Since 2013, I have had a folder in my computer labeled “Best Worst Photos.” At the end of the year, I rate them and chose a “best worst day.” A contradiction in terms…
Having grown up along the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon there is nothing I rather do than photograph its beauty. But this is no longer always possible. Such has become my fate to photograph its demise garnering support for change. I could not do this without the support and help of my husband, Ed Lippisch.
Usually when I blog, I share one or two aerials of a series of photos; to see them all as taken in order has an effect. So today, as 2018 comes to a close, I will share all of what I consider to be our “best worst photo day” for 2018: June 24th’s massive cyanobacteria bloom in Lake Okeechobee, S-308, Port Mayaca ~the structure that the ACOE uses to discharge Lake Okeechobee water to the St Lucie River…
Such has been the direction from Martin County Government of whether the public is allowed to swim at area beaches.
Let’s review recent days….
8-21-18: Bathtub Beach reported as closed
8-24-18 Bathtub Beach reported as not closed
8-25-18 Bathtub Beach, Stuart Beach, and Jensen Beach reported as closed
These changes are very difficult to keep up with!
Although the 2018 pulse release schedule from the ACOE is certainly a good thing, and a positive effort, one has to wonder if that is part of the reason for the recent back and forth scenario reporting. In 2016 with no pulse releases the algae was everywhere and plastered the beaches with no breaks.
In any case, it has been crazy around here, and unfortunately, the only safe way to deal with things, is to take the “may” out of the permanent signs and not to swim in the water anywhere.
When I visited lifeguards at Bathtub Beach on August 24, the word was if one got on a surfboard and paddled out 50 yards, cyanobacteria was floating in clumps in the sea water watered down by fresh water discharges from Lake Okeechobee since June 1st.
~On and off that is…
To try to get a handle on things, Ed and I took up the SuperCub for the first time on Saturday, the day all beaches were closed, and boy was that a good thing they were closed because blue-green algae was flowing down the St Lucie River in long arched lines. Right in the middle of the river! And this was a day the ACOE had stopped discharging from the Lake…As Ed and I were flying around up there in heavy winds, I was trying to figure out the timing of the algae’s 35 or so mile journey from Lake O and how the pulse releases would affect it.
When Ed and I photographed, the algae was just west of the beautiful peninsula of Sewall’s Point and out in the main St Lucie River.
God what have we done? My home town?
To close the beach or not to close the beach, that is not the question. The question is how did the state of Florida let the most bio-diverse estuary in North America go straight to hell.
The wild thing about flying in the SuperCub is that I can communicate via text and Facebook. As Ed and I were taking photos from the sky of what was heading to Martin County beaches, reports were coming in of the algae blowing up from the ground from my friend Mary Radabaugh at Central Marine, located in the same area Ed and I were flying. Go to Toxic#18 Facebook for more reports.
This weekend a series of coincidences allowed me to personalize and learn the story of Ft Lauderdale’s New River, a neighbor in the water system of the Everglades and the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon. It is good to know about your neighbors, as you know, we are all in this water quandary together.
So my husband’s friend Dr Juan Savelli organized an evening at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts. We went to see the former lead singer of Men at Work, Colin Hay. After dinner along Los Olas, we walked across the street to the show.
And there I saw her, the river. Seawalled and controlled, no longer able to freely form a “new river” what made her reputation as told by some of the state’s earliest surveyors; her brown waters were no longer clear and teaming with wildlife as noted in some of the earliest accounts by pioneers and Seminoles; the river had been connected to canals and drainage waters of Lake Okeechobee long ago; nonetheless, she certainly remained beautiful, staring back at me with the city lights of mankind, her lion-tamer, shining behind her.
I stared at the water daydreaming, putting my day of coincidences or “serendipity,” as my mother calls it, together. I had spent the day reading UM student Zach Cosner’s incredible thesis paper, and one part came to mind:
“The trustees of the Internal Improvement Fund… would use this money to build five major canals-the North New River, South New River, Miami, Hillsboro, and Caloosahatchee, all connecting from the southern portion of Lake Okeechobee to the Atlantic Ocean…these canals reached completion towards the end of the 1910s…
Also this day I had visited my neighbor, Mrs Kelso, who was amazingly celebrating her 107 birthday! Remarkable. “Sharp as tack,” as they say. Half way through our conversation I asked,”So you were born in…”
“1910” she replied smiling…
“Wow,” I thought to myself, looking at the river. “Mrs Kelso is exactly as old as some of these first Florida Canals! Impressive.”
“Jacqui!” my friends called. “Let’s go! ”
I tuned and at looked at my friends. I turned and looked at the river…”
“Can I get a picture?” I asked.
Ed and I posed.
A flash in time of a river and a story. Hopefully a story that in the future will consist of men and women even more diligently at work for the New River’s complete and full restoration, and that of the entire Everglades system.
The New River was one of the earliest rivers to be connected to Lake Okeechobee. Highway 27 runs parallel to the canal all the way from the lake to 175. The North Fork of the New River is attached to the New River Canal; and the South Fork of the New River is connected to the Miami Canal. (see above map) Today it is almost impossible to see the connection of the canals to the river amongst the tangle of development surrounding the river.
According to a legend attributed in 1940 to the Seminoles by writers working in the Florida Writers’ Program of the Work Projects Administration, New River had appeared suddenly after a night of strong winds, loud noises, and shaking ground, resulting in the Seminoles calling the river Himmarshee, meaning “new water”. The report of the Writers’ Project attributed the noise and shaking to an earthquake which collapsed the roof of an underground river. Folk historian Lawrence Will relates that the Seminole name for the river was Coontie-Hatchee, for the coontie (Zamia integrifolia) that grew along the river, and that the chamber of commerce tried to change the name of the river to Himmarshee-Hatchee during the Florida land boom of the 1920s.
The English name is derived from early explorer’s maps. The mouth of the river was noted for its tendency to continuously change its entry point into the Atlantic Ocean through the shifting sand of the barrier island. Each time the coast was surveyed and charted the entry point would have shifted. So the location of the mouth would not be on any previous maps, and from off the coast would appear as if it had just developed. With each charting, the location would be recorded with the notation “new river”. Since that was the name used on the maps, that was the name by which the first settlers came to know it, so the name stayed.
From Broward County.org, “The River’s Decline”
Today the New River is in desperate need of repair. This once crystalline waterway has deteriorated under the strains of immense growth. Water quality has been adversely affected from debris, sedimentation, storm water runoff, and other pollutants. Inappropriate land uses near the water have also contributed to the decline of the River and its tributaries. This degradation of water quality and habitat represent a negative impact on the environment, health, and economy of the Broward County metropolitan area.