The 37th Annual Everglades Coalition Conference took place at Hawk’s Cay in Duck’s Key, January 6-8 2022. I’ve attended almost all of the conferences since 2012 and this year’s was another one for the history books: Everglades Restoration: “Investing in a Climate Resilient Future.”
I am sharing all pages that include the program schedule and award winners. You can reference full program from above link. I will also include various photographs, and a my phone’s video of legend, Mr Dick Pettigrew’s acceptance speech – He was awarded the “Hall of Fame” award. He is 92 years old and still going strong! What a wonderful conference.
It was impressive to see almost the entire SFWMD board and executive staff in attendance and the ACOE’s Col. Jamie Booth, and LTC Todd Polk – along with ACOE staff. So many participants from so many perspectives! We are listening and all have the same goal: to adapt and restore America’s Everglades.
-Martin County legend Mark Perry, was awarded the Conservation Award (Ed and JTL, Nancy and Mark Perry, Eve Samples)
In the fall of 2011, the River Kidz were born. A grassroots youth uprising due to Lake Okeechobee discharges hurting St Lucie River wildlife and the power of social media that was in its infancy. A mixture of over one-hundred children, parents, and politicians came to the original River Kidz gathering and fundraiser at Sewall’s Point Park. A ten year old and an eleven year old had just changed the trajectory of their lives, and the river found a voice in a new generation.
Now it’s ten years later…
~Full disclosure, Evie Flaugh is my niece, the daughter of my younger sister Jenny and her husband Mike. Evie is the only child I have seen born into this world and it is heartwarming to watch her mature.
Recently, while I was Adrift on the St Johns River, Evie released her Capstone Project 2021 for Rollins College staring first and foremost the Everglades, along with interviews with Dr Leslie Poole, me, Maggy Hurchalla, Eve Samples, Mark Perry, and Nic Mader. The product is impressive and very professional. So proud of my River Kid! BTW Evie won “best” class! I’m allowed to brag; I’m her Aunt 🙂
Evie’s fourteen minute video “Send it South” is posted below on YouTube. Please watch. Please share. Please comment. My plan is to do a series of post about our grown up River Kidz.
-Evie Flaugh (11) and Naia Mader (10), September 17, 2011 co-founders of River Kidz, Sewall’s Point Park, 1st official event. Photo JTL-Evie 2021. Born and raised in Stuart, Evie co-founded River Kidz with Naia Mader in 2011. She remains passionate about activism and fighting for the environment. She recently graduated from Rollins College with a degree in Critical Media & Cultural Studies and is currently in her first year at the Crummer Graduate School of Business, on track to receive her MBA in May 2023. The “Send It South” documentary was her senior capstone last May. (Taken from Evie’s interview on WFLM with Robert Delancy, September 30, 2021; photo Evie’s Facebook page)
Between the rain and the FAA’s Presidential Temporary Flight Restrictions, it has been difficult this Florida winter to get photos of the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon. Luckily, yesterday, there was an opportunity to get up in the air!
Ed took Florida Oceanographic https://www.floridaocean.org Executive Director, Mark Perry, and board member, Dr Gary Goforth up for a ride. Mark wanted to check on the seagrasses and near shore reefs. Gary – the restored Kissimmee https://www.sfwmd.gov/our-work/kissimmee-river as he was very much part of this success that is still underway. As it was quite windy and I have a delicate stomach, I stayed on the ground. I didn’t want to ruin the outing asking for an air-sick bag!
Today, I share some rare photos of the St Lucie River after being “Lake Okeechobee discharge free” for almost one year. As you can see, her seagrass beds still need a few more years to recover, but rhizomes and grasses are back in some areas, ~but not what we want- historic “all.” The ocean waters were very turned up so it was hard to see the reefs, but the water sure was blue and for that we are beyond thankful!
Ed and I and the River Warrior Community will continue to document and fight for the continued health of our St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon!
The following is a handout Mark Perry of Florida Oceanographic passed out yesterday at the Rivers Coalition meeting. It is created by John Ullman of the Florida Sierra Club and gives clear presentation on what is necessary for the EAA Reservoir and SB10’s success. I am reprinting here as a resource and reference. Getting the legislation passed for Senate Bil 10 was just the beginning. As we know, for the reservoir to come to fruition we must be diligent over the coming years.
Notice the July 1st, 2017 deadline for the SFWMD to”request that the US Army Corps jointly develop a post-authorization change report for the Central Everglades Planning Project to revise the A-2 parcel element of the project.”
Relationships with the District continue to be strained; a nice phone call or email to Executive Director Peter Antonacci or board member would prove helpful. We must rebuild relationships for future success. We all do have a common goal, clean water for Florida.
SIERRA CLUB, FLORIDA’S SB10 Blog-by John Ullman
SB10, Important Deadlines:
By July 1, 2017 SFWMD must request that the US Army Corps jointly develop a post-authorization change report for the Central Everglades Planning Project to revise the A-2 parcel element of the project.
By July 31, 2017, SFWMD must contact the lessors and landowners of 3,200 acres of state-owned land and 500 acres of privately-owned land just west of the A-2 parcel. SFWMD must express interest in acquiring this land through purchase, exchange, or terminating leases.
If the US Army Corps agrees to begin developing the post-authorization report, work on the report must begin by August 1, 2017.
SFWMD must report the status of the post-authorization change report to Fla Legislature by January 9, 2018.
SFWMD and Corps must submit the post-authorization change report to Congress by October 1, 2018.*
The House passed the measure with a 99-19 vote; the Senate passed it 33-0.
The Governor signed SB 10 into law on May 9, 2017
Details of SB 10:
• Accelerates the state’s 20-year goal of storing water south of Lake Okeechobee.
• Requires SFWMD to develop a project plan for an Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA) Reservoir that provides at least 240,000 acre-feet (about 78 billion gallons) of water storage by utilizing the A-2 parcel (14,000 acres of state-owned land), land swaps, early termination of leases, and land acquisition.
• Provides for at least two-thirds of the water storage capacity of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP) Component G.
• Allows the A-1 parcel to remain a Flow Equalization Basin (FEB) as provided for in the Central Everglades Planning Project (CEPP), or to be utilized for the EAA Reservoir if SFWMD can provide for at least 360,000 acre-feet of water storage.
• Requires SFWMD to include increased canal conveyance improvements, if needed, and features to meet water quality standards in the EAA Reservoir project.
• Provides deadlines for submitting the plan to Congress as a post-authorization change report, which will seek approval of the use of the A-2 parcel in a different manner than was authorized in CEPP.
• If the Corps has not approved the post-authorization change report and submitted it to Congress by October 1, 2018 or the post-authorization change report is not approved by Congress by December 31, 2019, SFWMD must request the Corps to develop a project implementation report for the EAA Reservoir Project located somewhere else.
• Prohibits the use of eminent domain to obtain privately held land.
• Provides for termination of the U.S. Sugar option agreement prior to the October 2020 expiration date if the post-authorization change report receives congressional approval or SFWMD certifies to the Board of Trustees of the Internal Improvement Trust Fund, the President of the Senate, and the Speaker of the House that acquisition of the land necessary for the EAA reservoir project has been completed.
• Authorizes the use of Florida Forever bonds in an amount of up to $800 million for the costs of land acquisition, planning and construction of the EAA reservoir project.
• Appropriates $30 million from the Land Acquisition Trust Fund (LATF) to the Everglades Trust Fund, in the 2017-18 fiscal year, for the purposes of acquiring land or negotiating leases to implement or for planning or construction of the Everglades Agricultural Area reservoir project.
• Appropriates $3 million from the LATF to the Everglades Trust Fund in the 2017-18 fiscal year for the development of the CEPP post-authorization change report.
• Amends the LATF distribution to include $64 million of additional funding for the EAA reservoir project.
• Appropriates $30 million from the General Revenue Trust Fund to the Water Protection and Sustainability Program Trust Fund to provide a loan for implementation of Phase I of the C-51 reservoir project.
• Appropriates $1 million from the LATF to the Everglades Trust Fund in the 2017-18 fiscal year for the purpose of negotiating Phase II of the C-51 reservoir and provides the LATF as a potential funding source for the implementation of Phase II of the C-51 reservoir.
• Creates the water storage facility revolving loan fund and requires the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to adopt rules for its implementation.
• Creates the Everglades Restoration Agricultural Community Employment Training Program within the Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) to provide grants to stimulate and support training and employment programs that seek to re-train and employ displaced agricultural workers.
• Requires SFWMD to give preferential hiring treatment to displaced agricultural workers, consistent with their qualifications and abilities, for construction and operation of the EAA reservoir project.
• Terminates the inmate labor work program on state-owned lands in the EAA.
The post-authorization change report must be approved by Congress by December 1, 2019.*
*If these two deadlines are not met (and no extension is granted), then the SFWMD must request that the Corps initiate the planning for the EAA Reservoir project that will result in a new Project Implementation Report (PIR) and may continue to build CEPP components as planned in the 2014 PIR.
There is incredible footage of the 2016 toxic algae event caused primarily by forced discharges by the ACOE and SFWMD from Lake Okeechobee into the estuaries, St Lucie and Caloosahatchee. South Florida locals such as Mary Radabaugh, Dr Edie Widder, Dr Brian LaPointe, Mark Perry, Phil Norman, Dr Larry Brand, Dr Steve Davis, and Col. Jennifer Reynolds are prominently featured. Edie Widder’s political commentary at the end is priceless.
CHANGING SEAS Toxic Algae: Complex Sources and Solutions. Aired: 06/21/2017
Water releases from Lake Okeechobee periodically create putrid mats of blue-green algae. Scientists think water pollution is to blame, and if something isn’t done about it there could be irreparable damage to the environment, the local economy and people’s health.
You can Like Changing Seas on Facebook and attend their DIVE IN Summer series on this topic June 28th, 2017. See link:
Civil Lib·er·ty/(definition) noun “the state of being subject only to laws established for the good of the community, especially with regard to freedom of action and speech. individual rights protected by law from unjust governmental or other interference.”
Today I am sharing a report that came out only yesterday and is spreading through social media and news channels like ~ toxic algae…
“Tainted Waters, Threats to Public Health, and People’s Right to Know” is written by award-winning journalist and ACLU investigative reporter, John Lantigua.
After being contacted, Mr Lantigua approached me and many others months ago, traveling and interviewing numerous stakeholders from various backgrounds. He was a consummate professional with an air that only an experienced, savvy, and hard-hitting journalist can attain. I will never forget being interviewed by him at a diner in Belle Glade and saying to myself: “Holy cow, this is the real deal…”
In today’s TCPalm article by Tyler Treadway, Mr Lantigua states: “We don’t typically focus on environmental concerns but getting timely and trustworthy information about a public health issue is a civil right…”
Thank you Mr Lantigua for recognizing the “lack of urgency and transparency” on the part of the state of Florida in reporting information about the 2016 Toxic Algae Crisis caused by the Army Corp of Engineers and South Florida Water Management Districts’ releases of tainted waters from Lake Okeechobee into our St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon.
ACCESS REPORT “Tainted Waters, Threats to Public Health, and the People’s Right to Know,”HERE:
Recently, at Rivers Coalition Defense Fund meeting, president Kevin Henderson brought along the old River League’s briefcase. It had been stored away for many decades in an aging house in Stuart. In case you have not heard of them, “The River League” worked tirelessly in the 50s and 60s to stop the expanding destruction of our rivers by the Florida Flood Control District (today’s South Florid Water Management District) and the Army Corp of Engineers.
I couldn’t believe the old brief case—a beautiful sight–aged leather, and rusted metal with the sweat of those who carried it unwashed from its handle…
Kevin placed the briefcase on the table and opened it. It had not been opened in almost 50 years! No pun intended, but the sound of the locks “clicked”and suddenly it was open…
I held my breath.
I swore for a second that I saw the spirit of Ernie Lyons come out of the old briefcase like a genie. He had a giant cigar in his mouth and dark rimmed glasses. His hair was greased back and he sat at a floating desk from the old Stuart News…He was leaning back in his chair with his hands behind his head smiling from ear to ear. His teeth were stained with tobacco juice and he looked happy as a clam.
“Ernie here….Ha! Good to see you workin’ so hard! Those bastards are still killing it aren’t they? The river that is! Don’t you for a moment have despair. As you know this war has been going on for a long, long time. All of us, who have passed, are on your side. We are here. All of us who worked so hard to save the paradise of this place. You’ve probably caught on. Good versus evil is not a game. And I got a secret to tell ya. —I know the end—and good wins. Don’t give up! And know we’re here working the magic behind the scenes to help you save the St Lucie/Indian River Lagoon.”
Then he looked away and started furiously typing…the words he was writing could be seen above his head:
Today’s column, 1968
HOW THROATS OF OUR RIVERS WERE CUT BY CANALS
“There was never anything more beautiful than a natural South Florida river, like the North and South Fork of the St Lucie…
A bank of cabbage palms and live oaks draped with Spanish moss and studded with crimson-flowered air-plants and delicate wild orchids– were scenes of tropical wonder, reflected back from the mirror-like onyx surface of the water….”
When I looked up, Ernie was gone and our meeting was in full discussion…
As a reflection from the mirror of the St Lucie’s onyx-like water–I know that Ernie is here…
I was on the Army Corp of Engineers Periodic Scientist Call this past Tuesday. These are excellent calls and one learns quickly the difficulties and the burdens of water management for our state and federal agencies in the state of Florida. I have participated in the calls as an elected official for the Town of Sewall’s Point since 2012.
This past Tuesday, something was said that struck me. Mark Perry, of Florida Oceanographic, reported something to the effect that over 600 acres of seagrasses inside the St Lucie Inlet are now “sand bottom.” Six hundred acres….
I went home and asked my husband that night at dinner…”Ed could it really be six-hundred acres? The seagrasses dead?”
“Easy.” He replied. “Just think of when I lived at the house at 22 South Sewall’s Point road when we first got married in 2005, and we’d walk out with the kayaks and there was lush seagrass all the way out ….well that’s gone–its gone all around the peninsula–you can see this from the air.”
Ed took some aerial photos the day after this conversation. Yesterday. I am including them today.
—-So it’s true, 600 acres of seagrasses are dead in one of the most bio-diverse estuaries in North America, the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon or southern IRL —for many years, as many of us know, confidently cited as not “one of,” but rather, “the most diverse…”
The Army Corp has been releasing from Lake Okeechobee this year since January 29th, 2016. We are only in June and there is more to come. Yes there is…there is “more to come” from us. There has to be. Because we are losing or have lost —everything.
Please compare the 1977 photo and then the 2012 map to photos taken yesterday. Please don’t give up the fight to bring back life to this estuary.
After much controversy, today the South Florida Water Management District has halted its recent “backpumping.”
“Backpumping” —kind of an odd word isn’t it? What does it mean? And why in spite of multiple law suits, some changes, appeals, and “back and forths” on what is allowed is it still going on?
Basically, in reference to Lake Okeechobee, backpumping means that water that would normally be flowing south is pumped north—Pumped back into Lake Okeechobee to keep it out of the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA).(https://nicholas.duke.edu/wetland/eaa.htm)
The satellite/GIS image below gives one an idea. This image is from 2005, also a rainy year. Through this satellite image shared by the Captiva Conservation Organization one can see how the EAA remained dry(er) and yet southern and central parts of the state are wet. This is basically what the EAA is trying to achieve now.
My explanation and example is certainly oversimplified but gives an idea to those who may not quite understand all the controversy surrounding backpumping.
Many do know that when Lake Okeechobee is “too high” the ACOE and SFWMD work together to dump the water into the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon and the Caloosahatchee estuaries usually with devastating effects. Thus locals are protesting again.
So why does the ACOE and SFWMD dump?
People, property, and farmlands are south of the lake. In 1926 and 1928 there were horrific hurricanes that killed thousands of people and destroyed property. We live in fear of this happening again, and oh yes, we need those sugar fields dry…don’t we?
So what is the answer for not destroying the estuaries and not flooding Bell Glade and other communities south of Lake Okeechobee?
That is for the experts to work on, and the “we, the people” to encourage….
One thing is for sure, there has to be a better way. We must have vision.
Please note this correction to this blog post from Mark Perry. My post originally read under the first and second photos: “An “S” structure south of Lake Okeechobee as seen on flight to Clewiston passing Bell Glade. (Photo JTL, pilot Shawn Engebretsen 2014). These structures can pump forward (downhill) into the EAA to water fields or backwards (up hill) into Lake O when there is “too much” water.”–These pumps can work in both directions.”
Mark Perry, Florida Oceanographic, kindly corrected my mistake and I am thankful for the correction. We all learn from each other as we try to understand things. Thank you Mark!
Thanks for you post of “Backpumping 101” but I need to offer a correction.
Below your aerial photo of the S2 pump station you stated that “These pumps can work in both directions”. This is incorrect as the S2 and S3 pumps only go in ONE DIRECTION, from the EAA canals INTO the Lake. The gate structures next to the pumps (S-351 & S-354) can flow both ways depending on which side has higher water elevation. (See Attached Photo- Note Blue Arrows for flow). As of yesterday, 1-31-16, the Lake was at 16.16 feet and the canals were at 11.11 feet (at S-354see below) so if the gates were opened, the water would flow from the Lake into the canals that is why they are keeping them closed. You can see the pump flows in cfs for S3 (745) and S2 (856) as of yesterday.
Yesterday’s conversation regarding Sewall’s Point’s Mount Pisgah, at 57 feet, in the area of Frances Langford’s former estate got people talking about many things. One of the less controversial, but interesting was “heights.” My brother Todd wrote:
“Jacqui, with respect to Mt. Pisgah being the highest point, I think you are correctly specifying “along” the rivers (e.g. adjacent to the water). There are higher points listed in my video below. But all the ones on the waterfront are less than 37ft. The highest waterfront in Hobe Sound is 50ft and we ran US-1 over it!”
Mr Don Quazzo in his comments noted the even higher heights than Mt Pisgah of the inland sand hills in the Skyline Drive area….interesting. Fascinating. Talk about history!
Today I will transcribe a piece of “Martin County’s 1982 Coastal Management Zone” shared with me years ago by Mr. Mark Perry. It talks about high places, ancient sand dunes, through out our county.
The 1982 Coastal Zone Management Study of Hutchinson Island, Martin County, Florida, 1982, wa written by Florida Oceanographic Society and the Martin County Development Department.
Part II is entitled “Natural Geologic History.” It reads: “Just before the most recent Ice Age, the Wisconsin, which lasted from 100,000 to 11,000 years before present, the sea level was approximately 25-35 feet above the present mean seal level…At that time the sea was covering most of Martin County except for the Orlando Ridge, which was a narrow peninsula or series of islands and shoals, and the Green Ridge which was an offshore bar with the crest at sea level…The sea beating against the much smaller Florida coast formed, by erosion and deposition, a broad terrace of Pamlico sands.
These sands were composed of mostly quartz, fossils and some carbon materials. The Atlantic Coastal Ridge was of pre-Pamlico origin was altered by an advancing Pamlico sea. This is evident by the south and north boundaries of the Jensen Beach and Jonathan Dickinson Sandhills which have spit-like structures projecting westward, as shown in Figure 3. (above)
The tall sandhills together with Sewall’s Point and Rocky Point form the backbone of the Atlantic Coastal Ridge. It is breached by the St Lucie River between Sewall’s Point and Rocky Point. During times of high sea level, like the Pamlico Period, the drainage basins of the St Lucie River and Loxahatchee River probably formed and ancient lagoon such as the Indian River Lagoon does today, with the older sandhills of Jensen Beach and Johnathan Dickinson acting as the barrier islands and dunes of that time. It was also during this time when Hutchinson and Jupiter Islands began forming as offshore bars….
—-Excerpt from MC 1982 Coastal Zone Management Study
Whether it is 100,000, 11,000, or 60 years ago, the more we know about the history and formation of Martin County the more likely we are to respect our natural resources.
Today’s blog was inspired by a question on Facebook by beloved Stuart News reporter, Mr Ed Killer.
Yesterday in my blog post, I wrote that I would be going to Apalachicola this week with the UF Natural Resources Leadership Institute. “Ed” commented and this is what he said:
“Tcpalm Ekiller: I want you to think of something while in Apalachicola Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch : That industry is about a $2 mill /yr industry statewide, with most of that impact in that area. While it stinks for the oyster men that lack of water is a problem, we haven’t been allowed to eat an oyster from our estuary since the 1970s because the DEP downgraded the health of our water to class D. We have (FOS & a few other groups) have added more than $2 million in oyster shell projects to the St. Lucie River to help clean our water knowing we can never harvest the oysters.” Ed Killer
This got me thinking, and I thought, “Yeah, what really did happen to our St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon oysters and what is their history? In fact, if I think about it, we are surrounded by mounds of ancient oysters, “Indian mounds” that attest to how plentiful they used to be…
Did you know?
Mt Elizabeth, better known today as “Tuckahoe,” at Indian Riverside Park, is said to stands around 40 feet tall. It is a shell mound built up over thousands of years. It consists of oyster shells and some clam shells that come from the Indian River Lagoon region. You can still see the ancient oysters in the dirt under the modern landscaping today.
The native people of our area did not have to hunt game full-time or at all as they had all they needed from the riches of the estuary. In those days the natural inlets opened and closed on their own as they broke through “Hutchinson Island.” Oysters would have been more plentiful when the inlets broke through as they live in brackish waters.
*Note that the first 1882 chart describes Mt. Elizabeth (Tuckahoe) as located at what is now the top of Skyline Drive (Mt Washington) at the location of Jensen Beach Community Church. The 1883 (lettered 1888) map locates Mt. Elizabeth at what is now Indian Riverside Park at the Tuckahoe Mansion. This can be confusing.
Front page of Todd’s video showing a historic view of seeing Mt Elizabeth from the Shoal off shore in the ocean. Some early sailors mixed up Mt Elizabeth (Tuckahoe with Mt Washington (Sky Line Drive).
So what about after the Native Americans? I remember my mother telling me stories of pioneer accounts, after the St Lucie Inlet was opened permanently in 1892, of people eating oysters “as big as a man’s hand.” One a meal in itself!
Obviously the oysters would grow most plentiful by the inlets, like near Sewall’s Point and today’s Hutchinson Island.
So yesterday I wrote my historian mother, “Mom, do you have any information on oysters in IRL?
And she sent a fabulous historic survey, an old post card from Sewall’s Point, and account from the House of Refuge. Basically at that time too, a lot depended upon the inlets. I am including a lot of information, and more than likely “just a read for the history hardcore,” but you’ll get the idea.
But then the decline….
—it began in the 1920s with C-44 and the connection to Lake Okeechobee and then was exacerbated by C-23, C-24 and C-25. “Canals of Death…”We over drained the land, we built houses and scraped the wetlands for agriculture fields….we threw poison and fertilizer on the lands so things would grow and pests would go away…slowly, ever so slowly it drained back into the rivers….For a time, we “flourished,” but it has caught up to us, and our rivers are dying, as Ed Killer said in we’ve been “downgraded to a Class D.” Oysters can’t live in that…
May we bind together and turn things around because no one is going to do it but us. Nature, just like people can heal. We just have to give her a chance.
I. An 1898 excerpt from a magazine of the day about oyster stew made right at the house of Refuge...shared by Sandra Thurlow.
by John Danforth
Excerpted from “Florida Sport” an article in Shooting and Fishing
December 15, 1898
I have decided on one which happened in 1898 in Dade County, Florida. My wife and myself, in company with Ben Crafts, were living on board a twenty-five foot cabin sloop, which had all the conveniences of a shore camp. We cruised on the Indian River, but most of the time we spent on the St. Lucie River and its tributaries.
Our sloop was built by the Bessey brothers especially for cruising the in Florida waters. The Bessey brothers are educated gentlemen, who have modeled and built nearly all the sailing craft owned by the Gilbert’s Bar Yacht Club, and in our sloop they seemed to get as near perfection as one could ask. We had plenty of room for cooking, eating, sleeping and to carry fresh water, provisions, and tackle of all kinds. We had an outfit, so we could leave the sloop anchored, with the cabin locked, and go for a cruise in the woods for days. My object in securing such a boat was not for catching and killing all we could find, but to better support myself and family by becoming a guide for gentlemen who visit Florida for sport.
At the time of which I write the Caribou (our sloop) lay at anchor about a half mile off the mouth of Hup-pee creek in the full moon of June. I had planned to be on the ocean beach at night to welcome the big turtles which come there to deposit their eggs in the sand where they hatch. When their work is done they disappear and are not seen again until the next year at about the same time. From where we lay at anchor to the U. S. Government house of refuge was eight miles across the Indian River. At the house of refuge it was only a stone’s throw from the Indian River to the Atlantic Ocean. The wide sand beach extended north and south as far as the eye could reach was a good place for turtles to come.
We hoisted the mainsail, then the anchor, and as the Caribou moved out Ben set the jib. With the stiff breeze that was blowing we were soon bowling along at lively speed, and it was only a short time when I called Ben to let go the jib. We hove to just off the house of refuge, took in the mainsail, let go the anchor, and soon had things snug for the night. Ben shelled oysters, my wife lighted the gasoline stove, and in a short time we had an oyster stew that was what Ben called “real filling.”
II. 1883 Historic survey as shared by Sandra Thurlow, compliments of surveyor Chappy Young.
S. Coast and Geodetic Survey
E. Hilgard, Superintendent
Topographical Sheet No. 1652
Locality: South End of Indian River
1883 Chief of Party:
S. Coast and Geodetic Survey Office
Washington, Feb. 7th, 1883
Plane Table Sheet No. 1652 Scale 1/20,000
East Coast of Florida Indian River
From Eden Post Office or Richards Southward to Pecks Lake, and including St. Lucie River
Surveyed by E. L. Taney Aid USC&GS in 1882-83, B. A. Colonna Asst. C&GS. Chief of Party
S. Coast and Geodetic Survey
E. Hilgard, Superintendent
On the west Shore of Indian River the ground rises eighty feet above the level of the ordinary height of water in Indian River the higher ridges give quite a pretty land fall when seen four or five miles off shore quite overtopping the land and forest between Indian River and the ocean. On the east shore of Indian River and between it and the ocean the mangrove swamp is about on a level with the water in the River at ordinary stages and near the beach is from 3 to 15 feet above ocean high tide. I had a signal scaffold 45 feet high on top of a hill 82 feet high on the West Side of Indian River (Blue Hill?) from this scaffold I had a fine view of the county to the westward which consisted of numerous parallel ridge of sand with intervening saw-grass ponds the major axis of all of which extended in a northerly & southerly direction. Cattle-men that I met at the St. Lucie P. O. informed me that it was a succession of these ridges back to Okeechobee and that the old government wagon road which ran north and south and was back about 4 to 12 miles from the river was still passable and ran for the most of the distance along such ridges. Nearly all of this country rest on a foundation of marine conglomerate called Cochina [coquina] which is at various depths but occasionally crops out rising from 3 to 5 feet above mean ocean tides. This cochina differs very much in structure from that of Beaufort N. C. and other places north of here, large shells are seldom found in it and some of it presents the appearance of course white or yellow sand stone. When burned it makes a fairly good shell lime and when wet can be readily cut into building blocks with an axe. The sand of which the soil is almost exclusively formed is white or yellowish, it underlies all of the streams, saw-grass ponds, mangrove swamps & two or three feet generally bringings (?) the white sand even in mangrove and other swamps. It is impracticable to dike any of the low grounds because the water on a rise would come in from the bottom. — Whenever pine is indicated there will be found a growth of underbrush of various kinds and ranging in height from 1 to 10 feet. The pine timber itself is of little or no value being of stunted growth and the underbrush is scrub oak, whorttlebun (?), low saw-palmetto etc. etc. Where hard wood is depicted, except the mangrove swamps, the land is always best for cultivation, such hard wood land is called “Hammock-land by the natives and seems to owe its fertility to the fact that cochina lies near the surface and like an impermeable clay holds those chemicals that are gathered from the decaying vegetation, among the trees growing in these hammocks are those locally known as Palmettos, Mastics, Rubber trees, Live Oaks, Iron wood trees, the Crabwood trees and a great variety of others. There are various course grasses growing along the Ocean shore, and several varieties of running cactus, prickly pear in se and mixed in every when, a decided feature on the level sand wastes and elsewhere along the ocean side and occasionally west of the Indian River is the Scrub palmetto, a species of palm that although it has a trunk from 4 to 8 inches in diameter and from 3 to 20 feet in length runs along the ground like a vine and among them progress is very difficult for their trunks cross each other in mast confusion and their leaves are just about 5 feet high and have sharp edges. On the west side of the river among the pines and in the lands along the edges of the saw grass ponds there was nice tender grasses on which deer feed, and I never ate more delicious venison than here. The Indians of whom there are 3 or 400 back in the Glades, remnants of the Seminoles, always burn off the underbrush as much as they can about January or February. The saw grass ponds to which I have alluded are of fresh water generally very shallow and cut up by narrow sloughs or streams, these streams are seldom over 4 feet deep and have hard sandy bottoms on which various water grasses grow. The sawgrass itself has generally in the dry season only 3 or 4 inches of water about its roots but in the wet season the water rises 2 or three feet, the blades of this grass are from 3 to 10 feet long, about an inch wide and their edges are serrated, touch and very sharp. They rapidly cut out the clothing. If there is any hotter place than one of these saw grass ponds when the sun shines down and the myriads of mosquitoes swarm in our face stinging by tens and twenties, I hope it is not on top of the earth. Wherever these saw grass ponds run parallel to the River and within a mile or so of it excellent water can be had had by setting a flour barrel at the river side along the foot of the bluff. But on the east side of Indian River and between it and the Ocean good water is unknown for when fresh it is so strongly impregnated with lime that it is far from wholesome. —The mangroves grow to a greater height here than elsewhere within my experience. The natives divide it into two varieties, the Black and the red. I had the black mangrove cut down from one of the lines of sight that measured 85 feet from roots to top. When season[ed] the mangrove wood looks much like mahogany and is very hard, it takes a high polish. When burned the ashes are very strong in potash, a fact that may prove of value some of these days because the trees are so assessable. The old Gilbert’s Bar entrance, now closed, is shown on this sheet. Whenever the salt and fresh waters meet the mangrove flourishes and such has been the case at Gilbert’s Bar. Once fine oysters grew there and all kinds of fish belonging in these waters were abundant but since the inlet closed the oysters have died and the fish are gone except a few bass and catfish. Just outside however and along the old Gilbert’s Bar (Cochina Reef) there are lots of them Barracuda, Pompano, Bluefish, Cavallies, Green Turtle, Mullet, Sea Bass and a beautiful fish much resembling our Spanish mackerel but having more beautiful colors and very game. Trolling them I have seen them take the hook and bound 5 to 10 feet clear of the water. I had thought the blue-fish game and the taking of it fine sport but one of these beauties far exceeds any thing I ever saw for punk rapidity of motion and beauty of form and color. From October to April the climate is delightful and Indian River is the boatman’s paradise, from May to Sept. the heat although seldom above 85˚ and the mosquitoes and other insets are very troublesome. In all of the waters represented on this sheet eelgrass grows luxuriantly and it is the favorite food and principal feeding ground of the manatee. I have seen a heard of ten feeding in the St. Lucie at one time, they go to bottom, eat, rise, blow the water in a spray from their nostrils and in a few seconds they sink again. Like other grazing animals they feed early in the morning and late after-noon principally. They are very careful of their young and I never saw one turn to flee until the calf was well started. There are a great number of Coots in these waters in the fall & winter and a few ducks. In the woods there are quail, or partridge, and wild turkeys. Very many small birds of various colors migrate from these shores to the Bahama Ids., every winter returning about the first of May. The country in 1880 had but one settlement, it now has several and the tide of immigration seems to be setting towards it. Settlers have located up the St. Lucie near the forks and they are prospecting in every direction. The influences of ocean tides are not felt within the limits of this sheet in the Indian River. During rainy season the water rises one or two feet higher than in the dry season and at all times the prevailing wind exercises great influence— A Northern making high water, a South Easter or S. Wester— making low water. The mean rise and fall of the ocean tide is about 1.8 foot and the prevailing current along the coast is to the Southward. The edge of the Gulf Stream is only 2 or 3 miles off shore and an easterly wind throws it much nearer in-shore the prevailing Southerly current is supposed to be the eddy from the Gulf Stream. The limit of this sheet marks what is probably the northern limit of the successful growth of the Cooco Nut Palm, Oranges, Pineapple, Bananas and sugar cane flourish. The tomato and other vegetables ripen in April, Sweet Potatoes grow the year round and I have eaten from one which I was informed was of two years growth. There was not a horse, an ox, a mule within the limits of this sheet, broken to harness in 1882-3.
House of Refuge No. 2 was the best dwelling within the limits of the sheet and Doctor Baker; was the only place that look[ed] like a home. The Rattle Snake and the largest I have ever seen being from 6 to 7 feet long but they are not very numerous, Alligators are no longer numerous and they have learned to be very shy. Raccoons and opossums are so thick that it is difficult to raise domestic fowls. The wild cats from about 4 ft. 6 ins. from tip to tip when extended, Black Bears come to the beach every year from about the 1st of June and comb it for turtle eggs. When they arrive they are nice and fat and are very good eating but after running (?) up and down the beach so much they get very thin. We were told that a bear could be seen almost any night and once we went over and got one but the mosquitoes were so bad that we did not try it again.
The prettiest land on this sheet is the peninsula laying between the St. Lucie River and the Indian River from Mt. Pleasant South to the point. It is high hammock land, with coquina, foundation and covered by a heavy growth of hard wood and underbrush with now and then a pine. This country had quite a population in it once, just before the Seminole outbreak, and for a time after it, the settlers had oranges, lemons and limes, some of the old trees are still to be found in the vicinity of Eden P. O. and the limes are very fine but the oranges are bitter and the lemons not bearing.
Asst. U. S. G & C. S.
Chief of Party
The most rewarding part of my St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon journey is working with young people. Today I share a video created by Geoffrey Smith Jr., a graduating senior at the Pine School in Hobe Sound.
Many of you may have viewed this video on Facebook as it has been a big hit and already has over 500 views, but in case you are not the “Facebook type, “today, I am sharing it through my blog. The video production is part of Geoffrey’s Capstone Project for graduation.
I commend Geoffrey for his interest on the topic of water and pollution issues in Florida. His video required many hours and includes interviews those below. I especially was impressed that Geoffrey interviewed Mr. Sonny Stein, president of Stein Sugar Farms, and multi-generational farmer in the Everglades Agricultural Area. Both sides must always be represented at the table of judgment…
As you will see, Geoffrey also had a chance to interview Michael Grunwald, author of “The Swamp.”
I know my part chosen for the video is very hard on the agriculture industry…as you’ll hear later, I am doing my best to clean up my own yard…
How does the saying go?
“Shine the light, and the people will find their way….
“Thank you Geoffrey for shining the light, may we all find our way, good luck with graduation this week, and we all look forward to seeing more of your work in the future!
These meetings are difficult to follow, and almost surreal at times. On Thursday, this was especially true with “paid” protesters yelling outside against the option land purchase, and afterwards the group’s slick sun-glassed/suit-wearing organizer coming inside to pat one of the WRAC members on the back.
I sat there thinking “life really is stranger than fiction,” no wonder south Florida satirist and writer Carl Haaisen says almost all of his material is “simply out of the newspapers…”
Another oddity for me was when Bubba Wade, representing US Sugar Corporation, during WRAC members’ comments referencing “2013,” in defense of not purchasing the option lands, quoted the acre footage of water to the St Lucie Estuary/IRL as “4.5 million acre feet annually,” —and thus justifying that if the 26,000 acre option lands located south of the lake were purchased, even with that water “exchanged,” it would never be “enough…”
I’m thinking to myself: “445,000—4.5 million…I saw “that” number in a Palm Beach Post article too, but I swear it said billion and not million acre feet….where are these numbers coming from? Is Bubba using the right numbers? I think they are wrong….Am I wrong?”
After the meeting, I even walked up to Mr Wade, who I have met on many occasions and feel I have a good working relationship with saying: “Bubba, where did you get your numbers? I am almost sure the St Lucie River, no maybe the estuaries received around 1.5 million acre feet of water in 2013, not 4.5 million acre feet to the SLR. What are the numbers? If we can’t agree on what numbers we are talking about, how we ever agree on anything at all? ”
Bubba was talking out loud trying to figure where he got his numbers, and I was wondering where I got mine as well…in the end we just stared at each other…
When I got home I consulted Dr Gary Goforth. I have interpreted and put into laymen terms what he wrote to me below.
It shows that the numbers change depending on what years one is talking about, and over how long a period of time.
The above chart is different as it shows a ten-year, not a twenty-year average, 1996-2005). Here the number, 442,000 looks more like Bubba’s 4.5 million acre feet. (I found this chart in Mark Perry’s presentation on his website at Florida Oceanographic.)This must be the chart Bubba Wade was referring to…?
Which number is better? Which number is correct? That depends what one is trying to prove. Right? 🙂
In any case, when quoting numbers, it is good to know which reference chart one is quoting. One one should also reference which chart one is using….This goes for me as well as for Mr Wade of U.S. Sugar….
Words and images are powerful tools in our quest to save the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon. It is critical that we are part of “writing history,” and not “allowing it to be written for us.”
Even though things get discouraging sometimes and we may feel like we are “getting nowhere,” believe me, in time, we will see that our work has not been in vain. A better river history is being made right now. You are part of that history.
Today I will share the document of Dr Gary Goforth, (http://garygoforth.net) “Resolving System Constraints: An Action Plan,” that is really “making history.”
It was passed out March 12, 2015 at the South Florida Water Management District’s (SFWMD) Governing Board Meeting where eighty members of the public signed up to speak on behalf of supporting the purchase of US Sugar option lands in the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA) in order to create a reservoir to store, clean and convey significant amounts of water south to the Everglades, thus sparing the estuaries from the redirected waters of Lake Okeechobee that are killing our rivers on top of the already destructive discharges from area canals.
This document will be an important part of that day’s “official record”…
Please read and store this document in your reference folder. You can click on the images to enlarge them.
Thank you Dr Goforth, River Warriors, Mark Perry, Maggy Hurchalla, Indian Riverkeeper, Marty Baum, Martin County’s Deborah Drum, Commissioner Ed Fielding, Ray Judah, Rae Anne Wetzel, the Sierra Club, the Everglades Coalition, The Stuart News, the state press, and all others, especially the “varied general public”—who continually speak in support of the St Lucie, Indian, and Caloosahatchee rivers. Thank you to those who everyday are part of this ongoing cause.
Thank you to the SFWMD for hearing our voices and reading our words, even when you are silent….
Thank you toDr Goforth for writing our goals down scientifically for the District to read, reference, and remember, as all of us build a new history we know is coming…
Question posed to River Kid: “So do you think you’ll become a politician?”
“Ummm..no…but I think I’ll be a better public speaker….:)”
This blog post is a follow-up to yesterday’s: “Tallahassee or Bust! River Kidz and the Clean Water Rally, Tallahassee, 2015.”
Yesterday, River Mom, Nic Mader, dropped off Naia, Olivia, Keile and I in front of the state capitol building for the Clean Water/Amendment 1 Rally…The sounds of speakers and music filled the air; the bright colors and black skeletons of Janeen Mason’s Solidarity Fish project could be seen in the distance….(http://www.solidarityarts.com); various members of the RIVER WARRIORS, and others, came up to say “hello;” it was a cool, bright, sunny day and a sense of history exuded from every giant oak tree draped with spanish moss….
“Girls stop.” I said.
Naia, 14, Olivia, 13, and Keile, 10 turned around and looked at me inquisitively.
“River Kidz, I want you to look around you for a minute. I want to share something with you that you may not think too much about… “THIS is part of the First Amendment, of the United States of America: “the right of the people to peaceably assemble, and to petition their government”…not all countries of the world allow this. My friend Aletha Jones teaching in China in 1989 when their government brought tanks into Tiananmen Square opening fire. Our country and our form of government, have many failures…but our “right to assemble” is key to what is “good” in our democracy….Participate today and know, you too, are a part of this great history of our country ….”
The rally was a message to the governor and the legislature to spend those monies as is intended within the language of the bill. For those of us coming from the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon Region, this means spending some of this money to purchase option lands south of Lake Okeechobee to store, clean and convey water south to the Everglades, in time, saving the dying estuaries of St Lucie/IRL and Caloosahatchee rivers.
Before the capitol and on its stairs, were people from all over the state; we even saw Dr Bob Knight, a legend in the springs movement. Most of Florida’s springs have been equally deviated by poor “water” decisions by state, federal and local governments.
It was a whirlwind of a day. The River Kidz were able speak at the rally; write short speeches, and to present them before Representative Larry Lee, Senator Joe Negron, and then, again, at the Senate Natural Resources Committee. They passed out their new River Kidz Second Edition Workbook, “Marty the Manatee” inspired by Mr Marty Baum, the Treasure Coast Indian Riverkeeper.
It was a good day.
Did we feel “warm and fuzzy feedback” regarding our request for option land purchase in the Everglades Agriculture Area (EAA) south of Lake Okeechobee?
Did I hear such things as “Steve Crisafulli, the House Speaker may want to be the Commissioner of Agriculture, and Adam Putnam does want to be governor.”….”agriculture/sugar does not want to sell the land now”—“and believe you me they are 20 years ahead the rest of you investing millions, if not billions of dollars, on a state and national level—–to influence politicians”…..”but its not all doom and gloom—things are moving”—–“and the subsiding EAA lands”—-“oh yes, and the future of Cuba,” “you never know—- maybe”…..”it’s changing so fast…”the advocacy along the Treasure Coast is noticed and making a difference…”
YES. I did hear such things….
🙂 (I will never reveal my sources but I can tell you I have good ones and spoke to many people…..)
Did we, the River Kidz: did I Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch, and River Mom , Nichole Mader find “this” discouraging?
“Yes, and No.”
Yes, because coming up against any wall is never fun when one is looking to go forward…
Nonetheless, I also know, and have been told, all this pushing IS having effect. I also know it may push the “powers that be” faster into what-ever-it-is that breaks this wall of historical government/agriculture “self-interest,” because water and the flood gates of the people will in time bring it down.
Of that I am certain.
Thank you River Kidz! Thank you all! For securing a better water future!
“Water, water, everywhere,
And all the boards did shrink;
Water, water, everywhere,
Nor any drop to drink.”
― Samuel Taylor Coleridge, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner
In the “Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” the winds have died, and the sailors sit surrounded by ocean water and they are thirsty, but no water is drinkable…a Mariner passenger had shot the albatross following the ship, a sign of “good luck.” Now the sailors feel they are cursed—-surrounded by the ocean, having no fresh water….the water of life…The sailors glare at the mariner knowing he is the cause of their situation….They make him wear the dead albatross around his neck as punishment.
One could say, this tale applies to today’s South Florida as well…
The sailors are those living in Florida today wanting clean water.
The mariner, who shot the albatross, would be yesterday/and some of today’s agricultural and development interests; state, local, and national governments; agencies; even some of our ancestors…..ourselves?
Perhaps it is not that simple to casts roles, but I’m sure you get the point. There are questions the tale makes us ask:
Is there someone to blame? Will it help if we change our ways and realize we did something unwise? Will we, indeed, make it to shore?
In any case, today, we all sit here on this grand peninsula of Florida wondering how it could be possible that we are surrounded by water and yet have so many problems because of it….
Could it be possible that one day we will wish “we” did not shoot the albatross by allowing the Army Corp of Engineers and the South Florida Water Management District to send so much of our fresh water out to sea?
And then there is the knowledge that one day, truly, we may not have enough water…Desalination plants are an option, but they are tremendously expensive.
Right now, as we know, there is a movement to “send the water south.” To keep more water on the land.
The key for more water on the land is land acquisition. As Mark Perry of Florida of Oceanographic preaches over and over again: “store, treat, and convey…”
Recently, I posted stating that according to Robert Johnson, the Director of South Florida Natural Resources Center, at Everglades National Park, 800,000 acre feet of water, goes south to the “southern estuaries.
“I made a mistake. “Southern Estuaries” refers to Biscayne Bay and such. “We” are the “northern estuaries”….So to correct myself, Mr Johnson’s slide below implies that only 67,000 acre feet of water a year goes to the SLR/IRL and 390,000 acre feet goes to the Calooshahatchee.
Mark Perry of Florida Oceanographic (http://www.floridaocean.org) disagrees; he says it is more than that. His research shows that the amount of water coming into, the NORTHERN ESTUARIES, annually, is around 1.4 million acre feet, with 442,000 acre feet going to the St Lucie and 976,000 acre feet going to the Caloosahatchee.
More easily translated, this is 20% to the St Lucie/IRL; 44% to the Calooshahatchee; 23% to Agriculture in the Everglades Agricultural Area; and only 13% to the Everglades. (See slide below.)
You know what?
In spite of the numbers, we all know “it” is a ton of water. More water than we can imagine. An ocean of water. Water we need for the Everglades and for the ourselves….
So let’s not end up like the sailors in the “Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” with no water to drink, or the Mariner who had to wear the albatross around his neck as punishment for killing “life and luck.”
In fact, let’s change our luck. Let’s keep some of this precious water on the land rather than wasting it to tide.
As Mr Perry states in his slide show 1.7 billion gallons of water is wasted to tide per day through the canals of south Florida, translating into approximately, 5.9 million dollars a day.
Look up! Do you see an another albatross approaching our ship? I do.
Let’s allow it to fly with us this time, as we work for a better water future for the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon…
ONLINE ASK: What does the Albatross symbolize in the rime of the ancient mariner?
The albatross in The Rime of the Ancient Mariner is supposed to symbolize a good omen. The ship’s crew thought that it brought good luck. However, the Mariner shot and killed the albatross and so it became a curse. He was made to wear the albatross around his neck.
Last week, at a Rivers Coalition meeting, Eric Eichenberg of the Everglades Foundation and Dr Tabitha Cale of Audubon, gave an impassioned speech in support of Amendment 1. Such calls to action inspired Florida state voters to approve the constitutional amendment yesterday by almost 75%.
It was interesting to me that I did not know of one member of the state legislature who openly lauded support of Amendment 1, Florida’s Water and Land Conservation Initiative, for 2014.
Why not? Because it designates monies. Those in power like to have freedom with the state’s monies, rather than having them marked in stone…
When I first saw the furor and motivation of those working for the amendment, it was almost poignant.
The intense drive was markedly different. It was something that only manifest itself through those who have lost something; of those who have had something they cherish taken away, something they love….
Florida, our paradise, our estuaries, our springs, our rivers, our lakes, our remaining wetlands, our upland forests, our fisheries, our wildlife, our Everglades, our “Fountain of Youth” are all slowly dying. All of us who love it see this clearly, and in an organized backlash to take back what is most dear decided to do anything to save Florida from complete and total destruction, as the state is quickly becoming, some say it already is, the third most populated state in the nation.
Many have tried, but our government has not protected Florida well enough and thus we, the people, have taken this responsibility into our own hands, we have peacefully risen up, to protect Florida through the power and structure of a state constitutional amendment.
Will it work? Only time will tell. As we all know, money often brings out the worst in people, even those with the very best intentions.
Personally, for me there was no other choice. The state has not done its job and we were/are headed for disaster unless something changes. There can be business and paradise, but with out paradise there will be no business…
Our water and most precious land resources, what brought us all to this state in the first place, needs something more.
How the amendment reads is powerful. When you have time, take a look and read the link as well. Please keep your eye on this and the fight over the money as it is truly Florida’s last and final chance. It will only work, and the St Lucie/Indian River Lagoon will only benefit if you stay involved.
SECTION 28. Land Acquisition Trust Fund. —
a) Effective on July 1 of the year following passage of this amendment by the voters, and for a period of 20 years after that effective date, the Land Acquisition Trust Fund shall receive no less than 33 percent of net revenues derived from the existing excise tax on documents, as defined in the statutes in effect on January 1, 2012, as amended from time to time, or any successor or replacement tax, after the Department of Revenue first deducts a service charge to pay the costs of the collection and enforcement of the excise tax on documents. b) Funds in the Land Acquisition Trust Fund shall be expended only for the following purposes: 1) As provided by law, to finance or refinance: the acquisition and improvement of land, water areas, and related property interests, including conservation easements, and resources for conservation lands including wetlands, forests, and fish and wildlife habitat; wildlife management areas; lands that protect water resources and drinking water sources, including lands protecting the water quality and quantity of rivers, lakes, streams, springsheds, and lands providing recharge for groundwater and aquifer systems; lands in the Everglades Agricultural Area and the Everglades Protection Area, as defined in Article II, Section 7(b); beaches and shores; outdoor recreation lands, including recreational trails, parks, and urban open space; rural landscapes; working farms and ranches; historic or geologic sites; together with management, restoration of natural systems, and the enhancement of public access or recreational enjoyment of conservation lands. 2) To pay the debt service on bonds issued pursuant to Article VII, Section 11(e). c) The moneys deposited into the Land Acquisition Trust Fund, as defined by the statutes in effect on January 1, 2012, shall not be or become commingled with the General Revenue Fund of the state.
Do you remember the historic Everglades restoration plan entitled the “Reviving the River of Grass?” In all honesty, “I do, but I don’t,” as I was just jumping into the boiling pot of small town politics at this time having run for my Sewall’s Point commission seat in 2008.
From what I recall, this was an amazing time, in that it appeared possible for the state of Florida to purchase lands south and around Lake Okeechobee so that overflow waters could flow south of the lake and thus not cause such incredible destruction to the St Lucie/Indian River Lagoon and Caloosahatcee estuaries.
The short version of this deal and how it changed is as follows:
2008: included 180,000 acres for 1.34 billion; 2009: included 73,000 acres for 536 million with option for remainder; 2010: 26,800 acres was bought for 194 million in cash, with option/s to purchase remaining 153,200 acres.
The clock is still ticking on these option lands and although it is not on the state’s agenda to buy these lands at this time, the recent sector lands’ land use change/s proposal has brought the US Sugar Lands Option and Everglades Restoration back into the limelight.
Even though our governor and state legislature would consider it a headache, now would be a good time for the people to push for the purchase of these lands.
Let’s learn about them and let’s begin by reviewing the history according to the deal’s biggest player, US Sugar Corporation:
“2008 through 2010 was a bittersweet time for U.S. Sugar – a company that has been farming in the Lake Okeechobee region for more than four generations. It was during this time period when the Company agreed to sell a considerable amount of its sugar cane and citrus acreage to the South Florida Water Management District for the “River of Grass” restoration project. U.S. Sugar is firm in its belief that the sale was for a good cause and is proud to be part of this historic opportunity to make extraordinary progress in Everglades restoration and restore much of the natural footprint of South Florida.”
History of the Agreement
2008 In June of 2008, an announcement was made that the South Florida Water Management District would purchase 187,000 acres of U.S. Sugar’s land (292 square miles or three times the size of the city of Orlando) located in environmentally strategic areas that would help restoration efforts for Lake Okeechobee, the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie estuaries and the Everglades. Under the terms of the original agreement, sufficient land would also be available for critical water storage and treatment as well as for allowing sustainable farming in the Everglades Agricultural Area and the Everglades to be sustainable.
Over the course of the next two years, modifications were made to the agreement. In May 2009, an amended agreement provided for the initial purchase of close to 73,000 acres for $536 million, with options to purchase the remaining 107,000 acres during the next ten years when economic and financial conditions improve.
2009 In 2009, a proposal for a scaled down acquisition was made due to the global economic crisis. Under the new contract, U.S. Sugar agreed to sell 72,500 acres of the Company’s land for approximately $530 million to the SFWMD. While the SFWMD finalized plans for the land, the Company would continue to farm the 72,500 acres through a 7-year lease that may be extended under certain circumstances. The agreement also provided the SFWMD with an option to acquire the Company’s remaining 107,500 acres for up to ten years.
2010 On August 12, 2010, a second amended agreement was reached for the South Florida Water Management District to buy 26,800 acres of land for $197 million along with the option to acquire 153,200 acres in the future.
In October 2010, the agreement for 26,800 acres was finalized and the following month the Florida Supreme Court struck down a challenge to the land acquisition stating that the purchase of U.S. Sugar lands fulfills a valid and extremely important public purpose in providing land for water storage and treatment to benefit the Everglades ecosystem and the coastal estuaries.
The next part gets confusing, and I don’t think I understand it all, but I will try to share what I think I know. This is the part about the Sugar Hill Sector Plan controversy and how it relates to the US Sugar Option and Everglades restoration.
First: So in 2010 the state purchased two huge pieces of land. This purchase, totaling 26,000 acres, is shown in black in the map above. I believe they are the piece in the upper right east corner and the piece below the lake all the way at the very bottom left.
Second: There was a 10 year option negotiated between US Sugar and the State of Florida to buy the remaining 153,000 acres. This is still out there.
Third: Another element of this option mentioned above is a “2 year non-exclusive option” to buy 46,000 acres by October 12, 2015. This requires the purchase of 46,000 acres of land and it is shown in the map above; the four arrows point to these lands. One of these arrows is pointing to the lands that are the proposed Sugar Hill Sector Plan Lands in Hendry County; it is the second arrow from the left.
Confused yet? Don’t feel bad, I always am!
So it is these sector lands that the second arrow on the left side points to that are the proposed Sugar Hill development in Hendry County. These are the lands causing much controversy because they are located inside “option lands.”
Hendry County wants their land use changed for future economic development; for that I cannot blame them, this is the job of every commission. Nonetheless, the issue for the state and for those of us inundated with toxic waters from Lake Okeechobee every few years is that these lands were set aside for the “River of Grass Restoration Project.”
If the land use is changed from agricultural to residential/commercial its price will be much higher and realistically never purchased by the state of Florida for Everglades restoration.
To keep going with this, the map above shows that the possible US Sugar land purchase option lands and the Sector Plan lands of Sugar Hill. You can see in the black lined areas that there is an overlap by approximately 13,250 acres. These are the acres that are requesting land use change that are located within the option lands. So if it is only part of the lands, why the problem?
According to Mr Mark Perry of Florida Oceanographic who provided the maps for this blog entry, ”
The issue here is that the subsequent 2-year, non-exclusive option —46,000 acres (by October 12, 2015) must be bought in total and with changing “land use” on part of the lands, it may pose a problem for the State purchase.”
At this time many conservation groups led by the *Everglades Foundation have sent letters to Governor Scott stating stating:
“We are concerned the proposed land purchase can be jeopardized by a recent 43,000 development plan (The Sugar Hills Sector Plan…) We encourage your administration to revue the impact this Sector Plan may have on the ability of the state to move forward with the land purchase with special attention given to the fiscal impact a land use change could have on the market value of the option lands…”
Only time shall tell if development interests or Everglades restoration wins out. One way to help is to write Governor Scott at the website below. Thank you trying to learn all this and for continuing to fight for the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon.
*It was pointed out to me that it was the Sierra Club, not the Everglades Foundation that sent a letter inclusive of many environmentalist groups. The Everglades Foundation did send a letter but just from their board. Thank you Chris Maroney.
If there is one thing constant about the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon’s problems, it is that they are multi-layered and complex. I believe this is one reason it has been so hard to “fix.” If there were just one problem, it would be easier, but there is not one problem, there are many.
So, today I wanted to focus on C-44 basin runoff, again, as it has been in the news a lot, especially the two weeks since I was gone as I heard it really rained and we even got our first named hurricane.
The photo above shows the waters just off of the tip of Sewall’s Point on June 27th, 2014. Disgusting.
The basin map above reminds us of the C-44 basin’s location in southern Martin County. The “basin” is the large area surrounding the C-44 canal in black lines. As we know, this area is largely agricultural and was expanded over the years to drain more land than nature intended.
Through permits with the South Florida Water Management District the agricultural businesses are allowed to use water from the C-44 canal for irrigation when needed, especially during the “dry” season. The Army Corps of Engineers manages the level of the canal mostly for agricultural use; this is an historic relationship. In spite of “best management practices” much of the water used to irrigate their fields, runs back into the canal, over and over again, filled with fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, etc…This is the untreated, polluted water that goes straight into our rivers.
As we can see looking at the canal map, over the years, the C-44 basin has become tremendous in size in order to drain land for agriculture and development. Millions of gallons of water come off these lands when it rains, as has been the case the past couple of weeks.
This recent photo below by local river activist and fishing guide, Michael Conner, shows what the C-44 basin water looks like when it comes out of the S-80 gates at St Lucie Locks and Dam, the same gates that are used when water is released from Lake Okeechobee when the ACOE opens S-308 at the lake. This can be confusing because usually we associate this type of photo with releases from Lake Okeechobee. S-80 can release just C-44 canal water or “just lake water,” or both lake and C-44 water…
So why haven’t we talked about the C-44 basin until this summer, or seen or very much about it in the newspaper “before?”
Well, it is confusing to the lay person, and I don’t claim to know everything, but I will explain what I can.
Generally, in the past, the ACOE did not usually release the C-44 into the river during the summer…but this summer they are. Why?
Well according the the “Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the 2008 Lake Okeechobee Regulation Schedule (LORS),” the document the ACOE uses to manage Lake Okeechobee:
“All alternatives assume back flow from the St Lucie Canal, C-44, to Lake Okeechobee to be allowed to occur at lake stages of 14.50 ft or 0.25 from the bottom of the the lowest non-baseflow regulatory zone, whichever is lower.”
Basically this means that under most circumstances if the lake is under 14.5 feet, which it is now, (13.38), the ACOE will “back flow” C-44 canal runoff water into the lake through S-308, rather than sending it east to the SLR/IRL through S-80. This summer the ACOE has chosen not to do this, so we are getting C-44 basin water released into the SLR/IRL so the water looks gross. In the ACOE’s July 11th, 2014, public periodic scientist call email statement, explaining their choices, it reads:
“The Water Control Plan deliberately allow some flexibility to consider real time and forecasted conditions and decisions made within the guidance provided by the Water Control Plan…for the specific decision not to flow water from the C-44 basin into Lake Okechobee since 12 June 2014, the conditions that we took into consideration were rising lake levels, water supply, remaining duration of the wet season and proximity to the low sub band….the 8 July report from the South Florida Water Management District evaluates the condition of St Lucie Estuary and states “salinity at US1 is within the preferred range for oysters in the mid estuary.”
Hmmm? Obviously the SFWMD’s salinity report was not that of Mark Perry’s at Florida Oceanographic…Let’s read and take a look.
Mark Perry feels the ACOE should be back flowing the C-44 water into the lake. He says:
“According to the Water Control Plan for the Lake the Corps should be opening S-308 and back flowing this local basin runoff into the lake when the lake is below 14 feet and the C-44 is above 14.5 feet but they have chosen to make steady releases from the C-44 basin through S-80 into the St Lucie at near 1000 cfs since June 14. Not so good outlook for the St Lucie Oysters…”
Please view his chart below that shows what has happened to salinity levels since the C-44 has been flowing into the SLR/IRL. (Mind you C-23, and C-24 are also dumping their basin runoff water, but C-44’s basin area is larger.)
On the other hand, friend of Mark Perry, Kevin Henderson, long time advocate for the SLR/IRL and founding member of the St Lucie River Initiative, feels the ACOE is perhaps trying a strategy that will help the St Lucie in the “future.” Kevin states:
“I firmly disagree that the Corps should always run C-44 drainage west until the Lake reaches 14.5. That is the pattern that gets us the most continuous lake and C-44 drainage into the fall, and the the patten that kills oysters…It is not basin runoff that kills the estuary, it’s months of continuous discharges at rates that never let salinity recover. This is why I advocate sending C-44 drainage west only when local salinity could recover for a while, then send it east again and do not let Lake O get high enough to wreck us with longer term discharges…”
I think he’s saying, the ACOE, by not consistantly filling the lake up with C-44 basin water during summer, may be avoiding long term runoff into the SRL/ILR in the future come fall…
Both Mark and Kevin have a point.
My non-scientific perspective?
I think the ACOE was so taken aback by the wrath of the general public last year, the River Warriors, the River Kidz, the River Movement, the Stuart News/media, as well as some politicians, that they will do “almost anything” not to release water from Lake Okeechobee into the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon if they don’t have to.
By letting the C-44 basin water go into the river and not the lake, if a hurricane comes, there is just that much more room in the lake to hold the water so they don’t have to dump here and listen to us scream….
The concept that fresh water is a “pollutant” is sometimes confusing as we typically associate pollution with heavy metals, nutrients like phosphorus and nitrogen from fertilizer, and muck accumulation, on the bottom of the river, from sediments running off of lands, through canals. Believe it or not, too much fresh water is just as polluting and has dire consequences for the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon.
This is historically ironic as well, as when the Ais Indians lived in this area, the St Lucie River was a large fresh water “stream.” Throughout history, most of the time, the “St Lucie,” was not connected to the ocean. The natural inlet at what was later called “Gilbert’s Bar” by the Spanish was sometimes open, sometimes not, but never for too long, and the inlet opening was much smaller and shallower than today’s St Lucie Inlet.
Yes, we are going back, before we go forward, but history is important to know!
The “St Lucie Inlet” was permanently opened by hand using shovels, in 1892, by local pioneers who wanted access to the ocean for trade and communication. They had no idea that by doing this they would create “the most bio-diverse estuary in North America.”
As the salt water came in and mixed with the fresh water of the St Lucie and the “fresher than today’s water” of the Indian River Lagoon, one ecosystem, a freshwater ecosystem was destroyed by the salt, and another was born.
Over time, more fish and critters entered the St Lucie/ Southern Indian River Lagoon than at any other time in known history. The forks of the St Lucie, north and especially north, remained more “fresh” as the salt water usually did not go up that high into those areas. Perfect! Salt and fresh water fishing! It was a unique situation and as mentioned in the day before yesterday’s blog, presidents and other famous people swarmed to the St Lucie for its amazing fishing during this era, and all enjoyed.
Then things changed. In the late 1920s and early 30s, due to flooding of agricultural lands and bad hurricanes killing people living and working in the southern area surrounding the lake, the Army Corp built the C-44 canal from Lake Okeechobee to the south fork of the St Lucie River. Then in the 50s and 60s they built canals C-23 and C-24 as part of the Central and South Florida Flood System, another “flood protection project.” Although all of these drainage programs helped agriculture, especially the sugar industry south of the lake, and citrus, in mostly St Lucie and parts of Okeechobee counties, as well as greedy developers, it did not help the St Lucie River. In fact, these drainage canals have been slowly killing the St Lucie and Indian River Lagoon ever since.
Through many things, but believe it or not, mostly through fresh water.
Once the estuary (St Lucie/IRL) became brackish, a mixture of fresh and salt water, this delicate balance was important to the fish, mammals and others critters that made the river/lagoon their home in this new found paradise.
Briefly, I will summarize some of the killer effects of fresh water on its residents:
1. Fish: When there is too much fresh water the fish get lesions. This is from a fungus that only can live and operate in a fresh environment. The name of the fungus is Aphanomycesinvadans and its spores get into fish skin when temperatures are low and water is fresh causing horrible lesions. More lesions have been reported over time in the St Lucie River that any other site in Florida according to the FDEP report at the end of this blog. The worst outbreak was in 1998 after the ACOE had been releasing fresh water from Lake Okeechobee in the winter months due to heavy rains. Thousands of fisherman were reporting fish with lesions; it is well accepted in the literature of our state agencies that this outbreak was connected to the gigantic releases of fresh water from Lake O.
2. Bottle nosed dolphins: Dr Gregory Bossert formerly, of Harbor Branch, has done extensive research into lobo-mycosis, an awful skin disease, in dolphins of the SLR/IRL. The highest number of dolphins with lobo in the entire 156 mile Indian River Lagoon system from Jupiter to New Smyrna Beach, are in the Stuart to Sebastian area. Dr Bossert’s 2009-20014 “Application for a Scientific Research Permit” to NOAA states on page 59:
“Water quality in the central and southern segments of the lagoon, is influenced by infusion of water from flood control drainage canals, e.g., in particular, run-off form agricultural watersheds and fresh water releases from Lake Okeechobee. (Sime, 2005.) Discharges from these sources introduce higher amounts of nutrients, metals, pesticides and suspended solids into the system (Woodward-Clyde, 1994). Analysis of spatial distribution of presumptive cases showed that the highs rates occurred in the IRL segments 3 and 4 confirming our earlier observations.” (Mazzoil, 2003/Rief, 2006).”
(Sections 3 and 4 are the “south central” and “south” IRL/SLR-from-south of Sebastian Inlet, to Stuart’s St Lucie Inlet. IRL dolphins are “site specific” staying usually in a 30 mile range. The St Lucie River is considered part of the southern IRL.)
3. Seagrasses: Seagrasses are the basis of health for the entire SRL/IRL. Seagrasses that live in an “estuary” need sunlight and brackish (part salt/part fresh) water to survive. among other problems, the fresh water releases cause turbidity in the water so the grasses can’t get light and they die. Mark Perry of Florida Oceanographic states that during the Lake Okeechobee and canal releases from 2013, that lasted five months, up to 85 percent of the seagrasses died around the St Lucie Inlet. All nursery fishes are affected by this and of course it goes right up the food chain. Manatees, an endangered species, that live exclusively off of seagrasses, are very affected and reduced to eating drift algae that in some cases kills them. Dolphins are swimming around saying: “Where are the fish?!”
4. Near shore reefs: The reef system in our area is the northern most of a tropical reef system that goes all the way south to the Keys. It cannot survive with fresh water dumping sediment on its delicate system and altering the salinity of the St Lucie Inlet. Insaine. These reefs are supposedly “protected.”
I could go on and on, but I will stop here. I’m sure you get the point. Salinity is a delicate and important part of a healthy estuary. Generally short lived fresh water releases during heavy rains by our local canals are bad enough, but long term dumping of Lake Okeechobee releases on top of that, is certain death. It must stop. Send the water south.
(NOTE: The links below were removed by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection in 2016. When I called and asked why, I was told they were archiving…JTL)
Last week, I took my fourteen year old niece, Natalie, to a meeting with me, to meet Florida’s brand new, only seven weeks old in the position of Lieutenant Governor, Carlos Lopez-Cantera of Miami; he is the first hispanic ever to hold this office.
The purpose of the meeting was to “educate” the new lieutenant governor about issues concerning the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon. I had Natalie for Spring Break and since she has been a member of River Kidz (http://riverscoalition.org) since she was ten, I figured I’d put her to work.
I said, “Natalie, just be honest and polite. Shake his hand, look him in the eye, smile and then tell him how you and your family were affected by the releases from Lake Okeechobee and the other canals last summer, the “Lost Summer.”
When it was our turn, Natalie went first. She did exactly what I had asked. She shook his hand, looked him in the eye and smiled saying:” My name is Natalie and I live in North River Shores. Last summer, because of the releases from Lake Okeechobee, my family and I could not use the new wakeboard we got for Christmas, because the river was off limits with toxic algae blooms. Also we did not go fishing like we usually do. The water was gross…”
At this point, as there were others standing around listening and waiting to meet Mr Lopez-Cantez too, I did my typical control-freak move and “nicely” butted in just to qualify a piece of information so my comrades couldn’t claim I was using Natalie for purposes of propaganda.
“Natalie, we should mention, that the other canals were releasing too; you know the C-23 and C-24; the C-23 is the one your sister did her Science Fair Project on…”
Natalie looked and me and the Lieutenant Governor looked at me. Natalie nodded her head, and Mr Lopez-Cantera honestly asked: “Don’t all the canals here connect to Lake Okeechobee?” Silence.
“I’m glad you asked, I said. It’s all very confusing.” I drew a picture as Natalie explained that C-44 does connect to the lake, but C-23 and C-24 do not. She also explained that the C-23 and C-24 are very polluting canals, but it has been only when the heavy releases from Lake Okeechobee come, on top of the releases from our local canals, that the river goes completely toxic.
I told a story that is well known. Prior to the releases from Lake Okeechobee, the South Florida Water Management District had taken samples of toxic algae, “microcystis aeruginosa,” a type of cyanobacteria, from Lake Okeechobee at Port Mayaca , and the Army Corp of Engineers knew this, before they opened the gates at S-308 and S-80 allowing the water to flow into the St Lucie Canal and St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon.
I relayed that Mark Perry speaks on this situation often, reiterating again, that the river became toxic not while our own, although they be disgusting canals, were releasing, but only when the massive water from the Lake Okeechobee was allowed in…
The Lieutenant Governor looked surprised, “Who is Mary Perry? ” he asked. “Mark Perry is the executive director for Florida Oceanographic,” I replied. Mr. Lopez-Cantera wrote down Mark’s name.
Our fifteen minutes were up, I gave the Lieutenant Governor a booklet of aerial photos my husband and I took of the river during the summer of 2013; he did a double take when he saw the cover but it was time to go.
Nonetheless, he did not rush us off, and as we were getting up to go, he told Natalie about being a big wake boarder himself in Miami in younger days. We took a photo for Natalie’s album and then Natalie and I were off to walk the dogs and bake cookies since it was too windy to go to the beach.
I commend the Lieutenant Governor for coming to Stuart and meeting with local stakeholders to learn about the Indian River Lagoon, St Lucie River and Lake Okeechobee. I’m sure he has people pulling at him from all directions, but he came here.
As distasteful as politics is, at the end of the day, change for our rivers will come through the steady work of building relationships. By knowing our politicians, whether they be republican or democrat, the face to face experience makes it harder for them to forget us when the vote is before them.
I’m hoping when it comes time for a vote, or in the future when the possibility of sending the water south is real, Lieutenant Governor Lopez-Cantera, or what ever his position is at that time, will remember the nice kid named Natalie from Stuart, and her story about not being able to wakeboard in the toxic St Lucie River during the lost summer of 2013.
Florida Oceanographic was started in 1964, the year of my birth. When my parents moved to Stuart, I was eight months old. After living with or near my grandparents, the family built a house on Edgewood Drive in St Lucie Estates. As soon as I was old enough to ride my bike, one of the coolest things around was Florida Oceanographic at the mouth of Krueger Creek, where Mr Rand, an eccentric, wealthy businessman lived or had the headquarters to his corporation.
Another part of growing up was going to St Mary’s Church. And as a kid I always looked up to the older kids and two of the most prominent were Mark and Chris Perry. Their parents lived in Snug Harbor and looked like movie stars to me. Mark and Chris were simply “cool,” while I was a little twerp. My mom always told me Mark worked or helped at Florida Oceanographic, this made me pay more attention to the water and research of such.
In time Mark became the head of Florida Oceanographic. I went away to University of Florida and other places for over 17 years and when I returned the new location of the institution on Hutchinson Island was even more compelling. Mark’s leadership had built the institution and given a voice to the Indian River Lagoon and offshore reefs in way never done locally before, inspiring a new generation of people.
To celebrate Florida Oceanographic, is to celebrate the life of Mark Perry. No one has given a lifetime of service to the areas’ lagoon and ocean in the way Mark Perry has. Fifty years later and he remains one of the people I still admire most and feel he has influenced my love and protective attitude towards our local waters; I bet he’s influenced you too. Go visit today and give Mark Perry a bear hug in the name of the Indian River Lagoon!
If you have driven through the Town of Sewall’s Point lately you may have noticed houses being raised. Within a short time, a total of twelve homes will have had millions of dollars invested from the US Federal Government as part of a FEMA flood mediation program. Just over 40 percent of Sewall’s Points’ homes are in a flood zone, and many had “repetitive losses,” during hurricanes Jeanne and Francis in 2004.
“FEMA” is a controversial program. Why is the Federal Government giving people in one of the “wealthiest” areas of Martin County money, so much money, to raise their homes? Well, at the end of the day, it is a business decision for an almost insolvent FEMA. They figure they will save money in the long run by “lifting” homes that historically they have paid so much money “out to.” This is not just happening in Sewall’s Point, it is happening in coastal communities all over the country. In fact the entire state and county flood maps are changing right now: (http://geoweb.martin.fl.us/flood/ or go to http://www.martin.fl.us –then tab Maps/FEMA Flood Maps)
In 2009, Mark Perry, of Florida Oceanographic, shared a paper with me he had written in 1982, the year I graduated from high school: “Coastal Zone Study of Hutchinson Island and Martin County,” which included substantial information on the geological formation of Sewall’s Point. I was struck by his writing:
“Just before the most recent Ice Age, the Wisconsin, which lasted from 100,000 to 11,000 years before present, the sea level was approximately 25-35 feet above the present mean sea level…at that time the sea was covering most of Martin County except for the Orlando Ridge, Green Ridge, and Atlantic Ridge…” Sewall’s Point is part of that “Atlantic Ridge, so at least its west side was above sea level. Other known areas today that would have been islands in the ancient sea, are parts of Jensen Beach around the Skyline Drive, Jonathan Dickinson Park, and a large area inland adjacent to the Allapattah Flats.
My mother wrote the book on Sewall’s Point, “The History of a Peninsular Community on the Florida’s Treasure Coast” and I certainly learned, at a young age, that history repeats itself.
Waters rise and fall; civilizations are built and crumble; powerful multibillion dollar corporations become obsolete…
I suppose we can look on the bright side, the good news is that if you live in Sewall’s Point between the Indian River Lagoon and St Lucie Rivers, you may one day be able to deed your great grandchildren ocean front property.