12-4-17, ca. 2:45 pm, photos: Ed Lippisch & Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch
The Army Corp of Engineers has lessened but not stopped Lake O discharges that started September 20th, 2017 just prior to Hurricane Irma. Perhaps as the discharges have gone on at such a high rate for a comparatively long time, the plume has had a chance to extend its territory. In yesterday’s photos, the dark, filthy plume is reaching clearly south beyond the exclusive Town of Jupiter Island.
Yesterday was a beautiful day, but the river and ocean waters of our entire region were ugly, possibly contaminated. How are we to enjoy our property and lives here?
When viewing the aerials below, please note the blue, sapphire-colored water just on the edge of the discharge plume. Yes, of course all estuaries put forth darkened fresh water after a rain event, and Ed and I could see this occurring just south at Jupiter Inlet. Nonetheless, the black, gigantic plume that we repeatedly endure for the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon due to discharges from Lake Okeechobee is an aberration.
Please let’s all support Joe Negron and the public’s work to build the EAA Reservoir; clean & send the water south!
At the recent Bullsugar “Fund the Fight” event, Captain Mike Connor introduced me to Montana based, award-winning fishing and hunting journalist, Hal Herring. I looked Hal straight in the eye, shook his strong hand and said, “It’s so nice to meet you Mr Herrington.” He smiled, eyes sparkling, and replied, “Herring mam. Like the fish.”
Fly Life Magazine writes: “Herring, one of the leading outdoor writers of our time, co-manages the Conservationist Blog for Field & Stream, is the author of several books and is a regular contributor to numerous other well-known outdoor news outlets including High Country News, Montana’s Bully Pulpit Blog and the Nature Conservancy magazine.”
To say the least, I felt honored to be chosen as a tour guide for Hal Herring as my husband and Mike Connor arranged an aerial journey for the visiting journalist. After researching Hal, checking out his website, and reading his article on the Clean Water Act, I knew I was dealing with a gifted journalist. What a great person to have learn about the problems of our St Lucie River!
We prepared the Baron for Saturday. My husband Ed invited friend and fellow fisherman Dr Dan Velinsky. The flight stared with a rough take off. I steadied myself. “Please don’t let me puke Lord…” As Ed gained altitude, things settled down and we were on our way…
After taking off from Witham Field in Stuart, we followed the dreadful C-44 canal west to Lake Okeechobee; diverting north at the C-44 Reservoir under construction in Indiantown; traveled over the FPL cooling pond and S-308, the opening to C-44 and the St Lucie River at Port Mayaca. Next we followed Lake Okeechobee’s east side south to Pahokee, and then Belle Glade in the Sugarland of the EAA; here we followed the North New River Canal and Highway 27 south to the lands spoken about so much lately, A-1 and A-2 and surrounding area of the Tailman property where Senate Presidient Joe Negron’s recently negociated deeper reservoir will be constructed if all goes well; then we flew over the Storm Water Treatment Areas, Water Conservation Areas, and headed home east over the houses of Broward County inside the Everglades. Last over West Palm Beach, Jupiter, north along the Indian River Lagoon and then back to the St Lucie Inlet. Everywhere the landscape was altered. No wonder the water is such a mess…
I explained the history, Dan told fish stories, Ed ducked in and out of clouds. All the while, Hal Herring took notes on a yellow legal pad with calmness and confidence. Nothing surprised him; he was a quick study in spite of all the variables. He was so well read, not speaking often but when he did, like a prophet of sorts. He spoke about this strange time of history, the time we are living in, when humans have overrun the natural landscape. He spoke about mankind being obsessed with transcending the limits of the natural world…and the control of nature…but for Hal there was no anger or disbelief, just wisdom. In his biography, he says it best:
“My passions as a writer and storyteller lie where they always have – in exploring humankind’s evolving relationship to the natural world, and all the failures, successes and deep tensions inherent in that relationship…”
In the Everglades region, Hal may just have hit the jackpot!
Today, May 12th, at 9:45 A.M. Governor Rick Scott is scheduled to sign Senate President Joe Negron’s “Senate Bill 10” in of all places Clewiston. Clewiston is “America’s Sweetest Town” and the headquarters of U.S. Sugar Corporation…
According to the article in the Glades County Democrat announcing the signing: “Earlier this week Senate Bill 10, a move to secure funding for a water storage reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee was approved. In its amended form, Senate Bill 10 became a measure that we in the Glades could stand behind. The bill no longer stated that additional farmlands be taken out of production but rather the state would utilize the property that it already owns to create a reservoir with a much smaller footprint.”
Although I am scratching my head, you know what? Sometimes you just have to be happy for what you get, no matter where you get it. I am tremendously thankful to Governor Scott for signing the bill ~ although I do wish he had decided to sign it in Martin County since we’ve worked so hard to get it.
When I read the announcement officially last night, it got me thinking about Clewiston before I went to sleep. It brought back memories of 2013 and famed paddle boarder Justin Riney’s idea to hold the Sugarland Rally in Clewiston on September 1st, 2013 to unite the movement. This was one of the early rallies for the river during the devastation of the “Lost Summer.”
Since Governor Scott is going to sign in Clewiston I think it’s a good time to walk down memory lane and be proud of how far we’ve come and to get ready for how far we have to go! The point of the location of the Sugarland Rally was to “meet halfway.” Hopefully Governor Scott is thinking the same, in that Joe Negron helped us meet half way and we are all thankful.
Now let’s remember the past, enjoy today, and then take it to the finish line!
“The Sugarland Rally will unite the east and west coasts of Florida in a peaceful, historic demonstration to speak out against the pollution of our estuaries from Lake Okeechobee discharges. We support both immediate and long-term solutions, but ecosystems and communities along the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee Estuaries are in crisis. We cannot afford to wait for ecological and economic collapse. We urge all stakeholders–especially local, state and federal governments–to act immediately. We chose Clewiston as a central location to unify east and west at Lake Okeechobee, the source that is polluting our estuaries, and because we believe Florida’s sugar industry can be part of the solution. Please don’t misinterpret our intentions–we are NOT holding a rally at Clewiston to protest or point fingers at “Big Sugar.” It’s quite the opposite, actually. We invite Florida’s powerful sugar industry to join us in crafting an immediate solution to the ecological and economic crisis caused by discharges from Lake Okeechobee.” (Press release from Justin Riney, Aug. 2013)
My husband’s flight yesterday over the Atlantic Ocean, St Lucie Inlet, and St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon is beautiful. But look carefully and you will see a light-colored brownish plume at the mouth of the St Luice Inlet entering the ocean. Finally after months of drought, it has begun raining. And when it rains… (mind you C-44 connecting the St Lucie River to Lake Okeechobee is closed now) the re-directed run-off of waters from canals C-23, and C-24 of course still flow into our St Luice River/Indian River Lagoon.
These canals organized and built during the 1950s and 60s are part of the Central and South Florida Flood Project that the Army Corp built following the hurricane and extensive south Florida flooding of 1949. The run-off waters from these canals and the local watershed are what you see in today’s video.
As damaging as C-23 and C-24 are (they too must be reworked and redirected) they are not the damaging discharges from Lake Okeechobee that throw the St Lucie over the brink as in 2013 and especially 2016 when toxic algae covered extensive portions of the entire St Lucie.
Rio, St Lucie River, Jeff Tucker, toxic algae
Shoreline of Sewall’s Point, Tracy Barnes 6-25-16
(Photo mosaic from 2016 shows various photos by Dr Scott Kuhns, Rebecca Fatzinger, (wildlife) JTL/Ed Lippisch, pilot Dave Stone and others.)
In spite of the light brown plume, the short video flight from Jensen to Peck’s Lake shows blue waters near the inlet and mouth of the estuary as it should be, not black water. If Governor Scott does not veto the budget, the reservoir in years to come will help offset the Lake Okeechobee destruction and open the way to truly “send the water south.” #ThankyouJoeNegron
This is very exciting, but believe me, this is no time to let down your guard, as the fight for control of Florida’s waters has really just begun.
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
Theodore Roosevelt, from “Citizenship in a Republic,” Paris, 1910
Thank you for keeping your word to the Kidz, and fighting your heart out for Florida’s water future. As you, we will “Never, Never, Never Give Up!”
Robert Lord is President and C.E.O. of Martin Health Systems, formally known as Martin Memorial Hospital. “MHS” as it is known for short, is the long time top-employer for Martin County, and a respected and expanding health system. It has been located in Martin County for 75 years. (https://www.martinhealth.org) The origianl institution sits along the shores of the St Lucie River, near downtown Stuart and has grown into both south Stuart and St Lucie County. It is a literal “lifeblood” of our communtiy.
I have known and admired the Lord family since my childhood. Bobby Lord, Robert Lord’s father was a local celebrity in Stuart’s early days as he is a County & Western legend. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bobby_Lord )I attended both elementary and middle school, and graduated from Martin County High School in 1982 with Robert’s younger brother, Cabot.
I cannot express how much it meant to me last Thursday to see “Robby” Lord, accomplished attorney, now President and C.E.O. of Martin Health Systems, in his position of leadership and influence, speak in support for Senate President Joe Negron and Senate Bill 10. A bill intended to purchase land south of Lake Okeechobee for a reservoir to begin what must happen to save our river: “clean and send more water south.”
Having known the Lord family all these years, I have followed Rob’s career, especially as my sister, Jenny, is physician recruiter, and has served the hospital loyally for almost 20 years.
So, Bravo Rob Lord! You have created a “hometown game-change,” and as we all know, it is not easy to speak up. There are tremendous pressures to conform and accept things as they are. Over the past few years, outside powers have moved into our area influencing and blurring the lines.
I believe that Rob’s speaking out will clear the blurred lines and change the playing field forever. There is no mistaking it. Lake Okeechobee’s discharges are a health issue and must be stopped. Our state and federal government can ignore this no longer in spite of the influences of power.
Excerpt from speech:
“…Good morning, my name is Rob Lord. I am President and C.E.O of Martin Health System .. I care deeply about the impact of Lake Okeechobee discharges on the estuaries. I grew up on the Indian River Lagoon. My family moved here in 1969. I have fished these water with my father, my grandfather, and my brother and nephews and nieces. No one values this eco-system more than my family. We watched it change. As CEO of Martin Health System this has been a significant challenge for us. This past year blue-green algae came to our community. We needed to post this sign in our emergency room. We treated this very much like we needed to treat the Ebola situation….”
Dr. Steven Parr, Director of Emergency Medicine at Tradition Medical Center noted there are studies occurring now to determine whether the toxins trigger certain diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and ALS also known as Lou Gherig’s disease.
Regarding Senate Bill 10, and the recent changes made to the bill~
I thought I would just go on-line and compare the first bill to the second with its amendments…kind of like juxtaposing town ordinances between first and second reading. Well, I learned over the past week, that this is not as easy as I had anticipated. In fact, to interpret well, I think I need a lawyer, or to become one.
Nonetheless, today I have gathered information to help us understand what is/has happened with Senate Bill 10. The essence of its changes is encapsulated in these recent words by Senate President Joe Negron about the bill:
“Harmful discharges from Lake Okeechobee have flooded communities on the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee Rivers with massive amounts of toxic algae that destroyed estuaries and harmed the local and state economies. Unfortunately, incidences like these are not unique in our state and are a symptom of the lack of attention to water resource development. The lost summer must be a wakeup call for all Floridians.”
Powerful words from a Senate President. And between the lines we see that he is trying to build bridges to garner more support…as the powers that be have been repeatedly clubbing the bill over the head, in form with their outdated ideology.
So the bill has changed, it may be slightly wounded but it is still alive, and the dramatic destruction of our St Lucie/Indian River Lagoon has become the seed of change for our entire state. Wow. This is fitting as Martin County has a history of inspiring change and being a leader when it comes to the environment.
Ernest Lyons, the great “Stuart News” newspaper man, and others are in their graves smiling I am sure. He may even be smoking a cigar.
Nonetheless, we must remain the epicenter of this state-wide change…we must keep foucs.
The toxic destruction from Lake Okeechobee is a not by accident, but a rather a state and federally sponsored decision embedded in a power culture that has ruled for over one-hundred years. It is time to crack this wide open, thus even though the bill is morphing Senate Bill 10 must keep the EAA land purchase and reservoir component.
And although it has grown to include others, it still has this critical component.
The Florida Wildlife Federation states:
“Unfortunately SB10 has been substantially amended to include funding for water supply developments (pipes and pumps)…The bill changes the direction of the state’s major land acquisition programs from conservation purposes, to acquisition and improvements to land and water areas to protect, restore, and DEVELOP, water resources…These amendments are concerning…” I trust FWF’s concerns are warranted and should be looked at.
Now for the fun part! Below you can compare the two bills, it has gone from 14 to 27 pages!
The press releases following help interpret the bill’s intent. Below the Florida Senate links are two reporter’s insights that I feel are quite helpful, Isadora Rangel of TCPalm and Nancy Smith from Sunshine State News.
In closing, we must never give up because we are destined to change the long-standing culture of drainage and destruction for the St Lucie River/ Indian River Lagoon and now for the great state of Florida.
MORE PROJECTS ADDED
Bradley also added projects to garner support from lawmakers across the state. Those include:
• Creating a loan program to help government and private entities pay for water storage projects that prevent it “from being discharged to tide or otherwise lost to protect the waters of the state.” The loan would pay up to 75 percent of the project and give priority to alternative water supply in areas with limited water sources or that are threatened by salt water intrusion.
• $20 million for grants to help local governments convert septic tanks to sewer systems or remove muck in the Indian River Lagoon and the St. Lucie and Caloosahtachee rivers, as Gov. Rick Scott has proposed;
• $35 million per year for the restoration of the St. Johns River and its tributaries or the Keystone Heights Lake Region;
• $2 million annually for septic-to-sewer conversions, stormwater projects, muck removal and other water quality projects in the Florida Keys.
Sunshine State News, Nancy Smith
The Coast-to-Coast Comprehensive Water Resource Program includes the following:
— Acceleration of the timing and funding for the state share of the Everglades Agricultural Area Storage Reservoir Project. The bill authorizes the purchase of land for the project from willing sellers in the EAA and does not authorize the use of eminent domain.
— Funding of the state share of all existing Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP) projects in the integrated delivery schedule (IDS), including the Lake Okeechobee Watershed Project, the C-43 West Basin Storage Reservoir Project, the C-44 Reservoir Project, the Western Everglades Restoration Project, the C-111 South-Dade Project, and the Picayune Strand Restoration Project.
— Direction to the Army Corps of Engineers to begin the reevaluation of the Lake Okeechobee Regulation Schedule to take into account repairs to the dike and new southern storage features to increase storage in the lake as early as possible.
— A new bonding program, building on the Florida Forever model that recognizes the need to bond for water resource protection and development across Florida. The bill transfers the remaining $3.3 billion of existing bonding authority from Florida Forever to the Florida Coast-to Coast Water Resources Initiative. The bill does not create additional bonding capacity.
— A new revolving loan financing program and statutory tools to allow the state, water management districts and local governments, to develop and operate water storage and supply facilities to service regional populations addressing the growing need for water supply in the state.
— Dedicated LATF funding to expand Legacy Florida to include projects addressing water quality and restoration with the St. John’s River and the Florida Keys.
— Funding to aggressively address the retrofitting or conversion to central sewer systems of outdated septic systems consistent with Gov. Rick Scott’s leadership on this issue.
— Provisions that encourage reuse by establishing a water reuse grant program, specifically to assist wastewater treatment facilities to expand capacity to make reclaimed water available for reuse.
Today the Florida Legislature convenes for year 2017. As we look down from the Heavens upon our great state what do we see? Mostly water… And yet water is such a problem for us. As the third largest state in the nation, and for the children of the future, it is imperative that we get this water problem straightened out….starting with the St Lucie River and the destructive discharges from Lake Okeechobee.
Because of Senate President Joe Negron, I am very hopeful. Let’s just hope the state legislature doesn’t kill the albatross. The albatross? Let us remember the story of the albatross.
Remember 8th grade? Remember reading Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s poem the “Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner?” You may at least recall these lines:
Water, water, every where, And all the boards did shrink; Water, water, every where, Nor any drop to drink.
The very deep did rot: O Christ! That ever this should be! Yea, slimy things did crawl with legs Upon the slimy sea.
About, about, in reel and rout The death-fires danced at night; The water, like a witch’s oils, Burnt green, and blue and white…
In case you have forgotten, in this famous poem, the Mariner is punished by the crew for killing the albatross with no good reason, a sign of good luck and of hope, and thus bringing devastation upon all.
We the citizens have been in a sea of frustration and thirst with “no wind” for years; we have watched our water as before the tortured Mariner turn blue and green and white. But hark, the wind is blowing; the albatross is flying over… we have hope – a sign.
How shall the state legislature react? My hope is that they recall the lesson of the “Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner,” and remember, to whom they answer, and from whom they derive their power.
President Negron’s recent press release about his visit to Washington DC to discuss Lake Okeechobee discharges is below as addressed to the Florida Senate. It pleases me to see that his words are in keeping with his first op-ed on the issue published in TCPalm on October 17, 2012. Some people don’t realize how long Senator Negron has been working on this.
In 2012 Senator Negron wrote:
“While the Corps claims that public safely is its top priority, it ignores calamitous results actually inflicted on the St Lucie Estuary. Its erroneous logic goes something like this: in order to avoid possible harm, we will inflict certain harm. The Army Corps is killing our oyster beds and sea grasses, while turning the St Lucie River into a grotesque brown cesspool unfit for swimming or fishing…”
President Office — Press Release
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 2, 2017
CONTACT: Katie Betta, (850) 487-5229
MEMORANDUM: UPDATE REGARDING LAKE OKEECHOBEE DISCHARGES
TO: All Senators
On Monday and Tuesday of this week, I had the opportunity to meet in Washington with Senator Rubio, Senator Nelson, Members of Congress, senior budget staff, and high-level representatives of the Army Corps of Engineers to discuss the best way to reduce and ultimately eliminate the devastating discharges from Lake Okeechobee. After completing these meetings and reviewing related documents, here are five things I know:
1. If Florida advances funds to complete the rehabilitation of the Herbert Hoover Dike around Lake Okeechobee, the federal government will not repay the money to Florida. We will have simply spent hundreds of millions of dollars of General Revenue funds on what is unquestionably a federal responsibility.
2. As I have consistently advocated from day one, Florida’s best scientists should determine the Lake Okeechobee Release Schedule (LORS) and not the Army Corps of Engineers. Achieving this goal would take an act of Congress, a highly unlikely outcome.
3. Once the Herbert Hoover Dike rehabilitation is complete in 2024, the Army Corps of Engineers is not committed to storing one more gallon of water in Lake Okeechobee. The LORS must go through a multi-year review process, with the Corps predicting only negligible modifications to the release schedule. The Corps wants to avoid expected negative impacts it believes would result if the Lake is managed at higher levels than the present.
4. Under both the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP) and the Central Everglades Planning Project (CEPP), redirecting damaging Lake Okeechobee discharges southward to improve the flow, timing, and distribution of water through the Everglades has already been authorized. The issue is not if we will have additional southern storage, it is when and where.
5. If the Florida Legislature approves and funds additional water storage south of Lake Okeechobee, the Army Corps of Engineers will reevaluate the order of priority in the 2016 Integrated Delivery Schedule (IDS). Florida is a partner in Everglades restoration and its decisions influence and impact federal participation in the 50-50 matching program. An example of this reality is the Corps’ recent initiation of the Lake Okeechobee Watershed one year earlier than planned after adverse discharge events.
I look forward to discussing this important issue further when we reconvene in Tallahassee next week.
The time is now to fight for President Joe Negron’s Senate Bill 10 to purchase land in the EAA for a reservoir to offset the sometimes toxic, and always damaging, discharges from Lake Okeechobee. The powers that be know the bill is taking some hard hits. They smell blood in the water. Like sharks going in for the kill they are coming from every direction. Just remember, in many instances during a feeding frenzy, sharks turn on each other. So not being a shark myself, I say, “let the games begin…”
Some Major Groups Working Against Negron’s Senate Bill 10.
If you are from Martin or St Lucie County, I’m sure you remember….how the river movement came to an unexpected raging head during the Summer of 2013. It was after the River Kidz had held a gathering at the locks; and after the public had been screaming the St Lucie River was a putrid mess; it was after the Stuart News had been writing; and it was after organizations that had been working for years continued to bang their fists. Yes, after all this, that something new occurred…a surfer named Evan Miller posted on Facebook to protest the damaging discharges from Lake Okeechobee at St Lucie Locks and Dam. Evan had no idea! Social media was new. Shockingly, over 5000 people attended the event: mothers and fathers, children, grandparents, business people, local city and county politicians, environmentalists, people from afar, long time residents and newbies…..”everyone” was there…even Senator Joe Negron…
Things were never quite the same after this as a true movement materialized, and the seriousness of the matter was exposed. The event was reported across the state catching the attention of Florida’s most powerful and influential.
Shortly after, more protest were called by Miller who with help from Leon Abood, the beloved chair of the Rivers Coalition, reactivated and expanded the local Citizens 4 Clean Water chapter drawing members mostly from the younger generation.
Well, Evan called me yesterday and said “times are calling for a new kind of protest” and the young people of C4CW are calling for prayer and meditation, rather than protest in support of what is called the Negron Bill, Senate Bill 10, that calling for land purchase in the EAA for a reservoir.
“Wow,” I thought. How does the saying go? “God works in mysterious ways…”
C4CW’s Facebook page reads: “Rock painting with Children For Clean Water begins at 4pm at Sandsprit Park. Viral photo of thousands in prayer 5:30 pm. See everyone there to support the SB 10 bill in legislation now. Let’s get that land! #buytheland #senditsouth https://www.facebook.com/events/1874182396131037/?ti=icl
3443 SE St Lucie Blvd
Stuart, FL 34997
C4CW’s Mission Statement: Take the challenge and become a Citizen For Clean Water by becoming part of the revolution to bring forward people who will lead the way for a cleaner and brighter tomorrow. When you become a Citizen For Clean Water you are taking on the responsibility of taking care of your environment teaching others your knowledge and stepping up to make a leading example for the rest of the world by becoming a voice for the voiceless. http://www.citizensforcleanwater.org
For me this memorandum, perhaps more than other work published, helps the everyday person understand Senate Bill 10. Thus I share today. Thank you Senate President Joe Negron, “Champion of champions,” for the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon!
THE FLORIDA SENATE
SENATOR JOE NEGRON President
SUITE 409, THE CAPITOL, 404 SOUTH MONROE STREET ▪ TALLAHASSEE, FLORIDA 32399-1100 ▪ TELEPHONE (850) 487-5229 Senate’s Website: http://www.flsenate.gov
TO: All Senators
FROM: Joe Negron, President
SUBJECT: Protecting Coastal Counties from Polluted Discharges DATE: January 26, 2017
I greatly appreciate the support many of you have provided over the last several years as my home community and others across our state have been flooded with billions of gallons of polluted water that destroys our estuaries and harms our local economies. Today Senator Bradley filed Senate Bill 10, an act relating to water resources, to begin the formal process of purchasing land to increase water storage south of Lake Okeechobee. This legislation provides a clear plan to address this plague on our communities in a manner that respects the interests of the agricultural community and private land owners. While I have had the opportunity to discuss this critical issue with each of you, I wanted to provide a brief summary of how we arrived at this solution as well as a summary of Senator Bradley’s legislation.
Background: Record rainfall this past year resulted in unseasonably high water levels in Lake Okeechobee, which threatened the integrity of the Herbert Hoover Dike. To maintain safe water levels, the Army Corps of Engineers authorized the release of billions of gallons of water from the Lake to the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee Rivers. Such freshwater discharges cause significant environmental damage by lowering the salinity levels of the estuaries and introducing pollutants into coastal waters. Due to the discharges this summer, massive amounts of toxic algae that originated in Lake Okeechobee were sent to the estuaries and coastal waterways.
The extent and severity of the blooms resulted in Governor Scott declaring a state of emergency in four Florida counties.
These algal blooms have occurred before and will occur again unless high volume discharges from Lake Okeechobee are stopped and pollution in the Lake Okeechobee basin is abated. Algal blooms are not simply an unsightly nuisance for residents and tourists. They bring real health risks to humans and wildlife and result in severe economic damage to local businesses.
January 26, 2017 Page 2
As a result of the high volume discharges, coastal communities experienced enormous harmful algal blooms with devastating impacts not only to the ecology of local waterways, but also to residents, fishermen, and local businesses.
Despite the sincere efforts of our state and federal government to plan and fund long-term solutions to address rising water levels and pollution in Lake Okeechobee, year after year as the Lake levels rise, the solution is to flood my community and many others across our state with billions of gallons of polluted water.
From Governor Jeb Bush’s historic support of the bipartisan Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP) in 2000 to the recent University of Florida Water Institute study commissioned by the Senate and completed in 2015, for nearly two decades, there has been scientific consensus and recognition by state leaders that additional water storage south of Lake Okeechobee is necessary to stop this ongoing problem. This sentiment was reiterated as speaker after speaker addressed our Appropriations Subcommittee on the Environment and Natural Resources calling for increased storage south of the Lake.
Senate Bill 10 authorizes bonding a portion of proceeds from the Land Acquisition Trust Fund, set aside by the voter-approved Water and Land Conservation Amendment (Amendment 1, 2014), to purchase land and construct a reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee to reduce harmful discharges to the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries.
Senate Bill 10 Summary: Senate Bill 10 authorizes the issuance of bonds to raise over a billion dollars to acquire 60,000 acres of land and build a reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee to reduce harmful discharges to the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries.The reservoir is expected to hold 120 billion gallons of water, approximately as much water as was discharged from Lake Okeechobee into the St. Lucie Estuary between January and May of 2016. The creation of significant storage capacity south of the Lake will help manage Lake levels in anticipation of periods of high rainfall like this year’s predicted El Nino weather pattern. Storing water during the wet season provides the additional benefit of allowing water to be sent south to hydrate the Everglades and Florida Bay, or for agricultural use, during the dry season.
The estimated cost of a reservoir on 60,000 acres of land providing 120 billion gallons of storage in the area south of Lake Okeechobee is roughly $2.4 billion. With the federal government paying at least half of the cost of such a reservoir, the state’s commitment would be $1.2 billion. The bill authorizes the use of approximately $100 million of documentary stamp tax revenue set aside by the Water and Land Conservation Amendment (Amendment 1, 2014) annually over the next 20 years to finance land acquisition and construction of the reservoir.
January 26, 2017 Page 3
The bill directs the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) to begin the formal process of purchasing land from willing sellers. The project is subject to Congressional approval to secure the 50/50 cost sharing agreement authorized for other CERP projects.
If the SFWMD is unable to identify sellers of land appropriate for a reservoir through an open solicitation by the end of 2017, the legislation authorizes the Board of Trustees to exercise the option with U.S. Sugar entered into in 2010 to buy 153,000 acres of land in the Everglades Agricultural Area, for the purpose of securing the 60,000 acres necessary for the reservoir and to begin planning the construction of the reservoir.
If the state is ultimately unable to purchase land for the reservoir by November 30, 2018, the legislation increases the ongoing Legacy Florida appropriation by an additional $50 million for the CERP, which includes a reservoir in the Everglades Agricultural Area as a key component. This is in addition to Legacy Florida’s existing commitment of $200 million. Legacy Florida also requires preference among these projects to be given to projects that reduce the harmful discharges from Lake Okeechobee to the St. Lucie or Caloosahatchee Estuaries.
As we move forward, I have a personal mission to work with the agricultural community, to work with Florida’s best scientists, and to work with every member of the Legislature, to protect our estuaries, to protect our lagoons, and to put the harmful discharges from Lake Okeechobee that destroy our environment and harm our economy into the past pages of history instead of the daily front pages of newspapers. I appreciate your consideration of this proposal and look forward to discussing it further in the days and weeks ahead.
Reporter Tyler Treadway’s Stuart News articles today poses the question: “Can State Build Reservoir on Public Land to Move Lake O Water South?”So, I thought I’d share this map of Everglades Agricultural Area Lands in Public (State) Ownership along with a list of owners created by the Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council. The piece noted in the article is the around the lighter looking triangle, #10 . It’s a great map and very educational…In any case, with any argument, #SupportJoeNegron
‘For his part, Negron said he just wants to get whatever land is needed to “store, clean and move enough Lake Okeechobee water south to reduce and ultimately eliminate the discharges. I’m open to considering all options: private land, state land, federal land or any other.” ‘ Stuart News
Committee Members: Senator Bradley, Chair; Senator Book, Vice Chair; Senators Braynon, Hukill, Hutson. Mayfield, and Stewart
Yesterday, January 11th, Florida’s Appropriations Subcommittee on the Environment and Natural Resources met in Tallahassee. The Legislative Session has not formally started, but as most things in life, the most important stuff happens ahead of time….”in committee.”
The topic was “Discussion and testimony relating to the options for reducing harmful Lake Okeechobee discharges and Everglades Restoration.”
This meeting is being held because of Senate President Joe Negrons’ proposal to buy 60,000 acres of land in the EAA south of Lake Okeechobee for a Reservoir.
Yesterdays’ meeting was just informational, but first impressions are very important. And anything can be killed in committee.
I think the meeting went very well. “Everyone was represented:” East Coast; West Coast; Florida Bay; The Glades and agencies or organizations of those who presented. I thought it was great. Great to see people in power and those with knowledge talking about this important issue. Remember that just a few years ago, many in Tallahassee thought the Indian River Lagoon was a movie from the 50s.
Many people drove over 12 hours to speak but Chair Bradley did not allow public comment. Bullsugar, River Kidz, Glades Residents, Islamorada, Florida Bay, CaptainsForCleanWater, Stuart residents, Ft Meyers residents, Realtors, Hotel Owners, Business Owners and more…This is very disappointing, but certainly “The Powers That Be” knew everyone was there, and surely “They” are taking about it behind closed doors. It makes an impression when the chamber is full because those politicians know that for every person there, there are hundreds, if not thousands behind him or her who did not come…The “Powers that Be” know this. And Senator Negron knows who came too. Surely he does. He appreciates this! He is motivated by this!
Having a full-house in a sub-committee room is not an everyday occurrence for these folks. Unlike our county government the State is not as practiced at this. They generally get to operate in a vacuum–Tallahassee being so far away! Not good!
Time was short and messages many, so Chair Bradley decided to cut the meeting presenters basically in half. Thus not all the presenters who came were allowed to speak either.
Those who presented were: Senate lawyer for the committee, Ashley Istler; UF’s Wendy Graham; ACOE’s Lt Col. Jennifer Reynolds; Independent, Dr Gary Goforth; and Exec. Dir of the SFWMD, Pete Antonacci .
Those moved to January 25th were: Dr Tom Van Lent, Everglades Foundation; Drew Bartlett, DEP; and Ernie Barnett, EAA Landowners.
There was a common theme: “we need more water storage everywhere. North, South, East and West and concerns about where the reservoir should first be or if it should be….
This is clearly a very exasperating experience for many. But isn’t it great that we are actually talking and learning about it. Together.
The chart below provides a good visual of 2016 Lake O releases though the C-44 Canal from S-80 comparing 2016, 2013, and 2015. S-80 discharges include the surrounding man-made basin as well as releases from Lake Okeechobee. This info has been compiled by my brother, Todd Thurlow, http://www.thurlowpa.com/LakeOLiveData/ via SFWMD. (Automatic updates every 7 days.)
In order to fix a problem, you have to know what the problem is…..yesterday’s visual makes clear to all the problem. Don’t be mistaken, this problem although overwhelming, can be greatly alleviated –“fixed.”
In March of 2015, the University of Florida published: OPTIONS TO REDUCE HIGH VOLUME FRESHWATER FLOWS TO THE ST LUCIE AND CALOOSAHATCHEE ESTUARIES AND MOVE MORE WATER FROM LAKE OKEECHOBEE TO THE SOUTHERN EVERGLADES. This was an independent technical review by the University of Florida Water Institute.
The 134 document summarizes three things necessary to give relief to the estuaries:
200,000 acre-feet of water storage within the St Lucie River watershed. (*For C-23, C-24, C-25 and C-44 canal alone—not including releases from Lake Okeechobee through C-44 JTL)
400,000 acre-feet of water storage within the Caloosahatchee watershed.
approximately 1,000,000 acres of water storage distributed north and south of Lake Okeechobee.
Senate President Elect Joe Negron’s plan for land purchase in the EAA fulfills part of #3. This reservoir would be “dynamic,” meaning that in simple terms it would hold, clean, and move water south to the Everglades. In other words, it would move multiple acre feet over time.
Our St Lucie River is degrading in ways that may not be reversible. We must work for land purchase south of Lake Okeechobee to begin to alleviate the destruction. —We must not just support, but also help Joe Negron. Get ready for Florida’s legislative session 2017.
“Who Owns the Land? Mapping Out Florida’s Water Future.”
Stofin Co. Inc. is #7 on the Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council’s (TCRPC) map of land ownership in the Everglades Agricultural Area, (EAA). These lands lie on the eastern side of the EAA and comprise 7,189 acres. Stofin Co. is affiliated with Fanjul Corporation more widely known to river activist as “Florida Crystals.” As we know, Fanjul Corporation is a large sugar and real estate conglomerate with interest in Florida, the Dominican Republic and soon to be in the brothers’ homeland, Cuba, once again. The family is very influential in all politics and donates extensively to both the Democratic and Republican parties.
We can see by doing just a bit of research that some of the same officers of Fanjul Corporation are also listed in Stofin Co. Inc. such as Erik J. Blomqvist and Luis J. Hernandez.
Looking at our TCRPC map I have colored #7 parcels in orange just as #2 Okeelanta Corp. and #3 New Hope Sugar Co. were. As we learned earlier those too are Fanjul Corp. lands. I have just added a purple dot to differentiate. So far all in ORANGE below is Fanjul holdings.
It is interesting to compare the TCRPC map with the historic maps also below and note the “shape” of the original “river of grass” before it was dammed and destroyed by agricultural development in the EAA. Note how the river veered off to the right, or in an eastly direction. Surveyor, Chappy Young’s map shows the westerly development over the years into the “Everglades’ agreeed boarder” from the east. We have swallowed her up in every direction. She needs to be restored. It only makes sense that some of the overflow water from Lake Okeechobee destroying the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon is allowed to go south again. Thank you for reading my blog and for caring about the health of the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon and the Florida Evergldes.
“Who Owns the Land South of the Lake? Mapping Out Florida’s Water Future.”
Today we discuss #3, New Hope Sugar Corporation. It is difficult to find much information on the company, however, it is part of the Fanjul family’s holdings. It is also the same name, as we learned yesterday, as the Fanjul charity: New Hope Charities whose mission is to help families in the Glades.
Let’s look at the charity again…
Their website reads: “New Hope Charities was incorporated as a 501(3)(c) charity in 1988 offering support to remote, distressed and underserved segments of society. The first program implemented by New Hope distributed food to needy families living in the “Glades” area of western Palm Beach County. Currently, we operate a multi-service center in Pahokee, Florida, the second poorest city in the United States. The Family Center consists of a Day Care Center, a Youth Center, an Education Center, a Health Center, basketball courts, and an open field for soccer, baseball and football.”
Now back to the land…
I have colored in New Hope Sugar Corp. in the same orange highlighter as Okeelanta Corporation, but added a red dot to differentiate. New Hope Charities above mentions Pahokee as the nation’s second poorest town. Pahokee is south of the Martin County Line along the rim of Lake Okeechobee; it is not far away. The point of my blog series is to show landholdings, but I think the “New Hope” theme lends itself to a discussion on something more.
I have been blogging for four years now, it is becoming clear to us all that there is a bridge to be crossed, a hand to be held if we are going to go any further. Since the beginning of our river journey there have been cries from the interior of the state/south of the Lake. Cries of fear that we want to “send the water south” and destroy their cities and livelihoods…Even thought we know this isn’t so, this is understandable— and let there be no mistake about it: #GladesLivesMatter
I think it is time we talk about this openly. We must address the fears and the realities and we must begin to help…because there is so much help we can do for these communities and for a better water future for our state.
What got me thinking on all this was researching New Hope Sugar Corporation, #3 on the TCRPC map. I realized I have never thought that much about these areas south the Lake, except maybe when my father told me some of the best football players come from Pahokee and Belle Glade. I have driven through before and I have flown over. But have I ever walked inside? No I have not. After I finish this “land south of the Lake series” I think it is time to go inside this world and see how we can help.
We have got start a conversation including the Glades communities, a plan to help the poverty in Pahokee and Belle Glade and other Glades communities. We have to talk about Everglades Restoration as a plan for everyone. I am sure the Fanjul’s New Hope Charities with same name as their Sugar Corporation is doing great work, but why couldn’t Everglades restoration offer something more? Because in order to create more than hope, we must move beyond charity…
Excerpt NY Times Article, 2013… In the Glades, the “official” jobless rate has always been a joke because so few people are even on the books. Many of the agricultural jobs disappeared as vegetable production turned into sugar growing, now largely mechanized.
Yesterday we talked about the importance of maps and how they allow us to have a vision for the future. For today’s lesson we are going to visually compare Senator Joe Negron’s land proposal map with a map of land ownership. This ownership map was recently created by the Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council (TCRPC) and I shared these maps with Senator Negron prior to the choice of land ownership possibilities.
Learning about lands south of Lake Okeechobee can be dizzying. The first thing you have to do, not to lose your sense of direction, is to familiarize yourself with the canals. Your landmarks.
From left to right, the largest canals visible running north/south under Lake Okeechobee are the Miami, New River, Hillsborough, and West Palm Beach. You will also notice the Bolles Canal, (L-21), that runs east/west intersecting. When flying over this area with my husband these canals are the only landmarks that guide me in knowing where I am. Otherwise, it is just miles and miles of sugarcane.
I love the TCRPC map below with the list of land owners in the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA). It really makes it easy to “see.” Notice the color coded BLUE: Public (the state or federal government); YELLOW: Private Ownership; and RED: Major Private Ownership.
When I asked the council the difference between private ownership and major private ownership, they said bigger corporations quality as “major private ownership.” One can see by all the red that most of the land under Lake Okeechobee is in major private ownership!
In regard to landownership inside the circles, Isadora Rangel of TC Palm stated in her August 10th article as follows:
“Sugar giant Florida Crystals owns 60 percent of each of those two parcels, Negron said. U.S. Sugar Corp. owns 30 percent of one, and sugar grower King Ranch owns 30 percent of the other. The state and others own the rest of the land. A U.S. Sugar spokesman declined to comment on whether the company will sell. Florida Crystals said it was reviewing Negron’s plan, according to media reports. Negron said he’s “optimistic” the companies will sell and said if the state allocates the money, then negotiations will be easier…”
Well, as we learn about this area (so we can speak in an educated manner to those involved who win on November 8th) let’s look at ALL of the owners on the map.
1.United Stats Sugar Corporation
2. Okeelanta Corp.
3. New Hope Sugar Co.
4. King Ranch Inc.
5. Wedgeworth Farms Inc.
6. SBG Sugar Farms
7. Stofan Co. Inc.
8. Closter Farms Inc.
9. Sugar Cane Growers
10. New Farm Inc.
We know something about one or two but what about the rest?
In the coming days, we will learn about history of these land owners and the history of what was once the “river of grass.” It will benefit us to review the story of the this area, because it our story too, the story of the slow demise of the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon.
I woke up this morning to the percussion of hard, fast rains hitting our tin roof… In my foggy state of slumber, I bumped Ed’s shoulder, “How are you going to take out the dogs?”
Rolling over, I started thinking about what I’d heard on Tuesday’s Army Corp of Engineer Periodic Scientist Call: “…How are we going to prepare if NOAA’s El Nino rain predictions are right? What if there is up to seven feet of water that fills the lake?….”
Seven feet? That would mean releases from Lake Okeechobee this Florida winter.
Remember 2008 and Tropical Storm Fay? For reference, that storm raised Lake Okeechobee by more than three feet in no more than few weeks. The lake fills up six times faster than it can be “drained”….and as we all know, we are the drainage pipe.
It’s an odd thing how the flow of water going south to the Everglades is blocked by the EAA (Everglades Agricultural Area) so now the over-flow is directed to the St Lucie River and Caloosahatchee. But it’s a reality. A reality that one day must be changed.
Remember–too much fresh water, as during releases from Lake Okeechobee, is a pollutant to our St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon— altering salinity, destroying spawning/fisheries, wiping out seagrasses and food throughout the food chain, lowering property values and the right of residents and their children to have “peaceful enjoyment” of their property…Yes, I can clearly state that toxic algae blooms and fish lesions do not precipitate peace for the Town of Sewall’s Point, nor for Martin and St Lucie Counties.
So how do we prepare? We must educate ourselves ahead of time; we shouldn’t over fertilize; we should get our septic tanks checked; and we should contact our legislators now saying we want to see a plan. We want to know ahead of time what may happen if indeed seven feet of water fills the lake between December and this coming May. How will we adapt to knowns and unknowns? We can’t just wait. Not when it’s this clear…we must be proactive on every level.
Legislative delegation Senate President Negron, Representative Harrell and Magar, what are we doing now to deal with all this water and what are we going to do in the future? The C-44 Reservoir/STA is great but it does not address Lake Okeechobee…. Why are we wasting the valuable water? What about Amendment 1 and the purchase of lands?
GULFSTREAM GOODWILLS’ MISSION STATEMENT: “Gulfstream Goodwill Industries, Inc., assists people with disabilities and other barriers to employment to become self-sufficient, working members of our community.” (http://www.gulfstreamgoodwill.com)
I am certain the St Lucie/Indian River Lagoon has a new group of outspoken advocates. And let me tell you, they know their river stuff!
Yesterday, I spoke before sixty Martin and St Lucie County residents with disabilities at Gulfstream Goodwill Industries, in Stuart. The coordinator of “Adult Day Training Services” is Mr Tony Polito; he was fantastic with me and with his group. My visit was a remarkable experience, one I shall always cherish. —-The river brings all people, yes, all people together for a common good.
Before I got there, I was nervous. I taught eighth and ninth grade for many years, but never had more than thirty in a classroom and knew I’d be speaking an hour and a half. I never taught students with disabilities. I wondered if they would like me… If they would pay attention…
I awkwardly entered through the back, schlepping in my giant basket full of all my workbooks, maps, markers, pens, paper, giant photographs, and River Kidz FDOT signs. Many came to help me. The group all sat perfectly ready for me. All eyes were upon me….some were in wheel chairs, some had assistants, one lady was blind, others has nerve issues. There were young and old. They were smiling and happy to see me. I waved and introduced myself, and then it the magic began.
I lectured for a few minutes and then we discussed what they had been learning the past month studying the River Kidz/Rivers Coalition workbooks. I talked. They talked. They told stories about the river and animal life. They raised their hands. They were the patient. They were opinionated. They were excited to share. We spoke of the impacts to seagrasses and the river due to population, pollution, fertilizer, storm-water runoff, trash, oil from cars, as well as the long-term impacts of canals C-23, C-24,C-25, C-44 and the awful discharges from Lake Okeechobee. We spoke about what we can do to help.
A young man by the name of D.J. told me the group has been directly affected by the poor state of the St Lucie River in that Tony, their coordinator, can no longer take the group fishing at the Roosevelt Bridge. They had done this for years. This had been one of their favorite activities. We decided to write Senator Joe Negron letters, and we did. He will receive all sixty in the next few days.
Many told me they had actually waved signs for the river on the Roosevelt Bridge! They were brought before the group and applauded!
Of course, the daycare group at Goodwill Industries are voters, but now they are also advocates.
Together we all memorized the River Kidz mission statement changing one word to fit them: OUR MISSION IS TO SPEAK OUT, GET INVOLVED, AND RAISE AWARENESS, BECAUSE WE BELIEVE ADULTZ SHOULD HAVE A VOICE IN THE FUTURE OF OUR RIVERS!
Under tremendous political pressure, and intense time limitations, the Water Institute of the University of Florida (http://waterinstitute.ufl.edu) has created a professional, “arm’s-length” document, reporting on “Options to Reduce High Volume Freshwater Flows to the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee Estuaries and Move More Water from Lake Okeechobee to the Southern Everglades.”
Kudos to Senator Joe Negron and the Senate Committee who put forth the $250,000 for this study after the “Lost Summer” of 2013! Write him, thank him and ask him to support the EAA option land purchase! (http://www.flsenate.gov/Senators/s32)
Kudos to the people who demanded something be done to save the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon that suffers from terrible “local runoff” and then is periodically murdered by the tremendous releases from Lake Okeechobee that are a tipping point, causing the river to go into a toxic state as we saw in 1998, 2004-5, and most recently in 2013!
The UF Water Institute’s report came out yesterday. The study clearly states, as pointed out to me by Dr Gary Goforth, (http://garygoforth.net) who is reviewing the document:
” Achieving substantial reduction in lake-triggered discharges to the estuaries and substantial improvement toward the dry season Everglades demand target will require additional land between the lake and the EAA, e.g., the current U.S. Sugar land purchase option, lands from other willing sellers, and/or use of existing state-owned land (e.g., Holey Land and Rotenberger Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs)).”
Friend, environmental icon, and 20 year county commissioner, Maggy Hurchalla, pointed out this section as we tried to review the 143 page document in quick time:
p102: “Currently, the state of Florida has an option to purchase approximately 46,000 acres in the EAA(Figure V-8). The option is set to expire in October 2015. Thus, the state has a limited window of opportunity to purchase this land at market prices. Given the limited opportunity and the uncertainty of any future similar opportunities to purchase large acreages of lands in the EAA,the state should consider this time-limited option. The particular 46,000 acres at issue may be useful for additional storage and treatment or may serve as lands that the state could trade with other agricultural interests in the area if land in different locations are needed.”
…. the Technical Review Team concludes that relief to the estuaries and the ability to move more water south of Lake Okeechobee can be accomplished using existing technology. The solution is enormous increases in storage and treatment of water both north and south of the lake. Existing and currently authorized storage and treatment projects are insufficient to achieve these goals. The path forward requires significant long-term investment in the infrastructure of the South Florida hydrologic system. Options to Reduce High Volume Freshwater Flows to the Estuaries and Move More Water South from Lake Okeechobee to the Southern Everglades To reduce damage to the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries freshwater inflow and nutrient loads from both Lake Okeechobee and the local basins must be reduced. On average, 70-80% of the freshwater discharge and 65-80% of the nutrient load to the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries originates in the local basins, with the remaining balance contributed from Lake Okeechobee. Previous CERP, NEEPP and ROG planning exercises have all identified that providing large volumes of regional storage is essential to reduce freshwater discharges to the estuaries. The most recent estimates of required storage include: 400,000 acre-feet of water storage within the Caloosahatchee River watershed, 200,000 acre-feet of water storage within the St. Lucie River watershed, and approximately 1,000,000 acre-ft of water storage distributed north and south of Lake Okeechobee. …..
Many opinions will evolve out of this UF document. Fingers will be pointed….
Nonetheless, if we are adaptable, determined, and consistent, like a gator in the swamp, we will be able to “ride” this UF study to achieve the purchase of option lands in the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA).
We must also “ride” the UF report for funding projects to clean up and divert area runoff from area canals C-23, C-24, C-25, and C-44 that are also an ongoing man-made pollution disaster to the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon. Together, Lake O and our area canals are killing our rivers and Lake O is always the “tipping point…”
Keep your eye on the prize, don’t take “no” for an answer…
Options to Reduce High Volume Freshwater Flows to the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee Estuaries and Move More Water from Lake Okeechobee to the Southern Everglades
An Independent Technical Review by the University of Florida Water Institute
*This Everglades Trust website allows you to find and contact your elected officials and write them about purchasing option lands in the EAA and saving the everglades; see here for information: (http://www.evergladestrust.org)
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!
“Keep Martin Beautiful,” will be recognizing environmental “heroes” tonight, and one of them is longtime River Kidz member, Veronica Dalton. Veronica was nominated and is therefore being recognized at the “Environmental Stewardship Awards” for her public speaking work on behalf of the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon.
You may or may not know, that “Keep Martin Beautiful” is affiliated with “Keep America Beautiful.”
Veronica’s journey for beauty and the river started in 2011/2012 when she was 9/10, with the founding of River Kidz. She was always a leader and the organization gave her an opportunity to showcase her speaking and writing skills. She enjoys writing and speaking about something she cares about: the river.
Even before the “lost summer” of 2013, at a River Kidz and Martin County welcoming of state paddle boarder icon, Justin Riney, under the bridge in Sewall’ Point, little Veronica politely pushed her way up to the front of the group, looked up at me and the other River Momz asking: “May I speak? I wrote something and I have it with me….”
I knew at this moment, Veronica had a future and would utilize the River Kidz’ mission: “to speak out, get involved, and raise awareness, because we believe kids should have a voice in the future of our rivers.”
Her speech was heartfelt. And the crowd responded with cheers and a standing ovation. Justin smiled his handsome smile and never forgot the kids!
Shortly thereafter, with her parents, Tammy and John Dalton, Veronica sat in through Senator Joe Negron’s Senate Hearing on the Indian River Lagoon and Lake Okeechobee Basin, taking her turn to speak, showing the committee pictures she took of fighting conchs that had died at the sandbar due to the polluted freshwater releases from Lake Okeechobee as well as C-24, C-23, C-25 and C-44. I’ll never forget the secret service type gentleman at the podium holding up Veronica’s sign for the Senate Committee to see!
I believe Veronica’s words had a tremendous effect on the Senate Committee and many of the “out of town” Senators expressed that they were amazed by our active and eloquent youth. I smiled saying, “Welcome to Martin County.”
Veronica has spoken most recently at the Clean Water Rally in 2014 at Phipps Park, and this year in 2015, has already shown me some of her speeches she wrote at Anderson Middle School, in Stuart. She is regular speaker and writer of St Lucie/Indian River Lagoon issues at her school. She is now 12 years old.
The legacy of environmental stewardship continues; let’s all give Veronica a big hand for keeping Martin beautiful and for keeping America beautiful…
One of the projects that was born from Senator Joe Negron’s led “Select Committee on the Indian River Lagoon and Lake Okeechobee Basin” Senate Hearing of 2013 is linked to an agreement between the Florida Senate and the University of Florida Board of Trustees. The project title is a “Technical Review of Options to Move Water from Lake Okeechobee to the Everglades.”
The project has been given $250,000, the “project period” ends March 1, 2015, and will be led by Wendy Graham of the UF Water Institute. Other great minds of our state university system will also be a part of this process. (http://waterinstitute.ufl.edu)
As a Florida Gator myself, Class of 1986, I am hopeful. Nonetheless, I recognize that the university is historically tied into the politics of development and agribusiness that has been part of the destruction of the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon and our state.
My Grandfather Henderson was an agronomist/soil scientist, UF graduate, and teacher. He taught citrus magnet and UF Bull Gator, Ben Hill Griffin. He was very proud of this. When I was kid and my grandfather would drive me from Gainesville to Stuart, he would try to make me memorize every scientific name and genetic history of every cow we passed along the Florida Turnpike, and also tell me what quality of soil was located where the cow was standing.
My grandfather, my mother’s father, was a farm boy, had lived through the Great Depression and was not thinking about “preserving” this state; he was thinking about using it for the “betterment of mankind, for progress.” I, on the other hand, have lived a kinder, gentler life, and so my goal is to save the beauty and nature of the state for future generations, and I see its connection to property values. My grandfather probably figured “what good are property values if there is no food on the table?”
These ideological conflicts still exist today just in a different way. For the University of Florida and people like my grandfather, historical friendships and connections run deep and it is difficult to not be affected by such in ones ‘ judgement, even if one is a scientist…
But in my opinion, today when thinking about this “conflict, we must think more about the future….and the future of this state is inexorably tied to the health and quantity of its fresh water resources…also we must trust and support those who have been charged to complete the project.
Yes, in spite of the political intricacies, I can think of no better place for a review of “moving water south,” than the University of Florida Water Institute.
According to engineer Dr Gary Goforth, of Stuart, now independent but formerly of the South Florida Water Management District, the UF team is “highly qualified.”
He states: “I am optimistic the review team will produce an excellent report after meeting with interested members of the public if they can make recommendations that may be in conflict with existing state and federal agency positions and policies. This is often difficult for agencies that depend on continued State funding as does the University...”
Kevin Henderson, also of Stuart, (no relation to my grandfather) engineer, and long-standing estuary advocate and Rivers Coalition member says:
“I believe the folks at UF understand the issues and will have a good handle on options that will work, could work, and will not work.
So my view is- let them do it, don’t believe everything you read in the papers, and read the scope below with an understanding of the political document it has to be to even get started.
What would be really useful is the Corps making clear that HHD cannot be made into a legal dam without having a very large flood discharge outlet that does not exist today.“
Me? I just want to wish Wendy Graham’s team luck, and let them know that I for one am rooting for them.
Below is a copy of the agreement between the Florida Senate and UF Board of Trustees. This is important for everyone to read.
Before I close, I can’t resist yelling out loud for all the souls of history and future generations to hear: GO GATORS!
I am big supporter of Senator Joe Negron. I believe that his intervention has “changed the game” for the Indian River Lagoon and put the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon squarely on the map in front of every politician and agency in the state. Now we have a chance to save it.
Yes, there have been champions for the lagoon before, but in my opinion, no one has ever done what Senator Negron has done.
I had been aware of Joe Negron for years but it was not until 2012 that I had any contact with him and that contact changed my life and improved my efforts for saving the Indian River Lagoon.
For half of 2011 and all of 2012 I was the mayor of the Town of Sewall’s Point and in 2011 the River Kidz had started on their own, authentically, in the Town. Two fifth grade girls, Evie Flagh, (my niece) and Naia Mader, held a lemonade stand in Indianlucie giving their proceeds to “those old gentlemen,” the River’s Coalition, who said they “needed youth in their organization.” Columnist, Eve Samples, had written about this and the children filled the calling. River Kidz ended up becoming a force with hundreds of kids joining and spreading to other counties. They even came up with their own mission statement: “Our mission is to speak out, get involved and raise awareness, because we believe kids should have a voice in the future of our rivers.”
As mayor, I made it my priority to help these kids as I have none of my own and am a former teacher. As a lifetime resident, I knew the dying river was a gigantic issue for the town and this all looked like a “good fit.”
Myself, my sister Jenny Flaugh, and good friend Nic Mader, started advocating along with these kids. Many other parents and children joined.
In the late summer of 2012, I thought of who could help the cause of the river and the kidz? Who was in a position to help. “Joe Negron,” I thought. He is our senator and he is the head of the Appropriations Committee, one of the most powerful positions in the state. I was nervous. I really did not know him. He was friends with my husband’s business partner as they had both gone to the Hope Sound Bible School in their youth. I had seen him once at a birthday party. I was certain he had no idea who I was. After much angst, one day I called him. Somehow I got his phone number from my husband Ed I think. I was shaking.
“Hello, Senator Negron. This is Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch from the Town of Sewall’s Point. I am the mayor. May I speak to you for a minute please?
“Yes,” he replied.”
I was a wreck. Believe it or not, I am not good at “asking.”
“Sir, I am calling for your help. I am calling about the river….and the future…..about the kids….”
By the end of the short conversation, Joe Negron said he had an op-ed idea for awhile…maybe he would send it in to the paper? It had to do with the river. I encouraged him.
“Yes. Yes.” I said, “Please. We need your help. Thank you.”
The day I saw the op-ed, I said to myself, “Wow, he did it.”
In spite of one’s opinion on the situation, this article shook the foundations of the status quo. A state senator, chair of the Appropriations Committee, had said something, written something so taboo and it got the state and federal government’s attention and started a scrutinizing dialogue of the management of the lake and the deathly discharges to our estuaries.
Things ramped up. The ACOE starts releasing water from Lake Okeechobee into the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon in June of 2012. The River Kidz held a protest at the locks with their friends and parents. Joe Negron along with Martin County commissioner, Sarah Heard attended. It poured rain but they came. The Kidz feel important. The movement’s volume turned up. More kids and parents got involved. The river seemed to always be in the Stuart News.
Skip forward to the “Lost Summer” of 2013. The ACOE began dumping in May due to early rains. The river is a putrid, toxic mess. The kids can’t go in the water. The River Kidz rally at the locks again. Joe Negron attends, again….
And then Joe Negron, Senator Joe Negron, pulls a rarely used and ultimate political card from his pocket going where he, and we, had never gone before. He organizes the “Senate Select Committee on the Indian River Lagoon and Lake Okeechobee Basin.” It occurs August 22, 2013 at the Kane Center in Stuart. All eyes of the state are upon us. The media, state and national and local, take over. We are on the map like never before. It is an explosion. Even newspapers in Europe cover the story. (http://www.flsenate.gov/Media/Topics/irllob)
By the end of the following year’s legislative process in 2014, more than 200 million dollars goes towards the Indian River Lagoon and related projects supporting “some more” water going south. Everyone is Tallahassee know about the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon and Lake Okeechobee. Not a fix but a start. A large start. Senator Negron has put his neck on the line as he is tapped “to be” Senate President. Some are angered by his complete focus on the IRL. He stands firm.
Between the Select Committee and the threat to cut ties with the Army Corp’s abusive relationship over us, change is in the air.
As an aside, I must admit, I have been criticized by some people, for my blatant support of Joe Negron. That is OK. I knew that could happen. Politics is emotional. People are allowed to have their opinions and I have mine.
At my recent Florida League of Cities meeting in Hollywood, all comments were positive. Elected officials were coming up to me from the panhandle, to Tallahassee, to Miami saying they had seen the commercial or heard of it and were impressed with our campaign for the Indian River Lagoon. “I never knew the estuaries got damaged by Lake Okeechobee…” They said.
Now the University of Florida is charged by the Select Committee with “a technical review of options to move water from Lake Okeechobee to the Everglades…” Will it fix the problem, I doubt it, but it will begin to and have some of the most outstanding minds in our state working on the problem now and in the future. In time, it could help solve the problem…
In conclusion, I was raised to repay my debts and to Senator Joe Negron I am indebted. And I am honored to be so. I will do everything I can to help him and keep him in office and to encourage him to help the Indian River Lagoon.
Recently, Eve Samples wrote an article about PACs and monies for Joe Negron’s campaign, which included campaign contribution from US Sugar. What do I have to say about that?
Politics is a hard and imperfect game and everyone is trying to influence powerful people however they can. Thankfully, I have a tool more powerful than money. I appeal to “conscience.” And Joe Negron is a man who listens to his. Of that, I am convinced.
“Let us throw off everything that hinders, and run with perseverance, the race marked out for us…” Hebrews
We might still be a long way from the finish line, but no one can say that the Indian River Lagoon hasn’t hasn’t been “heard.” In 2012, few state legislators, not even the Governor, sitting in his chair in Tallahassee knew what, or even where, the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon was… Today literally, “everyone” in Tallahassee knows about the, dying manatees, sick dolphins, toxic waters, the disappearing seagrasses, and deadly releases from Lake Okeechobee. On top of that “Tally” is watching the IRL positioned to walk away with a large chunk of the pie, a pie that others wanted too. Others who had been fighting longer than the IRL and were very much know by name… Remarkable.
(Specifics of Negron’s Senate/House negotiated IRL/L.O. 3-year budget for 231.9 million dollars. This “recommendation” must still go before the Governor’s pen.)
How did this happen? How did the Indian River Lagoon get so well known so quickly?
This happened because the the people, River Kidz, and local officials of Stuart, Port St Lucie, eventually all eight counties along the lagoon, rose up, demanded change, exposed health, safety, and moral issues, and then the local press, Scripps, took that flame of the people, threw kerosine on it, and has continued to keep the fire going. State and Congressional politicians along with state and federal agencies, usually free to do whatever they pleased, were taken off guard, suddenly their constituency was watching where officials got their money, how they were voting, and if they were supporting the lagoon.
Senator Joe Negron listened and made the Indian River Lagoon his first priority creating the budget list above, held a Senate Hearing that took the topic “viral,” possibly under-cutting his Senate presidency because of his outspoken support, and then proceeded to tell the ACOE they needed to give up their control of the lake and that they were “killing us;” Rep. Gayle Harrell made a memorial in DC her “top”priority; newcomer Rep. Larry Lee voted against party line for the sake of the lagoon; and freshman Rep. Mary Lynn Magar passed out bottles of muck ridden toxic river water and aerial photo booklets to her colleagues, Rep. Debbie Mayfield called her closest contacts… At the federal level, Congressman Patrick Murphy did every single thing possible to familiarize the ACOE leaders with the C-44 IRL project, and even invited the public to DC for a special meeting. In walks Nancy Pelosi, and then this bipartisan group helps get the WRDA (Water Resources Development Act) bill passed in the US House of Representatives where usually people can’t make a decision to save their lives. Holy Cow!
OK, let’s pull back for a moment, because I come from a group of erudite and very skeptical river supporters. And although I am excited, I am not wearing rose colored glasses and never have. I know politicians can dance like marionettes when they need to; I know that a lot more has to be done, like a flow way south; I know that if it starts raining intensely tomorrow and doesn’t stop, a repeat of the “Lost Summer” will happen all over again. But Karl…Michael….the others….even you, the harshest, most honest critics, have to admit that the end of 2013, and so far 2014, has been one remarkable year. Less than a year actually…
Just May 8th of last year, the releases from Lake Okeechobee began releasing for 5 months, and set off a series of events that galvanized public outcry. Thousands of people rallied at the locks and shoreline; social media whipped the situation to a frenzy, and today we are still today talking about it, fighting for it, and defining ourselves and our children by it. There are no social, age or economic boundaries. It is all of us. We are making history.
Yes, a great disappointment, the ACOE’s recent denial of CEPP (Central Everglades Planning Project) into the WRDA Bill last week is a huge setback, but the Army Corp of Engineers has forgotten something. When passions are repressed, they only get stronger.
This Saturday at 9 AM, locals have organized a “Funeral Services for the Lagoon” at St Lucie Locks and Dam in response to the ACOE’s inaction. (Go to Facebook for information.) Here again locals will plead their case to “send the water south.”
When I reminisce about the past year and even present, I am reminded of Dr Suess’ famous children’s book, Horton Hears a Who. The story is about the miniature city of people who live on the speck of dust. After being lost, Horton the elephant and the other animals hear the screaming “We’re here!” “We’re here!” of the tiny people of Who-ville, and agree to protect them. But they wouldn’t have protected them if they did not hear them. Remember?
Like the story, the Indian River Lagoon has finally been heard! Be proud of this. It is a huge accomplishment. We are certainly not yet at the finish line, but let’s be happy that 2013/14 has been, “The Year of the Indian River Lagoon,” and that everyone knows our name!
Enterococcus: Bacteria normally found in the feces. Two types, Enterococcus fecalis and Enterococcus fecium, cause human disease, most commonly in the form of urinary tract and wound infections. Other infections, including those of the blood stream (bacteremia), heart valves (endocarditis), and the brain (meningitis) can occur in severely ill patients in hospitals. Enterococci also often colonize open wounds and skin ulcers, and are among the most common antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Medicine-Net
*The Martin County Health Department tests for Enterococcus (E) in area waters: According to their interpretation, 0-35 cfu of E./100 ml river water =GOOD; 36-104 cfu E/100 ml river water=MODERATE; and 105 cfu E./ml River water is POOR (“cfu” relates to number of viable cells per milliliter.)
In November 2012, some members of the public were worried that the Martin County Health Department (MCHD) did not have enough support. Due to the pushing of a few members at a Rivers Coalition meeting, Senator Joe Negron, during the legislative budgeting process, added specific funding for MCHD to sample three new sites weekly. In turn, with input from the Rivers Coalition and the help of Bob Washam of the MCHD, the three test locations were chosen and the public began regularly checking bacteria levels in the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon on the MCHD website.
Before the senator intervened, the sites being tested in the river were the Roosevelt Bridge; the Jensen and Stuart Causeways, and the north fork of the St Lucie River in St Lucie County.
The new test sites included Bessey Creek, close to the mouth of the C-23 canal, in Palm City; Leighton Park, at the base of the Palm City Bridge; and Sandsprit Park, near the Manatee Pocket in Stuart, close to the inlet. The Department of Environmental Protection also conducted/s periodic testing.
In early June of the 2013, the bacteria numbers really spiked. This occurred after heavy rains caused storm water to run through local canals C-23, C-24, and C-44 into the river, as well as polluted fresh water discharges from Lake Okeechobee through C-44, that had begun on May 8, 2013 by the Army Corp of Engineers.
The areas waters were looking dark and ugly, and most of the river was off limits to the public due to high Enterococcus levels. By mid June, there were a number of reports from people that had visited the Sandbar, located just inside the mouth of the St Lucie Inlet, that they and their children were feeling ill with stomach aches and diarrhea after contact with the water.
(Photo of water in St Lucie River two miles from Sandbar w/ high bacteria and toxic blue green algae, photo by Jenny Flaugh, July 2013.)
Because of the popularity of the Sandbar area and the complaints to the health department, Bob Washam, MCHD, together with Mark Perry, of Florida Oceanograpic, decided to drop the Bessey Creek site and change testing to the Stuart Sandbar. When the tests came back, the Sandbar reading was a high 192 cfu/100 ml river water/or POOR. So signs were posted at the Sandbar, at the hight of the summer season; it was off limits to the public. Shocking.
Just for comparison, I am going to share the highest readings at the other sites in June and July of 2013. The highest readings were as follows: Roosevelt, 1620 cfu; Sandsprit, 640 cfu; Leighton, 3020 cfu; and Bessey Creek, 1560 cfu. As mentioned about 105 cfu per 100 ml of river water is considered POOR.
For a comparison to “today,” the latest readings on April 21, 2014 were: Roosevelt, 58 cfu; Sandsprit, 7cfu ; Leighton Park, 94 cfu and the Sandbar, 30 cfu . So even without super heavy rains or releases from Lake Okeechobee, readings can be moderate to borderline poor. (The Leighton site had been in the poor range just a few just weeks ago but is coming down…)
It is important to know that bacteria levels are absolutely exacerbated by the releases from Lake Okeechobee that bring in polluted fresh water from outside of our basin as far away as from Orlando, but Lake Okeechobee is not the only cause. Local canals’ runoff, poorly cared for septic tanks, farm and domestic animals, along with other sources in both Marin and St Lucie Counties, even Okeechobee, anywhere water runs into our rivers from a basin, play an important role in the bacteria water puzzle.
To understand the sources of fecal pollution, Martin County is presently conducting a water quality monitering study in partnership with Florida Atlantic University’s Harbor Branch. The study is tracking DNA results leading “back,” through attachment to isotopes, to either human, cow, horse, dog and/or bird feces.
At this point, studies are inconclusive, and helpful data is not expected until rainy season begins June 1st through November 30th.
We can’t dream that things here in Stuart used to be “perfect.” When I was a kid growing up in Martin County in the 60s and 70s there were some businesses that legally dumped their raw sewage into the St Lucie River and boaters were allowed to dump waste straight into the river. There were fewer people here then, yes, but it is still disgusting by today’s standards. I grew up swimming and water skiing in these waters. I never got sick and back then no one was monitoring the bacteria in the river
In conclusion, we don’t need to panic, we just need to be careful, and to be thankful for the progress we have made; most important, we must continue to improve the situation and “fix it.”
Thank you to Bob Washam, formerly of the MCHD, for his years of dedication and for his help with composing specifics of this article.