Tag Archives: cuba

Okeelanta Corporation, Mapping Out the Future of Water, SLR/IRL

file-page1-2.jpgToday I will continue my series “Who Owns the Land South of Lake Okeechobee? Mapping out the Future of Water.” Hurricane Matthew caused a slight interruption, but now we shall continue. ūüôā

Here we go!

Number two on the TCRPC map (above) is Okeelanta Corporation. “Okeelanta is a division of Florida Crystals, the word¬†is a combination of two made into one. “Okee,” coming from “Okeechobee,” and “lanta,” coming from “Atlantic.” Cleverly named for a location between Lake Okeechobee and the Atlantic Ocean. Okeelanta was a historic town founded by writer and politician Laurence E. Will’s father. The town stood about one mile below South Bay. It was destroyed in the 1928 Hurricane: http://www.pbchistoryonline.org/page/okeelanta

I’m not sure if the company Okeelanta is named after the town, but I believe it was bought, and I know it is now owned by the Fanjul family of Cuba who owns Florida Crystals. As many of us know, the Fanjul family came to South Florida because of Fidel Castro’s 1959 Marxist Revolution. The family moved to Florida along with other wealthy, dispossessed families. Here with the support of the US Government the Fanjuls rebuilt their fortune as the US grew to be a leader in the world sugar trade, at the expense of the Florida Everglades.

In regards to the map, it must be noted that compared to US Sugar Corporation, the Fanjul family are relative”newcomers.” This is why their land holdings are further south of Lake Okeechobee. They acquired lands as the industry expanded after 1960.

Sometimes I say “until the Cuban Revolution there were only 100,000 acres of sugar cane in the EAA.” This is probably off, but you get the point. As Laurence E. Will in his historic book noted in a previous post: “After the Cuban Revolution, for a short time our government permitted the unrestricted panting of sugar cane…”

Again I stress that the expansion of these lands by the US Government is what allowed this area to be convered from Everglades to sugar fields, and it is only our state and national governments that can encourage and fairly compensate land owners for lands purchased in the EAA to allow water storage in an area that should never have been 100% developed in the first place. We have to encourage land owners to please be a part of the solution of allowing storage of excess water and helping more clean water move south…

According the TCRPC map Okeelanta owns 86,793 acres of land in the Everglades Agricultural Area, (EAA.) A lot!

I have colored in the #2s ¬†with orange highlighter so you can see these lands more clearly and how the intersect with Senator Joe Negron’s circles for possible proposed land acquisition. Remember that 9 days ago I colored in United States Sugar Corporation’s (USSC) lands in purple crayon. They are #1.

IMG_5991.jpg

So now we can clearly “see” what lands are owned by USSC and by Okeelanta.

“Okeelanta Corporation, a sugarcane company, engages in farming, milling, packaging, and distributing sugar cane. It has a 67,000 acres facility that includes cane fields, a mill, refinery, packaging and distribution center and a power plant. The company was incorporated in 1984 and is based in West Palm Beach, Florida. Okeelanta Corporation operates as a subsidiary of Florida Crystals Corporation.”

As we shall see in future posts, the Fanjul holdings have various names, thus they own more land than noted in the map above. Like them or not, the family is clever just like the name “Okeelanta” and infamous for their political influence. The two most well known brothers are noted for ties to different political parties: ¬†Alfonso Fanjul, Democratic Party while Pepe, contributes to Republican Party. For the record the other brothers names are¬†Alexander and Andres. And they have a sister. Her name is Lillian Banjul Azqueta and she is president and founder of New Hope Charities.

As controversial as the family is, they do a lot of good for the poor Glades communities and they own what we want. We must work together for a better water future for Florida that includes our St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon.

Vanity Fair article IN THE KINGDOM OF BIG SUGAR: http://www.vanityfair.com/news/2001/02/floridas-fanjuls-200102

New Hope Charities: http://www.newhopecharities.com.

Okeelanta Corp.: http://broward.jobing.com/florida-crystals-okeelanta-corporation

Florida Crystals: https://www.floridacrystals.com

Fanjul Bros. WIKI: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fanjul_brothers

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Senator Negron’s proposed land purchase map 2016/17

Glimpses of Cuba Two Generations Apart, St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon

Ed and I at a bus stop for tourists east of Havana.
Ed and I at a bus stop for tourists east of Havana.
A new bridge. Wild royal palms were scattered across the hilly horizon.
A new bridge at the tourist stop. Wild royal palms were scattered across the hilly horizon. The ocean to the east…

It has been awhile since I have blogged; a lot has happened. I think I’ll start with Cuba.

One of the stories my father relays to me with great relish is his 1954 Stuart High School senior trip to Havana, Cuba. Can you imagine that? A senior trip to Cuba? My dad grew up on Riverside Drive in Stuart, Florida, in the 1950s, on the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon.

With a broad smile and sparkling eyes, he tells of magnificent buildings, music, art, restaurants, and night clubs around Port of Havana, and having “lots of fun.” “In fact one of the students had so much fun, he was sent back to Stuart!” My dad laughs out loud, with thoughts of the “good old days.”

My father’s Stuart High School class traveled with chaperones before Fidel Castro’s 1958 rise to power over Batista and later the embargo and tumultuous history that the world has watched unfold for over a half century.

My husband, Ed and I, traveled for a very different reason during a very different time. Two weeks ago we left on a journey with the Episcopal Diocese of South East Florida and we were classified by the government as”pilgrims.”

Stuart High School senior trip 1954. My father, Tom Thurlow, is standing in the back row far right.
Stuart High School senior trip 1954. My father, Tom Thurlow, is standing in the back row one from far right.

Our journey was led by Bishop Leo Frade of Miami and his wife.

The trip took about fifty people, including other priests, to Havana, Cardenas, Lemonar, Bolondron, Metanzas and back again to Havana. We visited churches that were rebuilding since the communist government allowed them in the 1990s to once again worship. They have few resources but great spirit.

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Group in Old Havana square.
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It was a great education for me. If I had to describe the experience in one sentence I would say: “Government is corrupt, not its people.”

To see the smiles and hear the appreciation of those we met along the way, to think about all they have endured, to realize more than ever before how much I take for granted.

I have visited ¬†poor countries before. I lived and taught in Berlin, Germany in 1990 just after the Berlin Wall came down and East Germany was emerging from the brace of communism…I think what was so different for me about Cuba, is that it is so close to home and I know some people who lost everything. ¬†Also, the flight took less than an hour. Cuba’s climate is much like Florida; it is geologically considered part of North America.

Although most of the buildings were falling apart, it is a beautiful, beautiful country…So here are some photos. May the next generation of Thurlows see something better, but may the smiles and the warm spirits of the Cuban people stay the same.

With our guide.
With our guide.
Church in Limonar
…Limonar’s church.
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…..There was no roof.
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….The priests.
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…School kids in uniform. Cuba is highly literate.
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…Old American cars still running…
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Sugarcane has a long history in Cuba that is very ties to the U.S.
Sugarcane has a long history in Cuba and  is very tied to South Florida in the U.S.
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Havana
Havana.
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…Fixing up old buildings
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Last night dad and I take out his souvenirs from his 1954 senior trip to Cuba.
Last night my Dad and I took out the souvenirs from his 1954 senior trip to Cuba.
School bus from 1954 senior trip.
Photograph my dad saved of the school bus taken from Stuart to Miami in 1954.

Cuba: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cuba

Why A 4-Year-Old Can Tell You That Our Fertilizer Ordinances are Working, SLR/IRL

"Be Floridian. Don't Fertilize." Photo adapted from Beauty of Nature photos sent to me by Anna Marie Wintercorn, 2015. (http://mp.weixin.qq.com/s?__biz=MjM5MjE0NTQ4Mw==&mid=200115697&idx=6&sn=74ffa17c3f3374553c6261be656fbb15&scene=1&from=groupmessage&isappinstalled=0#rd)
“Be Floridian. Don’t Fertilize.” Photo adapted from “Beauty of Nature” photos sent to me by Anna Marie Wintercorn, 2015.*

The “Be Floridian” program was born over a decade ago of the Tampa Bay area. This program has many elements, but most noteworthy is that “strict” fertilizer ordinances evolved collaboratively along the counties and cities of Florida’s “southerly” east coast.

Today, Tampa Bay has more seagrass than it did in the 1940s. This is in spite of the area’s high population. Certainly, they have different issues than we, and “no Lake O,” but the goal is clear: “if they did it there; we can do it here…improve our waters.”

On Florida’s east coast, in 2010, ¬†the peninsular Town of Sewall’s Point, my community, ¬†was the first to implement in a strong fertilizer ordnance. With the 2011-2013 melt down of the Indian River Lagoon due to super-algae blooms killing approximately 60% of the northern/central lagoon’s seagrasses, and the toxic “Lost Summer” of excessive dumping from Lake Okeechobee and area canals along the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon, communities all along the Indian River pushed their governments to implement strong fertilizer ordinances. —Making a statement that they were “fed-up” with dead waters, and were willing themselves to put “skin in the game.”

In case you don’t know, there are variations, but basically a “strong fertilizer ordinance” is one that does not allow fertilization with phosphorus and nitrogen during the summer rainy/hurricane season.

Recently there was an article in the “Stuart News” asking the question of whether or not these strong fertilizer ordinances are “working” along the IRL. The expert on hand replied it is “too soon to tell…”

I beg to differ, and here is why.

Of course they are working.

A four-year old can tell you they are  working.

Ad in Stuart News. Martin County has a strong fertilizer ordinance and is now promoting the BE FLORIDIAN program here in Martin County. Dianne Hughes and Deb Drum deserve applause for these great ads, 2015.
Ad in Stuart News. Martin County has a strong fertilizer ordinance and is now promoting the BE FLORIDIAN program here in Martin County. Dianne Hughes and Deb Drum deserve applause for these great ads, 2015.

I use this analogy a lot when discussing Lake Okeechobee and the Everglades Agricultural Area’s 700,000 acres south of the lake blocking the natural flow of water from the northern estuaries to the Everglades.

In spite of the sugar and vegetable empires south of the lake trying to convince us that it is water from Orland and the Kissimmee River killing our St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon, any four-year old studying the River Kidz program will point to the area directly south of the lake as biggest problem forcing the water up and out the estuaries rather than allowing it to flow south as nature intended…We need a third outlet south of the lake. There is too much water to hold it all north. End of story. I don’t need a study to tell me this. I know it. A four-year old knows it. You know it.

Back to fertilizer….last night it rained hard here in Sewall’s Point. My rain gauge says two inches. Seemed like more than that. If my yard had been fertilized of course that fertilizer would have gone into the gutter and down the drain and into the Indian River Lagoon. You can go out and watch this from my driveway.

It must be noted that until the ACOE and SFWMD (collaborating at the direction of our government) stop dumping from the lake and out over expanded canals, we will never know our “area’s” levels of phosphorus and nitrogen.

For example, the ACOE began releasing into our SLR/IRL this January and just stopped a few weeks ago, so if a scientist had done her or her study recently, they would be measuring nutrients that came into our river from “other places” too.

But we, here, are doing our part and can feel good about this…keeping our house in order will help push order in the houses of the state and federal governments that are presently quite un-orderly.

Enforcement? Let’s focus on education. As we can see. It’s working! Five years ago people weren’t even aware that fertilizer was an “issue.”

As a sidebar before I close, I recently had the pleasure of meeting Mr Woody Woodraska¬†who headed the SFWMD in the 1980s before it was ¬†under the anvil of the governor and the state legislature. The topic of visiting Cuba arose. My husband Ed and I will be visiting Cuba this fall with our church, St Mary’s.

Mr Woodraska¬†said: “Oh, you are going to love it..”

In the course of telling his story visiting as a competitor in the Ernest Hemingway competition, he alluded to Cuba’s long repressed economy and how this kept fertilizers, via the agriculture industry, from ruining ¬†Cuba’s waters, fish and wildlife. Thus overall, Cuba’s waters are healthy and beautiful today.

We here in Florida, on the other hand, have developed every piece of land right up to edge of every river, some with septic tanks, and torn out the native plants and replaced with plants that we must fertilize; agriculture is a corporate producer going through literately tons of fertilizer every day; canals not only to drain our land, but ¬†we build houses along them; a turf grass industry flourishes in South Florida that sells 25% of all turf-grass in the WORLD; wonderful universities, like my alma mater and family connected University of Florida, do research and watch the industry’s back to “keeping our economy rolling!”

Yeah…rolling right over our fish, and our wildlife, and over ourselves as we see our own economy suffering from dirty waters.

Whew. I need a cup of coffee.

Sorry to be so opinionated, but I just can’t stand it. Fertilizer that is. In fact I have a file on my computer called DEATH BY FERTILIZER. Here are some pictures; thanks for reading my rant, have a good day, and I will not say “happy fertilizing!” ¬† ūüôā

Grass going right over edge of canal....photo DEP.
Grass going right over edge of canal….photo DEP.
Ag runoff DEP photo.
Ag runoff from fields into canals DEP photo.
An ad running on the west coast of Florida in the area of Lee County, put together with the collaboration of interested parties and local governments, 2014. (Shared by former council lady Marsha Simmons, Bonita Springs.)
An ad from the west coast of Florida, 2014.
When it rains hard all runoff from yards goes into the SLR/IL taking fertilizer, pesticides and herbicides with it. This kills seagrasses and animal life. (JTL)
When it rains a lot all runoff from yards goes into the SLR/IL taking fertilizer, pesticides and herbicides with it. This kills seagrasses by supporting algae blooms Animal and fish suffer. (JTL)
Ad west coast near springs.
Ad west coast near springs.
Ad on bus west coast or Gainesville.
Ad on bus west coast or Gainesville.
River Kidz protest Florida legislature's trying to outlaw local governments from creating stricter fertilizer ordinances than the states. 2012. (Nic Mader)
River Kidz protest Florida legislature’s trying to outlaw local governments from creating stricter fertilizer ordinances than the states. 2012. (Nic Mader)

 

RK artwork  2011. Save the dolphins. Fertilizer is not good for their skin or for the fish they eat.
RK artwork 2011. Save the dolphins. Fertilizer is not good for their skin, or seagrasses needed by the fish they eat.

BE FLORIDIAN: (http://befloridian.org)

MARTIN COUNTY’S FERTILIZER ORD. (http://www.martin.fl.us/portal/page?_pageid=73,4448073&_dad=portal&_schema=PORTAL)

The National Research Council’s book “Clean Coastal Waters, Understanding and Reducing the Effects of Nutrient Pollution,” National Academy’s Press, 2000, is the best book I have read on this subject. It can be ordered on line.

*Photo of Flamingo, source: (http://mp.weixin.qq.com/s?__biz=MjM5MjE0NTQ4Mw==&mid=200115697&idx=6&sn=74ffa17c3f3374553c6261be656fbb15&scene=1&from=groupmessage&isappinstalled=0#rd)

Havana or Bust! Swamp to Sugar Bowl; the Changing Politics of the Everglades, St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon

My father's photo of his Senior Trip for Stuart High, 1954. (Photo Tom Thurlow)
School bus reads HAVANA OR BUST! My father’s Stuart High senior trip for Stuart High, went to Cuba in 1954. (Photo Tom Thurlow)
My father's 1954 senior class, Stuart High School, Martin County, Florida. (Photo Tom Thurlow)
My father’s 1954 senior class, Stuart High School, Martin County, Florida. My father is in back row, far right second from end.(Photo Tom Thurlow)
The book Swamp to Sugar Bowl was written in 1968 by Lawrence E. Will. (Borrowed from the library of Sandra Henderson Thurlow, historian.)
The book “Swamp to Sugar Bowl” was written in 1968 by Lawrence E. Will. (Borrowed from the library of Sandra Henderson Thurlow, historian.)

It is good to learn about the history and issues of the Everglades, South Florida, and our St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon so that one day, in spite of the difficulties we face today, we will be able to fix our problem in the future…

Perhaps the greatest reason the our former Everglades are now overflowing with sugarcane fields is due to politics between Cuba and the United States. My father graduated from Stuart High School in 1954, and believe it or not, his senior trip was to Havana! Soon after, Castro’s revolutionaries took over Cuba in 1959. And as they say the “rest is history…” as the growing sugar fields blocked the flow of water south to the Everglades, the fate of our precious St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon seemed forever doomed. But it is not, as nothing lasts forever.

This weekend my mother handed me a book entitled “Swamp to Sugar Bowl” by historian, author, businessman, and politician, Lawrence E. Will. ¬†I read the little book with great enjoyment. ¬†Although many things have changed since the book was written in 1968, it provides great insights.

This week I will be sharing some aspects of the books. Today I ¬†will quote a few excerpts from chapter 22, “Florida’s Sugar Bowl.”

“Brother if you’re addicted to using sugar you should come here to these Everglades. Sugar and molasses bring in 110 million to these glades each year, so let’s take a quick look at this sugar bowl. Back in 1922, at Moore Haven, the first feeble attempt was made at producing sugar, but the following year in Canal Point the first successful mill began to operate.

There used to be 33,000 acres of pond apple trees lining the southern rim of Lake Okeechobee. They were cut down to access the rich much soil below them. (Laurence E. Will)
Map showing Canal Point. (Laurence E. Will)

This company was taken over by Southern Sugar Company, now the U.S. Sugar Corporation which ground its first cain in Clewiston in 1929. Although this company owned some 100,000 acres of the best land around the lake, under the US government’s regulation, the state of Florida was permitted to produce only nine-tenths of one percent of this nation’s needs.

However when Fidel Castro took over Cuba, the Everglades reaped the benefit. ¬†For a short time our government permitted the unrestricted planing of sugar cane. Oh brother, you should have seen how cow pastures and vegetable fields were plowed up and planted! Now we have 189,500 acres of sugar cane in the Glades.” –Lawrence E Will, 1968

US Sugar and Florida Crystals map ca 2008.
US Sugar and Florida Crystals map ca. showing ownership of lands, and option to buy lands for state of Florida, 2008.
Stats of Sugar in Florida, 1991, Source Hazen and Sawyer, 1993)
Stats of Sugar average in Florida, 1991, Source Hazen and Sawyer, 1993)

I am not certain how much land U.S. Sugar Corporation owns today, but the Everglades option map from 2008 and IFAS statistics from 1993 show over 450,000 acres combining US Sugar and Florida Crystals.

Sugar has been grown in the glades since the 1920s but it exploded in the glades in the 1960s and became heavily supported by the US government due mostly to political reasons.

Reasons that may be ending soon.

Stuart News front page, 4-11-15.
Stuart News front page, 4-11-15.

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US Sugar Corporation: (http://www.ussugar.com)

History of Cuba: (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Cuba)

A great book on this topic, Raising Cane, by Gail M. Hollender: (http://www.amazon.com/Raising-Cane-Glades-Transformation-Florida/dp/0226349500)

UF IFAS: (http://ifas.ufl.edu)