Tag Archives: florida department of environmental protection

If “Off With Their Heads” is Not an Option, What is? Documenting the Destructive Discharges 2015, SLR/IRL

Reenactment of canon fire at the Castillo, St Augustine, 2015. (Photo Ed Lippisch)
Reenactment of canon fire at the Castillo, St Augustine, 2015. (Photo Ed Lippisch)
Flying north at convergence  of SLR/IRL at St Lucie Inlet.  (Photo Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch, 3-18-15.)
Flying north at convergence of SLR/IRL at St Lucie Inlet. Brown polluted-sediment water of Lake Okeechobee fills the estuary turning a usually blue/green area dark brown. (Photo Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch, 3-18-15.)
Standing at the St Augustine Bride over the Matnazas River. (Photo Ed Lippisch 2015)
Standing at the St Augustine Bridge over the Matnazas River. (Photo Ed Lippisch 2015)

My photos of dark waters of the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon were taken on Wednesday, 3-18-15 as my husband, Ed, flew us to St Augustine for a Thurlow Family trip my mother organized, in “America’s oldest city.”

Seeing the destructive view of the discharges on our way north was not a good visual, but before we’d left St Augustine, I had learned that their river, very much like the Indian River Lagoon, is named “The Matanzas” meaning “River of Slaughter” in memory of Spain’s Don Pedro Menendez ‘ and his men’s decapitation of the shipwrecked colony of French Huguenots  in 1565. During the massacre, the river “ran with blood…” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Matanzas_River)

Today our river runs with death as well, albeit a different kind…but we do not live in an age where if you are trying to displace someone, or don’t support their belief system, you chop their heads off….So what then can we do other than try to entice our dear government, to purchase land south of Lake Okeechobee to store, clean and convey water south the Everglades?

We can ask them to “document” what is happening….That sounds reasonable.

I have been reading the book: “Conservation in Florida, It’s History and Heros” by Gary L. White. Originally “the Department of Natural Resources,” the precursor to today’s  Department of Environmental Protection, did what it could to protect resources rather just be in charge of permits to destroy such.

I think until the Department of Environmental Protection removes the word “protection” from its name, it still has an obligation to “protect” which also means to “document.”

Seagrasses—fish species—-coral reefs and fish species–oysters—-marine mammals—birds—-aquatic plants——–all that is being lost….

It’s pathetic that the agency is not doing this already. Documenting loss forces state and federal agencies to “do something.” Otherwise, the destruction just continues and everyone “forgets” life was ever there. We owe this to future generations if nothing else.

If you agree, would you please contact the “Department’s” new Secretary, who is a cabinet member of Governor Scott. Please ask him if the agency could document what is happening here is the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon or maybe “protect” it in some way since that word it is still in their name….

Jonathan P.  Steverson DEP Secretary: 850-245-2011. Mr Tom Frick is in charge of Environmental Restoration for our part of the state; his number 850-245-7518. (http://www.dep.state.fl.us

You can reference what Florida Oceanographic states on its website: (http://www.floridaocean.org)

In the St Lucie/Indian River Lagoon area, several “protected areas” are now bing impacted, including two “state aquatic preserves:”

“1. The Indian River Lagoon National Estuary,” running from south of Ft Pierce to Jupiter Inlet that is a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA,) as well as an Environmental Protection Agency, (EPA,) “Essential Fish Habitat for Seagrass.” 2. Another area being impacted by the Lake Okeechobee discharges is the “St Lucie Inlet State Preserve Reefs, and Nearshore Reefs” nominated by NOAA for “National Marine Sanctuary Designation.” 

The SLR/SIRL estuary,coastal-ecosystem and habitat has been documented by Dr Grant Gilmore, formerly of Harbor Branch, and others to be “the most bio diverse estuary in North America with habitat for more than 4,000 species of plants and animals, including 36 endangered and threatened species.”

–Where is the protection for these areas? Where are the agencies that are charged with enforcing these protections? 

2. IRL and SLR converge at Crossroads by St Lucie Inlet then IRL runs north between starting at Sailfish Point and Sewall’s Point. This area has been documented as the most bio diverse marine environment in North America.
3. Sailfish Point
4. Sailfish Flats
5. Sailfish Flats
6. Jensen Beach Bridge
6. Jensen Beach Bridge


My nieces look over the Matanzas River from the Lighthouse in St (Photo Jenny Flaugh 2015) .
My nieces look over the Matanzas River from the Lighthouse in St Augustine. (Photo Jenny Flaugh 2015) .


DEP’s “2014 Indian River Lagoon System Management Plan” for the Once Outstanding Waters of Our Aquatic Preserves

Cover of NOAA/DEP Indian river Lagoon System Management Plan, 2014.
Cover of NOAA/DEP “Draft”Indian River Lagoon System Management Plan, 2014.

My husband came home from the airport yesterday, I was on the couch in the living room reading.  “Have you had a good afternoon?” He asked.

“Awesome,” I replied. “I have been reading the most wonderful document  that contains all of  the important information about  the entire Indian River Lagoon.” I energetically held up my gigantic copy of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and NOAA- Indian River Lagoon, Draft Report for 2014.  (http://www.dep.state.fl.us/coastal/sites/indianriver/plan.htm)

Ed smiled and looked at me like he usually looks at me in such instances. “That’s great,” he ironically replied, “government publications are my favorite too, how exciting…”

I am not always enamored with government publications, but I am with this one, especially as it is not finalized yet and the agencies are taking comment from the public.

What I like best about the document is that is deals with the entire lagoon, not just one section, including the lagoon’s  four aquatic preserves: 1. Banana River; 2. Malabar to Vero Beach; 3. Vero Beach to Ft Pierce; and 4. Jensen Beach (really just south of the City of Ft Pierce) to Jupiter Inlet.

Locations of the IRL's four aquatic preserves
Locations of the IRL’s four aquatic preserves

According to the document, “each of the four aquatic preserves comprising the IRL System was classified by the state of Florida as OFWs or “Outstanding Florida Waters, “in 1979 (Rule 62-3-2.700 (9) F.A.C.

I was 15 years old at that time. I remember those waters and how they shaped and enriched my life growing up here in Stuart. To think that these “Outstanding Florida Waters,” are now “impaired” makes me sad and makes me angry.

It has been coming for years, but in 2011 through 2013 the lagoon system really “crashed” with the “super-bloom” and brown tides in the central and northern lagoon, killing more than 60% of the area’s seagrass and leading to two federally designated “Unusual Mortality Events” of the endangered manatee, and the protected bottle nosed dolphin.

And also in 2013 the months long toxic algae outbreak in the southern lagoon… This occurred  due to blue-green “microcysis aeruginoas” algae water released by the ACOE from Lake Okeechobee, into the St Lucie River/IRL system. The SLR/IRL system was already over stressed from discharges coming from local canals C-44; C-23; C-24 and C-25…the lake Okeechobee water was the nail in the coffin so to speak.

I think there is a disconnect here. Aren’t these waters protected?

According to the publication, the mission statement of the Florida Coastal Office/Department of Environmental Protection is the following:

1. protect  and enhance the ecological integrity of the aquatic preserves;

2. restore areas to the natural condition;

3. encourage sustainable use and foster active stewardship by engaging local communities in the protection of aquatic preserves; and

4. improve management effectiveness through a process based on sound science, consistent evaluation, and continual reassessment.

I will refrain from bashing of the Department of Environmental Protection as I do not think our fair state’s leadership over the past hundred and fifty plus years has helped them attain their mission. How do you “direct” an agency to protect something and then simultaneously promote over drainage of natural systems,  channelizing, overdevelopment along the lands of these once “outstanding waters,” and allow water districts to over-grant permits for aquifer withdrawal for more agriculture and development?

Another irony I have to add here is that these once “outstanding waters” are what helped bring  people to our  locations and supported their high real estate values. That is changing as some people are now leaving. Last year, in the Town of Sewall’s Point, although the real estate market  improved overall in the county, our property values only increased 0.13%. As a “desirable” water front community with some of the highest property values in the county, this came as a surprise and is certainly directly linked to the “lost summer” and toxic waters of 2013.

The state of Florida needs to “wake up.” The Town of Sewall’s Point is a microcosm for the rest of the state. So what can we do to help? Speak up! 

Please if you have time and interest, check out Indian River Lagoon System Management Plan, Draft Report 2014 below. Even if you don’t read it all, which is almost impossible, keep it as an electronic resource,  and MAKE A COMMENT to the DEP. Even if it is just one that you appreciate that they are reevaluating their management plan and how much the IRL means to you.

It is only through the continued pressure of a caring public that the Indian River Lagoon will be resurrected and its “living waters” will run through our cities again.


*Copy of Draft IRL System Management Plan,DEP/NOAA, 2014, and list of public meetings that can be attended to make public comment on the document. (http://www.dep.state.fl.us/coastal/sites/indianriver/plan.htm)

* The IRL is managed also by the South Florida Water Management District and the St Johns River Water Management District.

Martin Memorial Health Systems Joins the River Movement, St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon


Robert Lord spoke at the rally on behalf of  Martin Memorial Hospital. (Photo Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch.)
Robert Lord spoke at the rally on behalf of Martin Memorial Health Systems.  (Photo Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch, 2014.)

Video of Rob Lord speaking from the rally: (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ImG8-gAI_9Q&feature=youtu.be)

Yesterday’s August 3rd, “2nd Annual March Against the Lake Okeechobee Discharges,” was remarkable. One year later, after the toxic releases from Lake Okeechobee, and the putrid discharges from our local canals,  the grass-roots momentum has not stopped and is expanding with respectable allies.

Some 1500 people, artists, news agencies, and many politicians (in office or running to be) came with political signs, costumes and with children in tow. They sat in the baking sun and dead air, under one lone oak tree if they could fit,  to listen to almost two hours of “educational speakers” and then to march to the locks. I was inspired.

Most jaw dropping for me, was to see the conservative and well spoken Senior Vice President, Chief Operating Officer and Chief Legal Officer,  Robert Lord, (http://www.martinhealth.org/executives) for Martin Memorial Health Systems, climb the stairs and pledge the institution’s support for our St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon and publicly note the institution’s concern for the SLR/IRL’s related health issues.

“Wow.” I thought. “Now this is a turning point. They can’t call us tree huggers anymore…”

I did not write down what Mr Lord said, but I stood there at his feet basically and watched him. I have known the family for my whole life. His father was a famous Country Western singer/later developer Bobby Lord, and I went to school with Cabot, Rob’s younger brother. Rob noted that he is “sixth generation,” and that his family grew up in the area, and that he, as a child,  enjoyed our area and these waters. They were wonderful days. He noted his dear family friend Jo Neeson, a river supporter and organizer of the event, and all the fun they had growing up here.  He then said something to this effect:

Robert Lord, MHS, 2014.
Robert Lord, MHS, 2014.

I am here today to speak on behalf of Martin Memorial Health Systems. We are concerned…We cannot prove that the many health issues- that have taken place- happened because of contact with river water but we can state that all of these people  had contact with the water during the discharges….we are concerned. We  are concerned for the health of the people and for the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon. For Martin Memorial, I am here today to say we support the movement for the river… 

With such support and honest revelation, how can our state and local agencies such as the Army Corp of Engineers, the South Florida Water Management District, the Department of Environmental Protection and the State Department of Health ignore our cries?

They can’t.  The hiding is over. The years of allowing destruction of our most precious resource, water, is done. The “cat is out of the bag,” “Pandora’s box is open.” Let’s keep talking and keep pushing and give our children  a place to fish, swim, boat and see the magic of a dolphin break the waves…

Thank you Martin Memorial Health Systems and the other who will be coming along as well….

Yesterday’s speakers:
– Sierra Club
– Rivers Coalition
– Stonecrab Alliance
– Florida Oceanographic Society
– Indian Riverkeeper
– Maggy Hurchalla
– Fly & Light Tackle Angler
– River Kid
– Treasured Lands Foundation (Land and Legacy, Amendment 1)
– Miccosukees tribe & Love the Everglades Movement
-Jonathan Flick- Pro Surfer
-Brent Mienhold – Pro Surfer
-Jordan Schwartz – Ohana Surf shop owner
– River Kidz
– Save the Manatee
– West Coast Resident
Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of Martin Memorial Hospital Services

The City of Port St Lucie, a city along a dying “Aquatic Preserve” of the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon

Aerial of what was to become the City of Port St Lucie, 1957. (Photo Ruhnke/Thurlow collection, courtesy of Sandra Henderson Thurlow.)
Aerial of what was to become the City of Port St Lucie along the North Fork of the St Lucie River, 1957. (Photo Ruhnke/Thurlow collection, courtesy of Sandra Henderson Thurlow.)

Wow, look at this!  A 1957 aerial photograph of the beautiful North Fork of the St Lucie River and its surrounding virgin lands that would incorporate as the City of Port St Lucie in 1961.

This Aia Indian and Seminole wilderness became spotted with many ranch lands but there was foresight for “protections” for some areas as it was beloved by hunters and fisherman and “just people” that wanted to protect its resources. It was full of wildlife on land and in its waters, which had been considered the best mostly “fresh water” fishing in the area for decades.

Preserve sign in the the area of Pruitt's Fish Camp, near today's Club Med.
Preserve sign in the the area of Pruitt’s Fish Camp, near today’s Club Med, ca. 1960s. (Photos courtesy of  Sandra Henderson Thurlow.)

In 1972 local, federal and state agencies led by the Florida Department of Natural Resources cooperated to declare the North Fork of the St Lucie River an “Aquatic Preserve.” And in 1984 the Department of Natural Resource, which merged into today’s Department of Environmental Protection, created a management plan for the area. The plan states:

“The preserve is one of the last remaining freshwater/estuarine wilderness areas in this region of Florida. The major objectives of the aquatic preserve management program are to manage the preserve to ensure maintenance of essentially natural conditions, and to restore and enhance those conditions which are not in a natural condition. Management will also be directed to ensure public recreational opportunities while assuring the continued propagation of fish and wildlife.” (



(NOTE: The Florida Department of Environmental Protection removed these links from public view in 2016. When I called they said the links were being archived. JTL)

I don’t know why really, but this plan was not implemented and unfortunately the area of the North Fork’s headwater’s at Five and Ten Mile Creek were contaminated by agricultural pesticides in 1995 in a formal document by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. (

Click to access tenmile_creek.pdf

) In 2002 the St Lucie River including parts and beyond the “aquatic preserve” was designated an “impaired water body” by the same agency  in 2002. (

Click to access SLE_Impairment_Narrative_ver_3.7.pdf


All the while the city of Port St Lucie grew and grew…

Growth of City of City along Port St Lucie
Growth of PSL along North Fork of  St Lucie River, 1969 to 2000, from the book, Port St Lucie at 50, A City for all People, by Nina Baranski. photo

According to the US census there were 330 residents in 1970 and 88,769 in 2000. In 2012 there were over 250,000 residents. 

Over the years, the city and agencies did not pay attention to  how developers and people developed their homes along the river, and many were developed go right up the the shoreline of the Aquatic Preserve as this photo by the FDEP shows. This is how fertilizers and pesticieds run right into the water. Not smart.  (





The State of Florida projects that the City of Port St Lucie is to have have 400,000 residents by 2025. Presently with over 250,000 residents, they are the state of Florida’s ninth largest city.

As odd as it sounds, this population may be a key to turning things around for the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon. Our Treasure Coast area never had enough votes to get much attention until recently and some of the St Lucie city and county commissioners are some of the most vocal in the the Save the Indian River Lagoon movement.

Why the state and federal and local agencies allowed the degradation of lands they spent an enormous amount of time protecting is pathetic. As usual there is only one hope for change, the people pushing government to save what’s left and find ways to let the estuary recover, may be the only answer to saving the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon.


The 1970s US Environmental Movement, Lessons for Today’s Indian River Lagoon

Stiller property and fish camp in 1964. This area was developed later as Mariner Cay and is located on St Lucie Boulvard on the Manatee Pocket. (Photo archives of Sandra Henderson Thurlow.)
Years ago, a  common sight, “dredge and fill. “Canals cut into the land prior to the United States’ “environmental movement” that affected Florida State law. Photo: Stiller property and fish camp in 1964. This area was developed later in 1973 as Mariner Cay and is located on St Lucie Boulvard on the Manatee Pocket, Stuart. (Photo archives of Sandra Henderson Thurlow.)

When it becomes discouraging and we feel as though we will “never” be able to fix the St Lucie River and Indian River Lagoon, it  is helpful to review environmental accomplishments of the past.

I was born in 1964 and a common thing to see in Martin County when I was growing up was development of coastal lands in a way that is rarely seen today-the cutting of canals right into the land abutting the river. Some of our most popular communities are based around the dredging and filling or the lands, or lands that had been cut earlier and then “improved.”  To name a few, North River Shores; Mariner Cay; Stuart Yacht and County Club; Archipelago, Sewall’s Point; Francis Langford’s Marina; Snug Harbor Marina; Sailfish Point and Marina; Indian River Plantation; Circle Bay Yacht Club. There are many more. The city of Ft Lauderdale was almost entirely developed and marketed this way, “Venice!”

Although the outcome is often “pretty,” in the long term, there are huge environmental consequences to dredge and fill and this type of work is not “encouraged” for riverfront residential development today. Why? How did this common practice, so destructive,   become more restrictive? This is the question I asked my attorney brother, Todd Thurlow, and this was his answer”

“Increased state regulation is probably in accordance with Federal Law. This is a whole area is study in federalism, environmental law and the federal government’s ability to influence the states to regulate themselves.”

Hmmm. To “regulate ourselves,” what a concept….

I started researching, and even though I was familiar, it helped to review the environmental movement of the United States. Historically, there had been conservationist like president Teddy Roosevelt and others but it was not until the late 1960s and1970s after an oil spill in Santa Barbara, California, that the US environmental movement really gained momentum. Remember it was the people who moved mountains not the government…

With pressure from the public, in 1969, what is considered the “magna carta” of US environmental law was passed, the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). NEPA  “established a U.S. national policy promoting the enhancement of the environment and also established the President’s Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ). It is one of the most emulated statutes in the world.”

NEPA’s most significant effect was to set up procedural requirements for all federal government agencies to prepare environmental assessments (EAs) and environmental impact statements (EISs). (We see the these requirements hold today even with All Aboard Florida.)

NEPA led to the creation of the US Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, along with the very important Clean Air and Water Acts of the 1970s. In response to this federal pressure, the state of Florida merged agencies creating the Department of Environmental Regulation in the mid 1970s. Today this agency has adapted to be the Department of Environmental Protection.

The apex of the movement was a book published  in 1962 by a former Fish and Wildlife employee and marine biologist, Rachel Carson, Silent Spring, that shined a light on pesticide use post World War II in the US and led to near banning of the common chemical DDT. Even though the powerful chemical companies fought the publication of the book, threatening to sue for libel, they lost and the pressure of the public’s “want to know” overcame….

The thread here? The people caused the change. Do not rely on the  government for change, create it yourself by exerting pressure on your government.  Whether this happens on the level of the United States environmental movement or the River Movement of 2013 here at home, the key to change is the people. Hope you learned or remembered something and that you feel inspired. Keep up the good work!


History Department  of Environmental Regulation/Protection, Florida: (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Florida_Department_of_Environmental_Protection)

History of NEPA, US Environmental law 1969 :(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Environmental_Policy_Act)

History, Environmental Policy of the US: (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Environmental_policy_of_the_United_States#Origins_of_the_environmental_movement)