When I saw them I was immediately struck by their shapes. They looked like hundreds of snowflakes lying at the bottom of the mudflats in the Florida Keys’ Tavernier mangrove swamp.
I became preoccupied with them, checking them during different times of day.
“I’ll be there in a few minutes, I’m going to visit those underwater snowflakes.” I told my husband, Ed.
“Are they sea anemones?” I wondered. “Are they some kind of tropical underwater flower?”
I lay prone on the dock, staring. And there I saw it. I saw upside down jellyfish- yes standing on their heads as if they were sleeping. I realized the beautiful geometric shapes, the snowflakes, were their out folded branching tentacles.
Some of the jellyfish were “breathing,” their heads expanding and contracting, pushing water, while others seemed completely comatose, not moving at all.
A few smaller ones were actually swimming heads-up the way I would expect a jellyfish to!
I took lots of photos while hoping no boat would disturb their slumber.
I read, laughing, when I learned that they are indeed known as Cassiopea, the “upside down jellyfish,” ironically, all part of a symbiotic relationship with algae. (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cassiopea)
I really fell in love with this snowflake jelly forest. Now, before I go to bed, I often wonder what they are dreaming about.
Since I was a kid growing up in Martin County, I have been excited to hear stories about hail. Hail is really the closest thing to snow down in these parts. I remember once, in the 1970s, when our family lived at 109 Edgewood Drive, in Stuart, it hailed and we kids ran outside and collected it in our sweaty palms dumping it into Tupperware that ended up in the freezer. Those hail pieces sat in there for years, and every now and then we would climb on a squeaky high chair, when mom wasn’t looking, and take the cold frozen memory out, just to revel. Amazing! As a kid, I never knew what else to do with the hail, and in time, I’m sure my mother removed it to make room for ice cream.
As I got older and my mother’s local history books were being published. I was struck by one photograph of the 1934 Roosevelt Bridge in Stuart overflowing with hail -looking like, yes,- like a snowstorm had come!
In this photo by Frances Carlberg King in “Stuart on the St. Lucie: A Pictorial History” by Sandra Henderson Thurlow, hail covers the old Roosevelt Bridge on Feb. 10, 1934. A hailstorm covered Stuart with ice, creating street scenes that some say looked like “someplace up North.”
Hail, though it can be destructive is a novelty, one to be appreciated, even celebrated.
Just last Sunday, April 19, 2020, month two coronavirus containment, it stormed wildly and hailed in south Sewall’s Point. The noise on our metal roof was deafening! Right after, I ran out and collected the hail pieces just like I had when I was a kid. The air was so chilly! My bare feet were cold against the deck and wet earth. Somehow, the whole thing was exhilarating!
When I brought my hail inside, I quickly put the bowl in the freezer and looked for my husband, Ed.
“Ed! Come look! I collected some hail!”
There was silence for a bit, and then I heard him slowly ask, “what are you going to do with it Jacqui ?” Ed grew up in Chicago so ice is not so unusual.
“I have a surprise!”
That evening after dinner, I said, “I recommend we do something special with this hail. I think we should make real cocktails with it, you know, like the kinds from the 1950s? And then, we are going to toast Mother Nature.”
Ed laughed and we did just that, “for the hail of it!”
If you live in Martin County, you may have experienced a short lived violent storm this past Sunday, April 26th, 2020. In south Sewall’s Point, early afternoon, the winds exploded in a crash of falling branches, rain, thunder, and hail! Under the deafening sound of our metal roof, Ed and I stood on the porch in amazement, looked at each other and said, “well at least it’s raining,” as presently drought conditions cover much of the state.
The following day, Ed took wing taking these aerial photographs. They are a good example of “local runoff.” No Lake Okeechobee thankfully! Lake O too though looked beautiful after the storm as displayed at the end of this aerial series. Somehow, it always seems most beautiful after the storm…
L-R: ST LUCIE RIVER, SEWALL’S POINT, INDIAN RIVER LAGOON, HUTCHINSON ISLAND, ATLANTIC OCEAN, by Ed Lippisch 4-27-20
INDIAN RIVER LAGOON, ST LUCIE COUNTY, HUTCHINSON ISLAND ~NOTE ST LUCIE POWER PLANT AND SAVANNAHS ON MAINLAND TO WEST
In the 1970s, my girl scout troop often spent the night in Jonathan Dickinson State Park. At the time, almost all of Martin County was undeveloped so it really didn’t hit me – the value in this very special place.
We girls collected dried flowers, seeds, and grasses to be bound with ribbons and given to our mothers; we lay our packs on bunk beds in musty cabins; we hiked through the pines; we sat around the campfire telling ghosts stories and speaking of bears until too scared to sleep; we sat in a rare silence, together, staring at the bright stars while eating marshmallows…
Last weekend, I went back to Jonathan Dickinson ~45 years later, this time with my husband Ed, and our dog, Luna.
Although I have aged, the place was even more beautiful! Almost immediately, I knew that even though I hadn’t walked it’s piney paths in such a long, long time, it had been an inspiration all my life. A seed growing within me.
Ed and I chose to walk the trail of Kitching Creek. My attention was captured by the beauty of the small flowers and I took as many pictures as I could. Slash pine trees abounded, like sentinels, second generation, the magnificent virgin forest cleared in the the 1920s. Woodpeckers flew from tree to tree looking for insects or maybe a place to set up house. Ed walked far ahead with Luna, stopping every time he came upon a number; I would catch up and read aloud from a pamphlet available at the trail head.
On our walk, I recognized some of the same grasses I used for my bouquet in 1974. But I knew this time I would not pluck them from the Earth, but take them to heart as inspiration in our fight for clean water, -the St Luice and Loxahatchee-, and the future of Florida.
~I then I realized that long ago, I already had.
Before drainage there were times the surrounding wetlands, the St Luice, and the Loxahatchee Rivers were wet enough that people could paddle between them. Today the Loxahatchee suffers from too little water and the St Lucie too much.
Yesterday, I called in for the final conference call of Governor-elect Ron DeSantis’ Transition Advisory Committee on the Environment, chaired by our own, Congressman Brian Mast. It was very, very interesting. Highlights of the call were recorded by TC Palm’s Ali Schmitz:
As a member of the public, I was able to listen-in on the call ~this one focusing on Agriculture, and make my recommendation.
Having served on the Constitution Revision Commission in 2018, I am especially drawn to the importance of government structure. DeSantis’ originally posted environmental policy statement listed Accountability for Water Quality. Right now, many Floridians wonder “who is charge,” who answers for our present lack of water quality? Some even think, understandably so, that it is the Army Corp of Engineers. It is not. Under the law, the state of Florida is responsible for water quality, but with “three cooks in the kitchen,” (DEP, Water Management Districts, and Dept of Agriculture) this is difficult. So with my time on the call, I asked for centralization of enforcement of water quality standards and a strong Lead Agency:
CENTRALIZE THE ENFORCEMENT OF WATER QUALITY STANDARDS. A Majority of water quality regulation is currently housed at the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). However, certain water quality standards and monitoring reside within the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (DACS) which is overseen by the Commission of Agriculture. DeSantis will work with the Florida legislature to move all components of water quality regulation within the Executive Branch to DEP. This will increase uniformity and ensure that the Secretary of DEP, who is accountable to the Governor, has the tools necessary to meet the water quality standards that Floridians deserve. ~DeSantis for Governor website Sept. 2018.
As we all know, the inauguration is January 8th, 2019. Very exciting! Congratulations Governor DeSantis! And awesome that Congressman Mast is by your side!!
Before we get too excited, let’s not forget…
Today, I will post the website of Governor-Elect Ron DeSantis on the environment so we can remember what was promised and hold the governor and all members of the Transition Advisory Committee on the Environment accountable for next four years. Looking forward to a governor who will protect the environment on day one!
You’ll see that after the rain event, the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon looks terrible even with out Lake Okeechobee discharges. This is caused by directed water runoff from C-23, C-24, C-25, C-44 and “local” coastal runoff. Naturally, the river never took all this water. Humans made it this way, and we must fix it.
Soon after the torrential rain, the Army Corp of Engineers made things even worse and started dumping from Lake Okeechobee through the C-44 Canal into the St Lucie River by opening up the gates at S-308 and S-80.
My husband, Ed, first flew over Lake O on June 1st, just by chance. At this time, he spotted algae on the lake and took a photo. Ironically, the next day, the Army Corp started dumping from Lake Okeechobee on June 2nd!
After another long, hot summer, the Army Corp finally stopped discharging in the fall~October 5th… Take a look at the photos and remember to enjoy the blue water when it is here, but NEVER FORGET! Only though looking back, will we have the determination to change the future.
LAKE OKEECHBEE DISCHARGES ADDED
City of Stuart, June 9 2018.
Rio near Central Marine, week of June 12, 2018
LAKE O: Week of June 16th, June 25th, and July 22nd. Cyanobacteria (blue green algae) blooms and then subsides. ~All the while, this water is dumped into the St Lucie River by the Federal Govt.; the water quality is terrible and this the responsibility not of the Feds but of the State of Florida.
October 5, the ACOE stops dumping from Lake O. The blooms stop almost right away but the damage remains….
Recently, the Florida House of Representatives announced its committee appointments made by new House Speaker Jose Oliva. Today, I will note those appointed to environmental committees which, of course, function in the dark ages, bound together with agriculture. Advocates should know these key players and build relationships now, and during the committee process that beings January 8, 2019 ~not once Legislative Session begins in March. Too late!
So here we go…
The really all-powerful Speaker of the House is Jose Oliva who will reign from the end of 2018 to 2020. He is from Miami Lakes and is C.E.O. of Oliva Cigar Co. Read about him below and the committees and representatives over which he has great influence. Congratulations to him on attaining this leadership role that very few achieve.
Speaker Oliva’s environmental appointments are below with an article or two giving background on each appointee. Agriculture and Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee Chair, Rep. Holly Raschein is from Key Largo and a Health Care Special Projects Manager. Vice-chair, Rep. Rick Roth is from West Palm Beach and his heritage is linked to a multi-generational family-farm in the Everglades Agricultural Area. Holly has a track record supporting environmental issues such as the EAA Reservoir and Rick works for the environment within the goals of the EAA Environmental Protection District and the 1994 Everglades Forever Act. Read below about both representatives and what they have to say.
Interestingly, Holly Raschein also serves on the Subcommittee for Agriculture as and Natural Resources as vice-chair to, chair, Chuck Wesley, a College Administrator from Newberry (near Gainesville). Rep Wesley notes that “sustainable agriculture and the environment are some of his top goals.” You can read what he wrote in an op-ed for below. All this sounds good. But what does that really mean? Our job is to hold all of these politicians accountable.
Yes, it is important we know and communicate with who is in charge. I hope you will reach out to all of them through letter best, but email, or phone call helps too. I wish all my readers a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays! Thank you for reading my blog in 2019. I’m looking forward to seeing what 2019 will bring…
For more information on Florida House of Representatives go here https://www.myfloridahouse.gov. Look at their calendar, see when committees meet, follow what they are reviewing and call, write their office to let them know how much you love Florida and that water is key!
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.
If you feel anything like me, you’re not just tired, but sick of heart from looking at dead animals. The atrocities of our estuaries this year, especially for the Caloosahatchee, are Armageddon like in nature.
It is natural to be saddened, but we must stay strong and find inspiration. When we look around, even on the bloody environmental battlefield, it is there.
Today, I share the beautiful photos of local St Lucie River photographer Stephen Duffy, his Anhinga series shows this symbolic bird in all its glory. These special, yet common birds have no oil on their feathers, so they can both swim underwater and fly above the Earth. Thus the Native People held them sacred. ~The bird that can fly and swim. The bird that can do “anything.” The bird that breaks the wall of water and sky.
When you see the anhinga remember: fly, swim, break through walls, and most important, believe.
Yesterday, I went to my garden. A garden for butterflies that I planted in 2011 during my mayorship for the Town of Sewall’s Point.
It was at this time, that I realized I needed a place to go, close to home, to get away, when I was grinding my teeth so hard at night that I would awake with headaches. This garden has calmed many nerves, and brought both beauty and delight to Ed and my home.
I learn a lot of lessons from my garden. But I still have a lot to learn…
…Upon getting the newspaper from the driveway, I noticed a monarch butterfly that had just emerged from its chrysalis drying its wings on the shrimp plant by my front door. The orange, black, and white pattern against green and red was quite striking. I decided to do something I have never done, watch the butterfly dry its wings, and to wait to watch it fly off.
Every few minutes its stain-glassed wings would open to the sun and wind, and then it would sit motionless. When its wings opened again, I could see its body tighten and contort, pumping liquid deep into its wings. It looked uncomfortable this miraculous metamorphosis. Finally, it seemed erect and proud; I kept waiting for it to fly off, but it didn’t.
I counted the white spots on its wings and body to pass time. I studied its bizarre mouth and antennae. I laid on the ground. I took pictures. I tried to be patient. I thought about all I needed to do. I thought about how I would be breaking a deal with myself ~to see a newborn butterfly fly away, if I walked off.
“Come on butterfly!” I said. “You can do it!” But it did not fly off. It just sat there.
I thought about how in the garden there is no rush, as in my own life, to finish the “task.” Things take the time needed to take, and that is all…
I waited. I wondered. I wished.
I started to get impatient.
“I can’t believe I am losing my patience with a butterfly,” I thought. “This is not good; my plan is backfiring.”
I took some breaths, calmed myself down, and tried to be like nature. Ever-present. Ever-enduring, patient in my Garden of Impatience…
It did not work. I noticed I was grinding my teeth. ” I’ve got so much to do!” I walked two steps towards the rose-bush, just to regroup, taking my eyes off the butterfly for the very first time… It could not have been more than a second.
When I turned around, the butterfly was gone!
I smiled, in disbelief, thinking for a moment “I can’t believe I wasted all this time,” looking into the sky for fluttering wings, but there were none. There was just the sound of the wind and the warmth of the sun — the eternal.
There is no time wasted in the lessons of nature, I suppose…
I walked back into the house “to get things done.” 🙂
Last evening, at a gathering of friends of my mothers, I met Mrs Susan Kane. The conversation started as usual with someone I do not know, but quickly, somehow, the our words turned to eagles living along the St Lucie River, Indian River Lagoon.
I told Susan, I had never seen one here flying, ever, but I knew they were here as Greg Braun, formerly of Audubon, took photos of one sitting on a rock at Bird Island…. I had also heard that there was a pair that hunted from a tall, dead, Australian Pine tree by the Marriott’s Indian River Plantation Marina. But again, although I walk the bridge between Sewall’s Point and Hutchinson Island quite often, I had never seen them…Once, while driving on Highway 76 in Indiantown, I did see an eagle, and was so excited that I parked my car on the side of the road and with trucks zooming by I watched it soar. I was smiling from ear to ear.
Susan listened politely, and then replied, “Well recently, Jacqui, I took a photograph of an eagle on the 16th hole of the Sailfish Point golf course.”
“You’re kidding?” I inquired.
“Yes, the eagle captured a fish right there in the pond at the 16th hole of the golf course.”
“That’s incredible.” I replied, taking a large sip of my cocktail, to hide my bird envy.
Over the course of dinner, Susan pulled out her photos and shared. They are wonderful! And today I am sharing her photos with you.
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.
In the early 1990s, I came to Pensacola from UF in Gainesville, to teach German and English at Pensacola High School in both the traditional and International Baccalaureate Program.
I learned perhaps as much as my students. It was hard and rewarding work. I matured here one could say.
Maturing didn’t just involve the discipline of being a teacher, but also the responsibility of my first dog. “Dash,” as he was named for his ability to sprint. Dash was a stray I found in Downtown’s Seville Square. He was as beautiful and white as Pensacola Beach with black spots over his eyes. Even my parents visited to meet him!
Every evening he sat by my side for hours as I graded papers long into night. I would leave at 6 am for the first bell at 7:01. When I got home from a day of teaching, Dash and I would swim at Pensacola Beach or take long walks to Fort Pickens and then of course, grade papers,
These were wonderful times! The powerful simplicity of the blue sky, the green waves, the white sands, and my white and black best friend, forever left an impression on me.
Just last weekend, I presented at the “Future of Florida Summit” at the University of Florida’s Graham Center. Eric Eikenberg, CEO of the Everglades Foundation, gave a passionate speech to hundreds of young people during the lunchtime session. My husband, Ed, usually quiet, turned to me saying: ” He is a really good speaker.”
The crowd listened…
Mr Eikenberg noted that he was a graduate of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Broward County, Florida and that even though the school was literally built in what was once the Everglades, there had not been studies on that subject while he attended the school. He talked about the importance of our state waters and the need to involve youth in the education of our natural world, especially here in South Florida.
Ironically, four days later, the horrific shooting at Mr Eikenberg’s alma mater, has called attention, once again, to the shortcomings, and cultural sickness in our society.
In 1991, the “Marjory Stoneman Douglas Everglades Protection Act” was enacted by the Florida Legislature becoming the precursor to the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP). Douglas ended up asking for her name to be removed from the legislation. At the time, she was 103 years old. After fighting for the Everglades for a lifetime, she said she felt the legislation was too favorable to the Sugar Farmers. “Growers should clean up the water on their own land…” meaning the state and federal government shouldn’t be building Storm Water Treatment Areas with taxpayer dollars to do it for them….
In time, Ms Douglas’ name was removed.
I wonder if she were alive today, if she would want her name removed from the school? I doubt it. She may have been tough on those destroying the Everglades, but she had a soft heart for youth. Lore states that when she was starting her famed organization Friends for the Everglades she refused to have the membership fee too high for students to be able to join, as she knew they were the most internal of keys.
My greatest sorrow and prayers for the families of the dead.
May the blood of the slain remind us to stop looking at our phones, and to turn to nature and Nature’s God for insight and inspiration in this crazy and destructive human-made world.
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.
Growing up in Stuart in the 1970s, my mother and father gave me full reign to explore the undeveloped lands in the area of St Lucie Estates. I remember endless summers, wandering around in “the woods” and of course my eyes were drawn to the vine of the widely dispersed, perfectly shaped, red and black seeds known as rosary peas.
I would collect them tightly in my little, sweaty hands, pushing them far down into my pockets. I recall the first time I brought them home, my mother said, “Yes, they are very pretty, but don’t eat them, they are poisonous.”
“Hmmm,”I thought. “How can something beautiful be poisonous?”
I continued to collect the seeds, and over the years filled up many clear glass bottles that sat in my window sill; the sun never fading their brilliant color.
Later in life, I learned that bright color patterns, especially red, black, and yellow, as with some caterpillars, or the famous, shy, and deadly coral snake, are “warnings” in nature and actually provide the animal with protection from being eaten.
As I walk through Hawk’s Bluff today, I am thankful to my parents who allowed me to explore the natural world and grow confident, unafraid, even with all of its toxic beauty.
On Monday, I had Ed drive me to the lake. I needed to see it face-to-face, and be reminded of why I am driven to protect Florida’s environment.
It was a beautiful, chilly, day and as I lay on the warm earth, soaking it all in, Ed snapped a photo. I laughed when I saw it, thinking it summarized my experience at the Constitution Revision Commission last week in Tallahassee.
A triple knock out.
But I am back up, and today will fill you in on last week, and note what remains possible for the future.On Thursday, January 11th, I presented two proposals to the Executive Committee; a committee upon which I serve. Both proposals were voted down.
They were: P 24, “Creating a Commissioner of Environmental Protection,” and P48, “FWC/Wildlife Corridors.”
I presented right after highly respected, former Senate President, Don Gaetz, who spoke in favor of a making the Secretary of State, once again, a cabinet position.
We were both voted down. The committee had no tolerance for expanding the executive branch in any form.
On Friday, I awoke to torrential rains and cold temperatures, rushing to make it in the darkness by 8:00 am to stand before the Judicial Committee, finally, for a vote on controversial, Gunster-attorney-fought, and widely reported P23, “A Right to A Clean and Healthful Environment.” It was voted down by every member of the committee as it would have created a new “cause of action,” and given citizens standing, regarding environmental claims, in a court of law. In the committee’s opinion, P23 would have caused a Florida litigation nightmare.
For me, the lack of prioritization for the environment, the over-protection of permit holders, and the “buddy-agency-system,” holding it all in place, is already causing a “nightmare;” thus, I was all for a change and in favor of this student-inspired proposal that spoke for what the CRC is supposed to be speaking for—-its citizens.
In any case, it was quite a lesson for me, bleeding my heart out, and getting denied. I was not embarrassed, just kind of numb. I must say, it was very kind, and I appreciated that many of my comrades complimented my efforts and encouraged me to continue my fight, right before the knock-out punch. 🙂
P48, “Clarifying Language Amd. 1, 2014, Land Acquisition Trust Fund” and
P91, “No Oil and Gas Drilling in Florida’s Territorial Waters”
No dates have been set to hear these proposals, but in the meanwhile, I am back up on my feet and getting ready for the next round. I know it will come. I have been studying one of my favorite boxers, Sugar Ray Leonard, who was a favorite of my students in Pensacola, for some moves. I’m going to be ready!
Thanks for you support and for your love of Florida’s environment.
I was appointed to the Constitution Revision Commission, that meets only once every 20 years, last February, by Senate President Joe Negron (https://www.flcrc.gov). After a dizzying time, I’d say, I feel like I am finally catching my stride. The entire experience has been a lot like when I moved to Berlin, Germany in 1989. It was cold and I did not speak the language, but after many months of study and applying myself, it started to feel natural.
I have learned the CRC history; mastered the insane elevator system at the Capitol; gotten insight into the complexities of power and politics; met people from all over the state with their own serious issues; recognized the incredible importance of staff and of journalists; have learned how to run an effective legislative-style meeting; and how to stand my ground on a vote.
I have tried to apply the “5-Cs” that an army general taught me years ago…. Communication, Collaboration, Compromise, Cooperation, and Consensus…
As you may know, I sponsored 5 CRC environmental proposals. These came from the public’s submittals on-line, or from a public hearing earlier last year. One was a former citizen’s initiative. Today I will review where I am and where I think things are going.
The proposal that has gotten the most attention as well as the most push back–with 4 AIF hired Gunster lawyers, one a former Supreme Court Justice, fighting tooth and nail—has been P23, “A Right to Clean and Healthful Environment.” It was workshopped and heard by the Judicial Committee and I expect it to be voted on Friday, January 12, 2018. Due to the controversy, the prognosis does not look good, but it has raised environmental awareness for all of the proposals, and in my opinion made the business and government community look desperate to hold on to Florida’s “standard environmental operating procedure” that puts corporations and development before people. This power will not last forever, and we are all dependent on Florida’s good nature for our “riches.” —A search will pull up a multitude of editorials, news articles, and opinions, on this subject.
Two others will also be heard this coming week. P24 “Commissioner Environmental Protection”and P48 “FWC/Wildlife Corridors.” Both of these will be discussed and voted on by the Executive Committee of which I happen to sit on. P48 would allow FWC to protect habitat not just species. This seems a no brainer as how can you have species without protecting their habitat; but private property and development rights play into the equation so it will be a fight. I look forward to the discussion and for all of us to realize that one way or another, the only way to approach Florida’s growth filled future is with the pragmatic goal of statewide living wildlife corridors, connected and protected lands.
P24 would establish a Commissioner of Environmental Protection. A cabinet position. Just like Agriculture. Since the environment is linked to our number one state income generator–tourism it seems the time has come….challenging power structures is always a wrestling match, but this is one we can win.
The following week, on January 18, I expect to go before the Legislative Committee for P46, “Clarifying Language in Amendment 1 2014, or Land Acquisition Trust Fund.” It was heard once already but “temporarily postponed” to requests by committee and myself to work on the language. Sue Mullins and Clay Henderson are backbone of this proposal, know the background, etc., and I am fortunate to have their expertise.
I expect on January 19 to go before the Declaration of Rights Committee for P91,”No gas and oil drilling in Florida’s territorial waters.”
P91 is the only one of the five proposals to have “passed committee” in December. What is so amazing to me about this proposal is its timeliness. When I took it on, I actually first thought to myself, “You know, isn’t this kind of pase’? The River Kidz were protesting oil drilling with Surfrider Foundation in 2012. This won’t happen here…” But because it was past citizens’ initiative, and the language had already been reviewed, and because Manley Fuller who is a legend in the environmental community and the president of the Florida Wildlife Federation brought it to my attention, recommending I support it, I submitted the proposal three minutes before the deadline.
Now many months have passed and things have quickly changed. As headlines explode with oil drilling and federal opening of submerged lands including Floirda’s…it seems serendipitous that this proposal is lined up for the CRC, every Florida politician — regardless of party affiliation, and the diverse citizens of the state of Florida to support.
Some people would call it a “God-wink;” I like to think so. I will fight for every proposal, but it sure is nice to feel the wind at my back.
The first thing I noticed flying in to St Petersburg was that they had a lot of seagrass beds…
“How in can a place with so many people have so much more seagrass than Stuart?” I thought to myself. “Well, number one, they don’t have releases from Lake Okeechobee destroying their estuary every few years, and they are known for the state’s most successful estuary restoration program–of Tampa Bay (http://www.tbep.org) something we are trying to emulate for the Indian River Lagoon (http://www.irlcouncil.com).
It was the new year’s weekend and Ed and I had decided to “get away.”
What I had forgotten is that Clearwater, our destination, is home to Winter and Hope, Indian River east coast dolphins who were rescued by Harbor Branch (http://www.fau.edu/hboi/marine_mammals/) based in St Lucie County who were then rehabilitated at Clearwater Marine Aquarium on the west coast. These dolphins could not be released. Winter, an amputee due to a crab trap cutting off her tail, and Hope, an orphan who was suckling on her dead mother when found never learned life skills…
Today these dolphins are alive, friends, inspiring thousands of people including a multitude of veteran and children amputees, have starred in two feature films, and have made Clearwater a favorite nationwide family destination: (https://www.seewinter.com)
The experience of visiting the aquarium, made me think about how connected we all really are. How much we can do together. If Harbor Branch had not saved these IRL dolphins, Winter and Hope would not be the worldwide ambassadors for their species that they are today.
Yes, we are all connected across our great state! Happy 2018 Florida!
Florida’s constitution is important, not only because it is the ultimate law of the state, but because it sets the people’s values before the legislative, executive, and judicial branches. These words are a reference in times of question and must be clearly written on the side of the citizen.
Right now, in Article II, Section 7, (a) “Natural resources and scenic beauty,” the Florida constitution reads:
(a) It shall be the policy of the state to conserve and protect its natural resources and scenic beauty. Adequate provision shall be made by law for the abatement of air and water pollution and of excessive and unnecessary noise and for the conservation and protection of natural resources.
Because this language is vague, ( what is adequate provision? ), and case law is sparse, these words become “overruled” by Florida Statute that clearly gives “permit holders” standing over citizens, and of course the environment making the present environmental protections in the state constitution “inadequate.”
“No action pursuant to this section may be maintained if the person (natural or corporate) or governmental agency or authority charged with pollution, impairment, or destruction of the air, water, or other natural resources of the state is acting or conducting operations pursuant to currently valid permit or certificate covering such operations, issued by the appropriate governmental authorities or agencies, and is complying with the requirements of said permits or certificates.”
So a citizen is not at liberty to sue if a polluting entity is causing environmental destruction that is acting or conducting operations pursuant to a currently valid permit protected by a state agency. And if someone attempts to sue anyway, they have no real standing in a Florida court of law.
~But, what if a sinkhole spanning 45 feet opened at a Mosaic phosphate fertilizer facility leaking 215 million gallons of “slightly radioactive water,” but this news did not get to the people who have wells in the area for weeks?
~What if the Army Corp of Engineers, and the South Florida Water Management District knew they were discharging billions of gallons of toxic algae from Lake Okeechobee into a community’s river making some citizens sick, yet there was no discussion, warning, or health notices posted until the entire ocean ran green?
~What if an entity could withdraw so much water from a spring or aquifer that….
What if, is now reality.
Yes, permit holders should be “protected,” nonetheless, having a valid permit should not be a right to infringe on the health, safety, and welfare of Florida citizens. Florida citizens and their environment co-exist. When necessary, citizens should have the right to fight for a clean and healthy environment.
We all know that many of Florida’s waters are “growing greener, and more toxic.” This was recently reported by TCPalm’s Jim Turner:
“The 2016 report from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection shows a mixed bag for the state’s waters, with many trending toward more-frequent toxic algae blooms, fueled by rising nitrates from farm and residential fertilizers, sewage, pet waste and other human-related sources.”
Florida’s “impaired” waters are growing, not decreasing. More springs, rivers and lakes are in horrible condition. We see it. Like it or not, the only way to ensure an “adequate” future for Florida’s citizen’s and her waters is to find a way to create acceptable language giving people a constitutional right to a clean and healthful environment.
CRC - 2017P 23By Commissioner Thurlow-Lippisch
1 A proposal to amend
2 Section 7 of Article II of the State Constitution to
3 establish that every person has a right to a clean and
4 healthful environment.
6 Be It Proposed by the Constitution Revision Commission of
9 Section 7 of Article II of the State Constitution is
10 amended to read:
11 ARTICLE II
12 GENERAL PROVISIONS
13 SECTION 7. Natural resources and scenic beauty.--
14 (a) It shall be the policy of the state to conserve and
15 protect its natural resources and scenic beauty. Adequate
16 provision shall be made by law for the abatement of air and
17 water pollution and of excessive and unnecessary noise and for
18 the conservation and protection of natural resources.
19 (b) Those in the Everglades A