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 continue to share now historic advertisements of Florida. Today’s is from my hometown of Stuart, Florida. My mother, historian Sandra Henderson Thurlow, has a trove of these things, and they are interesting to view ~thinking about how much our area has changed.
This 1957 Chamber of Commerce Fishing Guide advertisement, written by Ernest Lyons is entitled: “In the Tradition of Isaac Walton.” So let’s start there: Who was Isaak Walton? !
I had to refresh my memory as well, so don’t feel bad if you did not remember. He is famous for writing the Complete Angler in 1653, a book “celebrating the joys of fishing” that inspired thousands of sportsmen, and remains a classic for both men and women today.
Mr Lyons, who was the editor of the Stuart News and an award-winning environmentalist of his era, begins his composition:
“Stuart, Florida means sports fishing in the tradition of Izaak Walton,” and then proceeds to talk about good living, home building, and retirement in a community where the “best things in life are free.”
Fun for me to see, in the collage below, my Aunt Mary Thurlow Hudson is photographed far right playing tennis, and my father, her brother, Tom Thurlow Jr., #7, is shown making a basket for Stuart High School baseball team. Awesome! Those were the days!
But we know that nothing is really for free. Stuart, and Florida at large have paid a price for moving so many people here since 1957, and trying to “feed the world” from our rich agriculture fields.
Sixty-one years have passed since 1957. I am now over three times the age of my father and my Aunt Mary pictured here…
Our youth can still golf, play tennis, ride a stallion at a rodeo, play baseball, and football, but water-skiing and fishing? Maybe not.
Before recreating, we must first ask :”Is there cyanobacteria in the water?”
Or God forbid, before going to the beach: “Is there red-tide?”
The local Chambers of Commerce have not written a fishing guide for years. But if they did the topic sentence would not be, Stuart, Florida means sport fishing in the tradition of Izaak Walton, but rather:
“Stuart, Florida means fighting for your waters in the tradition of a River Warrior…”
As the year 2017 comes to a close, we had a special guest sighted in our offshore waters. On December 17th, a Humpback whale was seen breaching in the Atlantic off of Stuart!
Although these mammoth creatures do migrate, and thus navigate our seas, this is a special and rare site.
Perhaps this is time for reflection…
Just as with the Biblical story of Jonah and the Whale, the Native People also give whale sightings and experiences special significance.
According to native lore, “whales visitors/spirits were used to convey a message of power and might, representing the need for strong, silent deliberation.”
In the story of Jonah, having turned away from responsibility, and being thrown as “bad luck” from a ship, Jonah is swallowed by a giant whale, reflects, repents, is renewed, is given a second chance, is ejected, and fulfills his responsibilities….
Perhaps there is a lighter message from our visiting whale, like “Happy Holidays,” and “Merry Christmas,” or a fun breach-splash saying “Yahoo! Keep up the fight for clean water!”
For me, the whale visitation made me reminisce on Ed and my visit to Baja, in 2013, to visit the Grey Whales once slaughtered, and now a great tourist attraction, and how this experience of seeing these huge mammals adapt to our human world, especially the mothers with their calves,–the controversy, and alteration in both human and whale actions—– changed my life, and my outlook forever.
In any case, the season is upon us and I am grateful for all of the work done this year for our waters and for our Florida. Thank you River Warriors! Thank you Bullsugar! Thank you Captains for Clean Water! Thank you people of Florida! Thank you President Negron! Thank you all, so many others across our great state! And in closing, thank you visiting whale!
Sometimes it is hard to stay motivated, but like Winston Churchill said: “Never Give Up.” Our work is so important!
…Yes, in 2018, in spite of the difficulties, we will continue to be the strong, silent or screaming giant that dominates the conscience of Florida…
Mattanza Charters, based in Pirates Cove Resort and Marina in Port Salerno, posted video taken Sunday, Dec. 17, 2017, of humpback whales breaching near Eight Mile Reef in the Atlantic. VIDEO PROVIDED BY CAPT. MIKE MURRAY Wochit
In our continued documentation of the 2016 Lake Okeechobee event, my husband Ed and I flew over the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon around 5:00pm on Father’s Day, 6-19-16, at the very end of an outgoing tide. Being a stormy day, there was poor lighting, but it was easy to see the darkness that enveloped the river due to the discharges of surrounding agricultural canals, and tidal runoff, and especially the high and long-going releases from Lake Okeechobee. The dark plume hugged the coast and jutted far out into the Atlantic having no clear edge as it was churned up from high winds and waves. Nonetheless from above, it’s shadow was visible for miles all the way south to the Jupiter Inlet.
Over the weekend there were multiple reports of algae blooms throughout the river and canals. Below are photos from a family boat ride in the vicinity of the Harborage Dock in Downtown Stuart yesterday, showing foam and algae at the shoreline and tiny specks of algae dispersed throughout the entire river.
“One resident nearby of Stuart, Dr Vopal, texted: “The river is pea green! …It is time for the legislators to look at this river and consider the health of the people that live on it. ”
Over the weekend just to me and on Facebook there were reports of algae blooms not only in Stuart but along the C-44 canal, the condo/marinas along Palm City Road, the eastern area of Lake Okeechobee itself, the St Lucie Locks and Dam, the St Lucie River near Martin Memorial Hospital, Sandsprit Park, Phipps Park, and Poppleton Creek. Certainly there were many others.
As most of us know, the Army Corp of Engineers has been discharging into the St Lucie River since January 29th, 2016. The river is almost completely fresh thus these freshwater blooms— that are in the lake and upper agricultural canals prior to being released into our river (cyanobacteria is a freshwater bloom)—and then they spread throughout the river once it too is fresh from all of the discharges. Since the ACOE has been releasing since January and there has been so much rain conditions are really bad.
Ed and I will continue to document. Our region’s entire quality of life is at stake. Nothing affects our local economy more than our river. We all must continue pushing to send water south to be cleaned and conveyed to Everglades National Park as Nature intended. Call our elected officials at every level. And vote on Aug 30th in the primary.
Jacqui and Ed, #Skywarriors since 2013
Photos of SLR/IRL -Sewall’s Point, Sailfish Point, St Lucie Inlet, Sailfish Flat’s former seagrass beds, Jupiter Island, Atlantic Ocean’s “protected” nearshore reefs.
Photos shared over weekend: Phipps Park, C-44 canal, St Lucie Locks and Dam, Sandspsprit Park also from family Father’s Day boat ride Harborage Marina, Downtown Stuart.
Lake O algae bloom shared by boater and posted by M. Connor just prior to weekend.
I must drive to Ft Pierce this morning so I do not have very much time to write– this post will be short and undeveloped, but you’ll get the idea.
Yesterday, I received information from a very reliable person, and it is making me wonder…
“The information” is the image above showing an algae bloom in Lake Okeechobee on 4-14-15. I don’t know why it says “unvalidated data,” but if you look at it closely it shows an algae bloom in Lake Okeechobee. I was told this image and an algae report can be found on the “Lake Okeechobee Operations” page of the South Florida Water Management District.
If this is true, and I believe it is, why didn’t the public or the local governments hear about this bloom before 4-24-15? Also, who is really in charge of this information? Yes, I was told it can be found on the South Florida Water Management’s web site, but then it is the Army Corp of Engineers, a federal agency, that is responsible for opening the S-308 structure at Lake Okeechobee to release water when “necessary” into the C-44/St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon….(The SFWMD is a state agency….ACOE is federal…..)
Are the state and federal agencies talking? Why isn’t the ACOE “in charge of the water” if they dump it? I don’t get it….
The bottom line is the information is “out there.” It was known to both the state and federal agencies that an algae bloom was in Lake Okeechobee before Kenny Hinkle and Mike Connor’s video spurred outrage along the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon and the ACOE was contacted by citizens and Senator Joe Negron and made the decision not to open S-308 this past Friday. This has come up in more places than one.
I am happy “they” didn’t open the gate, but I am confused why we didn’t hear about the very large algae bloom earlier.
I don’t get it. Am I naive? Am I becoming a crazy conspiracy theorist? Is this information purposefully not being shared, and if so who is not sharing it?
Is the government above our heads? If so we must change this. We must become in charge of this information for ourselves as it is public’s information paid for by our tax dollars.
I think we must push for a web cam at the gates of the lake that we, the public, can easily access and EASY access to the website that has live maps of algae blooms. As I have stated, I believe this information is here now, but how do we access it?
The information for blooms knows as HABs, or Harmful Algae Blooms, must be EASILY available to all citizens. I believe that the Florida Wildlife Commission, FWC, also had a very developed program and WEBSITE AREA on algae blooms because in the past as I even wrote about it in a previous blog. I seems like their committee kind of died off for some reason….
HABs are a problem all over the world, and they can be spotted with satellite imagery. They should be spotted for all of us. Unfortunately, this is the “now” and this is the future.
In the age of information, you’d think if would be “easier than this,” but is not. We must control our destiny, if we are to protect our lives and our property. The government is not doing this as it should be. They may not even really know this as they have been not doing it for so long….Very, very, sad.
Words and images are powerful tools in our quest to save the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon. It is critical that we are part of “writing history,” and not “allowing it to be written for us.”
Even though things get discouraging sometimes and we may feel like we are “getting nowhere,” believe me, in time, we will see that our work has not been in vain. A better river history is being made right now. You are part of that history.
Today I will share the document of Dr Gary Goforth, (http://garygoforth.net) “Resolving System Constraints: An Action Plan,” that is really “making history.”
It was passed out March 12, 2015 at the South Florida Water Management District’s (SFWMD) Governing Board Meeting where eighty members of the public signed up to speak on behalf of supporting the purchase of US Sugar option lands in the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA) in order to create a reservoir to store, clean and convey significant amounts of water south to the Everglades, thus sparing the estuaries from the redirected waters of Lake Okeechobee that are killing our rivers on top of the already destructive discharges from area canals.
This document will be an important part of that day’s “official record”…
Please read and store this document in your reference folder. You can click on the images to enlarge them.
Thank you Dr Goforth, River Warriors, Mark Perry, Maggy Hurchalla, Indian Riverkeeper, Marty Baum, Martin County’s Deborah Drum, Commissioner Ed Fielding, Ray Judah, Rae Anne Wetzel, the Sierra Club, the Everglades Coalition, The Stuart News, the state press, and all others, especially the “varied general public”—who continually speak in support of the St Lucie, Indian, and Caloosahatchee rivers. Thank you to those who everyday are part of this ongoing cause.
Thank you to the SFWMD for hearing our voices and reading our words, even when you are silent….
Thank you toDr Goforth for writing our goals down scientifically for the District to read, reference, and remember, as all of us build a new history we know is coming…
Question posed to River Kid: “So do you think you’ll become a politician?”
“Ummm..no…but I think I’ll be a better public speaker….:)”
This blog post is a follow-up to yesterday’s: “Tallahassee or Bust! River Kidz and the Clean Water Rally, Tallahassee, 2015.”
Yesterday, River Mom, Nic Mader, dropped off Naia, Olivia, Keile and I in front of the state capitol building for the Clean Water/Amendment 1 Rally…The sounds of speakers and music filled the air; the bright colors and black skeletons of Janeen Mason’s Solidarity Fish project could be seen in the distance….(http://www.solidarityarts.com); various members of the RIVER WARRIORS, and others, came up to say “hello;” it was a cool, bright, sunny day and a sense of history exuded from every giant oak tree draped with spanish moss….
“Girls stop.” I said.
Naia, 14, Olivia, 13, and Keile, 10 turned around and looked at me inquisitively.
“River Kidz, I want you to look around you for a minute. I want to share something with you that you may not think too much about… “THIS is part of the First Amendment, of the United States of America: “the right of the people to peaceably assemble, and to petition their government”…not all countries of the world allow this. My friend Aletha Jones teaching in China in 1989 when their government brought tanks into Tiananmen Square opening fire. Our country and our form of government, have many failures…but our “right to assemble” is key to what is “good” in our democracy….Participate today and know, you too, are a part of this great history of our country ….”
The rally was a message to the governor and the legislature to spend those monies as is intended within the language of the bill. For those of us coming from the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon Region, this means spending some of this money to purchase option lands south of Lake Okeechobee to store, clean and convey water south to the Everglades, in time, saving the dying estuaries of St Lucie/IRL and Caloosahatchee rivers.
Before the capitol and on its stairs, were people from all over the state; we even saw Dr Bob Knight, a legend in the springs movement. Most of Florida’s springs have been equally deviated by poor “water” decisions by state, federal and local governments.
It was a whirlwind of a day. The River Kidz were able speak at the rally; write short speeches, and to present them before Representative Larry Lee, Senator Joe Negron, and then, again, at the Senate Natural Resources Committee. They passed out their new River Kidz Second Edition Workbook, “Marty the Manatee” inspired by Mr Marty Baum, the Treasure Coast Indian Riverkeeper.
It was a good day.
Did we feel “warm and fuzzy feedback” regarding our request for option land purchase in the Everglades Agriculture Area (EAA) south of Lake Okeechobee?
Did I hear such things as “Steve Crisafulli, the House Speaker may want to be the Commissioner of Agriculture, and Adam Putnam does want to be governor.”….”agriculture/sugar does not want to sell the land now”—“and believe you me they are 20 years ahead the rest of you investing millions, if not billions of dollars, on a state and national level—–to influence politicians”…..”but its not all doom and gloom—things are moving”—–“and the subsiding EAA lands”—-“oh yes, and the future of Cuba,” “you never know—- maybe”…..”it’s changing so fast…”the advocacy along the Treasure Coast is noticed and making a difference…”
YES. I did hear such things….
🙂 (I will never reveal my sources but I can tell you I have good ones and spoke to many people…..)
Did we, the River Kidz: did I Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch, and River Mom , Nichole Mader find “this” discouraging?
“Yes, and No.”
Yes, because coming up against any wall is never fun when one is looking to go forward…
Nonetheless, I also know, and have been told, all this pushing IS having effect. I also know it may push the “powers that be” faster into what-ever-it-is that breaks this wall of historical government/agriculture “self-interest,” because water and the flood gates of the people will in time bring it down.
Of that I am certain.
Thank you River Kidz! Thank you all! For securing a better water future!
Recently, the 1912 Jensen Congregational Union Church was the fabulous setting for a very special day. –A day of marriage, for Indian Riverkeeper, Marty Baum, and his beautiful bride, River Warrior, Robin Pittman.
The quaint, lagoon, pioneer-church, that saw so much happiness this day, has known many names, and many faces throughout its many years: 1912, Congregation Union Church; 1933, Jensen Community Church; and 1969, Jensen Beach Christian Church.
It has been a sanctuary along the Indian River Lagoon for 102 years…
The 2014 ceremony was a real “tear jerker.” The entire River Warrior community came together to make this union happen for Marty and Robin. –The perfect sanctuary; bright, beautiful flowers; fashionable hair styling; sumptuous food; decorations; a classic wedding dress; river invitations; bubbles to blow; a guest book; a river cake; and at the end of the day, pink rose petals on the bed of a romantic river cottage….
Photographer, Keri West and videographer, Kenny Hinkle Jr. documented the entire event; eloquent organizer, and preacher for the occasion, Jo Neeson, led the ceremony with many, many others giving their support.
At one point, the Reverend Guy Calvert looked upon the congregation stating:
“The church welcomes the River Warriors to this house…”
I sat between my parents and my husband, fighting back every tear. Thankfully, Gayle Ryan had knowingly handed me a Kleenex on the way inside.
I sat there thinking about my own marriage, and about how at the end of our life journey, love is really all we have to take with us.
“To find love along the Indian River Lagoon, I thought….this is wonderful…”
As Marty and Robin said their vows, I felt a deep sense of history, and how the Indian River has always brought people together, in fact for hundreds of years.
—The river is in us; it is us, and we are her…
It was a beautiful ceremony and I am thankful to have been there. Through the love of Marty and Robin, may the “living waters” of the Indian River Lagoon flow, renewed, once again for all of us….
The River Warriors recently contacted me to tell me that they now have an office, and that I was invited to make Solidarity Fish T-shirts for those walking tomorrow in the Stuart Christmas Parade beside the River Warrior Float. They also invited me to sit on this float along with other River Warrior Ancients. 🙂
I was honored and intrigued….an office? So, yesterday evening, I drove to 745 NW Federal Highway, right over the north side of the Roosevelt Bridge, very close to the St Lucie River.
What I saw almost brought tears to my eyes! A true River Warrior office with energetic elf like River Warriors working away!
There were kids and adults and music and all sorts of river and political posters on the walls…busy River Warriors applying acrylic paint to brightly colored T-shirts, and others blowing the paint creations dry with blow dryers, and then neatly folding the shirts on a long straight table…
When the River Elves saw me, they joyously exclaimed, “It’s Jacqui!” Let’s make her a red, white and blue fish!”
I stood there in amazement. “This is so awesome…am I dreaming?”
There was Gayle Ryan at the door, the power-house behind getting the space…Julie Williams who was instrumental in the storefront donation…Marty Baum, the Indian Riverkeeper, and his girl friend Robin and their friends and a huge Santa Clause sitting in the corner. There were children cutting out manatees, dolphins, and sea turtle shapes…
The fluorescent lights juxtaposed to the darkness outside made everything seem brighter…I read every poster on the wall as a flood of memories came back to me….
“So, in 2013 we had the toxic “Lost Summer;” the people had an uprising, and now they, “we,” have an office? Holy Cow!”
With my head spinning, I took great pleasure in seeing a huge flag that read DON’T GIVE UP THE SHIP!
Artist Janeen Mason’s art also covered the walls; she is the originator of the Solidarity Fish that the River Warriors use as their symbol. (http://www.solidarityarts.com) These fish will tonight be part of Christmas tree lighting in Washington DC! Janeen is a marketing genius.
It’s official. Solidarity for the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon is here to stay along the Treasure Coast, hopefully in Washington DC, and in our local government offices too! A couple of days ago, I received this holiday card from the “Martin County Ecosystem Restoration and Management Division.” They made their own solidarity fish T-Shirts. Go Deb Drum and Team!
After a short time, when my shirt was ready, I put it on right over my dress: I was so exited! I am so thrilled to see so much passion for the river one year after the releases by the ACOE and SFWMD from Lake Okeechobee and C-23, C-24, C-25 and C-44 that killed our river.
Well no one will stop us now….we will in time bring our river back.
Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, and a yet another Solidarity New Year for our St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon!
One of the positive things that has come out of the negativity of the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon situation, is building relationships with incredible people who care about our rivers. One of these people is Dr Gary Goforth.
Dr Gary Goforth, 2014. (Photo Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch)
I first met Dr Goforth last August when he spoke before the “Senate Hearing on the Indian River Lagoon and Lake Okeechobee Basin,” at the Kane Center in Stuart, organized by Senator Joe Negron. Dr Goforth was sitting next to Karl Wickstrom, founder of Florida Sportsman Magazine and outspoken member of the Rivers Coalition.
Listening to Dr. Goforth plead his case, I said: ” Wow, who is this guy?”
He spoke for the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon as a scientist showing the SFWMD and ACOE could move more water south, and he knew as he very much helped design the system! I came to learn that he in fact is the “father of the STAs (Storm Water Treatment Areas) in the Everglades Protection Areas and worked for the South Florida Water Management District for I believe almost 20 years. Now he is independent and has his own company. (http://garygoforth.net)
Having access to Dr Goforth is like having access to a “water issues computer” and I am continually blown away by his breadth of knowledge and that he is openly willing to share.
Sometimes our conversations go like this:
“Dr Goforth, I am looking at your chart, and my husband tells me never to speak in public when it comes to numbers…..but what does this mean……?”
He never makes me feel stupid, has the patience of a saint, and goes over the material until I get a hang of it.
The chart at the beginning of this blog entry is an example of complexities made simple through Dr Goforth. The chart, through color coding, shows “the inherent variability in flows” to the St Lucie River through C-23; C-24; Ten Mile Creek; C-44 Basin; Other Tributaries (a huge area around all the developed area of the river); and Lake Okeechobee Discharges. This is shown in AF (acre feet), or an acre of land with a foot of water on it.
Referring to the chart is enlightening and disturbing to note that for instance in 2005, almost 2,500,000 acre feet of water came into the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon; and in 2013, our “Lost Summer” about 1,250,000 acre feet came in. Other years shown on the chart between 1995 and 2013 with “worse” years than 2013 are 1998; 2003; and 2004. To somewhat put this in perspective, the huge EAA, or Everglades Agricultural Area, south and around the Lake Okeechobee is 700,000 acres. So for 2,500,000 acre feet of water, where would we ever find 2,500,000 flat acres of land to put this water on? We would not, and this is why “they” have to deal with volume and deeper storage areas. Mind blowing? YES!
So getting back to home, why did we finally “freak out” and go over the edge in 2013, when the flows have been “worse” before? Well, I personally think social media is a big part of this, as well as the aerial photos that “showed” people” the true repugnance of the big picture; and like someone in an abusive relationship, after years and years, we’d finally HAD ENOUGH!
Dr Goforth’s chart also shows that the annual flow to the SLR is 999,468 acre feet; and the average annual flow of Lake Okeechobee water to the SLR is 291,899 acre feet or 29% of the flow. I’ll round that up to 30% and say, “Yes, we here in Martin and St Lucie County have terrible issues with our own local runoff of C-23; C-24; Ten Mile Creek; C-44 Basin; and Other Tributaries; yes, in fact we are almost killing ourselves, SO ACOE and SFWMD PLEASE DON’T TOTALLY KILL US BY RELEASING POLLUTED WATER FROM LAKE OKEECHOBEE ON TOP OF OUR ALREADY HORRIBLE SITUATION!
With that said, I hope you learned something today and if you have time, take a closer look at the chart, it’s really educational; also, if you ever see Dr Goforth around town, go up to him and thank him and shake his hand. He is one of the most outstanding “River Warriors” of all!
A woman’s right to vote did not come come in a day; stopping the horrors of slavery in the Untied States took a civil war and the life of one of our greatest presidents; most recently, in spite of one’s personal beliefs, we are seeing a revolution in gay rights.
These movements take time, but eventually, there is tipping point were things begin to change direction. As we know, our river movement has been going for almost 85 years as the first time the Martin County commission asked the ACOE to stop releasing Lake Okeechobee water into the St Lucie River was documented in their minutes of 1930.
Today I wanted to encourage you not to feel discouraged that the St Lucie Indian River Lagoon movement has been going on so long, but to feel empowered that you are part of something that is big, that takes years, and has a moral element to it just like human rights. This moral element is what in time will force the State of Florida and the United States of America to scrutinize our destructive drainage practices of the past.
As it says in our Declaration of Independence: When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires they should declare the cause which impels them to the separation.
For me, this document gives permission to pull away when necessary. We are and have been pulling away. We envision something better and we are willing to fight for it. Just for the record, some of those before us include:
1. Commercial fishermen in 1925, two years after the canal opened in 1923, in the newspaper of the day, The Florida Developer fought the destructive abundance of fresh water from the lake.
2. A 1931 article from The Florida Developer’s editorial team notes it was “critical” that the releases from Lake Okeechobee be stopped.
3. 1945 another paper, The Stuart Messenger notes that the river had turned into a “mud soup,” killing fishing; tourism; and real estate.
4. 1958 local citizens filled the Martin County Courthouse to discuss with a delegation of the Flood Control District and the Army Corps of Engineers the possibility of a third outlet from Lake Okeechobee. Although hopes were high, nothing materialized.
5. Editor, and writer for the Stuart News, Ernest Lyons (1931-1974) wrote many award-winning articles against over canalization in our area of not only C-44 from Lake Okeechobee but also C-23, C-24 and C-25 further north that drained even more polluted fresh water into the rivers. His newspaper/writing career continued for many years.
6. In the early 1950s the Izzak Walton Group; the Martin County Conservation Committee and the St River Restoration League all openly fought for the river.
7. In 1990 Ernest Lyons, who had been prominent in all groups listed in #6, died: to fill that void, “Leadership Martin County” in 1992 , with the help of Mr Bud Jordan, Kevin Henderson and Tim Kinane, founded the St Lucie River initiative whose report to Congress is today’s blog photo. Their “River Dayz Festival” on behalf of the river brought hundreds together, they created river materials for elementary, middle and high school students, focused on muck removal and business support.
8. In 1993 the Greater Martin County Board of Realtors joined in its support of the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon, sending out a letter stating that the organization had joined the St Lucie River Initiative and encouraged a “call to action to contribute to the organization and to write letters to government officials.”
9. In 1998, after the worst toxic algae bloom and fish kill/fish lesion outbreak ever documented in Martin County during heavy releases from Lake Okeechobee, the Rivers Coalition came into being unifying businesses and an education program as well as developing the Rivers Coalition Defense Fund set up to sue the Federal Government and others on behalf of the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon. Realtor Leon Abood, became the longstanding and outspoken chair.
10. On December 4th, 2010, a Rivers Coalition Lawsuit against the Federal Government was heard in the Court of Federal Claims in Washington DC. According to edited words of Karl Wickstrom, chair of the Defense Fund at that time, U.S. District Judge Lynn Bush wrote in her explanation:
“The St. Lucie River is by all accounts, a national treasure.The longterm environmental consequences of defendant’s, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers,’ massive discharges into the river are tragic, and the court takes note of plaintiffs’ tireless efforts to reverse that damage.”
The court ruled that a remedy to stop the harmful discharges must come not from the courts but from Congress; she dismissed the case, but it garnered national attention and moved issues of the river forward.
11. In 2011 the River Kidz were born of two 5th grade girls and became a division of the Rivers Coalition. They held two river rallies at the St Lucie Locks and Dam in 2012 during discharges from Lake Okeechobee. Senator Joe Negron, Chairwoman Sarah Heard, and other politicians mingled with parents looking for a way to deal with the discharges. Congressman Patrick Murphy later also supported the Kidz in their efforts. The key: parental involvement and youth.
12. 2009-2011, going public in 2012/13, it was realized a that a super bloom and brown tide algae bloom had killed 60% of the seagrasses in the northern and central IRL. Unusual Mortality Events (UMEs), declared by NOAA, followed for both endangered manatees and the protected bottle nosed dolphins. Hundreds of pelicans also died. This galvanized the counties of the IRL, southern, central and northern alike.
13. 2013, the ACOE starts releasing from Lake Okeechobee May 8th until October 21st. This time becomes the “Lost Summer,” toxic conditions ensue. Young Evan Millar and Clint Starling and others call for a rally at the locks on Facebook. Over 5000 show up. Beach rally later brings over 2000. Hands Across the Lagoon unifies thousands across the 156 mile lagoon as well. The STUART NEWS/SCRIPPS NEWSPAPERS starts a river news campaign that has educated thousands and is still going today. St Lucie County as well as Lee County River Kidz is born…
14. 2013 the Sugarland Rally in Clewiston; Senator Negron’s Senate Hearing on the Indian River Lagoon and Lake Okeechobee Basin; Congressman Murphy invites the state and local officials, the River Warriors, and River Kidz to to a meeting on the Indian River Lagoon and Lake O. in Washington DC. …..Commissioner Ed Fielding forms the Indian River lagoon County Collaborative unifying all counties along the lagoon. (Palm Bach quits.)
15. In 2014 the fight has continued. The pressure has not let up. Presently the University of Florida is studying the issue of “sending water south…”
16. 2014, last week, the South Florida Water Management District and Dept of Environmental Protection and others recommend against Sugar Hill, a proposed development in Hendry County on option lands, most designated for Everglades restoration or trading.
It has been a long journey, but I am confident that the tipping point is coming. We have over drained our lands, we have destroyed our rivers and lakes, we are wasting 1.7 billion gallons of fresh a day to tide knowing we have a growning population coming…
If nothing else, it will be the need for fresh water and the knowledge that wasting it is wrong that will in the future push the St Lucie/Indian River Lagoon movement tipping over the edge…
If there is anything I believe in, it is the “power of the people,” and it has given me great pleasure to watch this American principal at work over the past year. For me, presently there is nothing more evident of this than a small, simplified pamphlet that was officially released at last week’s Water Resources Advisory Commission (WRAC) on Thursday, September 4th, 2014; it is simply entitled RESTORATION PROJECTS and could fit in your pocket it you folded it in half.
This little pamphlet was greatly inspired by the people, the river protesters in particular, at a meeting that occurred in September of last year and took place at Indian RiverSide Park, in Jensen Beach. At this meeting the WRAC met for its regular meeting within the South Florida Water Management District, but also to hear the voices of the protesters in light of the toxic releases from Lake Okeechobee during the summer of 2013. In August of that year over 5000 people had protested at the St Lucie Locks and Dam. The District took notice.
As did the press….
You may recall Kenny Hinkel’s video that went viral of many people at the meeting on their cell phones? You may remember locals speaking before the WRAC asking for clarity, in understanding exactly “what and when” the SFWMD was doing to “save our river.” You may remember people being mad. You may remember myself and others begging for a simplification of presentation as the presentations from the District are so erudite only a scientist can understand them.
Note the top priorities have to do with attempting to “send Lake O. and others waters south through the Tamiami Trail area and the Indian River Lagoon South projects in Martin and St Lucie County for water storage from polluted local canals. Great. And it may have been that way before, but we needed to see it on paper!
Many people deserve credit for this simple but huge accomplishment, the River Warriors and SFWMD staff in particularly but I must note that on the day of that meeting, it was Chief of Staff, Dan Delisi, who called me aside after that meeting and said: “That simplification idea…so the public can understand….that is a good idea….we will work on that.”
And they did.
Also, the queen of the publication is Ms Temperince Morgan who compiled tons of information and put it before the WRAC to be digested and fought over and did it with a smile.
And the greatest of all, the pearl in the oyster created by that constant irritation, that grain of sand, is the people!
You created this, you demanded this. You insisted your government talk to you in such a way that you “get it.”
Corruption is easily shrouded in complexity. Simplicity is the light, our light for a cleaner and healthier St Lucie River and Indian River Lagoon.
Today I want to share what I consider a huge recent success of the River Movement and our ability to network and work together to protect our St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon.
On August 25th, Jensen Beach activist Jackie Trancynger sent out an email blast featuring a photograph taken by Paul Shidel of an awful looking algae bloom he found while photographing birds at Port Mayaca. Port Mayaca is where structure S-308 is located that allows water from Lake Okeechobee to be released into the C-44 canal to the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon.
Here’s the photo. You may recall reading about it in one of my previous blogs or seeing it in an email exchange:
So anyway after I saw the photo, I called Jackie Trancynger and got Paul Shidel’s email in order to verify the location of the bloom-certainly appearing to be toxic algae. Paul not only verified the location but provided a map!
On Tuesday, August 26, I participated as I have for almost two years now, in the ACOE Periodic Scientists Call in my capacity as an elected official from the Town of Sewall’s Point at the invitation of Ms Deb Drum, who oversees Martin County’s Ecosystem Restoration & Management Division.
During this call I sent Paul’s photo and map to the ACOE stating concern that if S-308 were opened this possibly toxic algae would head straight into our SRL/IRL.
Then an amazing thing happened..
The ACOE ask the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to test the algae.
Yesterday, Deb Drum from Martin County reported that the testing came back positive as “Microcystis, a toxic blue-green algae.” The county in turn notified the ACOE that the algae exists in that location to document their concern. If the ACOE were to open the locks at S-308, the algae could travel downstream with the water flow into the SLR/IRL. This knowledge could actually make a difference in a decision of the ACOE to open up those structures.
Wow. Thank you Paul!
I have complained before on the ACOE call about toxic algae being released from Lake Okeechobee as the SLR/IRL does not seem to “go toxic” from its local canals, but only when Lake Okeechobee’s waters are unleaded to our shores. Toxic algae has been seen in the area between S-308 and S-80 many times but we need to start documenting this. Documentation is a powerful tool in changing the tide of destruction.
So thank you for your teamwork! Together we can help KEEP THEM CLOSED! The “Gates of Hell” that is…
Subject: Lake Okeechobee, Okeechobee/Glades/Hendry/Palm Beach/Martin Counties: Florida CyanoHAB Tracking Module has received a record update
On August 27, 2014, Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s Southeast District staff sampled an algal bloom found in Lake Okeechobee. A single grab sample was collected of surface scum at the Port Myakka Lock (C-44.) Following are the laboratory results for this sample:
Result: Class Toxin potential * The dominant taxon was: Microcystis aeruginosa Class Cyanophyceae yes
Other taxa present: Dolichospermum circinale ** Class Cyanophyceae yes Pseudanabaena sp. Class Cyanophyceae undetermined Eudorina elegans Class Chlorophyceae – Pediastrum simplex Class Chlorophyceae – Glenodinium sp. Class Dinophyceae
* Information based on literature searches and personal communications; information is continually being updated. “Undetermined” refers to specimens for which the lowest practical level of taxonomic identification is genus and some, but not all, species within that genus have the potential to produce toxins or toxin information not available for the identified species but is available for genus level.
Great passions surround issues of the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon.
Over the past month, I have have been “corrected,” like a middle school child, not only by some friends but by institutions, for my outspoken comments for or against certain politicians or programs affiliated with the Indian River Lagoon. This berating came as a shock to me as I have not “been corrected” since I lived in my parents house and was constantly corrected. I was not good at it then, and I am not good at it now.
When I complained about this recently, my husband Ed just looked at me and laughed saying, “Get used to it, if you want to be involved in politics!”
“I am working for the river, I replied, not politics.”
Ed looked at me like I was in outer space and again laughed that infectious laugh of his.”
Of course Ed is right. Water is politics. And politics can be even more toxic than our St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon.
This Sunday, August 3, at 10 a.m. , at Phipps Park, (St Lucie Locks and Dam), the River Warriors with the second year leadership of Evan Miller and the help of the Rivers Coalition, the Indian River Keeper, and the Sierra Club, will hold the “March Against the Lake Okeechobee Discharges.”
There will hopefully be hundreds if not thousands of people there. And even though there will be people of many political affiliations, backgrounds, and beliefs, when the “powers that be” see the group together in one place our differences fade and WE ARE ONE. It is this oneness, this togetherness that has brought us from obscurity to state and national recognition for the problems of Lake Okeechobee, the St Lucie River and Indian River Lagoon in just one short year.
I have an old chest in my living room that came over to the United States in the 1700s. Its owners were French Huguenots who were openly persecuted and killed for their religious beliefs. When I see that chest, I think of its journey across the great ocean and it reminds me that people came to our county for many reasons, but the protections of “free speech” and “freedom of assembly,” to many may have been most important.
May we exercise our American Freedoms with dignity on Sunday and with the protections of the First Amendment of our United States Constitution:
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
If there is one thing constant about the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon’s problems, it is that they are multi-layered and complex. I believe this is one reason it has been so hard to “fix.” If there were just one problem, it would be easier, but there is not one problem, there are many.
So, today I wanted to focus on C-44 basin runoff, again, as it has been in the news a lot, especially the two weeks since I was gone as I heard it really rained and we even got our first named hurricane.
The photo above shows the waters just off of the tip of Sewall’s Point on June 27th, 2014. Disgusting.
The basin map above reminds us of the C-44 basin’s location in southern Martin County. The “basin” is the large area surrounding the C-44 canal in black lines. As we know, this area is largely agricultural and was expanded over the years to drain more land than nature intended.
Through permits with the South Florida Water Management District the agricultural businesses are allowed to use water from the C-44 canal for irrigation when needed, especially during the “dry” season. The Army Corps of Engineers manages the level of the canal mostly for agricultural use; this is an historic relationship. In spite of “best management practices” much of the water used to irrigate their fields, runs back into the canal, over and over again, filled with fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, etc…This is the untreated, polluted water that goes straight into our rivers.
As we can see looking at the canal map, over the years, the C-44 basin has become tremendous in size in order to drain land for agriculture and development. Millions of gallons of water come off these lands when it rains, as has been the case the past couple of weeks.
This recent photo below by local river activist and fishing guide, Michael Conner, shows what the C-44 basin water looks like when it comes out of the S-80 gates at St Lucie Locks and Dam, the same gates that are used when water is released from Lake Okeechobee when the ACOE opens S-308 at the lake. This can be confusing because usually we associate this type of photo with releases from Lake Okeechobee. S-80 can release just C-44 canal water or “just lake water,” or both lake and C-44 water…
So why haven’t we talked about the C-44 basin until this summer, or seen or very much about it in the newspaper “before?”
Well, it is confusing to the lay person, and I don’t claim to know everything, but I will explain what I can.
Generally, in the past, the ACOE did not usually release the C-44 into the river during the summer…but this summer they are. Why?
Well according the the “Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the 2008 Lake Okeechobee Regulation Schedule (LORS),” the document the ACOE uses to manage Lake Okeechobee:
“All alternatives assume back flow from the St Lucie Canal, C-44, to Lake Okeechobee to be allowed to occur at lake stages of 14.50 ft or 0.25 from the bottom of the the lowest non-baseflow regulatory zone, whichever is lower.”
Basically this means that under most circumstances if the lake is under 14.5 feet, which it is now, (13.38), the ACOE will “back flow” C-44 canal runoff water into the lake through S-308, rather than sending it east to the SLR/IRL through S-80. This summer the ACOE has chosen not to do this, so we are getting C-44 basin water released into the SLR/IRL so the water looks gross. In the ACOE’s July 11th, 2014, public periodic scientist call email statement, explaining their choices, it reads:
“The Water Control Plan deliberately allow some flexibility to consider real time and forecasted conditions and decisions made within the guidance provided by the Water Control Plan…for the specific decision not to flow water from the C-44 basin into Lake Okechobee since 12 June 2014, the conditions that we took into consideration were rising lake levels, water supply, remaining duration of the wet season and proximity to the low sub band….the 8 July report from the South Florida Water Management District evaluates the condition of St Lucie Estuary and states “salinity at US1 is within the preferred range for oysters in the mid estuary.”
Hmmm? Obviously the SFWMD’s salinity report was not that of Mark Perry’s at Florida Oceanographic…Let’s read and take a look.
Mark Perry feels the ACOE should be back flowing the C-44 water into the lake. He says:
“According to the Water Control Plan for the Lake the Corps should be opening S-308 and back flowing this local basin runoff into the lake when the lake is below 14 feet and the C-44 is above 14.5 feet but they have chosen to make steady releases from the C-44 basin through S-80 into the St Lucie at near 1000 cfs since June 14. Not so good outlook for the St Lucie Oysters…”
Please view his chart below that shows what has happened to salinity levels since the C-44 has been flowing into the SLR/IRL. (Mind you C-23, and C-24 are also dumping their basin runoff water, but C-44’s basin area is larger.)
On the other hand, friend of Mark Perry, Kevin Henderson, long time advocate for the SLR/IRL and founding member of the St Lucie River Initiative, feels the ACOE is perhaps trying a strategy that will help the St Lucie in the “future.” Kevin states:
“I firmly disagree that the Corps should always run C-44 drainage west until the Lake reaches 14.5. That is the pattern that gets us the most continuous lake and C-44 drainage into the fall, and the the patten that kills oysters…It is not basin runoff that kills the estuary, it’s months of continuous discharges at rates that never let salinity recover. This is why I advocate sending C-44 drainage west only when local salinity could recover for a while, then send it east again and do not let Lake O get high enough to wreck us with longer term discharges…”
I think he’s saying, the ACOE, by not consistantly filling the lake up with C-44 basin water during summer, may be avoiding long term runoff into the SRL/ILR in the future come fall…
Both Mark and Kevin have a point.
My non-scientific perspective?
I think the ACOE was so taken aback by the wrath of the general public last year, the River Warriors, the River Kidz, the River Movement, the Stuart News/media, as well as some politicians, that they will do “almost anything” not to release water from Lake Okeechobee into the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon if they don’t have to.
By letting the C-44 basin water go into the river and not the lake, if a hurricane comes, there is just that much more room in the lake to hold the water so they don’t have to dump here and listen to us scream….
I didn’t pick up Sunday’s Stuart News until Monday, as I had been out of town. Sipping my coffee and holding the old fashioned paper, I love so much, my lips curled in a broad smile. The opinion page juxtaposed articles by two candidates running for Florida governor: Nan Rich and Rick Scott.
These letters were not just broad sweeping letters; they were thoughtful and personal, they mentioned the River Warriors and direct stories of inspiration from local residents. Don’t get me wrong, I know it is an election year, but nonetheless, it is simply amazing. In one year, since the discharges from Lake Okeechobee and our local canals turned our world upside down, and news of such “went viral,” the people have accomplished the most impressive of our forefathers’ American expectations. Expectations that years of social conformity and acceptance of over-development and pollution had overridden. The people of the Indian River Lagoon have stood up to their government.
The rebellion of the southern lagoon corresponded to the northern lagoon’s massive deaths of manatees, dolphins, pelicans and loss of almost 100% of its seagrasses. These die-offs and toxic algae blooms in the north, actually began happening in 2011 but did not come out publicly until the uprising in the southern lagoon blended the two tragedies.
I know for many of my friends the politics of the River Movement is hypocritical, frustrating and painful. I feel the same way. In fact lately I have been a bit depressed over the whole thing. But I am getting out of it. Boy is it a pleasure to see that paper, to be in the drivers seat, to have “them” writing letters, visiting, and actually thinking that there is no longer a “golden ticket” to pollute. I have been in Martin County many years, and on “this level,” “this” has never happened before.
Finally, even Senator Rubio is getting heat in the press; long standing Senator Nelson is happy he’s been around, but also nervous he is part of the lagoon “establishment;” Charlie Crist is taking out his old notes about US Sugar; Senator Negron is promising more for the lagoon in 2015; Congressman Murphy is regrouping and studying the Farm Bill after the ACOE refused CEPP on his watch; and the future speakers of the Florida house and senate are making their cases for the future of “water.”
Many times the lagoon has been defiled by our government, in fact 2013 was not the worst its ever been. But I am telling you, this time it is different because of “us.” This time we have exposed them. This time we are asking truly for government to do what it is supposed to: “protect the health; safety and welfare” of its people. This time we are united in a brotherhood and sisterhood of diverse backgrounds and interests. This time we have reached a tipping point, as has the lagoon.
And most important for change, this time, “they” are watching and listening to us.
Please take advantage of this opportunity. Don’t turn your back because the politics are so repulsive to watch. Look to the sky—look to the river ——write a letter or make a call and say : ‘thank you; we are happy you are taking an interest in the lagoon; I will be weighing who to vote for based on who really has the desire, passion and an honest heart.”
These politicians may never be able to reach perfection, their world is pretty insane, but be grateful they are paying attention, and know you are a force for change in a way never before. Drive your points home!
When the pressure and destruction of last summer’s releases from Lake Okeechobee and the local canals overcame my world, I decided I needed to do something to keep a positive attitude; I started a butterfly garden in my yard.
It has been an amazing experience learning about the “hosts” plants that imediately bring a specific butterfly to the garden; the nectar plants the butterflies can “eat;” the eggs and “Transformer- like,” funny, caterpillars that emerge to consume the host plants; the chrysalises that hang like Christmas bulbs everywhere; and finally the spectacular emerging butterflies.
So far, I have mostly had zebra long-wing, various swallowtails, dagger-winged, gulf fritillary, and monarchs. Each has their own cool story, but the monarch has something special as far as “inspiration” goes, and I liken it to the Indian River Movement, or the “River Warriors” as its been coined.
No one can explain the following, as God has made the world a mystery, but the fourth generation of monarch butterflies is genetically programmed, unlike the rest of its family heritage, for the “long haul,” to make the migration.
For me this is like the Indian River Movement, the “River Warriors.”
Yes, we are the fourth generation of Martin County’s pioneer residents trying to save the river. The area’s first generation started as early as the beginning of the 1900s.
In case you are unfamiliar, let me explain.
According to scientists, the first three generations of monarch butterflies live around 4-6 weeks flying, breeding and eating, but the 4th generation of monarch butterflies are different. They live 6-8 months and are the only generation to participate in the long haul “migration,” as seen on the map above.
We, the River Movement of 2013, are the river movement’s 4th generation. The “long-haul” generation. We will take the Indian River Lagoon further than most, closer to the finish line.
In conclusion, life is a mystery, and much is not completely understood…
But what is understood, is that we, the River Movement of 2013, are a generation that is different!