Tag Archives: saving water

Are We Really Living in the Everglades? St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon

Everglades Drainage District Map of 1947Township 40 Range 39is within the District. That was just a section away from the Gomez Grant where the Ashley Gang  lived. Sandra Henderson Thurlow, historian.
“Everglades Drainage District Map, 1947, by Alfred Jackson and Kathyrn Hannah’s book “Lake Okeechobee” from the “Rivers of America” series. Note Township 40 Range 39 is within the District. That was just a section away from the Gomez Grant where the Ashley Gang lived”—-Sandra Henderson Thurlow, historian.
here is a map 1920 -- Source: Leslie's New World Atlas (New York, NY: Leslie-Judge Company, 1920) in Univ. of South Florida collection ---- which shows that there was more swamp land. alice Luckhardt, historian.
“1920s map — Source: Leslie’s New World Atlas (New York, NY: Leslie-Judge Company, 1920) in Univ. of South Florida collection —- which shows that there was more swamp land than census notes…” Alice Luckhardt, historian.
Historic map from 1948 book "Lake Okeechobee" written in 1948 by Alfred Jackson and Kathryn Hanna as part of the Rivers of America Series.
Historic map, ca. late 1800s, unknown source. Courtesy of Sandra H. Thurlow, historian.

Today our St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon Region is referred to as the “Northern Everglades,” back then, it was all the “Everglades”….

Today’s historic photos were shared because of my last two days of blogging featuring my brother Todd’s flying video showing where the dreaded C-44 canal entered the South Fork of the St Lucie River in 1923 connected from Lake Okeechobee.

Alice Luckhardt, friend and local historian, has been trying to figure out where the Everglades actually “started” in Martin County as she is writing a history of Martin County’s infamous Ashley Gang. (They used to hide out in the Everglades.)  Alice’s Leslie’s New World Atlas 1920s map, the second from the top of this page,  kind of makes Martin County “look” pretty dry….as do the other two maps shared by my mother…

Viewed closely,  the old maps show different “Everglades” boarders as seen most clearly in the 1949 Everglades Drainage District map at the top of this page. This map comes from my mother’s files and she notes that it shows “Township 40, Range 39, in Martin “in” the Everglades….

So what determines “the Everglades?”

Of that I am not certain but in my mind it is a swamp. But swamps in Florida “come and go” with the rains. Also the Everglades has many different faces/landscapes that are part of a greater whole–different kinds of micro environments like pine forest, hardwood hammocks, mangroves forests, endless sawgrass prairies, tall ancient cypress forests, marshlands, wetlands, ponds, some higher ridges separating rivulets and standing water, little creeks that come and go, shallow clean fresh water flowing ever so slowly across white sugar sands…Aggg! Did I just say that! 🙂

So anyway, I then went to the US Government maps my brother showed me awhile back and here one can see the “little ponds “of the Everglades right there in Stuart, Jensen Beach, and of course in what is today’s Palm City. They were in today’s St Lucie County too. Wouldn’t this be the “everglades?”

In fact, when I was a kid, there was a large pond near our family home on East Ocean Boulevard across from today’s Fresh Market. Now it’s gone…and the road goes through…”They” moved it….

I think we have really moved just about “everything.” Nonetheless, that doesn’t mean we can’t put some of it back, or start draining and saving water in a new way. Studying old maps and aerials is a good place to start!

US Government 1940s aerials show little ponds all over Martin County. (UF)
US Government 1940s aerials show little ponds all over Martin County. (UF)

*Thank you to historians Alice Luckhardt and Sandra Thurlow and Todd Thurlow for sharing their cool old maps!

Todd Thurlow’s flying history video showing the connection of the C-44 canal from Lake Okeechobee to the South Fork of the St Lucie River, ca. 1923: (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gYI34XZUNYs&feature=youtu.be)

SFWMD The Everglades: (http://www.sfwmd.gov/portal/page/portal/xweb%20protecting%20and%20restoring/americas%20everglades)

6-8-15 blog post that inspired maps shared today, C-44 original connection to South Fork- an amazing visual journey, Todd Thulow: (http://jacquithurlowlippisch.com/2015/06/08/journey-back-in-time-to-see-the-creation-of-c-44-the-greatest-negative-impact-to-the-st-lucie-riverindian-river-lagoon/)

6-9-15 blog post, Manatee Pocket route for C-44:(http://jacquithurlowlippisch.com/2015/06/09/the-most-logical-route-for-the-c-44-canal-port-salerno-st-lucie-riverindian-river-lagoon/)

How to read township and range in old plat maps: (http://www.jsu.edu/dept/geography/mhill/phygeogone/trprac.html)

Going Grassless Along the Indian River Lagoon

The area of my back yard where grass has slowly been removed and planting areas enlarged.
The area of Ed and my back yard where grass has slowly been removed,  planting areas enlarged, and mulched with leaves.

In 2010 the Town of Sewall’s Point passed a strong fertilizer ordinance, the first on Florida’s east coast. It was during this time, that I became “anti-turf grass.” Today when I look at a “beautiful” sprawling yard of green grass, all I see is fertilizer, pesticide, herbicide, and heavy water needs that are contrary to a healthy St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon and a successful Florida future.

Native coontie.
Native coontie.

In order to put my “money where my mouth is,” in 2010, I informed my husband that I was going to start removing the grass from our yard and mulching with leaves from our oaks, strangler figs, and other trees. As usual, he looked at me like I was slightly crazy, but as usual, he agreed.

This decision was made easier in that around this same time our well was starting to go dry and I had gotten estimates in from $5000 to $8000 to replace it. Not to mention the well guys said if they did drill, as it is well-known wells are going dry in this high hammock area of Sewall’s Point, and they were unsuccessful, Ed and I would still have to pay half.

“Not my kind of odds.” I thought, especially knowing water issues regarding wells, and salt water intrusion are only going to increase. Last week, in 2014, I changed the house over to “city water” as our well has finally died. I am very glad that over the past few years I have de-grassed the yard for the most part, a heavy water user, and filled it with Florida Friendly (http://www.floridayards.org) plants that  do not require much watering. I am hoping to irrigate  only once a week, or never, and just water by hand.

City water is expensive! The South Florida Water Management District states that “up to 60% of a south Florida homes’ water use can go to irrigation. That’s insane and a huge waste of water and money.

I have read that Florida produces 25% of the WORLD’S turf grass.(http://floridaturf.com/about/) Considering that, I’d say the state has an interest in keeping us “in grass.” This is a problem…a conflict of interest. I wish they were investing  in inventing an attractive low-water/low-or no fertilizer,  ground cover other than floratam type grasses; they would make billions, and help save the state’s precious spring, lake, and estuary waters rather than encouraging us to destroy them. The sod and fertilizer industries are multi-billion dollar industries that want to keep us “addicted.” 

Well, I have broken free. 🙂

Back to my family, I have to say, also, that my brother-in-law, landscape architect Mike Flaugh (http://mikeflaughla.comand my mother, always ahead of her time, also inspired me on this issues. As they too have de-grassed their yards years ago and their yards still look beautiful. Mike has “natively” and “Florida Friendly” landscaped some of the newest and finest homes in the area with no or little grass and these homes are examples of the “new yard,” “the conscious yard,” “the yard of the future.”

Today, I’d like to share some photos of my de-grassed yard in hopes of inspiring you, should you wish to be inspired, and hopefully are already! 🙂

Font of house is now ferns and other plantings.
Font of house is now ferns and other plantings.
Creeping jasmine vine has replaced grass in the front yard. Loves shade or partial sun, but not full sun.
Creeping jasmine vine has replaced grass in the front yard. Loves shade or partial sun, but not full sun.
Back yard where grass was removed and repaved with stepping stones and Florida Friendly plants.
Back yard where grass was removed and replaced with stepping stones and Florida Friendly plants.
Front yard with stepping stones and edged with plantings.
Front yard with stepping-stones and edged with ferns and plantings.
Leaves from the trees in the yard are used as mulch.
Leaves from the trees in the yard are used as mulch, as they break down they enrich the soil.
One area of the house in the front was left grass for our dogs to run and play and...
One area of the house in the front was left with grass for our dogs to run, and play, and…
Bird houses for wildlife.
Bird houses for wildlife; wildlife increases dramatically once grass and chemicals are removed. The birds eat bugs.
More native plants like this satin leaf started to germinate and grow once the grass was gone.
More native plants like this satin leaf started to germinate and grow once the grass was gone. I am letting more natives grow-letting the yard “be itself.”
Native Beautyberry provides food for wildlife and color.
Native Beautyberry provides food for wildlife and color.
Wild coffee grows like craze in our area once the grass was out. It has colorful berries for wildlife and a shiny green leaf.
Wild coffee grew like crazy in our area once the grass was out. It has colorful berries for wildlife and a shiny green leaf.
Native firebush attracts butterflies.
Native firebush attracts butterflies.
Golden dew drop  with its pretty purple flowers is a butterfly magnet.
Golden dew drop with its pretty purple flowers is a butterfly magnet.
Lantana
Lantan, another butterfly and low water plant.
Purple porter
Purple porter, yet another butterfly and low water native.
Flowers.....
Once grass was gone, this Mexican star, or something like that, started to come up all over the yard; it has a pretty yellow morning flower and is native.
Century plant needs little water.
this century plant needs little water and has an interesting shape; native beach sunflower vine in rear.
Crotants are not native but use little water and add color.
Crotants are not native but use little water and add color.
Side yard
Side yard…no more grass, with lots of  blue flowering plumbago, also a low water, butterfly attracting,  Florida Friendly plant.

 

The Irony of History, Drainage Districts to Saving Water, St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon

Canals C-23, C-24 and C-25 were built as part of the Central and South Florida Control Flood Control Project. The project started in the 1940; however these canals were built in the 50s and 60s.
Canals C-23, C-24 and C-25 in St Lucie County were built in the 50s and 60s and are all connected. C-23 and C-24 release into the north fork of the St Lucie River leading to the S. Indian River Lagoon, but C-25 releases straight into the southern central Indian River Lagoon near Taylor Creek, close to the Fort Pierce Inlet.  These canals were built as part of the Central and South Florida Project of the 1940s that came into existence after a very large flood of central and south Florida. (Photo, Jacqui Thurlow Lippisch, 2013)

One of the things that is hardest for me to comprehend is that my ancestors worked as hard, if not harder, to get the water off the land as I am, trying to keep in on…

According to an article shared by my mother, historian Sandra Thurlow, by Charles S. Miley a newspaper man in Ft Pierce, “prior to the 1920s floods were a common occurrence in the area particularly in the back-coutry.”

The article discusses how a demand for drainage  began to develop  among land owners  as the growing of pineapples was no longer profitable and the people turned to citrus. In 1915 citizens in the area of Ft Pierce “held court” forming the North St Lucie River Drainage District. The headline in the News Tribune paper of 1921 read: ” Drainage of 75,000 Ares of Rich Land Now Under Way.”

I can just see it, “Sam, I think it’s time to form a flood district and utilize our lands.” Go forward just shy of 100 years and the conversation is : “Joe, I think it’s time we get the Army Corp to stop dumping this lousy water into the St Lucie River, ruining my riverfront property values.”

The North St Lucie River Water Control District is still in place today and was created, as all drainage districts of its time,  under the provisions of Chapter 298, Florida Statutes, commonly referred to as the “General Drainage Law of Florida.” Today the NSLRWCD falls under the authority of the South Florida Water Management District that historically began really as the Central and South Florida Project, C&SFP.

In 1945 there was massive flooding throughout central and south Florida so the state and its residents called for federal assistance. Sound familiar? It may if you recall that the Hurricane of 1928 caused an even more extreme reaction and the Herbert Hoover Dike was built around Lake Okeechobee by the Army Corp of Engineers. Thus our federal partnerships today. The one that we complain about all the time…Ironic, isn’t it?

ft pierce drainage maap

The green area is the NSLRWCD’s boundaries; the orange are is the Fort Pierce Farms Drainage District,  since 1976 under the South Florida Water Management District.

So, I drifted a bit, but I was talking about the Central and South Florida Project. This large project was formed after the great flood of the 1940s and three huge canals  were built during the 50s and 60s as part of this plan: C-23, C-24 and C-25. I drove over them for years with my parents as a kid and had no idea what they really were, I never learned about them in school, and I was 40 years old before I decided I needed to figure them out…

Canals

Map of canals system, Matin/St Lucie Counties.

I have not even mentioned the C-44 also known as the “St Lucie Canal” that is further south. This canal drains the basin lands around  it as well as being a dumping ground for “overflow waters” of Lake Okeechobee.

The South Florida Water Management’s web site says that after C-23, and C-24 were built, the north fork of the St Lucie River drained lands approximately four times its natural drainage size! That is not even counting C-44 and Lake Okeechobee. Oh, and by the way in 1892  we opened the St Lucie Inlet  permanently too.

We are living a  world very different than Mother Nature created. From what I’m told she’s moody and a bit irritated. I think I’ll keep working on getting her some of her water back!

______________

History SFWMD: (http://www.sfwmd.gov/portal/page/portal/xrepository/sfwmd_repository_pdf/nr_2009_0312_60anniversary_1949.pdf )

1988 SFWMD document documenting plans to hold water in the SRL/IRL area, this plan is still under way as part of CERP (Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan): (http://www.sfwmd.gov/portal/page/portal/pg_grp_tech_pubs/portlet_tech_pubs/dre-265.pdf) 

Sun Sentinel Story Flood of 1945, Florida: (http://articles.sun-sentinel.com/1990-09-09/features/9002130092_1_lake-okeechobee-water-hurricane)

ACOE, C&SFP History: (http://www.evergladesplan.org/about/restudy_csf_devel.aspx)