Thursday, November 16, at the Rivers Coalition meeting held at the Stuart City Commission Chambers, 121 SW Flagler Avenue, 11am, Merritt Matheson will present. Matheson, from the famous Matheson family, was once a commissioner for the City of Stuart himself. Now serving on the Indian River Keeper Board of Directors and the Rivers Coalition, he is continuing his good work as a face for MARTIN COUNTY FOREVER.
You may have heard of it?
If not, I’ll share a bit of what I have learned to wet your whistle, and I encourage everyone to attend the meeting in person or Zoom. (For Zoom mail Info@RiversCoalition.org or call 772-225-6849)
We all know the county is rapidly being developed. It’s hard to watch.
If Martin County Forever gets supported by the Martin County Commission to go on the the ballot for voters to decide whether to support land acquisition, Martin County Forever can offset that loss. Martin County has already done a great job acquiring lands in the past. I think people will support Martin County Forever as it will only be about land acquisition. As the land so the water…
According to Martin County Forever literature, over 116,000 acres have been identified on the Martin County Land Acquisition Map (above). In years past, with community support, about 61% or (71,000) acres were acquired, leaving approximately 46,000 acres left that can still be acquired. Target areas include Blueways, the Indian River Lagoon watershed, Loxa-Lucie and Pal-Mar. These are beautiful areas that need to be saved and could become part of a so needed east coast wildlife corridor. The only lands for consideration are those eligible for state funding to match due to previous designations.
I commend Merritt for his conservation work and for never, never, never giving up! I hope you can join him.
All slides and photographs courtesy of the MC Forever website and FB page.
Ed and I just got off a seven day journey on “Finito.” We traveled along the Indian River Lagoon from Stuart to Cape Canaveral and only turned around due to a fuel leak that was heroically brought to our attention our eighty pound Belgium Shepherd, Luna.
The Lagoon has been through hell the past decade, especially in regards to algae blooms that began around 2010 and peaked in 2013. Over 90 percent of seagrasses in the 156 mile lagoon died off in those and the following years and FWC still reports issues including fish kills. I believe that the lagoon is improving in spite of continued difficulties. Just the past few days the water quality the length of the lagoon looked appealing and there were dolphins jumping in our wake the entire trip! Dozens of them, all along the way! These clever animals will always find a fish, in spite of crappy water, but nonetheless, their presence was inspiring.
Even though this was to be the “retirement cruise,” I couldn’t help myself from zooming into a Rivers Coalition meeting on October 26 and was impressed that for the second time in row since I was ditched by the Senate, South Florida Water Management District executive staff and a governing board member drove all the way from West Palm Beach to attend the meeting. Obviously this is done for their self preservation, but still!
The subject of the meeting was “Sending Water South,” and basically the theme, in line with my last blog post, was that the the high water in Water Conservation Areas south of Lake Okeechobee makes sending water south right now “impossible.” Staff said they were draining the WCAs now, the Storm Water Treatment Areas are restored, and they hope to send Lake Okeechobee water south in December. Of course no one mentions this bottleneck is caused by the Everglades Agricultural Area….
I found this possibility about sending water south in December misleading. In fact, it was False hope. Sure there is always a possibility that things will not turn out as science plans, but we should recognize science nonetheless. Especially as the District is based on science has its own scientific weather bureau that is so respected the ACOE relies on its data!
Two days prior to the Rivers Coalition meeting the District hosted a Water Resource Form. During this forum the high probability of above average rainfall December 2023 through February 2024 over the sixteen county South Florida Water Management District was noted. This is due to a weather condition known as El Nino. So back to the Rivers Coalition meeting, what if as science is revealing, we do not have a dry season and it rains over the Water Conservation Areas? Hmmm? Then the SFWMD probably wont be able to send water south in December, or January or February and tree islands and fur-bearing animals will continue to suffer as will we. This may have been mentioned in passing but it was not discussed.
I rather be prepared for something that may happen than have my government spoon feed me false hope gliding over serious issues. A scientific agency has the responsibility to share science not hope.
Today and will share some history, and today I will honor Mr Leon Abood, who has led the Rivers Coalition of Martin County for the past seventeen years…
In 1998 a terrible thing was happening. An uncanny number of fish in the St Lucie River had lesions, and for the very first time, numerous algae blooms were being reported the river. The ACOE and SFWMD had been releasing fresh water from Lake Okeechobee into the estuary for a longer period of time than “typical” due to high rains and high water levels in Lake Okeechobee; this had occurred before, but this time something was different. Really different.
“Fish with lesions? Disgusting. And those poor fish! What’s going on?”
Fishermen were confused and furious; the public was just learning the extent of the problems in their beloved St Lucie River; and real estate agents were desperate because they could not sell houses. All were watching the economic vitality of Martin County and its essential natural system (that brought residents here in the first place) collapse.
The standing motto of the day became: ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!
Agencies as usual declared uncertainty of why the fish were so sickly, everyone looking at everyone else…In time, very quietly, studies did verify that high levels of fresh water in brackish systems allow a bacteria to grow that promotes lesions, as a fish’s delicate slime coat is compromised….It was Lake Okeechobee exacerbated by the other canals….
This is taken into account today before decisions are made…When possible, “pulse releases” became more common rather than giant long-lasting slugs of water into the system….
As far as “the river,” other groups had been fighting for the St Lucie River/Southern Indian River Lagoon since the 1950s, but now it was time for “business!”
In a fit of fury and desperation, the Realtor Association, on May 12th, 1998, formed the “Rivers Coalition.” The group was built from the earlier formed El Nino Task Force and focused on group rather than individual membership.
Founding members in 1998 included the St Lucie River Initiative, the Realtor Association of Martin County; Stuart/Martin Chamber of Commerce; Treasure Coast Builders Association; Martin County Conservation alliance; Economic Council; Florida Oceanographic Society; Marine Industries Association; Audubon of Florida; Audubon of Florida; and the Martin County Farm Bureau.
Leon has led the coalition through the horrors of fish lesions, toxic algae blooms, releases from Lake Okeechobee and area canals, along with Mr Karl Wickstrom–a law-suit against the federal government, and has been the face and front man of the river for a confused and desperate public. His calm and authoritative demeanor gives people confidence. He is a true leader, calm when surrounded by controversy and sharks at every turn.
Leon’s goal has always been that all stakeholders are to take part: business, environmental, and residential…. and to bring information forward for the public so they can make “logical and intelligent decisions about what is going on.” He has helped achieve this important goal. —And without information and discussion there is no change…
Since 1998, the Rivers Coalition has grown and evolved but always remained a consistent “voice for the river.” Without the voice the Rivers Coalition, our river situation would not have the statewide recognition and there would not be the pressure on government to fix the problems.
We all know, it is a problem of monumental proportion, TO MOVE WATER SOUTH and not through our estuary, that will take generations. Knowing this, Leon Abood gave the first “go ahead” to support the River Kidz in 2011 so they could one day “take the baton.”
Please read more about Leon Abood and the accomplishments of the Rivers Coalition below on Rivers Coalition link.
Leadership for the future will be made soon. Leon will not walk-away until he has given his blessing and guided new leadership. After 17 years of investing heart and soul it’s not as easy as “passing the baton,” and the River Kidz are just a tad too young. We are going to need some leaders just a bit older….:) He has a few in mind…
Why is he leaving?
After 17 years, he is tired. And Leon simply wishes to spend more time with his wife Georgia, a well-known artist; they love to travel to Europe specifically Paris and Italy. What do they say in real estate? In life too, “Time is of the Essence….”
Thank you Leon, you will never be replaced, and you will always be remembered!
Know the Rivers Coalition will have a rebirth with you always at its side.
We all know that Martin County has been fighting against the ACOE and SFWMD’s Lake Okeechobee discharges into the St Lucie River/Southern Indian River Lagoon since the 1930s. But if someone asked, “when did the modern river movement REALLY get going?” Without a doubt, the answer would be: August 3rd, 2013, at the “Save the St Lucie River and Wildlife Protest,” St Lucie Lock and Dam, organized via Facebook by at the time, 29-year-old Evan Miller.
In the year 2013, Evan along with friends, not only put together THE protest at the locks, but also other memorable events such as the “Sandbar Party” where hundreds of attendees wore toxic radiation suits in light of the toxic river waters of 2013, as well as the rally at the beach also bringing thousands where the people spelled out in human form SAVE OUR RIVER!
I spoke with Evan about a month ago as he was organizing this Saturday’s event “Save Our Rivers, Restore the Everglades, March to Buy the Sugarland!” and in the course of the conversation he told me that “Facebook had changed, and that it has become more difficult to reach as many people as were reached in 2013.”
I found this really interesting, especially that Evan knew such, (the young people are so much wiser to social media), and it got me thinking that this “would make sense” as the Arab Spring overseas and all that was happening with social media on a world level from 2011-2013 did in fact become an issue for governments world-wide trying to “keep order…”
Perhaps “the government” did somehow get Facebook to change its logarithms so that crowds/protesters would have a more difficult time “organizing”…sometimes against their own governments….I do remember hearing something about all this on the news….then it went quiet…..
Anyway, Evan is a local “genius” at organizing events and helping to put pressure on elected officials and agencies thus inspiring support of clean water for the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon. Evan and good friend Clint Starling, also a great organizer, have represented Citizen’s for Clean Water on the Rivers Coalition since 2013. (http://riverscoalition.org)
We river “ancient ones,” are thankful to this younger generation that has turned up the volume and is using new tools for riding our ancient river protest wave to a better water future!
To really add to the event, reports are out that a VIP, maybe President Obama, will be flying over on Saturday on his way to play golf…..SO COME OUT this Saturday, March 28th, at 11:00, fly the flag—bring your parents! bring your kids!—-to Stuart Beach and participate in Evan’s newest rally, a march from Stuart to Jensen Beach: SAVE THE RIVER. RESTORE THE EVERGLADES. MARCH TO BUY THE SUGARLAND!
Let’s support Evan and our rivers once again by the thousands! Let’s demand clean water for today and for the future!
The first verse of the River Kidz’ Song, written by River Mom, Nicole Mader, and the River Kidz goes:
“The River Kidz are here; Our mission’s quite clear; We love our river and ALL its critters; Let’s hold it all dear…”
The rest of this wonderful song can be found on page 36 of the new workbook below.
After over a year of creative preparation, and community collaboration, the River Kidz’ 2nd Edition Workbook is here!
After long contemplation this morning, I decided to share the entire booklet in my blog; but as WordPress, does not accept PDF files, I have photographed the entire 39 pages! So, not all pages are perfectly readable, but you can get the idea.
The really cool thing about this workbook is that it was written “by kids for kids,” (Jensen Beach High School students for elementary students). The high school students named the main character of the book after Marty Baum, our Indian Riverkeeper. The students had met Mr Baum in their classroom (of Mrs Crystal Lucas) along with other presenters and field trip guides like the Army Corp of Engineers, South Florida Water Management District, and politicians speaking on the subject…
The books will be going into all second grade public school classrooms and many private school classrooms beginning in February of 2015. Teacher training will be underway this February at the Environmental Studies Center in Jensen: (https://www.facebook.com/escmc?rf=132947903444315)
River Kidz will make the booklet available to everyone. Some will be given away, and some will be used to raise money at five dollars a booklet. To purchase the booklets, please contact Olivia Sala, administrative assistant for the Rivers Coalition at email@example.com —-Numbers are limited.
In closing, enjoy the workbook and thank you to Martin County, Superintendent, Laurie J. Gaylord for encouraging the workbook and for her beautiful letter in the front of the booklet. Thank you to Martin County School Science Leader, Valerie Gaylord; teacher, Mrs Crystal Lucas; Mom, Mrs Nicole Mader; Sewall’s Point artist, Ms Julia Kelly; Southeastern Printing’s Bluewater Editions’ manager and River Dad, Jason Leonard; to River Kidz founders Evie Flaugh and Naia Mader, now 14/13; years old–they were 10 and 9 when this started,—- to the Knoph Foundation, and the Garden Club of Stuart, and to the hundreds of kids, parents, students, businesses, politicians, state and federal agencies, and especially to Southeastern Printing and the Mader Family who made this concept a reality through education, participation. (Please see page 34 below.)
Thank you to all those who donated money for the workbook campaign and to River Kidz over the years, and to the Stuart News, for Eve Samples’ column, and reporter, Tyler Treadway, for including the River Kidz in their “12 Days of Christmas” for two years in a row. River Kidz is grateful to everyone has helped…this is a community effort!
River Kidz is now in St Lucie County and across the coast in Lee County….
Remember, all kids are “River Kidz,” even you!
—-The workbook is in loving memory of JBHS student, Kyle Conrad.