Tag Archives: Panama Canal widening

Understanding NEPA; EIS; and NAGPRA–Brevard Museum, Indian River Lagoon

Brevard Museum Director, Patty Meyers and I stand before a pioneer display. (8-5-15.)
Brevard Museum Director, Patty Meyers and I stand before a pioneer display. (8-5-15.)
Brevard Museum location in Brevard County. Google maps.
Brevard Museum location in Brevard County. Google maps.

My recent trip to Brevard County allowed me after thirty-three years to reconnect with Patty Meyers, a classmate from Martin County High School.  We both are “Tigers–Class of 1982!” Patty is now the director of the Brevard Museum in Cocoa. This trip helped me to understand NEPA, EISes, NAGPRA and other acronyms that give me a headache, but are good to know as they protect not only native peoples but the environment….I will try to tell a story to explain these acronyms and how they function.

-NEPA: NATIONAL ENVIRONMENTAL POLICY ACT; EIS: ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT STATEMENT; NAGPRA: NATIVE AMERICAN GRAVES PROTECTION AND REPATRIATION ACT.

As you have probably read, a lot is going on in Cocoa and Brevard County. Highway 528 was given as an easement by the state to “All Aboard Florida” from Orlando’s  Airport  to Port Canaveral (going over parts of the Indian River Lagoon); Port Canaveral will be expanded and deepened to meet the pressures of the Panama Canal; the Banana River lost 87% of its seagrasses between 2011 and 2013 and was connected to the UMEs or Unexplained Mortality Events of manatees, dolphins and pelicans near Melbourne; and NASA’s space industry is considering inviting a state-run commercial space market into its once “off-limits” Wildlife Refuge, as it is remaking itself…

WHEW! Can you say IMPACT? One way to understand impacts is to study the past….

Brevard Museum with Indian River Lagoon timeline. (JTL)
Brevard Museum with Indian River Lagoon timeline. (JTL)

The Brevard Museum features multiple aspects  of the “Brevard story” along the Indian River Lagoon: its native peoples, the pioneers, Merritt Island’s famed “Indian River Lagoon Citrus,” and the space program’s evolution at Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral.

What stood out for me once I got there was realizing I had been there before with my husband Ed in 2005 to see the Windover Archeological site display. If this site were discovered today, there would be more protections in place…it is part of protecting the environment. Let me explain.

Windover, one of the most important archeological sites in North America, was discovered in 1984 while a contractor was building a subdivision in Titusville.  He stopped construction and even donated to help unearth the area. The remains of over 200 ancient people were unearthed and proved to be 7000-8000 years old!

The people had been interred in a bog and were “perfectly” preserved and many contained in tact brain tissue. Being able to study this on such a scale was a first.

Studying the site revealed the people were exceptionally skilled tool makers and hunters, moved with the seasons between the St Johns and Indian Rivers, and that they were a compassionate people caring for their elderly and young, and ritually/religiously burying their dead. They were not the “savages” that had often been portrayed in years past and they were thousands of years older than expected.

This site changed the world of archeology. As wonderful a discovery as it was, how would you feel if those people were your ancestors? Aren’t graves sacred ground?

(http://nbbd.com/godo/BrevardMuseum/WindoverPeople/index.html)

While Patty and I were having lunch, she told that in 1990 after the Windover site was discovered in 1984, a law called NAGPRA was enacted. NAGPRA stands for the “Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act” and is a United States federal law which falls under NEPA….

We know NEPA from our Treasure Coast fight with All Aboard Florida…

The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) was enacted in 1969, one of many legislative and executive responses to growing concern about the condition of the environment and about what human actions were doing to it. NEPA does two major things. First, it establishes national policy (U.S. government policy under NEPA) regarding the environment. Second, NEPA requires that agencies prepare a “detailed statement” of the environmental impacts of any “major federal action significantly affecting the quality of the human environment.” (This “detailed statement” is known as an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). This “detailed statement” requires federal agencies and institutions that receive federal funding to return Native American “cultural items” to lineal descendants and culturally affiliated Indian tribes . While these provisions do not apply to discoveries or excavations on private or state lands, the collection provisions of the Act may apply to Native American cultural items if they come under the control of an institution that receives federal funding. (–NAGPRA website)

So if Windover or a site anything like it were discovered or exists today, Native People would have a say in what happened to their ancestors and the site of their ancestors, should they wish….After studied, their ancestors would not be sitting on a shelf in Tallahassee…They would be reburied.

NAGPRA is part of NEPA and an EIS. —NATIONAL ENVIRONMENTAL POLICY ACT; ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT STATEMENT; NATIVE AMERICAN GRAVES PROTECTION AND REPATRIATION ACT.

Familiarity with these laws is really the only hope for our government not to mow down every sacred site, burial ground, and haven for endangered and protected species along our Indian River Lagoon Region. These laws apply right now to All Aboard Florida, Port Canaveral, and NASA’s and the state’s potential impact in the Mosquito Lagoon, Banana River of the Indian River Lagoon, and the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge. 

Without these laws it would be like pioneer times, rough and wild with “no laws.” The “environment” and the people who once lived in harmony with it would basically have no protections.

NEPA, EIS and NAGPRA are “letters” all River Warriors should know!

NEPA: (https://ceq.doe.gov)
EIS: (https://www.environment.fhwa.dot.gov/projdev/docueis.asp)
NAGPRA (http://www.nps.gov/nagpra/) (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Native_American_Graves_Protection_and_Repatriation_Act)

Brevard Museum:(http://myfloridahistory.org/brevardmuseum)

Lie Down on the Tracks? St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon

Railroad Bridge, Stuart Florida. (Photo JTL)
Railroad Bridge, Stuart Florida. (Photo Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch, 2014.)
Classic photo of original wooden trestle bridge over the St Lucie River and train-- courtesy of the Historical Society and Sandra H. Thurlow.)
Classic photo of original wooden trestle bridge over the St Lucie River and train, 1894. (Courtesy of the Historical Society of MC and Sandra H. Thurlow.)
train
Train going over new steel railroad bridge in 1905. (Archives of  Historical Society of MC and Sandra Henderson Thurlow, “Stuart on the St Lucie.”)
The present railroad movable part that was built/added in 1925. (SHT)
The present railroad movable part, “wide enough to accommodate a double track”  was built/added in 1925. (“Stuart on the St Lucie,” Sandra Henderson Thurlow.)

Did you know that Henry Flagler’s Florida East Coast Railway was originally named “Jacksonville, St Augustine and Indian River Railway? ” I didn’t until I re-read The Railroad chapter my mother’s book “Stuart on the St Lucie.” The name was changed on September 9, 1895 to the infamous and famous “Florida East Coast Railway.” The train did and does, massively affect our Indian River Lagoon Region.

Yesterday, All Aboard Florida had a poster presentation at the Kane Center where the public was allowed to view and then put hand written comments in boxes. The Stuart News said 800 people showed up. When I was there, the tension was thick between the public and the paid, mostly young, working “presenters” in the room. These presenters looked exhausted. As usual business and outside politicians don’t know what they are in for when they come to Martin County. Like a mother bear protecting her cub, we fight for the beauty, tranquility and “quality of life” of our area. AAF met NOT All Aboard Florida. It was a train wreck…

I personally, am not against train travel at all, in fact I am for it,  but I am against All Aboard Florida as there are no benefits, only unfunded mandated costs to the Treasure Coast area  to maintain equipment and tracks and to alter the pleasant areas of downtown crossings that fill our counties.

Also it is so obvious that this is really about freight of course: the widening of the Panama Canal, the expansion of the Port of Miami, about feeding “all those people in Orlando” as it is encouraged to grow, consume, and excrete pollution that will drain down the Kissimmee then into Lake Okeechobee and be released into our rivers. It’s about Airglades Airport that really is not about the Sugarhill development “proper” as much as the already “approved” Airglades Airport Inland Port in Hendry County that will scare away every panther that has quietly walked that remote part of Florida over hundreds of years and yes affect Everglades restoration.

South Florida is headed to become a shipping center.

I recommend we lie down on the tracks. Honestly. I don’t want AAF’s freight corridor or fake passenger through trains. Not here.

Since a picture speaks a thousand words,  I will stop “talking”and let you take a look at what we are, and you can image what we will become, how our real estate and marine industry will change, and what these new shipping tracks and trains will look like—unless of course, we rise up and change the course of history…never doubt that that can be achieved.

Google Earth view of Roosevelt Bridge today 2014.
Google Earth view of Old and New Roosevelt Bridges today 2014.
Train going over railroad track 2014
Train going over SLR railroad track 2014
Close up
Close up
The railroad bride up, built in 1925 and now expected to allow 32 more trains plus freight to drive over it.
The railroad bridge up, built in 1925 and now expected to allow 32 more trains plus freight to drive over it.
Close up view
Close up view of the past to become the future.