Tag Archives: rubio

Lake O Roundtable, Senator Marco Rubio, St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon

King Aurthur is historically noted for creating the concept of a "round table."
King Arthur is historically noted for creating the concept of a “round table.”

Yesterday, at the Wolf Technology Center, on the campus of Indian River State College, Todd Reid, the Deputy Chief of Staff and State Director for the Office of Marco Rubio oversaw a “Lake Okeechobee Roundtable.” New US Army Corp of Engineers Lt Col. Jennifer Reynolds broke the ice with her introduction, noting she was curious as to whether there would truly be a “roundtable…” She smiled saying she was happy to see the “rectangle-roundtable…” Her comments were funny and refreshing. The point was everyone was sitting around the table—“together,” like in King Arthur’s days….

Agenda, L.O. Roundtable, Office Senator Marco Rubio, 2015
Agenda, L.O. Roundtable, Office Senator Marco Rubio, 2015

I want to thank Senator Rubio’s office and Senator Rubio himself for the meeting. Could the meeting have been politically motivated? I hope so! Political motivation in any form is the gas that drives the bus. I’ll take it and I’ll hitch a ride….

The meeting was a rare opportunity to sit face to face in a non-charged environment and to listen, to ask questions, to learn, and to get to know each other.

Other than the many Army Corp, South Florida Water Management, and Rubio official leaders that sat at the table, some regional names you might recognize who also were there are: ¬†Comr. Ed Fielding, Kate Parmalee and Don Donaldson, Martin County; Richard Gilmore, Mayor, Sebastian; Dr Jacoby, St John’s River Water Management District; Nyla Pipes; Meagan Davis, HBOI; Mark Perry; Rae Ann Wessel, Caloosahatchee; Jason Bessey, SLC and myself. Sorry if I missed anyone. There were a few some empty chairs with name tags prepared for people who did not make it. Their loss. Of course Gayle Ryan of the River Warriors was in the audience as were others! ūüôā Thank you PUBLIC!

I have written many times, that “building relationships” is what is going to get us beyond the St Lucie/Indian River Lagoon nightmare we live in today. I appreciate the opportunity to build those relationships.

I did learn a lot.

The "Roundtable..."
The “Roundtable…” Photo Jax ACOE Twitter 6-18-15.

One thing I learned again is that the ACOE and SFWMD don’t know how to promote the good things they do. Perhaps this is because they are “government.”

For instance Jim Jeffords, Chief of the ACOE Operations Division noted very quietly that the ACOE under the LORS (Lake Okeechobee Regulation Schedule) this water year had only released 40% of the Lake O water that COULD HAVE gone to the Caloosahatchee River; and only 24% on the water that COULD HAVE gone to the St Lucie.  Holy Cow? Are you kidding me?

I don’t really get the complexities of the entire system, but basically LORS has huge ranges and it gives the ACOE flexibility so they use discretion in determining how much water is actually released rather than just opening the gates to match the number on the chart. So even though they released from Lake O into our SLR since January 16 until a few weeks ago–apparently it could have been worse. —Kind of like when you got ¬†into trouble in my day as a kid and got sent to the office and the principal only spanks you three times when he or she could have spanked you fifteen times. You still walk away crying and humiliated, but it could have been worse….We never thank the ACOE for “not releasing even more,” a lot more, because basically we don’t know that they could….they don’t tell us..they don’t brag. I do; I guess that’s why I’m a “civilian….”

LORS schedule releases SLR 2014 and some of 2015.
LORS schedule releases SLR 2014 and some of 2015.(Photo ACOE Twitter)

And then Jeff Kivett, Divisions Director Operations, Engineering and Construction SFWMD, gave a really nice and erudite presentation with an awesome color copy packet and he just kind of goes right through what for me, if I were him, would have been the most important part: “the SFWMD has sent more than 500,000 acre feet of water south this dry season.” I get this all mixed up like “water year,” “annual year,” dry season, from Lake O, or from the sugar farmer in the EAA, —-in any case for me what’s important is they sent so much water south!

Dr Gary Goforth has written about this and if I remember correctly the most ever sent was in 1995 (like a million acre feet and it killed Biscayne Bay’s reefs) but after 2002 it really slowed to almost “nothing” due to the consent decree’s law suit on phosphorus numbers —but then after 2013’s toxic estuary disaster the SRWMD started sending more water south again. Because now that water is CLEAN due to STAs. (Storm Water Treatment Areas–they are still nervous to send “too much with too much phosphorus…”)

I know I am rambling, but two years ago I remember being happy water sent was over 250,000 acre feet and now the District has sent more than 500,000 acre feet almost two years in a row… This is awesome and to be commended. If I worked at the SFWMD ¬†I would be jumping up and down screaming from the rooftops, but government people just kind of “mention it…..”

Anyway–Good job guys and gals. Good job!

Also, there was also a presentation on the slow but steady-going, expensive repair of the Herbert Hoover Dike by Ingrid Bon, and an update by Howard Gonzales on ecosystem restoration projects. Yes the ones whose names we know by heart that have been taking eight billion years to complete but are actually getting closer! There were also hopeful updates on CEPP (Central Everglades Planning Project) and Ten Mile Creek’s recovery…again very slow-moving like molasses, but moving…maybe….yes….no maybe….YES! How old am I now? Will the projects be done before I am dead? Not funny, but sometime you wonder.

In the end, it was a great meeting and I appreciate that I was allowed to sit “at the roundtable.” It was so good to see Greg Langowski who I have known through Rubio’s office since my early days in the Treasure Coast Council of Local Governments, as well as my dear friend mayor, Richard Gilmore of Sebastian! We are all getting older, but ¬†wiser too, and if we stick together, we just might make a difference for the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon, and for the kids of the future that just want to fish, swim and boat in the river and just be a “kid.”

Thank you for the Roundtable Senator Rubio. I hope there will be more…

Great visual from Jeff Kivett's presentation on changes to the Everglades system.
Great visual from Jeff Kivett’s presentation on changes to the Everglades system.

Not Only Have We Become a Political Force for the Indian River Lagoon; We are in the Driver’s Seat, So Drive!

Gubitorial candidates wrote directly to the residents of the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon area on May 8th, 2014.
Gubitorial candidates wrote directly to the residents of the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon area on May 8th, 2014 in the Stuart News.

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!