Tag Archives: brown tide

Florida Senate – Water Senators, 2019

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2019 Senate President Bill Galvano, https://www.flsenate.gov/Senators/s21, recently assigned senators to their committees.  The new Senate President is following Joe Negron. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Florida_Senate.)

Knowing who has been assigned what committees is important. Let’s learn about a couple of “water-senators ” ~those assigned to committees where water will come up. No pun intended.

First, let’s go to the Florida Senate website and click on the Committees Tab. Look around. What titles have something to do with water or the environment? Here you will see a list of committees. Very interesting! Only a few could apply.

(https://www.flsenate.gov/Committees/#com-list )

For sure, when it comes to  purposes of water, under Standing Committees, Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Environment, and General Government is key.

 

Who got this position? Wow! Senator Debbie Mayfield has been assigned to be the chair of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Environment, and General Government. She represents Indian River and  Brevard Counties and in earlier years served in the Florida House of Representatives so she knows about all the toxic “Lost Summers,” and the troublesome “brown tide” that affects her area.(https://www.floridatoday.com/story/news/local/environment/lagoon/2018/03/02/again-killer-brown-algae-responsible-2016-mass-fish-deaths-blooming/381630002/)
When you click on her name you will also see she serves on the Environment and Natural Resources Committee and the Appropriations Committee. Senator Mayfield is very well versed in water issues not only because she is our Indian River lagoon neighbor, but because as she was an ally of former Senate President Joe Negron in 2018.

Mayfield: https://www.flsenate.gov/Senators/S17

Now, take the time now to click on these links below and see if you happen to know any of the other senators serving on either the Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Environment, and General Government or the Natural Resources Committee or anything else relevant, perhaps Tourism where water really belongs. Take note of these senators. Do you know anyone who may know them? A friend across the state?

Environment and Natural Resources Committee and the Appropriations Committee: https://www.flsenate.gov/Committees/Show/AEG

Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Environment, and General Government : https://www.flsenate.gov/Committees/Show/EN

Now for one more water senator. He who holds the purse strings!  Appropriations Chair, Senator Rob Bradley, another Negron ally from last year. Senator Bradley represents Marion County, a region where there are many nutrient pollution/flow/algae Springs issues and concerns about development and over aquifer withdrawal.(https://www.ocala.com/news/20180114/study-finds-nitrates-not-only-problem-affecting-springs) Bradley is no stranger to water!

Click on his link and see what other committees he is on as well.

Senator Bradley: https://www.flsenate.gov/Senators/S5

Today I am going to stop here.

There are other important positions, but these two featured Senators that have a track record. These are two you can reach out to now, along with your legislative delegation.

Yes! Start building relationships NOW.

If you can’ reach the legislator him or herself, call, write or go to their office and build a relationship with their staff. Like any relationship this takes time, effort, finesse, and multiple visits. Ask for a meeting just to talk about what is important to you as a citizen, no matter your political affiliation. All Florida politicians represent all Floridians.

Here are some tips about Effective Communication and a visual from last year to refresh our memories about how an idea becomes a law.

Advocate for water now! Once legislative session begins, it’s too late!

https://www.flsenate.gov/About/EffectiveCommunication and also a visual about how an idea becomes a law.

Toxic algae under the Evans Crary Bridge, St Lucie River, Sewall’s Point 2016

How About a Toll Bridge to Raise Money for the Indian River Lagoon?

The Jensen Bridge was completed in 1927. (Photographer unknown, photo courtesy of Bob Washam.)
The Jensen Bridge was completed in 1927. (Photographer unknown, photo courtesy of Bob Washam.)

The idea of a toll bridge over the Indian River Lagoon is not a new one as there were toll bridges in Jensen and Stuart in Martin County’s early days.

Toll Tickets for the Jensen Bridge. Courtesy Bob Washam.
Toll Tickets for the Jensen Bridge. Courtesy Bob Washam.
Cover of toll ticket packet for Jensen Bridge. Courtesy Bob Washam.
Cover of toll ticket packet for Jensen Bridge. Courtesy Bob Washam.

As my mother says in her Historic Jensen and Eden on Florida’s Indian River book:

“People fishing on both side os the Jensen Bridge made it necessary for automobiles to cross the narrow wooden bridge with extreme  caution.” 

Over time, we have had caution for people, but not for fish.

This morning the Tyler Treadway’s article in the Stuart News states there has been a catfish kill along the Indian River Lagoon Ft Pierce north; it is not yet reported to be in Martin County; in the 1920s no such virus or water quality issues prevailed and fishing was the sport of the day, some of the best in the nation, along the bridges, in the forks, in the St Lucie and Indian River Lagoon, along the clean and sparkling Atlantic Ocean…

Unidentified man with Goliath Grouper caught in area. Photo courtesy of Bob Washam.
Unidentified man with Goliath Grouper caught in Jensen area. Photo courtesy of Bob Washam.

Mrs Thurlow writes in her book:

The Jensen Bridge was instrumental in the development of Jensen with its numerous tourists camps. In the 1930s, the Pitchford, Gideon, and Wade camps sprang up at the western end of the bridge. Other camps, including the massive Ocean Breeze Park, soon followed. The Jensen Bridge was given so much publicity that it became a nationally famous fishing pier.”

"the Jensen Beach Bridge was advertised in the Martin County Chamber of Commerce Fishing Guide, published in 1935. (Courtesy of Robert McClinton Pitchford, Thurlow archives.)
“The Jensen Beach Bridge was advertised in the Martin County Chamber of Commerce Fishing Guide, published in 1935. (Courtesy of Robert McClinton Pitchford, Thurlow archives.)

Today the Indian River Lagoon is still famous for fishing, but also for its seagrass loss and declining fish stock. Yesterday, my father gave me an issue of Florida Sport Fishing, the lead article was entitled “Gator County, Florida ‘s Famed East Coast Lagoon System May No Longer Be the State’s Premier Destination for Giant Trout,” by Jerry McBride.

The beginning of the article reads:

“Two miles of previously lush green vegetation dotted with sandy potholes and carved by narrow channels–once home to monster gator trout–has been reduced to a single acre of sparse seagrass, I fished the entire stretch in less than an hour and paddled home… The estuary’s south end is losing its 80 plus year battle against polluted discharges from Lake Okeechobee, while the rest of the 156 miles long waterways faces an even more insidious adversary—a multi-source nutrient-fueled brown algae scourge that virtually overnight reduced 43,000 acres of rich seagrass habitat to a sandy desert…”

Most of this seagrass loss may have happened north of us, but it is here too. Also, the lagoon is one waterway, whether it is Lake Okeechobee and local canal releases here in Martin County,  or brown tide in the central and north lagoon, we are all affected.

Usually on Friday I try to post something positive and happy.

I have been wanting to share friend Bob Washam’s Jensen Bridge photos,  today was the day.  Nonetheless, I could not ignore the slow and now pronounced losses to our Indian River Lagoon, especially in light of Mr Treaway’s article this morning.

If the tin-can tourist who hardly had a nickel in their packs could be raised from their graves to see what has happened to the Indian River Lagoon,  I am certain they would say:

“You may have more money, but you sure lost a piece of Heaven…and which would you rather have?”

One good thing is that nature is programmed to heal itself, may we have the strength to continue to fight for some semblance of the “good old days,” and should we need to exact a toll on our bridges to start an IRL Fund, I’ll vote “yes.”

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Courtesy SCRIPPS NEWSPAPERS/PUBLIC ANNOUNCEMENT

Stuart News announcement 10/10/14:

Catfish die-off hits lagoon
By Tyler Treadway

tyler.treadway@TCPalm.com 772-221-4219

Thousands of dead hardhead catfish are floating in the Indian River Lagoon from Palm Bay to Fort Pierce.

Because only one species is affected and all the dead fish are juveniles mostly from 4 to 12 inches long, a local marine biologist believes the cause is a specific virus rather than poor water quality in the lagoon.

Weve had die-offs like this in the lagoon before, where only sea cats and nothing else was dying,said Grant Gilmore, lead scientist of Estuarine, Coastal and Ocean Science in Vero Beach.

The cause was a viral infection back then, so I would assume its the same this time. Kelly Richmond, a spokeswoman at the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission laboratory in St. Petersburg, said the agencys hotline has received 16 reports of dead catfish beginning Monday.

Staffers collected three live catfish and water samples from the lagoon for analysis.

Results should be available early next week, Richmond said, and the agency wont guess at a cause until then.

Paul Fafeita, a Vero Beach fishing guide, said he saw dead catfish Wednesday morning in the lagoon from the Barber Bridge in Vero Beach to the North Causeway bridge at Fort Pierce.

Im talking hundreds, if not thousands of dead fish,Fafeita said.­They werent sporadic, one here and one there. They were steady, up and down the lagoon. Mike Peppe, a Sebastian fishing guide, reported seeing dead catfish Wednesday in the lagoon from Wabasso to the Sebastian Inlet.

They were everywhere,Peppe said.There had to be thousands. Look down and youd see a bunch of white things in the waterthe catsbellies.

DEP’s “2014 Indian River Lagoon System Management Plan” for the Once Outstanding Waters of Our Aquatic Preserves

Cover of NOAA/DEP Indian river Lagoon System Management Plan, 2014.
Cover of NOAA/DEP “Draft”Indian River Lagoon System Management Plan, 2014.

My husband came home from the airport yesterday, I was on the couch in the living room reading.  “Have you had a good afternoon?” He asked.

“Awesome,” I replied. “I have been reading the most wonderful document  that contains all of  the important information about  the entire Indian River Lagoon.” I energetically held up my gigantic copy of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and NOAA- Indian River Lagoon, Draft Report for 2014.  (http://www.dep.state.fl.us/coastal/sites/indianriver/plan.htm)

Ed smiled and looked at me like he usually looks at me in such instances. “That’s great,” he ironically replied, “government publications are my favorite too, how exciting…”

I am not always enamored with government publications, but I am with this one, especially as it is not finalized yet and the agencies are taking comment from the public.

What I like best about the document is that is deals with the entire lagoon, not just one section, including the lagoon’s  four aquatic preserves: 1. Banana River; 2. Malabar to Vero Beach; 3. Vero Beach to Ft Pierce; and 4. Jensen Beach (really just south of the City of Ft Pierce) to Jupiter Inlet.

Locations of the IRL's four aquatic preserves
Locations of the IRL’s four aquatic preserves

According to the document, “each of the four aquatic preserves comprising the IRL System was classified by the state of Florida as OFWs or “Outstanding Florida Waters, “in 1979 (Rule 62-3-2.700 (9) F.A.C.

I was 15 years old at that time. I remember those waters and how they shaped and enriched my life growing up here in Stuart. To think that these “Outstanding Florida Waters,” are now “impaired” makes me sad and makes me angry.

It has been coming for years, but in 2011 through 2013 the lagoon system really “crashed” with the “super-bloom” and brown tides in the central and northern lagoon, killing more than 60% of the area’s seagrass and leading to two federally designated “Unusual Mortality Events” of the endangered manatee, and the protected bottle nosed dolphin.

And also in 2013 the months long toxic algae outbreak in the southern lagoon… This occurred  due to blue-green “microcysis aeruginoas” algae water released by the ACOE from Lake Okeechobee, into the St Lucie River/IRL system. The SLR/IRL system was already over stressed from discharges coming from local canals C-44; C-23; C-24 and C-25…the lake Okeechobee water was the nail in the coffin so to speak.

I think there is a disconnect here. Aren’t these waters protected?

According to the publication, the mission statement of the Florida Coastal Office/Department of Environmental Protection is the following:

1. protect  and enhance the ecological integrity of the aquatic preserves;

2. restore areas to the natural condition;

3. encourage sustainable use and foster active stewardship by engaging local communities in the protection of aquatic preserves; and

4. improve management effectiveness through a process based on sound science, consistent evaluation, and continual reassessment.

I will refrain from bashing of the Department of Environmental Protection as I do not think our fair state’s leadership over the past hundred and fifty plus years has helped them attain their mission. How do you “direct” an agency to protect something and then simultaneously promote over drainage of natural systems,  channelizing, overdevelopment along the lands of these once “outstanding waters,” and allow water districts to over-grant permits for aquifer withdrawal for more agriculture and development?

Another irony I have to add here is that these once “outstanding waters” are what helped bring  people to our  locations and supported their high real estate values. That is changing as some people are now leaving. Last year, in the Town of Sewall’s Point, although the real estate market  improved overall in the county, our property values only increased 0.13%. As a “desirable” water front community with some of the highest property values in the county, this came as a surprise and is certainly directly linked to the “lost summer” and toxic waters of 2013.

The state of Florida needs to “wake up.” The Town of Sewall’s Point is a microcosm for the rest of the state. So what can we do to help? Speak up! 

Please if you have time and interest, check out Indian River Lagoon System Management Plan, Draft Report 2014 below. Even if you don’t read it all, which is almost impossible, keep it as an electronic resource,  and MAKE A COMMENT to the DEP. Even if it is just one that you appreciate that they are reevaluating their management plan and how much the IRL means to you.

It is only through the continued pressure of a caring public that the Indian River Lagoon will be resurrected and its “living waters” will run through our cities again.

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*Copy of Draft IRL System Management Plan,DEP/NOAA, 2014, and list of public meetings that can be attended to make public comment on the document. (http://www.dep.state.fl.us/coastal/sites/indianriver/plan.htm)

* The IRL is managed also by the South Florida Water Management District and the St Johns River Water Management District.

Seagrass loss and the Indian River Lagoon

Seagrasses' poor quality is apparent at shoreline near Jensen Beach.
Seagrasses’ poor quality is apparent at shoreline near Jensen Beach. (Photo JTL)

Seagrass is really the lifeblood of the Indian River Lagoon. For the most part it no longer exist in the St Lucie River. Seagrass is the where fish are born, hide and eat before they get big enough to move into the oceans or open waters of the lagoon.

Holistically the lagoon is in big trouble. In 2010 and 2011 a super bloom of algae never seen in the lagoon before started in the northern area in Volusia County and Brevard counties. By the time it ran its course 87% of the sea grasses in the Banana River had disappeared.

In 2012 further south into Indian River County and parts of northern St Lucie, a secondary bloom, a brown tide, had moved south killing approximately 44% of the sea grasses in these areas.

St John’s Water Management District: (http://www.sjrwmd.com/itsyourlagoon/)

Closer to home, the sea grasses in the southern lagoon have been repeatedly ruined by the fresh water releases from Lake Okeechobee and C-23 and C-24 during high rains.

Ft Pierce remains the healthiest area, however;  the recent marina improvements and consistent talk of a port threaten that area.

Hundreds of manatees, dolphins and pelicans have died recently from what the agencies call a “mystery.” There is no mystery, we are killing the lifeblood of our fisheries and corresponding food chain.

It’s up to us to reverse this trend, and we finally seem to getting it. Fertilizer, septic tanks, agricultural and residential runoff must be improved and shoreline destruction corrected.

There is a better future if we make it happen.

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To learn more about seagrasses, Harbor Branch’s symposiums have documented IRL Seagrass loss for the past three  years. See topics here. (www.indianriverlagoon.org))