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 email@example.com, 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!”
“Corcoran is a fearless political marksman who uses laws, rules, tweets, videos, lawsuits and sheer nerve to lay waste to what he calls “a culture of corruption” in Tallahassee.” –Tampa Bay Times
Due to passionate public input and the remarkable political will of Senate President Joe Negron, last Wednesday, SB10, passed its first goal, the Florida Senate. Today, TC Palm’s headline reads: “Gov. Rick Scott Supports South Reservoir to Curb Lake Okeechobee Discharges.” Amazing. Now, just the House of Representatives remains. And at the Florida House’s helm, is a very interesting man, Speaker Richard Corcoran.
In the news we have read about warring between the House Speaker and the Governor….Negron with his Harvard training stays above the fray, but of course is affected.
Today we are going to put aside the fighting and look deeper. And in doing so we just might find that Richard Corcoran is the “perfect match” to help the problems plaguing the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon- because he helped write “Blueprint Florida,” in 2010, the blueprint to overcome corruption and special interest in Tallahassee.
Hmmm? Corruption? Special Interests? Need I name names? 🙂
Some have said this is hypocritical as Corcoran himself is a product of Tallahassee culture, but I say he is for real. It’s kind of like family… like it or not you are part of it, but in very serious ways as you grow up you don’t agree with parts of it. You want better, you want change, especially for your kids.
Let’s check the Blueprint out:
Here are some excerpts and the entire document is linked below. It reads like a manifesto for change. The goal is to leave a legacy by fighting special interests.
“Thomas Jefferson said, “One man with courage is a majority.”
“Our legacy may be forged in fires of resistance to new culture to which we have committed. There many be times where we hear the call to retreat to safety of self-preservation, the shelter of self-promotion, or the promises of security and ease made by the special interests. When those times come, we must remember our pledge to leave a legacy….”
“We desire a future generation to mark our service as a turning point in Florida’s history. The time when we turned toward independence and made our government truly accountable to the people who matter most, Florida’s citizens.”
“Our legacy can only be a gift for future generations if we choose today to put Floridians first no matter what he cost to our own political career. Working together we can crate an effective Blueprint for Florida.”
“We will all leave a legacy. Some will leave legacies that are truly gifts to future generations while others make choices that result in a legacy of burden. This should cause us to pause and consider why we’re doing what we’re doing. What we value the most will determine what kind of legacy we leave.”
River Kidz, an organization created in 2011 in the Town of Sewall’s Point “by kids for kids,” whose mission is “to speak out, get involved, and raise awareness, because we believe kids should have a voice in the future of our rivers,” is expanding its range.
The group’s message will now encompass not only the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon, but also the Caloosahatchee and Florida Bay. These three south Florida estuaries all suffer due to longstanding mis-management practices of Lake Okeechobee by the Army Corp of Engineers and the South Florida Water Management District. You may have most recently heard about these three estuaries together as Senate President Joe Negron has proposed a land purchase in the Everglades Agricultural Area and a deep reservoir to improve the situation.
So what’s the problem?
Ft Meyer’s Calooshahatchee River on the west coast gets too much, or too little water, “depending.” And Florida Bay, especially in regards to Taylor Slough near Homestead, hardly gets any water at all. In fact the waterbody is reported to have lost up to 50,000 acres of seagrass due to high salinity. No way! And here at home, as we know first hand, during wet years the St Lucie/Indian River Lagoon is pummeled with Lake O water causing toxic algae blooms beyond comprehension as experienced in 2016.
In all cases, whether it is too much, or too little water, algae blooms, destruction of water quality, and demise of valuable wildlife habitat ensues. Kids know about this because the most recent generation has lived this first hand. -A kid growing up, not being able to go in the water or fish or swim? No way!!!!
We can see from the satellite photo below how odd the situation is with the EAA lands just south of Lake Okeechobee engineered to be devoid of water so the EAA plants “don’t get their feet wet” while the rest of the southern state suffers. Yes, even a four-year old kid can see this! 🙂
To tell this story, in Kidz fashion, new characters have been created. Familiar, Marty the Manatee of the St Lucie River/Southern Indian River Lagoon, has been joined by two new friends: Milly the Manatee from the Caloosahatchee, and Manny the Manatee from Florida Bay. Quite the trio!
Also joining the motley crew is a white pelican, sometimes visitor to Lake Okeechobee, Florida Bay, and the Central IRL; also a stunning orange footed Everglades Snail Kite complete with Apple Snail; and last but not least, the poor “blamed for mankind’s woes of not being able to send water south,” the Cape Sable Seaside Sparrow. Finally, she will have a chance to share her story. Endangered species, weather, and the water-cycle will be added to the curriculum.
Workbooks will be available free of charge thanks to donations from The Knoph Family Foundation, and Ms. Michelle Weiler.
Workbook Brainstormers: River Kidz co- founders Evie Flaugh and Naia Mader; the River Kidz, (especially River Kidz member #1, Jack Benton); Julia Kelly, artist; Valerie Gaynor, Martin County School System; Nic Mader, Dolphin Ecology Project; Crystal Lucas, Marine Biology teacher and her daughter Hannah; and Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch, former mayor and commissioner of the Town of Sewall’s Point. Workbooks will meet Florida Standards and be approved by the Martin County School System thanks to Superintendent, Laurie Gaylord.
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
Audio file Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch 12-2-15:
(Go to website if not available)
Sharks seem to be feared more than they are respected….but that perception is changing as their endangered status becomes more critical and well-known. As most things that have to do with natural resources and the environment, there were few concerns regarding the “overfishing of sharks” in Florida the 1930s and 40s. Their supply seemed endless, and their value to the oceans and ecosystem was not widely understood.
This photo of a shark from my mother’s historic archives, represents one of the 25,000 sharks that were caught and processed in Port Salerno each year on average off our St Lucie Inlet during the 1930s and 40s. Port Salerno was a tiny fishing village. Today it is one of the hippest up and coming areas of Martin County. The shark plant is no longer there. A museum created in memory of such would be a great addition to the area…
During the 1930s, sharks provided important resources to society and gave fishing families a stable income. During World War II vitamin A was a hot item, especially for pilots pursuing accurate night vision during their dangerous missions.
Another interesting forgotten historical fact?….believe it or not, “by mistake” the first “shark repellent” was tested and created right here by local fishermen—yes–right off the St Lucie Inlet off our St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon. It was “top-secret” and it worked!
Today I will feature a vignette of family friend, historian, and Miami native, Alice Luckhardt. Her very informative and comprehensive text is about Port Salerno’s shark fishing history. Alice and her husband, Greg, have written hundreds of historical accounts that are shared in the Stuart News and are also part of the public archives of Martin County’s Stuart Heritage. Thank you Alice for these important historical resources!
The sharks? Good luck to the remaining; “may you be fruitful and multiply….”
Historical Vignettes of Martin County: Salerno Shark Industries and Vitamin A by historian ALICE LUCKHARDT
STUART – Vitamin A, essential for good human health was once derived from oil extracted from the liver of sharks and a leading supplier of this valuable substance was the tiny fishing village of Salerno.
Shark liver oil was believed to promote wound healing, stimulate growth, increase resistance to infection, aid in combating fever and colds, improve eyesight, prevent excessive dryness of the skin as well as an overall general remedy for conditions of the respiratory tract and the digestive system.
Generally, the livers, chopped into fist-sized chunks, were rendered down in big vats. The oil could be skimmed off, cooled and canned, ready for shipment.
In the 1930s, assisted by brother George, Captain Charles L. Mooney’s Salerno Shark Industries-Fisheries, Inc., supplied not only the needed shark liver oil and novelty shark teeth for jewelry, but also the outer skin hide of the sharks. In 1938, an order was placed by a Chicago firm for 200,000 shark teeth. The Ocean Leather Corporation processed the skins into leather goods, primarily luggage. Fins, considered a delicacy by some, were shipped to China.
From its meager beginning, Mooney had continued to make improvements in the business, increasing boats, buildings and processing methods.
By 1941, a shark meal plant, measuring 36 x 65 feet and equipped with hammer mills, drying machines and conveyors, enabled the profitable use of all of the shark’s carcass, accommodating about 200 pounds an hour.
An aroma filled the air as the cooker, steam boiler, hammer mill, flaker dehydrator and sacker completely finished the process, ready for shipment, the ‘meal’ eventually to become food for dogs, cats and poultry. To supply these industries, thousands of sharks were caught in the Gulf Stream and elsewhere, sometimes as many as 600 in a single week.
Scientific analysis and studies were conducted to determine the best use for shark products.
In the 1940s, Robert M. French, Sr., who had founded the Shark Fisheries of Hialeah, Florida, headed the Salerno site, joined later by his sons Robert Jr. and Price, Mooney having previously relinquished his interest due to ill health.
In 1944, the Shark Fishery was purchased by the Borden Co., one of the largest users of Vitamin A in the US, retaining R. M. French Sr. as chief executive. Borden’s primary interest was to increase vitamin production, from shark liver oil, to fortify and enrich its milk products.
The liver, being a main source of Vitamin A, was considered of utmost importance in the war effort, with supplies from world markets having been cut off. The vitamin was important not only for the health of the soldiers, but especially for night fliers who took the vitamin before take-off to see better in the dark.
Actually, during those years, a very secretive study was also being made which involved the Salerno fishery, the details of which were known by only about three or four people in the area.
Although sharks will sometimes attack and eat other living or freshly killed sharks, it was noticed by the fishermen that hooks which had been baited with cut-up pieces of the flesh from sharks caught the day before, were virtually left untouched and that, furthermore, the sharks actually avoided the area, not returning for days.
With that information, the US Federal Government under the Office of Strategic Services, employed Stewart Springer, from Homestead, Florida, a chemist, to work with the Salerno plant to further investigate and conduct experiments, the end results being the development of a shark repellant.
Known as ‘Shark Chaser,’ it proved to be invaluable in saving the lives of sailors or aviators forced down at sea in shark-infested waters. According to Robert and Price French, interviewed later, it was difficult to have to pretend “nothing unusual was going on” as the experiments involved the cooking of thousands of pounds of shark meat in barrels of an alcohol solution, the aroma definitely attracting some attention.
By 1946, the shark fishery plant, one of only three of its kind in the U.S. was considered essential to public welfare and continued to supply shark liver oil and other products. Borden expanded and improved the facility which at its height employed as many as 50 people and used 12 boats to haul in the ‘tigers of the sea’ some 25,000 or more per year, with an annual gross of about $500,000.
However, by 1947, due to scientific research, Vitamin A could be synthesized and was therefore much less expensive. In time, the man-made vitamin supplanted the natural one obtained from the shark and by July 1950, the Borden Corp. business in Salerno was closed.
In June 1962, the Shark Industries factory was burned to the ground by the Port Salerno Volunteer Fire Department as a fire practice drill. The remains of an industry which had gained national attention, recognition and perhaps gratitude, was gone. With some imagination, those in Salerno may sense that distinct aroma still lingering in the air.
Alice L. Luckhardt is a freelance historical researcher and writer and member of the Board of Directors for the Stuart Heritage Museum and researcher for the Elliott and House of Refuge.
Art has always been political. It is by nature. It makes us think. It makes us feel—whether we want to or not. Our reaction to art is ancient and deeply programmed into our innermost being….
Today, I say “Kudos!” to 10-year-old Aiden Serafica, a student at Lynn Barletta’s “Visionary School of the Arts,” in Stuart. As you probably know, the school is doing a wide range of amazing things with area youth. (http://www.visionaryschoolof-arts.org)
So this past Sunday, I was at Carson’s Tavern having dinner with my husband, Ed, and friends Anne and Peter Schmidt, when an adorable ten-year old boy walks up to me and says: “My grandmother told me I should show you this…”—he was smiling from ear to ear! He reaches out and shows me a phone, and this is what I saw:
“Aiden Serafica age 10 is in Miss Robyn’s Thursday class. Aiden was commissioned to paint a toilet seat in a “SAVE OUR RIVER” theme by local business owner Susan of Palm City Farms. Aiden received $100.00 for his beautiful rendition in acrylics. In addition this piece won first place in a contest at Martin County Fairgrounds as part of the best booth of the fairgrounds! Congratulations to Aiden on acompletely unique and daring project of creativity. Art is indeed everywhere!”
I was so excited by what I saw and read, and that this young man, Aiden, would share this with me.
“This is wonderful Aiden! Congratulations! Very powerful! So proud of your artwork and expression. Thank you for speaking out on behalf of our St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon! ” Aiden and I shook hands. He was beaming; he even winked…
I think the Army Corp, the South Florida Water Management District, the state legislature and the Governor’s office are going to have to have a lot of pressure from future generations to “get the water right….” —-perhaps they too, if they see Aiden’s toilet art, will come up with some daring and creative ways to speed up fixing our rivers.
Just a few days ago, friend, and sometimes vet to our dogs, Dr Dave Carlson, sent me some unusual photographs of foam pouring out of the St Lucie River’s C-24 spillway, managed by the South Florida Water Management District.
Dave wrote: “Hi Jacqui, was out this am and shot these on the C24 canal. “Iceburgs” in the canal! Real time follow-up to your blogs on these canals.”
“That’s really weird,” I thought. “Foam everywhere!”
I remember foam building up along the shoreline at Stuart Beach periodically when I was a kid. We would pick it up in our cupped hands and throw it at each other; it was great fun. I never knew what formed it though. Was it pollution? It looked kind of gross….
I wrote Dave. “Where is it; and what is it?” I asked.
He replied: “At the spillway going into the North Fork. Are a result of decayed plant and animal protein according to SFWMD. Tyler Treadway did a piece on this after tropical storm Fay, 2008.”
Hmmm? I thought. Decaying plants and animals?…Bizarre. I looked up the TCPalm article, it had one quote regarding foam:
“What you’re seeing is denatured protein,” said Boyd E. Gunsalus, lead environmental scientist for the South Florida Water Management District’s office on the Treasure Coast, “which is the result of decaying plants and animals.”
That’s nice, and Boyd is awesome. But what does that mean? What are “denatured proteins” and how do they get “denatured?” So I looked them up too. You have to put on your eighth grade science cap! Basically, I think, a denatured protein is an unfolded protein that can then bond with other things to form something else…..in this case causing foam.
Now we have to learn, or remember, yet another odd word…. 🙂
In order for the foam to form, and the proteins to “denatureate,” there has to be a “surfactant,” in the water.
Yikes! This sounds like a project for the River Kidz! My science skills are rather rusty! Please share more if you know how this all works!
A surfactant is something that lessens the surface tension on the surface of the water….
According to my reading, the natural surfactant is called DOC (dissolved organic carbon). DOC comes from the decomposition of a wide variety of plant material including algae, decaying animal protein, and aquatic plants…
So to summarize: the surfactant effect caused by decaying protein bonds and agitation of wind and rain forms foam. This is the basically same phenomenon that happens with detergents and “dirt.” Detergents are also surfactants. There are natural and man-made surfactants. What’s occurring in the SLR is “natural.”
Well that was fun. Leaning about something that looks like pollution in the St Lucie River but isn’t, what a rarity. Nonetheless, I would think all the pollution in the water really helps “stir things up!” Read about it here, these DEP reports are “old” but nothing has changed much so they still apply:
The other day at a Martin County Commission meeting, I felt like a parent beaming with pride. I had been there about four hours when my mother popped into the meeting, then my sister, and then Evie, Jenny’s daughter who is now 15. This is the only child that I literally saw born into the world…
Following Evie were many of her team mates, young men and women. So cute! And to see them sitting there in the commission chambers, what a sight! When public comment came around my niece, Evie, confidently walked to the podium and ask the commissioners to support full funding of a dock at Leighton Park that would allow the youth and others not to have to walk on the river bottom to launch their skiffs. This area of the St Lucie River is has the highest bacteria levels and is ground zero for the polluted discharges from C-44 and Lake Okeechobee. Cutting feet on dead oysters is not a good idea and even with shoes is dangerous. As we know open wounds in filthy water can have devastating consequences.
I watched in awe.
Tears swelled up in my eyes seeing Evie unafraid to “go before the commission.” As a commissioner for the Town of Sewall’s Point myself and as someone who has spoken before commissions prior to my commissionership, I know the tortured feeling of inadequacy that can often come upon one in such a situation. The commissioners up high on the dais, peering down on you, like you are a mere peasant. It is very intimidating even for the most educated and confident.
Because Evie is a River Kid whose mission is to “speak up, get involved, and raise awareness,” she has been speaking before commissions, politicians, and high level agency leaders since she was 10 years old! Going before the Martin County Commission was “old hat” for her. “What a gift,” I thought. The gift of learning public speaking and being at ease with it….a skill that can be applied to all aspects of life.
Coach Stefani Faulkner, spokesperson Dr Eric Pheiffer, and parents accompanied these kids. Take a minute see the good work they are doing! They are winning state competitions. And the river, in spite of its challenges, is helping make winners of them all!
“The Treasure Coast Rowing Club (TCRC) was established to stimulate and foster interest in the sport of rowing among amateurs. We promote this interest through education and competitions using every reasonable endeavor for the advancement and up-building of amateur rowing in accordance with the best traditions of sportsmanship. Our goal is to have a safe and fun environment where both adults and youth rowers can enjoy the sport of rowing. We aim to teach the joys of rowing to anyone willing to learn and wanting to get behind an ore, or on the water. We welcome all athletes regardless of their ability or experience. If you are willing to show up and work hard, there is a place for you in our boats”. (TCRC website)
Some days I get really lucky because people send me cool stuff based on what I wrote the previous day in my blog. Yesterday this happened with both my mother, Sandra Thurlow, Dr Gary Gorfoth and a slew of other comments . I will be sharing some of my mother and Dr Goforth’s insights today.
After reading my post on sediment loads in the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon and how they have lessened the natural depths of the river/s, my historian mother, sent me the awesome image of a historic wood cut at the top of this post created around 1885 by Homer Hine Stuart Jr., for whom Stuart, Florida is named.
This historic wood cut shows the depth of the St Lucie River at 20 feet in the area of what would become the span for the Roosevelt Bridge. A contemporary navigation chart below, shows the depth of the water in this area at 11 feet. At least 9 feet of sediment and or —MUCK!
“Jacqui, Your post about sediments made me think of this little map. Homer Hine Stuart, Jr. for whom Stuart is named, had a little wood cut map that was about 4 by 2 1/2 inches and looked like one of those address stamps we use today made. Maps made from the wood cut were used to show his the location of his property and his bungalow “Gator’s Nest” to his family in New York and Michigan. This image was made from a photograph of the wood cut. It is printed is reverse so the writing, etc., isn’t backward. You can see that there was 20 feet of water depth between the peninsulas that would later be connected by bridges. The date of the map would be around 1885.” –Mom
Dr Goforth also wrote. He tells a sad story mentioning that Stuart News editor and famed environmentalist Ernie Lyons wrote prolifically about the great fishing in the St Lucie prior to the construction of the St Lucie Canal (C-44) in 1923.
“… the St. Lucie River and Estuary was known as the “Giant Tarpon Kingdom” before the Lake Okeechobee discharges began in 1923; after the Lake Okeechobee discharges began the muck from the Lake despoiled the clear waters and drove the tarpon offshore, and the area was recast as the “Sailfish Capital of the World” (Lyons 1975: The Last Cracker Barrel).
Thankfully, Dr Goforth gives an idea to fix and or improve the accumulation of muck sediments into the St Lucie River:
One effective means of reducing the sediment/much discharges from the Lake would be the construction of a sediment trap just upstream of the St. Lucie Locks and Spillway. This simple approach has worked well in other areas, most recently in West Palm Beach on the C-51 Canal just upstream of the Lake Worth Lagoon (see attached fact sheet). By deepening and widening the C-44 canal just upstream of the locks/spillway, a large portion of the sediment would settle out of the water in a relatively contained area before entering the River; with routine dredging, the material can be removed and spread over adjacent lands… —(perhaps using lands along the canal purchased by Martin County and SFWMD?). —-Dr Gary Goforth
Kudos to Dr Goforth’s ideas. Kudos to my mother’s history! Let’s get Governor Rick Scott towork and get to work ourselves too! We can do it. Together, we can do anything. 🙂
MUCK THEMED PHOTOS:
Muck coats the bottom of our beautiful river but determination coats our hearts. We and future generations will continue to fight to save our St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon!
Perhaps the greatest tragedy that is constantly playing out in our declining St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon is the tremendous sediment infill covering its once white sands, seagrasses, and benthic communities. This began heavily in the 1920s with the connection of the St Lucie Canal (C-44) connecting Lake Okeechobee to the South Fork of the St Lucie River, and then increased in the 1950s and beyond with the construction of canals C-23, C-24 and C-25.
It must also be noted that the St Lucie River/SIRL underwent great changes when the St Lucie Inlet was opened permanently by local pioneers at the encouragement of Capt Henry Sewall in 1892. (Historian, Sandra Henderson Thurlow) Prior to that time, the Southern Indian River Lagoon and St Lucie River had been “fresh” —-fresh and brackish waters and their communities of plants and animals “came and went” with nature’s opening and closing of the “Gilbert’s Bar Inlet” over thousands of years….
Since 1892 the St Lucie River has been a permanent brackish water “estuary…” and until the opening of the St Lucie Canal was teeming with fish and wildlife and considered the “most bio-diverse estuary in North America.” (Gilmore 1974)
Dr Goforth recently sent out an email, and I ask him if I could share the information; he agreed. He states:
“The pollutant that has been consistently left out of discussions is the sediment load to the estuaries from Lake Okeechobee – over 2 million pounds to the St. Lucie River and Estuary in 2015 alone; almost 4 million pounds to the Caloosahatchee Estuary.” (Dr Gary Goforth)
Isn’t that awful? “We” are filling the river in….smothering it.
The slides Dr Goforth included are the following:
Please click on image above to read the numbers. Mind boggling!
This second and complicated image below shows “flows” into the estuaries from Lake O into the St Lucie, Caloosahatchee, and to the Everglades Agricultural Area. Generally speaking, the Army Corp of Engineers in discussions with the South Florida Water Management District, began releasing into the St Lucie River January 16, 2015 until late May/early June. About 3 weeks ago.
Recently our river waters have looked very beautiful and blue near Sewall’s Point and the Southern Indian River Lagoon and water quality reports have been more favorable. Nonetheless the river, especially in the South Fork and wide St Lucie River, is absolutely impaired as there is not much flushing of these areas and the sediment infill is tremendous. The seagrasses around Sewall’s Point and Sailfish remain sparse and algae covered when viewed by airplane. Blue waters does not mean the estuary is not suffering!
Months ago I wrote a blog, that is linked below, focusing on south Sewall’s Point’s river bottom infill history, and depths that have gone from 19, 15, and 14 feet in 1906, to 4, 8, and 7 in 2014—and looking on the Stuart side, north of Hell’s Gate, the 1906 map shows 10, 8 and 12 feet and a 2014 NOAA map reads 2; 3; and 4 feet!
Insane….so many changes!
Our government has filled and dredged our precious river…elements of this inputting sediment become MUCK…..
I’ll end with this:
The River Kidz say it best, although my mother didn’t approve of the tone: 🙂
For interest, I am going to include two more images Dr Goforth included in his email on sediment loading; please click on image to see details.
Thank you Dr Gary Goforth for sharing you expertise on the science of the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon, Lake Okeechobee and Everglades. Please check out Dr Goforth’s website here:((http://garygoforth.net))
I do love government, or I wouldn’t be involved in it, nonetheless, it has many faults. One of its greatest, in my opinion, is making information easy and accessible to the public. Whether this is a strategy, or just a failure of most government-systems, is up for debate.
Anyway, today, in the world of “government information on toxic algae,” I wanted to cut through the plethora of information found layers-down-inside-websites you probably don’t even know about and share are few links in case you have any interest in becoming a toxic algae detective. I believe through documenting toxic algae blooms, we will eventually be able to trace them back to their owners….those who dump high levels of nutrients into our waterways while fertilizing their fields and lawns, either not using “high-standard best management practices” or simply just not really caring about water quality like they should….
HOW TO BECOME A TOXIC ALGAE DETECTIVE
Tell your parents what you want to do….. 🙂 Then—-
1. Be on the lookout flourescnent green in the water. But it could be also brown, red, or blue yucky or strange looking water, usually in found during summer when its hot.
2. If you see something suspicious, take a photograph on your phone and post it to the River Kidz or Rivers Coalition Facebook pages or my Facebook page; these pages are public.
3. Don’t touch it! It could be toxic!
4. Because you are dealing with “old people,” its best to call, not text…. 🙂 It’s worth it!
For local documentation call Dr. Vincent Ecomio at Florida Oeanographic: 772-225-0505 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Be sure to tell whoever answers the phone how important it is that they take a message, documenting your name, detailed location of bloom, your phone, and email address. Ask for someone to call you back and tell you what the level of toxicity was, if it was, after a sample is taken and tested by the state. Ask if they can help you to interpret the data. Write down your findings. Keep a record. (http://www.floridaocean.org)
5. For state documentation, call the Department of Environmental Protection too. Trying to find the right number to call is like trying to find a needle in a haystack so let’s use one in nearby Ft Pierce: 772-467-5500.
6. Wait for a call back if you leave a message…again, tell your parents what you are doing.
7. If no one calls you back in two hours, call again and repeat the process. Once they talk to you, ask how you can find out how the testing went for the bloom to find out how toxic it was…
8. Go back and check on the bloom; report and post your findings. Did it move? Change color? What do you think could have caused this? Go on line and read about what can happen to algae blooms over time.
Maybe you want to start your own neighborhood website? Or share your clues and findings with at school or a community meeting? Whatever you do—-
NOW YOU ARE NOW A TOXIC ALGAE DETECTIVE! Pat yourself on the back. You are helping to create a better water future for our St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon!
The links below are very helpful.
The first one is from the Florida Department of Health and is informational. The second allows you to trace the history of blooms reported anywhere in the state. Just enter “St Lucie River…” The third is a DEP informational piece that in my opinion “waters down” toxic algae blooms and their sources, but does provide excellent information and contact numbers.
Congratulations, thanks again for helping to save our river, for us, the fish, the birds, and the animals; hope to see you detectives on the water!
It was Earth Day yesterday, and my eyes filled with tears as I walked into the Citrus Grove Elementary School classroom. I had been invited to see the graduation of River Kidz for Mrs Jacobson’s second grade class. Once I opened the door, the students were waiting and some took me by the hand sitting me down; they were so exited to show me what they had been learning, and how they were all working to grow up and save the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon.
“This is different.” I thought to myself….”in years past, I would take control of the classroom, but now the kids are taking control of me!”
I watched the classroom dynamics. It was not” top down; ” it worked in both directions: Mrs Jacobsen assisting her students while they in turn assisted her— working together.
While the presentation was prepared, one boy excitedly told me about how the class had built this model of the Kissimmee River to represent what it looked like before it was channelized, “straightened,” by the Army Corp of Engineers between 1960-1971. He also explained “this is one of the things hurting our river…”
He shared that the board painted green was the floodplain’s vegetation, and the plastic tube that weaved and oxbowed, like a snake, was the original river; a cup of water filled with glitter represented nitrogen and phosphorus-what feeds toxic algae blooms in our rivers. This water-glitter concoction would be poured through the tube, (the river) and the extra “nutrient” or fertilizer, would end up in a plastic brown container at the bottom of the tube representing Lake Okeechobee.
We stared with great amazement and observed how because of the oxbows, most of the glitter, was caught in the winding shape, and just a little ended up running through the tube. Students discussed how if the tube were straight, of course all of the green glitter-water would “just shoot down into Lake Okeechobee.”
“This is why the ACOE is fixing some of the river “oxbowey” again…Making the river strait was a bad idea….” 🙂
More complex that this? Of course. But does this help a second grader start to “get it?”
What a visual! How awesome! I was more than impressed…
As the morning went on, we there was a presentation from the “Dolphin Lady,” Nic Mader, and the students showed their artwork, letters to Congressman Murphy, and chart on the white board counting down days left for the Florida Legislature to purchase land south of the lake.
Hoy Cow! —–No, Holy River!
The River Kidz program is in Martin County schools and with the help of great teachers and wonderful students, it’s creating excitement, understanding, empowerment, and responsibility for a better water future. A future for which we can all be proud…
“The wealth of the nation is its air, water, soil, forests, minerals, rivers, lakes, oceans, scenic beauty, wildlife habitats and biodiversity… that’s all there is. That’s the whole economy. That’s where all the economic activity and jobs come from. These biological systems are the sustaining wealth of the world.”
— Gaylord Nelson, politician 1970s
Earth Day was first celebrated in 1970 in the United States, and is now recognized throughout the many countries of the world. This day has special significance in our St Lucie River/Indian River region as recognizing the importance of our rivers to our local economy, quality of life, and for the future has become part of our culture. First observed from space in 1968, our earth was seen for what it is, “the watery planet.” All of us, hold this watery planet in our hands…
Today, classrooms all over Martin County will be recognizing Earth Day. I will be joining Mrs Donna Jacobson’s class at Citrus Grove Elementary for a River Kidz/Earth Day lesson, teaching kids about how our earth is intrinsically intertwined with the health of its waters.
All Saints Church is Martin County’s oldest church still in use; it was built in 1898, and still stands today upon a hill overlooking the Indian River Lagoon. Built by area pioneers, from local lumber, it has withstood the test of time through multiple devastating hurricanes…
Last Saturday, I was asked to speak before the ladies of the church about “River Kidz.” They wished to learn about the grass-roots organization founded in 2011 by children in the Town of Sewall’s Point. I found this fitting as my mother states in her book about Sewall’s Point, that the history of the peninsula cannot be separated from the history of the little church.
Captain Henry Sewall, who gave Sewall’s Point its name, was a member of the church and donated its bell that still rings out clearly across the river today. He along with his family is buried there. The window, in memory of his life, bears an anchor, and for me, after my visit to the little historic church, this window is a “window of hope.”
According to Joyce A. Fletcher Menard’s book on All Saints entitled, “Windows, Memorial, and More,” the anchor had great importance in ancient times for mariners (such as Capt. Sewall) as it was regarded as symbol of safety, but later on it became a symbol of hope.
Sometimes there is no safety, but there is always hope. I have hope for the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon. I have hope through the children, and I have hope through you. Without hope, we have nothing. Hold fast. Hold on, and hold tight. Don’t give up. We are the anchor for our river; we are its “window of hope.”
The mythical pond apple forest….Imagine, for a mile or two back from the water’s edge the trees grew, and like God’s magic sieve, their colossal roots strained the water of Lake Okeechobee before it inched its way south through the river of grass to the Everglades. Over thousands of years, the lake’s muck built up inside, around, and under, their gigantic roots, a forest grew, until one day the farmer came, the engineer came, the “white man” came, and took it all.
“We are chosen!” they said. “We are chosen to have dominion over the earth! Strip it! Cut it! Burn it! Tear it out! Expose the muck, the precious muck, and let us build an empire. Let us lift ourselves from poverty, feed ourselves, and become rich!”
And many of today’s generations have become rich from this soil.
The story of the explosion of agriculture, and the sugar industry below the great lake known as “big waters,” or “Okeechobee,” as the Seminole people called it, is a not a tale for the weak. It is the story of the nature of man, and his destruction of the environment of which he is part. It is the story of “success,” and the difficult journey of a culture to define what “success” really means.
Lawrence E. Will, in his book, “Swamp to Sugar Bowl,” writes in his cracker style in 1968:
“That part of the woods along the south shore and half way up the eastern side, was a dense forest of tropical custard apple trees. For a mile to two miles back from the water’s edge they grew, and on all the islands as well. About 33,000 acres of solid custard apple tress there were, and that’s a heap of woods.”
33,000 acres of custard apple trees destroyed. Gone. Forever.
Today, the Everglades Agricultural Area is 700,000 square miles south of the lake. It produces sugar and vegetables. The growth of the area is the reason why the overflow waters of Lake Okeechobee are directed thorough the northern estuaries killing local economies, rivers, and wildlife. Thus the story of the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon.
Once during a conversation with Mr Tom MacVicar, a respected engineer who works with the agricultural and sugar industry, I was told that Lake Okeechobee used to be about “30% bigger.” At the time, I wondered what he was talking about, but over the years through reading and study I have come to understand.
Let me explain. In the late 1800s when the early farmers planted their crops they would do so in winter when Lake Okeechobee’s waters had “receded back” as it was the “dry season.” This would be after the back-breaking work in some areas of tearing out the pond apple trees in order to get to the rich muck, “black gold,” that lies underneath. Over the years the edge of the southern shore of the lake was pushed back and then the “smaller” lake was entirely diked. This is one reason why the lake can’t hold its historical water level. Through Florida and Congress, the history of the South Florida Water Management District and the Army Corp of Engineers is linked to this history of pushing back the lake and building the agricultural empire, although now their mission includes environmental restoration.
I think it would be fitting to replant some pond apple trees each year until one day, perhaps, we can regain part of the soul of that lake that was ripped out at the roots.
My mother tells me that when I was a baby she nursed me in Muir Woods, California. My father was in the United States Air Force, and the family was living in the area at the time. It was 1964. She has joked, my entire life, that this perhaps is the reason I have always been so adamant about protecting the environment and its creatures.
John Muir was part of America’s early conservation movement. He wrote a collection of stories for “Century Magazine” entitled “Studies in the Sierra.” In 1892 Muir joined the magazine’s editor in creating the Sierra Club, an organization with the mission to protect America’s resources and public parks.
There were others who are also famous in the “conservation movement” of that era such as President Theodore Roosevelt. He is most famous for the establishment of many National Parks; Pelican Island, along the Indian River Lagoon in Sebastian, established in 1903, was actually our nation’s first “national wildlife refuge.” (http://firstrefuge.org)
President Roosevelt said: “The conservation of natural resources is the fundamental problem. Unless we solve that problem, it will avail us little to solve all others.”
As the conservation movement moved forward it is said to have split into two modes of thought. The first was to conserve resources for the future and for their use by humans and the second was more to preserve nature for wilderness preservation.
In any case, the foundation of America’s “conservation” movement was established during this period from approximately 1850 thorough 1920. This movement was bubbling up in Florida as well.
In 1900 Louis F. Dommerich and his wife Clara hosted a gathering of neighbors in Maitland, Florida, just north of Orlando. On this fateful night the group decided to align themselves with other chapters the existing Audubon Society forming Florida Audubon.
In 1900, not only was Florida’s bird population being decimated, by the plume trade and the rage for feathers on ladies hats, the southern part of the state, almost entirely wetland, was being drained for agriculture and development.
This drainage focused around Lake Okeechobee and the Kissimmee River cutting off waters to the Everglades which for thousands of years had formed one of the world’s most important and productive wet lands for birds, fish and hundreds of other species. We, living along the St Lucie River and Indian River Lagoon, are part of this story.
–You reading this today as people who care about the conservation of our area are the grandchildren of that those 15 people who met in Maitland Florida in 1900…
And for conservationists today, water issues are at the top of this list. Although Florida seems to be full of water, it is not. It is along side with California and other western states in its struggle to conserve and preserve water and its life.
1.7 billion gallons of water is wasted on average to tide each day through the canals draining Lake Okeechobee and the Kissimmee River. With only 3% of the water on the planet being “fresh” and an exponentially growing population, this is wasteful beyond comprehension. Right now, just south of Orlando, the Central Florida Water Initiative, a conglomeration of three state water districts, is organizing because this area of the state has maximized its water use. They need more.
This is no knee jerk reaction and wise water use is completely linked to the success or failure of Florida’s future. Unless we can learn to conserve, preserve and perhaps most important, educate the children of the future there will not be enough clean water for people and for the wildlife that has a right to these resources as well.
“Keep Your Friends Close and Your Enemies Closer,” Machiavelli, “The Prince”
Since the Army Corp of Engineers is military, I don’t think they will be insulted with my quoting Machiavelli. After all, the “combat” strategy of protecting the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon, requires us to know what our enemies are doing, so we don’t get ambushed.
The Jacksonville ACOE is responsible for overseeing the safety of the Herbert Hoover Dike around Lake Okeechobee which means that although many, including the South Florida Water Management District, have input, the ACOE is the entity that releases sometimes toxic polluted lake water into the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon and Calooshahatchee.
This is a disgusting and frustrating reality.
So how do we change this? I believe a good start is by building relationships while educating and sharing with the people of the Army Corp the awful plight of our rivers, our children, and our community.
And now, with all of your help and outcry, they “get it,” believe me.
Unfortunately, this strategy doesn’t gain much traction as the ACOE changes out their leaders EVERY 3 YEARS! But over time, it will.
You have probably heard that the present Jacksonville Colonel, Alan Dodd, and Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Greco are leaving by June of 2015?
This is my second changing of the guard. Three years ago, I said goodbye to Col. Pantano and Lt .Col. Kinard. Both very good men. Again, frustrating!
I recently asked ACOE Public Outreach Specialist, Mr John Campbell why this is the policy and expressed my frustration. His response is important to share:
“As you know, the Corps is an organization within the larger U.S. Army. Similar to large corporations, the Army has embraced a philosophy of developing leaders by rotating them through different assignments.
The only decent reference I could find is DA PAM 600-3, which is 400 pages outlining the Army’s strategy on developing officers. In a nutshell, officer development focuses on the balance of breadth and depth of experience. Two to three years in a particular assignment is typical for the Army because it allows for that breadth of experience. Depth is gained through higher education, formal training, and experience gained in positions.
As officers move from job to job, the Army’s intent is to provide an overall career path that not only prepares them for higher level responsibilities, but one that prepares officers–in any assignment and given their level of responsibility–to expertly perform their job.
From my personal experience, I know that leading people and organizations shares similar characteristics regardless of the situation. A leader must initially assess a situation, oftentimes with imperfect information, before researching, developing, and testing potential courses of action. Based on this analysis, the leader decides which course of action to pursue and how to monitor and evaluate results.
By rotating through different assignments, military officers get an opportunity to put the skills above in practice whether it’s leading an infantry brigade or formulatingpolicy on ecosystem restoration.” —John Campbell, ACOE
In the past, Col. Pantano went to Afghanistan. I am not sure where Col Dodd and Lt Col. Greco are going, but I wish them well, safety, thank them for their service, and charge them to also help educate the world of our plight.
So, in spite of the web of difficulties to navigate as we say “farewell,” let us prepare! Who will the new Col. and Lt. Col. be? Mr Campbell has shared the following:
The new colonel will be Col. Jason Kirk, commandeer at the Charleston, South Carolina District. The Lt. Col., who we will be closer to as this position resides in West Palm Beach, is scheduled to be Lt Col. Jennifer Reynolds of the Washington DC office. (No photo or bio yet.) Wow. A woman. Things can change! 🙂
In first grade, I attended Parker Elementary School in Stuart. In 1970 it was called “Parker Annex.” I remember those days well and can still recall many of the names of the kids in my class; my teacher’s name was Mrs Jerdeman. Tomorrow, I will be returning to the school, 45 years later, as a guest speaker on the subject of “River Kidz and the protection of sharks”—a subject chosen at the requests of students in Mrs Maya Gebus-Mockabee’s first grade class.
Am I a shark expert? No. But I can give a good lesson as a former teacher and someone interested in the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon as well as our Atlantic near shore reef habitat that is connected to our rivers. I have been a guest in many schools, mostly elementary. It’s a riot. A blast. I taught middle and high school, but elementary kids seem smartest of all. So creative! So enthusiastic! So wanting to help! Visiting these young students gives me hope for our rivers and “puts gas in my tank.”
Interestingly, if one takes a look at the River Kidz workbooks, both first and second edition, one will see that it is the bull shark who recites the River Kidz mission statement: “Our mission is to speak out, get involved, and raise awareness because we believe kids should have a voice in the future of our rivers.”
Hey, did you know that the Indian River Lagoon is considered the second most important bull shark nursery in North America? Mother bull sharks come here (mostly central IRL) to have their live young and these juveniles may stay here for up to nine or ten years? Did you know that bull sharks swim way up into estuaries, can endure fresh water, and have even been reported to live in Lake Okeechobee?!
Cool! Yikes! Wow!
The River Kidz’ mission of course applies to ocean reefs as these waters and the creatures of the St Lucie River and Indian River Lagoon are all connected!
We all know they are often needlessly exterminated for “fun,””sport” or wasteful “shark-fin soup.”
Kids with their creativity and sensitivity are able “see” that the fear and hatred directed towards sharks is sometimes extreme. And all kids know, hating just to hate, is not good.
Yes, we humans need to be careful and stay out of their way….but we need not hate sharks; it is better to respect them for the role they play in our oceans keeping disease at bay and populations in check.
3. Bull- 10 feet (The IRL is a bull shark nursery)
4. Hammer Head- 20 feet
5. Nurse- 14 feet
6. Bonnet 5 feet
7 Lemon-10 feet
8. Spinner-10 feet
9 Sand bar-10 feet
10. Great White- 21-26 feet (sometimes off our shores as they migrate through)
Legions of sharks migrate through our waters, and in winter especially, can be seen by plane sometimes by the hundreds. My husband Ed and I have seen this. And although I like and respect sharks, I have had visions of the plane crashing into the water and having a really bad day!
Yesterday, Terry Gibson, of the Pew Charitable Trust, and I spoke. What I got out of that conversation was that sharks are “really not protected;” this has to do with the politics and structure of federal and state agencies, and a “conflict of interest.” (Kind of like the Department of Agriculture oversees the Department of Environmental Protection for the state of Florida—now that’s something to be afraid of! )
Personally, I have seen boats right at our St Lucie Inlet, over the nearshore reefs, catching sharks and leaving them on deck longer than they could possibly survive– holding them up hooked to take pictures and then throwing them back hours later to sink to the bottom. I witnessed this from afar when I was a volunteer on Nancy Beaver’s Sunshine Wildlife boat from 2011-2012.
There is a long history of shark fishing in our area and acting like “sharks will last forever.” It is well documented that Port Salerno was an active and “productive” shark fishery in the Martin County’s early days—–until the resource was exhausted of course.
We must admit, that over recent generations, many of us have not been good stewards to our waters, or to sharks. Many of us we were not educated to be….I remember the movie JAWS in eighth grade. Do you? I never thought that sharks could become as they are today, a threatened species.
Hopefully the upcoming generations will be better than we were, than our parents and grandparents were. Considering these Parker students asked to study and protect sharks all on their own, a brighter future just may be coming.
Two years ago, in 2013, when the toxic waters of the St Lucie River/Southern Indian River Lagoon, stagnated under the baking sun of summer, and every man, woman, child, and dog was told by the Martin County Health Department, “not to touch the water,” there was a dream…
A dream that even the president of the United States of America would know that the polluted discharges by the ACOE and SFWMD from Lake Okeechobee “tip our rivers over the edge” turning them into a toxic soup, killing “protected” seagrasses, nearshore reefs, wildlife, property values, tourism, and every child’s summer. (A “lost summer” that may happen again with the government agencies discharging since January 16th, 2015.)
In 2013, the situation was so dire, that multiple schools along the Treasure Coast organized writing letters, by the hundreds, to the president of the United States, Barack Obama, asking him to help to SAVE OUR RIVERS.
Those letters and art work did get to the White House and were surely hedged-off by White House staff, who read the letters, but then neatly filed them away, sending a nice packet back to the students and teachers “thanking them for the drawings of their dying rivers.”
This is just reality and no fault of the president or staff—today we live in an evolved bureaucracy, a system that perpetuates itself, that holds one at bay, that protects power and influence, that stagnates—-just like the waters of Lake Okeechobee flowing into our St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon….
But bureaucracies can be penetrated; walls can come down; dreams can come true..
For that to happen, you have to push very, very hard, and someone with some influence has to help you break through, someone has to cut you a break, someone has to stand up, someone has to stick their neck out….a champion….a champion, like Patrick Murphy.
Kudos to Congressman Patrick Murphy, our Treasure Coast congressman soon to be running for US Senate, who must have had to make a decision “quickly and under pressure” as to what message he would bring President Barack Obama on the tarmac.
When the president arrived along the Treasure Coast for a weekend of golf at the famed “Floridian” this past Saturday, Congressman Murphy could have spoken about anything, but chose a message that had to do with everyone, a message that is neither “democrat” or “republican,” a message about the future….and today:
“the wish for clean water”….
Will President Obama go back to Washington and everything with our rivers will suddenly change?
Of course not.
But the president will know the name of the river he likes to play golf on, and he will know it has problems. He will talk to other people about his trip over a beer, and he will say:
“You know, that young Congressman, Murphy, he greeted me with a bottle of toxic water. Can you believe it? It surprised me. He spoke up for those people. I looked the St Lucie River up on the internet on the flight home…unbelievable…”
These words, and others spoken over time, will make great headway for our dreams of a better water future. History has been made.
As seven-year small-town commissioner of the Town of Sewall’s Point, one forum I have come to love and appreciate, although it is sometimes quite “painful,” is “public comment”—-the time set aside during a public meeting, for the public to speak…
Time set aside is usually three minutes. This may seem short, but it is HUGE. When one really thinks about it, public comment, of any length, is a remarkable and powerful distinction of American politics.
*”The basis for “public comment” is found in general political theory of constitutional democracy and originated during and after the “French Enlightenment.” This basis was elaborated during the American Revolution, and various thinkers such as Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and Thomas Paine are associated with the rejection of tyrannical, closed government decision-making in favor of open government.”
I just love this!
This Thursday, at 9AM, the South Florida Water Management District is holding its Governing Board Meeting at 3301 Gun Club Road in West Palm Beach, 33406. Many from the public will be attending. The SFWMD is a public body, just as is a town, city or county commission. Public comment is part of the agenda. This is a great opportunity to influence the board…
Today, I would like to tell a story of my worst experience with”pubic comment” and encourage those who speak on Thursday to use some of the principles we teach for the kids…River Kidz that is. Kidz trying to save the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon…
Here’s my story….
I have participated on both sides of public comment. I respect it, but it is not always easy.
In 2013, I experienced the greatest “lashing” I have ever received in my life during pubic comment at the Town of Sewall’s Point. I can still recall the entire episode: the older distinguished gentleman waving his finger in the air, yelling, saliva flying, red-faced, furious with me….tunnel vision set in, and I just sat there, in disbelief really, saying to myself: “just keep looking him in the eye.” I was being berated for supporting the firing of our town manager and how that came to be… When I went home that night, I really felt awful. In fact, it was hard to sleep. Being yelled at in public in front of all of those people was quite humiliating. That three minutes felt like eternity.
Later, when I told the gentleman’s wife in the grocery store, that I was hurt by her husband’s words she coolly replied: “You asked for it….” She was implying that I ran for public office, and this was part of the “responsibility” of being an elected official….listening to the public…good or bad….
Although that wasn’t the compassion I was looking for, she was right.
Over time, I can’t say that I feel any better about that experience, but I did learn a lot and thankfully, most of the time, public comment is not so difficult. In fact, most of the time, it is my favorite part of the meeting.
I am proud of America. I am proud that we are allowed to “speak up.” I am proud that tyranny has obstacles, although sometimes it seems it reigns here too.
Did the man achieve success by yelling at me? Maybe, but I don’t think so….let me explain. “People do business with people they like and trust.” No matter who you are, it is not human nature to trust those who yell at you.
River Kidz teaches public speaking, and was born of kids here in the Town of Sewall’s Point. Over the past four years, it has grown to encompass St Lucie County as well as Martin County. Their self-created mission statement reads:
“Our mission is to speak out, get involved, and raise awareness because we believe kids should have a voice in the future of our rivers.”
Encouraging the kids to speak in public is one of the “pillars” of the grassroots organization:
We do not teach “yelling at the board” as part of River Kidz, we teach respect, projection, confident body language, sharing personal antidotes about how the river affects your life, doing one’s homework, and finishing before your 3 minutes is up…”
Simple, successful, rules of public comment….
So God Bless America! Where we are free to speak out! Where we are free to exercise our constitutional right to assemble and petition our government!
Speak boldly! Speak wisely! Speak with passion and dignity! The river is “turning course,” “buy the land!”—Our voices can be the current of the future….