Two years ago, in 2013, when the toxic waters of the St Lucie River/Southern Indian River Lagoon, stagnated under the baking sun of summer, and every man, woman, child, and dog was told by the Martin County Health Department, “not to touch the water,” there was a dream…
A dream that even the president of the United States of America would know that the polluted discharges by the ACOE and SFWMD from Lake Okeechobee “tip our rivers over the edge” turning them into a toxic soup, killing “protected” seagrasses, nearshore reefs, wildlife, property values, tourism, and every child’s summer. (A “lost summer” that may happen again with the government agencies discharging since January 16th, 2015.)
In 2013, the situation was so dire, that multiple schools along the Treasure Coast organized writing letters, by the hundreds, to the president of the United States, Barack Obama, asking him to help to SAVE OUR RIVERS.
Those letters and art work did get to the White House and were surely hedged-off by White House staff, who read the letters, but then neatly filed them away, sending a nice packet back to the students and teachers “thanking them for the drawings of their dying rivers.”
This is just reality and no fault of the president or staff—today we live in an evolved bureaucracy, a system that perpetuates itself, that holds one at bay, that protects power and influence, that stagnates—-just like the waters of Lake Okeechobee flowing into our St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon….
But bureaucracies can be penetrated; walls can come down; dreams can come true..
For that to happen, you have to push very, very hard, and someone with some influence has to help you break through, someone has to cut you a break, someone has to stand up, someone has to stick their neck out….a champion….a champion, like Patrick Murphy.
Kudos to Congressman Patrick Murphy, our Treasure Coast congressman soon to be running for US Senate, who must have had to make a decision “quickly and under pressure” as to what message he would bring President Barack Obama on the tarmac.
When the president arrived along the Treasure Coast for a weekend of golf at the famed “Floridian” this past Saturday, Congressman Murphy could have spoken about anything, but chose a message that had to do with everyone, a message that is neither “democrat” or “republican,” a message about the future….and today:
“the wish for clean water”….
Will President Obama go back to Washington and everything with our rivers will suddenly change?
Of course not.
But the president will know the name of the river he likes to play golf on, and he will know it has problems. He will talk to other people about his trip over a beer, and he will say:
“You know, that young Congressman, Murphy, he greeted me with a bottle of toxic water. Can you believe it? It surprised me. He spoke up for those people. I looked the St Lucie River up on the internet on the flight home…unbelievable…”
These words, and others spoken over time, will make great headway for our dreams of a better water future. History has been made.
The past few days I have overheard my husband and his friends’ grumblings about “how their weekend was “wrecked,” and how “now they are going to have to drive to Vero, and can’t fly….” Finally, I asked: “what’s going on?”
So my husband, Ed, gave me the public documents…
Apparently, this Saturday and Sunday, March 28-29, 2015, a “Temporary Flight Restriction” (TFR) will be in place over Palm City for security measures as a ” VIP” will be visiting Palm City.
“The FAA has issued a flight advisory to alert pilots of an upcoming presidential temporary flight restriction (TFR) over the Palm City, Florida, area on March 28 and 29,” the Aircraft Owner and Pilot Association (AOPA) advisory reads.
Basically, a TFR is two circles in the air, as shown above, an “airspace,” that under Title 49 of the United States Code, the US Government may pursue criminal charges if a pilot is illegally in that space, and in fact, the US Government may use deadly force against airborne aircraft, if that aircraft poses a threat….yes, like an F-16 can shoot you down…
Thus—“I think we’ll dive…..”
F-16s aside, how quaint, that possibly the President of the United States will once again be in our parts during releases from Lake Okeechobee into the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon.
Lake Okeechobee discharges were happening when he visited in 2013 as well. But that year it was even worse as the river was toxic and signs were posted from the Martin County Health Department stating DO NOT TOUCH THE WATER.
Ironically, the C-23 canal, another polluting canal like the C-44 that is not attached to Lake Okeechobee, boarders The Floridian, were I’d imagine President Obama may be playing golf….? And although the C-23 is not connected to Lake Okeechobee, its polluted agricultural and urban runoff is killing our St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon as well.
Now that I’m thinking about it, maybe President Obama is going to play golf with Congressman Murphy? Soon to be US Senator Murphy….Maybe they can discuss the purchase of US Sugar option lands south of the lake to store, clean and convey water south to dying Everglades National Park? Maybe they can discuss the EPA and FDEP and their responsibility in documenting the destruction of our river and reef aquatic preserves? Or maybe even trying to “protect” them? What a thought.
The FAA has issued a flight advisory to alert pilots of an upcoming presidential temporary flight restriction over the Palm City, Florida, area on March 28 and 29. The FAA started reaching out to pilots in the area March 20 in an effort to decrease the number of TFR violations that typically occur in the state with such a high density of flight activity.
As of publication, a notam had not yet been released detailing the specifics of the upcoming Palm City TFR, but it will have the usual 30-nautical-mile-radius outer ring and inner 10-nm-radius general aviation no-fly zone, and it will extend from the surface up to but not including 18,000 feet. Gateway procedures for aircraft that need to operate at Witham Airport (KSUA) are detailed in the flight advisory. Melbourne International Airport (KMLB) and West Palm Beach Airport (KPBI) have been designated as TSA “security screening sites” for aircraft that need to fly into Witham during the TFR’s effective times, according to the flight advisory.
THIS ARTICLE WAS WRITTEN FOR MR LARRY ROBINSON AND HIS “CUB CLUB” THAT WILL BE FLYING INTO HISTORIC BUCKINGHAM FIELD AIRPORT CLOSE TO THE CALOOSAHATCHEE RIVER IN LEE COUNTY; I THOUGHT THIS MIGHT BE OF INTERESTS TO ALL.
When flying into Buckingham Airport near Ft Meyers, one will surely get a view of the beautiful Caloosahatchee River that runs from Lake Okeechobee to the Gulf of Mexico.
The river, named after the warlike Calusa Indians, has a great history and is unfortunately under great pressure due to man-made changes in its surrounding hydrology. The original lands of the watershed allowed for the waters of the Kissimmee Valley, near Orlando, to move south through the then winding Kissimmee River, into Lake Okeechobee, and then slowly make their way to the Florida Everglades.
Before the late 1880s, the Caloosahatchee was not truly connected to Lake Okeechobee; its headwaters started at Lake Hicpochee, west of today’s Clewiston. Marshlands filled from Lake Hicpochee to Lake Okeechobee in times of heavy rain “connecting” the waterway but this was not lasting.
In the late 1800s investor and land owner, Hamilton Disston, following an old Calusa Indian canal, connected the river permanently to Lake Okeechobee by digging a wide canal. This was done in order to drop the level of the lake and drain the surrounding lands for agricultural development.
Disston was not completely successful but he did inspire others to complete his work in the early 1920s.
People had been farming in Florida south of the Lake Okeechobee since the late 1800s as the muck was very rich and produced wonderful crops. But flooding was a constant issue.
After the horrific hurricanes of 1926 and 1928 that completely flooded the area south of the lake and took thousands of lives, the state of Florida begged the federal government for flooding assistance which resulted in the Cross State Canal being built from Ft Meyers to Stuart and the building of the Herbert Hoover Dike around southern Lake Okeechobee.
The canal allowed not only for east west navigation across the state, but also redirected the waters of Lake Okeechobee that traditionally flowed south to be sent east and west through nearby estuaries: the Caloosahatchee on the west and the St Lucie River/Southern Indian River Lagoon on the east.
After another great storm and flood in 1948, and repeated outcry of the state and public, the Army Corps of Engineers “improved the system” through the Central and South Florida Project by widening and deepening already constructed canals and by building many more.
By the 1960 the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA), south of the lake, became the number one sugar and vegetable producer of the state and one of the top in the nation; fortunes were made in the post-wartime era.
Simultaneous to the success of the EAA, development exploded along the two estuaries, the Caloosahatchee, and St Lucie/Southern Indian River Lagoon. Both of these areas depended heavily on fishing, tourism, and real estate values for their economies so when Lake Okeechobee would overflow and billions of gallons of fresh water would pour into the estuaries disturbing the brackish balance, killing seagrasses, destroying fishing stock and wildlife, of course these cities along the coasts complained.
Over time, even more people have moved the Caloosahatchee and St Lucie areas, and the massive population of Orlando has complicated the situation as “Orlando’s” polluted water full of nitrogen and phosphorus from fertilized lawns and farmlands travels south filling Lake Okeechobee. Since the water cannot go south, it is redirected to the estuaries. As a result, the Caloosahatchee and St Lucie estuaries experience toxic algae blooms during heavy destructive discharges.
This “health and safety” situation came to a head recently during the summer of 2013 when the Army Corps released from Lake Okeechobee for five months straight: May 8th- October 21st. This time became known as the “Lost Sumer” as health departments warned citizens and pets to stay out of the water for months on end.
Due to public outcry, Florida Senator Joe Negron, chair of the Appropriations Committee, organized a “Senate Hearing on the Indian River Lagoon and Lake Okeechobee Basin” that included studies of both estuaries. Congressman Patrick Murphy invited citizens to Washington DC.
The east and west coasts and many politicians unified during this time, thousands rallied, and news of the toxic waters was told by local, state, national and global media.
The Florida governor, state legislature, US Congress, along with “water managers,” Army Corp of Engineers and the South Florida Water Management District, felt tremendous pressure to find alternative ways to store water and clean water north of the lake and to “send more water south.”
Under the 2013/14 state legislative sessions the state legislature and federal government designated monies for both estuaries to help abate these issues. Part of the Tamiami Trail was even “opened” to allow more water to flow south and plans are being made to lift and open more areas in the future. University of Florida water experts are studying the issue.
Unfortunately, in spite of what can be done, this is just the tip of the iceberg as the amount of water that needs to be redirected away from the estuaries is enormous, truly beyond comprehension. This is why many believe Everglades restoration plans are taking entirely too long and that we must find a way to fully restore the Kissimmee River and create a third outlet south of the lake.
To me, people are more important than their political affiliations.
From the beginning Patrick Murphy displayed that he wanted to work with everyone. After winning Florida US House District 18, he came to Martin County and met with leaders of all municipalities and the county, together. He introduced himself and ask us what issues were most important to us. The health of the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon was the top agreed choice and Patrick got to work.
Looking back, little things say a lot.
I recall I was impressed that he wasn’t afraid to get his “hands dirty.” He immediately participated in an oyster restoration event in Ft Pierce with St Lucie County Commissioner, Chris Dzadovsky. Dzadovsky ended up suffering from a skin infection due to an oyster cut during the oyster deployment….Congressman Murphy quickly caught on to the seriousness and the extent of the Martin, St Lucie river problem and how much the river’s improvement meant to the local people.
Another plus for me was that he quickly befriended the River Kidz and took their call for “getting involved, speaking out, and raising awareness”seriously. Some members even went to Washington DC to participate in his IRL meeting with congressional leaders. Now that’s a first!
Patrick’s list of accomplishments is broad including pushing hard for monies for the C-44 Storm Water Treatment and Reservoir for C-44 basin runoff; and CEPP, the Central Everglades Planning Project that if ever approved will divert about 12% of Lake Okeechobee’s water south, and monies for the National Estuary Program’s revamping. The list goes on, please see image below.
I know over time there is a lot more to do. But the young congressman is off to a great start and most important, we have developed a relationship with him. We must keep this relationships going. For in the end, no political party will save the river; it is only people and their relationships that can do that.
Campaign commercials I have done in support of Congressman Patrick Murphy, Democrat and Senator Joe Negron, Republican, 2014.
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.”
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.
One of the nicest things lately is spending time with my father. He is a long time member of Kiwanis and has invited me to be a guest three times this year. Yesterday, he invited me because Congressman Murphy was speaking, and my dad knows I like politics, especially “river politics,” of which Congressman Murphy has been very supportive.
In the relatively small group I had the opportunity to ask a direct question. One thing I am very aware of is that even though I study this water “stuff” all the time, I literally understand the only “tip of the iceberg.” This is confusing and I know if I don’t know, there are plenty of others who don’t know either.
So today, I am going to try to explain what I think I know, and what Congressman Murphy explained yesterday about the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) that we keep hearing so much about.
First of all, the federal government is a black hole and just because they vote on something does not insure it will happen. As in “authorizing”–or agreeing to spend money on projects. Let’s keep this in the back of our minds….
So WRDA is a bill that is only passed ever so often, in which Congress “authorizes” (kind of promises to give money, over time) to the Army Corp of Engineers, so the Army Corp can do their work. So far, there have been a number WRDA acts since 1974-2007, but none lately. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Water_Resources_Development_Act)
From what I understand CEPP, or the Central Everglades Planning Project, that the South Florida Water Management District just voted 5-0 last week to “recommend,” (a big deal), can now go to the Army Corp of Engineers to be included the Corps “final report,” to hopefully be included in WRDA 2014. CEPP is the first part of “moving more water south” from Lake Okeechobee to the Everglades and is critical to the beginning betterment of the St Lucie River and Indian River Lagoon.
So this was my question to Congressman Murphy yesterday: ” You just now said WRDA passed, but whenever I hear the ACOE talking about it, it sounds like they are still waiting for it and hoping to “tag on,” as it is possible to still “get in…?”
Congressman Murphy explained that WRDA passed the US HOUSE with flying colors, (he serves in the House), and then later passed the US Senate, but that the language although similar was not the same, so the bills, together, had to go “to committee” and are still being hashed out–blending House and Senate language and goals for a final bill.
So WRDA 2014 is not yet passed or final…
OK….that makes sense but what is confusing to the public and to me is when they say “it passed.” I guess this is not too much different than in municipal government when an ordinance “passes first reading,” but it still has to go through “second reading” to “really” pass….
It’s all very confusing, but WRDA is one of our greatest tools to fix the lagoon, so don’t give up. Keep pushing for WRDA and CEPP’s inclusion, and if you really want to help, write Congressman Murphy to thank him for WRDA passing just the House. Then egg him on for Easter and Passover to keep pushing for WRDA, and our river, in ways bigger than he already has. (FLMurphyPatrick@mail.house.gov)