Tag Archives: Muck

“What The Muck?!” SLR/IRL

IMG_4325.jpg
Flying over the black gold of the EAA. JTL
IMG_7550.JPG
Fields in Pahokee, JTL

Road Trip Series.

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

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

EAA
EAA below Lake Okeechobee. (Public map SFWMD)
pond apple mac stone 916de13305c68a6d2fd5e4f9e8ff95b
Photo of pond apples also know to locals as custard apples in Big Cypress- shared on Flicker by photographer Mac Stone, allow us to envision what this incredible forest looked like. 32,000 acres rimming the southern and eastern shore of Lake Okeechobee. The best muck built up over thousands of years under these roots that worked like a seine as the lake overflowed its edge then running south through the sawgrass. The Everglades….

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

IMG_4144.JPG
FPL solar plant and “cooling pond” in Martin County looking west towards “Barley Barber Swamp.” This area was once a forest of mostly giant cypress trees and others. JTL

Excerpts by Lawrence E. Will:

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

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

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

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

__________________________

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

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

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

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

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

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

file-page1-2

file-page1
Proposed land purchase in the EAA, Senator Joe Negron 2016/17.

Florida’s Population Growth and the Difficulty of Achieving Clean Water, SLR/IRL

Pipe from home along Indian River Drive directly disposing of sewage into IRL. Photo historian Sandra Thurlow. ca 1950s.
A pipe into the Indian River Lagoon from a cottage along the Indian River Drive goes directly into the river disposing of sewage. In our Treasure Coast’s regions’ early days there were no laws prohibiting this. Photo archives of historian Sandra Thurlow. ca late 1950/60s.

It’s been a tough week for river lovers.

It was reported by the Stuart News and others that a gentleman died suddenly after being “stuck by a fish.” He had put in his line in the Indian River Lagoon, near Harbor Branch, in St Lucie County. Just a few days later, the headlines noted the experience of Mr Bruce Osborn whose “knee and leg turned black, swelled up, and became hot to the touch after he dove into the confluence of the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon. Mr Osborn was boating near the Sandbar which is located within sight of the St Lucie Inlet…

Mr Osborn had an open sore….he recovered with prompt, emergency-room, antibiotic-treatment and a good wife.

Today in Stuart New’s “Letters to the Editor” a retired New York sheriff is of the opinion that the news of the fisherman had been “sensationalized” noting that “no autopsy had been performed on the man– who died…..”

Who is right? Who is wrong? Or does “truth” lie somewhere in between?

Who knows…But it is all certainly worth thinking about.

Interestingly enough, in this river or near-ocean story, the culprit would not be a shark or anything scary like that, but rather a microscopic bacteria or virus that cannot even be seen….

Bacteria is everywhere. In soil and in water. On our skin and in our bodies. For humans there is “good” and “bad” bacteria.

How do we know where there “bad” bacteria is in the river?

Canal and basin map SLR/IRL. (Public)
Canal and basin map SLR/IRL. (Public) The basin has been expanded at least 5x its natural size since 1920.

I don’t know, but I do know numbers of bacteria everywhere in water communities are highest in the sediment.  Sediment is the sand, clay and other soil types that build up on the bottom of the river  in the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon and all estuaries of the world.

(http://voices.nationalgeographic.com/2015/06/14/new-tool-to-monitor-harmful-bacteria-at-beaches/)

Muck from the bottom of the Indian River Lagoon.
Muck from the bottom of the Indian River Lagoon. (Public photo)

In our area, the most recent hundred years of sediment, this “muck,” has been heavily affected by human alteration of the environment, especially by drainage canals, like C-44, the drainage of Lake Okeechobee, C-23, C-24, and C-25,  as well as shoreline development’s tear down of native vegetation along the shoreline. (That can no longer filter runoff.)

Giant, mile-long canals drain mostly agricultural lands from out west. Many if not most of these lands never even drained into the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon in the first place. Not by God. Not by Nature. Just by “us” since around 1920.

So now literally thousands of pounds of fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, metals, oils from cars and roads, septic effluent…..the list goes on and on….so these pollutants run into our waterways building up in the sediments of the river, —-to be re-suspended with every storm, with every boat that races by……as the sediment builds and flocculates, bacteria grows–especially if it is warm..many fish live on the bottom of the river….

Estuary depiction public photo.
Estuary depiction public photo.

On the positive side, as far as water, many things have changed for the better since my childhood.

During  my lifetime, in the early 60s, sewage was directly dumped into the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon from homes and boats….I swam and skied  in this water every weekend….Not many people lived here. As kids, we did not know or notice although we used to make jokes about “logs passing by…”

🙂

And yes, since the 1960s and 70s tremendous improvements in sewage treatment plants, packaging plants, septic systems, “Best Management Practices” for Agriculture to lower runoff, etc…have been made. This is fantastic.

Ag runoff DEP photo.
Ag runoff DEP photo.

But we can never catch up….We are always chasing our tail….Because we keep putting more pollution into the system than we can clean up. Like putting too many fish in a fish tank, and not cleaning your gravel often enough…our relatively closed lagoon system has met its limit…

The chart below just goes to  the year 2000. Florida is now the third most populated state in the nation with over 19 million people. 19 million people’s’ waste….19 million people’s yards, and not just small time farmers anymore, but agribusiness– hundred of thousands of acres of fields and chemicals….a huge portion seeping into our water. Best Management Practices. That’s just not enough…Oh. Let’s not forget what runs down from Orlando….

What’s the truth? The truth is there are too many fish in our fish tank. And we whether we know the cause or not, until we stop draining  so much of our personal and agricultural waste into our waterways, we will continue to “drown in our own filth.”

Population of Florida....chart from Census
Population of Florida….chart from Census

_________________________________________________________________________
New Tool to Monitor Harmful Bacteria on Beaches: (http://voices.nationalgeographic.com/2015/06/14/new-tool-to-monitor-harmful-bacteria-at-beaches/)

Estuaries/Closed systems: (http://microbewiki.kenyon.edu/index.php/Estuaries)

This blog post goes into Vibrio V. the bacteria that can kill that has been documented in the IRL by Harbor Branch: (https://jacquithurlowlippisch.com/2014/11/12/vibrio-vulnificus-flesh-eating-or-not-st-lucie-riverindian-river-lagoon/)

Bacteria: (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bacteria)

1885–When St Lucie River was 20 Feet Deep…St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon

Rare wood cut map of St Lucie River, ca. 1885, by Homer Hines Stuart.  Image shows water depth in heart of St Lucie River near today's Roosevelt Bridge at 20 feet. (Courtesy of historian, Sandra Henderson Thurlow)
Rare wood cut map of St Lucie River, ca. 1885, by Homer Hine Stuart. Image shows water depth in heart of St Lucie River near today’s Roosevelt Bridge at 20 feet. (Courtesy of historian, Sandra Henderson Thurlow)
Homer Hines Stuart Jr., for whom Stuart, Florida is named. (Portrait courtesy of historian, Sandra Henderson Thurlow.)
Homer Hine Stuart Jr., for whom Stuart, Florida is named. (Portrait courtesy of historian, Sandra Henderson Thurlow.)

Some days I get really lucky because people send me cool stuff based on what I wrote the previous day in my blog. Yesterday this happened with both my mother, Sandra Thurlow, Dr Gary Gorfoth and a slew of other comments . I will be sharing some of my mother and Dr Goforth’s insights today.

Yesterday’s blog: (https://jacquithurlowlippisch.com/2015/06/25/sediment-loads-into-the-st-lucie-river-2015-dr-gary-goforth-slrirl/)

After reading my post on sediment loads in the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon and how they have lessened the natural depths of the river/s, my historian mother, sent me the awesome image of a historic wood cut at the top of this post created around 1885 by Homer Hine Stuart Jr., for whom Stuart, Florida is named.

This historic wood cut shows the depth of the St Lucie River at 20 feet in the area of what would become the span for the Roosevelt Bridge.  A contemporary navigation chart below, shows the depth of the water in this area at 11 feet. At least 9 feet of sediment and or —MUCK!

Contemporary St John's waterway navigation map, public files, shows the depth of the St Lucie River at the Roosevelt Bridge at 11 feet.
Contemporary St John’s waterway navigation map, public files, shows the depth of the St Lucie River at the Roosevelt Bridge at 11 feet.

“Jacqui, Your post about sediments made me think of this little map. Homer Hine Stuart, Jr. for whom Stuart is named, had a little wood cut map that was about 4 by 2 1/2 inches and looked like one of those address stamps we use today made. Maps made from the wood cut were used to show his the location of his property and his bungalow “Gator’s Nest” to his family in New York and Michigan. This image was made from a photograph of the wood cut. It is printed is reverse so the writing, etc., isn’t backward. You can see that there was 20 feet of water depth between the peninsulas that would later be connected by bridges. The date of the map would be around 1885.”  –Mom

Dr Goforth also wrote. He tells a sad story mentioning that Stuart News editor and famed environmentalist Ernie Lyons wrote prolifically about the great fishing in the St Lucie prior to the construction of the St Lucie Canal (C-44) in 1923.

“… the St. Lucie River and Estuary was known as the “Giant Tarpon Kingdom” before the Lake Okeechobee discharges began in 1923; after the Lake Okeechobee discharges began the muck from the Lake despoiled the clear waters and drove the tarpon offshore, and the area was recast as the “Sailfish Capital of the World” (Lyons 1975: The Last Cracker Barrel).

Thankfully, Dr Goforth gives an idea to fix and or improve the accumulation of muck sediments into the St Lucie River:

One effective means of reducing the sediment/much discharges from the Lake would be the construction of a sediment trap just upstream of the St. Lucie Locks and Spillway. This simple approach has worked well in other areas, most recently in West Palm Beach on the C-51 Canal just upstream of the Lake Worth Lagoon (see attached fact sheet). By deepening and widening the C-44 canal just upstream of the locks/spillway, a large portion of the sediment would settle out of the water in a relatively contained area before entering the River; with routine dredging, the material can be removed and spread over adjacent lands… —(perhaps using lands along the canal purchased by Martin County and SFWMD?). —-Dr Gary Goforth

Muck Removal using sediment trap, Lake Worth Lagoon, shared by Dr Gary Goforth.
Muck Removal using sediment trap, Lake Worth Lagoon, C-51, shared by Dr Gary Goforth.

Kudos to Dr Goforth’s ideas. Kudos to my mother’s history! Let’s get Governor Rick Scott to work and get to work ourselves too!  We can do it. Together, we can do anything. 🙂

___________________________

MUCK THEMED PHOTOS:

Muck coats the bottom of our beautiful river but determination coats our hearts. We and future generations will continue to fight to save our  St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon!

 

Muck from St Lucie River, 2014.
Muck from St Lucie River, covering oysters, 2014.
Rob Moir teaches Hannah Lucas about muck at the River Kidz GET THE MUCK OUT event,  March 2014.
Jim Moir teaches Hannah Lucas about muck at the River Kidz GET THE MUCK OUT event, March 2014.
Muck Buster, River Kidz 2014.
Muck Buster, River Kidz 2014.
Photo of Stuart News article where Kevin Powers of the SFWMD shows Gov. Rick Scott some muck that is located at the end of Power's dock in Stuart. 2014. (Photo Stuart News)
My close up photo of front page Stuart News article where Kevin Powers of the SFWMD shows Gov. Rick Scott a shovel full of muck from around Power’s dock in Stuart. 2014. (Photo Stuart News)
Mark Perry and I display our "muckstaches" for Florida Oceanographics fundraiser/awareness raiser, 2015.
Mark Perry and I display our “muckstaches” for Florida Oceanographics fundraiser/awareness raiser, 2015.
River Kidz GET THE MUCK OUT campaign and bumper sticker, 2014.
River Kidz GET THE MUCK OUT campaign and bumper sticker, 2014.

Sediment Loads Into the St Lucie River-2015, Dr Gary Goforth, SLR/IRL

St Lucie River substrate map, DEP, Chris Perry. (http://www.dep.state.fl.us/coastal/sites/northfork/resources/physical.htm)
St Lucie River substrate map, DEP, Chris Perry. (http://www.dep.state.fl.us/coastal/sites/northfork/resources/physical.htm)

Perhaps the greatest tragedy that is constantly playing out in our declining St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon is the tremendous sediment infill covering its once white sands, seagrasses, and benthic communities.  This began heavily in the 1920s with the connection of the St Lucie Canal (C-44) connecting Lake Okeechobee to the South Fork of the St Lucie River, and then increased in the 1950s and beyond with the construction of canals C-23, C-24 and C-25.

It must also be noted that the St Lucie River/SIRL underwent great changes when the St Lucie Inlet was opened permanently by local pioneers at the encouragement of Capt Henry Sewall in 1892. (Historian, Sandra Henderson Thurlow) Prior to that time, the Southern Indian River Lagoon and St Lucie River had been “fresh” —-fresh and brackish waters and their communities of plants and animals “came and went” with nature’s opening and closing of the “Gilbert’s Bar Inlet” over thousands of years….

Since 1892 the St Lucie River has been a permanent brackish water “estuary…” and until the opening of the St Lucie Canal was teeming with fish and wildlife and considered the “most bio-diverse estuary in North America.” (Gilmore 1974)

Anyway, today we have a very special guest, and one of my favorite people in the world, Dr Gary Goforth, to share with us information on 2015 sediment statistics entering the St Lucie River from C-44, our most damaging canal. (DEP 2001:(http://www.dep.state.fl.us/southeast/ecosum/ecosums/C-44%20Canal%20.pdf)

Dr Goforth recently sent out an email,  and I ask him if I could share the information; he agreed. He states:

“The pollutant that has been consistently left out of discussions is the sediment load to the estuaries from Lake Okeechobee – over 2 million pounds to the St. Lucie River and Estuary in 2015 alone; almost 4 million pounds to the Caloosahatchee Estuary.” (Dr Gary Goforth)

Isn’t that awful? “We” are filling the river in….smothering it.

The slides Dr Goforth included are the following:

Flows and loads for the period January 1, 2015-May 31, 2015. (Dr Gary Goforth 2015)
Flows and loads for the period January 1, 2015-May 31, 2015. (Dr Gary Goforth 2015)

Please click on image above to read the numbers. Mind boggling!

This second and complicated image below shows “flows” into the estuaries from Lake O into the St Lucie, Caloosahatchee, and to the Everglades Agricultural Area. Generally speaking, the Army Corp of Engineers in discussions with the South Florida Water Management District,  began releasing into the St Lucie River January 16, 2015 until late May/early June. About 3 weeks ago.

Flows between January 1 and May 31, 2015. All flows in acre feet and subject to revision. (Dr Gary Goforth,, 2015)
Flows between January 1 and May 31, 2015. All flows in acre feet and subject to revision. (Dr Gary Goforth,, 2015)

Recently our river waters have looked very beautiful and blue near Sewall’s Point and the Southern Indian River Lagoon and water quality reports have been more favorable.  Nonetheless the river, especially in the South Fork and wide St Lucie River, is absolutely impaired as there is not much flushing of these areas and the sediment infill is tremendous. The seagrasses around Sewall’s Point and Sailfish remain sparse and algae covered when viewed by airplane. Blue waters does not mean the estuary is not suffering!

Months ago I wrote a blog, that is linked below, focusing on south Sewall’s Point’s river bottom infill history,  and depths that  have gone from 19, 15, and 14 feet in 1906, to 4, 8, and 7 in 2014—and looking on the Stuart side, north of Hell’s Gate, the 1906 map shows 10, 8 and 12 feet and a 2014 NOAA map reads 2; 3; and 4 feet!

Insane….so many changes!

Our government has filled and dredged our precious river…elements of this inputting sediment become MUCK…..

I’ll end with this:

The River Kidz say it best, although my mother didn’t approve of the tone: 🙂

River Kidz "Get the Muck Out" campaign, 2014.
River Kidz “Get the Muck Out” campaign, 2014.

__________________________________________

For interest, I am going to include two more images Dr Goforth included in his email on sediment loading; please click on image to see details.

Thank you Dr Gary Goforth for sharing you expertise on the science of the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon, Lake Okeechobee and Everglades. Please check out Dr Goforth’s website here:((http://garygoforth.net))

Lake Releases to the South. (Dr Gary Goforth, 2015)
Lake Releases to the South. (Dr Gary Goforth, 2015)
Lake Releases to STAs (Storm Water Treatment Areas) (Dr Gary Goforth, 2015)
Lake Releases to STAs (Storm Water Treatment Areas) (Dr Gary Goforth, 2015)

___________________________________

FDEP North Fork Aquatic Preserve: (http://www.dep.state.fl.us/coastal/sites/northfork/resources/physical.htm)

Former Blog post about depths of St Lucie River, JTL: (https://jacquithurlowlippisch.com/2014/06/04/1906-2014-water-depth-changes-in-the-st-lucie-riverindian-river-lagoon/)

Citrus Along the Indian River Lagoon, A Killer and a Necessity

Historic postcard, Indian River Citris. (Collection of Sandra Henderson Thurlow)
Historic postcard, Indian River Citris. (Collection of Sandra Henderson Thurlow.)

Thousands of years ago, humankind found a way to avoid the constant nomadic life of following big game, becoming more self sufficient, learning the art of agriculture. Nothing has made our lives better. Unfortunately, after thousands of years of its evolution, nothing has made our lives worse.

Don’t get me wrong, I realize that agriculture an important industry, the second largest after tourism, in the state of Florida. Still, we must look at its issues and try to make things better.

Agriculture is a high intensity land use, using large amounts of pesticides, fertilizers, and fungicides that over time accumulate in the water and the environment. The May 2014 issue of National Geographic states that “farming is the largest endeavor on earth using just under 40 percent of the earth’s surface causing the second largest  impact to the earth, erosion.” 

Much of the land in our area is devoted to agriculture as well, particularly citrus.

The Indian River Lagoon region is famous for its delicious citrus and although the industry is in decline due to canker, it has had huge impacts on the IRL area due to the canal system built to drain the land and water the crops. The muck that has entered the lagoon since the early 1900s is mostly from erosion of canals, due to the runoff from agriculture as they drain their lands that were once swamp or wetlands.

The Indian River Lagoon Region runs from Palm Beach to Volusia Counties, along the 156 miles of the lagoon. (USDA map 2011)
The Indian River Lagoon Region runs from Palm Beach to Volusia Counties, along the 156 miles of the lagoon. (USDA map 2011.)

The USDA documented 89,367 acres of citrus in the Indian River Lagoon region in 2009, declining to 81,673 in 2010. There is a lot of land devoted to citrus, land that has been radically altered from its original state and affects the Indian River Lagoon as there are literally thousands of miles of canals attached and interwoven along these groves. All eventually dump to the river or other water body.

In 1994 the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) determined that the north fork of the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon, a registered state “Aquatic Preserve,” was contaminated by pesticides that came from the citrus groves in the area of the St Lucie’s headwaters, Ten Mile Creek. (http://www.dep.state.fl.us/southeast/ecosum/ecosums/tenmile_creek.pdf)

In 2002, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection labeled the St Lucie River as “impaired.” Reading through the document there is clear determination of agricultures’ role  in this process, especially with sediment run off, pesticides and heavy metals that have accumulated in the environment. (http://www.dep.state.fl.us/southeast/ecosum/ecosums/SLE_Impairment_Narrative_ver_3.7.pdf)

All postcards of citrus industry in Florida, ca. 1912. (Collection of Sandra Henderson Thurlow.)
All postcards of citrus industry in Florida, ca. 1912. (Collection of Sandra Henderson Thurlow.)

IMG_5796 IMG_5797

Reading through the documents it is noted that many of the agricultural areas are quite old, as the post cards I am sharing today from my mother’s  collection are from 1912 and 1914.  According to the FDEP, many of the areas around Ten Mile Creek did not have BMPs, or best management practices in place, as they were  there before such rules were voluntarily implemented in the 1980s and 90s.

I don’t get it. Our environmental agencies have seen the writing on the wall for decades and even with the modern implementations of BMPs, (http://solutionsforyourlife.ufl.edu/hot_topics/agriculture/bmps.htmlwhere farmers try to minimize their impacts on our waterbodies, the rivers, estuaries, and lakes are filling up with excess nitrogen and phosphorus from fertilizer and other pollutants at an alarming rate.

Yes, the FDEP is implementing TMDLs or total  maximum daily loads through the BMAP, or basin management action plan, where municipalities and counties are required to lower their nutrient levels in waterbodies, but these are 15 and 30 year goals, that most certainly will take longer to truly implement. Also agriculture is exempt under the law and Right to Farm Act. They, as mentioned, implement BMPs but it may take fifty or more years to get all farms up to speed, if ever. Do we have that much time?

In the meanwhile, we watch or rivers dying from local runoff from C-23, C-23, and C-44  supporting the citrus and agriculture industries in Martin and St Lucie Counties.  On top of this, during major rain events, Lake Okeechobee, also full of agriculture runoff and high nutrients suspended in muck, from the sometimes back pumping sugar industry south of the lake, pours into the St Lucie River as well, wreaking any work we have done locally to meet local TMDLs.

Would I rather see the citrus lands developed for houses?

No. I rather fix the problems we have. And even though its called “corporate welfare,” I think state, federal, and local governments must help agriculture operate in a way that is not killing the environment. Some of the funds from the state this year that came out of the Senate Hearing on the IRL are doing this and the state really has been helping “forever,” but quietly, under the radar.

It is time to come full out to the public and explain the situation: we must feed ourselves and support our historic industry, but agriculture/citrus is killing our waterways.

In conclusion, of course the industry should make every effort itself to improve the situation, and some are more than others. In any case, we cannot just point fingers at them, we must help them. Perhaps we should bond together and put into law even better, stricter management practices, that will give the children of our state a future, not just eating, but also fishing, swimming and boating in a clean river.

___________________________________________________

IFAS, Update on Best Management Practices, 2014: (http://www.crec.ifas.ufl.edu/extension/trade_journals/2014/2014_January_best_mgt.pd)

USDA and State of Florida Citrus Report 2009: (http://www.nass.usda.gov/Statistics_by_State/Florida/Publications/Citrus/fcs/2009-10/fcs0910.pdf)

1906-2014, Water Depth Changes in the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon

Hand drawn map Sewall's Point water depths created for Hugh de Laussat Willoughby ca. 1914. (Map and history courtesy of Todd Thurlow and Sandra Thurlow.)
Hand drawn map of Sewall’s Point’s water depths created for Hugh de Laussat Willoughby’s proposed New York Yacht Club at the southern tip of Sewall’s Point. Willoughby came to Sewall’s Point in 1906 in hopes of establishing a Southern New York Yacht Club. (Map and history courtesy of  Sandra Thurlow and Todd Thurlow.)

If Hugh Willoughby had not been searching for a southern location for the prestigious New York Yacht Club in 1906, we would not have the remarkable hand drawn map above. The New York Yacht Club’s southern headquarters was never established at the southern tip of Sewall’s Point, but we can see the water depths in the area were substantial, at 20 feet, around the tip of the protected west side of today’s High Point subdivision.

I stumbled upon the information about the New York Yacht Club again, because of trying to track water depths in the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon over the past century in my mother’s book, The History of Sewall’s Point.

From my parent’s old timer friends, over the years, I have heard stories about the the water depth and clarity being extensive in many areas of the St Lucie River, from Palm City to Stuart to Sewall’s Point, and how over time the sediment, due to canal run off from C-23, C-24 and C-44, has “filled the bottom of the river” in many areas, even forming “islands” north of the Palm City Bridge. C-44, connected to Lake Okeechobee, was first connected in 1923, and then deepened and widened again in the 1930s, and 50s and “improved since.” C-23 and C-24 were built in the 50s and 60s. Tremendous amounts of sediment and pollution has filled the river over time from these once thought “harmless” canals.

Today this sediment fill is often referred to as “muck.”

Anyway, for a baseline comparison of water depths, I started looking thorough my historian mother’s maps and asking questions to my attorney brother, who is a wiz at any type of map old or new, and although I did not get mapping for all of the the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon, I did for my own beloved Sewall’s Point. I imagine it is a microcosm of the rest.

Let’s take a closer look:

IMG_4928

(http://www.charts.noaa.gov/OnLineViewer/11428cgd.shtml)

Hand drawn map Sewall's Point water depths created for Hugh de Laussat Willoughby ca. 1914. (Map and history courtesy of Todd Thurlow and Sandra Thurlow.)

NOAA, 2014 electronic water depth map juxtaposed to hand drawn map of Sewall’s Point ca. 1906.

Comparing the two maps, one can see that the southern tip of Sewall’s Point in the NOAA map is not documented, I imagine because it is too far away from the Okeechobee Waterway. Disappointing. Nonetheless, if one looks at Sewall’s Point’s mid area, across and north of Hell’s Gate (the narrow part of the river) one can see water depth numbers like 19; 15; and 14 feet. Today those numbers on the NOAA chart read 4; 8; and 7.

Looking on the Stuart side, north of Hell’s Gate, the 1906 map reads 10; 8 and 12 feet. The 2014 NOAA map reads 2; 3; and 4 feet. Mind you, the channel has been dredged many times by the Army Corp, and Florida Inland Navigation District since 1906 and this certainly affects depths overall in the river as well. Nonetheless, for me, it is interesting to compare as even the channel depths in this area are no deeper than 11 feet and often more like 8 or 6  feet.

The famous mid 1900s environmentalist editor of the Stuart News, Mr Ernie Lyons, once said “Life too, is a changing river.” I  wonder if he knew how much we were going to fill it in…

___________________________________________________

After I wrote this blog , friend, Kevin Stinnette, sent me the insert for south Sewall’s Point as he has experience as an avid sailer. I am adding for interest although I will not adjust my blog. The same principles hold true. 🙂 Thank you Kevin!

InsertD-Chart 11472b SP

 

 

 

 

St Lucie River, Indian River Lagoon-We’ve Really Mucked it Up…

Muck from the St Lucie River, Indian River Lagoon 2006. (Photo credit, Bob Voisenet,Rivers Coalition)
Muck from the St Lucie River, Indian River Lagoon. (Photo credit, Bob Voisinet, Rivers Coalition, 2006)

It has been described as “black mayonnaise,” and if you’ve ever stepped into parts of the St Lucie River or Indian River Lagoon it may have sucked you down, like quicksand. Muck is as deep as 12 feet or more in some areas and is one of the primary reasons that the St Lucie River, part of the Indian River Lagoon, was declared “impaired” by the state of Florida in the early 2000s.

According to the the Department of Environmental Protection, due to the area’s development, agricultural industry and the building and discharge from canals and Lake Okeechobee, muck sediments into the the St Lucie River have increased causing thick deposits to accumulate.

These muck sediments  are contaminated with pesticides, and metals that “may be toxic to indigenous species.”  The turbidity and algal blooms the muck sediments support have contributed to the near elimination of once abundant seagrasses,  decimation of oysters and outbreaks in fish abnormalities. http://www.dep.state.fl.us/southeast/ecosum/ecosums/SLE_Impairment_Narrative_ver_3.7.pdf

In 2004, with the help of then Senate President, Ken Pruitt, Kevin Henderson of the St Lucie River Initiative, published a study for the SFWMD entitled “Final Report: Characterization, Sources, Beneficial Re-Use, and Removal of Marine Muck Sediments in the St Lucie Estuary.”

This extensive and excellent report concluded that there really are no “beneficial uses” for muck. Because of its high salt content  it cannot be used as fertilizer and the cost of transporting it is often “cost prohibitive.”  Nonetheless, based of this study the county and district were able to coordinate the plans or execution  of muck removal from area creeks, such as Poppleton, Kruegar, Frazier and Haney.

For those of you really into this, it is worth noting that slow moving government policies such as SWIM, Surface Water and Improvement Management, CERP, Central Everglades Restoration Project as well as the Indian River Lagoon Restoration Plan, also deal with muck sediment removal.

There is hope, manatees came back to Kruegar Creek once it was cleaned and the muck sediments of some of the creeks went to build brims at Witham Airfield and “lined” the land fill. Mr Henderson’s report is a reference for all of us and the basis for future improvements.

Also,  right now,  in the central lagoon they are very close to getting monies from the state for muck removal in their area due to their area senator, Thad Altman’s involvement on  Senator Joe Negron’s “Subcommittee on the Indian River Lagoon and Lake Okeechobee.”

As depressing as the river situation is,  in the 1970s laws were created to halt destruction of submerged and coastal lands, like here in  Sewall’s Point where once developers and the local government could  just decide to “create a marina or make subdivisions out of mangrove filled spoil islands. It is a slow go, but in some ways we have been, and we are making  progress. 

I’m about mucked out, but in case you’d like to learn more about muck, this Saturday at 10am in Sewall’s Point, the River Kidz are tie-dying t-shirts with river muck and colors. They named their project: “Get the Muck Out!”  Scientists will be speaking; we will be teaching;  and we will be screaming GET THE MUCK OUT! Please join us.