Palm City was once narrow strips of pine flatlands interspersed with hammocks, ponds, wide prairies, sloughs, sawgrass and cypress trees. Today it is a bustling part of Martin County due to the drainage of the C-23 canal on the north, and the C-44 canal on the south. When one attempts to unravel the long history of drainage of Palm City, it is helpful to think in three connected but separate levels: local, state, and federal.
In 1919 the Palm City Drainage District was created. It was established for a local level as a special drainage district by the Florida Legislature with a lifetime of fifty years. It was primarily created to drain newly established Palm City Farms. Miles of canals and ditches were dug to drain into Bessey Creek, Dansforth Creek, and the South Fork of the St Lucie River. Some of these canals and ditches still exist today or have been incorporated into larger canals.
Digging of the St Lucie Canal in the south began around 1915 lasting into 1926. It was dug by the Everglades Drainage District, State of Florida, from the South Fork of the St Lucie River to Lake Okeechobee. After the deathly hurricane of 1928, the federal government authorized widening and deepening the St Lucie Canal to create the Okeechobee Waterway also known as the Cross State Canal from Stuart, across Lake Okeechobee, to Ft Meyers. Doing so allowed the St Lucie Canal to conveniently function as the main outlet for Lake Okeechobee’s flood waters. Later, after the great flood of 1947, the canal became part of the Central and Southern Florida Plan and renamed C-44 becoming part of the giant Central and Southern Florida Flood Control System of the Army Corp of Engineers.
The great flood of 1947 called not just for the widening and depending of the St Lucie Canal and enlargement of its structures, but the federal Flood Control Act of 1948 authorized more canals, levees, and structures to be built by the Army Corps of Engineers throughout southern and central Florida. Among the new canals were the C-23, the C-24 and C-25 canals of Martin and St Lucie counties -all discharging into the North Fork of the St Lucie River. The state asked for and supported this. The C-23 is the border between Martin and St Lucie Counties. Of course there were major unintended consequences that added to the discharges of the St Lucie Canal and the original Palm City Drainage District. This plethora of fresh, dirty water has all but killed the St Lucie River. Improving the health of the St Lucie is the goal of local, state, and federal restoration efforts today.
It’s fun having a mother who is the “history lady” because if I ask a question, it’s answered. Recently I ask her why the address of the South Florida Water Management District was 3301 Gun Club Road, West Palm Beach, Florida, 33406. It always kind of hits me as I exit from I-95 onto GUN CLUB ROAD before our governing board meetings. Mom answered: “That’s of course because the Gun Club used to be located in the western lands after it was moved from its original location two miles north of the famous Royal Poinciana Hotel. So originally it was located along the Lake Worth Lagoon. In those early days, all revolved around Henry Flagler’s creations.” “Were they hunting animals? Killing them all?” I asked. “Jacqui I think it was more ground birds and skeet shooting. As seen in the photo, there was an audience. All was part of the extensive social life of the wealthy during the Florida boom of the early 1900s.”
Interesting! So what’s going on today along Gun Club Road? The Gun Club is long gone, the airport has expanded and now the SFWMD sits on this road.
A lot is happening that is helping Nature, not shooting at it. Today I’d like to share some photos of recent Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Projects as the SFWMD is the local sponsor to the Army Corp of Engineers. They share the costs 50/50.
1.~Picayune Strand: July 9, 2021, water flowing south to restore thousands of acres of land in Collier County for the very first time. Photo SFWMD. This project was pushed forward with the help and passion of Governing Board member Col. Charlette Roman.
A lot more is happening along Gun Club Road than in the early 1900s! Thank goodness we’re not just shooting little doves anymore! And there is much more to come : Indian River Lagoon South C-44 Reservoir, Martin County will be operating by 2021 and getting “filled up” in October 2021; Design of the C-23 & C-24 Storm Water Treatment Areas in St Lucie County will be underway in 2021 to ameliorate the effects of canals 23, 24, and 24 on the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon; ACOE’s Groundbreaking for the EAA Reservoir is expected this year in 2021- the SFWMD is already ahead building the Storm Water Treatment Areas; projects in Miami-Dade and for Biscayne Bay are underway. The C-111 spreader canal and aligned projects will continue to be improved in order to send more water south and protect agriculture and coastal communities from flooding.
These are incredible times of progress for a better water future along historic Gun Club Road! Making history!
The next Governing Board meeting of the SFWMD is August 12, 2021. Link here to most recent information updates.
Thank you to Rotarians Mr Larry Lavargna and Ms Elmira Gainey for co-chairing Stuart-Sunrise Rotary’s 2nd Annual Water Forum, Public Health as it Relates to the St Lucie River. There are few instances where so many influential water voices come together to speak on the river as it relates to public health and for a question/answer period after each to boot. A excellent public forum!
I noticed that of all the speakers, Dr Gary Goforth had written out his talk, thus in case you were unable to attend, I asked if he would share. His words are included below. You can also find many of the presentations recorded and posted at Treasure Coast on Facebook.
The most powerful things happen when we all get involved and include others! Thank you Sunshine-Rotary!
We are so blessed to live in Paradise! Like you I love this river, its estuary, its mangroves, its beaches, its near-shore reefs. But as many of you know, it is a Paradise with a tragic problem. Below the surface of this serene river lies poison.
Ms. Sandra Thurlow recently provided the following treasure: In 1885, Homer Hine Stuart, Jr. for whom Stuart is named carried around a small woodcutting representing the confluence of the North Fork and South Fork of the St Lucie Rivers. This carving showed the river as 20 feet deep at the location of the future Roosevelt Bridge. Imagine that!
Thirty years later Ernie Lyons described looking down into the River 15-20 ft through clear tea-colored water to a sandy bottom below.
The area behind us was known worldwide as “Giant Tarpon Kingdom” with regular catches of silver kings above 175 pounds. The world record was reported as 220 pounds, caught just up river.
In 1913, the State of Florida decided to construct a canal connecting Lake Okeechobee with the Atlantic Ocean. The primary intent was to divert the overflow of Lake Okeechobee away from its natural course south through the Everglades, thereby allowing the sawgrass plains south of the lake to be developed for agriculture. A secondary benefit was to provide cross-Florida transportation of produce and other commerce.
On June 15, 1923, the first recorded discharges from Lake Okeechobee passed through the newly constructed St. Lucie Canal, which connected the St. Lucie Estuary to the Lake. But an unintended consequence was the discharge of countless tons of muck and dirty freshwater from the Lake that forever changed the landscape of the St Lucie River and Estuary.
Within 10 years the Martin County Commissioners had asked the State to stop the discharges “for the reason that the continued discharge of a large volume of dirty freshwater has killed all the shell fish, driven all salt water fish from the river, filled the river with hyacinths and so polluted the St Lucie River as to completely take away the attractive features and ruin its commercial value to the community.” (December 15, 1930 MCBCC)
The lake discharges drove out the king tarpons – the 150-200 pounders – and the small city of Stuart recast itself as the “Sailfish Capital of the World.”
Ernie Lyons described the damage in this way:
“We turned our good, sweet water into a cup of poison and changed a laughing little river into a reeking abomination – in the latter part of an ordinary lifetime. Clean rivers are not “forever and forever” like the sunrise.” (from The Last Cracker Barrel (1976) p 62)
As a professional engineer I’ve had the honor of working to protect the environment of south Florida for more than three decades – in the Everglades, in Lake Okeechobee, along the Kissimmee River and its headwaters, and in the magnificent estuaries –the St Lucie and Caloosahatchee. My wife and I raised three kids here along the St Lucie River and I’ve taught my two grandsons to fish and appreciate the incredible biological diversity throughout the river and estuary and near shore reefs. But unfortunately, we don’t eat the fish we catch in the River because of the public health risk.
I recently had the misfortune of being in the emergency room of our local hospital. One of the very first questions I was asked was if I had had any recent contact with the St Lucie River.
During the 2016 discharges I walked along Stuart Beach with Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch and we collected the names and stories of over 100 people who had gotten sick after coming in contact with the water.
A beautiful dog, Finn, died that summer after morning frolic in the water. Several other dogs suffered acute liver failure, and suffer to this day.
2016 was a watershed year in understanding the relationship between the discharge of polluted water from the Lake and public health. The media began to focus on toxic blue green algae – particularly the microcystis form. While parts of our beloved estuary were covered in foul smelling neon green guacamole, the media began reporting on the effects of microcystis and human health. An Ohio State University study reported that those of us in Martin and St Lucie County have twice the national average rate of death for non-alcoholic liver disease. They correlated this high rate with one thing – discharge of polluted water carrying blue green algae from Lake Okeechobee. This particular form of blue-green algae – microcystis – carries a dangerous toxin that can cause serious liver disease which can lead to death. Additional human health risks have also been identified – Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and Lou Gehrig’s disease.
In the last year – thanks to the efforts of Congressman Brian Mast – the Corps of Engineers acknowledged for the first time that Lake discharges to the estuaries carrying microcystis are toxic to humans, and the US Government makes these discharges knowingly and with the understanding that they are poisoning us – the public that they serve.
Numerous public health advisories have been issued in our region in association with lake discharges – warnings to the public to avoid contact with the water. But none have ever been issued when Lake water is sent south – the environmental conditions south of the lake are not advantageous for sustaining toxic blooms. So the alternative to knowingly poisoning the public are clear – send the water south.
Col. Kelly is now in charge, and we are truly grateful for his leadership. As the Corps revises its operation schedule of the Lake, I am sure that Col. Kelly will ensure that the public health, economies and environment of our region are given equal weight as the public health, economies and environment of the area south of the Lake. Hundreds of millions of dollars in economic loss are felt by the regions around the estuaries during years of heavy lake discharges. Public health is adversely affected. There is no acceptable level of lake discharges. There is no level of Lake releases to the St Lucie Estuary that is beneficial.
Lake discharges contain pollutants include toxic blue green algae, sediment (muck), low salinity water, and nutrients. However, even if all the Lake water was sent south, our beloved St Lucie would still be in trouble. Our local watershed has its challenges – particularly high levels of nitrogen and phosphorus in agricultural runoff. Our watershed suffers from the same lack of pollution regulation as the Lake Okeechobee watershed: landowners are not held accountable for pollution from their property.
But the problem is not just ag runoff – WE ALL ARE RESPONSIBLE. For the St Lucie Estuary, approximately 5-10% of the total nitrogen loading is from our septic tanks. If you have a tank – have it inspected and maintained. Water quality data show an improvement in nitrogen levels due to positive actions taken by the City of Stuart, Martin County, Port St. Lucie and homeowners – conversion of more than 8,000 septic tanks to centralized sewer. The City of Stuart has one of the best programs for converting septic tanks to sewers: a voluntary system that allows homeowners the option of waiting until their tanks or drainfields need replacing before hooking up. But converting septic to sewer doesn’t solve the problem of nutrient overload – it just moves the problem to other areas. The majority of the residuals from wastewater treatment plants are returned to our watersheds as “biosolids” that contain high concentrations of phosphorus and nitrogen. An article in this morning’s Stuart News documented the presence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in dolphins, and the researchers attribute much of the problem to pharmaceuticals that pass generally untreated through centralized sewers and are returned to the watershed through biosolids. We still need a better strategy for managing biosolids. Sen. Harrell – we look to you for leadership in the Legislature to require additional oversight and regulation of the application of all biosolids in our watershed.
The Florida Legislature is the single most influential group that can positively affect the public health in the state of Florida. The Legislature has an obligation to understand that allowing continued pollution of Lake Okeechobee and the estuaries will directly and adversely impact the health of the public you represent. Unless the State begins holding landowners accountable for the pollution they generate, there is absolutely no reason to believe that our water quality will improve and as a result, our public health will continue to decline. No matter if the Corps and SFWMD implement all the projects on the books – there will still be Lake discharges of toxic water to our estuaries – and unless the Legislature reverses its direction, the water quality and public health problems will persist.
I ask Sen. Harrell to work with the Legislature to hold the state’s Dept. of Environmental Protection (DEP) accountable for protecting our environment. Their current program for improving water quality going into the Lake is terribly broken. Pollution loading to the lake reached an all-time high in 2017. And compounding this problem is that annual DEP reports to the Governor and legislature and public are misleading – as they allege that pollution loads are decreasing – when the reality – as documented by the SFWMD – is that average pollution loads are higher than the Starting Period. For 2017 the measured phosphorus loads to the Lake were 60% greater than they reported in their annual report. For 2018, the measured loads were 40% greater than they reported. Who holds the DEP accountable for transparency and accuracy in reporting to the Governor, the Legislature and the public? Sen. Harrell – please demand accountability on the part of DEP.
USEPA recently established draft guidelines for microcystin in water. We urge the legislature to direct DEP to expeditiously embrace and adopt those guidelines to protect human health. We support Col. Kelly’s efforts to prevent Lake discharges to our estuary that contain blue green algae, and urge him to adopt the microcystin guideline into the new version of the Lake operating manual.
I want to thank Ms. Thurlow-Lippisch on behalf of the SFWMD – for exploring more ways to sending Lake water south through the STAs, into the Everglades and on to Florida Bay. The SFWMD is also the agency responsible for collecting water quality data documenting the state of the water. Thanks to the leadership of Ms. Thurlow-Lippisch, they are initiating steps to establish a regulatory program that if done properly will hold landowners accountable for reducing nutrient pollution. The SFWMD will need our support as they develop an effective program – and we the public need to turn out and support them in their efforts.
We’ve heard Col. Kelly and others describe projects to be completed in the next 2-3 years. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the first discharges from the Lake with a promise to stop the toxic discharges?!
I’d like to end with a challenge for all of us from an idol of mine – Timer Powers – Timer was a former Martin County commissioner and water management board member and Executive Director:
“The greatest challenge in front of us is to take the steps that are necessary to assure that our younger generation has the rivers, the creeks and the critters that are at the heart of our whole society. There’s not many people representing the critters, and if we fail to represent those who can’t represent themselves, either nature or people, then we have failed.”
So to my fellow clean water advocates – let’s rise up to meet this challenge! We can do this people!
Thank you all, and to the Rotary for bringing us all together on this beautiful day along side this beautiful estuary!
Background: Time Capsule Flight: Jupiter to Lake Worth Haulover Canal, by Todd Thurlow
Recently, my husband Ed and I guided Adrift south from Stuart to the Lake Worth Lagoon. For us, the boat ride was delightful! Jupiter is by far one of the Intracoastal’s most beautiful of places with its blue water and iconic Jupiter Lighthouse. Today the canal linking it to Lake Worth Lagoon is easy to navigate. What we must remember, as the video above shows, it wasn’t always this way…
Today I share Ed and my 2019 modern Intracoastal Waterway photos contrasted to an 1884 account by Champlin H. Spencer, an experienced seaman, who took the same route in 1884 before the area was developed. In his account, he describes this journey as “the most arduous of any yet experienced.” In the early days, this area between Jupiter and Lake Worth was a marsh, creek and in high waters, a sawgrass highway. It must have been spectacular in natural beauty, but not so easy to navigate!
Thank you to my mother, historian Sandra Henderson Thurlow for sharing this rare piece she researched from the National Archives while writing her book US Life-Saving Service: Florida’s East Coast.
~From the library of historian Sandra Henderson Thurlow, a historic account: Jupiter to Lake Worth, 1884.
A letter in the national archives written to Captain James H. Merryman, Inspector of Life-Saving Station by Champlin H. Spencer. Spencer became the superintendent of District Seven after William Hunt died in 1882. The narrative illustrates the hardships encountered by early District Superintendents.
Nov. 6th, 1884
In connection with my last trip, I may say, it was the most arduous of any yet experienced. Knowing the October trip to be the worst of the year, I had provided the government sharpie with new sails at my own expense… the only practicable means of locomotion for the Superintendent to get over the 7th District. On arriving at Jupiter, a gale was blowing, a hurricane expected and no reasonable prospect for weeks for crossing the various bars on my route.I therefore borrowed a boat from the assistant light-house keeper Carlisle, pushed in company with my boat-hand through the everglades to haul-over near Lake Worth with the little dinkey in tow which with my boat-hand’s help, it being a desolate point, I tugged over to Lake Worth. The experience of making miles a few inches at a push with pole adhering in the mud & all locomotion confined to literal pushing through lily-pads & rushes cradled in amphibious land is unique while on this occasion camping in an open boat in a torrent of rain amid such surroundings gave a higher spice to its uniqueness. My regular boat-hand returned to Jupiter to take care of (?) while in the cockle shell of a dinkey, proceeded to the settlement, procured a sailboat, hoisted the peak as reef, sailed down the lake & hence footed it down the beach. Mr. Quimby … more from innate gallantry & personal liking than for pay, accompanied me and at the Hillsborough swam the gauntlet of alligators and shark to the other side, bring from the opposite side the boat left there by the Coast-Survey although in so doing he came nigh being swept out to sea. The water was very high, the walking, at all times execrable, was the worst I have ever known it along the coast so that on arriving at Lauderdale station, it being impossible at the time to push through the everglades in a boat to Miami the gale still blowing, I dispatched Keeper Peacock for Keeper Pierce who met me a Lauderdale and there signed the pay-roll. It is my settled purpose not to shirk any portion of the route, but footsore, exhausted and down with a chill & the back track before me, the volunteered readiness of Keepers Peacock & Pierce to meeting me at Lauderdale was truly acceptable & I trust inspection in the premises will not meet with severe censure.*Photocopy of official letter obtained from Ranger Sandra Hines, Canaveral National Seashore.
excessive richness of nutrients in a lake or other body of water, frequently due to runoff from the land, which causes a dense growth of plant life and death of animal life from lack of oxygen.
Although once known for her great life and beauty, modern-day Lake Okeechobee, has been dying for years…
Since the early 1970s, scientists were forecasting the imminent demise of the huge lake due to the tremendous influx of fertilizers and waste (oddly termed “nutrients”), especially from the Kissimmee River. The river had been channelized in the 60s, made straight, for flood control and the “benefit” of creating more agricultural lands. This was done by none other than the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers and, of course, supported by Florida politicians.
All of these problems were one of the reasons that Florida politicians reversed course and took action in the 1970s to do something for the environment. According to the book River of Interests “during the 1972 legislative session, the Florida Legislature passed several land and planning measures, including an authorization of a major study on eutrophicationof Lake Okeechobee.”
Although, I could not find any of the original reports of the Florida Department of Environmental Regulation, (the original name of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection – God forbid we say the word regulation!), I did come across the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency National Eutrophication Survey of 1977.
Nonetheless, there have been positive changes in the characters!
A huge thing that has changed is that the Belle Glades sewage treatment plant, that once discharged into the Hillsborough Canal and was back pumped into Lake O, ~approximately 1/3 of the year, no longer does. This is no surprise. When I was a kid in Stuart in the 70s, there were still houses along the Indian River Lagoon that discharged sewage directly into the river! GROSS!
So I guess the plot has changed bit, but not enough yet to save Lake Okeechobee. We need to change the channel and do what we have known we need to do since I was ten years old…
You can read the full 1977 report at this long link below:
Sometimes the history of the Everglades is really confusing. Why, with all of the environmental advocacy, since the 1970s, does the health of our environment remain crippled? One way to simplify it is to think in terms of before and after the 1947 U.S. Central and South Florida Plan. Of course there is extensive history before 1947, but it was after 1947 that things in South Florida’s water world became culturalized, compartmentalized, and legally defined. Before we talk about this 1947 Central and South Florida Plan, let’s review some important highlights pre-1947.
1. Hamilton Disston begins the drainage of Lake Okeechobee (1881)
2. Governor Napoleon Broward hires U.S.D.A. scientist James Wright who determines that “eight canals would indeed drain 1,850,000 acres of swampland” (1904)
3. The U.S. Congress’ Rivers and Harbors Act includes significant funds to deepen the manmade Hamilton Disston connection of the Calooshahatchee River to Lake Okeechobee (ca.1910)
4. The scandal of James Wright (from #2 above) who was deemed “a fraud” for the failure of the land to drain as expected ~causing the slump in swampy real estate sales (1914)
5. The resurgence of confidence in sales and a 1920s real estate boom fueled by advances in soil science, and the success of agricultural start-ups located in Moore Haven, Belle Glade, and Clewiston south of Lake Okeechobee
6. Land in a defined “Everglades Drainage District” more fully being systematically cut into sections for development with canals draining agricultural fertilizers and other chemicals into the waters of the state (1924)
6. Two very powerful hurricanes causing thousands of deaths and the destruction of property, and thus the state’s “call for a higher dike” (1926 and 1928)
7. The state’s reaction to the hurricanes, the 1929 establishment of the “Okeechobee Flood Control District” for the “Everglades Drainage District” as well as the Federal Government’s Army Corp of Engineers taking over “field operations”around Lake Okeechobee ~including the building of a thirty-five foot earthen dike and ingeniously using navigation funding to build the cross-state-canal, connecting the Caloosahatchee and the St Lucie Estuaries to Lake Okeechobee ~conveniently working as discharge-escapes through those estuaries when “necessary”
So, as we can see, a lot happened pre-1947, but it was what happened after, were things really changed…
In 1947 it rained and rained, and there were two hurricanes. From Orlando to Florida Bay the agricultural and developed lands, that had been built in drained, once marshy, swampy areas, really flooded, and in some places a foot of water sat for months. There was great economic loss.
The crying cow booklet, above, was sent to every member of the U.S. Congress.
To fight Florida’s destructive “flood waters” the 1948 U.S. Congress adopted legislation for the CENTRAL AND SOUTH FLORIDA PROJECT, a twenty year flood plan from Orlando to Florida Bay that included the formal creation and protection of the Everglades Agricultural Area south of Lake O, the Water Conservation Areas, intertwined with thousands of miles of canals and structures to control the once headwaters and River of Grass. HOUSE DOCUMENT 643 – 80TH CONGRESS (00570762xBA9D6)
Next, mirroring the same terminology the United States Government had used (the Central and South Florid Project) the state of Florida created the “Central and South Florida Flood Control District” to manage that CENTRAL and SOUTH FLORIDA PROJECT. A bit confusing huh? A tongue twister. And in a way one could say, at that time, the Central and South Florida Project and the Central and South Florida Flood Control District “became one.” The overall goal above all other things was flood control. And this marriage of the Central and South Florida Project and the Central and South Florida Flood Control District was successful at controlling the waters, but it also killed the natural environment, thus Florida herself.
This embedded cultural philosophy of “flood control only” was challenged in 1972 with the birth of the national environmental movement, and a consciousness that the natural system that supported Florida’s tourism, quality of life, agriculture, not to mention valuable wildlife, was in tremendous decline.
I continue to share my mother’s historic documents for those who love and appreciate history. Today’s original 1934 Stuart Daily News publication is very impressive, oversized, with aerial photographs and pride-filled words lauding the City of Stuart, and her Roosevelt Bridge as part of the new “Gateway to the Gulf of Mexico.”
This gateway, of course, was the Cross State Canal that was federally funded through “navigation” with the dual use to discharge Lake Okeechobee water, that Nature would have flowed south to Florida Bay, into the northern estuaries enhancing “Fishing, Hunting, and Sports on the Beautiful St Lucie….Lake Okeechobee, and Caloosahtchee River….”
In 1934, an era of Man Over Nature, both men and women did not know their determination to control the environment and its waters would, eventually, kill almost everything they loved.
And here we are today…
But as my hero Ernie Lyons, editor environmentalist of a later newspaper, the Stuart News said: “What men do they can undo.”
I believe this.
New bridges must be built. Not just of concrete but of the heart.
Bridges between people and politics. Bridges between corporations and children. Bridges between agriculture giants and fish. Bridges between developers and a new way to live. Why? Because like it or not, we are a Florida Water Family. All connected. All bridged together by depending on this place.
I will end with words from my mother, historian, Sandra Henderson Thurlow:
“Jacqui, This is a very large book that was published to celebrate the dedication of the original Roosevelt Bridge on January 8, 1934. The pages are supposed to face each other so “Stuart–‘Atlantic Gateway to the Gulf of Mexico'” run together. The sentence at the bottom should be “The City of Stuart Invites You to Winter on the Beautiful St. Lucie River.” A gentleman who lives in Rio, Richard Lewis Miller, shared the original in honor of his father, Alvin Richard Miller 1906-1976.” Mom (http://www.sandrathurlow.com)
I think for this Friday’s blog post, I will keep it short as the words of the late Ernest Lyons resonate for themselves, especially for those of us who knew our waters in better days. This poetic piece fills one with inspiration to see healthy waters once again, but reminds us, that in spite of all our troubles, the force of beauty remains.
In her email to me ~sharing this piece, my mother simply wrote:
“This was in a 1953 Fishing Guide. The man in the photo is Capt. Francis A. Adams. Ernie surely could write. He never went to church but….” Mom
The Fisherman, by Ernest Lyons
His is a measure of the peace that comes to the man of wide waters and in quiet places. Clouds, sea, and rain, the wind and sun accept him into their company.
He sees the creatures that the Lord hath wrought in the deeps…the sawfish with its armored flail, the remora with sucking cups atop its head to fasten onto shark or ray, the mullet always fleeing. He feels the presence of creation’s magic close at hand.
He knows the beauty of the morning and bright fullness of the day upon the sea and rivers. He sees the swift and dreadful, the timid, and the fierce. And within him there is wonder that such miracles should be.
My mother gave me a late birthday present: antique post cards and a bottle once filled with “Florida Water,” a popular tonic sold for health and beauty around the world. Believe it or not, “Florida Water” is still selling across the globe, and has been since 1808 ~for 210 years!
It was poignant to receive such a rare and special gift from my mother because if Murray & Landman began marketing Florida water today, the product would not be so romantic; in fact, the branding would more look like war.
I’m the kind of person who gets attached. I’m loyal to people and things that are good to me. One of those is the Legend Cub, the little yellow airplane that started flying in Stuart in 2013.
As she began to fly over the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon helping spot destruction from Lake Okeechobee discharges, she came to be known by those who saw her from the ground as the “River Warrior.” Over time, she became known far and wide to pilots, guests, reporters, home-owners, boaters, beach-goers, and children. She flew over multiple river rallies tipping wings side-to-side “waving” inspiring thousands of people.
She inspired me too.
When I was too afraid to get up in the air with my husband, it was she who gave me wings. I trusted her to help me tell our River Story and she did. She discovered algae water pouring through S-80 and the gigantic algae blooms documented in Lake Okeechobee…
Looking back on the thousands of photos Ed and I took from her open cockpit, these photos starting with the Treasure Coast Council of Local Governments, were shared and published~during that changing “Lost Summer,” of 2013, and then 2016, and now, 2018.
The River Warrior’s distinctive yellow strutted aerials have been instrumental in gaining statewide and national attention of the government sponsored destruction of our St Lucie River. The little plane gave us our first look from above and she woke us to action, yes, she did.
~Never a stutter and always with a singing engine she flew…
Since 2013, there have been more “Lost Summers,” now complete with disappeared seagrasses, and toxic blue-green algae to boot. She has seen it all. And today, there are now a total of five Cubs in Martin and Lee Counties. Indeed, being so cute and reliable, she stared a trend.
Nonetheless, next week, she is being sold and replaced with a “better” model. For me, there is no better model. She has changed the game; she gave me confidence to fly when I had none; she shall be missed and remembered forever. So if you see her this final week please wave “goodbye” and wish her well.
Farewell and thank you River Warrior plane. May your next adventure be as touching to those around you, as you have been to me. You are, and alway will be, the soul and heart of our river movement legend.
In my last post, I shared my brother Todd Thurlow’s “Lake Okeechobee Satellite Images 1972-2013.” Today, I am sharing his Lake Okeechobee Satellite Images 1982-2018.
In 1972, I was 8 years old…
In 1982, I was 18 years old…
A lot changes in ten years, and an extra-lot changes in the 100 years we have not taken good care of our state’s largest lake; this is now affecting millions of people and the remaining wildlife we have left.
Todd told me he did not “create by hand,” as I alluded to in my last post, but rather he used a USGS website tool to do it, and then converted, and loaded to YouTube, embed, etc.
In the last video the emphasis was on an a visible algae bloom in 1979, in this “video” the dates of algae blooms are not marked, but you can see clearly blooms towards the end as we reach 2018.
Unless something drastic occurs structurally, socially, and politically, I am sorry to say that we are doomed to have more and more algae blooms in the future.
~“The consequences of ignoring ecological planning and environmental protection could be economically devastating in a way not commonly foreseen.” Environments of South Florida Present and Past, by Patrick J. Gleason 1974.
I woke up to seeing sunshine through the window. I looked at my phone. My brother’s text read: “S-308 just jumped to 1484 cfs and its climbing.”
(Go to St Lucie River for reports: http://www.thurlowpa.com/news.htm)
In Sewall’s Point, today is the first morning in three weeks that it hasn’t been raining, or just about to. My porches have been slick with moisture and leaves. The frogs in my pond are so loud at night I have to put in ear-plugs. My husband and I laugh saying you can count sheep, but there is no sleep!
In spite of all of this and the fact that the ACOE has been discharging from C-44 canal basin since around May 16, and the St Lucie River already looks like hell, it is still disappointing and heart-wrenching when they formally “open the gates.” ~To Lake Okeechobee that is…
In spite of the history, or knowing why they do it, it just seems so wrong that little St Lucie has to take basically one-third of the crap water for the state. Sorry and I know my mother will not like that word, but its the truth. Thank God for Joe Negron and his work last year as President of the Florida Senate and resurrecting the EAA Reservoir. And curse to any new Governor who does not help it be fulfilled.
The natural drainage basin of the St Lucie River shown in GREEN below was much smaller than it is today. The introduction of four man-made drainage canals dramatically altered its size and the drainage patterns. This primarily being C-44, the canal connected to Lake Okeechobee (bottom). One can see from the map image that C-44 Basin and of course Lake O’s water, the most effective assassins, were never part of the St Lucie Basin as were not Port St Lucie’s C-23, C-24, and C-25 system. These canals have killed our river!
The EAA Reservoir must be built, and in time, more water must move south to Florida Bay. We shall be fixed or compensated or a combination of both for our now noxious-reality. We will not accept this fate. Who knows what this summer shall bring. But one thing is for sure, this life along the St Lucie, is now toxic.
Thank you to ACOE for the following information and press conference yesterday.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Jacksonville District will start releasing water from Lake Okeechobee this weekend as part of its effort to manage rising water levels.
The discharges are scheduled to begin Friday (June 1). The target flow for the Caloosahatchee Estuary is 4,000 cubic feet per second (cfs) as measured at Moore Haven Lock (S-77) located in the southwest part of the lake. The target flow for the St. Lucie Estuary is 1,800 cfs as measured at St. Lucie Lock (S-80) near Stuart. Additional runoff from rain in the St. Lucie basins could occasionally result in flows that exceeds the target.
“Historic rain across the region since the middle of May has caused the lake to rise more than a foot,” said Col. Jason Kirk, Jacksonville District commander. “We have to be prepared for additional water that could result from a tropical system. The lake today is above the stage when Irma struck in September, which eventually caused the water level to exceed 17 feet. A similar storm could take the lake to higher levels.”
Today, the lake stage is 14.08 feet, up 1.25 feet from its 2018 low which occurred May 13. The lake is currently in the Operational Low Sub-Band as defined by the 2008 Lake Okeechobee Regulation Schedule (LORS), but within one foot of the Intermediate Sub-Band. Under current conditions, LORS authorizes USACE to discharge up to 4,000 cfs to the Caloosahatchee (measured at S-77) and up to 1,800 cfs to the St. Lucie (measured at S-80).
“Forecasts indicate more rain is on the way in the coming week,” said Kirk. “Additionally, long-range predictions indicate increasing probabilities of above-average precipitation for the rest of the wet season. We must start aggressively managing the water level to create storage for additional rain in the coming wet season.”
We are up to page 10 in our history lesson and today’s photos are some of my favorite. The first is an aerial of the St Lucie Inlet entitled “Stuart on the St Lucie River.” Since its earliest day’s, Stuart has always been defined by its proximity to the river. Below the aerial it boast: “World Famous For its Fishing, Provides an Ocean Entrance for Small Craft.” And by today’s standards, a rather comical or un-comical plug can’t be missed: “Where the Waters of Lake Okeechobee Meet the Atlantic.”
It is also fascinating to note the shape of the south side of the St Lucie Inlet as today it has shifted and filled in. I am sharing my brother’s Time Capsule Flight used in former posts as it is so interesting and shows the various inlets of this area and land shapes as documented on various historical maps. Although today, we try to make barrier islands, beaches, and inlets permanent, by watching my brother’s video the message is clear: “the only constant is change.”
Today, we will open this exceptional document and see what’s inside, on page two…
There are five ads on the page. Each one is a peek into history, and for me the final ad from the commercial fishing industry is the most interesting! But first, let’s look at the left hand top of the page.
There is an ad for The English Tavern, south of the Roosevelt Bridge, that welcomes the yachtsman; with ample parking space. This sounds like fun! Why wouldn’t there be ample parking in 1937. 🙂
To the right of that is an Enjoy Sailfishing in the Gulf Stream ad. It ask you to write, wire, or Phone 47-J for reservations. (Note today we have a three-figure area-code and six numbers!) The ad notes: Marine Ways Storage; Marine Supplies Repairs; and Boat Building at Toley’s Boat Yard, Salerno. (Ironically the grandson of Toley, Shawn T. Engebretsen, is my husband’s oral surgery business partner!)
The next ad, on bottom right, is from Stuart Metal Works where one can investigate the opportunities for building in the beautiful St Lucie River Region, Phil Pence, Proprietor. “Plan to make your home in the yachting wonderland!”
And the last of the foursome, in bottom right, is an ad by the Fort Pierce Financing and Construction Co., 208 Orange Avenue, Fort Pierce, stating that “Completion of the Cross-State Waterway is a mark of progress for South Florida.” (People of that era loved this word “progress,” and my mother still uses it!)
~Like when I was a kid, I would see a mowed down forested area made for a parking lot and she would say: “It’s progress honey!”
And last, but not least this insightful ad from the Commercial Fishermen’s Industry of Martin County that reads below a gigantic every-day catch of that era, a gargantuan pile of speckled sea-trout:
“The Commercial Fishing Industry of Martin County, Producing an Annual Revenue of More Than $1,00,000, Requests The Cooperation Of Officials On Charge Of The Lake Okeechobee Project To Maintain Discharge Of Fresh Waters From St. Lucie Canal At A Minimum During The Fishing Season From November To March.”
If you had the time to read yesterday’s blog, Edwin Menninger’s article stated that “Construction of the St Lucie Canal began in 1921 when the fact dawned on the Everglades pioneers that canals through muck lands were useless – they refused to carry water out of the lake. Four of them had been dug, and were utterly worthless. The St Lucie was completed in 1924 and for 13 years has been the ONLY functioning outlet from Lake Okeechobee to the sea.”
The concerns of Stuart’s nationally recognized and often President-visited waters are well documented in my mother Sandra Henderson Thurlow’s book Stuart on the St Lucie. Nonetheless, I never knew that from approximately 1924 to 1937 the St Lucie canal, today’s C-44, was the only outlet for Lake O. Yikes!
The wonderful thing about history is that there is always something to learn!
You know, I hate to be a broken record from the past, and I know the rules. Fights should lie dormant after they are fought, and won, or lost….
But I just can’t help myself…
Recently my husband Ed and I received a postcard in the mail advertising Langford Landings’ Grand Opening on March 10th, 2018.
It made me so sad to see this card. It looked like an ad from Rooms to Go.
I just don’t see how we as a county allowed such a tropical, historical piece of property to go to the “cookie cutter mill.”
Albeit the homes are expensive, pretty, and modern, they have no character of the original famed, Frances Langford Estate. None. Scraping all the trees off the land was the greatest sin, as these modern homes could look more tropical, more Frances Langfordish, if they had left some of the stately trees that she planted.
Yes, the developer “did not break any rules,” but we did, the Martin County Commission did. The rule broken? To show respect and honor to those who have walked before us. Especially, Mrs Langford.
Photos speak a thousand words.
Below are many from my mother, historian Sandra Thurlow, and Facebook friends, Bobbie Blodgett, and Rebecca Fatzinger. Local, Pop Delancy and others. People who shared with me as the property was be cleared and dismantled beginning in 2015…
John Whitcar, of the famed local Whiticar Boat Works family, has been a longtime family friend, and I have featured his incredible photography before. Today’s shared photos were taken on March 5th.
He describes today’s photos below:
House of Refuge Huge Waves Monday, March 5, 2018 / Stuart Florida, USA 11 ft. waves coming in from North Easter off of New England. Very little wind / High Tide / ~11:00 am
The story of the House of Refuge is an amazing one, being the last of its kind, Old-Florida pine construction, having endured multiple hurricanes and other forces of time and nature, and still standing since 1876.
“US government houses of refuge were constructed to assist shipwreck survivors and were unique to the east coast of Florida. Ten were constructed between 1876 and 1886, but only but Martin County’s Gilbert’s Bar House of Refuge survives.” ~Historian Sandra Thurlow
The moral of the story?
Build your house upon a rock. ~Including the Anastasia Formation, preferably.
I remember my historian mother telling me that Paynes Prairie was once a giant lake and that in the mid-1800s, before a sinkhole drained the lake, famed pioneer and pineapple farmer, Capt. Thomas E. Richards sailed from the St Johns River, in Jacksonville, over the lake, only to wind up at the Indian River Lagoon in Eden, near today’s Jensen.
Well this past Friday, on my way to Gainesville for the “Future of Florida Summit” (http://www.futureoffloridasummit.com) Paynes Prairie looked like it had become a lake once again. Although it is not a truly a lake any longer, it must be flooded as the prairie’s water levels go up and down.
As my grandparents lived in Gainesville and I graduated from UF, I have driven across the prairie many times, but seeing it from the air “all wet looking” really took me aback. Like a miniature Tamiami Trail, one could see Highway 441 going right through this “lake!”
Apparently in 2000, eco-underpasses were installed as it has been widely documented that thousands of animals, mostly reptiles, have been killed on this road. And yet, many animals, reptiles and other, continue to be killed.
I know it would be expensive, but since transportation is perhaps one of the most highly funded of all state departments, in the billions and billions of dollars, and since Florida’s wildlife and natural lands rank as a portion of the state’s number one economic driver, tourism… could not, over time, Hwy. 441 become more like the Tamiami Trail is becoming, more bridged than flat…
It just doesn’t make sense to have a lake, or an Everglades, with a road through it.
This past Wednesday, I presented, P91 or “No Oil and Gas Drilling in Florida’s Territorial Seas” to the Declaration of Rights Committee of the Constitution Revision Commission. This was the second and final committee hearing and it passed! My other four environmental proposals were “killed”…
To be clear, as it is confusing, there are coastal territorial seas and there are offshore federal waters. This proposal would protect our territorial seas, our state waters, the waters under our jurisdiction. These waters have been drilled before and, hands down, if the oil and gas industry can, they will influence our state legislature so that they can drill our coastal waters again. There is no doubt about it. Just study history!
We all know, drilling so close to shore, as is done in other coastal southern states, would be visually, environmentally, and economically destructive to Florida’s unique/peninsular marine, real estate, and tourism resouces.
It is written in Article II of our state constitutional that “we shall protect our natural resources and scenic beauty.” P91 belongs in Florida’s Constitution. It would be an enormous statement on behalf of the people of Florida and would have major policy implications on many levels helping to keep all oil drilling away from our state today and in the future.
P91 is now one of 37 proposals of 103 that made it through the CRC committee process.
Today I am publishing the notes from my presentation that should be interesting and informative to readers.
Thank you for following the CRC process and I will keep you appraised of P91 as the CRC process continues and we move towards what gets on the ballot for 2018.
In the end, we must do something for our environment!
P91, presentation Declaration of Rights 1-31-18
Greetings Chair Carlton and Honorable Commissioners; I am Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch from the Town of Sewall’s Point in Martin County.
This morning, I am pleased to be presenting P91, also known as, “no oil and gas drilling in Florida’s territorial seas.”
~So you may ask,“ what are Florida’s territorial seas?”
The boundaries of Florida’s territorial seas are based on the foresight of our forefathers who expanded the boundaries of Florida, accepted into Florida’s Constitution in 1868 during the era we rejoined the Union. These boundaries are defined as: three marine leagues, or approximately 9 miles, on to the west coast, in the Gulf of Mexico, and extending as far as the shifting Gulf Stream, or three miles east, which ever is further, into the Atlantic Ocean off Florida’s east coast.
The US Code defines Florida’s territorial seas as three marine leagues on the west cost, and three miles out on the east coast.
Most of us have forgotten our history, but in 1944 Florida sold “everything hugging the shore out to 10.36 miles, from Apalachicola to Naples,” on the Gulf Coast to Arnold Oil Company. These lands consisted of of 3.6 million acres.
After decades of embittered fighting, unsuccessful exploration, and a movement to end the leases, in 1989 the Florida legislature banned oil and gas drilling in Florida’s territorial waters and stopped collecting lease money from the oil company that had the rights to these leases lands.
The battle ensued over time and party lines, but in 2002 Governor Jeb Busch with the help of his brother, the president of the United States, arranged for the oil company to accept 12.5 million state dollars to “abandon all further claims.” This transaction was finalized by 2005 with great fanfare of the public that was ecstatic to have Florida’s beautiful beaches and important natural resources “off the table.”
And yet by 2006 there were rumblings and by 2009, there was even serious talk of a bill on the floor of the Florida Legislature allowing for drilling within five miles of Florida’s west coast. Once again, tremendous pressure to reopen Florida’s territorial seas!
In 2010 the nightmare of the BP Deepwater Horizon really took this possibility off the table for discussion, but we must not be naive, especially in the current climate, this threat to our shores is still there!
Today, you as Commissions of the Constitution Revision Commission have a chance to make history by voting “yes” on P91 “no oil and gas drilling in Florida’s territorial seas,” giving the possibility for Floridians to put language into our state constitution in 2018 that would protect Florida.
The Florida Capitol is a walk through our state’s history. It’s really worth a visit just to look around. Over most of the walls, hang portraits and pictures that tell the story of our state.
Today, I thought I would feature what I call the “Hall of Governors” that one passes on the way to the Constitution Revisions Commission’s (CRC) headquarters. My photos are taken right to left as I exited the CRC, adjacent to the Governor’s office.
From what I understand, each governor has input into the mood and composition of his, (as there are yet no “her”), portrait. I find this very interesting. Look closely and see what this reveals.
Recently, I convinced my husband, Ed, to come up to Tallahassee with me for the “State of the State” reception at the Governor’s mansion.
It was very exciting; however, we had waited in line for almost an hour, to shake hands with the Governor and First Lady, when a secret service man told me we weren’t going to make the cut. The line was cut off one person in front of me!
“You’re kidding? That’s a bummer.” I thought. “Maybe they’ve had enough of my controversial Constitution Revision Commission environmental proposals? Perhaps I’ve been put on the Affiliated Industries of Florida’s blacklist? Just chance? Hmmm. I can handle it, but poor Ed!”
I tried to negotiate with the secret service man. He was not budging.
While I moped, Ed seemed unaffected, rolled his eyes, smiled, and headed for the bar.
I, on the other hand, could not let go. I was determined to have the Governor see me, or for me to see the Governor, so I moved as far to the front of the room as I could.
When I was right up with the crowd surrounding the Governor, I saw an empty chair. I didn’t see any secret service men staring at me, so I sat in the chair. I could see everything!
But, right at that moment the Governor, First Lady, and crew made a quick exit, and I was sitting there in my black dress, and fake fur, trying to look cool, gazing purposely at a book on the side table.
It was beautiful, very old, and entitled,”Florida Land of Enchantment.” Old-fashioned keys covered the historic book’s fading green face. I stared at it thinking about how the mystique of Florida is “what built Florida.” And how that historic mystique was, and remains, built on the enchantment of Florida’s lands.
Well, Ed and I didn’t get to shake hands with the Governor or First Lady, but I got to see this magnificent book and I’ll never forget it.
This Friday, at 11:00 am, my fourth CRC proposal, P46, or Land Acquisition Trust Fund, goes before the CRC Legislative Committee. The goal of P46 is to have a very needed conversation and to clarify language in Article X, Section 28 of Florida’s Constitution (Amendment 1, 2014) and direct the state legislature to deposit no less that one third of the revenue, not to exceed 300 million annually, into the Florida Forever Trust Fund. This money would go specifically to conservation land purchase as prioritized by the long standing and once “always funded” Florida Forever program.
I already know, there are many reasons, and many conspiracy theories, about why the state legislature has stopped funding Florida Forever. And no matter what occurs at the CRC meeting, the proposal will not be self-executing. We cannot force the legislature to spend money a certain way. That is their prerogative, a power that is derived for them alone from the state constitution.
But a strong message can be sent. A directive can be given. And shouldn’t they listen? They should.
How many years has that book been sitting by the table? Governors and legislatures will come and go, but if “Florida, the land of enchantment,” is to remain, we must continue to invest in Florida Forever.
As I prepare myself for the continuation and 2018 closure of the Constitution Revision Commission, I am reviewing my history. Thanks to my parent’s historic Florida book collection, I did not have to go any further than their living room bookshelves…
The 1968 Constitution is credited with “making modern Florida,” as written about by Mary E. Atkins. It was the 1885 constitution that was “remade.”
According to historical records, (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Florida_Constitution_of_1885 ) the 1885 constitution ratified at the convention passed with a vote of 31,804 to 21,243. It was “the model” of Florida’s government until 1968 and “represented the regression to racial discrimination which was occurring throughout the South in the post-Reconstruction period.”
The Constitution was weighted in favor of counties. Each new county was entitled to one to three representatives according to population…This overrepresentation of rural areas led to increasing tension in twentieth-century Florida politics, as central and then south Florida grew. It was a major factor leading to the current Constitution of 1968, which changed apportionment.”
It remains interesting to note the eloquence and tone of the times…
There is always something “good” and something “bad” to learn from history. It will be most interesting to see the history the 2018 Constitution Revision Commission leaves behind (https://www.flcrc.gov).
Temporary Chairman, Judge A.E. Maxwell, of Escambia, First Day, Tuesday, June 9, 1885:
...”The unusual and exceeding importance of the work before us can be estimated by the fact that we are the delegates of the people, acting in their sovereign capacity, emphatically delegates, but empowered to construct for them a system of State Government —a Constitution–that fundamental frame work which defines rights of persons and property and at the same time provides an organization by which their rights are to be secured, protected and defended. I trust we are all fully impressed with the heavy responsibilities of such a position, and that we will not permit ourselves to be led away from the discharge of its duties by any petty personal ambition or by any selfish schemes. The people who have put their trust in us feel that they have a guarantee of our good faith in their behalf and our devotion to their interest, in the fellowship which ties us to them as being ourselves a part of the people; and therefore, entirely identified with them in the desire and purpose to establish such government as will relive them from the evils of the present system, and ensure to them and their prosperity the blessings of civil and religious liberty.”
Recently, I attended the ribbon-cutting for Martin County High School’s Administration and Classroom Building. They even opened a time capsule from the school’s origins in 1964. I hardly recognized the place…having graduated in 1982. It was so much bigger and better than when I attended. The place has come a long way from being what was literally once the county dump.
When I got home my mother had sent me a historic photograph via email (above.) I looked at it wondering what it was. I wrote back: “Where is that? Somewhere near Frances Langfords? IRL?”
I couldn’t believe it when she replied that it was an aerial of Martin County High School in 1964. I didn’t even recognize it! All these years, and I have never really realized the school lies so close to the St Lucie River. In fact, it lies not too far from where the South Fork of the St Lucie River was connected to the St Lucie Canal, today known as C-44. The link that allows polluted water in from Lake Okeechobee. A link that should be closed…
In her Vignettes, local historian Alice Luckhardt writes about the first school in Stuart. ~Stuart became the county seat of Martin County in 1914:
“Stuart’s first school was a one room building, about 12 x 16 feet, built in 1891 on the banks of the St. Lucie River, to accommodate the community’s children; the first teacher was Kate Hamilton whose salary was about $30 a month, but at that time there were not 12 grade levels and very few students.”
Imagine being taught, along the shores of a clean, beautiful, fish filled, St Lucie River….what a day, what an education, that must have been….