As you may have heard, on Thursday, February 21, 2019, I was appointed to the South Florida Water Management District Governing Board, by Florida’s Governor, Ron DeSantis.
Of course, I am very excited!
Today I wish to share my written comments of this very special day. Please note, just as when I served on Florida’s Constitution Revision Commission 2017-2018, this blog and all comments now fall under Florida’s public records laws.
Thank you Governor DeSantis! Thank you everyone who is here in spirit today, everyone who has been part of this journey to save our St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon. I will begin with some words from our beloved Ernie Lyons, who worked as the editor of the Stuart News for many decades leading the charge to save our river:
“What men do they can undo, and the hope for our river is in the hundreds of men and women in our communities who are resolved to save the St Lucie.”
Yes, there have been many before us, but in 2013’s LOST SUMMERwe continued Ernie Lyons’ passion through TC Palm, the River Warriors, and the River Kidz.
And it was the River Kidz that really gave us a new perspective…
We as adults, know, there are many things we disagree on, but there is one, we do not, for sure. We wish a better water future for all children, of all communities, in South Florida.
This goal unifies us all.
When I was a kid, and Stuart was not very populated, my friends and I used to build forts on the edge of the St Lucie River. The giant Australian Pines had fallen with their twisted roots exposed, and we played for hours pretending we were pirates on a ship. We’d splash in the water and drop anchor. We’d try not to cut our feet on sharp oyster beds as we retrieved our gold, or get stung by a stingray when we were catching a fish in the thick seagrasses.
Today such a thing is not possible. There are few oysters, little seagrass, and sometimes the water is toxic. Yes toxic. Can you believe it? Toxic water.
Generation after generation we have ignored the science and the signs. In our excitement to develop cites and towns and build the greatest agriculture empire on earth, waterbodies across South Florida have become “impaired.” Some no longer healthy: the St Lucie River, the Indian River Lagoon, Lake Worth, Lake Okeechobee, Biscayne Bay, Florida Bay, the Caloosahatchee, and numerous creeks and rivers like the New River and the Miami, are now not much more than dead canals.
It is said: “For what profits a man if he gains the whole world, but loses his own soul?”
The soul of Florida is water!
I believe that with the leadership of our new governor, and people like Congressman Brian Mast, former Senate President Joe Negron, and Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nuzez, who I know from serving on our state’s Constitution Revision Commission, and others, we will lay the groundwork to give Florida back her soul.
I don’t know if you have had a chance to read it word for word, but if you have not, you must. This incredible executive order recently given by Governor DeSantis, number 19-12 actually reads, as he quotes President Theodore Roosevelt:
“….A primary mission of my tenure is to follow in the words of President Theodore Roosevelt by having Florida treat its natural resources as assets, which it must turn over to the next generation, increased and not impaired in value.”
I shall do all I can to serve with honor, our new governor, and to leave all children of all South Florida a better water future.”
I hope everyone had a happy Mother’s Day yesterday! One of our “around the table” family discussions went like this:
Jacqui:” I’m getting a new headshot this week because now my hair is gray.”
Sister Jenny: “Why? Are you running for office?”
Jacqui:” No, not now. But I want my blog photo to look like me.”
Sister Jenny: “Why!” 🙂
Whether it’s my hair, or our natural landscape, things are always changing! I think it’s important to let young people, like my niece Evie, Jenny’s daughter, almost 18 and entering the world, know what our natural landscape looked like “before,” as they will be dealing with water issues we can’t even imagine.
One of the least documented changes of Florida is the demolition of the pond apple belt of Lake Okeechobee. I hope in time, the younger generation finds a way to recreate its original natural purpose that was to strain, slow down, and clean the lake water flowing south into the sawgrass plains of the Everglades. Another benefit was flood protection. Nature’s adapted protections out-do mankind’s every time…
In pre-drainage times, the original features of Lake Okeechobee helped contain it. There was the Okeechobee Sand Ridge; the Southern Ridge; the Spillover Lands; and the fossilized coral ridge.
The Sand Ridge extended from Martin County to Palm Beach County ~just north of Pahokee. There was a cut in this ridge where water could more easily escape east at today’s historic village of Sand Cut along the eastern shoreline. Archaeologists believe this Sand Ridge running along the lake was an old shoreline. It is stated in the research of the Boyer Survey, An Archaeological Investigation of Lake Okeechobee, by Christian Davenport, Gregory Mount and George Boyer Jr., that only the eastern shore of Lake Okeechobee was “defined by a sand shore.” Today the Army Corp has built a dike along and over this sand shore with the addition of extra boulders for protection. Very unattractive. The original pond apple forest would not just have been more lovely, but would have helped in times of storms ~ similar to how mangroves, even in front of a seawall, do today.
The Southern Ridge was a high muck ridge that had formed at the southern end of the lake and was located in a “massive belt of pond apple trees.” This forest was completely mowed-down to access the deep muck for agricultural purposes. It was 32,000 acres! (Lawrence E. Will) The towns of *Port Mayaca, Pahokee, Belle Glade, South Bay, and Clewiston south today’s Lake Okeechobee are located in what was once the pond apple forest. Surreal, isn’t it?
These trees grow closely together and can get very large. They have weird roots kind of like mangroves. My husband Ed and I bought a lot along Overlook Drive in Stuart and oddly or interestingly enough in this area there are pond apple trees. According to the study, the original lands of Lake Okeechobee sloped towards the lake, meaning the lake would have been as much as two miles wider during periods of high water. (The forest and the shape of the land held the water in the lake.) Along the southern edge “dead rivers” cut through this muck ridge and were the primary outlet during times of high waters. (Boyer Survey)
Spillover Lands was the archeological term for the lower-sawgrass plains extending beyond the southern side of the pond apple forest. Here sheet flow was created that moved and melded into the Everglades, basically a littoral marsh.
By the way the “dead rivers” were anything but dead, some very deep and very long. The word “dead” was applied as some of the original explores could not find “the end,” and I believe this word suits today’s powers well as the word “dead” makes one think they had no life. The complete opposite is the truth. They were full of life! All the animals of the Everglades, including hundreds of birds colonies lived in these areas that were completely DESTROYED.
The final formation mentioned in the Boyer Survey is an ancient Fossilized Coral Ridge (Reef) that runs from approximately Okeelanta to Immokalee. In pre-drainage times, this muck covered reef caused a higher elevation that is thought to have helped retain some of the water within the Spillover Lands during times of low water. Hmmm? Another Nature feature that works better than our manmade ideas for drought protection today – deep well injection, and other brilliant ideas….
Well, I hope you enjoyed today’s lesson! And I hope some young people like my niece Evie in the photo at the beginning of this blog read this post some day. Gray hair can be dyed or glorified, but the natural features of Lake Okeechobee in the heart of Florida, they must be rebuilt as part of today’s modern eco-system.
Next week will be the final Constitution Revision Commission public hearing before the process of the full commission debating and voting on which proposals, if any, of the 37 proposed, actually make it to the 2018 ballot. The final public hearing will be held on Florida’s west coast, in beautiful St Petersburg, Florida.
I wish to thank the Center for Biological Diversity (http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/about/contact/) for, on their own, embracing P91, “No Oil and Gas Drilling in Florida’s Territorial Seas,” our state waters. Their press release is below. All are welcome to attend!
The image above was made by Friends of the River Kidz. I love it; please share!
Press Conference in St. Petersburg Will Support Ballot Measure Banning Nearshore Oil Drilling in Florida
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla.— Business owners, elected officials, scientists and environmental activists will unite on Tuesday, Mar. 13 to urge Florida’s Constitutional Revision Commission (CRC) to place Proposal 91 on the November 2018 ballot — a constitutional measure that would ban near-shore oil drilling in the state.
Businesses, scientists, elected officials, tourism and environmental will stand in support of Proposal 91 at the commission’s final public hearing being held in St. Petersburg that same day.
“We have a chance to make history and turn the ship,” says Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch, a CRC member who sponsored Proposal 91 after she was approached by environmental groups. “We would be the only state in the nation to have this in our state constitution.”
What: Press Conference to support a ban on nearshore oil drilling ahead of the Constitutional Revision Commission’s hearing.
When: Tuesday, Mar. 13 at 11 a.m.
Where: University Student Center – USF St. Petersburg, 140 USFSP Harborwalk S, St. Petersburg, FL 33701
Who: Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch, elected officials, business owners, tourism operation owners, scientists, environmental groups and representatives from the fishing industry.
Proposal 91, being considered by the Constitutional Revision Commission, would ban oil drilling in state waters. The commission meets just once every 20 years to revise Florida’s constitution. It will place measures on the November 2018 ballot that, if approved by voters, will amend the Florida Constitution. As an amendment to the state Constitution, Proposal 91 would prohibit offshore drilling in state waters (within 3 miles on the East Coast, 9 miles on the West Coast).
Proposal 91 has already passed out of two CRC committees and will be voted upon by the full CRC after the final public hearing Mar. 13 in St Petersburg.
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.6 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.
CRC Proposal #23, A Right to A Clean and Healthful Environment; “Any Citizen of the State of Florida, but not a Corporation”
Next week, the Constitution Revision Commission (CRC) will once again be in committee. Today, I will provide an update of proposal #23, “A Right to a Clean and Healthful Environment” and new thoughts:
#23 will be heard, December 12, 2017, between 1-5pm in the Judicial Committee. You can write committee members to support this proposal here or speak during public comment: (http://flcrc.gov/Committees/JU/)
This proposal was already “presented” to the Judicial Committee on November 28th, 2017, just over a week ago. As mentioned, on December 12, it will go before the committee once again, but this time is will be voted upon.
If the proposal passes through the Judicial Committee, the next stop will be the General Provisions committee. If it passes the General Provisions Committee, the proposal will go before the entire CRC for a vote to determine if it will go on the 2018 ballot.
In spite of tremendous opposition from Affiliated Industries of Florida who hired four, high-powered, Gunster attorneys to speak in opposition to the proposal, along with the Florida Chamber and others, I thought the November 28th presentation went great. As I had hoped, students were a part of the presentation for the proposal with Kai Su, a law student from Stetson University, who helped research the proposal, and the founders of the River Kidz sharing their public policy paper written on the subject for a duel enrollment class at Indian River State College.
I presented briefly myself, but had to leave the meeting early to run my own. Later, when I watched the Florida Channel’s video and saw the idealistic young people juxtaposed to the hard-edged lawyers, and self-focused business interests, I knew the proposal had been successful in spite of whatever its final outcome…
—#23, a proposal that would give more standing in a court of law to citizens of Florida over the all-powerful state agencies and those hand-picked by them to benefit from holding and executing “environmental” permits. Many members of the Judicial Committee asked hard and insightful questions to the attorneys, and I am deeply appreciative of their serious involvement and interest in the subject.
I was taken with this particular proposal because it was a collaboration of students and their professors from Barry and Stetson University. As a former eighth and ninth grade teacher, I liked the idea of youth being involved. The decisions made through the CRC process are indeed meant to be forward thinking for the next twenty years. Youth should be part of this conversation.
One thing is certain, this proposal has struck a chord. I am proud of that. I am proud for the young people for the conversation this proposal is inspiring. I also believe we must ask ourselves why were four Gunster attorneys hired, costing hundreds of dollars per hour, to speak against this CRC proposal? Is it because it would shift power from the legislative and executive branches of government to the judicial branch ~causing a more balanced “scale of justice?” It is because if #23 “A Right to a Clean and Healthful Environment” were to go on the ballot, it would likely pass?
Of course if would. The people of Florida do want a right to a clean and healthful environment; feel like environmental interests have been kicked to the curb; and should as taxpaying citizens of the state of Florida have fair standing in a court of law. Is this really asking too much?
Student Kai Su pointed out that the language is “subject to the reasonable limitations as provided by law.” This would not be a litigation free for all, but rather the judicial branch would decide certain issues considering the present laws on the books. Right now this is not really a possibility. People have to sue together under groups like the Sierra Club. Use the Federal Clean Water Act. It’s so hard, individually, people don’t even try.
Why shouldn’t citizens have standing on their own? As mentioned, the present scale is tipped so that state agencies, talking direction from the executive and legislative branches, have full authority to give protection to polluters under Florida Statues 403.412 (e), and the Florida Constitutions is so vague –offering only “adequate provision” it is really useless. Today, the Department of Environmental Protection joyfully gives out permits to corporations and business entities while the concerns of the people of Florida’s are mostly ignored.
I recognize that Great Dragon and its armies are against this proposal, but I see the light. I see the faces of the young people and their desire for the their children and grandchildren to be able to jump into a clean river or spring; catch a fish they can eat; hold the miracle of a seahorse in the palm of their hand; to feel the speed of boating without contaminated toxic algae spray against their face.
Before Tuesday’s meeting I felt it was important to try to compromise, so I did reach out. I asked a representative from the opposition if there was any common ground we could work on together for future generations. I waited a few days for an answer. The answer was there was no interest in any part of this proposal going into the Florida constitution…
I think will go forward the best I can with proposal #23 . Head up…My job is to herald this through for future for future generations. And although rejected in compromise, we will ameliorate the language to strike the words: scenic, historic, and aesthetic values of the that most concerned the opposition and rewrite “any person” to read:
“Any citizen of the state of Florida, but not a corporation, may enforce this right against any party, public or private, subject to reasonable limitations as provided by law.”
Because every citizen does have the right to a clean and healthful environment.
CRC - 2017P 23
By Commissioner Thurlow-Lippisch
1 A proposal to amend
2 Section 7 of Article II of the State Constitution to
3 establish that every person has a right to a clean and
4 healthful environment.
6 Be It Proposed by the Constitution Revision Commission of
9 Section 7 of Article II of the State Constitution is
10 amended to read:
11 ARTICLE II
12 GENERAL PROVISIONS
13 SECTION 7. Natural resources and scenic beauty.—
14 (a) It shall be the policy of the state to conserve and
15 protect its natural resources and scenic beauty. Adequate
16 provision shall be made by law for the abatement of air and
17 water pollution and of excessive and unnecessary noise and for
18 the conservation and protection of natural resources.
19 (b) Those in the Everglades Agricultural Area who cause
20 water pollution within the Everglades Protection Area or the
21 Everglades Agricultural Area shall be primarily responsible for
22 paying the costs of the abatement of that pollution. For the
23 purposes of this subsection, the terms “Everglades Protection
24 Area” and “Everglades Agricultural Area” shall have the meanings
25 as defined in statutes in effect on January 1, 1996.
26 (c) The natural resources of the state are the legacy of
27 present and future generations. Every person has a right to a
28 clean and healthful environment, including clean air and water;
29 control of pollution; and the conservation and restoration of
30 the natural, scenic, historic, and aesthetic values of the
31 environment as provided by law. Any person may enforce this
32 right against any party, public or private, subject to
*Thank you for the many emails I have received from every-day people in support on Proposal #23! Here are a couple:
Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch is a commissioner on the 2017/18 Constitution Revision Commissioner; *this proposal will go before the Judicial Committee 12-12-17. You can support or voice concerns about this proposal by writing the Judicial Committee here: http://flcrc.gov/Committees/JU/
It is amazing to realize how much of the Florida Constitution ensures protections of the environment, and yet we see the continued degradation of the natural resources of our state. It’s time we learn our constitution by heart, make sure it’s followed, and take action to see if something need be added.
Today, I am going to list the areas of the constitution that have to do with the environment for easy reference. You can click the links below to see the full amendments.
In 1968, “ardent environmentalist” and respected state representative, John Robert Middlemas, of Panama City, insisted that words of support for environmental policy were placed in the historic constitutional revision that same year.
In his honor, I ask that all fellow environmentalists review below, and ask oneself how to make these words take on a new sense of urgency as our springs, rivers, and natural lands need our voice. At the end of this article, and after reviewing our state constitution, if so inspired, please feel free to enter your own constitutional proposal or improve one that’s simply being ignored.
The CRC is considering September 22nd as the deadline for public proposals so please submit soon!
As an aside, it is my honor to serve as the Chair of the CRC’s General Provisions Committee, which is charged with examining Article II of the Florida Constitution. If you have comments or thoughts regarding Article II (or other provisions relating to the environment), please email me at Jacqui.Lippisch@flcrc.gov.
Here is the list of current environmental provisions in the Florida Constitution:
General Provisions (Article II): Section 7, Natural Resources & Scenic Beauty/Everglades Agricultural Area
Miscellaneous (Article X): Section 11, sovereignty lands; Section 16, limiting marine net fishing; Section 17, Everglades Trust Fund; Section 18, disposition of conservation lands; Section 28, Land Acquisition Trust Fund, (Florida Water and Land Conservation Initiative, 2014.)
To enter your own proposal or idea regarding the environment:
Go to gov/Proposals/Submit to create a free account and submit your proposed change to the Florida constitution. The online tool allows you to create your proposal using legal language by redacting or adding language. Remember to keep it simple and clear.
Using the same program, submit your proposal to the Constitution Revision Commission and sign up for the alert emails. Commissioners will review proposals and determine which proposals should be placed on Florida’s 2018 General Election ballot.
*Proposals can also be emailed to the commission at firstname.lastname@example.org, or sent in the mail to: Constitution Revision Commission, The Capitol, 400 S. Monroe St., Tallahassee, FL 32399. Thank you so much for conserving and protecting the great state of Florida!
Today, May 12th, at 9:45 A.M. Governor Rick Scott is scheduled to sign Senate President Joe Negron’s “Senate Bill 10” in of all places Clewiston. Clewiston is “America’s Sweetest Town” and the headquarters of U.S. Sugar Corporation…
According to the article in the Glades County Democrat announcing the signing: “Earlier this week Senate Bill 10, a move to secure funding for a water storage reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee was approved. In its amended form, Senate Bill 10 became a measure that we in the Glades could stand behind. The bill no longer stated that additional farmlands be taken out of production but rather the state would utilize the property that it already owns to create a reservoir with a much smaller footprint.”
Although I am scratching my head, you know what? Sometimes you just have to be happy for what you get, no matter where you get it. I am tremendously thankful to Governor Scott for signing the bill ~ although I do wish he had decided to sign it in Martin County since we’ve worked so hard to get it.
When I read the announcement officially last night, it got me thinking about Clewiston before I went to sleep. It brought back memories of 2013 and famed paddle boarder Justin Riney’s idea to hold the Sugarland Rally in Clewiston on September 1st, 2013 to unite the movement. This was one of the early rallies for the river during the devastation of the “Lost Summer.”
Since Governor Scott is going to sign in Clewiston I think it’s a good time to walk down memory lane and be proud of how far we’ve come and to get ready for how far we have to go! The point of the location of the Sugarland Rally was to “meet halfway.” Hopefully Governor Scott is thinking the same, in that Joe Negron helped us meet half way and we are all thankful.
Now let’s remember the past, enjoy today, and then take it to the finish line!
“The Sugarland Rally will unite the east and west coasts of Florida in a peaceful, historic demonstration to speak out against the pollution of our estuaries from Lake Okeechobee discharges. We support both immediate and long-term solutions, but ecosystems and communities along the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee Estuaries are in crisis. We cannot afford to wait for ecological and economic collapse. We urge all stakeholders–especially local, state and federal governments–to act immediately. We chose Clewiston as a central location to unify east and west at Lake Okeechobee, the source that is polluting our estuaries, and because we believe Florida’s sugar industry can be part of the solution. Please don’t misinterpret our intentions–we are NOT holding a rally at Clewiston to protest or point fingers at “Big Sugar.” It’s quite the opposite, actually. We invite Florida’s powerful sugar industry to join us in crafting an immediate solution to the ecological and economic crisis caused by discharges from Lake Okeechobee.” (Press release from Justin Riney, Aug. 2013)
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
Theodore Roosevelt, from “Citizenship in a Republic,” Paris, 1910
Thank you for keeping your word to the Kidz, and fighting your heart out for Florida’s water future. As you, we will “Never, Never, Never Give Up!”