Tag Archives: Lake Okeechobee

Black Bobcat Hit by Car in Sebring; Please Drive with Care! SLR/IRL

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The photo below of was shared by my friend, and UF NRLI class member, Florida Wildlife Commission, senior wildlife biologist, Angeline Scotten. Angeline was recently called to Sebring, located northwest of Lake Okeechobee, to identify an unusual and beautiful canine hit by car, a black bobcat. Black bobcats, more properly called “melanistic,” are often reported as “black panthers.”

Melanism, like albinism, is a rare genetic trait that few are able to witness…in the photo below we can see the cat’s unique coloring in the sunlight.

This remarkable creature is one of thousands of animals killed on Florida’s highways every year. I am posting this photo in hopes that by seeing it, somehow it may will help save the life of another. Please drive carefully looking out for bobcats and the rest of God’s creatures!

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Melanistic bobcat hit by car in Sebring, Fl. Photo shared by FWC’s Angeline Scotten 2/17.

*Thank you to Angeline Scotten for sharing this photograph.

 

melanism
[mel-uh-niz-uh m]
noun
Zoology. the condition in which an unusually high concentration of melanin occurs in the skin, plumage, or pelage of an animal.

http://myfwc.com/wildlifehabitats/profiles/mammals/land/bobcat/

Various links on melanistic bobcat sightings in South Florida: http://tibba.net/post/black-panther-is-the-melanistic-color-variant-of-any-panthera-species

http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/1887921/posts

http://www.buschwildlife.org/rescuestories.html

http://cryptomundo.com/cryptozoo-news/maehers-bobcats/

http://hrproperties.com/nature-in-harbour-ridge

Former blog posts on black bobcats:
https://jacquithurlowlippisch.com/tag/black-bobcat-cubs/

https://jacquithurlowlippisch.com/2014/03/07/the-black-bobcats-of-the-st-lucie-region-and-indian-river-lagoon/

Port Mayaca’s Beautiful Gem, The Cypress Lodge, SLR/IRL

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Historic Postcard courtesy of historian Sandra Henderson Thurlow.
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Back of post card

If one drives to end of Kanner Highway adjacent to the C-44 Canal connecting the St Lucie River to Lake Okeechobee, there is a gem to see. A place that will take you back to an earlier time. The name of this place is the “Cypress Lodge,” in Port Mayaca.

According the “History of Martin County,” this beautiful lodge first opened its doors in 1938 and is *now operated by Mr and Mrs Charles Dorrell functioning as a resting stop for tired motorist crossing the state from north to south, or east to west.”

Page 253 reads: “The lodge, boasting an outstanding cellar, is colonial in design, built  originally as a tavern, has been operating ever since. The two-story all cypress building with a large dining room, is staffed mostly by residents of Pahokee, Canal Point, and surrounding towns. It is said more people work in Port Mayaca than live there.”

Just last week I learned that friend, and long time Stuart resident, Elsie Jean Stewart, has deep ties to the property as her parents were married there. She recently shared with me a wonderful family photo of the young couple. Their tremendous smiles in black in white were full of color. What days these must have been…

I recently drove out past the lodge on my way to Belle Glade while daydreaming what the area was like as in the mid-1800s between Seminole Wars. I saw a giant cypress forest full of wildlife and there was no dike around the lake, so from horseback, I could see over the wide expanse of  Lake Okeechobee….

Those things are gone and the lodge was built later, but it is still connected. I have been curious to see the structure as I have been missing it on my recent drives to Belle Glade. On my last trip, I figured out that at some point the historic Connors’ Highway had been rerouted so now at the Lake, one must turn north rather than south to see the familiar structure.

When I found the lodge, I took some photos to share. Still beautiful. Still timeless. I believe today it is a private residence. Thankfully it is still here and remains a gem of Martin County’s fascinating history around Lake Okeechobee.

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Historic Register: http://www.waymarking.com/waymarks/WMAVCV_Cypress_Lodge__Port_Mayaca_FL

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The Cypress Lodge and Port Mayaca are located west near S-308 at Lake Okeechobee. You can see the C-44’s connection from the Lake to the South Fork of the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon. 

2-18-17: Correction!

Today I figured out, thanks to an article by the Luckhardts, that although not mentioned in the “History of Martin County” on page 252-3 , it was Paul M. Hoenshel of Miami who originally built and operated the lodge. Hoenshel is the grandfather of Elsie Jean Stewart whose “parents were married in the lodge” that I mention…. Jacqui

History Cypress Lodge by Alice and Greg Luckhardt: http://www.tcpalm.com/story/specialty-publications/your-news/martin-county/reader-submitted/2017/02/17/historical-vignettes-historic-cypress-lodge-port-mayaca/98056346/

Airspace, President Trump, and the Destiny of Our St Luice River/Indian River Lagoon, SLR/IRL

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Circles showing TFR, Temporary Flight Restrictions

Witham Air Field in Martin County is north, just outside of the circles….the circles that designate “No Fly Zones”during Presidient’s Trump’s return home today to Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach. Many Palm Beachers will be flying into Witham who can’t get into Palm Beach due to the flight restrictions. Perhaps as they pass through they will be learning about the vociferous but sleepy little town of Stuart, to their north, with the toxic water problems stemming from discharges from Lake Okeechobee?

Martin and Palm Beach counties have a long history. In fact, Martin County was formed of north Palm Beach County in 1925. Our destiny is connected…

Looking at the circles on the “Temporary Fly Restriction” map above, sent to my husband, reminded me of some other circles that are also causing a stir. Senate President Joe Negron’s proposed circles for land purchase in the EAA. I know you are familiar with that map! I hope President Trump reads the local paper while he’s here. Or maybe he’ll even get a chance to meet with the President of the Florida Senate?

As we know, in today’s world, anything can happen…

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Palm Beach Post: http://www.palmbeachpost.com/news/state–regional-govt–politics/negron-defends-plan-buy-land-for-lake-okeechobee-cleanup/ad5uuAtxgWErmvCqGbhGmJ/

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Circles showing Senate President Joe Negron’s proposed land purchase in the EAA

Below is an explanation of the NO FLY as explained by Palm Beach Post reporter Eliot Kleinberg, January 24, 2017

Planned flight restrictions when President Trump is at Mar-a-Lago:

A “no fly” zone in a 1-mile radius. Commercial flights that normally would leave or arrive on a straight line from PBIA must instead angle north or south.

A ring of 10 nautical miles bars all private planes from landing at either PBIA or Lantana unless they came from a “gateway airport,” at which they’ve been screened by the Transportation Safety Administration. Any planes that land at Lantana can’t leave until Trump is gone.

A ring of 30 nautical miles allows only planes traveling to or from fields outside the 10 mile ring, all of those closely monitored by air traffic controllers.

Banned at Lantana during visits: all flight training, practice approaches, parachuting, and flights of aerobatic aircraft, gliders, seaplanes, ultralights, gliders and hang-gliders, balloons, and even crop-dusters. Also banned: banner-towing and sightseeing, maintenance test flights, model rockets and aircraft, utility and pipeline surveys and drones.

A ring of 10 nautical miles bars all private planes from landing at either PBIA or Lantana unless they came from a “gateway airport,” at which they’ve been screened by the Transportation Safety Administration. Any planes that land at Lantana can’t leave until Trump is gone.

And a ring of 30 nautical miles allows only planes traveling to or from fields outside the 10 mile ring, all of those closely monitored by air traffic controllers.

More ominously for Lantana: the restrictions ban from that airport, at leeast while Trump is in town, all flight training, practice approaches, parachuting, and flights of aerobatic aircraft, gliders, seaplanes, ultralights, gliders and hang-gliders, balloons, and even crop-dusters. Also banned: banner-towing and sightseeing, maintenance test flights, model rockets and aircraft, utility and pipeline surveys and drones.

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Below is the Report from https://www.aopa.org : Over Palm Beach, FL beginning Friday, February 3, 2017(((Change in times)))

30 NM RADIUS TFR

Location
On the PALM BEACH VORTAC (PBI) 094 degree radial at 1.6 nautical miles.
From the surface up to but not including 18,000 feet MSL.

2 NM EXCLUSION

Location
On the PALM BEACH VORTAC (PBI) 349 degree radial at 30.9 nautical miles.
From the surface up to but not including 18,000 feet MSL.
Location
On the FORT LAUDERDALE VOR/DME (FLL) 004 degree radial at 7.4 nautical miles.
From the surface up to but not including 18,000 feet MSL.

Times:
4:15 PM local Friday, February 3, 2017 until 11:30 AM Monday, February 6, 2017
10 NM RADIUS NO-FLY ZONE

Location
On the PALM BEACH VORTAC (PBI) 094 degree radial at 1.6 nautical miles.
From the surface up to but not including 18,000 feet MSL.

Times:
4:15 PM local Friday, February 3, 2017 until 11:30 AM Monday, February 6, 2017

Affected Public Use Airports

KPBI Palm Beach Intl
KLNA Palm Beach County Park
F45 North Palm Beach County General Aviation
KBCT Boca Raton

KPMP Pompano Beach Airpark
KFXE Fort Lauderdale Executive
X58 Indiantown
Additional Notes:

No pilots may operate an aircraft in the areas covered by this NOTAM (except as described).

Except as specified below and/or unless authorized by ATC in consultation with the air traffic security coordinator via the domestic events network (DEN):

A. All aircraft operations within the 10 NMR area(s) listed above, known as the inner core(s), are prohibited except for: Approved law enforcement, military aircraft directly supporting the United States Secret Service (USSS) and the office of the President of the United States, approved air ambulance flights, and regularly scheduled commercial passenger and all-cargo carriers operating under one of the following TSA-Approved Standard Security Programs/Procedures: Aircraft Operator Standard Security Program (AOSSP), Full All-Cargo Aircraft Operator Standard Security Program (FACAOSSP), Model Security Program (MSP), Twelve Five Standard Security Program (TFSSP) All Cargo, Or All-Cargo International Security Procedure (ACISP) and are arriving into and/or departing from 14 CFR part 139 airports. All emergency/life-saving flight (medical/law enforcement/firefighting) operations must coordinate with ATC prior to their departure at 561-684-9047 to avoid potential delays.

B. For operations within the airspace between the 10 NMR and 30 NMR area(s) listed above, known as the outer ring(s): All aircraft operating within the outer ring(s) listed above are limited to aircraft arriving or departing local airfields, and workload permitting, ATC may authorize transit operations. Aircraft may not loiter. All aircraft must be on an active IFR or VFR flight plan with a discrete code assigned by an air traffic control (ATC) facility. Aircraft must be squawking the discrete code prior to departure and at all times while in the TFR and must remain in two-way radio communications with ATC.

C. All flight operations not covered in paragraph A. within the 10 NMR area must be security screened by TSA at a gateway airport prior to arriving or departing Palm Beach International Airport (KPBI). Aircraft operators must register with the TSA for gateway screening no less than 24 hours prior to their scheduled departure time. Reservations for screening may begin on February 01, 2017 and last through the duration of the event by calling TSA at 561-616-9650.

D. Gateway airports have been created at Palm Beach International Airport (KPBI), Orlando International Airport (KMCO), Fort Lauderdale International Airport (KFLL), Dulles International Airport (KIAD), Teterboro Airport (KTEB), and Westchester Co. Airport (KHPN) by TSA to accommodate aircraft arriving or departing Palm Beach International Airport (KPBI).

E. TSA screening will not be available on Friday 2/3/2017. TSA screening will be available from 1702041300 UTC (0800 local 02/04/17) to 1702042200 UTC (1700 local 02/04/17), 1702051300 UTC (0800 local 02/05/17) to 1702052200 UTC (1700 local 02/05/17), and 1702061300 UTC (0800 local 02/06/17) to 1702061500 UTC (1000 local 02/06/17). Pilots, crew and passengers must provide valid government-issued photo identification to the TSA at the gateway airport. Gateway screening will include id verification and vetting of all pilots, crew and passengers, screening of persons and baggage, and inspection of the aircraft. No firearms on board aircraft will be authorized.

F. On departure from a gateway airport aircraft must maintain radio contact with ATC and continuously squawk an ATC-assigned discrete code. Intermediate stops while enroute are not authorized unless an emergency exists.

G. The following operations are not authorized within this TFR: flight training, practice instrument approaches, aerobatic flight, glider operations, seaplane operations, parachute operations, ultralight, hang gliding, balloon operations, agriculture/crop dusting, animal population control flight operations, banner towing operations, sightseeing operations, maintenance test flights, model aircraft operations, model rocketry, unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), and utility and pipeline survey operations.

H. FAA recommends that all aircraft operators check NOTAMs frequently for possible changes to this TFR prior to operations within this region.

TFR over Palm Beach, FL beginning Friday, February 3, 2017(((Change in times))): https://contentsharing.net/actions/email_web_version.cfm?recipient_id=2873089534&message_id=13922314&user_id=AOPA%5F4&group_id=4023858&jobid=36382299

“Airspace will change,” Palm Beach Post: http://postonpolitics.blog.palmbeachpost.com/2017/02/02/why-president-donald-trumps-palm-beach-arrival-could-affect-your-friday-commute/

Witham Air Field, Stuart, FL: https://www.aopa.org/airports/KSUA

President Negron’s Memorandum to the Florida Senate, Senate Bill 10,”Protecting Coastal Counties from Polluted Discharges” SLR/IRL

For me this memorandum, perhaps more than other work published, helps the everyday person understand Senate Bill 10. Thus I share today. Thank you Senate President Joe Negron, “Champion of champions,” for the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon!

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THE FLORIDA SENATE

SENATOR JOE NEGRON President

MEMORANDUM

SUITE 409, THE CAPITOL, 404 SOUTH MONROE STREET ▪ TALLAHASSEE, FLORIDA 32399-1100 ▪ TELEPHONE (850) 487-5229 Senate’s Website: http://www.flsenate.gov

TO: All Senators

FROM: Joe Negron, President

SUBJECT: Protecting Coastal Counties from Polluted Discharges DATE: January 26, 2017

I greatly appreciate the support many of you have provided over the last several years as my home community and others across our state have been flooded with billions of gallons of polluted water that destroys our estuaries and harms our local economies. Today Senator Bradley filed Senate Bill 10, an act relating to water resources, to begin the formal process of purchasing land to increase water storage south of Lake Okeechobee. This legislation provides a clear plan to address this plague on our communities in a manner that respects the interests of the agricultural community and private land owners. While I have had the opportunity to discuss this critical issue with each of you, I wanted to provide a brief summary of how we arrived at this solution as well as a summary of Senator Bradley’s legislation.

Background: Record rainfall this past year resulted in unseasonably high water levels in Lake Okeechobee, which threatened the integrity of the Herbert Hoover Dike. To maintain safe water levels, the Army Corps of Engineers authorized the release of billions of gallons of water from the Lake to the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee Rivers. Such freshwater discharges cause significant environmental damage by lowering the salinity levels of the estuaries and introducing pollutants into coastal waters. Due to the discharges this summer, massive amounts of toxic algae that originated in Lake Okeechobee were sent to the estuaries and coastal waterways.

The extent and severity of the blooms resulted in Governor Scott declaring a state of emergency in four Florida counties.

These algal blooms have occurred before and will occur again unless high volume discharges from Lake Okeechobee are stopped and pollution in the Lake Okeechobee basin is abated. Algal blooms are not simply an unsightly nuisance for residents and tourists. They bring real health risks to humans and wildlife and result in severe economic damage to local businesses.

January 26, 2017 Page 2

As a result of the high volume discharges, coastal communities experienced enormous harmful algal blooms with devastating impacts not only to the ecology of local waterways, but also to residents, fishermen, and local businesses.

Despite the sincere efforts of our state and federal government to plan and fund long-term solutions to address rising water levels and pollution in Lake Okeechobee, year after year as the Lake levels rise, the solution is to flood my community and many others across our state with billions of gallons of polluted water.

From Governor Jeb Bush’s historic support of the bipartisan Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP) in 2000 to the recent University of Florida Water Institute study commissioned by the Senate and completed in 2015, for nearly two decades, there has been scientific consensus and recognition by state leaders that additional water storage south of Lake Okeechobee is necessary to stop this ongoing problem. This sentiment was reiterated as speaker after speaker addressed our Appropriations Subcommittee on the Environment and Natural Resources calling for increased storage south of the Lake.

Senate Bill 10 authorizes bonding a portion of proceeds from the Land Acquisition Trust Fund, set aside by the voter-approved Water and Land Conservation Amendment (Amendment 1, 2014), to purchase land and construct a reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee to reduce harmful discharges to the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries.

Senate Bill 10 Summary: Senate Bill 10 authorizes the issuance of bonds to raise over a billion dollars to acquire 60,000 acres of land and build a reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee to reduce harmful discharges to the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries.The reservoir is expected to hold 120 billion gallons of water, approximately as much water as was discharged from Lake Okeechobee into the St. Lucie Estuary between January and May of 2016. The creation of significant storage capacity south of the Lake will help manage Lake levels in anticipation of periods of high rainfall like this year’s predicted El Nino weather pattern. Storing water during the wet season provides the additional benefit of allowing water to be sent south to hydrate the Everglades and Florida Bay, or for agricultural use, during the dry season.

The estimated cost of a reservoir on 60,000 acres of land providing 120 billion gallons of storage in the area south of Lake Okeechobee is roughly $2.4 billion. With the federal government paying at least half of the cost of such a reservoir, the state’s commitment would be $1.2 billion. The bill authorizes the use of approximately $100 million of documentary stamp tax revenue set aside by the Water and Land Conservation  Amendment (Amendment 1, 2014) annually over the next 20 years to finance land acquisition and construction of the reservoir.

January 26, 2017 Page 3

The bill directs the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) to begin the formal process of purchasing land from willing sellers. The project is subject to Congressional approval to secure the 50/50 cost sharing agreement authorized for other CERP projects.

If the SFWMD is unable to identify sellers of land appropriate for a reservoir through an open solicitation by the end of 2017, the legislation authorizes the Board of Trustees to exercise the option with U.S. Sugar entered into in 2010 to buy 153,000 acres of land in the Everglades Agricultural Area, for the purpose of securing the 60,000 acres necessary for the reservoir and to begin planning the construction of the reservoir.

If the state is ultimately unable to purchase land for the reservoir by November 30, 2018, the legislation increases the ongoing Legacy Florida appropriation by an additional $50 million for the CERP, which includes a reservoir in the Everglades Agricultural Area as a key component. This is in addition to Legacy Florida’s existing commitment of $200 million. Legacy Florida also requires preference among these projects to be given to projects that reduce the harmful discharges from Lake Okeechobee to the St. Lucie or Caloosahatchee Estuaries.

As we move forward, I have a personal mission to work with the agricultural community, to work with Florida’s best scientists, and to work with every member of the Legislature, to protect our estuaries, to protect our lagoons, and to put the harmful discharges from Lake Okeechobee that destroy our environment and harm our economy into the past pages of history instead of the daily front pages of newspapers. I appreciate your consideration of this proposal and look forward to discussing it further in the days and weeks ahead.

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(For a full copy of Senate Bill 10, go to http://www.flsenate.gov/ and put 10 into “Bill” section at top of page.)
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Aerials of EAA’s A-1 & A-2, SLR/IRL

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Map giving an idea of location of A-1 and A-2
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A-1 with A-2 in distance

EAA=Everglades Agricultural Area

A-1 is a Flow Equalization Basin located above Strom Water Treatment Area 3/4 that today is part of a state program for EAA water quality improvement called “Restoration Strategies.”  The A-1 was once was part of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan’s EAA Reservoir.

A-2 is to A-1’s  west and is presently in agricultural use but scheduled to become another Flow Equalization Basin as part of the Central Everglades Planning Project coordinated by the South Florida Water Management District and the Army Corp of Engineers.

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Over the weekend, I asked my husband, Ed, to fly me over the A-1 and A-2. He rolled his eyes as he does when I use “acronyms speak,” saying: “Just tell me where you want to go….and get a map.”

I got my old Florida Atlas & Gazetteer that works just fine…

As Ed drank his coffee, I gave him the plan.

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“Well we’re going to fly west over the C-44 Canal and then go south around Lake Okeechobee until we get to Belle Glade and there we are going to follow the North New River Canal south adjacent to Highway 27 until the bend, and the A-1 and A-2 should be just past there….”

Ed looked at me like I was crazy, smiling; I remind him that’s why he loves me and we were off!

Today I am sharing our photos of the area of the A-1.

Sit back and enjoy the flight…

Jacqui

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A-1 with A-2 lands in distance

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CEPP:http://141.232.10.32/pm/projects/proj_51_cepp.aspx
Restoration Strategies:https://www.sfwmd.gov/our-work/restoration-strategies
EAA Reservoir what was completed before change to FEB:http://www.barnard-inc.com/projects/environmental/eaa-a-1-reservoir-environmental
Senate President Joe Negron’s Reservoir goal:http://www.sun-sentinel.com/local/palm-beach/fl-lake-okeechobee-reservoir-negron-20160809-story.html

Overview of Florida Bay’s Water Problems and How They Are Connected to Ours, SLR/IRL

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Florida Bay algae bloom, photo Captain Daniel Andrews at 1500 feet, Dec. 20, 2016

Last Thursday, concerned citizens traveled to Tallahassee. Some were from the East Coast, some were from the West Coast, and some were from Florida’s Southern Tip. Those from the Southern Tip, like us from the Northern Estuaries, are experiencing a die off.

But their estuary is even larger and more famous; its name is Florida Bay. The sometimes confusing part of reading about all the present water issues is that Florida Bay’s die off is due to lack of fresh water, rather than too much such as ours. Nonetheless, as with everything in life, it’s all connected.

Florida Bay has been heavily impacted over the years not only because of the redirection of about *20 percent of its waters from Lake Okeechobee that used to flow south, but also due to the encroachment of development into the Everglades’ watershed near Homestead and north thereof. Years ago this development cut off water to Florida Bay especially through Taylor Slough, a shallow river.  (See map below)

During a recent visit, my husband and I noted this area east of Everglades National Park experiencing a real estate boom of highway construction and the sell off of agricultural lands for residential development, so this encroachment issue will only increase over the coming years.

Shark River Slough, to the east, is much larger and also feeds the Bay. (See map below)

Although the South Florida Water Management District and Army Corp of Engineers have been “working hard” on the area of the Taylor Slough area of the state, it will not be enough to save the dying Bay that has lost up to 50,000 acres of seagrass recently according to Dr Davis of the Everglades Foundation and reports by local fishermen.

The photos shared in this post by Captain Daniel Andrews of Ft Meyers show the a section of the Bay on December 20th, 2016, at around 1500 feet south of Cape Sable. Cape Sable is west of Taylor Slough but still affected. The waters of the Bay have been decreased not only through Taylor Slough, but also Shark River Slew, of which Lake Okeechobee was once connected as documented by our Native Americans.

Captain Daniel said in an interview: ” The last major die off the Bay had was in 1987, and it resulted in a decade of algae blooms from all the nutrients that were released by the decaying grass. It took ten years for it to recover.”

Now this cycle is happening all over again, in sync with toxic blooms in the St Lucie and Caloosahatchee Estuaries caused by too much water.

Too little or too much. We are all connected…

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National Park Service report on dying seagrasses and algae blooms in Florida Bay: https://www.nps.gov/ever/learn/nature/upload/seagrass-Dieoff_final_web_hi_res.pdf

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Photo courtesy of Captain Daniel Andrews, Captains For Clean Water

* Florida Park Service, Everglades National Park

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Captain Daniel Andrews can be contacted at:https://captainsforcleanwater.org

#SupportJoeNegron

“What The Muck?!” SLR/IRL

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Flying over the black gold of the EAA. JTL
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Fields in Pahokee, JTL

Road Trip Series.

Since I began my Glades “Road Trip” Series, I have read three books by Lake Okeechobee historian, Laurence E. Will: Okeechobee Hurricane, Swamp to Sugar Bowl, and A Cracker History of Okeechobee.

These books hold amazing stories of the Glades; if Mr. Will hadn’t written, there would be very few first-hand accounts of farming that became a Florida mega-industry just over the first half century of the 1900s. Today, I will transcribe some of his most interesting descriptions of Lake Okeechobee, the magical landscape that was transformed into today’s contoversial Everglades Agricultural Area, for none other than its MUCK.

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EAA below Lake Okeechobee. (Public map SFWMD)
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Photo of pond apples also know to locals as custard apples in Big Cypress- shared on Flicker by photographer Mac Stone, allow us to envision what this incredible forest looked like. 32,000 acres rimming the southern and eastern shore of Lake Okeechobee. The best muck built up over thousands of years under these roots that worked like a seine as the lake overflowed its edge then running south through the sawgrass. The Everglades….

When I was on my recent tour with former mayor of Pahokee, J.P. Sasser, I learned the nick-name for Pahokee is “The Muck,” named so for the “black gold” soil that accumulated over thousands of years under the roots of a custard apple forest that rimmed the lake. (Kind of like fresh water mangroves today in the Indian River Lagoon.)

When one drives deeper into the Glades, one finds similar nick-names or “muck mottos,” that have to do with the muck. For instance, Belle Glade’s motto is “Her Soil is Her Fortune;” Clewiston’s is “America’s Sweetest Town,” and South Bay’s refers to its highways, “Crossroads of South Florida,” named so for its intersection of two major roads, East-West State Road 80, and North-South, U.S. Highway 27, roads that get one into the muck, or out of it….

Will first experienced the Lake in the early 1900s as a boy when his father was developing Okeelanta, located about four miles below today’s South Bay. Okeelanta, today a mill location for the Fanjul holdings, was located not in an apple custard forest, but rather in the miles of sawgrass lying south. Although the soil here is excellent, it is different, more peaty and not as “mucky.” Thus the most productive lands lie closer to the lake, deep in the MUCK.

Here is a moving account by Will about the land of muck in “Cracker History of Lake Okeechobee:

“Before the dredges crashed through the custard apple woods to start the first canals, the lake most always stayed high and clear, unbroken except for those islands Kreamer, Torry, and Observation. When I first saw the lake it was still wild. Excusing the trifling settlements at Utopia, Ritta, and Tantie, a score of fishing camps, and the openings to four unfinished canals, it’s swampy shores hadn’t changed since Zachary Taylor found the redskins or probably not since DeSoto anchored in Tampa Bay. It sill was just as the good Lord had fashioned it. The lake was lonely Mack, silent and mysterious as well. But I tell you boy, it was beautiful, and sort of inspiring too.”

Will was absolutely pro development, pro farming/agriculture,  but he, like most of the old timers, recognized the tremendous awe-inspiring beauty of the place.

Most all the natural beauty the lakeside shoreline in Martin County, where the FPL Power Plant is today, and north to the town of Okeechobee has also been radically altered as well.

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FPL solar plant and “cooling pond” in Martin County looking west towards “Barley Barber Swamp.” This area was once a forest of mostly giant cypress trees and others. JTL

Excerpts by Lawrence E. Will:

“Dense forest ringed the lake around. Along its northern half water oak, maple, cypress, potash, rubber and palmetto trees crowded each other on the lakeshore ridge…the south shore and half way up the eastern side was something else… Here were custard apples, a solid belt of tropical trees, blanketed with a moonvine cover, which stood, two miles or more in width, without break or opening, from near Clewiston’s Sand Point, slap around to Port Mayaca. 32,000 acres of custard apple woods there were, the most of these trees, I wouldn’t doubt, on the whole blamed continent of America.”

“…Although the shores were for the most part black muck, low and flat, there were some fine sandy beaches too. Along the east side for eighteen miles lay beautiful East Beach…”

“Now if Zachary Taylor or Hamilton Disston could return to Okeechobee they would find that farmers have exterminated the custard apple woods. Highways, service stations, super markets and housing projects have replaced the cypress, rubber and maple trees along the ridge. A levee occupies the onetime shore and drainage has lowered by half a dozen feet the water’s elevation. Tractors cultivate the former seining grounds, and unless you as old–and no amount, as some of us, your never heard of town of Tantie, Utopia or Ritta. Civilization has re-made the lake and I’d be the last to say it isn’t better so, but the lakeshore’s one time natural beauty is long gone, and man, wasn’t that old lake a fascinating place.” 

Well, to the land of Lake Okeechobee! For all she was, and for all she is. It’s enough to make one exclaim:”What The Muck?!!!”

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Agriculture’s Eradication of the Mythical Pond Apple Forest, Lake Okeechobee, SLR/IRL: https://www.google.com/amp/s/jacquithurlowlippisch.com/2015/04/15/agricultures-eradication-of-the-mythical-pond-apple-forest-lake-okeechobee-slrirl/amp/?client=safari

Black Gold and Silver Sands, Snyder/Historical Society of Palm Beach County https://floridafoodandfarm.com/book-reviews/turning-soil-gold-silver-look-back-palm-beach-county-agriculture/

Lawrence E. Will: http://museumoftheglades.org

war map
War map of the Everglades created during the Seminole Wars, 1856.

*Custard Apples are also known as Pond Apples. The old photos of the trees are from Mr Will’s books or the Florida Memory Project.

photo pond apple
Pond apple blossom. Photo by Lisa Jefferson, 2015.

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Proposed land purchase in the EAA, Senator Joe Negron 2016/17.