Recently, the Florida House of Representatives announced its committee appointments made by new House Speaker Jose Oliva. Today, I will note those appointed to environmental committees which, of course, function in the dark ages, bound together with agriculture. Advocates should know these key players and build relationships now, and during the committee process that beings January 8, 2019 ~not once Legislative Session begins in March. Too late!
So here we go…
The really all-powerful Speaker of the House is Jose Oliva who will reign from the end of 2018 to 2020. He is from Miami Lakes and is C.E.O. of Oliva Cigar Co. Read about him below and the committees and representatives over which he has great influence. Congratulations to him on attaining this leadership role that very few achieve.
Speaker Oliva’s environmental appointments are below with an article or two giving background on each appointee. Agriculture and Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee Chair, Rep. Holly Raschein is from Key Largo and a Health Care Special Projects Manager. Vice-chair, Rep. Rick Roth is from West Palm Beach and his heritage is linked to a multi-generational family-farm in the Everglades Agricultural Area. Holly has a track record supporting environmental issues such as the EAA Reservoir and Rick works for the environment within the goals of the EAA Environmental Protection District and the 1994 Everglades Forever Act. Read below about both representatives and what they have to say.
Interestingly, Holly Raschein also serves on the Subcommittee for Agriculture as and Natural Resources as vice-chair to, chair, Chuck Wesley, a College Administrator from Newberry (near Gainesville). Rep Wesley notes that “sustainable agriculture and the environment are some of his top goals.” You can read what he wrote in an op-ed for below. All this sounds good. But what does that really mean? Our job is to hold all of these politicians accountable.
Yes, it is important we know and communicate with who is in charge. I hope you will reach out to all of them through letter best, but email, or phone call helps too. I wish all my readers a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays! Thank you for reading my blog in 2019. I’m looking forward to seeing what 2019 will bring…
For more information on Florida House of Representatives go here https://www.myfloridahouse.gov. Look at their calendar, see when committees meet, follow what they are reviewing and call, write their office to let them know how much you love Florida and that water is key!
Evan Miller grew up in Stuart, Florida, not far from the St Lucie Locks and Dam. He attended Crystal Lakes Elementary School, Hidden Oaks Middle School, South Fork and Martin County High Schools, graduating in 2002.
As a kid, Evan would ride his bike down to the St Lucie Locks and Dam with his friends. He knew the sad story of the lake and St Lucie River. He knew about the long history and steady destruction of the waterways he loved that one day would come to a head. But little did he know, that it would happen in his lifetime, and he would lead the message.
The story is this—
After graduating, Evan was sponsored as a professional surfer and lived in Costa Rica, and came home in 2012. Upon his return, he saw the river’s decline and innocently put a message on his Facebook page during the “Lost Summer os 2013,” when the river was posted by the Health Department as “off-limits.” Evan’s message read: “Who wants to meet me at the locks?”
Believe it or not, this request turned into a rally of over 5000 people!
Two weeks later, Evan organized a beach rally, putting down stakes and having a surveyor friend help him create the letters–over 2000 people came and spelled out in the sand SAVE OUR RIVER.
Destiny had found its man…
Now in 2016, under even worse conditions, after the St Lucie River and area beaches turned into a toxic-soup from an onslaught of releases from Lake Okeechobee since January—- that in time were dumping toxic algae from the lake into the river—- Evan has used his Facebook talents again.
This past Saturday, on July 3rd, the Martin County Sheriff’s Department reported that over 3500 people, from every walk of life, came out to spell in the sand the message of the masses to fix the lake and river debacle: BUY THE LAND.
This event played out over the 4th of July weekend on national media outlets. People in Martin County were getting phone calls from people in other states they had not spoken to in years. My father got a call from a man in his wedding from 1962 who lives in California. They had not spoken in years…
“What’s going on down there?”
Yes, the world has “seen” the peoples’ message thanks to Evan.
As part of my University of Florida “Natural Resources Leadership Institute” program, I will be leaving this Wednesday for five days to Apalachicola Bay in Florida’s panhandle where the historic oyster industry is dying due to lack of upstream fresh water from Georgia. Last month, I traveled to Titusville, along the Indian River Lagoon, to learn about NASA, Space Florida, and serious concerns over possible future land use inside the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge.
I have been waiting to write about my experience in Titusville until now. It was rather intense, and I wanted time to think. Also our NRLI Class XV newsletter came out recently and provides perspective and background on the visit and the program.
On the second day of NRLI, after much preparation, our class was driven to NASA to visit the assembly building for the rockets and to take a tour of the grounds. Nothing would have prepared me for walking into that building. I can only liken it to the cathedrals in Belgium and Germany I saw when I was younger whose Gothic architecture “forced my eye to God.”
Upon entering the building, I was struck by a feeling of awe. It hit me, the creative force of humanity necessary to organize and go into space. The successes and the failures. Lives lost and new perspective of the universe gained….and what about the future?
I felt proud to be American, my eyes teared up, and I turned away from my fellow classmates for fear they would think me nuts. Later on, I learned that many others had the same experience.
It is very difficult in a blog post to get into all the detail of my visit, but I can share that NASA’s Kennedy a Space Center is presently located in the area where you see Highway 528 on the above map. NASA is recreating itself since the Federal Government basically shut down the space program here just a few years ago, and around 8000 people lost their jobs. According to NASA’s literature:
“Kennedy Space Center will pursue transformation through consolidation of NASA operations, asset partnering, and agreements development in order to preserve the Center’s and nations crucial launch infrastructure. The transformation to a multi-user spaceport will allow NASA to subsidize costs of expensive infrastructure and facilities and still maintain the country’s ability to push the boundaries of our understand of the universe.
KSC was established in 1962; is a 6 billion $ asset; 140,000 acres; 55,000 acres of submerged wetlands; 3500 acres of development. “
In 1963, NASA realized it had so much land, as only a small part is developed, that they asked it to be managed as a national wildlife refuge… and thus it has been for over 50 years.
“The Refuge, which is an overlay of the John F. Kennedy Space Center, was established in August 1963 to provide a buffer zone for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in the quest for space exploration.”
“Space Florida is the aerospace economic development agency of the State of Florida. The agency was created by consolidating three existing space entities into a single new organization via the Space Florida Act, enacted in May 2006 by the Florida Legislature.”
Space Florida is proposing to put a launch pad at Shiloh north of Titusville in an area of the wildlife refuge along the lagoon that is very sensitive as it contains many endangered species, historic cultural resources, as well as Native American historic resources. This area is utilized by fishermen and “recreationalist” today. You can see this location near the red pin in the Google Maps image above. Some say they “couldn’t have chosen a more sensitive area….”
I did not go to Titusville to have an opinion on what is right or wrong concerning this situation. But I have thought on it, and those of you who know me can probably guess where I ended up with my position. But this is only for me personally, not for what I am supposed to learn at NRLI.
At NRLI, I am there to learn how to be a “leader in collaborative decision-making.”
NRLI puts it like this:
“We are all dependent on Florida’s natural resources. Decisions about natural resources involve complex sets of issues and stakeholders. Expensive and time-consuming disputes often emerge over issues such as endangered species, land use, coastal and marine resources, and water quality and quantity. Effective leadership in managing such issues requires a specialized set of skills, tools, and strategies to build trust and promote collaboration among competing interests. In recognition of this, the Florida Natural Resources Leadership Institute (NRLI) was founded in 1998 to bring together professionals in sectors that impact or are impacted by natural resource issues to develop the skills required to work towards collaborative solutions.
Vision NRLI seeks to impact decision-making in Florida by creating a network of professionals prepared to effectively address natural resource issues through conflict management and collaborative leadership.”
Well, I hope I gave you enough information to get started on your own opinion.
I am looking forward to my second NRLI session this week. There are great people from many backgrounds in the program and I learn from them just as much as anything…For it is really through building relationships that we will better the condition of our state and our Indian River Lagoon.
The other day at a Martin County Commission meeting, I felt like a parent beaming with pride. I had been there about four hours when my mother popped into the meeting, then my sister, and then Evie, Jenny’s daughter who is now 15. This is the only child that I literally saw born into the world…
Following Evie were many of her team mates, young men and women. So cute! And to see them sitting there in the commission chambers, what a sight! When public comment came around my niece, Evie, confidently walked to the podium and ask the commissioners to support full funding of a dock at Leighton Park that would allow the youth and others not to have to walk on the river bottom to launch their skiffs. This area of the St Lucie River is has the highest bacteria levels and is ground zero for the polluted discharges from C-44 and Lake Okeechobee. Cutting feet on dead oysters is not a good idea and even with shoes is dangerous. As we know open wounds in filthy water can have devastating consequences.
I watched in awe.
Tears swelled up in my eyes seeing Evie unafraid to “go before the commission.” As a commissioner for the Town of Sewall’s Point myself and as someone who has spoken before commissions prior to my commissionership, I know the tortured feeling of inadequacy that can often come upon one in such a situation. The commissioners up high on the dais, peering down on you, like you are a mere peasant. It is very intimidating even for the most educated and confident.
Because Evie is a River Kid whose mission is to “speak up, get involved, and raise awareness,” she has been speaking before commissions, politicians, and high level agency leaders since she was 10 years old! Going before the Martin County Commission was “old hat” for her. “What a gift,” I thought. The gift of learning public speaking and being at ease with it….a skill that can be applied to all aspects of life.
Coach Stefani Faulkner, spokesperson Dr Eric Pheiffer, and parents accompanied these kids. Take a minute see the good work they are doing! They are winning state competitions. And the river, in spite of its challenges, is helping make winners of them all!
“The Treasure Coast Rowing Club (TCRC) was established to stimulate and foster interest in the sport of rowing among amateurs. We promote this interest through education and competitions using every reasonable endeavor for the advancement and up-building of amateur rowing in accordance with the best traditions of sportsmanship. Our goal is to have a safe and fun environment where both adults and youth rowers can enjoy the sport of rowing. We aim to teach the joys of rowing to anyone willing to learn and wanting to get behind an ore, or on the water. We welcome all athletes regardless of their ability or experience. If you are willing to show up and work hard, there is a place for you in our boats”. (TCRC website)
Something very exciting is going to start happening for me this week.
I am beginning a new journey as a “fellow” of University of Florida’s IFAS Natural Resources Leadership Institute, or NRLI (http://nrli.ifas.ufl.edu). Our first of seven “field trips and study sessions” over the next year begins this Thursday right here along the Indian River Lagoon at NASA where our state’s developing space program is eyeing lands in the National Wildlife Refuge for new runways.
NRLI teaches “leadership skills” in dealing with such explosive environmental natural resource issues…it tries to teach you to build a “cohort” to get things done.
I will be participating as an elected official from the Town of Sewall’s Point. Elected officials in the program are rare and when they invited me to apply last year, I said: “Are you sure? I don’t see many “politicians or bloggers ” on your list of graduates and my town is really small….?” I was assured there had been elected officials before, and if I wanted to apply, I was encouraged to do so….
So I did…
I first came into contact with NRLI, when I was invited to be a speaker. In 2014, a year after the “Lost Summer,” and the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon’s toxic mess caused by releases from Lake Okeechobee and area canals. Area canals mind you that have been expanded to dump agriculture and development water into the river’s basin at five times beyond what Nature envisioned. So NRLI “Class 14,” was studying the “Indian River Lagoon, —-an Estuary in Decline.” Pretty bleak title isn’t it?
Along with their directors, the fellows met at a room at the Marriott on Hutchinson Island just over bridge from Sewall’s Point. There were about twenty “fellows” from varied backgrounds such as the ACOE, Water Districts, Florida Fish and Wildlife; the Nature Conservancy, the Miccosukee Tribe; the Department of Agriculture; South Florida County governments; etc…some younger, some older, all different…
It was cool.
I sat on a the panel with Jim Brother, a recreational fisherman; Leroy Creswell, University of Florida IFAS Extension Sea Grant Program; Scott Deal, CEO and President Maverick Boat Company; and George Jones, Indian River Keeper. I spoke about how the releases impacted Sewall’s Point’s peninsular real estate and wildlife as well as the grassroots formation of River Kidz and local advocacy. We the “panel people” sipped our bottled water and answered questions. We listened to ourselves talk and wondered how what we were saying could be happening…loss of seagrasses and oysters, dying and sick wildlife, loss of real estate values, loss of boat sales, kids can’t go in the water….
The fellows were attentive, inquisitive, and ask great questions. They were from all over the state so many were not familiar with the IRL. I always wondered what the fellows said behind closed doors after the session? “Man that’s one big mess! Didn’t they see it coming? Those kids are going to have to save that river!” or maybe not, maybe they had great ideas of how to really start moving in the right direction. Maybe they are doing that now behind the scenes as NRLI graduates? Maybe this is how we change the world?
NRLI states their purpose as the following:
We are all dependent on Florida’s natural resources. Decisions about natural resources involve complex sets of issues and stakeholders. Expensive and time-consuming disputes often emerge over issues such as endangered species, land use, coastal and marine resources, and water quality and quantity. Effective leadership in managing such issues requires a specialized set of skills, tools, and strategies to build trust and promote collaboration among competing interests. In recognition of this, the Florida Natural Resources Leadership Institute (NRLI) was founded in 1998 to bring together professionals in sectors that impact or are impacted by natural resource issues to develop the skills required to work towards collaborative solutions.
When I got accepted, I immediately emailed my Uncle Russell, now retired in Gainesville. My mother’s brother, an Annapolis graduate who served in Vietnam and lived under the ice in the North Pole finding spy submarines or something top secret…..He is my favorite uncle…. My Grandfather Henderson, his father, worked for UF and IFAS so I wanted to share that I would be part of that legacy although it would be in a different capacity different from the “rape and pillage goals” of the 1930s and 40s. IFAS is remaking itself…
He congratulated me and then said: “You know Jacqui, they are probably trying to take the fire out of you…you know….calm you down….make everybody get along….but congratulations! Grandaddy would be proud…”
I laughed and said something like, “you know what Uncle Russ, you are probably right but I’m pretty good at capturing from the inside and keeping my head.”
He laughed…. we laughed….Dead Silence….
All I know right now, is that when I see my name on the list, I am honored, excited, and hoping to be a part of a better natural resources future for Florida and the Indian River Lagoon.
UF IFAS means: University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. IFAS has extension offices in almost all Florida counties. My Grandfather worked for IFAS for many years in the 1930s and 40. He taught Soil Sciences at University of Florida and surveyed the Florida Everglades.
Recently, Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute, located in St Lucie County, (http://www.fau.edu/hboi/) released their “Our Global Estuary,” U.S. National Workshop, Draft Report.
The new program founded in 2013, is incredibly interesting. Harbor Branch, right here in “our own back yard,” has taken a world leadership role in one of the planet’s most important issues, one we all know quite well, the anthropogenic pressures that threaten the ecological benefits of estuaries. Harbor Branch is opening scientific dialogue on these pressures and the evolving technology that may help “save” them, by scientists sharing their experiences on such issues, scientists from all over the world. (http://ourglobalestuary.com)
Dr Megan Davis, Interim Director of Harbor Branch, co-chairing with Dr Antonio Baptista and Dr Margaret Leinen, along with other local and world scientists are leading this project.
It is noted in their publication that “comparing and contrasting estuaries and management approaches worldwide is essential to capturing and a gaining from lessons learned locally.”
The report also notes and I quote that “estuaries are vital to the planet and their extraordinary productivity that supports life in and around them…Nearly 90% of the Earth’s land surface is connected to the ocean by rivers, with much of the water that drains from lands passing through wetlands and estuaries…cleaning species like mangroves and oysters are being limited by stressors caused by humans, such as water withdrawals, hydropower operation, navigation, and the release of fertilizers, contaminants, and municipal wastes. These pressures are increasing and threatening the balance of the systems.”
As one reads on, the report discusses that population growth and land-use choices not only near the estuaries but also many miles upstream can have a significant effects on estuaries. It is noted that “as farm production methods have evolved to increase yields, more nutrients have made their way to the water causing algae overgrowth to the point of suppressing seagrass. These pressures can cause disease and death in fish, marine mammals, birds, and other animals.” Land development also impacts estuaries with its runoff and diversion or redirection of water.
The largest estuaries in the world are listed in the report are not in the United States. 1. Ganges, Indian, Bangladesh, Nepal; 2 .Yangtze (Chang Jiang), China; 3. Indus, Indian, China, Pakistan; 4. Nile, Northeastern Africa; 5. Huang He (Yellow River), China; 6. Huai He, China; 7. Niger, West Africa; 8. Hai, China; 9. Krishna, Indian; and 10. Danube, Central and Eastern Europe.
Personally, I had only heard of half of those places and it made me think about the millions of people living around estuaries all over the world and how much I really don’t know. How small we are comparatively…
Although of course the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon is not one of the largest river basins in the world, we were listed under “Estuaries are Receiving More Attention” along with Chesapeake Bay. The section notes water quality is compromised in part by excess nutrients and inland freshwater discharges and diversion of water that historically flowed south through the Florida Everglades. It notes seagrass die offs, manatee, pelican and dolphin mortality, septic, agriculture and lawn fertilizer issues…
About half way down the paragraph under Indian River Lagoon, it says: “Public outcry and accompanying media attention achieved critical mass in 2013, helping convince several municipalities to enact more restrictive fertilizer ordinances and the state legislature to appropriate over 200 million in support for observation and systems remediation for the Lagoon and Everglades.”
Once again, like the Dr Seuss children’s book, Horton Hears a Who, where the residents of Whoville together shout WE’RE HERE, WE’RE HERE, finally to be heard, the Treasure Coast is noted for its efforts, this time in a document that will be shared around the world!
Thank you to Harbor Branch for its continued leadership and efforts in ocean and estuary research and thank you to the people of the Treasure Coast or “Whoville” who have been heard and continue to help save the Indian River Lagoon.