Tag Archives: Department of Environmental Protecton

Dredge/Fill, “Changing History,” Frances Langford’s Outrigger Resort, Indian River Lagoon

Aerial of Francis Langford's Outrigger Resort's marina, ca. 1955. Visible is the dredge and fill it took to accomplish this project. (Photo courtesy of Thurlow archives.)
Aerial of Frances Langford’s Outrigger Resort’s marina, restaurant, and compound, built in Jensen/Sewall’s Point ca. 1955. Visible is the dredge and fill it took to accomplish this project. (Photo courtesy of Thurlow archives.)


"Mt Pisgah," the area contiguous with north Sewall's Point that was her home. (Photo ca. 1950s, courtesy of Thurlow Archives.)  Note cleared lands and orange groves.)
“Mt Pisgah,” the area of Rio, contiguous with north Sewall’s Point, that was Mrs Langford’s home. (Photo ca. 1950s, courtesy of Thurlow Archives.)

At last week’s Everglades Coalition Conference, (http://evergladescoalition.org), one of my favorite quotes was repeated by respected Martin County resident, and nationally renowned environmentalist, Mr Nathaniel Reed:

“Not knowing your history, is like walking into the middle of the movie.”

For us to be effective advocates for the now impaired St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon, (http://www.dep.state.fl.us/southeast/ecosum/ecosums/SLE_Impairment_Narrative_ver_3.7.pdf), it is important to know our history, especially the history of ourselves.

Prior to the 1970s, the passage of the Clean Water Act, and the national environmental movement, “dredge and fill”was commonplace. Dredge and fill includes the dredging of canals that have created our Atlantic Inter-coastal Waterway; the dreaded Okeechobee Waterway; canals draining South Florida below and around Lake Okeechobee; the Everglades Agricultural Area; as well as  many prominent subdivisions and commercial centers that we relish today.

Postcard photo of Francis Langford's Outrigger Resort ca. 1960s)
Postcard photo of Frances Langford’s Outrigger Resort ca. 1960s)

After people realized the environmental degradation that unfortunately went along with these projects, (some include: turbidity in the water column, destruction of seagrass and wildlife habitat, and sometimes the release of heavy metals and other pollutants harbored in the bottom sands and sediments,) getting permits to “do such” became much harder.

Today the FDEP, Florida Department of Environmental Protection,(http://www.dep.state.fl.us/water/wetlands/erp/dffact.htm), and the EPA, Environmental Protection Agency, together with the Army Corp of Engineers, (http://water.epa.gov/lawsregs/guidance/cwa/dredgdis/primarily oversee such projects; many are not granted or take so long people give up. 

Another aerial of the completed  marina in 1965. (Photo courtesy of Thurlow Archives.)
Another aerial of the completed marina in 1965. (Photo courtesy of Thurlow Archives.) Note healthy looking seagrasses right off shore.

Mrs. Frances Langford  (http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frances_Langford), who built the well-known “Outrigger Resort and Marina, “in the 1950s, just north of Sewall’s Point, became an “environmentalist” in her later days, bestowing tremendous monies toward the Florida Oceanographic Society on Hutchinson Island, (http://www.floridaocean.org).

And yes, she gave to just about every charity in town! The point is, she loved helping “create” Florida Oceanographic in her later years, and in the 1940s and 50s people really did not realize the true extent of the destruction their dredge and fill projects were causing to the world that they loved. I believe this even holds true with some of the worst offenders of the agriculture and development industry who have, in essence, destroyed Florida and its waters. 

But times change, and people change. I believe there is a movement of change right now to “send water south” again…to fix our state, and yet to allow businesses that came into being, during earlier times of our history, to survive and adapt.

Frances Langford 1940s. (Public photo.)
Frances Langford 1940s. (Public photo.)
Singing to the troops with Bob Hope. "The favorite time of her life..." (Public photo.)
Singing to the troops with Bob Hope. “The favorite time of her life…” (Public photo.)

As I mentioned, to be able to change the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon, we first must learn to look around, to be aware, and to be able to recognize the history of our own area as we try to change the bigger state picture as well.

Once you start looking, you will see that “dredge and fill” is all around us.

You may ask yourself:

“How is a huge boat, going through the IRL that on average is three feet deep?”

“How are those boats coming from Ft Meyers across Lake Okeechobee into the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon?”

“Am I living on what used to be a spoil island or the edge of a coastal community of fish and birds?”

“Am I living in a former wetland?”

I know, that although I do not live on the river, “I am;” I live in a coastal hammock in Sewall’s Point, a bird sanctuary.

There is no turning back, but we can change how we create a new history in the future.

By knowing history, there is a way to “rebuild”and “reeducate.” Whether it is starting in your yard, or changing state policy…

So look around you. Learn your history, view the “full movie”…And may the great waters of Florida flow again with life, beauty, and all the generosity of the late Frances Langford.

Francis Langford in her later years stands before photos decorating the Francis Langford Outrigger Resort. (Public photo>)
Francis Langford in her later years stands before photos decorating the Francis Langford Outrigger Resort, Rio, Florida. (Public photo.)


DEP Secretary Hershel Vinyard Resigns; What Will This Mean for the Indian River Lagoon?

Hershel Vinyard, head of the DEP, speaks to river activist Benjamin Davano, TMDL Announcement,  Downtown Stuart, 2013.
Secretary Hershel Vinyard, of the DEP, fields questions  from river activist Benjamin D’Avano about a toxic SLR/IRL, “TMDL Celebration” Downtown Stuart, 2013.

Right before Thanksgiving, I heard the news, “Secretary Hershel Vinyard announced he is retiring from the Department of Environmental Protection….”

Even though there were many times over the past few years, that I felt like the DEP was not doing its job, and that the Scott administration had “demoralized” the agency, I felt saddened to hear this news….

Why? Because Hershel Vinyard was someone who went out of his way to build relationships in Martin County. Who will I call now? Clifford Wilson, the 35-year-old interim Secretary for the DEP? Don’t think he’d recognize my name and maybe not even be that familiar with the problems facing the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon…

Clifford Wilson, interim Secretary for the DEP.
Clifford Wilson, interim Secretary for the DEP.

 After thinking for a while, an image came to mind of the first  time I saw Secretary Vinyard deal with an angry public. He did a good job and from that moment on I liked him.

It was July 18th of  2013, and Martin County officials and the DEP were “celebrating” the official Total Maximum Daily Load/Basin Management Acton Plan (http://www.dep.state.fl.us/central/Home/Watershed/BMAP.htmto clean up the St Lucie River (http://depnewsroom.wordpress.com/2013/07/18/dep-local-officials-celebrate-restoration-plan-for-st-lucie-river-and-estuary/); the perfect and sad situation of that day was that  is the estuary was full of toxic algae due to discharges from Lake Okeechobee exacerbated by runoff from local canals. It was our “2013 Lost Summer.”It did not seem like a time to celebrate.

I have to say that Secretary Vinyard did a good job handling an angry crowd and over time I came to know  him and appreciated that he took the time to visit Stuart on many occasions and learn the history and polluted plight of the St Lucie River and Indian River Lagoon. He would listen. He helped bring Governor Scott here to see the river. He saw how much we cared and responded even though he could not single-handedly fix the situation. Martin County is not known for getting much attention–I am appreciative that it was given…you can’t start changing things until those in power know who you are.

Group shot,
Group shot, Town of Sewall’s Point Commissioner, Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch; Stuart Former mayor and Commissioner, Jeff Krauskoph; SFWMD Board Member, Kevin Powers, DEP Secretary Hershel Vinyard; SLC Commissioner, Chris Dzadovsky ; Martin County Commissioner, Ed Fielding; River Kidz member, Mary Thurlow, 2013.
Speakers talk about the clean up of the SLR, 2013.
Speakers talk about the clean up of the SLR, 2013.
Mary, Secretary Vinyard and me.
Mary, Secretary Vinyard and me, 2013.

One time, when I emailed the Secretary about the SLR/IRL, I made the mistake of writing “Secretary Walker…” as in “Hershel Walker,” a very famous Georgia football player from my era who tortured the Florida Gators.  As always, Mr Vinyard was a gentlemen and did not make me feel like an idiot.

In spite of people or parties we “like or dislike,” we must remember that it is relationships that will help heal the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon, and these must be built with whomever is in office. And although it may have been political, Secretary Vinyard was on the Army Corp of Engineer Calls at the end of this summer asking the agencies NOT TO RELEASE LAKE OKEECHOBEE WATER THROUGH S-308 into the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon. I will never forget these words….this is progress.

Yes, I am thankful for the times Secretary Vinyard took an interest in Martin County and since he resigned Thanksgiving week, I want to mention this.  I hope that the next person who takes the position of Secretary of the DEP comes to know the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon too. We are entering a critical time with the possibilities of land acquisition  in the Everglades Agricultural Area though Amendment 1; it’s a lot easier to work this with people we know or knew…


Miami Herald Vinyard’s resignation: (http://www.miamiherald.com/news/state/florida/article4159030.html)

Aerial Tour of October 17th’s Polluted Runoff, C-44, C-23 and C-24 Canals, SLR/IRL

Plume from canal runoff C-44, C-23 and C-24, October 17,2014. (All photos Jacqui Thurlow Lippisch and Ed Lippisch.)
Plume from canal runoff C-44, C-23 and C-24, October 17, 2014. (All photos Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch and Ed Lippisch.)

Today, I will take you on an air tour, hopefully one of the last of this year’s rainy season. In Florida, rainy season corresponds with hurricane season that lasts June through November. Nonetheless, typically the rains start to wind down towards the end of October.

The Army Corp of Engineers has not released from Lake Okeechobee this year so it has given us an opportunity to see what the runoff  in our area is “in and of itself.” I refuse to use the words “local runoff” because the St Lucie River and Indian River Lagoon’s runoff is over 50%  of what is was before the Water/Flood Control Districts and the ACOE created since the 1920s in order to drain the land for development and mostly agriculture.

It is the runoff of these expanded lands that we are dealing with today, full of sediment, fertilizer, pesticides, herbicides, road pollution, and whatever is on people’s yards.

I think seeing how “bad” our canal runoff is also shows why WE CANNOT ACCEPT WATER FROM LAKE OKEECHOBEE on top of this already bleak situation of our own.

Green is original flood plane and yellow is expanded flood plane. Photo from A "Citizens' Report to Congress" 1995, St Lucie River Initiative.
Green is original flood plain and yellow is expanded flood plain. Photo from A “Citizens’ Report to Congress” 1995, St Lucie River Initiative.

So anyway, enough of my lecture, let’s get started!

Ed in front of Cub Legend
Ed in front of Cub Legend.

The tour starts at Witham Airport in Stuart.

Ruoff from canals and Willoughby Creek
Run off from canals and Willoughby Creek

The first thing one sees once up in the air off of runway 12, is the polluted freshwater pollution/sediment line coming around the tip of Hell’s Gate in the St Lucie River. This water is coming from the South Fork of the St Lucie River where C-44 is located and the North Fork area where C-24 and C-23 are located. This filthy water flows into the St Lucie River proper and then around the tip of Sewall’s Point, into the Indian River Lagoon, out the St Lucie Inlet and then into the open Atlantic Ocean. (See map/chart 3 above for canal locations and expanded watershed runoff.)

Close up
Close up of plume in SLR
Sewall's Point
Sewall’s Point

Continuing on, as one flies over the St Lucie Inlet and along the Atlantic Coast over Jupiter Island one sees the dark water in what is usually a turquoise blue ocean. It must be noted that although this runoff canal-plume is disgusting looking it is nothing close to how dark and sediment filled it was last year when the runoff included releases from Lake Okeechobee.

Beach along Jupiter Island
Beach along Jupiter Island

There was some fun stuff to see also. There were many sharks in the dark waters. Ed and I wondered if they were sneaking  up on the fish in all the cloudy water, there were so many.  We must have seen 20-25 large sharks. We also saw sea turtles and giant rays, and lots of bait fish and sea birds both in and out of the plume area.

Plume from canal runoff C-44, C-23 and C-24, October 17,2014.
Plume from canal runoff C-44, C-23 and C-24, October 17,2014.

As we approached Peck’s Lake, we could see the tip of the plume in the distance like a giant slug. The plume ended about a mile short of Hobe Sound Beach, in Jupiter Island.

Ed and I talked about how one house would have the dark plume waters and another only a few feet away had blue ocean…

Plume up close
Plume up close
Another angle, tip of plume
Another angle, tip of plume
Long shot with Peck' Lake in background.
Long shot with Peck’s  Lake in background.
Shot of ocean on the trip home
Shot of ocean on the trip home showing edge of plume.

Well that’s the end of the tour. Hopefully you learned something or saw something new. And hopefully it is also the end of the rain for 2014. To learn more about these canals please see links below.

Another year, another rainy season behind us….

As we flew home, I was grateful to live in such a beautiful area and with every flight I become more determined to save it from the dirty waters of our canals and Lake Okeechobee. To destroy such a paradise is wrong.


C-44 DEP: (http://www.dep.state.fl.us/southeast/ecosum/ecosums/C-44%20Canal%20.pdf)

C-23 DEP (http://www.dep.state.fl.us/southeast/ecosum/ecosums/c23.pdf)

C-24 DEP (http://www.dep.state.fl.us/southeast/ecosum/ecosums/c24.pdf)





Harmful Algal Blooms, (HABs), St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon

August 24, 2014 photograph of blue-green algae bloom east of S-308, Lake Okeechobee/C-44 Canal area/ (Photo courtesy of Paul Shindel.
August 24, 2014 photograph of blue-green algae bloom east of S-308, Lake Okeechobee/C-44 Canal area. (Photo courtesy of Paul Shindel.

Does the above photo make your stomach turn? What is it?

It is a HAB or Harmful Algae Bloom, taken four days ago, right here in Martin County.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture, “over the past century, alterations of land use and acceleration in the rate of cultural eutrophication have led to widespread increases in harmful algal blooms in Florida, including toxin-producing species.”

First,  what is “eutrophication” and why is it “cultural”?

Eutrophication is is when a body of water becomes enriched in dissolved nutrients (such as synthetic phosphorus and nitrogen from fertilizer) that stimulate the growth of aquatic plant life usually resulting in the depletion of dissolved oxygen and a “bloom.” These algae blooms can be toxic.

“Cultural means “created by humans.”

So what are we doing about this especially since “we” caused it?

In 1997 the Florida Department of Environmental Protection formed a Task Force on Harmful Algae Blooms and in 1999 they produced a scientific document, a White Paper: HARMFUL ALGAE BLOOMS, (http://myfwc.com/media/202228/HAB_whitepaper2006_UPDATE.pdfIt is extensive. 

In my opinion, as usual, our state governors and legislatures did not pay significant attention to these studies, and failed to implement policies that would help overcome this crisis issue. How many of them even read the report?

Case in point, recently, it was the local governments and local residents of the towns, cities and counties along the west and east coasts of Florida who advocated and achieved strong fertilizer ordinances not allowing fertilizer use during the rainy season while the state continues to fight and support less restrictive rules.

According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife website there are four ongoing studies regarding HABs in Florida: (http://myfwc.com/research/redtide/research/scientific-products/)

1. Time-Series Sampling in Pinellas and Manatee Counties) Researchers conduct detailed sampling to better understand when, where and under what conditions harmful algal blooms form.

2. Tampa Bay Monitoring Program Researchers monitor 10 sites in Old Tampa Bay for the presence of, or conditions favorable to, harmful algal blooms.

3. Red Tide Offshore Monitoring Program
Encouraging  people to learn about the program and learn how to become volunteers, collecting water samples around the state to help scientists monitor the Florida red tide.

4. Monitoring Toxic Algae Species and Shellfish in the Indian River Lagoon (2002-present)
Periodic testing of water samples and clams provides an early warning of bloom occurrences and shellfish toxicity and minimizes the risk of human exposure to saxitoxins.

Those are great present HAB programs, so why don’t we hear more about them and why don’t they include Lake Okeechobee, obviously the toxic algae is there as well…

Here at home, when the gates of S-308 open from Lake Okeechobee to the C-44 canal that is connected to the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon, the algae in the photo above goes directly into the our river system.

Google Earth image of S-308, structure at Lake Okeechobee that opens to the C-44 canal where above photo was taken. This area always has some spill through the gates. Look at the agriculture right up to the lake...
Google Earth image of S-308, structure at Lake Okeechobee that opens to the C-44 canal where above photo was taken. This area always has some spill through the gates. Note the agriculture lands right up to the C-44 canal…

It is 2014. The state has been studying this problem since 1997. They do not have all the answers but we do know by now that HABs are fed by cultural eutrophication due to clearing of land that can no longer clean water on its way to estuaries, rivers and lakes; building of towns and cities that create concrete and asphalt barriers to water reabsorption;  fertilizer and other runoff;  oil/chemicals from thousands of miles of highway and roads;  septic effluent; canals and redirection of water such as Lake Okeechobee to the St Lucie and Caloosahatchee; agriculture’s heavy destruction of native lands and the fertilizer and chemical runoff associated with their business, unregulated golf courses fertilizer run off and re-use of high nutrient water resources….it’s endless.

It is said that “ignorance is bliss,” well the state of Florida doesn’t have that luxury anymore.

Blue Green Algae is as ancient as the beginnings of our planet...

Blue Green Algae. (Public photo.)


USDA HABs: (http://www.reeis.usda.gov/web/crisprojectpages/0209332-harmful-algal-blooms.html)

FWC HABs: (http://myfwc.com/research/redtide/general/harmful-algal-bloom/)