four divisions: 1. Flagler-the real estate entity; 2. All Abroad Florida-supposedely the first “private” rail system in America; 3. Flagler Global Logistics-a logistics solution group; and 4. ROW (Right of Way) Management Services.
Keep in mind, Florida southern rail lines now consist of three main parts: 1. the Cocoa/Melbourne area to Orlando line or Highway 528/the money for the Orlando Train Depot; 2. the Florida East Coast Railway tracks that run from Jacksonville to Miami (the ones that go through Stuart) and 3. the CSX tracks that run west from West Palm Beach to Orlando.
Now we must go back in the story a bit to get perspective. Last year, “All Aboard Florida” was able to secure the right of way along Highway 528 from approximately Cocoa to Orlando, to lay tracks to the Orlando airport. Fortress had to get a “right of way” from the Florida Department of Transportation to lay tracks in order to do this. On top of this a bit later, they were granted funds from the state of Florida to build a rail “depot” station at Orlando International Airport. This Orlando element is actually the “All Aboard Florida” piece even though we keep using it for “down here.”
The second part of the puzzle, the Florida East Coast Railway tracks, are historical and owned by Fortress, these tracks run from Jacksonville to Miami. There is nothing we can do about this, except be vocal or rip the tracks out which would not be a good idea.
And last are the CSX tracks. These tracks run out west away from “us” starting in West Palm Beach and going to Orlando; they are not owned by Fortress. They are owned by another company called CSX, a cargo company. At this point, there is no plan to purchase these tracks to send the All Aboard Florida project west to Orlando rather than through our eastern cities.
In summary, it is clear that the only reason All Aboard Florida is “going south” at all is because the state of Florida has supported Fortress Investment Group with the Cocoa to Orland piece, Highway 528, and the building of the train depot in Orlando. This is the piece/s that must be derailed. I am not sure how to achieve this, however, if the northern piece goes kaputt so will the journey south-east.
Train travel is actually a great benefit for people and the environment, having lived in Europe, I can attest to this. Nonetheless, the present All Aboard Florida plan is unacceptable with its negative effects on property values and businesses west of the Roosevelt Bridge, particularly the marine industry. Let your local delegation know how you feel. We are important to them, between the river and the train, we have a lot to say about their reelection, and believe me they need us.
LOCAL DELEGATION TO WRITE:
Fl. Senator Negon: email@example.com
House Rep. Harrell: firstname.lastname@example.org
Fl. House Rep. Magar : email@example.com
Fl. Governor Scott: firstname.lastname@example.org
US Congressman Murphy: email@example.com