Tag Archives: C-25

Sunrise, Sunset–St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon

Sunrise along the Indian River Lagoon, by John Whiticar, 2015.
Sunrise along the Indian River Lagoon. Photograph by John Whiticar, 2015.

“Sunrise, sunset, sunrise, sunset,
Swiftly fly the years,
One season following another,
Laden with happiness and tears…”

1st verse, of song from musical “Fiddler on the Roof,” 1964


The beautiful sunset and sunrise photos of our area’s photographers invoke a deep appreciation of our St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon, as well as the struggles and successes of our lives.

Sunsets and sunrises seems intrinsically linked to inspiration and reflection in all of us.

Thankfully, here in the Indian River Lagoon region, we can still see our sunrises and sunsets, although the health of our river, and thus our ability to enjoy the river, is  “impaired.”  This was scientifically determined by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) in 2000. (http://www.dep.state.fl.us/southeast/ecosum/ecosums/SLE_Impairment_Narrative_ver_3.7.pdf)

In Beijing, China, last year, the government erected a televised screen showing sunsets, as the people could not see their sunsets any longer— due to the tremendous smog in their city. What a price to pay for economic “success.”

China starts "televising" the sunrise in Beijing, 2014. (Source earth journal.com.)
China starts “televising” the sunset in Beijing, as the city is continually blanketed in smog,  2014. (Source earthfirstjournal.org.)

Oddly enough, on some level, we have experienced the same thing. On a level of world comparison, we have a “thriving economy;” however, somehow, over the past 100 years, we have “lost our river.” Yet in most of the adds one sees, the river still looks beautiful and healthy.

Right now, the Army Corp of Engineers (ACOE) is discharging water from Lake Okeechobee, while  the South Florida Water Management District canals C-44, C-24, C-23, and C-25 are also dumping polluted water into our estuary. All of this extra water has been “engineered” to come here so agriculture and development can thrive. Us included…

Sunset, St Lucie River, 2014. Todd Thurlow.
Sunset, St Lucie River, 2014. Todd Thurlow.

So, right now there is “no other way,” and the ACOE and South Florida Water Management District are locked in a cycle of struggle to send more water south when the entire southern area south of Lake Okeechobee is blocked by the Everglades Agricultural Area— other than a few canals, to “send water south.” Plus the water is too dirty for the Everglades—but not for the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon that is already “impaired.”

The “mighty” Kissimmee too has been “engineered for the success of farming and ranches and development in its  former watershed. It is being partially restored by the SFWMD;  this is wonderful, a testament of the ability of the system to recover if given a chance….

And after all, it’s not so bad here right? We can still see the sun…..AGGGGG!

Let’s continue to turn this ship; let’s continue to fix our own yards, towns, cities, and counties;  let’s keep pushing the State for a reservoir/flow way to store, clean and convey water south. As Eric Eichenberg, CEO of the Everglades Foundation said yesterday at the Rivers Coalition meeting, this is the “only way” as the Kissimmee River’s continued restoration is simply not enough to hold all the water.

“Sunrise, sunset….sunrise, sunset….”we are thankful and we are inspired….

Please write: Florida Senate Email for use of Amendment 1 monies: (http://www.flsenate.gov/media/topics/wlc)


Sunrise, Indian River Drive, 1-21-15, John Whiticar.)
Sunrise, Indian River Drive, 1-21-15, John Whiticar.)
Sunrise Indian River Drive, 1-21-15,  John Whiticar.
Sunrise Indian River Drive, 1-21-15, John Whiticar.
Sunset, St Lucie River, Todd Thurlow, 2014.
Sunset, St Lucie River, Todd Thurlow, 2014.



The River Kidz’ Second Edition Workbooks are Here, Our Mission’s Quite Clear! SLR/IRL

River Kidz' Second Edition Workbook, presented by Marty the Manatee is here!
1.River Kidz’ Second Edition Workbook, 2015, presented by Marty the Manatee, is here!

River Kidz is a division of the Rivers Coalition: (http://riverscoalition.org)

2-2-15: ELECTRONIC COPY via TC Palm: http://shar.es/1oqnzM


The first verse of the River Kidz’ Song, written by River Mom, Nicole Mader, and the River Kidz goes:

“The River Kidz are here; Our mission’s quite clear; We love our river and ALL its critters; Let’s hold it all dear…”

The rest of this wonderful song can be found on page 36 of the new workbook below.

After over a year of creative preparation, and community collaboration, the River Kidz’ 2nd Edition Workbook is here!

After long contemplation this morning, I decided to share the entire booklet in my blog; but as WordPress, does not accept PDF files, I have photographed the entire 39 pages! So, not all pages are perfectly readable, but you can get the idea.

The really cool thing about this workbook is that it was written “by kids for kids,” (Jensen Beach High School students for elementary students). The high school students named the main character of the book after Marty Baum, our Indian Riverkeeper.  The students had met Mr Baum in their classroom (of Mrs Crystal Lucas) along with other presenters and field trip guides like the Army Corp of Engineers, South Florida Water Management District, and politicians speaking on the subject…

The books will be going into all second grade public school classrooms and many private school classrooms beginning in February of 2015. Teacher training  will be underway this February at the Environmental Studies Center in Jensen: (https://www.facebook.com/escmc?rf=132947903444315)

River Kidz will make the booklet available to everyone. Some will be given away, and some will be used to raise money at five dollars a booklet. To purchase the booklets, please contact Olivia Sala, administrative assistant for the Rivers Coalition at olivia@riverscoalition.org —-Numbers are limited.

In closing, enjoy the workbook and thank you to Martin County, Superintendent, Laurie J. Gaylord for encouraging the workbook and for her  beautiful  letter in the front of the booklet. Thank you to Martin County School Science Leader, Valerie Gaylord; teacher, Mrs Crystal Lucas; Mom, Mrs Nicole Mader; Sewall’s Point artist, Ms Julia Kelly; Southeastern Printing’s Bluewater Editions’ manager and River Dad, Jason Leonard; to River Kidz founders Evie Flaugh and Naia Mader, now 14/13; years old–they were 10 and 9 when this started,—- to the Knoph Foundation, and the Garden Club of Stuart, and to the hundreds of kids, parents, students, businesses, politicians, state and federal agencies, and especially to Southeastern Printing and the Mader Family who made this concept a reality through education, participation. (Please see page 34 below.)

Thank you to all those who donated money for the workbook campaign and to River Kidz over the years, and to the Stuart News, for Eve Samples’ column, and reporter, Tyler Treadway, for including the River Kidz in their “12 Days of Christmas” for two years in a row.  River Kidz is grateful to everyone has helped…this is a community effort!

River Kidz is now in St Lucie County and across the coast in Lee County….

Remember, all kids are “River Kidz,” even you!

—-The workbook is in loving memory of JBHS student, Kyle Conrad.



Understanding the Water Conservation Areas, St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon

This image shows the Everglades' three water conservation areas (WCAs) just under the storm water treatment areas (STAs) south of the EAA. (Image courtesy of (http://sofia.usgs.gov/virtual_tour/controlling/wca.html
In red, this image shows the Everglades’ three water conservation areas (WCAs) just south of the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA.) (Image courtesy of (http://sofia.usgs.gov/virtual_tour/controlling/wca.html)

Yesterday, reviewing Everglades/IRL history, we learned about Storm Water Treatment Areas (STAs) that clean Lake Okeechobee water going to the Everglades; today we will take a look at their “older brother and sisters” the Water Conservation Areas ( WCAs),changed but remaining parts of the Everglades, that deliver water to Everglades National Park, and are protected as part of the Everglades themselves…

The Water Conservation Areas, the three large red images in the photo at the beginning of this blog post, comprise 900,000 acres. For reference, the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA) is 700,000 acres. As we learned yesterday, the STAs were built in 1994; the WCAs are were  developed/created in 1948.

According to United States Geological Survey, (USGA,) the WCAs were developed as part of the (1948) Central and Southern Florida (C&SF) Project.

To me, this is ironic, as I consider the C&SF the nail in the coffin for Central and South Florida. (http://www.evergladesplan.org/about/restudy_csf_devel.aspx)

It followed tremendous flooding  in 1947, and inspired the widening and deepening of the C-44, (St Lucie) C-43, (Caloosahatchee) canals, the building of C-23, C-24, C-25 in Martin and St Lucie Counties, as well as many, many, other projects around and south of Lake Okeechobee. The Army Corp of Engineers did what they were charged to by the state and the US Congress, and as usual they did it “too well,” over draining the state with the continued destruction of the northern estuaries.  On top of that, today we waste on average 1.7 billion gallons of valuable water to tide every day. (Florida Oceanographic Society, Mark Perry.)

So anyway, the WCAs were also “created”during this time; they on the other hand are a good thing…

According to the USGA web site:

They were designed for use as storage to prevent flooding, to irrigate agriculture and recharge well fields and as input for agricultural and urban runoff. 

They are also recharged by rain, but leeves were built around the WCAs so water flows into them and then slowly streams into Everglades National Park by the hand of man, not Nature…

The USGA also states that:

Historic flow of water and the quality of water through the WCAs have been greatly reduced. These conditions have resulted in decreased wading bird populations due to shortened hydroperiods, invasion of the native environments by exotic plants and fish, and conversions of sawgrass communities to cattail/sawgrass mixes.

Recently, Martin County’s Dr Gary Goforth (http://garygoforth.net), formerly of the SFWMD, and one of the primary creators of the STAs, has been revealing publicly at River Coalition meetings and SFWMD meetings  that although more STAs have been built since 1994 to bring and clean water into the WCA/Everglades, less water is actually getting there!

2014 was the first year in ten years that a substantial amount of water (over 250,000 Acre Feet) was sent south. (See chart below.) This is odd isn’t it? And until last year, most of that water was EAA water used to water their crops, not “overflow” Lake Okeechobee water.

Dr Goforth's chart showing amount of Lake O. water sent south to the STAs from 1995-2014.
Dr Goforth’s chart showing amount of Lake O. water sent south to the STAs from 1995-2014.

I believe it was the public outcry that inspired the ACOE and SFWMD to send more water south last year through the STAs and WCAs.. .The problem lies with the SFWMD and ACOE mostly because in 1994, by law, phosphorus was limited into Everglades National Park. This is understandable, but adds to our St Lucie/Indian River Lagoon continued destruction.

Even with all of the STAs and the WCAs nature cannot take up all of the man-made phosphorus and nitrogen from farming and development. So what can we do?

We must return more of the EAA land to nature or at least “man-made” nature…we must purchase the option lands….

Option Lands Map SFWMD River of Grass, Option 1 is 46,800 acres and shown in brown. (SFWMD map, 2010)
Option Lands Map SFWMD River of Grass, Option 1 is 46,800 acres and shown in brown. (SFWMD map, 2010)


USGA: (http://sofia.usgs.gov/virtual_tour/controlling/wca.html)

STAs: (http://jacquithurlowlippisch.com/2015/01/20/learning-about-storm-water-treatment-areas-st-lucie-riverindian-river-lagoon/)

Purchasing option lands:




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!



Artist Julia Kelly and the Second Edition River Kidz’ Workbooks, St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon

Artist Julia Kelly's beautiful artwork will be featured in the River Kidz Second Edition Workbook. Her work was also featured in the first edition. (Photo 2014.)
Local artist, Julia Kelly’s vibrant artwork will be featured in the River Kidz second edition workbook. Her work was also featured in the first edition in 2013. (Julia Kelly, Photo, 2014.)

In 2013, the first edition of the River Kidz workbook was produced with help from Mary Anne Conrad, teacher at Jensen Beach Elementary, Nic Mader, River Mom and Dolphin Ecology Project, Julia Kelly, artist, (http://juliakellyart.com), input from the “Kidz,” and me, Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch.

The workbooks were a great success and shared in many of the Martin and St Lucie County elementary and middle school classrooms.

Cover of River Kidz, "Paradise is Home"  workbook, first edition. Artwork by Julia Kelly, 2013.
Cover of River Kidz, “Paradise is Home” workbook, first edition. Artwork by Julia Kelly, 2013.

(In case you have not seen the first edition,  electronic copies are available  at (http://riverscoalition.org) at the bottom of the page.)

Now, in 2014-2015, a second edition will be released. Exciting! But what’s the difference and why so soon?

Well, long story short, one of the projects that master-teacher Crystal Lucas did with her Jensen Beach High School (JBHS) Marine Biology II Class last year, during the LOST SUMMER, was a “rework” of the first edition workbooks. The idea was to have the older kids teaching the younger kids. A collaborative effort and from their perspective.

River Kidz was started by two fifth grade girls in the Town of Sewall’s Point in 2011, Evie Flaugh and Naia Mader. The power of the movement is that it comes from kids. The overseeing adults of River Kidz wanted to keep that theme going, but to bring it to a new level.

The JBHS students were in a position to do this because with Crystal’s leadership they had had extensive studies of the Everglades, St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon in reference to discharges from Lake Okeechobee and the local canals, C-23; C-24 and C-25.  This education involved attending the Everglades Coalition Conference, studies with the Everglades Foundation, air boat rides in Lake Okeechobee with legends Nat Reed and Maggie Hurchalla/SFWMD, classroom visits by the Army Corp of Engineers’ Lt. Col. Thomas Greco, Marty Baum, the Indian Riverkeeper and many local and state elected officials including myself.

The students even won first place in the Keep Martin Beautiful Environmental Stewardship Awards  for their work on water issues!

Concerning the rewrite of the workbook’s first edition, the JBHS students decided first and foremost that there needed to be a mascot and a story.  They determined the mascot should be named , “Marty the Manatee,” and yes, this was inspired by none other than Mr Marty Baum! (http://www.indianriverkeeper.org)

So artist Julia Kelly was task to come up with a character and she did, even though she refused to put a mustache on Marty as the students requested because she felt “we needed to be wary of anthropomorphizing the animals.” The steering committee agreed, and Marty was born! 🙂

"Marty the Manatee" by artist Julia Kelly, 2014.
“Marty the Manatee” by artist Julia Kelly, 2014.

Through the JBHS students’ eyes, Marty tells the story of his ancestors’ former home in all its glory with the mythical Pond Apple Swamp at the southern rim of Lake Okeechobee, clean rivers, and a life with animal friends throughout the northern and southern Everglades.  He then goes into today’s struggle with overdevelopment, agriculture, sugar and agribusiness south of the lake, polluted water discharges, redirection of  water into the St Lucie/IRL and Calooshatchee from Lake Okeechobee, and other drainage canals, loss of seagrass, algae blooms and friend “die-offs.”  He gives ideas for a better, cleaner world and a happier future. There is hope! And that hope lies in the River Kidz, the future….

Marty the Manatee with all of his river friends. Julia Kelly, 2014.
Marty the Manatee with all of his river friends. Julia Kelly, 2014.
Apple Pond Forest.
Apple Pond Forest.

The workbooks will be a beautiful collaboration of student and artistic ideas that are sure to inspire generations to come. The goal is to have a fundraiser-grand-release party in November at Blue Water Editions, a division of Southeastern Printing, the invaluable local company that  will be printing the workbooks.

The workbooks are a collaboration, and River Kidz is a division of the Rivers Coalition. The steering committee consist of Nichole Mader, Crystal Lucas, Valerie Gaynor, Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch and Blue Water’s Jason Leonard.

Donations are welcome!

Bumperstickers promoting the workbook are available at Blue Water Editions, located at 4665 Se Dixie Highway, Port Salerno. (http://www.bluewatereditions.com)

More information will be forthcoming. But for now, enjoy the artwork and remember ALL KIDZ (and ADULTZ)  are River Kidz!

Our mission is to “speak out, get involved, and raise awareness, because we believe kids should have a voice in the future of our rivers!”

Marty eating, swimming and thinking…
Marty the wonderful and friendly manatee!
Marty with friends and family discussing wounds from boat hits, polluted water, and lack of seagrass…teaching the kids how to build a better world for him and the kids through creating a better water environment.



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.


*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.

The Contributions of “The History Lady,” Sandra Henderson Thurlow, St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon

Sandra Henderson Thurlow, historian and author has written four books about the pioneer culture along the St Lucie River/IndianRiver Lagoon.(Photo, Tom Thurlow, 2010)
Sandra Henderson Thurlow, historian and author, has written four books about the pioneer culture along the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon. (Photo, Tom Thurlow, 2011.)

As the jacket of her Sewall’s Point Book states:

“Sandra Thurlow was a resident of Sewall’s Point for twelve years before she became fascinated by its history. In 1986, the Town of Sewall’s Point commissioners ordered the demolition of  a lovely old home that stood on a bluff overlooking the St Lucie River. Queries revealed that it was once the High Point Rod and Gun Club, a wildness retreat for a coterie of politically powerful Philadelphians. Further research uncovered a wealth of local history that needed to the shared and preserved. ”

As you may already know or have guessed, Sandra is my mother and the house was one the children of Sewall’s Point played in and got into trouble having lots of fun….And yesterday, we as a family honored Sandra’s  75th birthday and today she will be featured in my blog. 🙂

Even though she is my mother, it is my opinion that no one has done more for “Stuart’s” local history and  no one has written more about the pioneer families who made their way along this wilderness, once known as “Santa Lucia” or the “Indian River Region.”

When I came back to visit Sewall’s Point and Stuart after graduating from University of Florida in 1986, I could tell things had really changed at the Thurlow house. My sister Jenny was getting ready to go off to school, I had been gone four years and our bedrooms were being transformed into offices. –Offices  full of shelves and drawers of historic negatives, old maps from my father’s law office, abstracts,  camera equipment, historic photos, taped interviews and the beginnings of what would become personal computers.

“Wow, ” I thought,  “that’s cool, she and dad certainly will not suffer from empty nest syndrome when Todd leaves in another two years….”

As the years went on, she and my father, dove into the history of our area, and the history of our area is the history of the St Lucie River and Indian River Lagoon. A teacher by early profession and native of Gainesville, by 2008, my mother, with the help of my dad, had written and published four books: Sewall’s Point, the History of a Peninsular Community on Florida’s Treasure Coast; Stuart on the St Lucie; Historic Jensen and Eden on Florida’s Indian River; and together with my sister-in-law Deanna, Gilbert’s Bar House of Refuge, Home of History.

Book covers of the local history books written by Sandra Henderson Thurlow.
Book covers of the local history books written by Sandra Henderson Thurlow.

IMG_7423 IMG_7417


My mother taught me not to brag. But today I am bragging. It’s time. She has inspired and educated not only me but thousands of people. She has given talks, presented slide shows, worked with students in our local high schools, and has won state awards for her work.

I think she has helped make Martin County one of the “best documented histories” of our state. And through it all, whether she is writing about Captain Richards and his daughter Lucy of Eden struggling to grow pineapples in the sandy soil along the Indian River; or the first pioneers of Stuart trading with the Seminoles and calling their new-found paradise, “Stuart on the St Lucie;” or the early fish houses pouring over in Jensen Beach; or the shark fishermen in Salerno; or the lonely House of Refuge Keepers longing for the site of a ship or boat in river or ocean and who sustained themselves from the great riches of its waters; and even the documentation of the great detriment  that came to this place through the false hope of canals and connection to Lake Okeechobee, she writes about the relationship of people to the land and the relationship of people to the water.  The water is our history and we are the water, as that is why we came to this land….

Thank you mom for all of your work and happy birthday! Stuart is 100,  you are 75 and I, your oldest, am 50. Time is flying, and  the water that defines this place is still defining it as we fight to bring it back to health so that future generations can have some stories and write some books too.

75 birthday SHT
Sandra’s books are available at Stuart Heritage, 161 Flagler Avenue, Stuart, FL 34994 in Downtown Stuart.(http://www.stuartheritagemuseum.com) and through Amazon and Barnes and Nobel.

Martin County, the “Epicenter” of Florida’s Governor Campaign, St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon

Cover of "Let's Keep Florida Beautiful," The environmental plan, Gov. Rick Scott, 2014.
Cover of “Let’s Keep Florida Beautiful,” the environmental reelection plan for Gov. Rick Scott, 2014. Many Florida springs have stopped flowing and are choked with algae. The SPRINGS ETERNAL PROJECT explains the plight of Florida’s ailing springs:  (http://springseternalproject.org) They, like our SLR/IRL, are dying.

Yesterday, I stumbled out of bed by 5:00 A.M to write my blog and make it to Palm City for the Collaborative Chamber Breakfast starting  at 7:30 A.M. I had to get up as Governor Rick Scott’s kick off campaign tour to publicize his “Let’s Keep Florida Beautiful Plan,” was kicking off,  in of all places, Martin County, Florida. I wanted to hear what he had to say.

Scripps reporter, Isadora Rangel,  implies this morning in our Stuart News that Martin County was chosen as the kick off location because “it is the epicenter of grassroots efforts to clean the estuary.”

Reporter Isadora Rangel interviews Congressman, Patrick Murphy who attended the breakfast.
Reporter Isadora Rangel interviews Democrat, Congressman, Patrick Murphy who attended the breakfast. (Photo JTL)

There were about 200 people at Martin Downs County Club and both Democrats and Republicans and were present. The Lagoon goes beyond political boundaries. But politics abounds…

I greeted everyone from Democrat Maggie Hurchalla, to Republican Senator Joe Negron, and found my seat.  I introduced myself to the people at my table. I looked around the room to see a veritable “who’s who.”

Hmmm? I thought.

In spite of the politics. This is pretty cool. Martin County has been chosen to kick off the governor’s reelection campaign. Why?

Because we are the most vocal little county in the state! Because 5000 people protested last summer at the height  of the SLR/IRL toxic algae outbreak and releases from Lake Okeechobee. Our voices were heard. We practiced our right to assemble under our constitution. We are fighting still as last weekend’s 1500 plus at the Clean Water Rally showed.  We have made a name for ourselves. Some of our politicians helped us, yes. But WE did it. We have called attention the dying St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon, the canals and Lake Okeechobee and maybe now there will be help.

As I was daydreaming about how great Martin County’s River Movement is, the governor walked to the front of the room and took the microphone.

He was very well dressed and looked more comfortable than usual. He greeted the crowd and then told the story of his life:

Born in Illinois, single mom, did not know his father, step dad, poor, Eagle Scout, Navy, University of Missouri, Law-Southern Methodist, no money, worked since a kid, rose to success, went to church a lot as his mother said he would….no money…family….made money….the importance of jobs…

I sat there thinking that if the governor had a really good P.R. person they would have written a book on the “Eagle Scout” part….and not concentrated so much on the business….

So anyway, his assistants walked around the room and passed out a booklet with a photo of a spring on the front reading “Rick Scott, Let’s Keep Florida Beautiful.”

“Hmmmm? I thought. This is different. A pretty picture of a Florida spring and Rick Scott’s name on it.”

I opened up the booklet and right on the first page it read: DURING MY SECOND TERM I WILL: 1. Ensure that Everglades and Indian River Lagoon Restoration continue to have the vision and funding to provide a restored ecosystem to our children…”

“Remarkable” I thought. After the “Indian River Lagoon” having “no name” in Tallahassee for years, it is now listed in the first sentence of a governor’s reelection booklet. Will it happen? Time will tell. At least we are recognized.

One thing is for sure. Martin County is not just the epicenter for the Indian River Lagoon, it is the epicenter of water change for the whole state. No place has a reputation like we have. The governor choosing Marin County to start his campaign supports this point. Like him or not, that’s cool.

I have included photos I took of the booklet below. Some are blurry but it will give you an idea of what it says.

Politics are as toxic as the waters of the SLR/IRL. And we, little Marin County, have risen to the top of the fermenting algae heap. Be proud and keep fighting for the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon! 

Booklet passed out  at yesterday's kick off re-election campaign for Rick Scott.

Booklet passed out at yesterday’s kick off re-election campaign for Rick Scott.

IMG_7334 IMG_7335 IMG_7336 IMG_7337 IMG_7338 IMG_7339 IMG_7340

Martin Memorial Health Systems Joins the River Movement, St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon


Robert Lord spoke at the rally on behalf of  Martin Memorial Hospital. (Photo Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch.)
Robert Lord spoke at the rally on behalf of Martin Memorial Health Systems.  (Photo Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch, 2014.)

Video of Rob Lord speaking from the rally: (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ImG8-gAI_9Q&feature=youtu.be)

Yesterday’s August 3rd, “2nd Annual March Against the Lake Okeechobee Discharges,” was remarkable. One year later, after the toxic releases from Lake Okeechobee, and the putrid discharges from our local canals,  the grass-roots momentum has not stopped and is expanding with respectable allies.

Some 1500 people, artists, news agencies, and many politicians (in office or running to be) came with political signs, costumes and with children in tow. They sat in the baking sun and dead air, under one lone oak tree if they could fit,  to listen to almost two hours of “educational speakers” and then to march to the locks. I was inspired.

Most jaw dropping for me, was to see the conservative and well spoken Senior Vice President, Chief Operating Officer and Chief Legal Officer,  Robert Lord, (http://www.martinhealth.org/executives) for Martin Memorial Health Systems, climb the stairs and pledge the institution’s support for our St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon and publicly note the institution’s concern for the SLR/IRL’s related health issues.

“Wow.” I thought. “Now this is a turning point. They can’t call us tree huggers anymore…”

I did not write down what Mr Lord said, but I stood there at his feet basically and watched him. I have known the family for my whole life. His father was a famous Country Western singer/later developer Bobby Lord, and I went to school with Cabot, Rob’s younger brother. Rob noted that he is “sixth generation,” and that his family grew up in the area, and that he, as a child,  enjoyed our area and these waters. They were wonderful days. He noted his dear family friend Jo Neeson, a river supporter and organizer of the event, and all the fun they had growing up here.  He then said something to this effect:

Robert Lord, MHS, 2014.
Robert Lord, MHS, 2014.

I am here today to speak on behalf of Martin Memorial Health Systems. We are concerned…We cannot prove that the many health issues- that have taken place- happened because of contact with river water but we can state that all of these people  had contact with the water during the discharges….we are concerned. We  are concerned for the health of the people and for the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon. For Martin Memorial, I am here today to say we support the movement for the river… 

With such support and honest revelation, how can our state and local agencies such as the Army Corp of Engineers, the South Florida Water Management District, the Department of Environmental Protection and the State Department of Health ignore our cries?

They can’t.  The hiding is over. The years of allowing destruction of our most precious resource, water, is done. The “cat is out of the bag,” “Pandora’s box is open.” Let’s keep talking and keep pushing and give our children  a place to fish, swim, boat and see the magic of a dolphin break the waves…

Thank you Martin Memorial Health Systems and the other who will be coming along as well….

Yesterday’s speakers:
– Sierra Club
– Rivers Coalition
– Stonecrab Alliance
– Florida Oceanographic Society
– Indian Riverkeeper
– Maggy Hurchalla
– Fly & Light Tackle Angler
– River Kid
– Treasured Lands Foundation (Land and Legacy, Amendment 1)
– Miccosukees tribe & Love the Everglades Movement
-Jonathan Flick- Pro Surfer
-Brent Mienhold – Pro Surfer
-Jordan Schwartz – Ohana Surf shop owner
– River Kidz
– Save the Manatee
– West Coast Resident
Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of Martin Memorial Hospital Services

83 Years of Asking the State and Federal Governments to “Close the Gates,” St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon

South Florida Developer headline 1931, "Locks in Canal Closed; Fishing to be Benefited. (Newspaper courtesy of historian Sandra Thurlow.)
South Florida Developer headline 1931, “Locks in Canal Closed; Fishing to be Benefited. (Newspaper courtesy of historian Sandra Thurlow.)
Written minutes from a Martin County Commission meeting in 1931 asking  the ACOE to close the locks and  the importance to its citizens.  (Photo Martin County archives.)
Written minutes from a Martin County Commission meeting in 1931 asking the state to close the locks, mentioning  destruction to the river, and the importance to fishing industry. (Photo Martin County archives.)

The St Lucie Canal connecting Lake Okeechobee to the St Lucie River was constructed at the request of the state of Florida, the US Federal Government, and the local Martin County Chamber of Commerce, by the Army Corp of Engineers from 1915-1928. As this antique newspaper article of the Florida Developer above shows, by 1931 the Martin County Commission was already asking the state of Florida to close the gates and reporting clear evidence of the destruction of the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon.

I must thank my mother, historian Sandra Thurlow, for sharing this information and the photos in this post. She transcribed the 1931 article from the Florida Developer, a Stuart paper of the era. It reads:

South Florida Developer, November 6,


Job of Checking Water Movement Was Completed Saturday TO KILL HYACINTHS; Fishermen Look For Decidedly Good Fishing the Winter

The east locks of the St Lucie Canal were closed Saturday, after being open nearly two years. In that time the level of Lake Okeechobee has been reduced from 18 to 14 feet. 

The work of closing the locks began Friday morning under  the direction of engineers for the Okeechobee Flood Control District. When they finished the job Saturday night, water continued to pour over the dam about as fast as before, in spite of the fact that the level of the canal had been raised 7 feet. 

This morning the crew went to the west end of the St Lucie Canal to close the locks there and thus check the flow of water from the Lake. 

The closing of these locks is regarded as highly important to the people of Stuart and adjacent communities, primarily because  as long as they remain open, the ingress of water from the Lake made the St. Lucie River fresh, driving out the salt water fish and bringing in hyacinths. With the water cut off from the Lake, it is expected that the St Lucie River will again become salt and this should bring back the fish and kill the hyacinths. Fisherman say it will take about 30 days for the effects of the is change in water to be felt, but they are exultant that this change had come about in time to promote good fishing in local waters.  

The minutes from the Martin County Commission meeting in 1931 also shown above are a bit harsher. The minutes state:

Be it resolved that the Board of County Commissioners herby instruct the Clerk to write the Trustee of the Internal Improvement Fund petitioning that they closed the gates at the Lake end of the St Lucie Canal until April 15, 1931, for the reason that the constant  discharge of a large volume of dirty fresh water into the St Lucie River has killed all the shell-fish, driven out salt water fish from the river, filled the river with hyacinth and polluted the St Lucie River as to completely take away its attractive features and ruin its commercial value to our community.

According to local Everglades SLR/IRL expert, Dr Gary Goforth,  (http://garygoforth.net/resume.htm), 1931 was the first year the amount of water released from Lake Okeechobee in to the St Lucie River was documented. Although there is no documentation of the releases that occurred prior to 1931, in 1931 it is documented that 1,414,414 acre feet of water was released from the lake into the river. This is over three times as much as was released into the SLR from Lake Okeechobee in 2013, (419,951 acre feet.)

The historic photos below document and show local people taking the water hyacinth issue into their own hands.

Downtown Stuart in 1931 showing over abundance of water hyacinth in SLR.
Downtown Stuart in 1931 showing over abundance of water hyacinth in SLR.(Thurlow collection.)
South Fork of the St Lucie River, hyacinth removal,     Rod and Gun Club-effort to solve problem with herbicide and dynamite, 1949.( Thurlow collection.)
South Fork of the St Lucie River, hyacinth removal, Rod and Gun Club-effort to solve problem with herbicide and dynamite, 1949.( Thurlow collection.)
SLR filled with hyacinth, near Treasure Island. (Thurlow collection.)
SLR filled with hyacinth, near Treasure Island. (Thurlow collection.)

On August 3rd at 10AM the people of Martin and St Lucie counties, on behalf of their government, will ask one more time for the state to close the gates from Lake Okeechobee to the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon.

As we have seen this summer, we have enough problems with our own local runoff that has been expanded since 1931 to include the building of C-23, C-24 and C-25 as well as  the widening and deepening of C-44 for its enlarged “local” runoff. Things must change, we have known this for a very long time. Finally there are enough of us to make a difference.

Hope to see you at the rally and may the state and federal government know that we will never stop asking, some would say demanding, that the ACOE, through the federal government  and the state of Florida “close the gates!” 

river rally 2014 


Finding Out How Much Discharge is Killing Our SLR/Indian River Lagoon and Where it’s Coming From

C-44, C-23 and C-24 basin runoff discolor the waters of the SLR/IRL while exiting the St Lucie Inlet 7-19-14. (Aerial photo, Ed Lippisch.)
C-44, C-23 and C-24 basin runoff discolors the waters of the SLR/IRL while exiting the St Lucie Inlet 7-19-14. (Aerial photo, Ed Lippisch.)
All Photos were taken 7-19-14 and are showing C-44 basin runoff along with C-23 and C-24 runoff into SLR/IRL. (Photos by Ed Lippisch.)
All Photos were taken 7-19-14 and are showing C-44 basin runoff along with C-23 and C-24 runoff off. Pictured are Sewall’s Point and Sailfish Point  along the SLR/IRL. Water exits at the St Lucie Inlet going mostly south to Jupiter Island over nearshore reefs. The plume is significant but not as large as the summer of 2013 when the ACOE was releasing from Lake Okeechobee as well. (Photos by Ed Lippisch.)

The river looks awful right now as the photographs taken Saturday, 7-19-14, by my husband show. Why? They are not even discharging from Lake Okeechobee…yet.

We have terrible problems with our local canals and adding the Lake discharges on top of it is a crime. The state, federal and local governments are working slowly to improve the situation through CERP (Central Everglades Restoration Project) projects but improvement is very expensive and cumbersome.(http://www.evergladesplan.org/pm/projects/proj_07_irl_south.aspx)


The C-44 Storm Water Treatment Area/Reservoir the governments are working on now will cost millions of dollars and store only some of the discharges from the C-44 we are getting today. But there must be more. We must learn more. We must keep pushing and helping our governments move along.

The best way to do this is to know how to read the information on water discharges yourself.

Last summer, when the discharges from Lake Okeechobee threw our already ailing river into toxic status, Boyd Gunsalus, one of the the leading scientists (and certainly coolest) at the South Florida Water Management District, showed me how to find the water discharge statistics, and  today, in case you do not know, and are interested, I am going to show you.


This link (http://w3.saj.usace.army.mil/h2o/reports.htm) of the ACOE at Lake O. will show you the level of the lake, and whether the ACOE is releasing from the C-44 canal, and or Lake O.

Go to the site above and on the right hand side you will see, St Lucie Lock, S-80 Spillway. Click on it. A chart will come up arranged by dates. (The data is always one day behind.) Look for FLOWS CFS (cubic foot per second) in the 3rd column. Today’s is 260 cfs. : 20JUL14  14.46  0.58  260 0. 00  270  0.0 7 30.07  1018. 2 0.00

Now go back to the same link and look at, Port Mayaca Lock, S-308 Spillway. Click on it. Again look for 3rd column, FLOWS CFS.. Today reads “0.” The gates from the lake to C-44 are not open. 20JUL14  13.55  14.40  0 0.00  270 0.0  9 30.04  1017.3  0.33  0.00

Now if both S-80 and S-308 are open you have to add the numbers together to know how much total cfs are coming into the SLR/IRL. And to figure out how much water is coming in just from the lake, subtract the S-308 number from the S-80 number which will always be larger.

To learn how high Lake O. is go back to the link, go to the chart and hit CURRENT LAKE OKEECHOBEE LEVEL. Today it is 13.66 feet. “Current Lake level is: 13.66 (ft-ngvd)”


OK, now for C-23, C-24 and C-25.

Now, go to this link, the SFWMD’s web site: (http://www.sfwmd.gov/portal/page/portal/sfwmdmain/home%20page) 1. Look for the tab “Managing and Protecting Water;” look under and to the left of this tab for a small title reading “Scietists and Engineers,” click on this and go to LIVE DATA. 3. Go to the top link “Water Conditions-Regional Realtime Data, Status of Water/ Control Gates.” 4. Go to FT PIERCE and click right on the Ft Pierce link. A confusing chart will come up.

Look for these things:

1. S-49. S-49 is the opening for C-24.

2. S-97. S-97 is the opening/gate for C-23

3. S-99. S-99 is the gate for C-25.

Mind you C-23 and C-24 run into the St Lucie River’s north fork and main area and C-25 dumps directly in the IRL at Taylor Creek close to the Ft Pierce Inlet. So C-25 is not coming through the SLR and St Lucie Inlet like the rest of the sludge but it is important to know C-25 too as it is heavily destructive to the IRL.

OK, if you have been able to follow me so far. Once you open the SFWMD pages and get to FT PIERCE and see the weird chart, find the corresponding gate numbers I gave you above, and click on the the second row’s PLOT little box and arrow. Once this opens up, you will see a chart corresponding to discharges that looks like a wave or like boxes. The hight of the box or wave corresponds to a number on the left side of the chart. For instance: Today, S-49 (or C-24) is 450 cfs; S-97 (or C-23 ) is around 350cfs; and S-99 (or C-25) is around 100 cfs.

(I know there are a duplicate gates sometimes but I ignore them and  just read  one. They seem to say the same thing.)

Now to add up the cfs for “today:”  C-23=350; C-24=450; C-44 at S-80 =260; S-308 from lake, 0. Today’s total incoming discharge water is around 1060 cfs cubic feet per second coming into the St Lucie River/Southern Indian River Lagoon.

Last week it was twice or three times this much. The discharges occur after it rains, long after and then finally slow down like they are now.

I do hope this has been helpful and that your head is not spinning or that you can save the links and instructions and try it when you have time. Call me if you have questions and want to learn, 772 486 3818.

It is important for the public to keep up with this and let the ACOE and SFWMD know we are watching what they are doing, so one day I don’t have to choke when I see the tab “Managing and “PROTECTING” water.


C-25 Canal/Taylor Creek Impacts the “Best of the Best” of Our Indian River Lagoon


Aerial photo of C-25 canal carrying what DEP and SFWMD district note as "nutrients and agriculture chemicals to the Indian River Lagoon." (Photo Ed Lippisch, July 10, 2014.)
Aerial photo of C-25 canal depositing what DEP and SFWMD note in their Eco-Summary literature as “nutrients and agriculture chemicals into the Indian River Lagoon.” (Photo Ed Lippisch, July 10, 2014.)

Ed and I returned from California on July 9th and within 24 hours he was up in his plane and took these photos of C-25’s Taylor Creek outlet in Ft Pierce releasing excessive rain water runoff into the Indian River Lagoon. Still recovering from the three hour time difference, I gladly stayed home!

C-25 runoff into IRL. (Photo Ed Lippisch 7-10-14.)
C-25 runoff into IRL. (Photo Ed Lippisch 7-10-14.)

The C-25’s  canal outfall, although not connected to Lake Okeechobee, is one of the most dramatic and heartbreaking sites of our Indian River Lagoon’s destruction as it releases very close to the Ft Pierce Inlet so the difference in the water color is extreme. C-23, C-24, and C-44 releasing into the St Lucie River are probably quite similar, however, because the St Lucie River is dark in color and not close to an inlet to the ocean–the brown on brown water does not give the same effect as C-25’s brown on blue.

C-25 canal in Ft Pierce. (Photo Ed Lippisch 7-10-14.)
C-25 canal in Ft Pierce. (Photo Ed Lippisch 7-10-14.)

During last year’s heavy releases from Lake Okeechobee by the ACOE, my husband Ed and I flew up to Ft Pierce and flew the entire length of the C-25 canal which attaches  to the C-24 canal, which in turn attaches to the C-23 canal. The water can be”made” to go in any direction by the South Florida Water Management District for agriculture purposes or otherwise. So water from C-23 or C-24 could theoretically be moved into C-25 and visa versa.

So anyway, Ed and I were taking a video for Dr Edie Widder of ORCA who is studying the water issues of the area. The ride was so bumpy and windy I became very sick which is not unusual for me in airplanes.

“Ed can you turn around?” I think I am going to puke.” I muffled through the microphone.

“Sorry babe, we’re in for the long haul with this wind; we should just  follow the canal in this direction and ride it out….”

At that point my jacket  in the back storage area flew out of the Cub and I envisioned it going over Ed’s face and us crashing, but it did not, and instead floated to the ground below. I held my stomach wondering what the person or cow who saw the jacket fall to the ground thought, hoping it did not land on someone’s windshield.

That trip, along the C-25, C-24 and C-23 back to Stuart was the worst ride of my life and I got sick many times while looking over mostly acres of orange fields and other agriculture. I saw some cows and then development as we got closer to the coast.  I really just remember that is was acres and acres of land.

In the wind, the trip took over an hour from Ft Pierce, inland, south, and then back to  the east coast of Stuart. The map below shows how the canals are connected and you can see the path we took–like a giant tall open rectangle.

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

There is great literature on the C-25 and from what I have read the state agencies have been aware of the destruction caused by the canal for many years.

The ECO SUMMARY written by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection 1998, unfortunately, mostly still applies today, as the Indian River South Plan, has not come into being yet. The Indian River South Plan is a component of the Central Everglades Restoration Plan or CERP, that was approved by Congress around 2000. This plan would and hopefully will, one day, acquire lands, to hold water so it doesn’t just run untreated into the lagoon.

C-23, C-24 and C-44 are part of this IRL Plan as well, and as we know we have been fortunate this year and in recent past years to have been appropriated partial monies by our US Congress, the state of Florida and Martin County to build the C-44 Storm Water Treatment and Reservoir system–they are building it now.

But back to the C-25 the Eco-Summary. This link  below interestingly states:

“The C-25 Canal was created as past of the Central and Southern Florida Flood Control Project (1950/60s) and discharges into the Indian River Lagoon…The section of the lagoon currently impacted by discharges from C-25 comprises one of  the best remaining segments of the lagoon, namely the area just north of Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution to the Ft Pierce Inlet…Thus C-25 potentially impacts the best of the best.”

“C-25 delivers a greater volume of water and thus a great net pollutant load that the other major upper east coast drainage canals C-23, C-24, and C-44. ( A surprise to me.) C-25 has been shown to transport pesticides, polyaromatic hydrocarbons, and heavy metals into the estuary as well as offshore…”

DEP: (http://www.dep.state.fl.us/southeast/ecosum/ecosums/c-25.pdf)

As you would expect, the C-25 is an “impaired” water body and was determined as such by the Department of Environmental Protection in 2003. Yet the IRL, from Vero to Ft Pierce Inlet, has been designated by the state as  a protected Aquatic Preserve since 1975.  

Did I just write that?

An impaired canal full of heavy pollutants has been running into an Aquatic Preserve?

 Yes, I just wrote that. This is the truth. 

This to me is even more heartbreaking than the photo. To know  “we” have known the situation since the 1970s really and have not fixed the issue is a crime. We are all guilty as it is we that direct the course of our government.

So please don’t forget:

“The power of the government is derived from the consent of the governed….”Let’s keep pushing our elected officials and be prepared ourselves to do what it takes to fix this mess! 

Thank you for reading my blog and for caring about our rivers.


Department of State/Impairment C-25 Canal: (http://www.dep.state.fl.us/southeast/ecosum/ecosums/C-25_Impairment.pdf)

IRL Aquatic Preserve Vero to Ft Pierce: (http://www.liveoakproductiongroup.com/AquaticPreserve/indian_river_south.html) 

Aquatic Preserves DEP (http://www.dep.state.fl.us/coastal/programs/aquatic.htm)

SFWMD: Indian River Lagoon South Project/CERP: (http://www.sfwmd.gov/portal/page/portal/common/pdf/irl_south_042804.pdf)

C-44 Basin Runoff 2014, Another Summer of Dirty Water For Our Indian River Lagoon, Why?

Aerial of the confluence of the SLR/IRL off of Sewall's Point, July 27th, 2014. (Photo courtesy of Scott Kuhns.)
Aerial of the confluence of the SLR/IRL off of Sewall’s Point, June 27th, 2014. (Photo courtesy of Scott Kuhns.)

If there is one thing constant about the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon’s problems, it is that they are multi-layered and complex. I believe this is one reason it has been so hard to “fix.” If there were just one problem, it would be easier, but there is not one problem, there are many.

So, today I wanted to focus  on C-44 basin runoff, again, as it has been in the news a lot, especially the two weeks since I was gone as I heard it really rained and we even got our first named hurricane.

The photo above shows the waters just off of the tip of Sewall’s Point on June 27th, 2014. Disgusting.

Basin map Martin/St Lucie SLR.
Basin map Martin/St Lucie SLR.

The basin map above reminds us of the C-44 basin’s location  in southern Martin County. The “basin” is the large area surrounding the C-44 canal in black lines.  As we know, this area is largely agricultural and was expanded over the years to drain more land than nature intended.

Through permits with the South Florida Water Management District the agricultural businesses are allowed to use water from the C-44 canal for irrigation when needed, especially during the “dry” season. The Army Corps of Engineers manages the level of the canal mostly for agricultural use; this is an historic relationship. In spite of “best management practices” much of the water used to irrigate their fields, runs back into the canal, over and over again, filled with fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, etc…This is the untreated, polluted water that goes straight into our rivers.

As we can see looking at the canal map, over the years, the C-44 basin has become tremendous in size in order to drain land for agriculture and development.  Millions of gallons of water come off these lands when it rains, as has been the case the past couple of weeks.

This recent photo below by local river activist and fishing guide, Michael Conner, shows what the C-44 basin water looks like when it comes out of the S-80 gates at St Lucie Locks and Dam, the same gates that are used when water is released from Lake Okeechobee when the ACOE opens S-308 at the lake. This can be confusing because usually we associate this type of photo with releases from Lake Okeechobee. S-80 can release just C-44 canal water or “just lake water,” or both lake and C-44 water…

S-80 releases water from S-80 into the C-44 canal at St Lucie Locks and Dam, July 2014. (Photo  courtesy of Michael Connor.)
Releases from S-80 from the C-44 canal at St Lucie Locks and Dam, July 2014. (Photo courtesy of Michael Connor.)

So why haven’t we talked  about the C-44 basin until this summer, or seen or very much about it in the newspaper “before?”

Well, it is confusing to the lay person, and I don’t claim to know everything, but I will explain what I can.

Generally, in the past,  the ACOE did not usually release the C-44 into the river during the summer…but this summer they are. Why?

Well according the the “Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the 2008 Lake Okeechobee Regulation Schedule (LORS),” the document the ACOE uses to manage Lake Okeechobee:

“All alternatives assume back flow from the St Lucie Canal, C-44, to Lake Okeechobee to be allowed to occur at lake stages of 14.50 ft or 0.25 from the bottom of the the lowest non-baseflow regulatory zone, whichever is lower.”

Basically this means that under most circumstances if the lake is under 14.5 feet,  which it is now, (13.38), the ACOE will “back flow” C-44 canal runoff water into the lake through S-308, rather than sending it east to the SLR/IRL through S-80. This summer the ACOE  has chosen not to do this, so we are getting C-44 basin water released into the SLR/IRL so the water looks gross. In the ACOE’s July 11th, 2014, public periodic scientist call email statement, explaining their choices, it reads:

“The Water Control Plan deliberately allow some flexibility to consider real time and forecasted conditions and decisions made within the guidance provided by the Water Control Plan…for the specific decision not to flow water from the C-44 basin into Lake Okechobee since 12 June 2014, the conditions that we took into consideration were rising lake levels, water supply, remaining duration of the wet season and proximity to the low sub band….the 8 July report from the South Florida Water Management District evaluates the condition of St Lucie Estuary and states “salinity at US1 is within the preferred range for oysters in the mid estuary.”

Photo of  SLR/IRL off Sewall's Point yesterday, 7-15-14. (Thank you Ed Lippisch)
Photo of SLR/IRL off Sewall’s Point yesterday, 7-15-14. (Thank you Ed Lippisch)

Hmmm? Obviously the SFWMD’s salinity report was not that of Mark Perry’s at Florida Oceanographic…Let’s read and take a look.

Mark Perry feels the ACOE should be back flowing the C-44 water into the lake. He says:

“According to the Water Control Plan for the Lake the Corps should be opening S-308 and back flowing this local basin runoff into the lake when the lake is below 14 feet and the C-44 is above 14.5 feet but they have chosen to make steady releases from the C-44 basin through S-80 into the St Lucie at near 1000 cfs since June 14. Not so good outlook for the St Lucie Oysters…”

Please view his chart below that shows what has happened to salinity levels since the C-44 has been flowing into the SLR/IRL. (Mind you C-23, and C-24 are also dumping their basin runoff water, but C-44’s basin area is larger.)

Salinity is going below safe levels for oysters since the C-44 has been opened.
Salinity is going below safe levels for oysters since the C-44 basin at S-80 has been opened.

On the other hand, friend of Mark Perry, Kevin Henderson, long time advocate for the SLR/IRL and founding member of the St Lucie River Initiative, feels the ACOE is perhaps trying a strategy that will help the St Lucie in the “future.” Kevin states:

“I firmly disagree that the Corps should always run C-44 drainage west until the Lake reaches 14.5. That is the pattern that gets us the most continuous lake and C-44  drainage into the fall, and the the patten that kills oysters…It is not basin runoff that kills the estuary, it’s months of continuous discharges at rates that never let salinity recover. This is why I advocate sending C-44 drainage west only when local salinity could recover for a while, then send it east again and do not let Lake O get high enough to wreck us with longer term discharges…”

I think he’s saying, the ACOE, by not consistantly filling the lake up with C-44 basin water during summer, may be avoiding long term runoff into the SRL/ILR in the future come fall…


Both Mark and Kevin have a point.

My non-scientific perspective?

I think the ACOE was so taken aback by the wrath of the general public last year, the River Warriors, the River Kidz, the River Movement, the Stuart News/media, as well as some politicians, that they will do “almost anything” not to release water from Lake Okeechobee into the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon if they don’t have to.

By letting the C-44 basin water go into the river and not the lake, if a hurricane comes, there is just that much more room in the lake to hold the water so they don’t have to dump here and listen to us scream….



ACOE Jacksonville/Lake O: (http://w3.saj.usace.army.mil/h2o/reports.htm)










“Stuart on the St Lucie,” Real Estate History and the Cluelessness of Developers Regarding the Health of the Indian River Lagoon

St Lucie Estates, On the Beautiful St Lucie River, Stuart Florida, 1926 booklet. (St Lucie Estates, Inc.)
St Lucie Estates, On the Beautiful St Lucie River, Stuart, Florida, 1926 booklet. (St Lucie Estates, Inc.)

In the 1960s, I grew up in St Lucie Estates, Stuart, Florida, the neighborhood just north and south of Kreugar Creek close to the St Lucie River, not too far from Downtown Stuart. Until I was ten, we lived at 109 Edgewood Drive. I loved that little brick house. I had full reign over the neighboring empty lots and could ride my bike on the “black road,” to get to a park, along  the river, next to the Granfield’s house. The kids of the neighborhood often met there, and we pretended the gigantic, falling Australian Pine was a ship and we made it into our fort. We traveled across oceans. We fought pirates. It was a wonderful childhood.

As a kid, I had no idea of the long running issues with the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon, the canals, and Lake Okeechobee. I just knew I loved the river. I loved that I could escape there. Even when I was in high school, living in Sewall’s Point, I’d steal away and sit under the bridges and “think” in the privacy of the river’s ancient calm.

Today, at half a century, I am still in love with the river, but I view it in a different light. A light of history and destruction. My heart aches because I really don’t know if it can make it against the odds. Now that I am older, I know its complete destruction has been coming for a long time, kind of like a cancer. I am miffed that since 1923, when the ACOE first connected the C-44 to the South Fork of the St Luice, that locals were not able to stop the “drainage machine,” as Ernie Lyons, previous editor of the Stuart News, called it. I am miffed also that the state and federal agencies would so blatantly kill an ecosystem.

When I look through my mother’s historical data and read the ads for selling land in Stuart in the early 1900s, it is ironic that they all incorporate the St Lucie River into their sell while they were killing her.

“Stuart on the St Lucie, 1907;” “St Luice Estates, On the Beautiful St Lucie River, 1926;” “Stuart, Atlantic Gateway to the Gulf of Mexico, ca. 1926.”

The are all bragging about draining the Everglades; they are bragging about the digging of the Okeechobee Waterway from Stuart to Ft Meyers thorough Lake Okeechobee; they are basing the draw of the Stuart area on its  location/proximity to the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon, and yet they seem to have no clue that by supporting the over draining and over dredging of everything, they have created the rivers’ own destruction!

All news adds and photos from Stuart on the St Lucie, by Sandra Henderson Thurlow, 2001)
All news ads and photos from Stuart on the St Lucie, by Sandra Henderson Thurlow, 2001)

IMG_5887 IMG_5882 IMG_5883;IMG_5877 IMG_5884

This is an excerpt from the St Lucie Estates sales booklet:

” St Lucie Estates is situated in one of the most gorgeous spots in Florida—the beautiful St Lucie River County…The St Lucie and the Indian River meet here to form one of the most wonderful bodies of water in the world—one hundred miles of navigable waterway,  edged with luxurious tropical foliage able white sandy beaches…”

“In the introduction to my mother’s book, Stuart on the St Lucie, she writes” Pioneer businessmen of Stuart…realized the St Lucie River was the town’s greatest asset. To foster awareness they of the town’s superior location, they used “Stuart on the St Lucie” in promotional literature, on signs and as newspaper headings. Time has not changed the fact that the St Lucie River is the best thing about Stuart.”

Promotional signs to "Stuart on the St Lucie"  along Dixie Highway from Jacksonville read as shown on list and stated, ca. 1919. (SHT)
Promotional signs to “Stuart on the St Lucie” along Dixie Highway from Jacksonville read as shown on list and stated, ca. 1919. (SHT).

The St Lucie is still the best thing about Stuart, and now we know better. The drainage of lands surrounding the St Lucie/IRL was too extensive. In order to make way for agriculture and real estate development.  The St Lucie River and Indian River Lagoon now take on more than twice what was originally drained into them. 

The excess fresh water and pollutants have all but killed the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon. This chart shows the original drainage in green and today’s drainage which has been added to the green area  in yellow. Lake Okeechobee’s  discharges, in pink, are often on top of this. It is too much.

The old adage says “history repeats itself.” Well, here in “Stuart on the St Lucie,” history cannot repeat itself anymore. We must create a new future.

Drainage changes to the SLR.
Drainage changes to the SLR 1900s to today.(Citizen’s Report to Congress, 1995)


The Irony of History, Drainage Districts to Saving Water, St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon

Canals C-23, C-24 and C-25 were built as part of the Central and South Florida Control Flood Control Project. The project started in the 1940; however these canals were built in the 50s and 60s.
Canals C-23, C-24 and C-25 in St Lucie County were built in the 50s and 60s and are all connected. C-23 and C-24 release into the north fork of the St Lucie River leading to the S. Indian River Lagoon, but C-25 releases straight into the southern central Indian River Lagoon near Taylor Creek, close to the Fort Pierce Inlet.  These canals were built as part of the Central and South Florida Project of the 1940s that came into existence after a very large flood of central and south Florida. (Photo, Jacqui Thurlow Lippisch, 2013)

One of the things that is hardest for me to comprehend is that my ancestors worked as hard, if not harder, to get the water off the land as I am, trying to keep in on…

According to an article shared by my mother, historian Sandra Thurlow, by Charles S. Miley a newspaper man in Ft Pierce, “prior to the 1920s floods were a common occurrence in the area particularly in the back-coutry.”

The article discusses how a demand for drainage  began to develop  among land owners  as the growing of pineapples was no longer profitable and the people turned to citrus. In 1915 citizens in the area of Ft Pierce “held court” forming the North St Lucie River Drainage District. The headline in the News Tribune paper of 1921 read: ” Drainage of 75,000 Ares of Rich Land Now Under Way.”

I can just see it, “Sam, I think it’s time to form a flood district and utilize our lands.” Go forward just shy of 100 years and the conversation is : “Joe, I think it’s time we get the Army Corp to stop dumping this lousy water into the St Lucie River, ruining my riverfront property values.”

The North St Lucie River Water Control District is still in place today and was created, as all drainage districts of its time,  under the provisions of Chapter 298, Florida Statutes, commonly referred to as the “General Drainage Law of Florida.” Today the NSLRWCD falls under the authority of the South Florida Water Management District that historically began really as the Central and South Florida Project, C&SFP.

In 1945 there was massive flooding throughout central and south Florida so the state and its residents called for federal assistance. Sound familiar? It may if you recall that the Hurricane of 1928 caused an even more extreme reaction and the Herbert Hoover Dike was built around Lake Okeechobee by the Army Corp of Engineers. Thus our federal partnerships today. The one that we complain about all the time…Ironic, isn’t it?

ft pierce drainage maap

The green area is the NSLRWCD’s boundaries; the orange are is the Fort Pierce Farms Drainage District,  since 1976 under the South Florida Water Management District.

So, I drifted a bit, but I was talking about the Central and South Florida Project. This large project was formed after the great flood of the 1940s and three huge canals  were built during the 50s and 60s as part of this plan: C-23, C-24 and C-25. I drove over them for years with my parents as a kid and had no idea what they really were, I never learned about them in school, and I was 40 years old before I decided I needed to figure them out…


Map of canals system, Matin/St Lucie Counties.

I have not even mentioned the C-44 also known as the “St Lucie Canal” that is further south. This canal drains the basin lands around  it as well as being a dumping ground for “overflow waters” of Lake Okeechobee.

The South Florida Water Management’s web site says that after C-23, and C-24 were built, the north fork of the St Lucie River drained lands approximately four times its natural drainage size! That is not even counting C-44 and Lake Okeechobee. Oh, and by the way in 1892  we opened the St Lucie Inlet  permanently too.

We are living a  world very different than Mother Nature created. From what I’m told she’s moody and a bit irritated. I think I’ll keep working on getting her some of her water back!


History SFWMD: (http://www.sfwmd.gov/portal/page/portal/xrepository/sfwmd_repository_pdf/nr_2009_0312_60anniversary_1949.pdf )

1988 SFWMD document documenting plans to hold water in the SRL/IRL area, this plan is still under way as part of CERP (Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan): (http://www.sfwmd.gov/portal/page/portal/pg_grp_tech_pubs/portlet_tech_pubs/dre-265.pdf) 

Sun Sentinel Story Flood of 1945, Florida: (http://articles.sun-sentinel.com/1990-09-09/features/9002130092_1_lake-okeechobee-water-hurricane)

ACOE, C&SFP History: (http://www.evergladesplan.org/about/restudy_csf_devel.aspx)

The River Warrior Plane

The little yellow cub-the River Warrior
The little yellow cub-the River Warrior

On any given day around Stuart, you may hear the buzz of the engine overhead, or see the unmistakeable bright yellow plane fly past; many know the plane as the “River Warrior.”

This plane  is one I never  thought I would fly in,  as I do not like to fly.  In fact, when up in personal aircraft, belonging to my my husband, I am usually saying the Lord’s Prayer and preparing for my death as he rolls his eyes at me. But last summer, the day came when I knew I did not have a choice, that fear had to take a back seat. I knew in an instant that I had to overcome my insecurities, for the benefit of the river.

Then from May, through October 2013 , Ed and I started going up every Saturday, rain or shine and taking photos of the destruction of the St Lucie River and Indian River Lagoon, due to the Lake Okeechobee releases  and C-23, C-24 and C-25 as well. These photos have been shared on Facebook, gone to many state agencies and politicians, have been shared with children in classrooms, and more.

Ed and his friend Scott Kuhns have also  photographed “The River Beach Protest,” “Hands Across the Lagoon,” “Blessing of the Fleet and River,” and other river events. If you would like your pro-river event photographed just  email jthurlow@me.com. Today, Ed and I  still go up after big rains or just for fun to spot migrating sharks, turtles, manatees, schools of fish, birds, and dolphins.

I do believe the photos of the river’s destruction, and the ones we will take in the future, made, and will make, a  huge difference, in educating, and showing the river’s health, destruction and importance in our lives.

I wouldn’t say I have overcome my fears, and every time we are up there, I  am praying that if something happens we live; but I am grateful  to the little yellow plane for giving me wings to see and to share.  Next time you see it from afar,  please wave and say to yourself, the little yellow “River Warrior….” and if you don’t mind, go ahead, just in case, and say a prayer for me…

Progress by 1970s Standards vs Today

St Lucie River Photos  display Local runoff from C-24, C-23, C-44 basin and Willoughby Creek in St Lucie and Martin Counties. All runoff flows to the St Lucie River/IRL (Photos by Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch and Ed Lippisch, 2-2-14) 

IMG_3404 IMG_3408 IMG_3417 IMG_3420 IMG_3423 IMG_3441 IMG_3455 IMG_3458 IMG_3460

Our beautiful St Lucie River on a gorgeous winter day,  a week or so after extremely heavy rains that flooded parts of Port Saint Lucie and Martin County. An eighty foot section of Indian River Drive collapsed. It rained  6-11 inches, I  have read. All that rain has to go somewhere since manmade canals don’t allow it to stay on the land as nature planned.

Viewing a map of Florida from the 1800s one sees that Port St Lucie and parts of western Martin County were in a swamp, Alpatiokee, that stretched from about the mid eastern inland coast of Lake Okeechobee to north of Ft Pierce.

Most of these wetlands, like the Everglades, were drained for agriculture and development in the 30s and 40s.  Most of us live on “these lands.” The C-23, C-24 and C-25 are not connected to Lake Okeechobee but they too destroy the St Lucie River and Indian River Lagoon. There is no turning back but there must be room for improvement.

When I was a kid growing up here in the early 1970s, I was never taught about the canals really. I remember driving in the family Pontiac “Catalina “around Ft Pierce and my mother would point out a rolling dry lands and say: “This all used to be  swampland; a layer of water  used to flow across these lands to the river during rainy season, but now they are drained.”  “What about all the animals?” I would ask. “Jacqui, it’s progress.” Mom then turned looking straight ahead and kept on driving.

It’s been 40 years since those days. I’ve  kept my mouth shut for a long time. But today I speak out.  For me it won’t be progress until we re-look at the destruction we have caused and really improve the situation. Mom, I love you, but times have changed and  progress is never progress if you are soiling your own nest.

Taylor Creek’s Ft Pierce Filth


The Indian River Lagoon is damaged by more than releases from Lake Okeechobee. After days of a hard rain, like today, February 1st 2014,  local canals not attached to the lake dump tremendous filth into our river as well. Right now, not during the summer “rainy season,” Canal-25 in Ft Pierce is dumping agricultural and residential runoff into a once beautiful Taylor Creek, that in turn, runs into the Indian River Lagoon. This is not just water staining from vegetation, it is fertilizers, pesticides, fungicides, sediments and other pollutants. Fortunately, the Ft Pierce Inlet is close by so this runoff goes into the ocean quickly, but of course this is not good for the ocean either. Please fight for source control and stricter laws in favor of our river. (Photo taken 2-1-14 by Ed Lippisch)

Ft Pierce Does Get Canal Releases at Taylor Creek

Black water is released into the ILR near Ft Pierce Inlet
Black water is released into the ILR near Ft Pierce Inlet

Along the Treasure Coast it seems “everyone” always thinks Ft Piece does not get any releases. It does. C-25 is one of three that lie in the northern Martin/St Lucie region that drain rain water and runoff from agricultural and some residential lands. This area is part of the IRL Project for CERP that was appropriated in 2007. At this point lands have been purchased for C-23 and C-24 but otherwise it s the same old  _______ running right into our beloved estuary. Disgusting.