My husband’s flight yesterday over the Atlantic Ocean, St Lucie Inlet, and St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon is beautiful. But look carefully and you will see a light-colored brownish plume at the mouth of the St Luice Inlet entering the ocean. Finally after months of drought, it has begun raining. And when it rains… (mind you C-44 connecting the St Lucie River to Lake Okeechobee is closed now) the re-directed run-off of waters from canals C-23, and C-24 of course still flow into our St Luice River/Indian River Lagoon.
These canals organized and built during the 1950s and 60s are part of the Central and South Florida Flood Project that the Army Corp built following the hurricane and extensive south Florida flooding of 1949. The run-off waters from these canals and the local watershed are what you see in today’s video.
As damaging as C-23 and C-24 are (they too must be reworked and redirected) they are not the damaging discharges from Lake Okeechobee that throw the St Lucie over the brink as in 2013 and especially 2016 when toxic algae covered extensive portions of the entire St Lucie.
Rio, St Lucie River, Jeff Tucker, toxic algae
Shoreline of Sewall’s Point, Tracy Barnes 6-25-16
(Photo mosaic from 2016 shows various photos by Dr Scott Kuhns, Rebecca Fatzinger, (wildlife) JTL/Ed Lippisch, pilot Dave Stone and others.)
In spite of the light brown plume, the short video flight from Jensen to Peck’s Lake shows blue waters near the inlet and mouth of the estuary as it should be, not black water. If Governor Scott does not veto the budget, the reservoir in years to come will help offset the Lake Okeechobee destruction and open the way to truly “send the water south.” #ThankyouJoeNegron
This is very exciting, but believe me, this is no time to let down your guard, as the fight for control of Florida’s waters has really just begun.
If you are like me, sometimes you read the headlines and ask yourself, “what is going on here?” Florida Forever? Amendment 1? Senate Bill 10? House Bill 761? And today? Representative Matt Caldwell, probably running to replace Adam Putnam’s cabinet position in the Dept. of Agriculture, (certainly friendly with the wishes of US Sugar Corporation) proposing “more land funding” for Florida Forever? Hmmmmm? What does that mean? Is there a trap here? What’s the right thing? What’s going on anyway? How does all this work?
In order to try to answer some these questions, one has to take some time and study history….
In 1963, through the will of the people, the Florida Legislature began the Land Acquisition Trust Fund; in 1972 the Florida Legislature passed the Land Conservation Act for Environmentally Endangered Lands; in 1979 there was a major scandal as the Executive Director of the Department of Natural Resources was convicted of taking kickbacks from a land acquisition transaction and thus emerged the Conservation and Recreation Lands Program with “broader administration and oversight of land acquisition activity; ” “CARL” as it came to be known, expanded in 1981 with Governor Bob Graham’s “Save Our Rivers” and “Save Our Coasts” programs; all the while the citizens of Florida demanded such; Governor Bob Martinez continued the tradition by appointing a “Commission on Florida’s Future” that spawned the 1990 “phenomenal success” of the Preservation 2000 Act; the successor to Preservation 2000, through Governors Lawton Chiles and Jeb Bush was a name we all know and recognize, “Florida Forever.”
Florida was on a roll supporting the wishes of the citizens to preserve the state’s natural beauty before it was plowed down for more agriculture and development. Florida’s population was increasing exponentially…
So…..things are going “well.” The economy was growing. Florida was growing and the monies for land acquisition programs had evolved over the years to “tax the development that was causing a loss of open space in Florida.” Thus ironically the destruction of the state became the source of funds for conserving it. (Doc-stamp tax on the deed for real estate transactions ….) So when real estate was selling there were funds, when not there were not…
Fast forward to 2008. Some call it the Financial Crisis, some call it the Great Recession. Any of us who worked and lived through it, called it scary. During this time real estate values fell drastically. My husband and I in Sewall’s Point, Martin County, lost 40% of the market value of our home almost overnight. In St Lucie County it was as high as 65%.
So even though at this time in 2008 right before/during the giant crash, the state legislature “promised” funding to Florida Forever at former levels, but they did not give it as they couldn’t. So instead they raided trust funds like Florida Forever to “keep the State’s doors open….” and funding for Florida Forever stopped flowing with the drought of Doc Stamp monies.
After a long dry spell, as the economy slowly improved, and people realized things were bad, but that it would not be a repeat of the Great Depression of the late 1920s and 30s, some confidence returned and once again the people of Florida rose up and spoke out to their political leaders about what was important to them.
By 2014, Amendment 1 (Florida Land and Water Legacy) was put on the ballot and eventually the Florida Constitution by a citizens’ initiative with a whopping 75% plus approval calling for 33% of doc stamp money towards land and water conservation. Palm Beach County, the land of the Everglades Agricultural Area and more commissioners gone to jail for land fraud than all the rest, was one of the highest voting blocks. The message was clear. “We are back on our feet, we want to protect Florida, fund land acquisition as before!”
The state legislature did not do this, the numbers go up and down, but never near pre 2008, and never close to 33% of doc stamp money as the intention of the initiative, so now there is a law suit by the Florida Wildlife Federation and others to force implementation thereof. Continually, the legislature cries “separation of powers” and their right to interpret as “they know best….”
It is understandable that the recession has made us all more mindful, but this doesn’t mean we should forget about the environment, especially the St Lucie River, Indian River Lagoon.
Matt Caldwell? Yes, give more money to Florida Forever. But what is really behind your bill?
Joe Negron? He’s the real deal.
When I was a kid, one of my favorite commercials was Chiffon margarine. The message was that Chiffon tasted so much like butter it could even fool Mother Nature. When she found out she was mad and called on her powers with the animals surrounding her saying: “It’s not nice to fool Mother Nature….”
I say the same.
Stop fooling around state legislature and give us the butter. #SupportJoeNegron #SenateBill10
Well it’s great to be home! When it is beautiful here along the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon there truly is “no place like home.” It’s hard to put a price tag on this…
How much are beautiful water, high property values, a healthy environment, recreational opportunities, and a plethora of fish and wildlife worth anyway? For me, it is “priceless,” and therefore it is worth spending money on.
Today in the “Stuart News,” Tyler Treadway wrote an article entitled “Water District Lowers Tax.” Lowering taxes always sound good but as with everything in life, “there is a price.”
According to the South Florida Water Managements District’s ( SFWMD) website: “The annual budget funds the agency’s core flood control and water supply missions as well as its continued progress to restore and protect the South Florida ecosystem.”
Just out of curiosity I did some research. Of course millage rates and property values determine taxable value, and years must be compared “in context”–but nevertheless it is interesting to compare and contemplate:
Here are the budget number from the SFWMD since 2007:
2007: 1.439 billion
2008: 1.283 billion
2009-2010: (did not find separately) 1.5 billion
2011: 1.07 billion
2012: 576.1 million
2013: 567.3 million
2014: 622 million
2015: 720 million
2016: 719,300 million (This number is based on Mr Treadway saying the value, if approved, would be 700,000 less than the previous year-so this is just a very soft estimate.)
Yes, building up to 2007 we were in a “bubble.” We can see that after the Financial Crisis (2008) and Gov. Scott coming to power shortly thereafter, the budget numbers drop drastically around 2012.
We can also see that the numbers have gone up the last couple of years but this is because thankfully our property values have increased. In fact as Tyler Treadway notes the millage rate has gone down over the past four years. This means final budget number is “less that it could be if the millage rate were left the same instead of going to its “roll-back rate.” A rate that allows a taxing agency to generate the same amount it did the previous year. Confusing. Basically the budget number could be higher if they just leave the millage number the same.
Governor Scott has certainly kept his word about cutting taxes. This is impressive. But have the Governor and the Legislature gone too far? I think so.
The first reason is because I believe a lot of “this change” was based on an emotional reaction…
Basically, the 2008 Governor Charlie Christ plan to buy out US Sugar’s land “pissed” a lot of people in Tallahassee off. Excuse my language, but it did. Because it was such a tremendous land purchase and was out of the hands of the legislature— because the governor at the time was kind of on a “white horse” and up for election to the US Senate some people got really mad….For me if it had happened it would have been a dream come true, for others “it did not happen” and it was a nightmare. An emotional reaction on both accounts to what was really a historical anomaly. Understandably so, the 2008 Financial Crisis was also part of this emotional quagmire…
So after Gov. Scott got into office, he and others felt strongly about insuring this kind of land-buy would “never happen again….” So they revamped things in Tallahassee, cut the budgets of the water management districts to the bone, and folded it law into law that the water districts had to have their budgets approved by the legislature. This really changed things for the district and for the governing board members too….Now they have to be more submissive to Tallahassee. Yuk.
Some would say answering to the legislature is very good. Being careful with money is always “good,” and I agree, but to hang water districts on the pendulum of politics is an ineffective model for success.
Let’s look at history.
–On March 9, 1976 a voter-approved, Florida constitutional amendment authorized water management districts to levy ad valorem taxes up to 1 mill. Today we don’t even blink an eye at this. Years ago it was a feat of Florida history in favor of the environment and water planning.
Think about it.
If you have the power to levy your own millage as a special assessment district, kind of like a city, shouldn’t you be given the authority to determine how to manage and what to do with that money? What if the Town of Sewall’s Point had to run its budget by the state legislature? That would be fun. “Please! Please! Let us have that street light!”
I know I am going far out there, but still.
Why allow the water districts to levy their own millage rates if they are simply an arm of Tallahassee? Every district has its own local problems and this is why there are five separate water districts….perhaps the next “secret” step is to formally put the water districts all under one hat? Like the Department of Environmental Protection also known as “Don’t Expect Protection….”
Looking at our state’s history and the intensions of those who have gone before us, the water districts were meant to “change our world”. To save Florida. Thank you to all those working for the District and may the future give you the freedom to create your own destiny-our destiny. Shouldn’t you represent us and not Tallahassee anyway? Isn’t it our taxes that are being levied? Shouldn’t we have a loud voice? Shouldn’t you not be afraid to listen?
I think so.
These wonderful timelines of history are wonderful perspectives on how far we have come and why we should keep going!
The first time I ever saw Lake Okeechobee, I was fourteen years old. I was visiting River Ranch, at Yeehaw Junction, with my friend Vicki Whipkey, and her family. Jay Brock, who was by far the smartest of any of us kids there that summer vacation, and my first real “crush,” recommended we go see sunset on the lake. I don’t remember how we got there, but we did.
Once we arrived, the sun was starting to fall. The horizon was miles away, and the water went as far as the eye could see in all directions.
“It looks like the ocean, not a lake.” I said, taken aback.
Jay, spouted off some statistics saying something like: “The lake is about 730 square miles; 35 miles long; and up to 25 miles wide. It is the largest lake entirely within a state in the United States of America; it is half the size of Rhode Island.”
I wondered how he know all this stuff, and we sat there watching the sunset.
I wondered if I would have my first kiss at this beautiful, but almost eerie, “ocean of a lake.” It never happened…
I never really forgot Jay Brock, and we remained friends throughout our lives.
I never, never, ever, forgot Lake Okeechobee.
Years later, an adult, I started going back to Lake Okeechobee in my forties when I started to become concerned about the releases from the lake into the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon. I wanted and needed to see it through “adult eyes.”
—-I have flown over the lake with my husband and his friends many times; I have entered the lake by boat; and I have driven 30 miles west with my niece Evie, on Highway 76, until arriving at Port Mayaca. No matter how I have gotten there, every time I see the lake, I have the same experience I had at fourteen years old, I am completely “overcome by its size.”
Yesterday, Governor Rick Scott pledged Amendment 1 monies to the Everglades, but not for buying the US Sugar option 1 lands south of Lake Okeechobee,
I am thankful for this, but disappointed; I am thankful Governor Scott has the Everglades and local projects in his budget recommendation for the 2015 Legislative Session. Nonetheless, I recognize that our St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon problems will never be fixed until there is land and eventually a reservoir south of the lake to store, clean, and convey water south— a flow way of sorts to move that water south….
THERE IS TOO MUCH WATER. SOME MUST GO SOUTH. WE NEED A COMBINATION AND THE OPTION 1 LANDS EXPIRE THIS OCTOBER, 2015.
Let’s think a minute. Let’s review, and contemplate about what we can still do to politely convince our governor and legislature. There is still time.
Florida Oceanographic Society quotes 1.5 or so million acres feet coming out the Kissimmee River into Lake Okeechobee in 2013, (not our worst of years), with approximately 300,000 acre feet being released to the St Lucie/IRL and 660,000 acre feet being releases to the Caloosahatchee. The rest going to sustain the Everglades Agriculture Area south of the lake, and a smaller portion yet trickling to the dying Everglades.
So even if the Kissimmee holds more water, it won’t hold enough water. The water is meant to go south….
I wonder if the governor or Adam Putnam have any grandchildren who might be able to explain this? 🙂
Remember that the Governor’s recommendation is just that. It must be approved by the legislature. We still have time to make our voices heard and to ask for one thing to be added. ——one thing that would really help hold the tremendous and over-pouring waters of Lake Okeechobee, —-a lands purchase and a reservoir south of the lake. Then the senate, the house and the governor can duke it out….it’s not over yet!
What did Winston Churchill say? “Never, never, never, —-never give up!” 🙂
I met Governor Rick Scott when he came to Stuart during 2014, in response to the “Lost Summer of 2013,” and then again during his campaign reelection.
One of the most interesting things for me, was that he carried around a blue Sharpie pen. They say little things tell you a lot about a person’s personality….
When I gave him my booklet to sign, the booklet, Let’s Keep Florida Beautiful, dealing with Spring’s protection, his reelection campaign booklet he brought and shared with the area Chambers of Business, I handed him a ball-point pen to autograph my booklet. When he went to sign, it did not work!
He quickly reached inside his suit pocket and pulled out a blue Sharpie pen and proceeded to sign the booklet. (Photo below.)
As the Treasure Coast sits awaiting the ACOE opening of S-308 and S-80 structures this morning at 7:00AM, to once again pour polluted water from Lake Okeechobee into the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon, I would like to thank the Governor for his press release in response the releases yesterday, (below) and ask that CLEAN WATER becomes the height of his campaign promise.
I ask him, in this second round of water trouble, that he take out his Sharpie pen and fix the problem.
My personal request too, as is the Rivers Coalition’s, is that he consider the purchase of 46,800 acres of option lands in the Everglades Agricultural Area to create an area for dynamic (moving storage). A place to store, clean, and convey lots of water. Much more water than his present plans allows for.
I appreciate all that has been done by the State, but unfortunately these things are not enough to truly “Save Our River.” (http://riverscoalition.org)
Please leave a legacy of a lifetime, sir.
The Governor’s press release statement regarding releases from Lake Okeechobee starting 1-16-15:
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Governor Scott released the following statement today on the news by the US Army Corps of Engineers of upcoming Lake Okeechobee releases to the east and the west, in anticipation of upcoming rainfall levels.
Governor Scott said, “The Corps’ announcement of releases today from Lake Okeechobee proves that we cannot relent in our mission to restore Lake Okeechobee and the Everglades. We must stay the course on our current water restoration commitments and complete the projects we have already started. We also need the federal government to step up their commitment to Everglades restoration by immediately requiring the Army Corps of Engineers to repair the Lake Okeechobee dike. “The discharges from Lake Okeechobee in 2013, and the resulting harm to our estuaries, serve as a major signal that we must accelerate work on the restoration projects needed to safeguard South Florida’s waters. Addressing the environmental challenges of South Florida requires the simultaneous investment in projects to store excess water, clean polluted water and send the clean water south – away from our estuaries and into the Everglades.” Over the next four years, Governor Scott is committed to: • Fully fund the state’s share of the restoration of the Kissimmee River (which Governor Scott has already funded at $5 million); and • Fully fund the construction and completion of the C-43 (Governor Scott previously funded at $18 million) and C-44 (Governor Scott previously funded at $60 million). Focusing on completing these initiatives, while not a silver bullet, is essential to quickly increasing water storage space around Lake Okeechobee and restoring the Everglades. Together, these projects will create more than 300,000 acre-feet of new storage to help fight future releases from Lake Okeechobee. The Governor is committed to moving forward with sending water south. This year, the South Florida Water Management District sent more than 69 billion gallons of water south, sparing the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries. ###
The 2014 mid-term election is now over, but our job is just starting.
We must watch the governor; we must watch his administration and agencies; we must watch our town, city, county, state, and congressional candidates. We are tired yes, but we must not take our eyes off them, not for a second.
Whether you voted for them or not, “winning the election” means that these candidates are working for you. But if you do not communicate with them, or watch what they are doing, don’t be surprised if they wander from their promises and goals. It is only through the pressure and support of the people that the representative process works.
The stately hawk in the photo above was taken by my brother Todd Thurlow, (http://thurlowpa.com) at his North River Shores home this past weekend during the Stuart Air-Show. I think the hawk is symbolic for what we must do and how we must conduct ourselves. The hawk was not afraid of my brother or the loud and larger airplanes in the sky. It just kept watching……
As far as identifying the hawk, I cannot tell if it is a red-shouldered, red-tailed or another type as the bird’s markings have not yet matured, and I am no expert of the avian species. If you know, please share!
What I do know though, is that this bird’s eyesight, particularly because it is a “bird of prey,” is one of the very best in the animal kingdom.
“The visual ability of birds of prey is legendary, and the keenness of their eyesight is due to a variety of factors: eyes size to body mass; eyes shape and make up– with more receptors, foveae, rods and cones giving the bird spectacular long distance vision, seeing more than 6-8 times better than humans.”
Let this young hawk inspire us. Let’s not take our eyes off our elected officials!
Help me watch them; help me push them; help me encourage them to fight the next four years for sending more water south from Lake Okeechobee, and over all water quality for our area canals, St Lucie River and Indian River Lagoon.
Since last week, you may have seen press on “Sugar Hill and Airglades Airport,” a land use change proposal located in Hendry County southwest of Lake Okeechobee. This is a highly controversial, approximately 67 square miles, of present “farmland” that could change to residential, (up to 18,000 homes), and commercial lands, built around an airport that is already in place with the potential to expand.
Anyway, this morning I do not have time to debate this issue in detail, but I will say of course that it is a true “game changer.” I wanted to SHOW where these lands are located in reference to lands that are still available for purchase by the state of Florida due to an option you may have heard of as well.
If purchased, these “option” lands would be key in Everglades restoration from Lake Okeechobee to the Everglades and restoring some pathetic remnant of its historic flow.
Presently, the state does not want to buy these lands because politicians claim there is no money to maintain them and if they were bought the lands will just end up “sitting there,” at great expense until a possible time they could be utilized in the future, like 2060.
This argument may sound “reasonable” but in order to save the Everglades and the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon, purchasing these lands is critical and should be done “now” because if these lands are not purchased “now,” as the Sugar Hill Sector Plan shows, their land use could be changed and then the lands will be too expensive for the state to ever purchase. Market value for agricultural lands is less than residential. Sometimes life demands you spend money now to save in the future.
So, just so we know where we are talking about, where are these Sugar Hill and Airglades lands located? See map below.
They are located on Highway 27 west of Clewiston. Highway 27 runs through the Everglades Agricultural Area south of Lake Okeechobee connecting both coasts. The Airglades Airport and Sugar Hill Sector Proposal are located right before the highway shoots north. See red dots above and below. The 67 square miles of Sugar Hill Proposed Sector lands are “around” the airport. I do not know exactly where, but I would think mostly south.
Now if we look at a partial map of the option lands we can see that the Airglades Airport and Sugar Hill Sector Proposal are located in lands that were designated for purchase to one day benefit Everglades restoration for posterity. (Dark green is of “most importance” and yellow is of “importance,” both are option lands…)
Overall EAA option lands:
OK…so how would this fit into the Plan 6, River of Grass restoration? Please keep in mind Plan 6 and all “plans” are fluid as they have not happened yet…The amount of water we are talking about it almost beyond comprehension and requires great areas of land beyond lines on a sheet of paper. So even though this Plan 6 chart concentrates flow between the Miami and New River Canals the lands west of this area where Sugar Hill would be located are part of the overall restoration plan for this area as we can tell from the option lands maps above.
In conclusion, and to repeat myself: all the lands marked as option lands are important for the overall Everglades/Northern Estuaries restoration project. The Sugar Hill Sector Plan, if successful, is setting a precedent for changes in agricultural land use in Florida. There may be no turning back on this at this point as the Scott Administration gutted the Department of Community Affairs that used to keep such land use changes in check. As usual the state of Florida has put development before restoration of natural lands and water’s protection.
When Florida’s future waters are just one big toxic algae bloom, and people do not want to live here, I wonder if some of our politicians will wish they had voted another way? Oh but they will be dead like me, so I guess it doesn’t matter….
It does matter. It matters almost more than anything in the world. Please make your voice known and let’s leave something to the children of the future other than cookie cutter homes.