Tag Archives: Indian River

The Lost Artesian Wells of the Indian River Lagoon, SLR/IRL

Man next to artesian well, IRL. "Mr Doug Witham allowed me to copy this photograph he purchased over eBay. It is of an unidentified man in St. Lucie Gardens. That is the huge subdivision of land Sir. Edward Reed purchased from Hamilton Disston. Since the notation on the back was written at Walton it is probably some place pretty close to the Indian River Lagoon. Sandra H.Thurlow 8-15)---Used with permission/purchased on Ebay by Doug Whitam and shared via Sandra Henderson Thurlow.
Man next to artesian well, IRL. “Mr Doug Witham allowed me to copy this photograph he purchased over eBay. It is of an unidentified man in St. Lucie Gardens. That is the huge subdivision of land Sir. Edward Reed purchased from Hamilton Disston. Since the notation on the back was written at Walton it is probably some place pretty close to the Indian River Lagoon.” Sandra H.Thurlow 8-15)
Plat map St Lucie Gardens, Sandra Henderson Thurlow)
Plat map St Lucie Gardens, along IRL. Sandra Henderson Thurlow)

“Artesian well…”

The words hold such poetry for me…something from a time long, long ago when Florida was wild and pure. In all honesty, I don’t know much about artesian wells, but throughout my life I have heard stories that have intrigued, and yet sometimes confused me. It is of these wells that I will write briefly on today.

When I was growing up, my historian mother told me stories of artesian wells made by simply hammering a pipe into the ground right here along the Indian River Lagoon. They would just flow and flow and both people and animals would drink from them. Many of these wells were made for irrigating farmland and for supplying the needs of pioneer families. My brother, Todd, recently told me of an artesian well located in the shallow waters off of Hutchinson Island that the pirates and sailors would stop to drink from to refresh themselves on their long and dangerous journeys…it was created by pressure under the earth by Nature. Not man-made but natural.

So an “artesian wells” can be natural or man-made. Apparently in 1957 the state started capping them as there were so many they were lowering the ground water level, and in some cases allowing salt water intrusion.

Most of them are gone today. I definitely consider myself someone who supports water conservation, and I still have memories when I take a shower of my parents yelling up the stairs to us as kids:  “turn off the water while soaping up!!!!” Nonetheless, the romantic image of a free-flowing well on a wild Florida piece of land is a beautiful image indeed…. 🙂

Artesian well on Bud Adam's Ranch in St Lucie Lucie County. Photo L to R Tom Thurlow, my father, and Dr and Mrs Powers long-time,good family friends. (Photo by Sandra Thurlow, ca early 2000.)
(I added this photo my mother shared on 8-17-15.) Photographed is an artesian well on Bud Adam’s Ranch in St Lucie Lucie County west of Ft Pierce. Photo L to R Tom Thurlow, my father, and Dr and Mrs Powers long-time,good family friends. (Photo by Sandra Thurlow, ca 2007.)


Document to cap Florida Artesian Wells, 1957






Mr. Ernest Mitts, Director

Florida State Board of Conservation

Tallahassee, Florida Dear Mr. Mitts:

I respectfully transmit the final report on an inventory leading to the enforcement of Sections 373.021-373.061, Florida Statutes, 1957, prepared by Charles W. Hendry, Jr.

and James A. Lavender of the Water Investigations, Florida Geological Survey.

This report published as Information Circular No. 21, together with the interim report published in 1957 as Infor- mation Circular No. 10, Florida Geological Survey, illus-

trates as completely as possible the situation that now exists among the freely flowing wells of the State.


Robert O. Vernon, Director

An abandoned 8-inch well flowing in excess of 800 gallons per minute. This well is located in section 32, T. 7 S., R. 30 E., St. Johns County,




AN ACT to protect and control the Artesian Waters of the State; providing duties of certain State and county officers in regard thereto; and providing a penalty for the viola- tion of this Act.

Be It Enacted by the Legislature of the State of Florida:

Section 1. Everyperson, stockcompany, association or corporation, county or municipality, owning or controlling the real estate upon which is located a flowing artesian well in this state, shall, within ninety (90) days after the passage of this act, provide each such well with a valve capable of controlling the discharge from such well, and shall keep such valve so adjusted that only such supply of water shall be avail- able as is necessary for ordinary use by the owner, tenant, occupant or person in control of said land for personal use and in conducting his business.

Section 2. The owner, tenant, occupant or person in control of an artesian well who shall allow the same to flow continuously without a valve, or mechanical device for check- ing or controlling the flow, or shallpermit the water to flow unnecessarily, or shall pump a well unnecessarily, or shall permit the water from such well to go to waste, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and subject to the penalties provided by law.

Section 3. For the purposes of this act, an artesian well is defined as anartifical hole in the ground fromwhich water supplies may be obtained and which penetrates any water

bearing rock, the water in which is raised to the surface by natural flow, or which rises to an elevation above the top of the water bearing bed. Artesian wells are defined further to include all holes, drilledas a source of water, that penetrate any water bearing beds that are a part of the artesian water system of Florida, as determined by representatives of the Florida Geological Survey.

Section 4. Waste is defined for the purposes of this act to be the causing, suffering, or permitting any water flowing


from, or being pumped from an artesian well to run into any river, creek, or other natural watercourse or channel, or into anybay or pond (unless used thereafter for the beneficial purposes of irrigation of land, mining or other industrial purposes of domestic use), or into any street, road or high- way, or upon the land of any person, or upon the public lands of the United States, or of the State of Florida, unless it be used thereon for the beneficial purposes of the irrigation

thereof, industrial purposes, domestic use, or the propaga- tion of fish. The use of any water flowing from an artesian well for the irrigation of land shall be restrictedto a minimum by the use of proper structural devices in the irrigation


Section 5. The state geologist, assistant geologists, or any authorized representative of the Florida Geological Sur- vey, the sheriff or any deputy sheriff, shall have access to all wells in the state with the consent of the owner.

Should any well be not provided with a valve as required in section one (1) of this act, or should any well be allowed to flow in violation of section two (2) of this act, then and in such event, the state geologist, assistant geologists, or any authorized representative of the Florida Geological Survey, or the sheriff or any deputy sheriff shall, upon being informed of such fact, give notice to the owner to correct such defect, and if the same be not corrected within ten (10) days there- after, shall have authority to install the necessary valve or cap upon such well and control the flow therefrom in accord with the provisions of section one (1) and two (2) of this act. The cost of such installation of such valve and the control of the flow from such wells if made by such officials shall be at the expense of the owner, and for the payment thereof, the agency or party incurring the expense shall have a lien upon the lands upon which such well is located.
duly recorded in the public records in counties wherein such lands are located and may be enforced by foreclosure in the circuit courts of the circuit wherein such lands are located. In such foreclosure proceedings,
reasonable attorney’s fee to the plaintiff for the preparation and recording of such lien and the legal proceedings incident to the foreclosure of same. Such liens shall be assignable.
1957: http://aquaticcommons.org/1538/1/UF00001081.pdf

Artestin well program SJRWMD: (http://www.ircgov.com/Departments/IRCCDD/SWCD/AgForumPres/SJRWMD.pdf)

What is an artesian well? (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Artesian_aquifer)
Hamilton Disston: (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hamilton_Disston)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


Florida’s Legislative Session, How Can it Work for the Indian River Lagoon?

"Save our River," River Kidz FDOT recycled art sign, now in Washington DC, office of Congressman Patrick Murphy. (Photo JTL)
“Save our River,” River Kidz FDOT recycled art sign, now in Washington DC, office of Congressman Patrick Murphy. (Photo JTL)

After six years as a locally elected official, one thing is clear. I still do not really understand how the Florida Legislature works or how to make it work for me, but I’m getting there.

I thought with the Legislative Session convening, today, March 4, 2014, I would try to share what I do think I know or what I think I have figured out.

First of all, the basics. The legislature is composed of two “houses:” the House, that consist of 120 members http://www.myfloridahouse.gov

and a  Senate, that is composed of 40 members http://www.wikipedia.org/wiki/Florida_Senate. Each represents a district according to population.

The House leadership includes Speaker of the House; Speaker pro tempore; Majority Leader; Minority Leader and committee chairs. These House seats come up for reelection every two years. Not fun.

The Senate leadership consist of the President of the Senate; President pro tempore; Majority Leader; Minority Leader and  committee chairs. Senate seats come up for reelection every four years, so you can at least get something going before you have to jump back into the reelection circus.

There are term limits for both the house and the Senate but because they are defined as “consecutive” you can take a break and then jump back in….

So what have they been doing? Well, recently they have been in Tallahassee and had “House and Senate Interim Committee Meetings.” The dates of those meetings were as follows:  September 2013, 23-27; October 7-11; November 4-8; December 9-13;  January 2014, 6-10; 13-17; February 3-7; 10-14; and 17-21.  So what do they do at these “interim meetings?” In their committees they formulate the bills that individuals will sponsor and try to get passed starting today, March 4th, when the session officially begins. This year the last day of session  is May 2nd.  So it is two months of “mayhem …”

A bill can start in the House or the Senate but it has to have a “companion bill” to move forward and be voted upon. Hundreds of bills are brought before the legislature each session but only a fraction will make it into law. You can imagine there are many different interest throughout our varying state…

As the session continues, it is difficult to keep track of everything and bills usually get packaged along with others, sometimes with others that have nothing to do with them. As a locally elected official, this frustrates me as I feel every bill should be considered separately as local ordinances are. Well, this is not the case, and allows for negotiating– better said, “if you help me, I’ll help you,” which at the end of the day is not so bad. What is bad, is that the people, the voting public, have almost no way of keeping up with all this hop-schotching, so we are 100% dependent on our elected officials and those watching out for us at home. To complicate issues further, elected officials are pressured, and blackmailed, mostly by their own party, to do what they need to do to make a deal work or “we won’t let your bill be heard” or “you’ll never get to chair a committee,” especially if you are a freshmen or relatively new to the pecking order.

It takes years to develop the seniority to do what you want, so to speak. Senator Joe Negron http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joe_Negron a good example, as he served in the House before he served in the Senate, then he became the head of the Appropriations Committee (they all sit on committees in some capacity ) and his recent  position has a lot of influence and power. Senator Negron could not have started the “senate Select Committee on the Indian River Lagoon and Lake Okeechobee” years ago; he has earned his position to do such.

So how do you stay on top of all this  politicking ? It  is kind of like holding an angry cat. Hold on tight but be prepared to get scratched. Go on line to the state website and get on email alerts and call your local delegation: here in Martin, St Lucie and Indian River: Senator Joe Negron; Representative Gayle Harrell and Representative Mary Lynn Magar; Representative Debbie Mayfield; Representative Larry Lee,  and tell them you expect them to support  St Lucie River and Indian River Lagoon policy and whatever else is important to you; tell them you appreciate what they are doing, and that you are paying attention to reports in the newspaper as far as how they vote. Most of all, be supportive so they support you. And be sure to tell them “good luck not getting scratched.”