Tag Archives: National Estuary Program

Dr Duane De Freese, Great New Leadership for the IRL National Estuary Program, SLR/IRL

Duane E. De Freese, Ph.D.(Photo Gulf Base article)
Duane E. De Freese, Ph.D. (Photo Gulf Base article.)
IRL near Vero 2013, (Photo JTL and EL)
IRL near Vero 2013, (Photo JTL and EL)

It is not yet official, as the contract must be negotiated, however, word on the river is that “it’s looking good.” Last Friday, Dr Duane E. De Freese was chosen from an outstanding group of candidates to lead us into what has to be a better Indian River Lagoon future.

Over the years, I have met Dr Duane at Harbor Branch IRL Symposiums and at the Marine Resources Council in Melbourne. I do not know him well, but he always struck me as someone “super cool,” a surfer….someone in the science and business of water… Someone with a smile, an opinion, very smart, politically savvy, not afraid to ask questions, charismatic, with leadership skills, and a person who genuinely cares about the Indian River Lagoon and its creatures.

I think he is a great choice, and I hope the contract is negotiated.

Links about Dr. D.:

Gulf Base: (http://www.gulfbase.org/person/view.php?uid=ddefreese)

Florida Today: (http://www.floridatoday.com/story/news/local/2015/08/07/indian-river-lagoon-council-considers-new-director/31306791/)

Hydro-Tech: (http://www.hydropro-tech.com/index.html)

The Indian River Lagoon is one of 28 estuaries nation wide that is in the National Estuary Program. The National Estuary Program was created by the 1987 through amendments  to the Clean Water Act.  Grants are provided to states where governors identify/identified nationally significant estuaries that are threatened by pollution, land development, or overuse. (Sound like home?!)

The National Estuary Program is designed to encourage local communities to take responsibility for managing their own estuaries. Each NEP is made up of representatives from federal, state and local government agencies responsible for managing the estuary’s resources, as well as members of the community — citizens, business leaders, educators, and researchers. These stakeholders work together to identify problems in the estuary, develop specific actions to address those problems, and create and implement a formal management plan to restore and protect the estuary. The Indian River Lagoon program was set up in 1987 and evolved to be mostly overseen by the St John’s River Water Management District. With the new structure that has been emerging  since 2013, the program will still be supported and affiliated with the Water Management Districts but more independent through leadership of the five counties and now cities along the lagoon that have chosen to participate. (SJRWMD) 

"Dr Duane"
“Dr Duane  De Freese ” our new leader for the IRL!

The bottom line is that especially after the crash and burn of the lagoon in 2013, the IRL NEP  is remaking itself,  and will be more able to lobby for funds. This is great, nonetheless, my message all along has been that there is a currency other than money, information. The sharing and caring of organizations and government officials along the lagoon to me is even more important than the money as people are usually divided by money rather than united, especially when competing for it…If the people aren’t bound by a “common good,” things fall apart.

Recent seagrass loss in the central and northern IRL. This came to a head the same time the S IRL was toxic from releases from Lake Okeechobee and area canals. A tipping point...
Recent seagrass loss in the central and northern IRL from the 2011-2013 super-bloom and brown tide. This came to a head the same time the SLR/SIRL was toxic due to discharges from Lake Okeechobee and area canals. A tipping point for the entire lagoon and the IRL NEP.

Thus new leadership must unify the “love of our lagoon” not just “turning dirt and getting projects.” I think Dr Duane De Freese can achieve this!

I am providing links below that give insight into the National Estuary Program (NEP) and a list of the 28 estuaries that are part of the program through the Environmental Protection Agency, (EPA).

Thank  you to my dear friend Ann Benedetti of the St Johns River Water Management District who alerted me to this good news, and a huge kudos to the Indian River Lagoon County Collaborative members who have led us to this horizon of hope: Martin County, Commissioner Ed Fielding (Chairman) St. Lucie County, Commissioner Chris Dzadovsky Indian River County, Commissioner Peter D. O’Bryan Brevard County, Commissioner Chuck Nelson; and Volusia County, Commissioner Joshua Wagner.

Most of all, congratulations Dr De Freeze! —“The world is our oyster!!!” 🙂

IRL near Vero/Sebastian 2013. (JTL and  EL)
IRL near Vero/Sebastian 2013. (JTL and EL)


Albemarle-Pamlico National Estuary Program
Barataria-Terrebonne National Estuary Program
Barnegat Bay National Estuary Program
Buzzards Bay National Estuary Program
Casco Bay Estuary Partnership
Charlotte Harbor National Estuary Program
Coastal Bend Bays and Estuaries Program
Lower Columbia River Estuary Partnership
Partnership for the Delaware Estuary
Delaware Center for the Inland Bays
Galveston Bay Estuary Program
Indian River Lagoon National Estuary Program
Long Island Sound Study
Maryland Coastal Bays Program
Massachusetts Bays Program
Mobile Bay National Estuary Program
Morro Bay National Estuary Program
Narragansett Bay Estuary Program
New York-New Jersey Harbor Estuary Program
Peconic Estuary Program
Piscataqua Region Estuaries Partnership
Puget Sound Partnership
San Francisco Estuary Partnership
San Juan Bay Estuary Partnership
Santa Monica Bay Restoration Commission
Sarasota Bay Estuary Program
Tampa Bay Estuary Program
Tillamook Estuaries Partnership

EPA NEPs:(http://water.epa.gov/type/oceb/nep/index.cfm) (http://www.epa.gov/owow/estuaries/nep_home.html)


IRL County Collaborative:(http://ap3server.martin.fl.us/web_docs/adm/web/aid_IRL_Collaboratives/aid_Documents_and_Correspondence/RJetton.pdf)

“One Nation Under Mosquitos,” St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon

Mosquito County was formed from St Johns County in 1824; this was the era of the Indian Wars. Florida became a state in 1845. (Florida Works Progress Administration, courtesy of historian, Sandra Henderson Thurlow)
Mosquito County was formed from St Johns County in 1824; this was the era of the Indian Wars. Florida became a state in 1845. (Florida Works Progress Administration, courtesy of historian, Sandra Henderson Thurlow)
Mosquito County early map.
Mosquito County ca. 1827. All maps here and below are from University of South Florida’s map website.
Mosquito County early map
Mosquito County early map. USF.
Mosquito County early map
Mosquito County early map. USF.

Since the Lost Summer of 2013 and the super bloom of 2011-2013, the counties from the south and to the north along the Indian River Lagoon have been “coming together.” The more unified we are, the better we can protect, improve, and negotiate with our legislature  for our waters.  The revamped National Estuary Program of the Indian River Lagoon, under the leadership of Martin County Commissioner Ed Fielding, is proof of this and a great hope for a better future. (http://itsyourlagoon.com)

Of course the irony of it all is that the counties along the Indian River were once “one,” under the flag of “Mosquito County…”


Such a fitting name….Too bad they exterminated the name for tourism. I like it.

I remember mosquitoes well. As I have written about before, one of our great joys as kids growing up in Stuart in the 1960s and 70s was riding our bikes behind the mosquito spray truck as it drove by just about every evening…. 🙂

Mosquito truck Hillsborough County archives.
Mosquito truck Hillsborough County archives.

Mosquito County was formed in 1824 and compromised most of east Florida including Volusia, Brevard, Indian River, St Lucie, Martin,  Seminole, Osceola, Orange, Lake, and  Polk counties.

Apparently from 1500 until 1844 the east coast of Florida was known as “Los Musquitos…”

I think it is important to remember we all have been connected for a long, long, time and that we are still connected today through our waterways, the St Lucie, the Indian River Lagoon,  and really also the St Johns– if its headwaters had not been directed south through C-25…We must also recall that although during rainy times the native peoples and pioneers documented traveling through the St Johns into the Indian River —our waterways were never naturally connected to Lake Okeechobee…

Full counties evolution map
Full counties evolution map, florida Works Progress Administration, courtesy Sandra Henderson Thurlow.



USF Maps: (http://fcit.usf.edu/florida/maps/pages/4100/f4176/f4176.htm)

Mosquito County history: (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mosquito_County,_Florida)

Canals in Stuart, C-23, C-24, C-25 built in the 50s and 60s. C-44 connected to Lake Okeechobee constructed in the 1920s.
Canal C-25 at the top of this image is where the headwaters of the St John’s River– originally west of Vero and Sebastian– were redirected to go south through C-25 into the IRL and connecting canals that exit into the North Fork of the St Lucie River.

A Report on the MRC’s “Lagoon Action Assembly” for the Indian River Lagoon

FIT In Melbourne is where the Marine Resources Lagoon Action Assembly was held.
FIT-Florida Tech, in Melbourne, is where the Marine Resources Council’s “Lagoon Action Assembly” was held. (Photo Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch, 2014)

From what I understand, there had not been a “lagoon assembly” for seventeen years. The last assembly had been the genesis of the Indian River Lagoon’s National Estuary Program, NEP,  that is linked to the US Environmental Protection Agency, (EPA).

NEP/See IRL link)  (http://www.epa.gov/owow/estuaries/nep_home.html)

The IRL NEP, over the years, became linked and partially funded by the St Johns River Water Management District. Just recently there is gossip of “change” and major positions in the NEP have been “rearranged.”

Article: NEP Structure/Funding Changes: (http://www.news-journalonline.com/article/20140515/NEWS/140519632?p=all&tc=p)

In all honestly, this change was not discussed much at the IRL Assembly this past weekend, but it will affect the assembly either  way.

Thank you  to the Marine Resources Council, MRC, located in Melbourne, Brevard County, three counties north of Martin, also along the lagoon, who decided to take on the challenge of organizing the “IRL Action Assembly” for 2014. Dr Leesa Souto oversaw this enormous goal involving up to 100 delegates.

I was invited to attended the meeting and I thought I would give a short summary of my experience.

So, I went up Thursday evening to the “Lagoon House,” the home of the Marine Resources Council; there were introductions, and the primary speaker was Wayne Mills who spoke on the history and present of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. Although the US’ largest estuary, Chesapeake Bay, remains terribly polluted, they are making calculable progress and have even been sued by the state of Florida and others because the foundation’s research is leading the way in limiting agricultural and other pollution into waterbodies, a frightening and expensive prospect for the states.

The following day, we met at Florida Tech, on a beautiful campus and a beautiful day. We gathered in the old lecture hall like students, under the eye of the periodic table, and listened to speakers: Virginia Barker, Brevard conservation; Dr Grant Gilmore, fish studies/habitats; Adam Schaefer, sickness in IRL dolphins, HBOI ; Dr Leesa Souto, MRC; Dr Charles Jacoby, seagrass loss, SJRWMD; Robert Weaver, FIT inlets/flushing; and Dr John Trefry, general lagoon health demise. Their presentations were excellent and disturbing.  The most interesting new piece of information for me came from Ms Barker’s statistics on how much groundwater goes into and affects the IRL along with surface water runoff. According to Ms Baker, groundwater holds pollutants that build up from the land, like fertilizers and septic seepage, and often tremendous amounts of salt. She says most canals are cut so deep in Brevard County that the groundwater is constantly “pulled up” and flowing back into the IRL.

Then they split us into groups. In my “A Group” were Dr Edie Widder, ORCA;  Matt Thorton, Syngenta; Ed Garland, SJRWMD communication; Jeff Beals, FFWC/SJRWMD; Tim Zorc, IRC Commissioner; Dr Jan Landsberg, Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission; Mike Merrifield, Wild Ocean Seafood Market, Titusville; and Carol Nobel, Cocoa Beach, Brevard County.

Classic “Dr George” from FIT was our facilitator and  two young and “wanting to please”  students were our scribes. We sat in a circle facing each other, tasks with “saving the lagoon.”

The group was led through a series of questions and then we had to address two of four topics: septic tanks; drainage canals; agricultural lands; and residential lands. After excruciating conversation, we addressed two topics: septic and ag lands. We wrote our outcomes on large pieces of paper to share with the other nine groups later on. This took two days and we also dealt with more questions and concepts. It was overwhelming and the task makes one realize the difficulty of the situation.

MRC IMG_4368

When we all reconvened in the lecture room we read each others sheets and voted on which ones we would support. At this point the MRC is compiling these goals and will summarize and prioritize consensus actions for the assembly.

I don’t know if the assembly will be able to save the IRL but I sure they will provide direction. Every time I attend these type of meetings I meet wonderful people, people who want to save the lagoon as much as I do from different backgrounds and areas than myself.

I really liked and learned from the people in my group.  As usual,  I felt like the “Good Lord and Universe” were on my side in that Dr Jan Landsberg was in my group.

Dr Landsberg is THE  person who has overseen the marine mammals deaths of manatees for the IRL and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission. She operates out of St Pete. Speaking to her at lunch I learned how low their funding is and how they have been dealing with the 150 plus dead, bleeding from the nose and eyes, manatees that have come into their agency in the past year mostly from Brevard County.

“The seagrass is completely gone, right? ” I asked.” Why are the manatees still up here? What are they eating?”

Jan replied, ” they are eating drift algae and some of that algae is toxic…”


Also, at lunch I learned from Dr Eddie Widder that once a waterbody is “seeded” with toxic algae it is forever there, in the sediments and soils. It never goes away. You could lessen it by removing muck but the seeds/spores will always be somewhere. She also mentioned, while eating her salad, that the pharmaceuticals people take also end up in the lagoon…

“Pass the ketchup, please.”

Mike Merrifeld, Titusville, who runs a seafood business told me he had seen my photos of the southern lagoon debacle last year, and “his” fishermen believe the pollution went up the Gulf Stream from the St Lucie Inlet and has majorly affecting fishing/shrimping productivity in the Brevard area. I believe him.

“I’m not really hungry anymore….”

So in the end, we must join together and force the US EPA and the FL DEP to do their job. And we too must do everything we can ourselves to save the IRL. Because one thing is for sure, “we are killing it.”

With the hope of the Chesapeake Bay model, goals from the Action Assembly and an infuriated public, our policy makers can no longer hide and must rise to create policy that many will not like, but of which all will benefit, in that our grandchildren, just might be able to fish and swim, or see a manatee or dolphin, in a beautiful Indian River Lagoon.



Marine Resources Council: (http://www.mrcirl.org)