Tag Archives: CFWI

Reflections on Conservation, Preservation, and Education, St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon

Fork of the St Lucie River, 2007.
“Reflection.” North Fork of the St Lucie River, 2007.

My mother tells me that when I was a baby she nursed me in Muir Woods, California. My father was in the United States  Air Force, and the family was living in the area at the time. It was 1964. She has joked, my entire life, that this perhaps is the reason I have always been so adamant about protecting the environment and its creatures.

John Muir was part of America’s early conservation movement. He wrote a collection of stories for “Century Magazine” entitled “Studies in the Sierra.” In 1892 Muir joined the magazine’s editor in creating the Sierra Club, an organization with the mission to protect America’s resources and public parks.

There were others who are also famous in the “conservation movement” of that era such as President Theodore Roosevelt. He is most famous for the establishment of many National Parks; Pelican Island, along the Indian River Lagoon in Sebastian,  established in 1903, was actually our nation’s first “national wildlife refuge.” (http://firstrefuge.org)

President Roosevelt said: “The conservation of natural resources is the fundamental problem. Unless we solve that problem, it will avail us little to solve all others.”

As the conservation movement moved forward it is said to have split into two modes of thought. The first was to conserve resources for the future and for their use by humans and the second was more to preserve nature for wilderness preservation.

In any case, the foundation of America’s “conservation” movement was established during  this period from approximately 1850 thorough 1920. This movement was bubbling up in Florida as well.

In 1900 Louis F. Dommerich and his wife Clara hosted a gathering of neighbors in Maitland, Florida, just north of Orlando. On this fateful night the group decided to align themselves with other chapters the existing Audubon Society forming Florida Audubon.

In 1900, not only was Florida’s bird population being decimated, by the plume trade and the rage for feathers on ladies hats, the southern part of the state, almost entirely wetland,  was being drained for agriculture and development.

Great egret in the IRL. Photo by John Whiticar, 2014.
Great egret in the IRL. Photo by John Whiticar, 2014.

This drainage focused around Lake Okeechobee and the Kissimmee River cutting off waters to the Everglades which for thousands of years had formed one of the world’s most important and productive wet lands for birds, fish and hundreds of other species. We, living along the St Lucie River and Indian River Lagoon, are part of this story.

–You reading this today as people who care about the conservation of our area are the grandchildren of that those 15 people who met in Maitland Florida in 1900…

1850s map of Florida
1850s map of Florida

And for conservationists today, water issues are at the top of this list. Although Florida seems to be full of water, it is not. It is along side with California and other western states in its struggle to conserve and preserve water and its life.

South Florida's southern Everglades, 1950 vs. 2003. (Map courtesy of SFWMD.)
South Florida’s southern Everglades, 1950 vs. 2003. (Map courtesy of SFWMD.)

1.7 billion gallons of water is wasted on average to tide each day through the canals draining Lake Okeechobee and the Kissimmee River. With only 3% of the water on the planet being “fresh” and an exponentially growing population, this is wasteful beyond comprehension.  Right now, just south of Orlando, the Central Florida Water Initiative, a conglomeration of three state water districts, is organizing because this area of the state has maximized its water use. They need more.

This is no knee jerk reaction and wise water use is completely linked to the success or failure of Florida’s future.  Unless we can learn to conserve, preserve and perhaps most important, educate the children of the future there will not be enough clean water for people and for the wildlife that has a right to these resources as well.

River Kidz teaches about water issues in the state of Florida. (Julia Kelly artist, 2013)
River Kidz teaches about water issues in the state of Florida. (Julia Kelly artist, 2013)

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Conservation in Florida, FWC : (http://www.myfwc.com/Conservation/)

Florida Audubon: (http://fl.audubon.org)

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

Florida Oceanographic: (http://www.floridaocean.org/p/233/advocacy-environment#.VSfHAKbRwl8) These presentation links refer to the 1.7 billion gallons of wasted water through canals and are excellent resources.

Central Florida Water Initiative, Running Out of Water, What Could This Mean to the SLR/IRL?

The Central Florida Water Initiative is an area of Florida that "does not have enough water." Could they use ours?
The Central Florida Water Initiative is an area of Florida around Orlando that “does not have enough water.” Could they use ours?

We keep hearing: “Water is the new oil.”

This is hard to believe when one lives in Martin County and watches the destruction from too much fresh water into the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon from canals C-23, C-24, C-25, C-44 and releases from Lake Okeechobee. According to the Florida Oceanographic Society, 1.7 billion gallons of fresh water per day is sent/wasted to the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico through the St Lucie, Caloosahatchee and other South Florida canals.

Well, there is one area of our state, not too far away, that is running out of water. Today, these counties are part of what is called the “Central Florida Water Initiative,” CFWI. They include:  Seminole, Orange, Osceola, Lake, Polk, Brevard and Volusia.

I must divert for a moment because this is really something as this area holds the “headwaters of the Everglades.”

“Shingle Creek,” in Orlando’s Orange County, is generally considered to be the northernmost headwaters of the Everglades’ watershed. This is an area you probably drive right past upon a visit to Disney World. It was named after the cypress trees that were used to make roof shingles in the pioneer era and beyond.

In the 1960s and 70s, after the cypress trees were cut for the shingle industry, Shingle Creek and the other surrounding streams and lakes’ water-levels were “brought down” in order to allow more development.  One of the ways this was achieved was through the Army Corp of Engineers’ canalization of the once long, serpentine, Kissimmee River. Canalization of the Kissimmee not only helped lower the lakes so they could drain, but also created lands along the now straight canal  for ranch and real estate development.

Today, as we know, all that now dirty, unfiltered, water shoots down the Kissimmee into Lake Okeechobee and then is redirected to the St Lucie and Caloosahatchee so the sugar and vegetable farmers south of the lake have “dry feet,” as well… Thankfully, parts of the Kissimmee have been restored and society recognizes the canalization of the Kissimmee River as an environmental disaster. Our disaster.

Nonetheless, there is no way to completely undo what we have done, so now south of Lake Okeechobee and north of Lake Okeechobee often does not have enough water, while the Northern Estuaries sometimes HAVE TOO MUCH.

Where am I going with all this?

So fast forward, it is now 2014, and as I mentioned the “headwaters of the Everglades” and the counties surrounding it are literally “running ” out of water.

This is why the Central Florida Water Initiative, mentioned at the beginning of this write up, was formed.

An excellent article entitled “Central Florida Water Initiative,  “A Regional Response to Avoid a Pending Crisis” written by attorneys  Michael Minton, Laura Minton, and John Wharton, of Dean Mead for the Florida Engineering Society succinctly explains the history, goals, and future for the CFWI. I would like to share some of this article.

The article notes how from 2007-20012, the St Johns, South Florida, and Southwest Florida water management districts undertook an assessment of available groundwater for the seven counties listed at the beginning of this blog, noting insufficient quantities for the area’s projected growth— projected to be 6.6 million by approximately 2050. This would include an addition of  3,000,000  people to the population today.

Thus over time and through much coordination and work the CFWI was born.

After deep explanations, the article explains that the CFWI’s conclusions  and recommendation include the following concepts: water is undervalued; continued use of just groundwater sources would cause unacceptable environmental impacts to the Floridan aquifer; the importance of conservation; the importance of alternative water sources, its expense and the coordinated regional effort that would be required to achieve such for the future.

The CFWI is obviously a complex effort thus I will not attempt to go into too great of detail. If you are interested, you can read more about it here:

(http://cfwiwater.com); (http://floridaswater.com/watersupply/CFWIinitiative.html ); (http://cfwiwater.com/pdfs/CFWI_RWSP_FinalDraft_Vol1.pdf)

What I must mention is that on  the final page of the Dean Mead article something very interesting is stated:

“The Solutions Planning Team’s (STP) report is scheduled to be made public in Fall 2014. Once the findings of the SPT are approved by the Steering Committee, it is anticipated that the findings will be made available to the Central Florida Legislative Delegation. The collection of uniquely talented individuals who have volunteered their time and effort to serve on the committee has yielded many novel and creative concepts. Some of the creative opportunities look beyond the CFWI’s geographic boundaries and contemplate transmission of surface water from regions with excess water supply, to the detriment of their environment, to Central Florida to supplement the existing supply. These creative and innovative options are the type of out of the box thinking that long-term solution Florida’s water strategy and policy will require…”

I wonder and I hope they are talking about “us…”

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The Article, Central Florida Water Initiative,  A Regional Response to Avoid a Pending Crisis by Dean Mead, was published in the JOURNAL of the Florida Engineering Society, to access this article you must be a member: (http://www.fleng.org/pubs.cfm)