At last week’s Everglades Coalition Conference, (http://evergladescoalition.org), one of my favorite quotes was repeated by respected Martin County resident, and nationally renowned environmentalist, Mr Nathaniel Reed:
“Not knowing your history, is like walking into the middle of the movie.”
For us to be effective advocates for the now impaired St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon, (http://www.dep.state.fl.us/southeast/ecosum/ecosums/SLE_Impairment_Narrative_ver_3.7.pdf), it is important to know our history, especially the history of ourselves.
Prior to the 1970s, the passage of the Clean Water Act, and the national environmental movement, “dredge and fill”was commonplace. Dredge and fill includes the dredging of canals that have created our Atlantic Inter-coastal Waterway; the dreaded Okeechobee Waterway; canals draining South Florida below and around Lake Okeechobee; the Everglades Agricultural Area; as well as many prominent subdivisions and commercial centers that we relish today.
After people realized the environmental degradation that unfortunately went along with these projects, (some include: turbidity in the water column, destruction of seagrass and wildlife habitat, and sometimes the release of heavy metals and other pollutants harbored in the bottom sands and sediments,) getting permits to “do such” became much harder.
Today the FDEP, Florida Department of Environmental Protection,(http://www.dep.state.fl.us/water/wetlands/erp/dffact.htm), and the EPA, Environmental Protection Agency, together with the Army Corp of Engineers, (http://water.epa.gov/lawsregs/guidance/cwa/dredgdis/) primarily oversee such projects; many are not granted or take so long people give up.
Mrs. Frances Langford (http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frances_Langford), who built the well-known “Outrigger Resort and Marina, “in the 1950s, just north of Sewall’s Point, became an “environmentalist” in her later days, bestowing tremendous monies toward the Florida Oceanographic Society on Hutchinson Island, (http://www.floridaocean.org).
And yes, she gave to just about every charity in town! The point is, she loved helping “create” Florida Oceanographic in her later years, and in the 1940s and 50s people really did not realize the true extent of the destruction their dredge and fill projects were causing to the world that they loved. I believe this even holds true with some of the worst offenders of the agriculture and development industry who have, in essence, destroyed Florida and its waters.
But times change, and people change. I believe there is a movement of change right now to “send water south” again…to fix our state, and yet to allow businesses that came into being, during earlier times of our history, to survive and adapt.
As I mentioned, to be able to change the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon, we first must learn to look around, to be aware, and to be able to recognize the history of our own area as we try to change the bigger state picture as well.
Once you start looking, you will see that “dredge and fill” is all around us.
You may ask yourself:
“How is a huge boat, going through the IRL that on average is three feet deep?”
“How are those boats coming from Ft Meyers across Lake Okeechobee into the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon?”
“Am I living on what used to be a spoil island or the edge of a coastal community of fish and birds?”
“Am I living in a former wetland?”
I know, that although I do not live on the river, “I am;” I live in a coastal hammock in Sewall’s Point, a bird sanctuary.
There is no turning back, but we can change how we create a new history in the future.
By knowing history, there is a way to “rebuild”and “reeducate.” Whether it is starting in your yard, or changing state policy…
So look around you. Learn your history, view the “full movie”…And may the great waters of Florida flow again with life, beauty, and all the generosity of the late Frances Langford.