Tag Archives: Everglades National Park

Jumping Around the Frog Pond

Today we will be jumping around the Frog Pond

On April 29, 2021, I took a tour, with SFWMD staff, led by LeRoy Rodgers, Section Leader, Vegetative Management, 21 years; Christen Mason, Invasive Species Biologist, 7 years; and Brenda Mills, Principal Project Manger, Everglades Restoration, 23 years. Serious experience! The goal was to tour and learn about Frog Pond restoration, the C-111 project sites, and the 8.5 Square Mile Area. So what is the Frog Pond anyway? There’s no easy explanation, but I’ll try. The Frog Pond can best described as the “end of the road or the beginning of the road,” Ingram Highway that is. The end of the road for Florida City and the beginning of the road for Everglades National Park. Looking at the map provided by the SFWMD, one can see that the Frog Pond is the long yellow rectangle below; pink contains the C-111 South Dade Project of which Frog Pond is part; and the blue section at the top is the 8.5 Square Mile Area.So before we start jumping around…

Ecologically, this area is part of the Everglades Keys, the marl transverse glades, (where water once seeped through from the River of Grass) south of Miami.

-Landscapes and Hydrology of the Predrainage Everglades, page 49, 2011, McVoy.So how about today?

First, we must recognize the hard work of the public, the U.S. Department of the Interior,  the USACOE, the National Park system, and others. In the 1980s and 1990 all fought and achieved the Everglades  National  Park  Protection  and  Expansion  Act with the goal of protecting the eastern agriculture areas from flooding, but achieving more water into Everglades Nation Park. No easy task!

“To quote the book, page 257, River of Interests: “The  Interior  Department  and  the  National Park System agreed  that  acquisition  of Frog Pond was essential, claiming that it would restore freshwater to Florida Bay.” And as all has evolved, this is indeed being accomplished. Here is an excellent 2021 explanation from  SFWMD Chief District Engineer and Assistant Executive Director, John Mitnick.

“The Frog Pond Detention Area is a project in South Dade along the eastern side of ENP, and just southeast of the S-332D Detention Area.  It is part of the C-111 Spreader Canal CERP project.  Originally it was a detention area, meaning water was pumped into it and detained before it would evaporate or seep out into the groundwater table.  The purpose being to create a hydraulic ridge in the groundwater table (raise the groundwater elevation) to prevent groundwater and surface water from seeping out of ENP to the east.  Around 2016 the District undertook a project called the Florida Bay Project where we modified the detention areas to allow surface water to overland flow out of the detention cells into the headwaters of Taylor Slough after water had passed through the detention cells. This way it was a more direct hydration of the Taylor Slough.  Since it was completed, the project has been very effective at providing additional water to Taylor Slough.”

In its days as agriculture fields, the Frog Pond’s marl and limestone was mechanically ground up to create soil for crops. Though helpful for growing a menagerie of delicious things, this practice was very destructive to the ecology of the already drained lands.

Today the SFWMD has the lead on improving these lands. Christen Mason, Invasive Species Biologist and LeRoy Rodgers Section Leader, Vegetative Management, were proud to show me their restoration work.

The photo below is an excellent example comparing the invasive Napier Grass, on the right, which had totally taken over this area, and the restored rocky marl lands to the left-that have been “restored.”

Napier Grass is also called Elephant Grass and is a wicked invasive and very difficult to remove. Another invasive species, Burmese Pythons, are known to hide in it.

I.

-Left restored. Right full of invasive Napier GrassSo we can see that what was once a monoculture of invasive African Napier Grass is now a combination of native grasses and shrubs. A place for native birds and wildlife. This has taken decades. In some areas, pine trees were planted. Their pert green shoots explode against a blue sky. I hear chirps and singing insects everywhere! I keep looking for a frog, but don’t hear any.

-Christen Mason shows how the rock was ground up for soil-Native grasses and flowers have returned-LeRoy Rodgers holds a wildflower, and beautiful red bug -Pretty! Lots of butterflies!  -Gymnosperma glutinosum, Michelle’s favorite!-Calopogon tuberosus-a young slash pine reaching for the sky!-wild porter weed-a future forest-Beautiful native grasses and flowers-wild milkweed?-a cool water filled solution hole keeps life in dry times-note hammock in background. Lucky Hammock is most famous and a magnet for birds and bird watchers.-Christen poses for the camera. Surrounded by her creations!

II.

Next we drove north and hopped into a hammock. Frog Pond has famous hammocks especially in the west where lands were less disturbed. As we walked the rocky decline from the road, staff asked me if I was allergic to poison-wood or afraid of rattlesnakes. “Neither.” I replied. Proud my parents raised me like they did. Setting up my chair confidently, I took bite of my sandwich in the cool shade.

III.

The day was getting hot and we had to drive back to West Palm Beach, so next we jumped right along to the pump station!

Below is Structure-176, not too far north of the Frog Pond. This station pumps water that wants to go through those old marl transverse glades back into structures of the pink area creating  the hydraulic ridge Mr Mitnick wrote about. This ridge keeps water inside Everglades National Park- upper ground and surface water.

-S-176 -Water is sent back over the lands through the pump station. There are many in area!   Note the soil color and the solution holes!

We jumped back into the truck, and just when when I thought my trip couldn’t get any better,  the most wonderful thing occurred. As we approached I saw all these colored spots in the distance. I strained my eyes.

“Oh my gosh!”  I yelled.

Hundreds of wading birds had gathered. Wood storks, ibis, white egrets, blue herons, roseate spoon bills, and many others feasted, crammed together, on collections of fish and crustaceans.

I silently slid out of the truck, watching and trying not to disturb them. But as the trucks went past the birds lifted into the sky, squawking and flapping, then circling right back to their watery dinner table! I was in awe. “This is what it is all about,” I thought to myself. Like a description of Marjory Stoneman Douglas, a sea of birds rose from the Everglades and blocked out the sun. My eyes filled with tears… My hope renewed for our wildlife, our lands, and our waters.

-Birds fly!AWSOME BIRD VIDEO!

 

I wiped the tears from my eyes. Staff was moved as well. We knew we had just witnessed the best of Everglades restoration. It is working.

For the next leg, I drove with Brenda Mills, Principle Project Manager, Everglades Restoration. I learned she was not only an accomplished engineer but also an avid birdwatcher and had even chaired her local chapter of the Native Plant Society!

As we got out of the trucks for our final look around, I was told we were standing in the at controversial 8.5 Square Mile Area. Lands before me had been scraped and restored, piles of earth rose to the horizon. Behind me, tall Royal Palms blew in the wind. I could see an orange painted house through the Napier Grass, Australian Pines, and animals roaming.

The wind blew, the dust rose. “It will start raining soon.” Brenda said. “This landscape will look totally different then, you should come back.”

“Will do,” I said. “I want to see the waters tumbling into Taylor Slough.”  We laughed knowing this area can go from dessert like to Colorado River within hours. I finally knew something about the Frog Pond; I had seen and learned so much. I wished I could stay longer at this amazing place. We all looked at each other, smiling. I kept listening -just hoping that before I left, I would hear one frog chirping. I thought I did, but it must have been a goat. What a day at the Frog Pond!

-SFWMD’s Christen, Rory, and Barbara are doing great work! Thanks for the tour! -Invasive Nadier Grass and Australian Pines in the 8.5 Square Mile Area-An area adjadcent to the 8.5 Square Mile Area that is is slowing being restored. It was once entirely full of Napier Grass. The birds and animals are coming back. -one last photo before we drive home 🙂

 

 

 

 

As Far Away As One Can Go, Flamingo…

My primary 2021 New Year’s resolution was to write more, however my angst over our country’s political, social unrest and the worsening Covid-19 epidemic has caused me to experience  “writer’s block.” Nonetheless, today I will try to get going with my resolution. 

On January 9th, 2021, my husband, Ed, looked at me, “I’ve got a few days off; do you want to stick around Stuart or do you want to go somewhere?”

“Hmmm? Let’s go as far away as one can go, Flamingo.”  I replied.

“Flamingo?” Ed looked like he wasn’t quite sure…

“Yes, Flamingo, at the very southern tip of Florida.”

-Flamingo lies in Monroe County, inside the boundary of Everglades National Park (ENP)

The following day, Ed and I packed up and drove from Stuart to Lake Okeechobee taking Highway 27 south until we arrived in Florida City, just south of Homestead. Next, we drove about an hour along the historic Ingram Highway. It was a beautiful drive – like going into Florida’s past with marl prairies, slash pines, and tremendous bird life.

About forty miles later, we finally arrived in Flamingo. Now a ghost town, Flamingo was once the home of the American Flamingo -thus the name. Although these spectacular long legged, pink birds were all killed for their spectacular feathers a over a century ago, today there have been reports of a few returning. Most of us are familiar with the story of  Guy Bradley, the first Audubon warden hired to protect Everglades wading birds from poachers. This is his land.

Back in the early1900s when Bradley was trying to protect the birds, Flamingo, as all of South Florida, was thoughtlessly being sliced and diced with canals. Today, one can see this most pronounced at the Flamingo Welcome Center along the Flamingo, more modernly called the Buttonwood Canal.  Here lies a “plug” between Florida Bay and the mosaic of fresher/fresh waters in and near Flamingo.

According to our ENP tour guide, Mr Nick, this “Flamingo” or “Buttonwood Canal” was dug by Henry Flagler in the early 1900s and later abandoned when Flagler realized the canal failed to drain the land – instead, due to the tides and topography of the area, bringing  too much salt water from Florida Bay. A cement plug was later placed to ward off this saltwater intrusion.

I was pleased to see that a family of Ospreys had built their nest right on this plug in the midst of much human activity! The female osprey was hard at work, peeking over the side, protecting and incubating her eggs while the male intermittently delivered fish. The large birds appeared absolutely unaffected by people!

FLAMINGO or BUTTONWOOD CANAL                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          -Salt water, Florida Bay side of plug-Below: brackish/fresher water on estuary/marsh side of plug leading to Coot Bay (Coots no longer come in droves as the water is still too salty.)-The cement plug cutting off salt water of Florida Bay from canal, note osprey nest! -Our ENP guide, NickThe first day Ed and I took a tour and Mr. Nick was our guide. The second day, we rented a Mako flats boat and followed the same path ourselves. We learned so much. It was incredible. While Ed looked for places to fish, I searched for the Shark River. The Shark River is one of many that extends out from Shark River Slough, the remaining ridge and slough, “river of grass,” of the Everglades. Some of its waters lead to Florida Bay. Taylor Slough, on the other hand, has shamelessly been cut off by development.

 

Flamingo Canal was full of wildlife: wading birds, manatees, and by far the most interesting, crocodiles, of which I had never seen. These southern waters of Florida are one of the only places on Earth where both Alligators and Crocodiles live together. This canal is so salty the crocs have the edge. Our tour led from Flamingo Canal, to Coot Bay, to yet another canal, and then into Whitewater Bay. This track is referred to as the “Wilderness Waterway.” (See map below.)

American crocodile, an endangered species -The most prevalent wading bird by far was the tri-colored heron-There were many baby crocodiles along the Flamingo Canal warming in the sun. It was 37 degrees in the morning of our second day at ENP! -Because of the plug, manatees must enter the protection of the Flamingo Canal by swimming into the rivers entering Florida Bay that lead eventually into  Whitewater Bay! A very long journey. 20 miles? -Our tour guide, Nick, called this tree along the Flamingo Canal  the “perfect mangrove.” -Flamingo/Buttonwood Canal opening to Coot Bay-Entering Whitewater Bay on a cold day!It is very hard to explain how gigantic this area is! Over ten miles long and more than half that wide. Irregular in shape. It was truly “liquid land,” with mangrove forests everywhere and smaller even more beautiful mangrove islands dotting the horizon. One thing was for sure, it would be very easy to lose one’s sense of direction and get lost in Whitewater Bay. No thank you! 

Ed and I spent hours tooling around but never made it to the Shark River as access is limited. Nonetheless, I got a much better idea of the lay of the land for sending water south. I am hoping Ed and I can one day return in a canoe.

I was happy to go as far away as one can go-FLAMINGO!-Learning about a Florida I did not know- Whitewater Bay islands of Flamingo -Ed practices casting-Islands within Whitewater Bay; all of Florida must once have looked this way! -Back on Land: A Walk down the Guy Bradley Trail-Ed watches a fisherman cast in Florida Bay-Moonvine once covered the southern rim of Lake O’s pond apple forest, now gone.-Ed poses with a giant Buttonwood tree-Morning Glory. Is there a more gorgeous flower?-Guy Bradley Trail and an end to a wonderful day!

VIDEOS: 1. FLAMINGO/BUTTONWOOD CANAL; 2. MANATEES; 3. CROCODILE 

Tales of the Southern Loop, Cape Sable, Marco Island, Ft Meyers, Moore Haven, Clewiston, Stuart

Tales of the Southern Loop, Stuart to Boyton, Part 1

Tales of the Southern Loop, Boyton to Miami, Part 2

Tales of the Southern Loop, Miami to Tavernier, Part 3

Tales of the Southern Loop, Tavernier to Marathon, Part 4    

Tales of the Southern Loop, Marathon to Key West, Part 5

Tales of the Southern Loop, Key West to Cape Sable, Part 6

Tales of the Southern Loop, Cape Sable, Marco Island, Ft Meyers, Moore Haven, Clewiston, Stuart, Part 7

I’m a bit late in getting this final Southern Loop published. Between the presidential election, Tropical Storm Eta, seemingly endless overcast skies, ACOE discharges from Lake Okeechobee, and resurging Covid-19, I have had a hard time keeping myself on track!

This post is split into seven sections for dates 9-17-20 though 9-22-20. It shares highlights of the second half of the Southern Loop along the waters of Cape Sable, Marco Island, Ft Meyers, Moore Haven, Clewiston, and back to Stuart. A fantastic trip! 

I. MARCO ISLAND, GULF OF MEXICO 

 Having left Cape Sable, approaching from the Gulf of Mexico, Marco Island looked like a city rising from the water. It is actually the first and largest of a chain, that beyond it, comprises Ten Thousand Island National Wildlife Refuge and is adjacent to Everglades National Park.

Well before the era of high rise resort hotels, the island’s beach was surrounded by mangrove forests, and the Calusa Indians thrived here for possibly thousands years. Docking at Marco Island Marina was one of Ed and my most difficult experiences with the winds tearing along the seawalled canal as we struggled for direction. Once there, it was paradise. We wish to go back.

-Approaching Marco Island in the Gulf of Mexico-Marco Island is part of 10,000 Islands

II. FT MEYERS, CAPE CORAL, CALOOSAHATCHEE 

The following day, after running just offshore in the Gulf of Mexico, Adrift arrived at Tarpon Point Marina, and docked with out issue- a familiar spot as this is where Ed and I had taken trawler classes in 2018. We had reached the Caloosahatchee!

That afternoon, Ed and I arranged a visit with Cape Coral resident, friend, and long time River Warrior pilot, Dave Stone. Also joining us was advocate and west coast fishing expert, Captain Chris Wittman, Captains for Clean Water.

Dave and Chris reminisced their history together documenting the blue-green algae discharges from Lake Okeechobee that exacerbated the horrific red tide in the Gulf of Mexico in 2018. Dave and Chris’ Facebook Live  images helped turn the tide with the election of Governor Ron DeSantis and Executive Order 19-12.-

-Dave Stone and Chris Wittman visit Adrift In the following days, Ed and I made our way to Moore Haven. The channelized Caloosahatchee is 67 miles long with quiet, rural towns “Olga” and “Alva,” and two locks (Franklin and Ortona), along the way. During the course of this lasting and beautiful day, I actually heard Ed say: “I think I could retire here.” That was a first! 

Of course like everything else, although there remains great beauty, from an ecological view, the story of the Caloosahatchee is a bit depressing . In the late 1800s, it was the first water body altered as Hamilton Disston plowed through the oxbows to change its course and blew up the rapids to drive the river through the sawgrass marsh at Lake Hipochee and then on to Moore Haven. This unnaturally connected the Caloosahatchee to Lake Okeechobee. Like the St Lucie, the Caloosahatchee has been plumbed to drain diked, and polluted Lake Okeechobee. This drain the swamp “progress” of the time, affects Florida’s waters today at great cost.

-The Caloosahatchee connects the Gulf of Mexico to Lake Okeechobee-The Olga bascule bridge-A lovely home along the channelized Caloosahatchee River-Cows cooling off. Hey! What about Best Management Practices? 🙂-Ed talking to the ACOE at Franklin Locks  -Historic swing bridge at Fort Denaud, near La Belle; prior to dredging and drainage, just north of here were the rapids of the Caloosahatchee-Ed and I hold the ropes, Ortona Locks and Dam, near Ortona Prehistoric Village

III.MOORE HAVEN AT CALOOSAHATCHEE & LAKE OKEECHOBEE 

By the time we reached Moore Haven at the mouth of Lake Okeechobee, the sun was getting ready to set over the Moore Haven Bridge. Hospitality was in the air and Ed and I  were immediately assisted to dock by fellow travelers John and Susan Brady of Kemah, Texas,  who now live on their boat Sunset Drifter. We had a delightful visit and got great tips for “living aboard.”

As I looked out towards the lake, I was ecstatic to see the famous “Lone Cypress” tree was only a stone’s throw away. This tree has been a Lake Okeechobee landmark for hundreds of years. I found it rather ironic that it now has a sprinkler next to it! Considering it was living in a sawgrass marsh in more than a foot of water 140 years ago, this is the ultimate metaphor for Everglades’ change.

-Visiting with the Bradleys at the Public Docks of Moore Haven-Sunset over the Moore Haven Bridge, also known as, Highway 27-Me standing with the Lone Cypress today, 2020  -A sprinkler!? -Historic marker-Post card of the Lone Cypress at mouth of Lake Okeechobee ca. 1880, Florida Memory.

IV.MOORE HAVEN LOCK ENTERING LAKE O RIM CANAL 

In the morning Ed and I waved goodby to the Lone Cypress and to the Bradleys. Then the craziest thing happened. We were going through the locks at Moore Haven and there was substantial floating vegetation. To my surprise, I saw many marsh rabbits floating on water hyacinth or actually in the water literally up to their ears. We have marsh rabbits at home along the Indian River Lagoon, but I have never seen them in deep water. My emotions got the best of me and I did the unthinkable. I abandoned my post.

“Where is the net?” I shouted as I climbed the stairs leaving the rope hanging against the lock’s tall cement wall. “Ed I’m going to save the drowning rabbits!

Ed was not pleased, yelling, “Jacqui, rule number one, never abandon your post!”

The trawler banged against the lock, the waters rushed in, and I could not reach the bobbing rabbits, so finally I gave up and re-grabbed the line. We passed through the lock into the rim canal of Lake Okeechobee. I silently watched as the rabbits floated by. Ed gave me that look that means he is “not happy.” 

-Marsh rabbit with only ears and face above water -Video of marsh rabbits trapped on floating vegetation below, hit arrow

-After the fiasco at the Moore Haven Locks, Ed and I continued towards Clewiston. We didn’t speak for hours. I actually sat on the bow and cried thinking about how much humankind has altered this planet. But I got ahold of myself. The wind was picking up and many birds were flying overhead -a sign of changes to come.

I checked to see if there was cell service. There was, so I looked up marsh rabbits and to my chagrin, I learned that they are “excellent swimmers.” I looked towards the helm. 

Hey Ed?”

“What?” 

Marsh rabbits can swim!” 

His laugh echoed over the water. “Good thing you didn’t pull them onto the boat!”

“I guess so. But nonetheless, that was NOT NORMAL! ” 

-The rim canal

V. CLEWISTON RIM CANAL/LAKE O 

When Ed and I arrived in Clewiston it was very stormy, we took refuge at Roland Martin Marina. Captain Sam, a war veteran with feathers in his cap, helped us dock. I knew with this weather we’d be here for a few days so I got out my phone and called Clewiston Mayor, Mali Gardner who I’ve known for many years. Over the coming days, she and her husband displayed the warmest hospitality taking Ed and I on a tour of the area. So nice! 

-After docking with the help of Captain Sam, Roland Martin’s Marina, Clewiston-Tour with Mayor of Clewiston, Mali Gardner. We sometimes have different interests, but we have great respect for one another. 

Welcome to Clewiston-Famous Clewiston Inn with wildlife mural-Mayor Gardner shows us the original shoreline of Lake Okeechobee where today many beautiful houses sit-Historic Clewiston homes and drainage system-Ed at the Clewiston Museum that houses the mind blowing fossil findings of Mark Renz from LaBelle-With Mary Anne Martin owner of Roland Martin Marina in Clewison. Ms Martin is a huge advocate for Lake Okeechobee. For years she has voiced against spraying of chemicals on floating vegetation, and works for the burning of lands when lake levels are low to regenerate Lake Okeechobee’s ecosystem. Lake Okeechobee is famous for its bass fishing. -Merchandise for sale and for display at Roland Martin Marina

VI. LAKE O 

-After three days the wind died down and the S-310 lock to Lake Okeechobee was opened. It had been closed for high water for the first time in years. Ed and I headed home to Stuart. Lake Okeechobee was wild and windy, like an ocean itself.  A flock of seagulls followed us 25 miles ! I threw bread from the upper helm and the talented birds, like acrobats, caught pieces in mid air. It was so much fun.

During the trip,  I looked for algae on the lake but saw none and pondered the changes that have altered this liquid heart of the Everglades… 

-S-310 to Lake O-Ed on open Lake O! -Flock of seagulls followed us all the way home across Lake Okeechobee!

This Google Earth image shows our path from Clewiston, across Lake O to the C-44 canal adjacent to Indiantown. The C-44 connects to the St Lucie River bringing us home to Stuart, Florida, in Martin County. 

VII. STUART, C-44 Canal, ST LUCIE RIVER 

S-308 Port Mayaca locks at Lake O to C-44 canal -Trees along the banks of the C-44 CanalS-80 St Lucie Locks and Dam, continuing C-44 to St Lucie River-C-44 is very impaired from Lake O, and basin agricultural and development runoff -After a long journey, a familiar sight, the Roosevelt Bridge opens to welcome us home to the Harborage Marina. Much of the C-44 Canal and upper St Lucie River were under water due to King Tides. This salt infusion is healthy for the St Lucie River as like the Caloosahatchee it is unnaturally connected to Lake Okeechobee.

-Roosevelt Bridges, Stuart, home sweet home back at the Harborage Marina After the almost three week trip, it was wonderful to be home. Ed and I had accomplished our goal and our promise to each other. Working together and experiencing our state’s waters first-hand was a life changing experience.

When we docked with out a hitch like pair of old pros, we  both became strangely quiet. Home is wonderful, but somehow, we knew from here on out, there was nothing that could compare to being Adrift. 

 

 

 

Tales of the Southern Loop, Key West to Cape Sable, Part 6

Tales of the Southern Loop, Stuart to Boyton, Part 1

Tales of the Southern Loop, Boyton to Miami, Part 2

Tales of the Southern Loop, Miami to Tavernier, Part 3

Tales of the Southern Loop, Tavernier to Marathon, Part 4    

Tales of the Southern Loop, Marathon to Key West, Part 5

Tales of the Southern Loop, Key West to Cape Sable, Part 6-Sunrise and setting moon, Key West

September 15, 2020

Before Ed and I left Key West, we were able to rid the trawler of the smell coming from the head’s sanitation system. It took three trips to West Marine, multiple pump-outs, flushing with extra water, enzyme cleaners, and most important, changing the vent filter. The whole situation made us much more careful and aware.

Excited to overcome yet another obstacle, Ed and I pulled away from a rooster crowing sunrise for what would be the most memorable leg of our trip, Key West to Cape Sable. This was unlike any other in that it was eight hours, alone, in wide Florida Bay for about 70 miles at 7 knots!

We saw pretty clouds, blue skies, turquoise-blue waters, bobbing seagulls, cormorants flying as fast as ducks, two pleasure crafts, one crab boat, and one shrimp trawler. But that was it, most of the time it was just Ed, me, and crab pots as far as the eye could see!

-Happy to be safe at seaAfter about an hour, the wind started picking up. I put on a life vest as the sea began to swell. I imagined that if I did fall in there would be no way to be rescued as I would quickly be carried off. My imagination started to roam. Staring out to the empty horizon, I started to think, about pirates…

-A shrimp boat in the Gulf of Mexico/Florida Bay off Key West“Ed what would happen if someone came up to the boat and asked us for all of our valuables.”

“It won’t happen.” Ed replied.

“How do you know?”I asked looking off into the wide distance.

“Because I’ve read.  Pirates don’t frequent these waters, and if they did, they wouldn’t be attracted to a boat like ours.”

“Why do you say that? We’d be perfect. We can’t speed away.”

“Don’t worry so much Jacqui.”

“Why shouldn’t I? 

“There’s nothing to worry about; plus I brought a gun.” Ed slowly replied. 

“A gun!” I exclaimed. “If we’re not going to get approached by pirates, why did you bring a gun?” 

“Just in case.”

“Holy —- Ed! That certainly doesn’t make me feel any better!”

I exhaled, trying to calm down. 

During the course of our conversation the swells got steadily larger, up to 5 feet coming from our stern, and off to the side, our beam. Adrift was dancing in the motion! 

“I didn’t know waves in Florida Bay could be so big. I exclaimed. “Why didn’t you tell me?” 

“Jacqui, come on,  it’s part of the Gulf of Mexico.” Ed peered through binoculars.“What are you looking for? Pirates?”

“No, just looking.” Ed replied. 

“Ed, I’m not feeling so good. These waves. This is crazy.”

“Do you want me to turn around?” He asked, getting irritated. 

“No.” I conceded. “Since we’ve been out here this long, we might as well go the whole way.” 

The trawler hit hard against the ocean, fear got the best of me and I wondered if the boat might eventually break into pieces. 

“Could this thing start coming apart?  I inquired, holding my hand over my mouth. Metal creaked and the hull hit relentlessly. With each strike I daydreamed of balancing on a piece of the crushed hull in my bright yellow life vest of course surrounded by sharks.

“I don’t think so,” replied Ed. 

“I’m going down; I think I’m going to be sick.”

“Holding on for dear life, I stumbled down the stairs from the upper helm to the stern. 

“Oh no,” I thought to myself, “I don’t feel good at all.” I walked into the cabin and then into the head, sat down on the toilet, and  suddenly projectile vomited. It was bright red as I had been drinking tropical punch Gatorade and raspberry yogurt. I stared in disbelief.  I felt terrible. The exaggerated wave motion was even more pronounced in the cabin. I held on for dear life.

 “This is unbelievable; this is no fun!” I got myself together, stumbled through the cabin hitting walls. With one arm always holding on to something,  I grabbed a hand towel, wiped my face, and struggled up the stairs to the upper upper helm.

And there I saw him. Ed was in his element! Loving it! Like a cowboy on a wild mustang. I sat myself down, holding on to a metal post that was creeping like a Halloween set. I looked up: “Ed, “I puked.”

“I figured as much. Feel better? “

“Oh no! It’s happening again!” Adrift sunk deep into a wave then popped back up. I leaned over, and let go. Ruminants of tropical punch Gatorade and yogurt splattered everywhere. This was not good. I was embarrassed. 

Ed softened. “Babe lay down; I’ll clean it up  later. It will be less bouncy up here.” Ed and I had been through such exercises many times as I had thrown up in the plane over the years when flying over Lake Okeechobee to take pictures of harmful algae blooms. 

I put my head down on the cushion but no matter how hard I tried, I could not rest. The seas tossed and slowed our progress. 

I raised my head. “How much longer?”

” A couple hours….” I lay down again praying for it to be over. 

As I lie in agony, I asked the same questing multiple times – about two hours apart: “How much longer?” Ed’s answer was always the same. “Two hours.” I eventually realized that if that were true, we would have already been there! This was the most extended motion sickness episode of the many I had had in my life. I couldn’t wait for it to be over. 

Eventually, the waters started to calm down and our destination, Cape Sable, came into to focus before us. As always, as soon as I was on stable ground, I felt better. My spirts rose, we easily dropped anchor, and planned an excursion. Looking towards the untouched shoreline was incredible! 

“This must be what Ponce de Leon felt like.” I said beaming.

-Map 1859

“Hey, isn’t this where that little tongue-twister of a bird is originally from?” Ed asked.

“Good job Ed! Yes!”  The endangered and controversial Cape Sable Seaside Sparrow! It was the changes and destruction brought to its habitat from the 1935 Labor Day Hurricane, and Hurricane Donna in 1960, that caused it to adapt further up the Florida peninsula-where the Central & South Florida Plan had drained the Everglades. Unfortunately the little bird chose to live just south of Tamiami Trail where we now want to move more water south.” 

“I wonder who will win that one?”  Ed joked. “The Endangered Species Act is sacred for you environmentalists.”  Like young kids, Ed and I explored a dying mangrove forest, endless shells, flora, and wildlife around Ingraham Lake. Just north-interior lie famous Whitewater Bay and Shark River Slough, all within dingy distance. A veritable eco-playground! 

I found the sands most beautiful, crushed shells from millions of years all mixed together. This makes sense as Cape Sable is the southernmost point in the United States, all left to flow, flows here. Thankfully it lies protected within Everglades National Park. And thought humankind and Climate Shifts are rapidly changing its nature, Cape Sable remains absolutely stunning  in its timeless and weathered beauty.

-Cape Sable, Everglades National Park-Taking the dingy to Cape Sable’s  shore. Ed wondered why the water was so murky. “It’s an estuary!”  Water coming from Shark River Slough into Florida Bay.-Adrift at her destination, Cape Sable-On the desolate beach, Cape Sable-Shells, and ancient Inidan midden remains -Dead and dying but strikingly beautiful mangroves like art from many hurricanes -Land snails -Many shells were pierced and attached to the weathered mangroves  -On the other side of this marsh lies Lake IngrahamThe whole experience was otherworldly- as if Ed and I were the only people in the world! As the sun set we made dinner and drank wine – watching the stars appear one by one until the entire Milky Way shone above us like a glistening blanket. Just incredible! We sat in the upper helm and discussed philosophy like we were students of Plato or Galileo. I had no memory of my motion sickness earlier in the day…

A gentle breeze blew, Ed held me under the stars…

“I love you.” I said softly into to his ear…

And then I continued…

“but I might as well tell you right now, you’ll be sleeping with the gun, by the door, in the cabin tonight, just in case the pirates do arrive.” 🙂“Sea you next time! Cape Sable to Marco Island!” 🙂

 

 The Power of the Handwritten Note, HB761/SB10, SLR/IRL

Advocacy has many faces, but none perhaps more powerful  than a handwritten note or letter. Why? Because it takes effort;  because it is thoughtful; and because it is old-fashioned, rare, and special. My mother taught me this…

In a world where furious Tweets and Facebook posts, or better yet, a Snapchat allows one to “live in the moment and then erase it,” we are surrounded by communication that holds impermanence.  The hand written note leaves a lasting impression… especially in the “rough and tumble,” yet traditionally based world of politics.

Mind you, your note or letter need not be long; it must just be sincere.

I am asking you to please get out your stationery and write Speaker of the House, Richard Corcoran, and ask for support of House Bill 761 in matching format to updated Senate Bill 10. Right now this bill is being held; should finally be heard in committee soon; and of course, is certainly being negotiated with the Senate President Joe Negron.

Remember that Representative Corcoran  is one of the authors of “Blueprint Florida” whose goal it to “leave a legacy for future generations and overcome the corruption and influence of special interests”. I wrote about this the day before yesterday.

Over the past hundred years, agricultural special interests, with little or no thought of the long-term consequences, have absolutely decimated one of the greatest wetlands of the world and thus its wildlife… our Florida Everglades.

House Bill 761 and Senate Bill 10’s goal of reducing the damaging discharges from Lake Okeechobee to the St Lucie River and Indian River Lagoon, Caloosahatchee, and sending clean water south to Florida Bay and the Everglades is a legacy not only of a lifetime but, for a millennium.

Please write Speaker Corcoran today and ask for support:

Florida House Speaker, Richard Corcoran

420 The Capitol

402 South Monroe Street

Tallahassee, FL 32399-1300 

 

Thank you! And don’t’ forget the stamp! 🙂 

Everglades Stamp 1947 courtesy historian, Sandra Henderson Thurlow.
 

Florida House of Representatives Bill 761: (https://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2017/00761)

Florida House of Representatives Website: (https://www.myfloridahouse.gov/Sections/LeadershipOffices/LeadershipOffices.aspx?Category=PublicGuide&File=About%20The%20House%20–%20Leadership%20Offices.html)

Blog post on Blueprint Florida and Speaker Corcoran:(https://jacquithurlowlippisch.com/2017/04/18/speaker-richard-corcoran-his-blueprint-our-legacy-slrirl/)

Taylor Slough,”The Great Water Disconnect,” SLR/IRL

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Road Trip Series, St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon-Taylor Slough

Happy New Year to all of my readers!

We begin 2017 at the southern most part of our state, the Florida Everglades. Over the holidays my husband, Ed, and I continued the Road Trip Series further south to gather insights, one that I will share with you today: the great water disconnect of Taylor Slough. We have too much water and it doesn’t have enough. Could we help?

Before we begin, what is a “slough?” What a strange word!

For years I drove along a road in Port St Lucie, north of Stuart, named “Cane Slough.” I wondered to myself what that meant considering the area was paved over. When my mother told me Cane Slough was once a marshy shallow river, I thought how odd that was considering there was not trace of it today. The same thing, but on a much larger scale, has happened in the Florida Everglades and in both instances it is a great loss.

“Slough,” pronounced “slew,” is not just a river, but a river that is made for Florida’s dry and rainy seasons.  It is a slow-moving river whose grassy shores expand and contract. During the dry season when rains are scarce, the remaining water in the deepest part of these depressions is where plants and animals hold on to life-giving water until the rains begin anew…

Before South Florida was developed there were two main sloughs running through the Everglades to Florida Bay. Named, the Shark River, the largest, and Taylor Slew, smaller and further to the east. We must note that Florida Bay the past years has suffered from algae blooms and seagrass die off due to high salinity because Taylor Slew cannot flow southeast. This lack of water affects both land and marine communities.

It is easy to see the great “disconnect” for Taylor Slough on this National Park map. A park ranger informed me that “all water” received into Taylor Slew now comes via canal structures controlled by the South Florida Water Management District.

Yes, some great things finally are happening such as the recent construction of elevated bridges along Tamiami Trail designed to deliver more sheet flow into the park and a  future where  the “Chekika” public access area off 997 could be closed year-round so water could be flowing south. Others too I’ve no room to mention…

One can visually note that restoring this flow is tricky as Homestead’s agricultural and rural development zones abut the old water shed and Broward County north of this area has communities literally in the Everglades (C-11 Basin) that were once part of Taylor Slough as well. Crazy!

But, if we sent men to the moon 50 years ago, shouldn’t we be able to accomplish reconnecting the flow of water “today?” Now, when the Everglades and Florida Bay need it?

How can we along the St Lucie River help speed things up?

…Learn about Senator Negron’s proposal for 60,000 acres of storage, cleaning and conveyance in 2017. Learn about pressuring our government to “face the facts.”

…One thing is certain, we can’t allow the Everglades to die on our watch, and we have exactly what she needs…

Water.

Taylor Slough https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taylor_Slough
ENP C-111: https://www.nps.gov/ever/learn/nature/c111.htm
C-11(1) Basin: http://c-11.org
C-111: http://palmm.digital.flvc.org/islandora/object/fiu%3A3643#page/FI05030101_cover1/mode/2up

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Senate President Joe Negron’s proposed land purchase map, 2017

Where do the Water Conservation Areas End, and Everglades National Park Begin? Indian River Lagoon

Map showing Everglades National Park boundaries as well as Water Conservation Areas north of the park and other areas. (Map courtesy of Backroads Travels website, 2013.)
Map showing SFWMD boundaries overall, as well as Everglades National Park, and Water Conservation Areas. (Map courtesy of Florida Backroads Travel.)

This week, in our attempt to save and be knowledgeable about the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon, we have learned about the STAs, Strormwater Treatment Areas, and the WCAs, Water Conservation Areas; today, will we will ask the question, “Where do the WCAs end, and where does Everglades National Park begin?”

After all, “send the water south” means to the Everglades…

The location of the WCAs, (http://www.sfwmd.gov/portal/page/portal/pg_grp_sfwmd_landresources/pg_sfwmd_landresources_recopps_se_wca2_3)(https://loxahatcheefriends.comthe areas in light green-yellow in the above map, is confusing to me sometimes, as the Water Conservation Areas are “protected”as the Everglades, but they are not in Everglades Nation Park itself. Just yesterday, my River Coalition comrade, Karl Wickstom, commented on my post noting that  the WCAs are natural and not “built.”

He is right….

Nonetheless, they are managed and constrained….

On the Army Corp of Engineers’ Periodic Scientist Calls, the South Florida Water Management District is alway reporting how “full” or “not full” the WCAs are, so as to explain how much water “they have been able to send south/or not” through them…. The SFWMD has even created an amazing web site, that if you take the time to navigate, will teach you more than any of my blog posts ever can: (http://sfwmd.maps.arcgis.com/apps/MapTour/index.html?appid=a9072c94b5c144d8a8af14996ce23bca&webmap=d8e767997b0d494494243ffbc7f6f861)

The point is: in order to save the St Lucie/Indian River Lagoon, we have to keep an eye on the “big picture,” saving the Everglades…or what’s left, as “Everglades National Park.”

We have developed and altered this area so much very little is remaining–the drainage of the land,  the redirection of the Lake Okeechobee’s waters through the estuaries, the construction of the Everglades Agricultural Area, as well as development of the coast and inland, is a testament to the impressive determination of humankind and our ability to alter our environment; but it is also an embarrassment of our inability to constrain ourselves or think long term. (See below.)

South Florida's southern Everglades, 1950 vs. 2003. (Map courtesy of SFWMD.)
South Florida’s southern Everglades, 1950 vs. 2003. (Map courtesy of SFWMD.)

Redirection of water to the estuaries. Late 1800 and early 1900s.(Map Everglades Foundation.)
Redirection of water to the estuaries. Late 1800 and early 1900s.(Map Everglades Foundation.)

So back to the original question, where do the WCA stop and Everglades National Park begin?  Well, looking at the map below, we can see that Everglades National Park “proper” pretty much starts right under the Tamiami Trail.  And we can tell from the other maps that the WCAs are above this area, as well as above the development on the south-east coast and inland areas of Florida, especially the City of Homestead. (See image 2 down.)

Knowing about the STAs, the WCAs and ENP will help us to save the SRL/IRL!

Everglades map.
Everglades map.

 

SFWMD's Home Page for Sending Water South. (http://sfwmd.maps.arcgis.com/apps/MapTour/index.html?appid=a9072c94b5c144d8a8af14996ce23bca&webmap=d8e767997b0d494494243ffbc7f6f861)
SFWMD’s Home Page for Sending Water South showing STAs, WCAs, etc…(http://sfwmd.maps.arcgis.com/apps/MapTour/index.html?appid=a9072c94b5c144d8a8af14996ce23bca&webmap=d8e767997b0d494494243ffbc7f6f861)

Everglades National Park at the south-westen tip of Florida. (Road map.)
Everglades National Park at the south-western tip of Florida. (Road map.)

Image denoting locations south and around Lake Okeechobee.  (Public image.)
Image denoting locations south and around Lake Okeechobee. (Public image.)

Map showing Everglades National Park boundaries as well as Water Conservation Areas north of the park and other areas. (Map courtesy of Backroads Travels website, 2013.)
Map showing areas natural and man-made in south Florida as well as the 16 counties that comprise the SFWMD.

Well, time to get to start my day; I hope you learned something that you did not already know! 🙂

____________________________

Everglades National Park: (http://www.nps.gov/ever/index.htm) 

Go to (http://jacquithurlowlippisch.com) and “search”  for WCA or STA to read more on these related topics.