Tag Archives: JTL

There’s A lot More to it Than Mowing…

It may seem like a small thing, but it’s actually a big thing. How does the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) manage mowing responsibilities for the Central and South Florida Project?

The Central and South Florida (C&SF) Project, first authorized by Congress in 1948, is a multi-purpose project that provides flood control, water supply for municipal, industrial, and agricultural uses, prevention of saltwater intrusion, water supply for Everglades National Park, and protection of fish and wildlife resources. The primary system includes more than 1,000 miles each of levees and canals, 150 water control structures, and 16 major pump stations.

~The ACOE built this system and the SFWMD was created to manage it. 

-S-308, C-44, & S-153 in Martin County are part of the vast Central and South Florida ProjectIn December 2020, item 19 of the SFWMD Consent Agenda read:

“Maintenance of District Lands is required to ensure that vegetation is controlled at the appropriate height to provide for optimal performance and operational efficiency of the District’s flood control system.”

I had inquired. I had questioned…

I had visions of the District mowing down every blade of grass. I asked what was done for the ecology? “Does the District leave any flowering weeds for bees or butterflies?” “Does the the District think about vegetation for the wildlife or do we just mow it all down in the name of flood control?” 

I figured it would be the later…I was wrong. 

On January 28, 2021, I got the tour of a lifetime and learned that there was more to it than mowing. A lot more.I met the heads of departments at DuPuis Wildlife Management Area near Indiantown in Martin County. The goal of my tour was to visit levees and canals and learn about SFWMD mowing practices. Photo: South Florida Florida Management Leadership, L-R back to front: Francois Laroche, Vegetation Mgt. Section Administrator; Rich Virgil, Field Ops. Division Director; Rory Feeney, Land Resources Bureau Chief; Chris Edelstein, Field Ops. Bureau Chief; LeRoy Rodger, Invasive Species Unit Lead; and me, JTL, SFWMD Governing Board.


First we drove to the C-44 canal near S-308, an area I know well. The S-308 structure allows the Army Corp of Engineers to discharge water from Lake Okeechobee into the St Lucie River. The C-44 was first constructed from ca. 1913 to 1923 and over the years widened and “improved.” This repetitive disruption of the soil allows invasive plants to move in each time.

I did not realize the extent until SFWMD’s LeRoy Rodgers, Invasive Species Unit Lead,  and Francois Laroche, Vegetation Management Specialist, told me the story and showed me the back side of the C-44 canal near S-308. 

NAPIER GRASS: Introduced as a forage grass for cattle in the early 1900s; this African grass is extremely invasive.  It grows best along disturbed canal edges eventually hindering flood control by blocking access to canals and impeding water flow. It has been here for decades.Over the years, C-44  levees near S-308  have become covered with Napier Grass also known as “Elephant Grass.”

-Canal C-44 at S-308 coved in Napier Grass -Rory Feeney, Land Resources Bureau Chief,  tugs on a Napier plant. ~The Rhizome structure makes the grass very difficult to “just pull out.”The tall grass is mowed intermittently on a schedule. The roots go wide and deep into the ground making it impossible to pull out without compromising the integrity of the Central and South Florida Project at C-44. All that can be done is to manage this explosion of grass. 

I looked around. The tall Napier Grass reached as far as my eye could see. I thought about history. I though about time. I thought about responsibility. I asked if there were any benefits for wildlife. 

LeRoyRodgers, Invasive Species Unit Lead answered. He said certainly, animals could hide there, but it was not a preferred habitat except for one, another invasive, the Burmese Python. He noted that when the SFWMD mowing crews started finding chopped-up python down in Homestead, a few years ago, that was when the District became aware of the python population issue down there.

Not a good visual…

The men compared areas showing me how the grass does respond to more frequent mowing. They explained how when it is mowed, some is cut short, some is left long and some is cut more often than other.

Closest to the road, where it can be mowed more frequently, I could see other plants and weeds not just Nadier Grasses coming in.  Weed-like flowers bloomed here and there. Francois Laroche, Vegetation Management Specialist explained the ways of nature. With the more frequent mowing, other plants could “compete.”

I started to get the picture…

-LeRory Rodgers, Invasive Species Unit Lead, points to other plants coming in when Napier Grass is more frequently mowed along flat areas.


Next, we drove just a bit further to the intersection of the C-44 and the  S-153 Structure. This structure controls the water inside a canal parallel to Highway 98 and the FPL cooling pond.  It was explained to me that this levee is a second line of defense should the waters of Lake Okeechobee pour over. A levee holds water back and a canal moves water. We were here to look at the levee. However, keep in mind, there is a “canal” where dirt is dug to build a levee…-S-153 intersects with C-44 canal; it is an area full of wildlife and displays both native and non-native plants along the canal used to build the levee.

-LeRoy Rodgers & Rich Vigil observe a fern; this one is not native, used in landscaping yards. -S-153 at C-44 canal Looking around I was happy to see more flowering weeds and plants, and less invasive Napier Grass. This wasn’t the “flowering prairie” I had hoped for, but after my lesson on invasives, I was a bit more open minded. As I looked around, small birds darted away, quickly taking cover. A fish jumped close to a mass of dollar weeds that were wedged up against a floating rope. Some wildlife lives here! 

I was starting to consider the balance.  Where there was mowing, there were more flowering weeds and other plants. As Francois had said, mowing allowed competition.  

To answer my question about plants for pollinators, we found numerous native Spanish Needles. These native blooms are highly visited by a range of pollinators and butterflies. There were others I did not recognize flowering as well. I saw a yellow butterfly, maybe a sulphur. Dragonflies were everywhere. I could hear insects chirping. 

Mr LeRoy and the others picked flowers saying the names in Latin. We discussed the various vegetation, some native, some not, along the levee. It was a mix.

We kept walking.

“O.K. there’s ding,” said Chris Edelstein, Field Ops Bureau Cheif.

“What’s a ding?” I inquired. 

“Something the Army Corp would mark against us. See the dug out areas? That’s from wild hogs foraging for roots and worms.” LeRoy said the name of the long roots left behind in Latin. “This agressive digging is problematic to the integrity of the levee.”

“A ding!” I replied, noting the District’s legal obligation to the Army Corp. of Engineers.

“At least there’s life here,” I repeated. “And I do adore those little piglets!” 

We continued looking at plants and weeds. “Oh and here is another ding,” said Chris. 

I looked up seeing nothing more than a pile of sand.

Rich Virgil, Field Ops Division Director  explained: “That’s a gopher tortoise  burrow…their burrows can be over 15 feet long and 6 feet deep. This can definitely be an issue for the integrity of the levee.” 

I thought about the possibility of a hurricane and Lake Okeechobee overtaking its dike,  the waters pouring east towards the levee. As the men had explained, this levee would be a line of defense. 

I got down on the ground, and took a picture. The men talked. It sounded that a threatened gopher tortoise was not as easy to remove as the wild hogs.

The area was very interesting and definitely more wildlife friendly than our first stop. The mowing pattern again showed some vegetation left alone, some mowed shorter, and wild plants growing along the edge of the canal. The edge of the canal is mowed most infrequently by a special contractor when the plants get “too woody.” Otherwise it is left to grow….

I was somewhat impressed. 

-Gopher Tortoise burrow in the levee -Edge of canal connected to S-153 displays ferns and other plants, many flowering. I did see a few clumps of the invasive Nadier Grass, but not much.


Last but not least, we drove to Lakeside Ranch, a Storm Water Treatment Area (STA) for nutrient reduction near Taylor Creek, northeast of Lake Okeechobee. In this area the levees of the STA were only a couple of years old; flowering weeds and “good” plants totally outnumbered the small clumps of Nadier Grass. The men talked about the importance of staying on top of the mowing so the Nadeir Grass and other invasive plants wouldn’t take over this area that is now habitat to an extensive number of birds and other wildlife.

“You have to stay on top of it.” Rich said looking from horizon to horizon. 

The place was beautiful. As we continued down the path, I laughed out loud at seeing a pile of apple snails, the trash midden of Snail Kites. Rory Feeney, Land Resources Bureau Chief, explained: “You can tell by the shape that these snails are not native, some can become  invasive, but for the endangered snail kite, it’s been a life saver. The native Florida apple snail lives in a very limited habitat, whereas the invasive  species tolerate more diverse conditions, including human-made impoundments.”  

Wow. An invasive apple snail as a life-saver? The metaphor hit me hard. Non-native species are not always a bad thing, I guess. 

 And mowing?

I’m not as judgmental as I was before the field trip. There’s a lot more to it than just mowing!

-Staring down at piles of invasive apple snail shells left by endangered Snail Kites-I hold an empty, non-native, invasive apple snail shell, the snails that helps the Snail Kite survive in a changing Everglades environment. If only the invasive Nadier Grass could do so much good!

*Thank you to staff! 

For the Record, What I have filed so far, Constitution Revision Commission, SLR, IRL

go grassroots jacqui - Version 2

For the record, I would like to report what I have filed, so far, as a member of the Constitution Revision Commission 2017/18.

I have filed two “proposals.”

The first is a “public proposal” (a public submission/language exactly as proposed) entitled: “Floridians’ right to a clean and healthful environment.” This proposal elevates a clean and healthful environment to a right, such as now stated in the Florida constitution: “to enjoy and defend life and liberty, to pursue happiness, to be rewarded for industry, and to acquire, possess, and protect property…” It adds a “clean and healthful environment” symbolically to our highest legal level, our constitution. Right now, the proposal also proposes to give Floridians more standing in a court of law if they have experienced special injury (economic loss) due to environmental destruction of their property. I think the wording can be ameliorated, made more preventative, and less litigious, other states have achieved this and kept their goals in place. Nonetheless, the present language remains a good place to start the conversation.

My second proposal is a “commissioner proposal,” (a proposal with my wording/with help of staff) entitled “to Establish a cabinet position for a Commissioner of Environmental  Protection.” Yes, I believe the environment should have a seat at Florida’s most important table. Presently, the Florida cabinet consist of the Attorney General, the Chief Financial Officer, and  the Commissioner of Agriculture. These elected public servants make decisions at the top-level with the Governor and are elected, not appointed. They lead the state. I strongly feel that a statewide elected Commissioner of Environmental Protection should exist alongside these others and not be buried under the executive branch with no clear accountability as is presently the case. “Elected and answering to the people,” not to the politics of the state; this is my goal.

The process?

Well, the first proposal, “a right to a clean and healthy environment” has been voted on by the full CRC to move forward to committee. The second will move forward as commissioner proposals do automatically.

But that’s just the beginning!

Soon, Chair Beruff, will determine what committees these proposals will have to be “heard in.” There could be one, or many. If the proposal makes it through committee, it could come out exactly the same, be amended, or die. There is a way to resurrect such later on if it does get killed, but this requires a majority vote and is no easy feat. Nonetheless, it is a possibility. The best thing is to try to get it through committee so the full commission can vote on.

The political process will take its course, and the people will be heard.

It is an exciting time for me, and I plan on submitting other proposals too, but these two, my first, are my priorities.

Below are my two proposals and other information you may find helpful. If you have questions or concerns please write me at jacqui.lippisch@flcrc.gov. I am here to discuss.


Constitution Revision Commission website: https://www.flcrc.gov
Learn about the 5 ways Florida’s constitution can be revised. The CRC is one of those ways! http://lwvokaloosa.org/AmendingFLConst.html

   CRC - 2017                                                  P 23
       By Commissioner Thurlow-Lippisch
       thurlowlj-00038-17                                      201723__
    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
    7  Florida:
    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 Agricultural Area who cause
   20  water pollution within the Everglades Protection Area or the
   21  Everglades Agricultural Area shall be primarily responsible for
   22  paying the costs of the abatement of that pollution. For the
   23  purposes of this subsection, the terms “Everglades Protection
   24  Area” and “Everglades Agricultural Area” shall have the meanings
   25  as defined in statutes in effect on January 1, 1996.
   26         (c) The natural resources of the state are the legacy of
   27  present and future generations. Every person has a right to a
   28  clean and healthful environment, including clean air and water;
   29  control of pollution; and the conservation and restoration of
   30  the natural, scenic, historic, and aesthetic values of the
   31  environment as provided by law. Any person may enforce this
   32  right against any party, public or private, subject to
   33  reasonable limitations, as provided by law.
   CRC - 2017                                                  P 24
       By Commissioner Thurlow-Lippisch
       thurlowlj-00025A-17                                     201724__
    1                         A proposal to amend                       
    2         Sections 3 and 4 of Article IV and create a new
    3         section in Article XII of the State Constitution to
    4         establish the office of Commissioner of Environmental
    5         Protection as a statewide elected officer, to provide
    6         duties of the commissioner, and to include the
    7         commissioner as a member of the Cabinet.
    9  Be It Proposed by the Constitution Revision Commission of
   10  Florida:
   12         Sections 3 and 4 of Article IV of the State Constitution
   13  are amended to read:
   14                             ARTICLE IV                            
   15                              EXECUTIVE                            
   16         SECTION 3. Succession to office of governor; acting
   17  governor.—
   18         (a) Upon vacancy in the office of governor, the lieutenant
   19  governor shall become governor. Further succession to the office
   20  of governor shall be prescribed by law. A successor shall serve
   21  for the remainder of the term.
   22         (b) Upon impeachment of the governor and until completion
   23  of trial thereof, or during the governor’s physical or mental
   24  incapacity, the lieutenant governor shall act as governor.
   25  Further succession as acting governor shall be prescribed by
   26  law. Incapacity to serve as governor may be determined by the
   27  supreme court upon due notice after docketing of a written
   28  suggestion thereof by four three cabinet members, and in such
   29  case restoration of capacity shall be similarly determined after
   30  docketing of written suggestion thereof by the governor, the
   31  legislature or four three cabinet members. Incapacity to serve
   32  as governor may also be established by certificate filed with
   33  the custodian of state records by the governor declaring
   34  incapacity for physical reasons to serve as governor, and in
   35  such case restoration of capacity shall be similarly
   36  established.
   37         SECTION 4. Cabinet.—
   38         (a) There shall be a cabinet composed of an attorney
   39  general, a chief financial officer, a commissioner of
   40  environmental protection, and a commissioner of agriculture. In
   41  addition to the powers and duties specified herein, they shall
   42  exercise such powers and perform such duties as may be
   43  prescribed by law. In the event of a tie vote of the governor
   44  and cabinet, the side on which the governor voted shall be
   45  deemed to prevail.
   46         (b) The attorney general shall be the chief state legal
   47  officer. There is created in the office of the attorney general
   48  the position of statewide prosecutor. The statewide prosecutor
   49  shall have concurrent jurisdiction with the state attorneys to
   50  prosecute violations of criminal laws occurring or having
   51  occurred, in two or more judicial circuits as part of a related
   52  transaction, or when any such offense is affecting or has
   53  affected two or more judicial circuits as provided by general
   54  law. The statewide prosecutor shall be appointed by the attorney
   55  general from not less than three persons nominated by the
   56  judicial nominating commission for the supreme court, or as
   57  otherwise provided by general law.
   58         (c) The chief financial officer shall serve as the chief
   59  fiscal officer of the state, and shall settle and approve
   60  accounts against the state, and shall keep all state funds and
   61  securities.
   62         (d) The commissioner of environmental protection shall have
   63  supervision of matters pertaining to environmental protection
   64  that the Department of Environmental Protection or its successor
   65  agency and water management districts are required or authorized
   66  by law to implement and administer.
   67         (e) The commissioner of agriculture shall have supervision
   68  of matters pertaining to agriculture except as otherwise
   69  provided by law.
   70         (f)(e) The governor as chair, the chief financial officer,
   71  and the attorney general shall constitute the state board of
   72  administration, which shall succeed to all the power, control,
   73  and authority of the state board of administration established
   74  pursuant to Article IX, Section 16 of the Constitution of 1885,
   75  and which shall continue as a body at least for the life of
   76  Article XII, Section 9(c).
   77         (g)(f) The governor as chair, the chief financial officer,
   78  the attorney general, the commissioner of environmental
   79  protection, and the commissioner of agriculture shall constitute
   80  the trustees of the internal improvement trust fund and the land
   81  acquisition trust fund as provided by law.
   82         (h)(g) The governor as chair, the chief financial officer,
   83  the attorney general, the commissioner of environmental
   84  protection, and the commissioner of agriculture shall constitute
   85  the agency head of the Department of Law Enforcement.
   87         A new section is added to Article XII of the State
   88  Constitution to read:
   89                             ARTICLE XII                           
   90                              SCHEDULE                             
   91         Recomposition of the cabinet; commissioner of environmental
   92  protection.—The amendment to Section 4 of Article IV relating to
   93  the election of the commissioner of environmental protection and
   94  the inclusion of the commissioner as a member of the cabinet
   95  shall take effect January 3, 2023, but shall govern with respect
   96  to the qualifying for and the holding of the primary and general
   97  elections for the office of commissioner of environmental
   98  protection in 2022.

Commissioner Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch’s CRC webpage:
Appointed by President
Committee Assignments

General Provisions, Chair

Proposals Introduced
P 0023 GENERAL PROVISIONS, Natural resources and scenic beauty
Last Action: 10/19/2017 Filed
P 0024 EXECUTIVE, Commissioner of Environmental Protection
Last Action: 10/19/2017 Filed

Biographical Information
Occupation: Former Middle and High School German and English Teacher; Presently, Licensed Realtor, Lifestyle Realty Group
City: Town of Sewall’s Point (Martin County)
Commissioner Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch was born in 1964 at Travis Air Force Base, Fairfield, California. She is a Daughter of the American Revolution, Florida Blue Key member, a lifetime resident of Martin County and member of St. Mary’s Episcopal Church.

Commissioner Thurlow-Lippisch’s mother is a third-generation Floridian and statewide recognized historian. In 1952, Commissioner Thurlow-Lippisch’s New York grandfather founded Thurlow & Thurlow, P.A. in Stuart, which specializes in real estate, and continues today as a family run business. She is married to William E. Lippisch, D.M.D./Oral Surgeon and general aviation pilot. They are well-known on the Treasure Coast for taking thousands of aerial photographs documenting the effect of destructive discharges from Lake Okeechobee on the health of the St. Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon. She shares these photos on her blog entitled “Indian River Lagoon,” which educates thousands of people. Jacqui is a former teacher with years of classroom experience instructing middle and high school students. She continues to work with youth through “River Kidz,” a division of the Rivers Coalition that has also helped promote and inspire efforts to find solutions to the damaging discharges from Lake Okeechobee.

Commissioner Thurlow-Lippisch is a former Mayor (2011-2012) and Commissioner (2008-2016) of the Town of Sewall’s Point and has served in other various public service and leadership capacities, including: Vice-Chair, Treasure Coast Region Planning Council (2016); Chair, Treasure Coast Council of Local Governments; Treasure Coast Florida League of Cities (2008-2016); Chair, Florida League of Cities’ Energy, Environment, and Natural Resources Legislative Committee (2013); Board member, Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute Foundation, Florida Atlantic University (2013-2016); and Rivers Coalition Defense Fund (2011-present).

Commissioner Thurlow-Lippisch holds a Bachelor of Arts, Journalism & Communications, University of Florida, 1986; Bachelor of Arts, German, University of Florida, 1994; and Master of Arts, Curriculum and Development, College of Education, University of West Florida, 1999. She also graduated from the UF/IFAS Natural Resources Leadership Institute, Class XV, 2016.

Helpful links for learning about the CRC:

Florida Constitution: http://www.leg.state.fl.us/statutes/index.cfm?submenu=3




Click to access ada-florida-constitution-revision-commission-brochure.pdf

Environmental Provisions in Florida’s State Constitution/Getting Your Issues in Front of the CRC, SLR/IRL

Indian River Lagoon, John Whiticar

Part #4 in a series about the Constitution Revision Commission, (CRC) and how to get involved, by Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch

Environmental Provisions in Florida’s State Constitution/Getting Your Issues in Front of the CRC (https://www.flcrc.gov)
The Florida constitution….(http://www.leg.state.fl.us/statutes/index.cfm?submenu=3)

It is amazing to realize how much of the Florida Constitution ensures protections of the environment, and yet we see the continued degradation of the natural resources of our state. It’s time we learn our constitution by heart, make sure it’s followed, and take action to see if something need be added.

Today, I am going to list the areas of the constitution that have to do with the environment for easy reference. You can click the links below to see the full amendments.

In 1968, “ardent environmentalist” and respected state representative, John Robert Middlemas, of Panama City, insisted that words of support for environmental policy were placed in the historic constitutional revision that same year.

In his honor, I ask that all fellow environmentalists review below, and ask oneself how to make these words take on a new sense of urgency as our springs, rivers, and natural lands need our voice. At the end of this article, and after reviewing our state constitution, if so inspired, please feel free to enter your own constitutional proposal or improve one that’s simply being ignored.

The CRC is considering September 22nd as the deadline for public proposals so please submit soon!

As an aside, it is my honor to serve as the Chair of the CRC’s General Provisions Committee, which is charged with examining Article II of the Florida Constitution. If you have comments or thoughts regarding Article II (or other provisions relating to the environment), please email me at Jacqui.Lippisch@flcrc.gov.

Here is the list of current environmental provisions in the Florida Constitution:


  • General Provisions (Article II): Section 7, Natural Resources & Scenic Beauty/Everglades Agricultural Area
  • Executive (Article IV): Section 4 (f), cabinet/Internal Improvement Fund/Land Acquisition Trust Fund; Section 9, Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission
  • Finance and Taxation (Article VII): Section 3 (f), conservation easements/ taxes -exemptions; Section 4 (b) taxation-assessments ; Section 9 (a), special districts/water management; Section 11 (e) state/revenue bonds; Section (14) bonds-pollution control
  • Miscellaneous (Article X): Section 11, sovereignty lands; Section 16, limiting marine net fishing; Section 17, Everglades Trust Fund; Section 18, disposition of conservation lands; Section 28, Land Acquisition Trust Fund, (Florida Water and Land Conservation Initiative, 2014.)

  To enter your own proposal or idea regarding the environment:


Adams Ranch, Bud Adams/Photographer

  • Go to gov/Proposals/Submit to create a free account and submit your proposed change to the Florida constitution. The online tool allows you to create your proposal using legal language by redacting or adding language. Remember to keep it simple and clear.


  • Using the same program, submit your proposal to the Constitution Revision Commission and sign up for the alert emails. Commissioners will review proposals and determine which proposals should be placed on Florida’s 2018 General Election ballot.


*Proposals can also be emailed to the commission at admin@flcrc.gov, or sent in the mail to: Constitution Revision Commission, The Capitol, 400 S. Monroe St., Tallahassee, FL 32399. Thank you so much for conserving and protecting the great state of Florida!

Manatee, Paul Nicklen, King’s Bay, FL

Mangroves, John Whiticar

Kids swimming/Florida springs, John Moran

Blue Springs, Madison, FL Sandra Henderson Thurlow

We especially must conserve and protect our environment for the future! (My niece, Evie, co-founder of River Kidz http://riverscoalition.org/riverkidz/ photo, Jenny Flaugh)





Florida, The Greatest Real Estate Development in the World, Unless…SLR/IRL

This 1925 Florida News Real Estate Investor’s Guide, reminds us exactly how developers saw Florida in 1925, “as the greatest real estate development in the world!”

Sure, Florida remains perhaps “the greatest real estate development in the world,” unless of course, our waters are, “now and then,” filled with toxic algae.

Let’s hope that the Florida Memory Project’s future timeline will not reflect that our generation allowed the destruction of the greatest real estate market in the world because we thought we had more time that we really did…


Department of Environmental Protection: http://www.dep.state.fl.us/water/watersheds/bmap.htm

Florida Department of Agriculture, Best Management Practices: http://www.freshfromflorida.com/Business-Services/Water/Agricultural-Best-Management-Practices

Florida Water Management Districts: http://www.dep.state.fl.us/secretary/watman/

Community gets primer on toxic algae | Clay Today, 8-30-17

JTL 9-1-17