We spend so much time on the coasts, it’s fun to get in the car and cross the state. Ed, the dogs, and I, did just that over the weekend. We saw close-up things we had only seen by air.
What struck me most?
How beautiful the drive was really, but also how there is not an inch of the state that seems untouched.
We saw Taylor Creek, famous for its pollution issues, on the northeast side of Lake Okeechobee that has been channelized like just about every other river; then the famed Kissimmee River of which some has been restored, nonetheless at the bridge crossing it looked dry and unnatural. I thought to myself “this would once have been all floodplain…”
Fort Basinger is also right there at the bridge crossing, a famous place during the Indian Wars, built by Zachary Taylor, our first governor. Close to Sebring on Highway 98 there must have been 20 osprey nests atop the telephone poles! There were signs noting that 98 and others were part of the “Great Florida Cattle Drive.” As I was reading about it on my phone, Ed was telling me to look out the window to see all the chicks with their heads sticking up!
So pretty, and then miles of orange groves, a wonderful sight, as most of Martin’s are dead from greening. And boy, wow, near Mulberry, the phosphate mines! Giant landfills hovering over the landscape. ~Bone Valley and the riches of phosphate mining for fertilizer production, the exact thing that is causing our waters to become impaired and eutrophic, supplying not just Florida but the world. And to think just a couple of years ago one was swallowed up by a sink hole! Radioactive water and all…I could not find out where it went.
Once we got to the west coast near Tampa Bay, the Little Manatee River was lovely although a bit tired looking. Interesting that there is a reservoir in the middle for water supply.
The drive back? More oranges, farmlands, ospreys, lakes, and phosphate mines. Most fun reaching YeeHaw Junction and buying some Plant City strawberries. I made a shake on Sunday morning; strawberries never tasted so good!
I really recommend a day trip across the state. See what’s there. So much is like “Old Florida.” Any Highway will do. Best to zig-zag through, and enjoy the ride.
PHOTOS FROM OUR TRIP
Highway 714 Martin County to Lake Okeechobee:
Taylor Creek at Lake Okeechobee
Wonderful Sable Palm Hammocks
Kissimmee River channelized as C-38, 22 miles now restored
Osprey nests & Orange groves
Little Manatee River
Mosiac sign and osprey nest heading back east
Approaching YeeHaw Junction a crossroads for many decades!
You know I have really just about had it. I know you have too.
I am so tired of posting and writing about the sad state of affairs of our state waters. Every direction one turns!
This weekend many photos showed up on Facebook reporting an enormous fish kill in the Central Indian River Lagoon near Melbourne and Cocoa Beach. These photos of hovering and floating fish are very disturbing.
What is even more upsetting is when one considers the state of just about all of Florida’s waters. Is this the same state I grew up in as a child. Really?
To summarize a few recent, ongoing situations:
CENTRAL INDIAN RIVER LAGOON-experiencing “brown tide” and fish die off…
NORTHERN LAGOON: 2011-2013 Super Bloom, morality events (both north and central), 60% seagrass die off…
–ST LUCIE RIVER/S. INDIAN RIVER LAGOON: repeated discharges from Lake Okeechobee and area canals have destroyed the heath of the river. It was declared “impaired by the state in 2002. State of Emergency due to Lake O called in Feb. 2016).
—-CALOOSAHATCHEE RIVER (The western outlet for lake Okeechobee discharges, the river has been straightened, and connected to Lake O. Sometimes suffers from too little fresh water/high salinity. State of Emergency due to Lake O called in Feb. 2016)
—FLORIDA BAY: over the past few years has lost massive amounts of sea-grasses due to high salinity. When I was just there with my UF NRLI class this year, the bay looked murky. This bay historically received the fresh waters from Lake O.
It was Earth Day yesterday, and my eyes filled with tears as I walked into the Citrus Grove Elementary School classroom. I had been invited to see the graduation of River Kidz for Mrs Jacobson’s second grade class. Once I opened the door, the students were waiting and some took me by the hand sitting me down; they were so exited to show me what they had been learning, and how they were all working to grow up and save the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon.
“This is different.” I thought to myself….”in years past, I would take control of the classroom, but now the kids are taking control of me!”
I watched the classroom dynamics. It was not” top down; ” it worked in both directions: Mrs Jacobsen assisting her students while they in turn assisted her— working together.
While the presentation was prepared, one boy excitedly told me about how the class had built this model of the Kissimmee River to represent what it looked like before it was channelized, “straightened,” by the Army Corp of Engineers between 1960-1971. He also explained “this is one of the things hurting our river…”
He shared that the board painted green was the floodplain’s vegetation, and the plastic tube that weaved and oxbowed, like a snake, was the original river; a cup of water filled with glitter represented nitrogen and phosphorus-what feeds toxic algae blooms in our rivers. This water-glitter concoction would be poured through the tube, (the river) and the extra “nutrient” or fertilizer, would end up in a plastic brown container at the bottom of the tube representing Lake Okeechobee.
We stared with great amazement and observed how because of the oxbows, most of the glitter, was caught in the winding shape, and just a little ended up running through the tube. Students discussed how if the tube were straight, of course all of the green glitter-water would “just shoot down into Lake Okeechobee.”
“This is why the ACOE is fixing some of the river “oxbowey” again…Making the river strait was a bad idea….” 🙂
More complex that this? Of course. But does this help a second grader start to “get it?”
What a visual! How awesome! I was more than impressed…
As the morning went on, we there was a presentation from the “Dolphin Lady,” Nic Mader, and the students showed their artwork, letters to Congressman Murphy, and chart on the white board counting down days left for the Florida Legislature to purchase land south of the lake.
Hoy Cow! —–No, Holy River!
The River Kidz program is in Martin County schools and with the help of great teachers and wonderful students, it’s creating excitement, understanding, empowerment, and responsibility for a better water future. A future for which we can all be proud…
The first time I ever saw Lake Okeechobee, I was fourteen years old. I was visiting River Ranch, at Yeehaw Junction, with my friend Vicki Whipkey, and her family. Jay Brock, who was by far the smartest of any of us kids there that summer vacation, and my first real “crush,” recommended we go see sunset on the lake. I don’t remember how we got there, but we did.
Once we arrived, the sun was starting to fall. The horizon was miles away, and the water went as far as the eye could see in all directions.
“It looks like the ocean, not a lake.” I said, taken aback.
Jay, spouted off some statistics saying something like: “The lake is about 730 square miles; 35 miles long; and up to 25 miles wide. It is the largest lake entirely within a state in the United States of America; it is half the size of Rhode Island.”
I wondered how he know all this stuff, and we sat there watching the sunset.
I wondered if I would have my first kiss at this beautiful, but almost eerie, “ocean of a lake.” It never happened…
I never really forgot Jay Brock, and we remained friends throughout our lives.
I never, never, ever, forgot Lake Okeechobee.
Years later, an adult, I started going back to Lake Okeechobee in my forties when I started to become concerned about the releases from the lake into the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon. I wanted and needed to see it through “adult eyes.”
—-I have flown over the lake with my husband and his friends many times; I have entered the lake by boat; and I have driven 30 miles west with my niece Evie, on Highway 76, until arriving at Port Mayaca. No matter how I have gotten there, every time I see the lake, I have the same experience I had at fourteen years old, I am completely “overcome by its size.”
Yesterday, Governor Rick Scott pledged Amendment 1 monies to the Everglades, but not for buying the US Sugar option 1 lands south of Lake Okeechobee,
I am thankful for this, but disappointed; I am thankful Governor Scott has the Everglades and local projects in his budget recommendation for the 2015 Legislative Session. Nonetheless, I recognize that our St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon problems will never be fixed until there is land and eventually a reservoir south of the lake to store, clean, and convey water south— a flow way of sorts to move that water south….
THERE IS TOO MUCH WATER. SOME MUST GO SOUTH. WE NEED A COMBINATION AND THE OPTION 1 LANDS EXPIRE THIS OCTOBER, 2015.
Let’s think a minute. Let’s review, and contemplate about what we can still do to politely convince our governor and legislature. There is still time.
Florida Oceanographic Society quotes 1.5 or so million acres feet coming out the Kissimmee River into Lake Okeechobee in 2013, (not our worst of years), with approximately 300,000 acre feet being released to the St Lucie/IRL and 660,000 acre feet being releases to the Caloosahatchee. The rest going to sustain the Everglades Agriculture Area south of the lake, and a smaller portion yet trickling to the dying Everglades.
So even if the Kissimmee holds more water, it won’t hold enough water. The water is meant to go south….
I wonder if the governor or Adam Putnam have any grandchildren who might be able to explain this? 🙂
Remember that the Governor’s recommendation is just that. It must be approved by the legislature. We still have time to make our voices heard and to ask for one thing to be added. ——one thing that would really help hold the tremendous and over-pouring waters of Lake Okeechobee, —-a lands purchase and a reservoir south of the lake. Then the senate, the house and the governor can duke it out….it’s not over yet!
What did Winston Churchill say? “Never, never, never, —-never give up!” 🙂
Senator Joe Negron, Senate Appropriations Chair, and leader of the “Senate Hearing on the Indian River Lagoon and Lake Okeechobee,” brought home more money for the IRL compared to any other water body in the state: $231,998,021. Our springs comrades who have been publicly fighting ten years longer than us, brought home 30 million. Tallahassee is wondering who this new kid on the block is, us….
Whether you are a fan or not, it must be noted that Senator Negron stuck his neck out, possibly compromising his senate presidency, to get our “name on the map” as far as Tallahassee goes. Prior to last year, most “good ‘ol boys in Tallahassee would have said, “Indian River Lagoon…Hmmmm? Creature of the Indian Lagoon, ain’t that a movie?”
Nonetheless, I do not pretend to think that these monies alone will cure the lagoon’s ills, as the gorilla in the room has not been addressed “head on and in its entirety:” the releases from Lake Okeechobee through S-308 and S-80. I believe this will come in time if we keep fighting.
In my opinion, the biggest part of change is the first step. With the outrage of the public over the “Lost Summer’s” toxic St Lucie River and Indian River Lagoon, and the support of Senator Negron, one of the few people in a the legislature with the seniority and status to act somewhat independently of demanding party pressures to conform, we have taken the first step forward to fixing the lagoon. Actually, a leap.
WE MUST CONTINUE, YES! But let’s be happy that we have made public progress on a state level more than ever before, and let’s look at what we received, as we should be aware of the gift of public monies from people all over our great state and be full of gratitude.
It’s a lot to go over, but it is important, so I will simply go down the list and summarize. Let’s look at the map as well. Please remember the SLR/IRL is part of the greater Everglades system, from the Kissimmee River area in Orlando, south to the Tamiami Trail in Dade, and beyond to Florida Bay. So anything done to help “the system,” helps us move water south, and with our health as well.
Here we go!
1. $32,000,000 for Water Quality storage in Storm Water Treatment Area 1 in Palm Beach County. Water storage is key to stop releasing so much into the estuaries.
2. $3,000,000 for Best Management Practices (BMPs) for farmers in the St Lucie, Lake O, and Caloosahatee watersheds. It is difficult to swallow more public money going to help farmers with pollution runoff, but there is no other way to do this. We must continue to help fund them, big or small. This is a historical issue as they have been here since the 1800s in many cases. I look at it like “grandfathering” with an extra requirement, as in real estate. The good news is that as time goes on, agriculture businesses will have higher standards to avoid pollution fertilizer, pesticides and fungicide runoff that is killing our waterbodies. Hopefully we can make changes before the rivers and springs die off completely.
3. $40,000,00 for the C-44 Storm Water Treatment Area/reservoir in Martin County. This will offset local drainage farm and urban runoff along the C-44 canal, not water from Lake Okeechobee. We must clean our local runoff as well as it is responsible for around 50% of the destruction to our estuary and on an everyday basis.
4. $2,000,000 CERP Picayune Strand east of Naples in Collier County. This area is important to the southern glades and needs monitoring and vegetative management for water flow and storage and improvement. Hopefully it will help some panthers too!
5. $5,000,000 C-111 South Dade. This is a crucial water delivery system to allow more water to “go south.” A must.
6. $5,000,000 Kissimmee River Restoration. The all time worst thing ever done in Florida other than dike Lake O and redirect the water to the estuaries, was to straighten the Kissimmee River. (Hold my tongue!) Restoration of the ox bows must continue. So far the ACOE has restored about 22 miles of the 56 miles of what was once 153 miles of gorgeous serpentine like, vegetative, wildlife filled, cleansing waters.
7. $18,000,000 C-43 STA along Caloosahatchee River. This is the equivalent of C-44 STA/reservoir for the Caloosahatchee. Only fair. C-43 is a must. They take up to three times the polluted runoff from Lake Okeechobee that we do!
8. $20,000,000 IRL muck removal in northern lagoon. The northern IRL has lost 60% of their seagrasses and has 2 Unexplained Mortality Events including manatee, dolphin, and pelican die offs. Give them what they need! Sediment/muck fills the lagoon over the years from canal runoff covering seagrasses; when stirred up, it releases legacy pollution. GET THE MUCK OUT!
9. $2,075,000 Lake Worth Lagoon. Lake Worth does not get the attention it needs being in development happy Palm Beach County. This area was once full of sea grass and life but not after years of receiving dump water from Lake O, like us, but through a different canal. Local advocate, Lee Shepard, is a great advocate for this part of the lagoon. Let’s help!
10. $4,000,000 Water Quality research for Harbor Branch and ORCA. Although it is hard to justify “more tests,” as we can all see the lagoon is dying, these new, scientific studies will help us find sources to our pollution issues that the legislature can’t ignore. Septic leakage, especially, is difficult to trace without such systems. LOBOS and Kilroys, please help us!
11. $1,000,000 Oyster recovery programs for St Lucie and Caloosahatchee Rivers. Millions of dollars worth of oysters, natural and deployed by government programs, died during the fresh water discharges of 2013 and years before. One oyster can filter 50 gallons of water a day. Government in action….
12. $90,000,000 NUMBER ONE NECESSITY is raising the Tamiami Trail in Dade County so water is not blocked off from going south. They should raise the whole road as the road built in the 1920s cuts off the flow of water south to the Everglades for the entire state. (Another environmental nightmare to fix.)
13, $2,7769,585 This money will be used for pump improvements etc to move more water south and cut away vegetation blocking water “going south,” or hold water in the C-43/44 reservoirs that would go into the estuaries.
14. $2,076,728 The Loxahatchee is one of two “Wild & Scenic Rivers” in the state of Florida and home to tremendous amounts of wildlife. Helping with storm water runoff and preservation is key for the health of this important part of the Everglades System.
15. $2,076,718 The St Lucie Rivers Issues Team has a long history of working with local governments for “close to home” projects along the SLR/IRL. Kathy LaMartina at its helm, South Florida Water Management District. Thank you!
Grand total= $231,998,021
I am grateful to the state legislature, especially Senator Negron, and I must note Governor Scott did not veto one line. But please know everyone, the “fight for right” along the Indian River Lagoon has just begun!
Last week, on a hazy smoked filled afternoon, Ed and I flew over Lake Okeechobee and the once mighty Kissimmee River. There was the normal stress involved with me giving Ed directions and the fun of an adventure. It went something like this:
“Oh there it is, the Kissimmee’s opening to the lake, over there!”
I can’t fly north of “over there,” it’s off limits; it’s a near a bombing range or air force base…” says Ed, shooting me a serious glance.
“What a bombing range-air force base? You’re kidding, close to of some of the state’s richest wildlife habitat? How symbolic…”
Ed rolls his eyes, I can feel it. But he tries harder…
Somehow, Ed talks to Miami Air Traffic Conrol and we get lucky. It is a Sunday and we are allowed to fly over at least part of the area I wish to see.
On the way, we fly over the southwest area of the lake’s agricultural lands. The hand of humankind is reflected in organized, perfect sized boxes of agriculture and straight canals.
We veer off to the northwestern area of the Lake Okeechobee where earth and water meet; on this side of the lake the hand of the Creator still evident. Little specks of light blend together in a blinding symphony of light.
We near the area in Okeechobee County where the mouth of the once great Kissimmee meets Lake Okeechobee. The straightened canal looks out of place among the lush greenery and a small town is evident. There are people here. Flooding is an issue.
It is great seeing “it all” from above as I have never really been able to figure out on a map where the Kissimmee River restoration is happening. It starts about 20 miles north of the lake.
The Kissimmee river was once 103 miles of wildlife/fish filled meandering oxbows, but it was canalized to a depth of 30 feet as C-38 from 1962-71. This was part of the Army Corp of Engineers and the Central and South Florida “Flood Control Project” of 1954. The state had asked for help after two back to back hurricanes and wide spread flooding and destruction in 1945. The state got help but with untended consequences…
The Kissimmee River that once meandered south to Lake Okeechobee as part of a two mile wide flood plane now shot down to the lake with grave environmental effects that included the destruction of the estuaries, St Lucie/Indian River Lagoon and Caloosahatechee.
Since 1994, around 23 miles of the now 56 mile long canal, C-38, from Lake Kissimmee to Lake Okeechobee has been/is being backfilled and considered part of “the” most ambitious environmental restoration project in the world.
Recently, the ACOE and SFWMD have been in a dispute over the completion of the restoration project. The project is tremendously expensive requiring federal and state funding which has not come easy since 2008. The two agencies “cost share” in its completion. Word is they are “working things out…”
The long term goal is to continue the restoration of at least 20 miles more of the 56 miles of the canal.
In light of the dying Indian River Lagoon, it is important to see that restoration can be accomplished. Mother Nature is quick to rebound once given the chance.
The Kissimmee’s restoration is critical, as the polluted waters coming from Orlando south carry sediment, and urban and agricultural runoff into the lake. As we know, when the lake gets too full the water is diverted to the estuaries because the water is not presently allowed to flow south, as the EAA (Everglades Agricultural Area) is located there along with cities of people.
So we here along the St Lucie Indian River Lagoon, are fighting a two front war. One north and the other south of the lake. We are winning in the north because the ACOE and SFWMD recognized their/our mistakes, and have been working since 1994. We are also getting closer in the to finding a safe way to “move the water south…” CEPP (Central Everglades Planning Project) is not looking good right now, but the pressure is on, and even Tallahassee is saying “move the water south!”
We must have inspiration or we will never complete our goal of saving the estuaries. The Kissimmee River is a place to look and find hope.
2014 Google Earth map of restored area of Kissimmee River.