I likened it to watching someone step on a roach. It was terrible. With the a motion from Kevin Powers, the South Florida Water Management District just squashed it.
Last Thursday, on May 14th 2015, the SFWMD, with absolutely no mercy at all, killed the option land contract to purchase 46,800 acres from US Sugar Corporation. This option land purchase has been the greatest hope for local environmentalists, the River Warriors, the Everglades Foundation, and many others to lay ground for a future that would not discharge so much fresh, polluted, water from Lake Okeechobee into the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon.
The hope was that a reservoir could be built on this land to then store, clean and convey water south to the Everglades.
Video of SFWMD meeting 5-14-15, Kenny Hinkle (http://youtu.be/_q220dk5I2g)
Well, it’s dead. No use bemoaning the situation. Let’s brush ourselves off and keep going. Even though the SFWMD killed this option, there are still others.
The best thing to do now is to “read up” and get smart about at what is “on the books” because a reservoir in the EAA is on the books as part of the Central Everglades Restoration Plan known as CERP. It may not be as good as the 46,800 acre option, but it would be something… And we must enlist Senator Joe Negron as he is our only Indian guide. ((http://www.flsenate.gov/Senators/s32)) To include a land purchase for this reservoir, whether it be in the Everglades Agricultural Area or not, through bonding of Amendment 1 monies is our war plan.
Negron’s idea is to crank up talking to scientists and experts on the best property currently available to build a reservoir. We need about 50 to 60,000 acres, as set out in the 2000 CERP…
The dysfunctional 2015 Florida State Legislature is not a great horse to bet on, but we have no other choice. Let’s saddle up and move on.
Park Service easy guide to understanding basics of CERP, the Central Everglades Restoration Project, 2000: (http://www.nps.gov/ever/learn/nature/upload/CERPFSLoResSecure.pdf)
SFWMD EAA Reservoirs in CERP, 2003: (http://www.sfwmd.gov/portal/page/portal/xrepository/sfwmd_repository_pdf/alt_formulation_eaa_reservoirs_10-03-2003.pdf)
ACOE Central and South Florida Restudy, CERP: “Roadmap or Roadblocks,” (http://www.ucowr.org/files/Achieved_Journal_Issues/V111_A12Central%20&%20Southern%20Florida%20Project%20Comprehensive%20Review%20Study%20Road%20Map%20or%20Roadblock%20for%20the%20Future.pdf)
Recently, Kevin Powers, vice-chair of the Governing Board of the South Florida Water Management District, called me asking about the “solidarity fish,” so I went even a little further and arranged for a meeting with Kevin, his wife, (Martin County School Board Member), Marsha Powers, and artist/writer extraordinaire, —Janeen Mason.
Sometimes in my world, it is best not to ask questions. It is best just to “do.” Knowing this timing and following my intuition is an important part of my mission in trying to save the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon…
Janeen Mason was a sport, and we met with my giving her little notice— she brought some of her beautiful, colorful, skeleton fish that have come to symbolize the river movement along the Indian River Lagoon. In fact, her idea is spreading across the state as she is called by others seeking advice on how to start such a “school,” (http://www.solidarityarts.com) as so many others across Florida have water issues too.
When Janeen met the Powers at their home, it was a wonderful thing for me, as I was able to learn her story which I had never really heard. (http://www.janeenmason.com)
Janeen told of being a young person, seeing the tropical fish in the Florida Keys for the very first time, and the powerful impression they made upon her young mind. She has carried this image with her through out her life, and most recently transposed it into the river movement in response to our “Lost Summer” of 2013 when the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) and Army Corp of Engineers (ACOE) dumped polluted Lake Okeechobee water for five months (on top of area canal runoff) into the St Lucie River, causing horrific, toxic conditions in our and the Calooshatchee estuary.
Since this era, the solidarity fish have been associated with the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon “river movement,” the River Warriors, and many others. Even Martin County used the symbol to decorate their holiday tree. There are bumper stickers and T-shirts you will see just about everywhere displaying the fish, colorful on one side, and a skeleton on the other….
These fish, you see in the photos on the Capitol steps, have been hand painted by hundreds of children and concerned adults; displayed at the Elliott Museum; on the River Warriors’ Christmas/Holiday float in the City of Stuart parade; and even last year Washington DC!
The fish are art in its purest form: “transformative and inspirational…”
So when Kevin Powers asked about the fish, I asked no questions. I saw an opportunity to help the District “catch a fish,” our fish, the solidity fish of the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon.
I believe, soon they will be swimming their way into some very powerful waters….. 🙂
South Florida Water Management District: (http://www.sfwmd.gov/portal/page/portal/sfwmdmain/home%20page)
On Friday, July 18th, Dr Gary Goforth (http://garygoforth.net/resume.htm) and I met at Indian River State College just after noon. I jumped in his truck, wearing my dress and heels, and we drove the back roads to find our destination. Our destination was long time Martin grove, Caulkins Citrus, located off Citrus Boulvard, near Indiantown, adjacent to the C-44 canal which of course connects to the St Lucie River/IRL and to Lake Okeechobee.
Kevin Powers, of the South Florida Water Management District governing board, longtime Martin County resident, and family friend, had invited Gary and I to see a pilot project of “water farming.” Water farming is idea that has been in the works for the past few years and is now finding its reality. If it works, thousands of acre feet of polluted water along the C-44 canal, in this case, will not find its way to the St Lucie River/ Indian River Lagoon. Farmers are paid for this service and their lands are not sold to development.
How could this be? Farmers “growing” water?
First we have to go back a bit.
In a Stuart News article dated April of 2013, Doug Bournique, executive vice president of the Indian River Citrus League, is interviewed by reporter Paul Ivice. Ivice writes:
“Diseases, (greening and canker), hurricanes and urban expansion have all cut into Florida’s citrus acreage which is down 38% from 1996…Nowhere in Florida has acreage fallen as sharply as in Martin County. It has less than 15% remaining of the 48,221 acres in production in 1994. The county has suffered the greatest loss for four consecutive years and and been declining sine 1994.”
As the citrus industry is dying, so is our economy. While farmers figure out what else they can grown on their land, the idea for some farmers to hold precious fresh, all be it polluted, waters on their lands came into being. This helps the river and it helps the farmers and it helps our local economy. Boyd Gunsalus, among other scientist at the SFWMD, has worked long and hard for the past many years on this concept.
Caulkins Citrus is in a prime location and were one of the farms that competed for a bid to try out the new technology and receive a DEP/SFWMD grant.
When Gary and I arrived we were met by Tom Kenny, Kevin Powers, and Ronnie Hataway. After introductions, they explained to us how the “farm”operated, how it was created, their hopes for the future, and gave us a walking and driving tour. It was pretty amazing if not surreal. Egrets and herons perched in the dying orange trees surrounded by water. A deer track was at my feet. Water was everywhere and from what I was told could one day go to the horizon.
Although Gary and I had been somewhat skeptical, we left feeling very hopeful and impressed.
So how did they create it?
Basically the grove is fallow due to poor health, and although the farm is much larger, (thousands of acres) a berm was constructed around a few hundred acres of the grove for the pilot study. Then water was/is pumped from the C-44 canal into the old grove. The berm holds the water inside.
The water can go as high as four feet but according to Mr Kenny it is percolating so well through the soft sandy soils that basically the pump can stay on all the time. The nitrogen and phosphorus and other pollutants are cleaned and eaten by healthy bacteria as the water filters through the earth.
The pilot’s long term goal is to hold 6600 acre feet of water but things are looking like they will be able to hold more. The water is slowly filtered into the water table replenishing the aquifer about 40 feet below. Caulkins is installing a number of apparatuses that they call “wells” that will read where the water is going and what is happening underground. If things work out, Caulkin’s acreage to hold water will be expanded.
Although this is wonderful, we must note that it would take many water farms to offset the water flowing into the SLR/IRL.
Dr Goforth states in a recent writing: “For the 34 days between June 13 and July 17, approximately 51,000 acre feet of C-44 runoff was sent to the St Lucie River…”
With that in mind, if a water farm similar to Caulkins could hold 10,000 acre feet, we would need five just to hold the water that has come in this summer SO FAR from C-44 basin runoff. Of course in time, 2020 maybe, the C-44 Storm Water Treatment and Reservoir and Storm Water Treatment Area will be one line, and hopefully working, and that is said to hold about 56,000 acre feet. (http://www.tmba.tv/broadcastanimation/everglades-restoration/everglades-restoration/)
In the end, really though, no one knows how much water can be held until these projects are working. Hopefully all of them, like Caulkins Grove seems to be so far, will exceed expectations.
As we tied up our tour, shook hands and left the property Mr Hataway said, “I have been telling them for years to keep this fresh water on the land….”
Mr Kenny noted, “The goal is to have less water going into the river and out the inlet…”
It is an ironic twist of fate. We worked for 100 years to drain the lands so we could grow agriculture. Now we are trying to keep the water on the land for the health of the river, because fresh water is extremely valuable, and because the citrus industry needs a new crop.
Words such as these about “keeping the water on the land,” especially from successful agriculturally minded businessmen, are an inspiration to me, and give hope for a better water future.
After the fact, I am including this 2 page summary provided to me by the SFWMD when I asked about costs on behalf of blog reader George Gill. Click to enlarge.
I was looking towards the front door that had just opened, cocked my head and said, “that looks like Governor Rick Scott…that is Rick Scott.”
To say I was surprised is an understatement. No one had told me the governor would be coming.
A surge of contradictory emotions ran through my head, frustration for policies that have not favored wise growth management or environmental policy, and thanks for recommendations of monies towards lifting the Tamiami Trail, so more water can “go south” and the completion of the C-44 reservoir in Martin County.
I stood there thinking, wondering, watching this man, our governor…
I had been invited to the home of Kevin Powers, long time family friend, and vice chair of the Governing Board of the South Florida Water Management District, a position that is appointed by the governor. There were four other people from Stuart in the room, all men, and myself, standing around on a Friday afternoon in Kevin and Marsha Power’s living room looking out onto the St Lucie River. Not my typical Friday afternoon.
“Holy cow,” I thought, “I am going to have the opportunity to speak face to face with our governor… Hummm?…..”
I tried not to stare but I noticed the governor was sitting on the couch. The couch looked deep and he was closely seated next to others in the group, kind of falling into the area between the two cushions. He had on a blue button down shirt, no tie, dark suit pants, and black cowboy boots. He looked human, out of place actually, and kind of shy.
I had kindly been given a sturdy chair at his right side. As I walked to the chair, I looked at the governor and said, “would you like this seat? It seems like you should have a chair….”
He smiled shyly, head low and eyes smiling and said, “No thank you; I’m fine right here.”
I sat down, taking my place in the comfortable and homey living-room and sat back in my chair while the governor fell in-between the cushions.
I learned over closer to him, got my courage up and said. “Thank you for coming here.”
He nodded and asked me what I did to be here today.
“I am a commissioner and former mayor of a small town named Sewall’s Point.” I replied.
“How many people live there?” he asked.
“There are about 850 homes and around 2000 residents,” I replied.
“He perked up, scooting away from the division in the cushions, “you manage a town that only has town 850 homes?” he inquired, looking envious, as the state of Florida has over 19 million people.
“Yes sir, but the 2000 people are very demanding…”
I told him about the first time I was berated at a public meeting, and the challenges of not being able to walk my dogs or go to the grocery store with out running into my constituents.
Rule number one: “Find a common identity factor.” Of course I knew that the governor had been heckled and screamed at by angry crowds in Martin County at the Locks and Dam last summer.
“Martin County is tough,” he said, mentioning two counties in the state that had displayed such raging anger…
“Sir, I said, “please understand, and I know it’s difficult, but here in Martin County this emotion, this anger comes out of love. For our river…”
He looked at me straight in the eye, longer than normal. I held my gaze. We were connected.
Kevin Powers, finally sat down, and the meeting started. Each member of the group was allowed to share. One hundred percent of the focus was on the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon.
I will only speak of my part, but I can say that each person spoke with passion from a business and quality of life perspective. The governor had a yellow legal pad and a blue Sharpie pen, he listened, asked questions, and took notes. Secretary Hershel Vineyard and Lieutenant Governor, Lopez-Cantera were also there. Yes, it is a reelection year; yes, there are lots of things to criticize; nonetheless, it was an incredible opportunity to speak to those in power.
When my time came around the circle, I discussed that Martin County has literally been “dumped on” for decades; that as a business man it seems the governor could relate to the enormous waste of money in that 1.7 billion gallons of water on average per day is wasted to tide through the estuaries and other canals; I said “we sent a man to the moon in 1968, there is no excuse to not find a way to save, store and send some of the water south;” I told him about the River Kidz and how parents were getting involved through their children and that our movement was not going to go away; I gave him a picture book of the photos my husband and I took from an airplane that says “it all” in one photo.
I was great to have my time with the group to speak, but I felt the best communication happened when I talked to the governor “one on one.” When I told him Martin County is angry because of the destruction of something that is dear to them, I think he heard me. CEO or not, everyone understands the power of love.
ABOVE PHOTO: Kevin Powers shows Governor Rick Scott and Lt Governor Lopez-Cantera muck from the bottom of the St Lucie River that in some areas is over 12 feet deep. This sediment build up comes from years of destruction of the areas three canals: C-44, C-23 and C-24 and releases from Lake Okeechobee.