Tag Archives: flood control

The River League’s Briefcase and the Spirit of Ernie Lyons ….SLR/IRL


IMG_1616Recently, at Rivers Coalition Defense Fund meeting, president Kevin Henderson brought along the old River League’s briefcase. It had been stored away for many decades in an aging  house in Stuart. In case you have not heard of them, “The River League” worked tirelessly in the 50s and 60s to stop the expanding destruction of our rivers by the Florida Flood Control District (today’s South Florid Water Management District) and the Army Corp of Engineers.

I couldn’t believe the old brief case—a beautiful sight–aged leather, and rusted metal with the sweat of those who carried it unwashed from its handle…

Kevin placed the briefcase on the table and opened it. It had not been opened in almost 50 years! No pun intended, but the sound of the locks “clicked”and suddenly it was open…

I held my breath.

I swore for a second that I saw the spirit of Ernie Lyons come out of the old briefcase like a genie. He had a giant cigar in his mouth and dark rimmed glasses. His hair was greased back and he sat at a floating desk from the old Stuart News…He was leaning back in his chair with his hands behind his head smiling from ear to ear. His teeth were stained with tobacco juice and he looked happy as a clam.

“Ernie here….Ha! Good to see you workin’ so hard! Those bastards are still killing it aren’t they? The river that is! Don’t you for a moment have despair. As you know this war has been going on for a long, long time. All of us, who have passed, are on your side. We are here. All of us who worked so hard to save the paradise of this place. You’ve probably caught on. Good versus evil is not a game. And I got a secret to tell ya. —I know the end—and good wins. Don’t give up! And know we’re here working the magic behind the scenes to help you save the St Lucie/Indian River Lagoon.”

Then he looked away and started furiously typing…the words he was writing could be seen above his head:

Today’s column, 1968


“There was never anything more beautiful than a natural South Florida river, like the North and South Fork of the St Lucie…

A bank of cabbage palms and live oaks draped with Spanish moss and studded with crimson-flowered air-plants and delicate wild orchids– were scenes of tropical wonder, reflected back from the mirror-like onyx surface of the water….”

When I looked up, Ernie was gone and our meeting was in full discussion…

As a reflection from the mirror of the St Lucie’s onyx-like water–I know that Ernie is here…


Ernest Lyons, Editor Stuart News and state and national award-winning conservationist:  Florida Press: (http://www.flpress.com/node/63)

Ernest Lyons with Mr Oughertson, (bow tie) Timer Powers (hat) and other dignitaries ca 1960s (Photo Sandra Henderson Thurlow) 
photo 2
The bridge between Sewall’s Point and Hutchinson Island is named in honor of Ernie Lyons.


Recycled Inspiration, The Words of Ernest F. Lyons, St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon

What a wonderful world. Sunset on the St Lucie River, photo by Jenny Flaugh, 2009.
What a wonderful world! Sunset on the St Lucie River, photo by Jenny Flaugh, 2009.

The words of Ernest F. Lyons, famed fisherman, environmentalist, and veteran editor of the Stuart News, can be used over, and over, and over again…

Lyons grew up in Stuart in the early 1900s and witnesses first hand the destruction of his beloved St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon. In the 1940s and 50s, for “flood control” and EAA interests, he watched St Lucie Locks and Dam, C-44, and S-80 be “improved,” by the ACOE and SFWMD—-destroying fishing grounds that will never be replaced…He witnessed canals C-23, C-24 and C-25 be constructed to scar the land and pour poisonous sediment from orange groves and development into the North Fork and central estuary.

But even amongst this destruction, Lyons never stopped seeing the miracle of the world around him. And no where did life continue to be more miraculous than along his beloved river.

This week so far, I have written about things that bring light to the destruction of our rivers, I must not forget that in spite of this destruction, beauty and life still exist….To do our work as advocates for the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon we cannot become negative, we must be inspired….one of the best ways to achieve this is to recall the work and words of our forefathers….to “recycle inspiration.”

Although Ernie Lyon’s work was first read on the pages of the Stuart News, my mother historian Sandra Henderson Thurlow, has clipped old pages, been in touch with Ernie’s children, and transcribed many of Lyon’s columns as part of the work of Stuart Heritage. Stuart Heritage helps keeps our rich “river-heritage” alive. After all, our founding name was “Stuart on the St Lucie.”

Recycle symbol.
Ernest Lyons copy of column, ca 1950.
Ernest Lyons– copy of column, ca 1950.Copied from old Stuart News paper. Sandra H. Thurlow.

“What a Wonderful World”

I get an indescribable “lift” from the habit of appreciating life.

All of us, even the most harried, have moments when we are fleetingly aware of the glory that surrounds us. Like moles that occasionally break throughout their tunnels, we infrequently  catch a glimpse of the natural beauty and awesome majesty outside the corridor within which we have bound ourselves.

And pop back into our holes!

The habit of appreciation—–the cultivation of the sense of awareness—are forgotten roads to enrichment of personal experience. Not money in the bank, or real estate, or houses, or the exercise of power are true riches. By the true tally, the only value is “how much do you enjoy life?”

All around each of us are the wonders of creation—the shining sun, a living star bathing us with the magic mystery of light…we look to the heavens at night and wonder at the glittering  panoply of suns so distant and so strange,  while accepting as commonplace our own.

We live in a world of indescribable wonder. Words cannot tell why beauty is beautiful, our senses must perceive what makes it so.

What we call art, literature, genuine poetry, and  true religion are the products of awareness, seeing and feeling the magic which lies beyond the mole-tunnel view.

One man, in his mole-tunnel, says he is inconsequential, a slave to his job, of dust and to dust going. Another, poking his head our into the light, realizes that he is a miraculous as any engine, with eyes to see, a mind which to think, a spirit whose wings know no limitations.

The mole-man is bound to a commonplace earth and a commonplace life. He lives among God’s wonders without ever seeing them. But those who make a habit of appreciation find wonder in every moment, and every day, by the sense of participation in a miracle.

They see the glory  of the flowers, the shapes and colors of trees and grass, the grace of tigers and serpents, the stories of selfishness or selflessness that are written on the faces men and women. They feel the wind upon their faces and the immeasurable majesty of distances in sky and sea.

And in those things there is the only true value. This a wonderful  world. Take time to see it. You’re cheat yourself unless you appreciate it.—–E.L. 
Ernest F. Lyons: (http://www.flpress.com/node/63)

Stuart Heritage Museum: (http://www.stuartheritagemuseum.com)

“Building Strong” Relationships, ACOE. St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon

The 2015 ACOE Jacksonville District leaders. (ACOE website)
The 2015 ACOE Jacksonville District leaders. (L to R top down) Lt. Col. Jennifer A. Renyolds; Col. Jason A. Kirk; Lt. Col. Mark R. Himes. (ACOE website)

This past Thursday, at 5:30 PM in Jacksonville, Florida, was the farewell celebration for Col. Alan Dodd who has served the ACOE Jacksonville District the past three years. During his tenure he faced almost immediately the “Lost Sumer” of 2013. Something very positive that was born of that disaster was that communication between the South Florida Water Management District and the Army Corp of Engineers improved. This is a tremendous achievement. As all War College graduates know, you cannot win a war with out good communication.

Col Dodd and Lt Col Greco are now retired I believe. Or determining their futures. Thank you. The Jacksonville office of the US ACOE will now be led by Col. Jason A. Kirk along with two Lt. Cols. Mark R. Himes, and Jennifer A. Renyolds. Lt Col Renyolds will be our main point of contact as she will oversee South Florida and be stationed here in West Palm Beach. Many have already met her. She is very popular.

I wish I had been at the celebration. I wish I had been a fly on the wall. Over a couple of beers, I wonder what the conversations were like:

Army War College….Engineering….Bosnia….Kosovo….Iraq….Afghanistan….Fort Hood…West Point…West Palm Beach….Jacksonville…St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon…Calooshahatchee…Everglades Restoration…Lake O…Agriculture…the EAA…U.S. Sugar…the Florida Legislature…

That says it all doesn’t it?

I encourage everyone to reach out and introduce yourself to this new leadership team.  Yes, there is a conundrum in that now these leaders are in charge of “opening the gates” to allow the polluted waters of Lake Okeechobee to ravage our St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon. They have a job to do. To listen to Congress and the Dept of the Interior. Safety. Flood Control. More recently, the Environment. A job whose history, responsibility, and direction predates us. As is so often the case in this life, they are charged with managing and undoing what was done by our forefathers in an era where “man over nature” reigned supreme.

Can the same agency that historically destroyed our waterways through the building of drainage canals help to undo this mess? I think so. The Kissimmee River restoration is a testament to that.

This does not come easily or quickly but it can come. And through our passion we can win the hearts of these modern-day warriors, a step at a time…a year at a time. A disaster at a time.

Yes they have outstanding resumes and wide experiences but in the end, they are human like everybody else. I am certain they want a better future for their children. This is the key.

Their  mission is stated as follows:

Jacksonville District provides quality planning, engineering, construction and operations products and services to meet the needs of the Armed Forces and the nation.
Our missions include five broad areas:
• Water resources
• Environment
• Infrastructure
• Homeland security
• Warfighting
Within these mission areas, our programs and projects:
• Ensure navigable harbors and channels
• Provide flood damage reduction
• Restore ecosystems
• Protect wetlands
• Stabilize shorelines
• Provide recreational opportunities
• Respond to natural disasters and in emergency situations
• Provide technical services to other local, state, federal and international agencies on a reimbursable basis

Welcome ACOE Warriors! Yes, the River Warriors and the River Movement of Martin and St Lucie Counties truly welcome you! We are relying on you to protect us and our river the best you can.


BIOGRAPHIES, click on name: (http://www.saj.usace.army.mil/About/Leadership.aspx)

ACOE Jacksonville website:(http://www.saj.usace.army.mil/)

The 2015 ACOE Jacksonville District leaders.
The 2015 ACOE Jacksonville District leaders.