Robert Lord is President and C.E.O. of Martin Health Systems, formally known as Martin Memorial Hospital. “MHS” as it is known for short, is the long time top-employer for Martin County, and a respected and expanding health system. It has been located in Martin County for 75 years. (https://www.martinhealth.org) The origianl institution sits along the shores of the St Lucie River, near downtown Stuart and has grown into both south Stuart and St Lucie County. It is a literal “lifeblood” of our communtiy.
I have known and admired the Lord family since my childhood. Bobby Lord, Robert Lord’s father was a local celebrity in Stuart’s early days as he is a County & Western legend. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bobby_Lord )I attended both elementary and middle school, and graduated from Martin County High School in 1982 with Robert’s younger brother, Cabot.
I cannot express how much it meant to me last Thursday to see “Robby” Lord, accomplished attorney, now President and C.E.O. of Martin Health Systems, in his position of leadership and influence, speak in support for Senate President Joe Negron and Senate Bill 10. A bill intended to purchase land south of Lake Okeechobee for a reservoir to begin what must happen to save our river: “clean and send more water south.”
Having known the Lord family all these years, I have followed Rob’s career, especially as my sister, Jenny, is physician recruiter, and has served the hospital loyally for almost 20 years.
So, Bravo Rob Lord! You have created a “hometown game-change,” and as we all know, it is not easy to speak up. There are tremendous pressures to conform and accept things as they are. Over the past few years, outside powers have moved into our area influencing and blurring the lines.
I believe that Rob’s speaking out will clear the blurred lines and change the playing field forever. There is no mistaking it. Lake Okeechobee’s discharges are a health issue and must be stopped. Our state and federal government can ignore this no longer in spite of the influences of power.
Excerpt from speech:
“…Good morning, my name is Rob Lord. I am President and C.E.O of Martin Health System .. I care deeply about the impact of Lake Okeechobee discharges on the estuaries. I grew up on the Indian River Lagoon. My family moved here in 1969. I have fished these water with my father, my grandfather, and my brother and nephews and nieces. No one values this eco-system more than my family. We watched it change. As CEO of Martin Health System this has been a significant challenge for us. This past year blue-green algae came to our community. We needed to post this sign in our emergency room. We treated this very much like we needed to treat the Ebola situation….”
Dr. Steven Parr, Director of Emergency Medicine at Tradition Medical Center noted there are studies occurring now to determine whether the toxins trigger certain diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and ALS also known as Lou Gherig’s disease.
Regarding Senate Bill 10, and the recent changes made to the bill~
I thought I would just go on-line and compare the first bill to the second with its amendments…kind of like juxtaposing town ordinances between first and second reading. Well, I learned over the past week, that this is not as easy as I had anticipated. In fact, to interpret well, I think I need a lawyer, or to become one.
Nonetheless, today I have gathered information to help us understand what is/has happened with Senate Bill 10. The essence of its changes is encapsulated in these recent words by Senate President Joe Negron about the bill:
“Harmful discharges from Lake Okeechobee have flooded communities on the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee Rivers with massive amounts of toxic algae that destroyed estuaries and harmed the local and state economies. Unfortunately, incidences like these are not unique in our state and are a symptom of the lack of attention to water resource development. The lost summer must be a wakeup call for all Floridians.”
Powerful words from a Senate President. And between the lines we see that he is trying to build bridges to garner more support…as the powers that be have been repeatedly clubbing the bill over the head, in form with their outdated ideology.
So the bill has changed, it may be slightly wounded but it is still alive, and the dramatic destruction of our St Lucie/Indian River Lagoon has become the seed of change for our entire state. Wow. This is fitting as Martin County has a history of inspiring change and being a leader when it comes to the environment.
Ernest Lyons, the great “Stuart News” newspaper man, and others are in their graves smiling I am sure. He may even be smoking a cigar.
Nonetheless, we must remain the epicenter of this state-wide change…we must keep foucs.
The toxic destruction from Lake Okeechobee is a not by accident, but a rather a state and federally sponsored decision embedded in a power culture that has ruled for over one-hundred years. It is time to crack this wide open, thus even though the bill is morphing Senate Bill 10 must keep the EAA land purchase and reservoir component.
And although it has grown to include others, it still has this critical component.
The Florida Wildlife Federation states:
“Unfortunately SB10 has been substantially amended to include funding for water supply developments (pipes and pumps)…The bill changes the direction of the state’s major land acquisition programs from conservation purposes, to acquisition and improvements to land and water areas to protect, restore, and DEVELOP, water resources…These amendments are concerning…” I trust FWF’s concerns are warranted and should be looked at.
Now for the fun part! Below you can compare the two bills, it has gone from 14 to 27 pages!
The press releases following help interpret the bill’s intent. Below the Florida Senate links are two reporter’s insights that I feel are quite helpful, Isadora Rangel of TCPalm and Nancy Smith from Sunshine State News.
In closing, we must never give up because we are destined to change the long-standing culture of drainage and destruction for the St Lucie River/ Indian River Lagoon and now for the great state of Florida.
MORE PROJECTS ADDED
Bradley also added projects to garner support from lawmakers across the state. Those include:
• Creating a loan program to help government and private entities pay for water storage projects that prevent it “from being discharged to tide or otherwise lost to protect the waters of the state.” The loan would pay up to 75 percent of the project and give priority to alternative water supply in areas with limited water sources or that are threatened by salt water intrusion.
• $20 million for grants to help local governments convert septic tanks to sewer systems or remove muck in the Indian River Lagoon and the St. Lucie and Caloosahtachee rivers, as Gov. Rick Scott has proposed;
• $35 million per year for the restoration of the St. Johns River and its tributaries or the Keystone Heights Lake Region;
• $2 million annually for septic-to-sewer conversions, stormwater projects, muck removal and other water quality projects in the Florida Keys.
Sunshine State News, Nancy Smith
The Coast-to-Coast Comprehensive Water Resource Program includes the following:
— Acceleration of the timing and funding for the state share of the Everglades Agricultural Area Storage Reservoir Project. The bill authorizes the purchase of land for the project from willing sellers in the EAA and does not authorize the use of eminent domain.
— Funding of the state share of all existing Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP) projects in the integrated delivery schedule (IDS), including the Lake Okeechobee Watershed Project, the C-43 West Basin Storage Reservoir Project, the C-44 Reservoir Project, the Western Everglades Restoration Project, the C-111 South-Dade Project, and the Picayune Strand Restoration Project.
— Direction to the Army Corps of Engineers to begin the reevaluation of the Lake Okeechobee Regulation Schedule to take into account repairs to the dike and new southern storage features to increase storage in the lake as early as possible.
— A new bonding program, building on the Florida Forever model that recognizes the need to bond for water resource protection and development across Florida. The bill transfers the remaining $3.3 billion of existing bonding authority from Florida Forever to the Florida Coast-to Coast Water Resources Initiative. The bill does not create additional bonding capacity.
— A new revolving loan financing program and statutory tools to allow the state, water management districts and local governments, to develop and operate water storage and supply facilities to service regional populations addressing the growing need for water supply in the state.
— Dedicated LATF funding to expand Legacy Florida to include projects addressing water quality and restoration with the St. John’s River and the Florida Keys.
— Funding to aggressively address the retrofitting or conversion to central sewer systems of outdated septic systems consistent with Gov. Rick Scott’s leadership on this issue.
— Provisions that encourage reuse by establishing a water reuse grant program, specifically to assist wastewater treatment facilities to expand capacity to make reclaimed water available for reuse.
On May 10th, 2016 there was a knock on my front door. I was expecting somebody. Kait Parker and her team from the Weather Channel had arrived via New York to do a story on the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon.
The group was upbeat and friendly. They interviewed Ed and me in our kitchen, and later we took them up in both the Cub and the Baron to shoot footage and to get “the view.” –The aerial view of the discharges from Lake Okeechobee that had started this year on January 29th.
What really struck me about Kait was that although this Texas girl’s beauty, talent, and ambition had moved her beyond the Treasure Coast to Atlanta’s Weather Channel, (Kait had been a well-known and loved meteorologist for three years at WPTV, the West Palm Beach/Treasure Coast NBC affiliate), she had come “home” to see what the heck was going on. She, as so many others, had heard the horrible stories of destruction facing the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon.
I commend Kait for coming back to see for herself and for using her fame to share our story with others. This gesture will not be forgotten and “Toxic Lake” is already making waves! Waves of change.
Thank you Kait.
*Thank you Kait Parker,Spenser Wilking,and Andy Bowley.
My “Road Trip to the Glades” series is meant to be an experience of exploration. Exploration into a world many of us from the Coast have not seen. It is my hope that through learning about the Glades communities we can forge insights and hopefully friendships that assist us in our journey for a solution to Lake O’s discharges, Senate President Elect Joe Negron’s land purchase proposal for 2017, and a restored Everglades including a healthy St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon.
At this point, as river advocates, we must make clear that we wish to attain these things, not at the expense of the communities of Lake Okeechobee. The best way to begin this conversation is to educate and visit there ourselves, because yes, #GladesLivesMatter.
We begin first our journey driving west from Stuart on Kanner Highway, named for Judge A.O. Kanner. “A.O.” had an accomplished legal and legislative career, and in 1925 was chosen to move to Martin County by longtime friend and colleague, Governor Martin, to get newly founded Martin County “off to a good start.” A note of interest is that “Abram” and his wife Mary were one of Martin County’s few Jewish families. At the time, Jews were not allowed to buy in certain subdivisions. But thankfully Kanner was embraced by the Martin County community, and became one of its most respected citizens. He lived in Stuart until his death in 1967. As a legislator, Kanner fought for roads. State Road 76, was the result of his effort to get good roads to the Glades. It is on his legacy that we will drive forward.
Driving west about twenty miles outside of Stuart, we pass Indiantown. We see train tracks, agricultural fields, and wonderful open natural lands such as DuPuis Wildlife Area. All the while the C-44 canal is to our right. An eagle flies overhead. The blue and white clouded sky seems bigger here.
Just a few miles before reaching the Lake we see the looming Port Mayaca Cemetery. In this cemetery are buried in a mass grave 1600 of the 3000 dead from the horrific 1928 Hurricane. A stark reminder of the past, the power of Mother Nature, and how we live dangerously so in a drained swamp. There are graves of others not associated with the hurricane too. Old families. People whose blood and sweat laid the ground for South Florida’s development. Many of the family plots go back to the 1800s.
Getting back into the car and back on Kanner Highway, we drive past sod farms and sugarcane fields. King Ranch has a sign with their brand atop. After about 10 minutes, slowly and with caution we approach Port Mayaca. It is impossible to see Lake Okeechobee herself as a gigantic berm and structure surround her. We do see the ACOE’s S-308, the structure that allows water to enter the C-44 from Lake Okeechobee that eventually flows and destroys the St Lucie River. Strangely, we notice an “advisory” blue-green algae sign prominently displayed while at least four people are fishing in the canal. Pulling onto the once famous toll road of Connors Highway and going south, we see the berm of Lake Okeechobee. We leave Martin and enter Palm Beach County. Large trucks fill the road. It is nerve-wracking but exciting. Some beautiful old homes stand amoungst thickets of royal palms and tropical vegetation. Roses and honey are for sale if one has the nerve to pull over.
After about twelve miles we reach Canal Point. Canal Point is not incorporated, but part of Palm Beach County. At this location is S-352 built in 1917, today’s SFWMD’s structure allowing water into the West Palm Beach Canal, Water Conservation Area 1, as well as being used for irrigation.
We take a sharp turn into the Canal Point Recreation Area praying not to get rear ended. Here we can drive on top of the dike and take a look at Lake Okeechobee and across the street. Fishermen fish near the structure. An alligator waits nearby. It’s nice to see some wildlife.
A beautiful Baptist church stands among tidy homes. A U.S.Department of Agriculture Research Service Sugarcane Station also sits along the Connor Highway that hugs the lake not too far from S-352.
Canal Point has about 525 people and the town is very small located between Lake Okeechobee and sugarcane fields. From what we can see there is also a post office, one elementary school, and a store. Larger, Pahokee is just a few miles away.
This little town has a rich and important history. In the coming days we will learn about Canal Point’s mark on the Northern Everglades of which we are part.
Martin County was fortunate to “dodge the bullet” of category 4 Hurricane Matthew, but as long as the St Lucie Indian/River Lagoon is attached to Lake Okeechobee via the C-44 canal, the river cannot. She is shot in the chest each time.
These photos taken yesterday morning by my husband, Ed, show the discharges, like blood, gushing out of the St Lucie Inlet. Melodramatic personification? Perhaps, but true.
A press release by the Army Corp of Engineers on October 7th stated:
“Lake Okeechobee continues to rise; today’s stage is 15.93 feet…
The Corps has resumed discharges from Lake Okeechobee after suspending them during the storm. Water managers have removed target flows and will release as much water as practical through Moore Haven Lock (S-77) located on the west side of the lake, and the Port Mayaca Lock (S-308) located on the east side of the lake…
‘We anticipate inflows to the lake will increase as a result of Hurricane Matthew,’ said Col. Kirk. ‘Therefore, we must maximize outflows in order to slow the rise in the lake and be as prepared as possible for additional hurricane season uncertainty…”
“Additional uncertainty?” Not for the river.
As the Corp has been discharging from the lake since January 29th, 2016 and now the gates are wide open to save life and property south of the lake, the St Lucie did not really dodge a bullet at all. She is hemorrhaging once again.
Until Lake Okeechobee is redirected south as God designed, “dodging a bullet” in Martin County remains an illusion.
I am lucky to know a lot of people who are smarter than me. And one of them is my brother. Ever since we were kids Todd read meteorological books or the Guinness Book of World Records. He likes data. Today, over forty years later, he is helping me apply his knowledge of data to the St Luce River/Indian River Lagoon.
If you are a regular blog reader, you know that this past summer Todd helped publicly identify what became a 240 square mile algae bloom in Lake Okeechobee that was being released into the C-44 causing our river to become toxic. Today, I will share his ideas on avoiding the perfect toxic algae storm.
Here is a photo of Todd and I when we were young in the 70s, when the river was in better shape and we were having fun fishing on Ronnie Nelson’s dock on Hutchinson Island.
Here is a photo of Todd and me today. As you can see we have changed a lot and the river has changed too…
After studying these satellite aerials for a while, I can tell that the blooms are definitely related to sunlight and wind..Our scientists friends would sarcastically say, “no kidding?!”
High pressure system -> a lot of sunlight + no wind = bloom. Clouds + wind = less algae.
The fresh water, phosphorus and nitrogen are always in the lake, but not necessarily the river. Luckily, cloudless days are also the perfect time to spot the algae by satellite.
Maybe the ACOE should add to their discharge schedule that they will hold back the releases when it is forecast to be calm and sunny for several days to prevent the risk of and bloom in the estuaries? Then they can pulse the releases again when the clouds and wind pick up and the algae blows away in the lake – kind of like mother nature.
Jacqui: “Always better if we go with Mother Nature so we don’t end up with such ecological disasters…”
Todd: ” I think Gary Goforth, Mark Perry and others would tell us that the disaster timeline sets up like this:
– A low pressure weather system moves into Florida and dumps a bunch of rain, local runoff begins and the lake starts to rise
– They keep S-308 at Mayaca an other lakeside gates closed and open S-80 because the priority is always to transport the “local” runnoff first and not add to flooding problems by sending lake water through the coastal canals
– The local basins start to drain out and a high pressure weather system moves in. It gets sunny, hot, and the wind dies down to zero.
– With a lot of sun and no wind, the lake starts to bloom. With local runoff subsiding, the tides help flush all to local runoff out to sea but not completely.
– Just when conditions in the lake are “the perfect storm”, the estuaries would otherwise be recovering from the local runoff, the lake is in full bloom and rising, S-308 is now opened to drop the lake at the worst time. All the algae that just exploded in the lake is transported down C-44 through S-80 and into to estuaries. Salinity in the estuaries stays low instead of naturally recovering. With the sunny conditions and unnatural discharges, the estuaries explode with algae blooms.
If they would just delay opening S-308 for just a few days, maybe a week, allowing clouds and wind to return, could the perfect storm be avoided?”
You can access more of Todd’s shared data here under FIRM FAVORITES: http://www.thurlowpa.com
Thank you Todd! Hope the ACOE thinks on this. We don’t want to get in the Guinness Book of World Records 2016 for the estuary with the most toxic algae blooms!
The following update Comparison of Lake O Releases was shared by Dr Gary Goforth on 7-14-16. Thank you Dr Goforth. The more informed and studied we are about where the water is going, the better chance we have to change this situation.
1. Lake Okeechobee has received more than twice the watershed inflows since January compared to last year at this time.
2. Discharges from the Lake have increased 25% compared to last year this time, however the distribution of inflows has dramatically changed compared to last year (as you so clearly know):
3. Since January 1, a. approx. 525 billion gallons of Lake water have been sent to the estuaries (including Lake Worth Lagoon) b. Lake flows are averaging about 1 billion gallons per day to the St. Lucie River/Estuary and about 2.1 billion gallons per day, and about 0.1 billion gallons /day to Lake Worth Lagoon, for a total of about 3.2 billion gallons per day c. Twenty-five (25) times more Lake water has been discharged to the estuaries than to the Everglades d Ag runoff has contributed significant nutrient loads to the St. Lucie River/Estuary: i. Nitrogen loads: 36% from ag and 54% from Lake [Dear Gov. Scott and SFWMD Board members: Martin County septic tanks contributed about 2% of the nitrogen load] ii. Phosphorus loads: 53% from ag and 30% from Lake e. 93% of the sediment load to the St. Lucie River/Estuary this year has come from the Lake discharges (37 million pounds)
4. Only 32 billion gallons of Lake water have been sent to the STAs this year – less than 1/3 of the amount sent last year at this time.