Tag Archives: fertilizer ordinances indian river lagoon

Why A 4-Year-Old Can Tell You That Our Fertilizer Ordinances are Working, SLR/IRL

"Be Floridian. Don't Fertilize." Photo adapted from Beauty of Nature photos sent to me by Anna Marie Wintercorn, 2015. (http://mp.weixin.qq.com/s?__biz=MjM5MjE0NTQ4Mw==&mid=200115697&idx=6&sn=74ffa17c3f3374553c6261be656fbb15&scene=1&from=groupmessage&isappinstalled=0#rd)
“Be Floridian. Don’t Fertilize.” Photo adapted from “Beauty of Nature” photos sent to me by Anna Marie Wintercorn, 2015.*

The “Be Floridian” program was born over a decade ago of the Tampa Bay area. This program has many elements, but most noteworthy is that “strict” fertilizer ordinances evolved collaboratively along the counties and cities of Florida’s “southerly” east coast.

Today, Tampa Bay has more seagrass than it did in the 1940s. This is in spite of the area’s high population. Certainly, they have different issues than we, and “no Lake O,” but the goal is clear: “if they did it there; we can do it here…improve our waters.”

On Florida’s east coast, in 2010,  the peninsular Town of Sewall’s Point, my community,  was the first to implement in a strong fertilizer ordnance. With the 2011-2013 melt down of the Indian River Lagoon due to super-algae blooms killing approximately 60% of the northern/central lagoon’s seagrasses, and the toxic “Lost Summer” of excessive dumping from Lake Okeechobee and area canals along the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon, communities all along the Indian River pushed their governments to implement strong fertilizer ordinances. —Making a statement that they were “fed-up” with dead waters, and were willing themselves to put “skin in the game.”

In case you don’t know, there are variations, but basically a “strong fertilizer ordinance” is one that does not allow fertilization with phosphorus and nitrogen during the summer rainy/hurricane season.

Recently there was an article in the “Stuart News” asking the question of whether or not these strong fertilizer ordinances are “working” along the IRL. The expert on hand replied it is “too soon to tell…”

I beg to differ, and here is why.

Of course they are working.

A four-year old can tell you they are  working.

Ad in Stuart News. Martin County has a strong fertilizer ordinance and is now promoting the BE FLORIDIAN program here in Martin County. Dianne Hughes and Deb Drum deserve applause for these great ads, 2015.
Ad in Stuart News. Martin County has a strong fertilizer ordinance and is now promoting the BE FLORIDIAN program here in Martin County. Dianne Hughes and Deb Drum deserve applause for these great ads, 2015.

I use this analogy a lot when discussing Lake Okeechobee and the Everglades Agricultural Area’s 700,000 acres south of the lake blocking the natural flow of water from the northern estuaries to the Everglades.

In spite of the sugar and vegetable empires south of the lake trying to convince us that it is water from Orland and the Kissimmee River killing our St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon, any four-year old studying the River Kidz program will point to the area directly south of the lake as biggest problem forcing the water up and out the estuaries rather than allowing it to flow south as nature intended…We need a third outlet south of the lake. There is too much water to hold it all north. End of story. I don’t need a study to tell me this. I know it. A four-year old knows it. You know it.

Back to fertilizer….last night it rained hard here in Sewall’s Point. My rain gauge says two inches. Seemed like more than that. If my yard had been fertilized of course that fertilizer would have gone into the gutter and down the drain and into the Indian River Lagoon. You can go out and watch this from my driveway.

It must be noted that until the ACOE and SFWMD (collaborating at the direction of our government) stop dumping from the lake and out over expanded canals, we will never know our “area’s” levels of phosphorus and nitrogen.

For example, the ACOE began releasing into our SLR/IRL this January and just stopped a few weeks ago, so if a scientist had done her or her study recently, they would be measuring nutrients that came into our river from “other places” too.

But we, here, are doing our part and can feel good about this…keeping our house in order will help push order in the houses of the state and federal governments that are presently quite un-orderly.

Enforcement? Let’s focus on education. As we can see. It’s working! Five years ago people weren’t even aware that fertilizer was an “issue.”

As a sidebar before I close, I recently had the pleasure of meeting Mr Woody Woodraska who headed the SFWMD in the 1980s before it was  under the anvil of the governor and the state legislature. The topic of visiting Cuba arose. My husband Ed and I will be visiting Cuba this fall with our church, St Mary’s.

Mr Woodraska said: “Oh, you are going to love it..”

In the course of telling his story visiting as a competitor in the Ernest Hemingway competition, he alluded to Cuba’s long repressed economy and how this kept fertilizers, via the agriculture industry, from ruining  Cuba’s waters, fish and wildlife. Thus overall, Cuba’s waters are healthy and beautiful today.

We here in Florida, on the other hand, have developed every piece of land right up to edge of every river, some with septic tanks, and torn out the native plants and replaced with plants that we must fertilize; agriculture is a corporate producer going through literately tons of fertilizer every day; canals not only to drain our land, but  we build houses along them; a turf grass industry flourishes in South Florida that sells 25% of all turf-grass in the WORLD; wonderful universities, like my alma mater and family connected University of Florida, do research and watch the industry’s back to “keeping our economy rolling!”

Yeah…rolling right over our fish, and our wildlife, and over ourselves as we see our own economy suffering from dirty waters.

Whew. I need a cup of coffee.

Sorry to be so opinionated, but I just can’t stand it. Fertilizer that is. In fact I have a file on my computer called DEATH BY FERTILIZER. Here are some pictures; thanks for reading my rant, have a good day, and I will not say “happy fertilizing!”   🙂

Grass going right over edge of canal....photo DEP.
Grass going right over edge of canal….photo DEP.
Ag runoff DEP photo.
Ag runoff from fields into canals DEP photo.
An ad running on the west coast of Florida in the area of Lee County, put together with the collaboration of interested parties and local governments, 2014. (Shared by former council lady Marsha Simmons, Bonita Springs.)
An ad from the west coast of Florida, 2014.
When it rains hard all runoff from yards goes into the SLR/IL taking fertilizer, pesticides and herbicides with it. This kills seagrasses and animal life. (JTL)
When it rains a lot all runoff from yards goes into the SLR/IL taking fertilizer, pesticides and herbicides with it. This kills seagrasses by supporting algae blooms Animal and fish suffer. (JTL)
Ad west coast near springs.
Ad west coast near springs.
Ad on bus west coast or Gainesville.
Ad on bus west coast or Gainesville.
River Kidz protest Florida legislature's trying to outlaw local governments from creating stricter fertilizer ordinances than the states. 2012. (Nic Mader)
River Kidz protest Florida legislature’s trying to outlaw local governments from creating stricter fertilizer ordinances than the states. 2012. (Nic Mader)

 

RK artwork  2011. Save the dolphins. Fertilizer is not good for their skin or for the fish they eat.
RK artwork 2011. Save the dolphins. Fertilizer is not good for their skin, or seagrasses needed by the fish they eat.

BE FLORIDIAN: (http://befloridian.org)

MARTIN COUNTY’S FERTILIZER ORD. (http://www.martin.fl.us/portal/page?_pageid=73,4448073&_dad=portal&_schema=PORTAL)

The National Research Council’s book “Clean Coastal Waters, Understanding and Reducing the Effects of Nutrient Pollution,” National Academy’s Press, 2000, is the best book I have read on this subject. It can be ordered on line.

*Photo of Flamingo, source: (http://mp.weixin.qq.com/s?__biz=MjM5MjE0NTQ4Mw==&mid=200115697&idx=6&sn=74ffa17c3f3374553c6261be656fbb15&scene=1&from=groupmessage&isappinstalled=0#rd)

Harbor Branch’s “Our Global Estuary,” World Stage, for the Indian River Lagoon

Intricate islands of central Indian River Lagoon near Vero. (Photo Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch/Ed Lippisch, 2013.)
Intricate islands of the central Indian River Lagoon estuary near Vero. (Photo Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch/Ed Lippisch, 2013.)

Recently, Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute, located in St Lucie County, (http://www.fau.edu/hboi/) released their “Our Global Estuary,” U.S. National Workshop, Draft Report.

The new program founded in 2013, is incredibly interesting. Harbor Branch, right here in “our own back yard,” has taken a world leadership role in one of the planet’s most important issues, one we all know quite well, the anthropogenic pressures that threaten the ecological benefits of estuaries. Harbor Branch is opening scientific dialogue on these pressures and the evolving technology that may help “save” them, by scientists sharing their experiences on such issues, scientists from all over the world. (http://ourglobalestuary.com)

Dr Megan Davis, Interim Director of Harbor Branch, co-chairing with Dr Antonio Baptista and Dr Margaret Leinen, along with other local and world scientists are leading this project.

It is noted in their publication that “comparing and contrasting estuaries and management  approaches worldwide is essential to capturing and a gaining from lessons learned locally.”

The report also notes and I quote that “estuaries are vital to the planet and their extraordinary productivity that supports life in and around them…Nearly 90% of the Earth’s land surface is connected to the ocean by rivers, with much of the water that drains from lands passing through wetlands and estuaries…cleaning species like mangroves and oysters are being limited by stressors caused by humans, such as water withdrawals, hydropower operation, navigation, and the release of fertilizers, contaminants, and municipal wastes. These pressures are increasing and threatening the balance of the systems.”

As one reads on, the report discusses that population growth and land-use choices not only near the estuaries but also many miles upstream can have a significant effects on estuaries. It is noted that “as farm production methods have evolved to increase yields, more nutrients have made  their way to the water causing algae overgrowth to the point of suppressing seagrass. These pressures can cause disease and death in fish, marine mammals, birds, and other animals.” Land development also impacts estuaries with its runoff and diversion or redirection of water.

The largest estuaries in the world are listed in the report are not in the United States. 1.  Ganges, Indian, Bangladesh, Nepal; 2 .Yangtze (Chang Jiang), China; 3. Indus, Indian, China, Pakistan; 4. Nile, Northeastern Africa; 5. Huang He (Yellow River), China; 6. Huai He, China; 7. Niger, West Africa; 8. Hai, China; 9. Krishna, Indian; and 10. Danube, Central and Eastern Europe.

Personally, I had only heard of half of those places and it made me think about the millions of people living around estuaries all over the world and how much I really don’t know. How small we are comparatively…

Although of course the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon is not one of the largest river basins in the world, we were listed under “Estuaries are  Receiving More Attention” along with Chesapeake Bay. The section notes water quality is compromised in part by excess nutrients and inland freshwater discharges and diversion of water that historically flowed south through the Florida Everglades. It notes seagrass die offs, manatee, pelican and dolphin mortality, septic, agriculture and lawn fertilizer issues…

About half way down the paragraph under Indian River Lagoon, it says: “Public outcry and accompanying media attention achieved critical mass in 2013, helping convince several municipalities to enact more  restrictive fertilizer ordinances and the state legislature to appropriate over 200 million in support for observation and systems remediation for the Lagoon and Everglades.”

Wow.

Once again, like the Dr Seuss children’s book, Horton Hears a Who, where the residents of Whoville together shout WE’RE HERE, WE’RE HERE, finally to be heard, the Treasure Coast is noted for its  efforts, this time in a document that will be shared around the world!

Thank you to Harbor Branch for its continued leadership and efforts in ocean and estuary research and thank you to the people of the Treasure Coast  or “Whoville” who have been heard and continue to help save the Indian River Lagoon.