Tag Archives: ernie lyons

Senate Bill 10 Amended,”Our Lost Summer Becomes the Wake Up Call for All Floridians,” SLR/IRL

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Image created by Doc Snook, 2013.
S-80 dumps from Lake O into the SLR, image created by Doc Snook, 2013.
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to garner more support…as the powers that be have been repeatedly clubbing the bill over the head, in form with their outdated ideology.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.

Concerns?

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.

Full Capitol Watch Report FWF: http://fwfonline.org/News-and-Pressroom/Capitol-Watch-3-10-2017.aspx#.WMk1OxiZP1w

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.

SENATE BILL 10

Original Bill,1-26-17:
https://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2017/10/BillText/Filed/PDF

Joe Negron’s Press Release to accompany original bill:
https://www.flsenate.gov/Media/PressReleases/Show/2620

Changes/ amended, 3-8-17:

Changes to Bill: https://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2017/10/Amendment/233860/PDF

Joe Negron’s Press Release to accompany changed/amended bill: https://www.flsenate.gov/Media/PressReleases/Show/2667

SUMMARY OF CHANGES TO SENATE BILL 10

TCPALM, Isadora Rangel

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.

Entire Article: http://www.tcpalm.com/story/news/local/indian-river-lagoon/politics/2017/03/08/lake-okeechobee-reservoir-changes/98893822/

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.

Entire article:http://www.sunshinestatenews.com/story/arm-twisting-time-negrons-suspect-reservoir-bill-filed

florida-map-1500

florida_from_space_hd_wallpaper

A biography of the late Ernest Lyons, Stuart News editor and nationally recognized for his writings in support of the environment and the St Lucie River: http://www.flpress.com/node/63

Former JTL Blog on the Lost Summer in Martin County 2013:https://jacquithurlowlippisch.com/tag/lost-summer/

#SupportJoeNegron

Mullet Jump! St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon

A mullet jumps in the St Lucie River off North River Shores. (Photo Todd Thurlow, 10-10-15.)
A mullet jumps in the St Lucie River off North River Shores. (Photo Todd Thurlow, 10-10-15.)

Mullet are famous for being excellent jumpers. In fact, Florida Fish and Wildlife states “it’s often easy to identify their locations by simply watching for jumping fish.” Me? When I see a mullet jump, I have a tendency to personify thinking, “now there’s a happy fish!”

This beautiful jumping mullet-sunset photo was taken by my brother, Todd Thurlow, this past Saturday evening, October 10th, 2015  just off of North River Shores.

Former Stuart News editor and river advocate Ernest Lyons wrote about mullet jumping in his essay ” Never a River Like the St Lucie Back Then.”

There was never a river to compare to Florida’s St Lucie I when I was young….the river fed us. You could get all the big fat mullet you wanted with a castnet or a spear. If you were real lazy, you could leave a lantern burning in a tethered rowboat overnight and a half-dozen mullet would jump in, ready to be picked off the boat bottom next morning….at the headwaters of the south fork of the St Lucie….the waters were clear as crystal… (Ernest Lyons 1915-1990)

Today, the water of St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon are anything but clear, but “hail to the mullet that are still jumping!”

Sunset over the St Lucie, Todd Thurlow, 10-10-15.
Sunset over the St Lucie, Todd Thurlow, 10-10-15.
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Mullet: Florida Fish and Wildlife: (http://myfwc.com/fishing/saltwater/recreational/mullet/)

Ernest Lyons, Stuart News editor, writer and award winning conservationist: (http://www.flpress.com/node/63)

Todd Thurlow: (http://www.thurlowpa.com)

SFWMD’s St Lucie River history (http://www.sfwmd.gov/portal/page/portal/xweb%20protecting%20and%20restoring/stlucie)

Florida Sportsman, by Larry Larsen, Fishing Mullet Schools: (http://www.floridasportsman.com/2013/09/24/mullet-schools/)

Why Mullet Jump, by Terrie Gibson/Visit Florida: (http://www.visitflorida.com/en-us/fishing/articles/2013/february/8431-why-mullet-jump.html)

Stop by the Stuart Heritage Museum to purchase Ernest Lyons’ books with writings about the St Lucie River:(http://www.stuartheritagemuseum.com)

1885–When St Lucie River was 20 Feet Deep…St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon

Rare wood cut map of St Lucie River, ca. 1885, by Homer Hines Stuart.  Image shows water depth in heart of St Lucie River near today's Roosevelt Bridge at 20 feet. (Courtesy of historian, Sandra Henderson Thurlow)
Rare wood cut map of St Lucie River, ca. 1885, by Homer Hine Stuart. Image shows water depth in heart of St Lucie River near today’s Roosevelt Bridge at 20 feet. (Courtesy of historian, Sandra Henderson Thurlow)
Homer Hines Stuart Jr., for whom Stuart, Florida is named. (Portrait courtesy of historian, Sandra Henderson Thurlow.)
Homer Hine Stuart Jr., for whom Stuart, Florida is named. (Portrait courtesy of historian, Sandra Henderson Thurlow.)

Some days I get really lucky because people send me cool stuff based on what I wrote the previous day in my blog. Yesterday this happened with both my mother, Sandra Thurlow, Dr Gary Gorfoth and a slew of other comments . I will be sharing some of my mother and Dr Goforth’s insights today.

Yesterday’s blog: (https://jacquithurlowlippisch.com/2015/06/25/sediment-loads-into-the-st-lucie-river-2015-dr-gary-goforth-slrirl/)

After reading my post on sediment loads in the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon and how they have lessened the natural depths of the river/s, my historian mother, sent me the awesome image of a historic wood cut at the top of this post created around 1885 by Homer Hine Stuart Jr., for whom Stuart, Florida is named.

This historic wood cut shows the depth of the St Lucie River at 20 feet in the area of what would become the span for the Roosevelt Bridge.  A contemporary navigation chart below, shows the depth of the water in this area at 11 feet. At least 9 feet of sediment and or —MUCK!

Contemporary St John's waterway navigation map, public files, shows the depth of the St Lucie River at the Roosevelt Bridge at 11 feet.
Contemporary St John’s waterway navigation map, public files, shows the depth of the St Lucie River at the Roosevelt Bridge at 11 feet.

“Jacqui, Your post about sediments made me think of this little map. Homer Hine Stuart, Jr. for whom Stuart is named, had a little wood cut map that was about 4 by 2 1/2 inches and looked like one of those address stamps we use today made. Maps made from the wood cut were used to show his the location of his property and his bungalow “Gator’s Nest” to his family in New York and Michigan. This image was made from a photograph of the wood cut. It is printed is reverse so the writing, etc., isn’t backward. You can see that there was 20 feet of water depth between the peninsulas that would later be connected by bridges. The date of the map would be around 1885.”  –Mom

Dr Goforth also wrote. He tells a sad story mentioning that Stuart News editor and famed environmentalist Ernie Lyons wrote prolifically about the great fishing in the St Lucie prior to the construction of the St Lucie Canal (C-44) in 1923.

“… the St. Lucie River and Estuary was known as the “Giant Tarpon Kingdom” before the Lake Okeechobee discharges began in 1923; after the Lake Okeechobee discharges began the muck from the Lake despoiled the clear waters and drove the tarpon offshore, and the area was recast as the “Sailfish Capital of the World” (Lyons 1975: The Last Cracker Barrel).

Thankfully, Dr Goforth gives an idea to fix and or improve the accumulation of muck sediments into the St Lucie River:

One effective means of reducing the sediment/much discharges from the Lake would be the construction of a sediment trap just upstream of the St. Lucie Locks and Spillway. This simple approach has worked well in other areas, most recently in West Palm Beach on the C-51 Canal just upstream of the Lake Worth Lagoon (see attached fact sheet). By deepening and widening the C-44 canal just upstream of the locks/spillway, a large portion of the sediment would settle out of the water in a relatively contained area before entering the River; with routine dredging, the material can be removed and spread over adjacent lands… —(perhaps using lands along the canal purchased by Martin County and SFWMD?). —-Dr Gary Goforth

Muck Removal using sediment trap, Lake Worth Lagoon, shared by Dr Gary Goforth.
Muck Removal using sediment trap, Lake Worth Lagoon, C-51, shared by Dr Gary Goforth.

Kudos to Dr Goforth’s ideas. Kudos to my mother’s history! Let’s get Governor Rick Scott to work and get to work ourselves too!  We can do it. Together, we can do anything. 🙂

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MUCK THEMED PHOTOS:

Muck coats the bottom of our beautiful river but determination coats our hearts. We and future generations will continue to fight to save our  St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon!

 

Muck from St Lucie River, 2014.
Muck from St Lucie River, covering oysters, 2014.
Rob Moir teaches Hannah Lucas about muck at the River Kidz GET THE MUCK OUT event,  March 2014.
Jim Moir teaches Hannah Lucas about muck at the River Kidz GET THE MUCK OUT event, March 2014.
Muck Buster, River Kidz 2014.
Muck Buster, River Kidz 2014.
Photo of Stuart News article where Kevin Powers of the SFWMD shows Gov. Rick Scott some muck that is located at the end of Power's dock in Stuart. 2014. (Photo Stuart News)
My close up photo of front page Stuart News article where Kevin Powers of the SFWMD shows Gov. Rick Scott a shovel full of muck from around Power’s dock in Stuart. 2014. (Photo Stuart News)
Mark Perry and I display our "muckstaches" for Florida Oceanographics fundraiser/awareness raiser, 2015.
Mark Perry and I display our “muckstaches” for Florida Oceanographics fundraiser/awareness raiser, 2015.
River Kidz GET THE MUCK OUT campaign and bumper sticker, 2014.
River Kidz GET THE MUCK OUT campaign and bumper sticker, 2014.

“Paradise and Hell,” June 2015/June 2013, St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon

Contrast June 21, 2015 and June 28, 2013. St Lucie Inlet, Martin County, Fl. (Photos JTL and EL)
Contrast June 21, 2015 and June 28, 2013. St Lucie Inlet, Martin County, Fl. (Photos JTL and EL)

I hope you and your family had a happy Father’s Day. The water was beautiful this weekend,  so I thought today I would compare some aerial photos my husband Ed and I took this weekend to some we took in June of 2013 during the “Lost Summer.” No wonder we all fight for clean water and fewer discharges from Lake Okeechobee and area canals. What a difference!

Of course other than “history,” rain has a lot to do with discharges into the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon, and it has not been raining too much lately— thus the blue waters rather than the ugly dark brown plumes. It is important for all of us to understand why our paradise sometimes turns into a disgusting toxic mess so we can keep working for policy to change this problem.

The first and worst part of the problem lies in southern Martin County—the C-44 canal built by the Flood Control District of the era and later the Army Corp of Engineers to connect Lake Okeechobee to the South Fork of the St Lucie River. This canal was connected in 1923 for agriculture and transportation. So now, not only is there the agricultural lands’ runoff from the C-44 basin that pours into the river, but also the periodic often huge releases from Lake Okeechobee. In spite of claims that this lake water is “only 30%” of total discharge water coming into the estuary, when it comes it is tremendous, filthy, and always a killer.

I think a decent metaphor would be that one could drink alcohol all time (from the C-23, C-24, C-25) and have problems like an alcoholic but function, however, if one downed two bottles of gin in a short period of time, one would kill oneself. Lake Okeechobee and its periodic huge slugs are death each time for our St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon.

Canals in Stuart, C-23, C-24, C-25 built in the 50s and 60s. C-44 connected to Lake Okeechobee constructed in the 1920s.
Canals in Stuart, C-23, C-24, C-25 built in the 40s, 50s and 60s. C-44 connected to Lake Okeechobee constructed in the 1920s.

Next we must recognize the other problem-part of our canal system in the northern region…

After a tremendous hurricane/storm and flooding (because we are a swamp….)  in 1947 the state of Florida and the federal government worked to appropriate monies for the Central and South Florida Flood Project  which created the plumbing system we know today for all South Florida.

The part “we got” was the building of canals C-25, C-24 and C-23. The state and federal government acted like this was “just for flooding” but it wasn’t. It was also to allow for more agriculture and development in the region by draining the lands. (Mostly citrus and development of Port St Lucie).  These canals were built and “improved” throughout the 50s and 60s and expanded the water being drained into the St Lucie River by about five times!

So now water from Okeechobee and St Lucie counties, and even water that had been flowing north into the St Johns River, through Indian River County and beyond— drains into the St Lucie River! (The headwaters of the St Johns River started flowing north in the marshes west of Sebastian and Vero—they have been directed to the SLR…)

Crazy isn’t it?

You know these “guys” —these politicians and business people, knew they were killing the river. They were just so driven by the pay-off of citrus/agriculture and cheap lands to sell….that they didn’t care…The river dies slowly so many of them did not see the “close to total death” —what we see today…but they knew what they were doing.

There were those who objected trying to protect the river’s  fishing industry and wildlife….But their voices were not enough to stop the train….sound familiar?

Drainage changes to the SLR.
Drainage changes to the SLR. Green is the original, natural, watershed,. Yellow and pink show the expanded drainage to the SLR/IRL. St Lucie River Initiative, Letter to Congress 1994.

The map above shows the “expanded watershed” in yellow and pink going into the St Lucie River. This is why I very much object also when I hear “how 70-80%” of the water polluting the St Lucie “is from our local watershed.”

Like we are supposed to feel responsible?  Most of it’s  not local!!!!! Plus it is the SFWMD’s job to oversee these canals. FIX THEM!

The moral of the story though is that the “local watershed” does not exist anymore….

“Wealth (agriculture and development) at the expense of the environment….” The story of our state.

Of course the grand irony is that we all came here for the “environment” ….the water, the fishing, the wildlife, the beauty…..

So here we are in Martin County living in a world where the pendulum swings between “paradise and hell.”

Paradise is not what it used to be, but it is still here. We saw some of it this past weekend…And we could bring back more if we really tried….If we want it, our job is to get more of the water coming into the St Lucie River/IRL back onto the land, going south, and returned or held north, and not draining or being released  into our watershed.

Sounds reasonable doesn’t it? Well, the problem is we don’t have 30 years….or 50 years….like “the plan” (CERP) calls for now….(http://www.evergladesrestoration.gov)

There is alway hope we could do it faster. We must make hope a reality….all of us.

As newspaper man and famed environmentalist Ernie Lyons said: “What men do, they can undo…..and the hope for our river is in the hundreds of men and women in our communities who are resolved to save the St Lucie…” (Ernest Lyons, Editor and reporter, Stuart News)

This weekend I think we were all inspired! 🙂

Comparison 2015 and 2013 Atlantic shoreline with nearshore reefs, Jupiter Island south of St Lucie Inlet. (JTL)
Comparison 2015 and 2013 Atlantic shoreline with nearshore reefs, Jupiter Island south of St Lucie Inlet. (JTL)

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September 2013
September 2013–plume as it exits St Lucie Inlet.
Another aerial 2013- plume along Jupiter Island.
Another aerial from September 2013- plume along Jupiter Island that had exited the St Lucie Inlet.

 

Continuing Conservation in the “Sailfish Capital of World,” Saltwater Sisters, Indian River Lagoon

Florida sailfish ad, ca. 1960s. (Florida Memory Project)
Florida sailfish ad, ca. 1960s. (Florida Memory Project.)

I vividly remember my father going fishing for sailfish with his buddies in the 1960s and 70s; my brother has taught his three girls to “reel them in…”

Me? I have never caught a sailfish; I am not a hunter either. Nonetheless, I recognize that fishermen and women, and hunters are some of the strongest conservationist in the United States and around the world. People protect what they love…

I started thinking about sailfish recently because Jamie Burns asked me if I would be a “judge” for a boat theme contest taking place October 24-25 for the “Salt Water Sisters” Lady Angler Tournament.

I was honored to be included and started reading about the organization which is an arm of the famous “Stuart Sailfish Club” that formed in Martin County informally in the 1930s, and later formally in 1941. This organization set the bar on conservation in our area.

According to my mother, Sandra Thurlow’s book, Stuart on the St Lucie:

“Immediately after the club’s incorporation, Ernie Lyons announced the next immediate goal was the creation of a release button to be given to individuals who consistently released their sailfish….in 1941 records show that a record, over 5000 sailfish,  were caught in a 90 day period, January through March 1941. Many sportsmen let their sailfish go but thousands were slaughtered only to be dumped into the river, carted off by garbage collectors, or used for shark bait.

Because of the efforts of the Stuart Sailfish Club, anglers soon began to compete for Curt Whiticar’s beautifully designed release button in preference to all the rest.”

Stuart Sailfish Club release button, designed by Curt Whiticar,1941. (Photo courtesy of Thurlow archives.)
Stuart Sailfish Club release button, designed by Curt Whiticar, 1941. It reads “Stuart Sailfish Club, Released.” (Photo courtesy of Thurlow archives.)

I think this is an amazing and inspirational story!

As a St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon side note, I hear a lot of things about the Indian River Lagoon and someone once told me the sailfish spawn right off the St Lucie Inlet. In our area the fish can spawn a good portion of the year but mostly in the warmer summer months, therefore, polluted releases from our canals and Lake Okeechobee have an effect on the sailfish population in our area. Just one more reason to stop them!

Ernest Hemmingway
Ernest Hemingway was an avid sailfish fisherman and popularized the sport. (Photo Florida Memory Project.)
Drew family of Jacksonville in Stuart ca. 1920 fishing for sailfish. (Photo Thurlow archives.)
Drew family of Jacksonville in Stuart ca. 1920 fishing for sailfish. (Photo Thurlow archives.)
Stuart Sailfish Club
Stuart Sailfish Club
Saltwater Sisters
Saltwater Sisters

In closing,  I  would like to wish all of the participants of the Salt Water Sisters Lady Angler Tournament “good luck” this weekend. Wear your “catch and release” button with pride in the memory of those who came before us and had the foresight to protect the beautiful creatures of the ocean and our way of life.

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History Stuart Sailfish Club: (http://www.stuartsailfishclub.com/about_history.php)

Stuart Sailfish Club (http://www.stuartsailfishclub.com/index.php)

Florida Memory Project/photos :  (http://www.floridamemory.com/photographiccollection/)

 

 

The History of the Name “St Lucie River” and Changes to its Watershed along the Indian River Lagoon

The St Lucie River was originally a large fresh water "stream" that ran into the Indian River Lagoon.An inlet was cut in 1892.
The St Lucie River basin/drainage map 2013, SFWMD.

For thousands of years, before the intervention of modern man, the Ais Indians walked the banks of a large fresh water “stream,” that flowed to the Indian River Lagoon. When the Seminoles came years later, they called it Halipatiokee, Alligator Water, as it was fresh and full of gators. The Spaniards came in the 1500s, on and off for centuries. They first called the river, Rio de Santa Cruz, river of the Holy Cross, as the river is cross-like. Later, they re-christened the river Rio De Luz , river of light, for the lighting on the water is heavenly. Eventually, the Spanish called the river, Santa Lucea. The English then taking over, “anglicized” the name Santa Lucea, to what we know today, as “St Lucie,” the church’s saint of the blind, and of “vision.”

1883 Geodetic Survey Indian River Florida, St Lucie River
1883 Geodetic Survey, Indian River Florida, St Lucie River.

Unfortunately, there was not much long-term vision when the watersheds around the St Lucie were altered by modern man. In 1892 area pioneers cut a permanent inlet from the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon to the Atlantic Ocean, killing the native fresh water grasses that supported an entire ecosystem. Nonetheless, they created something wonderful, the brackish estuary we all know today.  This area, over the years, before its recent destruction, became one of the most bio diverse estuaries in North America.

That wasn’t enough, the local people and the state, with the help of the federal government’s  Army Corp of Engineers, decided they wanted a connection to Lake Okeechobee for trade, travel, agriculture and the convenience of keeping the big lake of Okeechobee, “low.” So they built the C-44 canal connecting Lake Okeechobee to to the St Lucie “River.” In high water times, the overflow from the lake was directed into the St Lucie River as it is today.  Later, around the late 1950s the people decided they wanted more drained land for orange groves and development in the north, and less flooding, so they got the state and federal government to build the C-23, C-24 canals in Martin and St Lucie counties, draining some areas that had never flown south before. These canals even drained lands out west, in what is now Okeechobee County,  and in the north, known today as the City of Port St Lucie.

Did the people building these canals ever think about the effects on the Saint Lucie River?  This seems doubtful. And so today, we have a river system that takes on much more water than it was ever meant to  receive.

As Ernie Lyons, the former great environmentalist and editor of the Stuart News wrote in the 1960s about the loss of the headwaters of the South Fork of the St Lucie River during his lifetime:

“…The drainers got to work on the marshes. The cypress bordered ponds became white sand in the dry times. A ditch through them gushed silted floods during the heavy rains. The little straem was ruined. It  turned from paradise to paradise lost…”

Not until really the 1970s  did humankind start to reflect and realize that we literally were killling paradise, and we have been trying to revive the spirit of the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon ever since.

With out a doubt, the spirit of the saint still lives in the St Lucie River; her ancient story is that she lost her eyes to give the people their own “to see .” When you drive over the bridge and look at her, the beautiful St Lucie, open your eyes and ask her to give us all, “better vision.”

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St Lucie River SFWMD: (https://my.sfwmd.gov/portal/page/portal/common/pdf/stlucie.pdf)

Watershed maps/FDEP: (http://www.protectingourwater.org/watersheds/map/)

Story of St Lucy/Lucie: (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saint_Lucy)

1906-2014, Water Depth Changes in the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon

Hand drawn map Sewall's Point water depths created for Hugh de Laussat Willoughby ca. 1914. (Map and history courtesy of Todd Thurlow and Sandra Thurlow.)
Hand drawn map of Sewall’s Point’s water depths created for Hugh de Laussat Willoughby’s proposed New York Yacht Club at the southern tip of Sewall’s Point. Willoughby came to Sewall’s Point in 1906 in hopes of establishing a Southern New York Yacht Club. (Map and history courtesy of  Sandra Thurlow and Todd Thurlow.)

If Hugh Willoughby had not been searching for a southern location for the prestigious New York Yacht Club in 1906, we would not have the remarkable hand drawn map above. The New York Yacht Club’s southern headquarters was never established at the southern tip of Sewall’s Point, but we can see the water depths in the area were substantial, at 20 feet, around the tip of the protected west side of today’s High Point subdivision.

I stumbled upon the information about the New York Yacht Club again, because of trying to track water depths in the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon over the past century in my mother’s book, The History of Sewall’s Point.

From my parent’s old timer friends, over the years, I have heard stories about the the water depth and clarity being extensive in many areas of the St Lucie River, from Palm City to Stuart to Sewall’s Point, and how over time the sediment, due to canal run off from C-23, C-24 and C-44, has “filled the bottom of the river” in many areas, even forming “islands” north of the Palm City Bridge. C-44, connected to Lake Okeechobee, was first connected in 1923, and then deepened and widened again in the 1930s, and 50s and “improved since.” C-23 and C-24 were built in the 50s and 60s. Tremendous amounts of sediment and pollution has filled the river over time from these once thought “harmless” canals.

Today this sediment fill is often referred to as “muck.”

Anyway, for a baseline comparison of water depths, I started looking thorough my historian mother’s maps and asking questions to my attorney brother, who is a wiz at any type of map old or new, and although I did not get mapping for all of the the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon, I did for my own beloved Sewall’s Point. I imagine it is a microcosm of the rest.

Let’s take a closer look:

IMG_4928

(http://www.charts.noaa.gov/OnLineViewer/11428cgd.shtml)

Hand drawn map Sewall's Point water depths created for Hugh de Laussat Willoughby ca. 1914. (Map and history courtesy of Todd Thurlow and Sandra Thurlow.)

NOAA, 2014 electronic water depth map juxtaposed to hand drawn map of Sewall’s Point ca. 1906.

Comparing the two maps, one can see that the southern tip of Sewall’s Point in the NOAA map is not documented, I imagine because it is too far away from the Okeechobee Waterway. Disappointing. Nonetheless, if one looks at Sewall’s Point’s mid area, across and north of Hell’s Gate (the narrow part of the river) one can see water depth numbers like 19; 15; and 14 feet. Today those numbers on the NOAA chart read 4; 8; and 7.

Looking on the Stuart side, north of Hell’s Gate, the 1906 map reads 10; 8 and 12 feet. The 2014 NOAA map reads 2; 3; and 4 feet. Mind you, the channel has been dredged many times by the Army Corp, and Florida Inland Navigation District since 1906 and this certainly affects depths overall in the river as well. Nonetheless, for me, it is interesting to compare as even the channel depths in this area are no deeper than 11 feet and often more like 8 or 6  feet.

The famous mid 1900s environmentalist editor of the Stuart News, Mr Ernie Lyons, once said “Life too, is a changing river.” I  wonder if he knew how much we were going to fill it in…

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After I wrote this blog , friend, Kevin Stinnette, sent me the insert for south Sewall’s Point as he has experience as an avid sailer. I am adding for interest although I will not adjust my blog. The same principles hold true. 🙂 Thank you Kevin!

InsertD-Chart 11472b SP