Just last year, Florida Realtors, “The Voice for Real Estate in Florida,” published a final report on the impacts of water quality on Florida’s home values. “March 2015 Final Report.”
The first page of the executive summary states:
“There has long been a belief that there is a connection between home values and the quality and clarity of Florida waterways. The objective of this study was to determine whether that belief is in fact true.
We examined the impact of water quality and clarity on the sale prices of homes in Martin and Lee counties over a four-year period, from 2010-2013. What was clearly found was that the ongoing problem of polluted water in the Caloosahatchee and St Lucie rivers has indeed resulted in a negative impact on home values.
In addition, the study found a significant economic impacts resulting from improved water quality and clarity. Lee County’s aggregate property values increase by an estimated $541 million while Marin County’s aggregate property values increase by an estimated $428 million. These increased property values also provide additional revenue for city and county governments.”
Unfortunately this report, very much like the University of Florida Report, was basically ignored by the South Florida Water Management District and the state legislature when speakers came before them last year using this document and asking for relief.
As we enter yet another long summer of water pollution, may we re-familiarize ourselves with this report; we are going need to reference it again. Even though this is certainly “common sense,” it helps to have the formal report in hand when speaking.
Here is the full document for your reference. Reading through you will see the story of Lake Okeechobee’s worsening polluting discharges and our property values’ decline.
Real estate taxes are paid in arrears, so one learns about the property values of a calendar year, a year later. In the Town of Sewall’s Point, the 2014 (really 2013) tax value increased .14%. This seemed low compared to other similar areas of the state. During this time, I contacted Laurel Kelly, our Martin County property appraiser. She had her staff research the issue, and assured me that the answer to my question: “Did the toxic St Lucie River/Southern Indian River Lagoon of 2013 have anything to do with lower property values?” was a negative– or at least could not be verified.
Rather, data showed it had to do with other things like the number of homesteaded properties and a limited commercial district….I saw the picture and understood, but I was still unconvinced.
As someone who has worked in the real estate industry, as a commissioner of Sewall’s Point, as a home owner, as someone with more than three brain cells in my head, I know that, of course, a clean, beautiful, waterway is more desirable than a toxic one. Also I know that numbers “right away” don’t show the big picture….
Yesterday, a report entitled: “The Effects of Water Quality on Housing Prices” was released by Florida Realtors, and the Everglades Foundation. The study focuses on Lee and Martin Counties with estuaries St Lucie (Martin) and Caloosahatchee (Lee) running through their boarders. These once life-filled, property-value-enhancing estuaries have reached a tipping point as the conduits for polluted water from Lake Okeechobee compounded with area growth, put them “over the edge.”
Some may say any report attached to the Everglades Foundation is biased. Here, I think not. In this case the report reflects a simple reality. People don’t pay full market value for real estate on rivers that “go toxic.” The greatest contributor to that toxicity is Lake Okeechobee’s fresh and dirty water released by the Army Corp of Engineers and South Florida Water Management District that destroys the salinity and visibility within these water ways.
An article today in the Palm Beach Post about the study states:
“The study found that “as water quality degrades, home values decrease and could potentially cost Florida’s real estate market nearly $1 billion in Lee and Martin County alone,” said 2015 Florida Realtors® president Andrew Barbar, in a statement released Tuesday. Barbar is a broker with Keller Williams Realty Services in Boca Raton.
The loss is attributable to polluted discharges from Lake Okeechobee, according to the release put out by the Foundation and Florida Realtors® – the largest professional trade organization in the state.” (http://www.floridarealtors.org)
I do believe water quality affects home values. Don’t you? I believe the releases by the ACOE and SFWMD, overseen and directed by our governor, state legislature, and Congress, destroy our property values. Don’t you?
The state and federal government don’t want to admit this openly as truly fixing the Lake Okeechobee issue is costly beyond human proportion and requires going against the seats of power and influence. I imagine they are probably thinking “tourism is doing just fine in the great state of Florida…”
Well guess what? Florida can’t be a “great state” and America can’t be a great county with an environmental disaster on its hands for almost 500,000 people every few years. And 500,000 people won’t tolerate repeditive losses on their greatest investment. The river has reached a tipping point and its coming for the people. This problem needs a BIG FIX. Best to address the problem before it gets worse.
If you read my blog, you know that I prefer to do a “feel good” piece on Friday as we all go into the weekend. Sometimes this is difficult when it comes to the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon.
I have been asked to provide a “simple update” as so much information has occurred lately, plus the Army Corp of Engineers (ACOE), and South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) have begun releasing more polluted water from Lake Okeechobee (via the Kissimmee River area), and our area canals, C-23, C-24, C-25 and C-44— due to high rainfall.
As you know, the ACOE began releasing in mid January as the lake is “high.” Going into summer the lake should be able to “hold” three to four feet of rain from a hurricane without breaking the dike which in spite of $650 million in repair is still rated as one of the most dangerous in the nation.
So although for one week the ACOE stopped releasing, they have started up again this week at a higher level going from about 200 to 950 cubic feet per second (cfs). (For perspective during the highest discharged in 2013 the releases where around 5000-7000 cfs.)
You can see from the above chart, that after the rain last weekend, (that in some areas of Martin County, such as Palm City, was 11 inches) there was a spike. The blue is Lake Okeechobee discharges, and the other colors correspond to area canals and basins.
Pretty much “what happens”, every week or so is that there is a stakeholder call and then the ACOE and SFWMD have to come up with a “weekly” decision on how to manage Lake Okeechobee. Not fun.
After they compare notes and get input from state holders, a press release is sent out. This week, it read like this:
PRESS RELEASE ACOE 3-5-15 DISCHARGE INCREASES FROM LAKE O. Classification: UNCLASSIFIED Caveats: NONE All, Corps of Engineers will increase flows on FRI to 2,500 cfs west and 950 cfs east. More information is attached. Please contact me if you have questions. JHC John H Campbell Public Affairs Specialist Jacksonville District, US Army Corps of Engineers Jacksonville, FL Office: 904-232-1004 Mobile: 904-614-9134 Join our online communities: http://about.me/usacejax/ Classification: UNCLASSIFIED Caveats: NONE
The ACOE has to share the bad news as they “control” S-77 and S-308, the giant gates that allow the water to come gushing in to the estuaries St Lucie and Caloosahatee, but really, the decision is made together with the SFWMD, and stakeholders like counties, and state agencies trying to deal with all this exhausting, constant “up and down.”
Another thing the agencies try to do to “help” is send the water in “pulse releases” instead of in one tremendous “flush.” To understand why this is a good idea, you can see the cartoon below that was very popular during the 2013 “Lost Summer…”
Another report that came out yesterday from the Martin County Health Department shows the enterococcus bacteria levels found in the St Lucie River at certain check points. Most are” high” again. This corresponds with the high “discharges” from our area canals and from Lake Okeechobee and is believed to be in many cases connected to non-functioning septic tanks–Nonetheless, many pollutants “rise” and “flow” during these high water times causing our bacteria levels to spike…Martin County is working very hard to pin down this issue.
Just to give perspective, during part of the 2013 “Lost Summer,” the chart above was ALL RED, not only at the Roosevelt Bridge, Sandsprit Park, and Leighton Park, but even at the Sandbar which is practically sitting inside the St Lucie Inlet, an area one would expect to be “flushed” with clean sea water at all times….
In spite of all this “bad news” the SFWMD has been trying to alleviate our problems as one can see from the chart above, they have sent almost 500,000 acre feet (500,000 acres with one foot of water on top) of water “south” from Lake Okeechobee and the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA.) This is truly historic and to be commended. The SFWMD heard our call SEND THE WATER SOUTH. Thank you!
Also this week, thanks to Senator Negron’s IRL Hearing, the University of Florida’s: “Options to Reduce High Volume Freshwater Flows to the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee Estuaries and Move More Water from Lake Okeechobee to the Southern Everglades” went public discussing constraints and providing quite a few good ideas of how to “overcome them.”
In summary, I am sorry to say, right now, everything is pointing towards another “lost summer.”
Worst of all is that many fish and oysters begin spawning in March, so their “babies” will get swooped out to sea, lowering the productivity of our estuary by millions of dollars really….and it is almost “Spring”here in Florida—- were we humans, and especially kids, like to play and use the water too. Not mention our real estate values…
“Groundhog Day?” Have you seen the movie?
Watch this very powerful video if you have time, and be ready to defend our St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon once again— this time asking for the EAA option lands owned by Us Sugar Corporation to be bought south of Lake Okeechobee by our state. As we can all see, it is very sad, and rather embarrassing to admit, but we have become the “toilet” of the great state of Florida. We pay too many taxes to allow this.
You probably already know that it is the Everglades Coalition that is holding its 30th Annual Conference this week in Key Largo, Florida.
The easiest way to think about a “coalition” is in terms of our very own Rivers Coalition. The Rivers Coalition, (http://riverscoalition.org), like the Everglades Coalition, is a membership of organizations as opposed to individuals. 501c3 (tax exempt organizations) vary depending on how they are set up, nonetheless, a “coalition” is generally an alliance of like-minded organizations, whereas a “foundation” usually has individuals serving on a board focusing on raising money.
Organizations represent sometimes hundreds of people under one umbrella, so coalitions are very strong.
The Everglades Coalition, has been around since 1985, as is a major player in setting the direction of Everglades restoration; according to their website:
The Everglades Coalition isan alliance of more than 50 local, state and national conservation and environmental organizations dedicated to full restoration of the Greater Everglades Ecosystem, from the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes into Lake Okeechobee, through the “River of Grass,” out to Florida Bay and the Keys.
So how does the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon play into this?
And of course, as well all know, historically, our water flowed south creating the “Everglades” until in early 1900s, when agricultural and development interests, through the help of the state and federal governments, drained the lands south and around Lake Okeechobee by building the St Lucie Canal and finishing the already started Caloosahatchee Canal as well as many others. It was a different world then. People did not think in terms or realize they were linked to their environment. It was a brutal world–one of “man over nature.” We cannot blame them, they were just trying to survive and build our county, nonetheless, those days are over, we must change our world, as today we have a different world view.
When that water was cut off, and it must be noted it really has been cut off more every year since the early 1900s, the Everglades and all its plenty, its gifts started dying…this includes water supply for South Florida and the weight of fresh water to combat sea level rise in today’s world.
On a positive note, isn’t it wonderful that the Everglades Coalition entitled their conference SEND IT SOUTH!
Thank you for this.
And yes, it is time! 100 years of destruction has had its day. With the strength of the coalition in 2015, this message, SEND IT SOUTH, once again will be heard loud and clear in Tallahassee and around the state and world. Just in time for the legislative committee meetings going on in Tallahassee this week!
—-River Warriors and all river advocates, thank you, as I believe it was you, with your thousands that has inspired the theme of this conference.
I’ve read that TC Palm will be reporting, and independently I will be blogging starting Thursday from Key Largo. Maybe I’ll get to see you there?
Whether you are there are not, you will be there in spirit.
We are making progress!
So for fun, go outside and shout loud and clear:
SEND IT SOUTH!
And when you scream it, know, that you are finally being heard.
Some things never change, like the wonder of a kid catching his or her “first fish.”
I still remember mine. A puffer fish! It was 1968, and my parents took me fishing along the Indian River Lagoon…
Fishing is a powerful experience for a young person. There is no better way to teach youth how to appreciate and protect the St Lucie/Indian River Lagoon than by “taking a kid fishing.” It is well documented that hunters and fishermen/women are some of our county’s most outspoken and powerful conservationists.
In keeping with this Treasure Coast fishing legacy, on October 18th, 2014, something really remarkable is happening. Kids in our area have organized a fishing tournament for kids! The event is called “Lines in the Lagoon.” (http://www.linesinthelagoon.com/#!about/mainPage)
Vero Beach freshman high school student, Quinn Hiaasen and his friends organized the event. Quinn is obviously on his way to “stardom” himself, but it must be mentioned that his father is none other than satirist and writer Carl Hiassen, (http://www.carlhiaasen.com/bio.shtml), a well-known proponent of our rivers and Everglades. Quinn’s mother, Fenia, has also been working for the event and assisting her son for months– “spreading the word” and communicating with River Kidz momz here in Martin and St Lucie Counties. Martin, St Lucie, and Indian River counties are one, as the lagoon knows no county lines or political districts; it is a Tri-county tournament.
Early on, Mrs Hiaasen let us know that pre-fishing/fishing tournament events included:
September 6th: LAGOON CLEAN UP DAY
October 27th: INDIAN RIVER SCIENCE FAIR DAY
October 1st: CHIPOTLE IN STORE PROMOTIONS 3-7pm 50% DONATION TO ORCA AND EVERGLADES FOUNDATION
October 18th: FISHING TOURNAMENT AND AWARDS BANQUET AT THE BACKUS MUSEUM IN FT PIERCE
From what I am told by River Kidz mom, Nicole Mader, the group is also working on displaying a “responsible fishing tent” to teach children care with fishing line and hooks, as careless discarding of such is a serious threat to wildlife and of course the tournament is primarily “catch and release.”
Isn’t this a great thing?
So sign up…
Support the kids; support conservation; and support the Hiaasen family!
And remember, by taking a kid fishing, you are creating future advocates for our Indian River Lagoon.
CEPP=Central Everglades Planning Project, 2014,( contains elements of CERP); CERP=Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan of 2000.
To every action, there is a reaction, and in the case of the ACOE refusing to sign off on CEPP, the reaction here in Martin, St Lucie, and Lee County across the state certainly will not be “good.”
Mind you there is a Jacksonville ACOE, who works with “us” and then the ACOE in DC. They are the same but different…
Let’s start at somewhat of the beginning so we can get a grip on this always terribly confusing, multi-layered attempt to fix our estuaries and restore the Everglades.
Around 2000, long before I was involved with the River Movement directly, a group of Florida stakeholders, including environmentalists, the agriculture industry, tribes, utilities, users, and government agencies miraculously agreed on something called CERP, or the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan. This plan consisted of at least 68 projects to “fix the Everglades.” It was historical and celebrated by all. Congress approved and eventually appropriated some funds that would be shared in costs with the South Florida Water Management District, (SFWMD) towards “CERP.”
Now, 14 years later, some work has been done, but not one of the 68 projects has been completed.
OK now we move to 2010, 2011… still in the sinkhole of 2008 Great Recession, the SFWMD, the local ACOE Jacksonville team, and the stakeholders decide sitting with “nothing” is not an option and determine to do something unprecedented and “speed things up.” They work like crazy, often being criticized by those same stakeholders, to package some of the CERP ideas into CEPP (the Central Everglades Planning Project) to sell to the DC ACOE and Congress again, in a different form, and get things going.
Although often behind, the Jacksonville ACOE appears to almost meet their deadline of 18 months and finally, two weeks ago the SFWMD is able to sign off on cost sharing (not an easy task and not all supported the move) on the local Jacksonville ACOE completed CEPP project— which of course has to meet every Tom, Dick and Harry regulation you can possibly imagine. A neurotic situation for sure.
So yesterday, Earth Day, the Washington D.C. ACOE office refuses to sign off on CEPP, saying they need more time to review the documents they have had since last August.
As of yet, no official statement has been given, but the local press and the Everglades Foundation’s Eric Eichenberg call the move “a staggering failure of duty and responsibility.” I would imagine the main concern here is that the Water Resources Development Bill (WRDA) that only comes around once every 5-7 years these days, must include CEPP for it to be funded (appropriated) by Congress. Now it seems CEPP will certainly not make the deadline, which is really “now.”
So is there hope? We all know, that “it’s not over until its over,” and until the WRDA is officially closed, perhaps some political miracle could ensue. Is it likely? I would doubt it. But I do not know.
What I do know is that Florida has been really dependent on the Federal Government since 1933 when the Florida Legislature and the people of Florida convinced the US Government to build the Herbert Hoover Dike around Lake Okeechobee and the ensuing flood control projects over the years to protect the important growing agriculture industry south of the lake and thousands of people who were allowed to build and develop inside the Everglades’ historical flow area, especially south from Palm Beach to Dade counties. At this time there was no thought of the estuaries.
So in many ways we want our cake and to eat it too….”protect us from the waters of Lake O but don’t hurt the estuaries….” Something is going to have to give.
For almost four years, Senator Joe Negron has been pushing for less involvement of the ACOE. Whether one likes Senator Negron or not, I agree with his philosophy. Congress/ the US ACOE is no longer supporting the dredging of our state inlets which they did for almost 100 years, and they most likely not going to support the restoration of the Everglades and the betterment of the estuaries through changing our pluming system and sending more water south. After 14 years of of begging, and celebrating crumbs, you’d think we’d get the message.
Is this the Jacksonville local ACOE’s fault? Not really as the Federal Government is simply terribly dysfunctional so it is hard for the ACOE to do its job, plus they are broke.
In conclusion, yes, we have to finish what’s been started, and I recognize the difficulty of “us” fixing our own problems, however; if we really take a hard look in the mirror, there may not be a choice but to try.