Tag Archives: pollution

Is Agriculture’s Use of Glyphosate Feeding Lake O’s Explosive Algae Blooms? Professor Geoffrey Norris, SLR/IRL

Writing my blog allows me to meet many interesting people. Recently, fellow Sewall’s Point resident, and active Vietnam Veterans of America member, Mr. Frank Tidikus, introduced me to Canadian and part-time Martin County resident, Professor Geoffrey Norris who is a geologist and algae fossil specialist with a long career at the University of Toronto.

Professor Norris, his wife, and I met at the Prawnbroker and had a lovely exchange. Dr Norris describes himself as such…

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Professor Geoffrey Norris, Ph.D. FRSC

University of Toronto: http://www.es.utoronto.ca/people/faculty/norris-geof/

...In the 1960s, I lived and worked as a petroleum exploration geologist in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Subsequently, I spent almost 40 years at the University of Toronto in teaching and research in  geology…A  geologist by training, I have a specialized knowledge of fossil algae, their ecology, morphology, and distribution.  I have published hundreds of scientific papers on fossil algae and related topics…

Professor Norris shared two papers composed for his property association at Indian River Plantation on Hutchinson Island along the Indian River Lagoon during the 2016 toxic algae extravaganza. Today, I will share the first entitled: “Blue-green algal blooms in the lakes, rivers, and marine waters of south Florida surrounding Lake Okeechobee.” His second, specifically on Sugarcane, I will provide next week.

Professor Norris’ summary and full paper is below. It is excellent in that it is able to relay complex subjects to the everyday reader interested in water quality and improving the plight of our St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon.

What is most amazing to me are his comments on glyphosate, most famous for being the active ingredient in Roundup, but now used under many names. Sometimes I hear people screaming so much about Roundup that I tune it out, but Professor Norris’ observations really got to me.

He notes that glyphosate, used excessively in agriculture production around south and central Florida may actually “feed”cyanobacteria (toxic blue-green algae blooms). Also mind-blowing are Professor Norris’ insights into the reproduction of the hungry and ancient cyanobacteria that reproduces through binary fission (copying itself) “producing endless clones” “with no dissipation of mutant genes as a checks and balance to adaptation…”

Yikes! Really?

Blue Green Algie 5.jpg
Blue-green algae mat St Lucie River July 2016, Snug Harbor, JTL
Well, enjoy the reading the paper. And know, together we are making a difference!

Jacqui

 

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L_GLYPHOSATE_2011.png
Public maps info shared by Dr Norris, courtesy of USGA
Blue-green algal blooms in the lakes, rivers, and marine waters of south Florida surrounding Lake Okeechobee 

Executive Summary

  • This report provides basic information on blue-green “algae” and explains that they are actually bacteria (cyanobacteria). These blue-green bacteria form blooms in Lake Okeechobee that in turn are released by the Army Corps of Engineers into canals and estuaries of south Florida.
  • The blue-green bacteria grow by using sunlight as an energy source to synthesize elements from the water into more complex compounds used in their cells. When important nutrients such as phosphorus and nitrogen are present in excess, the bacteria multiply rapidly and accumulate as highly concentrated masses of cells, called blooms.
  • Blue-green bacteria can synthesize nitrates from atmospheric nitrogen, but also need phosphorus dissolved in water to survive and thrive. If phosphorus is scarce in the water, this limits the growth of the bacteria.  If it is abundant, blooms can be triggered.
  • Run-off and back pumping into Lake Okeechobee from surrounding Everglades agricultural lands and upstream from the Kissimmee River watershed is suspected of providing a potential abundant source of phosphorus for blue-green bacteria, in phosphate-rich fertilizers and herbicides such as Roundup (glyphosate).
  • Glyphosate (2-[(phosphonomethyl)amino]acetic acid) is of particular concern, since it has been used heavily in the agricultural areas around Lake Okeechobee and upstream in the Kissimmee River watershed for at least 25 years. Glyphosate provides a source of phosphorus for blue-green bacteria and recent research by others suggest that glyphosate enhances the growth of blue-green bacteria, which become tolerant and absorb glyphosate directly.
  • The blue-green bacterial blooms released into the St Lucie Estuary (principally Microcystis) are formed in freshwater but appear to be tolerant of dilute salinities, and recent research suggests can build up resistance to increased salinities such as are found in estuarine waters.

Blue-green algal blooms in the lakes, rivers, and marine waters of south Florida surrounding Lake Okeechobee

By Geoffrey Norris Ph.D. FRSC

rosalex@interlog.com

6 July 2016

Introduction

I am a property owner in Stuart, Florida and have been alarmed – along with many others – at the spread of blue-green algae (aka cyanobacteria) into the St Lucie River and adjacent areas by water releases from Lake Okeechobee.  There has been much publicity and calls for action over the years but very little appears to have been done to solve this long-standing problem at any level of government, until very recently.  Now, a State of Emergency has been declared by the Governor of Florida.  Recent initiatives, following public meetings in Martin County thanks to the Board of County Commissioners, have been undertaken by Florida Representative Gayle Harrell and Senator Joe Negron and their colleagues in association with Senators Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson and Rep. Patrick Murphy to urge the Army Corps of Engineers to stop immediately the nutrient-laden discharges from Lake Okeechobee.

Although I am a property owner and tax payer in Martin County, I am also a Canadian snowbird and therefore do not have a vote, which is a little constraining when trying to influence political decisions.  Therefore, I decided to put my energies into assessing what is known about the current situation of the blue-green blooms.  I am a geologist by training and I do have a specialized knowledge in particular of fossil algae that have been extremely important in oil and gas exploration over the decades gone by.  I am not a biologist but I do have some knowledge of the literature on algae – their ecology, morphology and distribution in various environments.  I have published hundreds of scientific papers on fossil algae and related topics and hope that the following – largely based on biological and agricultural literature – will pass muster.

In the following presentation my aims are twofold:

Firstly, to try and answer commonly asked questions about blue green algae (which are actually bacteria) that might be helpful in clarifying some of the technicalities of a complex subject.

Secondly, to highlight what to my mind is the ultimate cause of the blue-green outbreak:  that is, the heavy application of phosphate-bearing fertilizers and herbicides around Lake Okeechobee together with back pumping of agricultural run-off into the Lake.  In particular I believe that the well-known weed killer glyphosate (e.g. Roundup) may be implicated as a major contributor to the problem.  South Florida and somewhat later Central Florida became major users of Roundup in the early 1990s, long before its popularity spread north into the corn and bean belt.

Feel free to pass this article on to others.  I would welcome comments by email at rosalex@interlog.com

What are blue-green algae?

Well, for starters they are not actually algae at all.  They were discovered in the 19th century by biologists using newly invented high-powered microscopes. They noticed a variety of microorganisms living in water, some of them with green pigments in the cells that allowed photosynthesis to occur, similar to the well-known photosynthesis occurring in the much larger land plants and driven by chlorophyll.  But they were much simpler in organization than the large land plants so were called “algae” (singular alga, from the Latin word for seaweed).  Some of these microorganisms contain a rather different bluish pigment and were therefore referred to as “blue-green”, and in these early days were judged nevertheless to be algae – hence blue-green algae.

It was only later that biologists realized that the blue-green microorganisms were crucially different from algae because they had no nucleus in the cell and their pigment was not organized into a “blob” within the cell like most other algae.  In the scientific literature they are now regarded as bacteria and the blue-greens are referred to as cyanobacteria – that is, photosynthetic bacteria that use a blue-green pigment to facilitate the use of the sun’s energy to produce organic compounds needed by these organisms.

It is important to understand this difference between the blue-green cyanobacteria on the one hand and the “true” algae on the other.  I will come back to the difference between bacteria and algae later, and how this impacts on bloom formation.

Meanwhile, the term “blue-green algae” has gained traction in the news media and is now widely understood to be implicated in the blooms of microorganisms that occur from time to time in lakes and rivers in Florida and elsewhere.  I will use either of the terms “blue-green algae” or  “cyanobacteria” depending on the context, or just the neutral term “blue-greens”.  But remember they are actually bacteria.

What are algal blooms?

An algal bloom is the result of rapid increase or accumulation of algae in a body of water.  They can occur in freshwater (lakes, rivers) or in marine water (estuaries, lagoons, coastal embayments).   Different types of algae (including the blue-green cyanobacteria) produce different blooms characterized by green, bluish, yellow, brown or red colors.  The density of pigmented cells in a bloom is enormous, and measured in the hundreds of thousands to billions of cells per liter (1 liter is almost a quart) depending on the species.

Blooms can be quite localized and appear as a streak on the water or can be very large and visible from space, such as the algal blooms that occur from time to time in Lake Erie and measure tens to hundreds of miles in extent.  The recent blue-green algal bloom in Lake Okeechobee was reported to be more than 30 square miles in extent.

What causes blooms?

Blooms occur naturally when the water contains an excess of nutrients such as phosphorus and other compounds.  This causes an increase in the growth of algae leading to very high concentrations of cells that become visible as colored streaks and patches in the water.  Other factors involved in triggering algal blooms include temperature changes, sunlight intensity, changes in water chemistry and changes in water currents.

What are the red tides that occur in Florida?
A red tide is just another name for a bloom of “true” algae in marine water, and in this case a particular algal group called dinoflagellates.  Red tides can be red but more often occur as greenish or yellowish colored water in the coastal areas of Florida.  The term “harmful algal bloom” is often preferred in referring to these dinoflagellate blooms that do indeed harm wildlife and human life in different ways e.g. toxic shellfish poisoning; respiratory illness; mass fish kills.

So what caused the blue-green algal blooms in Lake Okeechobee?

First, it is important to understand that blue green algae are uniquely different.  Not only are they photosynthetic bacteria but they are also capable of manufacturing their own supply of nitrates from nitrogen in the atmosphere, one of their crucial nutritional requirements.  So the blue-greens have plenty of nitrogen to live on but they also need other important elements and compounds to thrive.  One of these is phosphorus, which often occurs naturally in water in trace amounts as phosphates.  If phosphorus is scarce, then this limits the growth of the blue-greens even though they have potentially a lot of nitrates available.  The amount of phosphorus available becomes a limiting factor for growth of the blue-green algae.  If phosphorus becomes more abundant in the water, then the blue-green algae thrive and multiply until they become visible as a bloom.  It is believed that high phosphorus concentrations in Lake Okeechobee are capable of triggering blue-green algal blooms.

So where did the phosphorus come from in Lake Okeechobee?

Lake Okeechobee is surrounded by agricultural land that is being intensively farmed.  Run-off from the farmland appears to be entering Lake Okeechobee, and this includes various phosphate-rich fertilizers and herbicides such as Roundup (glyphosate).

But Lake Okeechobee water levels are higher than the surrounding plain.  How can run-off into the Lake happen?

Well, firstly, Lake Okeechobee and the surrounding farmland share a common water table.  Transfer of minerals and soluble organic compounds can occur through the groundwater.  But probably more importantly, until recently it was common farming practice to back pump excess run-off water from the agricultural land into Lake Okeechobee.  Almost certainly this had led to the accumulation of phosphorus and other nutrients in the Lake as well as unused agricultural chemicals.  Aerial transmission into the Lake from crop dusting is also possible.

So now that back pumping has been discontinued will this solve the problem?

Not really, because although farmers now are not allowed to back pump into the Lake, the South Florida Water Management District has responsibility to alleviate the threat of flooding.  They can – and do – back pump surface water from the surrounding land into Lake Okeechobee, if excessive rainfall conditions threaten to flood the communities around the Lake.  Rainwater running off the agricultural land will still contain phosphorus and other compounds derived from fertilizers.  Furthermore, from time to time the Army Corps of Engineers controls the level of Lake Okeechobee by releases of lake water into the canals, which in turn feed into the estuaries around Stuart and other coastal communities.

Are there any other agricultural products that are contributing to the appearance of blue-green algal blooms?

Yes, there is one in particular that is of great concern.  Glyphosate is the active ingredient in the well-known weed killer Roundup.  It is used intensively by farmers over much of North America.  South Florida is one of the areas where it is being used very heavily in agriculture, and has been since at least 1992 (the earliest available data).  A little further to the north, Central Florida’s usage of glyphosate surged in 1993 and continued until 2013 (the last available data) and may also be a source of glyphosate in Lake Okeechobee but originating further upstream in the Kissimmee River watershed and its interconnected lakes.

http://water.usgs.gov/nawqa/pnsp/usage/maps/show_map.php?year=2001&map=GLYPHOSATE&hilo=L

Why is glyphosate of such concern?

Glyphosate is an organic compound with phosphorus as an important component as well as nitrogen in its chemical make-up. It was invented by Monsanto chemists, brought to market in 1974, and its chemical name is N-(phosphonomethyl)glycine (aka 2-[(phosphonomethyl)amino]acetic acid)  –  glyphosate for short and much more easily remembered.  Monsanto’s patent on glyphosate expired in 2000 and since then it has been manufactured by dozens of companies with a significant drop in price and therefore increasing popularity with farmers.  In 2007 it became the most-used herbicide in agriculture in USA.  It works as a weed killer by inhibiting the production of certain plant amino acids and enzymes.  After it has done its deadly work, some of it can break down in the soil into simpler molecules of carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen and phosphorus.  Excess glyphosate can run off into water, particularly at peak farming times.  Its use has been expanding in the agricultural sector by about 20% per year for the last several years.

So far, so good.  It kills most green plants, if that is what you want.  I personally use it to kill poison ivy on my property.  Unfortunately, it has become apparent through a number of recent laboratory-based studies that glyphosate does not act as a killer for some blue-green algae, aka cyanobacteria.  Firstly, the blue-greens love the phosphorus in glyphosate or its degradation products, which otherwise is a limiting factor in their survival.  They thrive on increased phosphorus.  Secondly and more insidiously, recent research has indicated that glyphosate actually enhances the growth of blue-greens.  The blue-greens apparently have the ability to absorb glyphosate directly from the water and some are tolerant to it or become adapted to it by rare genetic mutations.

OK, but rare genetic mutations are just that – rare!  So what?

Well, you remember that blue-greens are actually bacteria, not true algae.  As such their genetic material is distributed throughout the cell, and they reproduce by binary fission producing endless clones.  There is no “mix-and-matching” of chromosomes and genes such as occur in nucleated organisms using sexual reproduction that tends to dissipate the effects of mutant genes.  Once a cyanobacterium has undergone a mutation, that mutant gene is replicated again and again as the cell divides.  It produces clones of the mutant cell, and if that mutant has an advantage (such as resistance to or affinity for glyphosate), it will rapidly spread.

A more familiar example is the recent rise to prominence of so-called superbugs that are resistant to antibiotics.  Human infections are often related to bacteria that enter the body, and are treated by the intake of prescribed antibiotics as a course of treatment for a number of days.  If the antibiotics are not taken for an adequate period of time, the residual bacterial population includes mutants that resist the drug in question, and in turn that drug becomes less and less effective against new infections. This way a superbug is created e.g. MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus).  So think of the blue-greens as bacteria (which they are) and glyphosate as an antibiotic (which it is).  Those blue-green cyanobacteria that survive the glyphosate thrive as mutants and have the capacity to spread widely.

Do blue-green blooms last forever?

No.  Eventually the blue-green bloom uses up available resources and requires more nutrients than are available leading to a decline in the number of cells in the water column.  Also in temperate climates, the onset of winter temperatures can put an end to algal blooming for that season.

Then what happens?

The blue-green cells die off and sink to the bottom of the lake or estuary.  Other bacteria move in and use the debris from the dead blue-greens as a source of carbon, and use oxygen in the water to fuel their own growth.  This in turn leads to oxygen depletion that can be very severe.  Without oxygen in the water, normal aquatic life becomes impossible and a dead zone is created: fish move away, and other organisms die that can’t move into more oxygen-rich environments.

How many blue-green algae/cyanobacteria exist?

About 2500 living species have been described in the literature but probably double or treble that number exist and await discovery and description.  They have a very long geological history.  Fossilized blue-greens have been discovered in rocks 3.5 billion years old.

How many are harmful?

Only a dozen or so species are actually harmful when they form blue-green blooms and emit toxic substances.  In the recent outbreak, Microcystis aeruginosa has been identified as a bloom-forming cyanobacterium together with a couple of others.

So which blue-greens are responsible for the Lake Okeechobee and St Lucie River blooms?

The Florida Dept of Environmental Protection (DEP) took a number of samples from sites in Martin County and adjacent areas from Late May to Late June 2016 and the results are available at their website:

https://depnewsroom.wordpress.com/south-florida-algal-bloom-monitoring-and-response/

Most samples are reported as “mixed algae; no dominant species in the sample”, but a few are reported with more detail (numbers are depth in meters):

Martin County

St. Lucie River, Central Marine Marina (N 27° 12′ 55″, W -80° 15′ 18″)

0.3 Dominant taxon: Microcystis aeruginosa
Martin County

Dire Point Canal (N 27° 12′ 24.47″, W -80° 16′ 16.90″)

0.3 m mixed algae; no dominant species in sample though specks of Microcystis aeruginosa present.
Martin County

SE Harbor Pointe Dr. (N 27° 12′ 12.44″, W -80° 12′ 44.77″)

0.3 m mixed algae; no dominant species in sample though specks of Microcystis aeruginosa present.
Martin County

C-44 and S. Fork Mouth (N 27° 7′ 46.13″, W -80° 15′ 58.02″)

0.3 m mixed algae; no dominant species in sample though specks of Microcystis aeruginosa present.
Martin County

S-80 (N 27° 06′ 41.87″, W -80° 17′ 06.08″)

0.5 m Dominant taxon: Planktolyngbya limnetica
Martin County

Lake Okeechobee – Port Mayaca S 308 C Upstream Lake Side

N 26° 59′ 6″

W -80° 37′ 16.5″

Water column Dominant: Microcystis aeruginosa
Hendry County

Lake Okeechobee near Channel Marker 9B

N 26° 46′ 36.6954″

W -80° 54′ 8.676″

Water column Co-dominant taxa: Microcystis aeruginosa and Dolichospermum circinalis

Clearly, Microcystis appears to be important in several blooms, but quantitative and qualitative data are not provided for the majority of samples, making further evaluation impossible at this time. Dolichospermum (aka Anabaena) is a well known blue-green that produces nerve toxins and liver-damaging toxins, as does Microcystis. Planktolyngbya limnetica is another well known toxic blue-green.

How adequate has the sampling and analysis program by DEP been?

It is difficult to say for sure, since DEP only provides results of their program, not the sampling and analytical strategies themselves.  However, from what can be gleaned from their website it would seem that during the month of June 2016 DEP collected 24 samples from 7 counties (Martin, Palm Beach, St Lucie, Lee, Charlotte, Hendry, Glades) over a 29 day period, covering a transect from the Atlantic coast to the Gulf of Mexico (Stuart/Palm Beach to Fort Myers).  Of those 24 samples, 83% were reported “mixed algae; no dominant species in the sample” without further details.  I would judge this to be a token response to what is clearly a major emergency.  The analytical results appear to be lackluster to judge from details available on the website.  No doubt DEP activities are constrained by their budget, but the lack of urgency in attempting to characterize these blooms is disappointing at best and may eventually be judged negligent to some degree.

What is known about Microcystis aeruginosa?

Quite a lot.  It is the most common harmful algal bloom-forming species in freshwater.  The cells are tiny but colonies can be macroscopic in size and contain gas vesicles that allow the colonies to be buoyant and float to the surface of the lake.  It produces both neurotoxins and hepatotoxins that contaminate the water and have been known to kill  dogs, other large animals and livestock in general that drink the polluted water.  The toxins may be carcinogenic.   Microcystis has a drastic effect on dissolved oxygen in the water that can lead to mass fish kills.

Can blue-green algae live in salt water?

This depends on the species.  Many truly marine blue-greens are known in seas and oceans where they play an important role in nitrogen fixation and are important components of the marine ecosystem.  In the case of Stuart and the St Lucie inlet and estuary, these natural estuarine waters have been diluted and/or replaced by fresher water discharges from Lake Okeechobee as shown in recent Florida Oceanographic Society water quality reports:

http://www.floridaocean.org/uploads/docs/blocks/867/160630.pdf

In turn this has allowed freshwater blue-greens such as Microcystis to establish colonies and blooms in areas that otherwise would support more saline organisms.  So, for example, on June 30th 2016, the north and south forks of the St Lucie River, the St lucie River adjacent to Sewells Point, and the Manatee Pocket were reporting salinity values in the range of zero to 13 parts per thousand, areas which otherwise would be in the range of 15 to 30 parts per thousand.  Hence some of these diluted saline waters can now support freshwater blue-greens.

Alarmingly, recent laboratory-based research has shown that some blue-greens – such as Microcystis – can build up resistance to increased salinity and, therefore, if this happens in the natural habitat can expand their range from freshwater to higher salinities.

What can be done to improve the situation?

If you have a vote at any level of government, contact your elected politicians to highlight the urgent nature of the blue-green blooms and to bring pressure to bear to use available resources to solve the matter.

  • Stop the back pumping of run-off water by anyone into Lake Okeechobee.
  • Curtail the heavy application of phosphorus-rich agricultural chemicals in farmland surrounding Lake Okeechobee.
  • In particular, request a thorough scientific investigation into the effects of glyphosate (Roundup) on blue-green algae (cyanobacteria) and their blooms.
  • In the long run, demand that the dike surrounding Lake Okeechobee be rebuilt with a view to diverting southwards the impounded waters back into the Everglades.
  • IMG_1003 2.JPG
    Dr and Mrs Norris
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Cheerio!

2015’s Historic Words of Senate President Designee, Joe Negron, SLR/IRL

A photo with Senator Joe Negron at his designation as Senate President. 12-2-15. (Photo Ed Lippisch)
A photo with Senator Joe Negron at his designation as Senate President made to look “more historic.” 12-2-15. (Photo Ed Lippisch)

On December 2nd, 2015 my husband Ed and I flew to a historic event in Tallahassee, the designation of local politician, Joe Negron, as President of the Florida Senate.

To try to bring understanding and light to Joe’s accomplishment is really not possible for me… His world is one few know, including myself. I have supported Joe Negron all along the way, first working together in 2012 on Lake O issues when I was mayor of Sewall’s Point. Yes, the ACOE was releasing that year too and the River Kidz were protesting at the locks even then…..I believe in Joe. I believe too that that you have to cut people a break who are “in the Lion’s Den.” It is easy to sit outside of the cage and yell “how to tame,” “how to win,” and “how not to get eaten….”

I admire people who try tame lions…..Don’t you? Could you tame them?

Sitting in the balcony during the event, I recorded what I could of Senator Negron’s acceptance speech. He noted four goals: making Florida’s top universities even greater, dealing with the Lake Okeechobee dilemma, not criminalizing adolescence, and embracing the Constitution.

Today I have transcribed the part of Senator Negron’s speech from my iPhone recording. This part is about his goal for Lake Okeechobee. I am thankful “beyond words for these historic words…” “Thank you Joe!” Every one of us who were part of the fight to right the Lost Summer are part of the spirit of this historic speech!  We have come a long way since 2013! And get ready for the ride of the future mostly in 2016-2017.

Here we go…

Words of Joe Negron 12-2-15, Florida Senate Chambers:

“Issue number two, let’s solve the Lake Okeechobee dilemma. …In the summer of 2013 there were near historic levels of rainfall in south Florida and Lake Okeechobee rose to the levels where the ACOE made the decision to have massive releases east and west in order to protect the integrity of the dike.  And in the community that I represent, 136 billion gallons of water was sent from Lake Okeechobee into the St Lucie River and Indian River Lagoon.

It also had an adverse effect on southwest Florida with water going to the Caloosahatchee to the Ft Meyers area. Our community came together, and this Senate stepped up, and President Gates appointed a “select committee.” We met in Stuart, and I promised people “measurable progress in a reasonable time.” The then speaker of the house, Speaker Weatherford, also came to our community to visit. We had a group called the River Kidz that were young people who came together to support our efforts… there was some excellent reporting by the Stuart News on this issue that led to not only local coverage but also state coverage and national coverage which was very effective at bringing the attention of the state to our issue.

We funded 231 million dollars in projects. These were not studies, they were not groups sitting around talking about what to do. These were tangible things. Thanks to Governor Scott’s support for bridging two and a half miles of the Tamiami Trail so that water can flow south from Everglades National Park into Florida Bay. That’s going to be a step in the right direction. We just broke ground on the C-44 reservoir which will store basin run off and also assist our in not having water go into the lake….

My goal is before I finish my time in the senate and pack up boxes and put them in the Jeep and go back go Stuart—I have a personal goal/mission and that is to work with the agricultural community, to work with Florida’s best scientists, to work with all of us as a legislature who have background and knowledge on this issue and we will permanently protect our estuaries, protect our lagoons, come up with a way to not have these terrible discharges from Lake Okeechobee that destroy our environment. That’s one of my goals….”

Senator Joe Negron
Designee President to the Florida Senate

Joe Negron at River Kidz protests at St Lucie Locks and Dam because of Lake O releases in 2102.
Joe Negron at River Kidz protests at St Lucie Locks and Dam because of Lake O releases in 2012..
2013 Joe Negron at River Kidz protest at Locks.
2013 Joe Negron at River Kidz protest at Locks.
....
….2015 Senate chambers. Color guard.
....
….2015 Senator Negron in his seat in Senate chambers.
....
….2015, Gov. Scott and others…
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….2015 Joe Negron makes his acceptance speech for designated Senate President 2017-2018.
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…..The historic Florida capitol.
....
….Today’s Florida capitol.

Audio file Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch 12-2-15: (Go to website if not available)

Senate:(https://www.flsenate.gov/senators/s32)

Face to Face, Florida Channel: (http://thefloridachannel.org/videos/senator-joe-negron-senate-republican-president-designate/)

Florida Channel Summary: (http://thefloridachannel.org/videos/cu-1840/)

River Kidz Grow Up; the River the Same. St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon

River Kidz founders Evie Flaugh and Naia Mader, 2011.
River Kidz founders Evie Flaugh and Naia Mader, 2011.
River Kidz 2015.
River Kidz 2015.(Photo Nic Mader.)

“Time flies”… “Time waits for no one”… “Time is of the essence”….

There are hundreds of sayings about time, and none of them can truly encompass its passage and what it feels like to know it is slipping away….

Having no children of my own, I am dependent on the children of others to really see time “fly.” As time seems to fly fastest when it comes to children turning into adults–right before our eyes, while  we of course feel “exactly the same…”

I deeply believe that all kids are River Kidz!

The two closest to me are my niece Evie Flaugh, and Naia Mader, two Town of Sewall’s Point girls that founded River Kidz in 2011 when I was mayor. Sometimes they come and visit me. These are some of my favorite days. When they visit, I am struck by how they are changing. They are growing up. They are becoming women.

“10ish” years old when their endeavor started, I think they are now both “15.” Three months apart. Evie is a bit older but they are in different grades. I can’t keep up actually. But I do know they were both once well below my shoulder and they now stand almost a full foot taller than me. I noticed recently, when I sat on the bench with them for a picture, that my feet hardly reached the ground. Their knees were bent…

I look at them in awe.

“Was I that young once?

I was, and boy did want to be older…. This I remember.

Things are going to start changing even more quickly.

They will be driving soon….Gulp….

And where have “we” all driven the river since 2011? The St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon is in really in the about same predicament it was in 2011. In some areas worse.  A lot has happened, and good has been achieved, however, the biggest killer, discharges from canals C-23, C-24, C-25, C-44 and Lake Okeechobee will continue to slowly kill the river with no end in sight, because our state in is denial of the depth and timing of our pollution and water crisis. They think we have 30 years…Oh let’s make that 50 years….no  100….

However awareness is high. As Amendment 1 and our local River Movement has shown, the public is pushing for change;  and not giving up. WE ARE MAKING PROGRESS even though it seems sometimes it may take forever, or that we will return to our maker not having achieved the goal.

I am certain that one day there will be substantive positive change for the Indian River and all of Florida’s precious waters. There must be in order for the state to survive. To feed this change and the human will for survival which requires clean water, we must continue to put “gas in the car,” or better yet, use solar energy—- we have to keep making “River Kidz out of kids.” We have to keep driving.

One day soon, these kids will take the wheel of life.  I am confident they will drive with more care than previous generations did;  they will do all they can to navigate the crash we will be leaving them.

The River Kidz, Naia and Evie, they  inspire me. But my heart aches for them. For them we must work harder to change the tide of legislative and agency complacency. We must make more people realize that we do not have 30 years. We have now.

RK artwork 2013
RK artwork 2013
2013....
2013….

River Kidz is a division of the Rivers Coalition: (http://riverscoalition.org)
River Kidz: (http://riverscoalition.org/riverkidz/)
Photos/mixed on-line: (http://www.bing.com/images/search?q=river+kidz&qpvt=river+kidz&qpvt=river+kidz&FORM=IGRE)

President Obama in Palm City Again? A “Temporary Flight Restriction” This Weekend,” St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon

Associated Press photo 2013, President Obama visiting "Palm City, Florida."(Words written by JTL)
Associated Press photo 2013, President Obama visiting “Palm City, Florida.”(Words “GOLF OR THE SLR/IRL written by JTL.)
TRF ALERT for Palm City March 28-29. (Source AOPA, 3-24-15, Ed Lippisch.)
TRF ALERT for Palm City March 28-29. (Source AOPA, 3-24-15, Ed Lippisch.)

The past few days I have overheard my husband and his friends’ grumblings about “how their weekend was “wrecked,” and how “now they are going to have to drive to Vero, and can’t fly….” Finally, I  asked: “what’s going on?”

So my husband, Ed, gave me the public documents…

Apparently, this Saturday and Sunday, March 28-29, 2015, a “Temporary Flight Restriction” (TFR) will be in place over Palm City for security measures as a ” VIP” will be visiting Palm City.

“The FAA has issued a flight advisory to alert pilots of an upcoming presidential temporary flight restriction (TFR) over the Palm City, Florida, area on March 28 and 29,” the Aircraft Owner and Pilot Association (AOPA) advisory reads.

Basically, a TFR is two circles in the air, as shown above, an “airspace,” that under Title 49 of the United States Code, the US Government may pursue criminal charges if a pilot is illegally in that space, and in fact, the US Government may use deadly force against airborne aircraft, if that aircraft poses a threat….yes, like an F-16 can shoot you down…

Hmmmm…

Thus—“I think we’ll dive…..”

F-16s aside, how quaint, that possibly the President of the United States will once again be in our parts during releases from Lake Okeechobee into the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon.

Lake Okeechobee discharges were happening when he visited in 2013 as well. But that year it was even worse as the river was toxic and signs were posted from the Martin County Health Department stating DO NOT TOUCH THE WATER.

Ironically, the C-23 canal, another polluting canal like the C-44 that is not attached to Lake Okeechobee,  boarders The Floridian, were I’d imagine President Obama may be playing golf….? And although the C-23 is not connected to Lake Okeechobee, its polluted agricultural and urban runoff  is killing our St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon as well.

C-23 which boarders St Lucie and Martin County funs right next to the Floridian Golf Course---it is not attached to Lake Okeechobee. (Map SLRI)
C-23 which boarders St Lucie and Martin County runs very close to the Floridian Golf Course- (Map SLRI)

Now that I’m thinking about it, maybe President Obama is going to play golf with Congressman Murphy? Soon to be US Senator Murphy….Maybe they can discuss the purchase of US Sugar option lands south of the lake to store, clean and convey water south to dying Everglades National Park? Maybe they can discuss the EPA and FDEP and their responsibility in documenting  the destruction of our river and reef aquatic preserves? Or maybe even trying to “protect” them? What a thought.

Maybe they can talk about how “IT IS HAPPENING AGAIN: ” (https://vimeo.com/119495955)

One way or another, I am sure, our St Lucie/Indian River Lagoon issues will “make it to the top.”

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AOPA FLIGHT ADVISORY:

Pilots should take note of an upcoming TFR over Palm City, Florida, March 28 and 29. Click to see the full alert. (http://www.aopa.org/News-and-Video/All-News/2015/March/20/Pilots-should-note-upcoming-TFR-over-Florida)

The FAA has issued a flight advisory to alert pilots of an upcoming presidential temporary flight restriction over the Palm City, Florida, area on March 28 and 29. The FAA started reaching out to pilots in the area March 20 in an effort to decrease the number of TFR violations that typically occur in the state with such a high density of flight activity.

As of publication, a notam had not yet been released detailing the specifics of the upcoming Palm City TFR, but it will have the usual 30-nautical-mile-radius outer ring and inner 10-nm-radius general aviation no-fly zone, and it will extend from the surface up to but not including 18,000 feet. Gateway procedures for aircraft that need to operate at Witham Airport (KSUA) are detailed in the flight advisory. Melbourne International Airport (KMLB) and West Palm Beach Airport (KPBI) have been designated as TSA “security screening sites” for aircraft that need to fly into Witham during the TFR’s effective times, according to the flight advisory.

 

TFR 1.
TFR 1.
TFR 2.
TFR 2.
TFR 3.
TFR 3.

 

The C-23 is one of the filthiest canals. When bacteria levels were measured at this spot they were almost always high. Since 2013, the MCHD measures at the Sandbar. (Photo 2-14, JTL.)
The C-23 is one of the filthiest canals. When bacteria levels were measured at this spot they were almost always high. Since 2013, the MCHD measures at the Sandbar. (Photo 2-14, JTL.)
Water outside C-23 canal 2/15, JTL)
Water outside C-23 canal 2/15, JTL)
Photo of plume from Lake O and area canals in 2013, Jupiter Island. Our present pulling system constraints unless changed will promote this indefinitely. (JTL)
Photo of plume from Lake O and area canals in 2013, Jupiter Island. Our present polluting “system constraints” unless changed will promote this indefinitely. These constraints must be “solved.” (JTL)

 

 

 

 

 

Agriculture, the Governor, the Florida State Legislature, “Blood is Thicker than Water,” St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon

Historic photo, Ca. 1800s, courtesy of Sandra Henderson Thurlow, Thurlow Archives.)
Historic photo, ca. 1850s, Martin County,  courtesy of Sandra Henderson Thurlow, Thurlow Archives.)

I come from a historic agricultural background, on both sides of my family, so I feel like I can criticize it.

My Thurlow great-great grandparents grew thistles in New York, and my Henderson great-grandparents, from a long farming line, settled in Madison, Florida. My grandfather, Russell Henderson, was a well-respected soli-scientist and taught in the Agriculture Department at the University of Florida, even getting a mural painted including him by citrus legend, Ben Hill Griffen…

I ate boiled peanuts while learning about different crops and cows during my summer vacations as a kid while visiting Gainesville.  I understand the connection and importance of agriculture to the success of both my family and to our country.

Gov Broward for which Broward County is named, led in draining the Everglades. (Public photo.)
Florida’s Gov Broward for which Broward County is named, led in leadership to “drain the Everglades,” for agriculture and development. (Public photo.)

Nonetheless, as a product of the Florida Indian River Lagoon region since 1965, I have chosen to focus my energies on “natural preservation.” This is often at odds with agriculture and development’s values.

Again, I respect agriculture; it feeds us….

I just think some aspects of the industry have gone “too far,” and are too coddled by our state, especially regarding the pollution and water resources destruction caused by their now “agribusiness giant-ness.”

Although Agriculture is a “giant,” today the number one income for the state of Florida is tourism. (http://www.stateofflorida.com/Portal/DesktopDefault.aspx?tabid=95)

Nonetheless, agriculture has a stronghold on our state government beyond comprehension, beyond tourism, or “quality of life or quality for tourists.” Agriculture/sugar brags that agriculture “feeds the world,” not just the state. I guess this is good, but why should my state and local area be “raped and polluted” to feed the world?

Money…

Power…

Greed…

History…

No where is this more evident than the in Everglades Agricultural Area where the sugar industry “reigns king.” As of late, the sugar industry is not supporting the purchase of option lands that are FOR SALE. They have been able to convince the governor, and so far the state legislature, that is it unwise to purchase these option lands to start creating an EAA reservoir to store, clean and convey more water south to the Everglades to begin the journey of saving the Everglades as well as the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon and also the Caloosahatchee River. These estuaries and the people and businesses that live along them sufferer from the 1920 redirection of Lake Okeechobee’s waters east and west for the creation of the Everglades Agricultural Area or EAA.

Option Lands Map SFWMD River of Grass, Option 1 is 46,800 acres and shown in brown. (SFWMD map, 2010)
Option Lands Map SFWMD River of Grass, Option 1 is 46,800 acres and shown in brown. (SFWMD map, 2010.)

Honestly, I am not sure why sugar is so against this land purchase. Their land is for sale! Is because they are making money now and not going broke as they were in 2008 when the option lands deal was legally arranged? Or they do just want to hold out for more money on those lands in the future? In any case, they are doing everything they can NOT to allow the option land purchase to occur as part of the 2015 legislatures’ ability to use Amendment 1 monies while the “environmentalist” community begs….and lake O is getting higher every day.

We all know that the sugar industry gives millions of dollars a years to government officials to secure their interests. This is important, but it is not most important.

What is important for all of us to realize is that the influence of the sugar industry and agriculture in general is much deeper than money. It is blood. And this why our fight for the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon requires new blood. A revolution of sorts. Don’t get scared by these words. Nothing is more “American.”

Let’s study the history of sugar and the state of Florida’s pact:

In a 1911 Washington DC publication, of the 62nd Congress, document no. 89, entitled:

“Everglades of Florida.” —-Acts,  Reports, and other Papers, State and National, Relating to the Everglades of the State of Florida and Their Reclamation,”

—we see that even in is  the first documents of the publication produced in  1845, the year of Florida’s statehood, there was a  resolution “recommending the adoption of measures for reclaiming the Everglade land in that state.”  (By 1847 in a letter from Washington DC’s Honorable James D Westcott, Jr. to the Secretary of the Treasury and shared with the Florida legislature….)

It reads in response to the idea of draining the lands south of Lake Okeechobee…

“What would be the value of the now subaqueous lands, reclaimed by such work, I will not pretend to say….all of those (military men) who have resided in this vicinity, and who have repeatedly informed my that many of these lands would be the best sugar and richest lands in the United States.”

This publication reprinted as SOUTH FLORIDA IN PERIL, can be purchased at Florida Classic Library in Hobe Sound. (http://www.floridaclassicslibrary.com) It documents the early days of the 130 year tie between the federal, and state government as they all organized together with the agriculture industry to create the state of Florida, a sugar haven, that reached its true peak in the 1960 and 1970, with the exclusion of Cuba’s goods…

Here we are today, almost fifty years later and Cuba is perhaps reopening…and our state water issues in south Florida are out of control.

Agriculture's UF UFAS sites to help with research for agriculture improvement. ( Source, UF/IFAS.)
Today’s agriculture UF IFAS sites to help with research for agriculture improvement. Note sugarcane research center in EAA.(Source, UF/IFAS.)

Anyway, the book goes on for 203 pages documenting the state and federal governments’ support for agriculture in the Everglades and “how rich they would all become…”

That they were successful, I am happy; however; they OVER DID it, over-drained it, and refuse to see their own destruction, and their unfair advantage.

Blood is thicker than water….but “blood can’t be blood” without water…time for a change.

Stats of Sugar in Florida, 1991, Source Hazen and Sawyer, 1993)
Stats of Sugar in Florida, 1991, Source Hazen and Sawyer, 1993.)

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Governor Broward ca. 1911: (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Napoleon_B._Broward)

Florida Dept of Agriculture: (http://www.freshfromflorida.com)

Fresh From Florida/Agriculture is the cornerstone of Florida’s 500 Year History: (http://www.freshfromflorida.com/News-Events/Hot-Topics/Agriculture-is-the-Cornerstone-of-Florida-s-500-Year-History)

IFAS Everglades Sugar Research Center, Bell Glade: (http://erec.ifas.ufl.edu/about/mission_statement.shtml)

IFAS/UF: (http://ifas.ufl.edu/about-IFAS.shtml)

Department of the Interiors (DOIs) report on EAA and historical destruction of Everglades: (http://www.doi.gov/pmb/oepc/wetlands2/v2ch7.cfm)

Florida’s  Agricultural  Museum: (http://www.myagmuseum.com/floridaagriculture.html)

“Florida’s major field crop is sugarcane (mostly grown near Lake Okeechobee), which enjoyed a sizable production increase in the 1960s and 1970s, following the cutoff of imports from Cuba.” (http://www.city-data.com/states/Florida-Agriculture.html)

Historic Mistreatment of the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon

This is a photo of a sewer pipe going straight into the Indian River Lagoon. (ca. 1950 photo courtesy of Sandra Henderson Thurlow.)
This is a photo of a sewer pipe going straight into the Indian River Lagoon. (Royal Poinciana Cottages, Jensen, ca. 1950 photo courtesy of Sandra Henderson Thurlow.)
Draining oil, changing oil, over the IRL. Jensen 1930s. Photo courtesy of Thurlow archives.
Changing oil over the IRL, Pitchford Filling Station, Jensen 1920/30s. (Photo courtesy of Thurlow archives.)

As bad as things are today for the St Lucie/Indian River Lagoon, in the past we did things that today would be inconceivable, like having sewer lines drain directly into the river, or draining oil into the lagoon from a car…. For centuries people have put waste into the water so it could just “flush away.” Things  like this were done when very few people lived along the river and the waterways  could actually handle this misuse. Today with over a million people living along the 156 mile lagoon such ignorance  is not an option; we know better now. It is interesting to wonder what photos from today will look so atrocious as these above  in the future? Lake Okeechobee and canal releases full of filth? Fertilizing one’s yard? Herbicide and pesticide use by the water?  Septic tanks? Only  time will tell… and it always does.

A Time for Alligators Along the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon

An antique post card reads," A Florida Native." ca 1910. (Thurlow collection.)
An antique post card reads, “A Native of Florida,” ca. 1910. (Thurlow collection.)

I have always liked alligators. I have  been around them as long as I can remember in one way or another. When I was a kid and we would go water skiing near North River Shores close to the North Fork of the St Lucie River, we would see small ones leisurely resting in storm pipes coming out of people’s seawalls;  in my household everyone was always cheering for them as my grandfather Henderson, my parents, and later myself and brother also graduated from University of Florida. Jenny my sister is a traitor and went to Emory. 🙂

My parents have an awesome collection of alligator postcards that I will share today, and I figured now is a good time to write about gators as their babies should be hatching soon in nests along the fresh and some brackish areas of the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon. The females lay their eggs in early June and the little ones  hatch out about 65 days later.

“Crocodilla” fossil records show alligators have been on the earth for more than 200 million years. That’s pretty amazing in and of itself. But they have had many hardships.

According to Sandra Thurlow’s history writings on our Treasure Coast, when many of the first pioneers came to Florida and took river tours, they often just shot as many as they could “for fun.” This went for egrets and herons too. Sorry. But what a bunch of idiots. I know, I must be open minded and look at things “historically” within the context of the times….kind of like how people drained the whole state with out thinking…

As far as alligators, more recently, hunting, poaching, the fashion industry, pollution, and loss of habitat pushed the Florida alligator to the brink of extinction by the 1950s. In 1967 the US government listed alligators as an endangered species and gave them protection.  In one of the great comebacks of the “endangered,” alligators were increasing in numbers by the 1980s. They still have protections today, but are off the “endangered” list. 

Here are some of the antique postcards from my parents’ collection.

Alligator post card collection ca. 1910. (Thurlow collection.)
Alligator post card collection ca,. 1910-20 (Thurlow collection.)

IMG_6693 IMG_6691 IMG_6694 IMG_6690 IMG_6688 IMG_6686

Recently, a friend called me up and asked if there was someone who could move a small alligator on her property in Palm City. I called trappers recommended to me, and each of them said by law, if the alligator was reported as a “nuisance” and was over four feet, it would be removed and killed, not relocated.

I found this depressing but this is how the state manages the “nuisance gators.” Apparently they may be used for their leather and meat keeping the population in check.  Hmmm? The trapper also said, “If you don’t want it killed, just leave it alone, chances are it will move in time to another area.” This makes sense to me.

According to a Stuart News article by Ed Killer in 2010, in the state of Florida, the Florida Wildlife Commission from 1948 to 2009 documented that there were a total of  512 allligator bites; unprovoked: 330; provoked, 182; fatalities, 22. There have been two deaths in our Martin/St Lucie area. In 1978 a 14 year old boy was killed while swimming across Hidden River Canal off Bessey Creek and in 1984 an 11 year old boy was killed while swimming in a canal in St Lucie County. The alligators were 11-12 feet long.

This is terrible and heartbreaking. Like sharks, alligators share our environment are dangerous when large; we must be careful in their presence.

To end on a more positive note, in my reading I learned alligators have been noted using tools, like humans, a trait that belongs only to a few “intelligent” species. Yes. Alligators have been documented purposefully diving under the water putting sticks on their heads so water birds will land on them when looking for sticks to build their nests. Ingenious!

Maybe if we destroy the Indian River Lagoon and St Lucie River completely, along with the rest of the planet, they will return walking on two legs? Perhaps they would manage the waters of South Florida a lot better than humans…

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LINKS OF INTEREST

Florida Memory Project/Alligators: (http://www.floridamemory.com/photographiccollection/photo_exhibits/alligators/protection.php)
FWC/Alligator Facts: (http://myfwc.com/wildlifehabitats/managed/alligator/facts/)
FWC/Alligator Management: (http://myfwc.com/wildlifehabitats/managed/alligator/)
Encyclopedia of Life/Alligators: (http://eol.org/data_objects/15661319)