Tag Archives: SLR/IRL

Stuart, Florida: From Izaak Walton to River Warriors, SLR/IRL

By Ernest Lyons, 1957 Stuart Chamber of Commerce Fishing Guide, courtesy of historian Sandra Henderson Thurlow

I continue to share now historic advertisements of Florida. Today’s is from my hometown of Stuart, Florida. My mother, historian Sandra Henderson Thurlow, has a trove of these things, and they are interesting to view ~thinking about how much our area has changed.

This 1957 Chamber of Commerce Fishing Guide advertisement, written by Ernest Lyons is entitled: “In the Tradition of Isaac Walton.” So let’s start there: Who was Isaak Walton? !

I had to refresh my memory as well, so don’t feel bad if you did not remember. He is famous for writing  the Complete Angler in 1653,  a book “celebrating the joys of fishing” that inspired thousands of sportsmen, and remains a classic for both men and women today.

Mr Lyons, who was the editor of the Stuart News and an award-winning environmentalist of his era, begins his composition:

“Stuart, Florida means sports fishing in the tradition of Izaak Walton,” and then proceeds to talk about good living, home building, and retirement in a community where the “best things in life are free.”

Fun for me to see, in the collage below, my Aunt Mary Thurlow Hudson is photographed far right playing tennis, and my father, her brother, Tom Thurlow Jr., #7, is shown making a basket for Stuart High School baseball team. Awesome! Those were the days!

My Aunt Mary Thurlow Hudson is photographed far right playing tennis and my father Tom Thurlow making a basket for Stuart High. “Those were the days!’

But we know that nothing is really for free. Stuart, and Florida at large have paid a price for moving so many people here since 1957, and trying to “feed the world” from our rich agriculture fields.

Sixty-one years have passed since 1957. I am now over three times the age of my father and my Aunt Mary pictured here…

Our youth can still golf, play tennis, ride a stallion at a rodeo, play baseball, and football, but water-skiing and fishing? Maybe not.

Before recreating, we must first ask :”Is there cyanobacteria in the water?”

Or God forbid, before going to the beach:  “Is there red-tide?”

The local Chambers of Commerce have not written a fishing guide for years. But if they did the topic sentence would not be, Stuart, Florida means sport fishing in the tradition of Izaak Walton, but rather:

“Stuart,  Florida means fighting for your waters in the tradition of a River Warrior…”

My do things change.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Izaak_Walton

https://www.audible.com/pd/The-Compleat-Angler-Audiobook/B0038CCZ2I?source_code=GO1GB907OSH060513&gclid=CjwKCAjw3qDeBRBkEiwAsqeO7iOWzzDQ17u9sRDjb0rNzBSnaeeNAjgIBDEZPHBwe95rMgpxxoivfBoCQE8QAvD_BwE&gclsrc=aw.ds

Martin County Chamber of Commerce 2018:https://www.stuartmartinchamber.org

Buy it Like a Real Man! Florida Real Estate That Is… SLR/IRL

Historic real estate advertisement, ca. 1919 Pinecrest, FL, Museum of the Glades, https://www.museumoftheglades.org

I have been looking though my collection of maps and other Florida things, and I came across this remarkable real estate ad by W. J. Willingham. I would think it is from the early part of the 1900s when Barron Collier and James Jaudon, “Father of the Tamiami Trail,”  were developing South Florida. Apparently, Jaudon sold the land that became Pinecrest to Willingham.

What is of most interest to me is the tone of the ad, and how different is it compared to how we sell real estate today.  For instance, the first section reads: “Hesitation:” On the plains of Hesitation bleach the bones of countless millions; some men are just plain quitters, but the most pitiable sight in the whole world of failures, is the man who will not start. Opportunity will knock at your door this week and give you a chance to start. You can deny yourself one or two simple luxuries, drop a useless habit or two, and the start is made. You can own a Pinecrest lot. You can be a true-born American and take a shot at it and if you lose, you can take your loss like a real man. On the other hand, if Pinecrest makes a wonderful town, you can enjoy the pleasures invariably comes when a man uses his head and wins. My friend, it is up to you. Will you hesitate? Or will you start?  W.J. WILLINGHAM

Holy cow. This must have been the way one sold land in the Everglades in the old days, before political correctness, equal rights, and other things. Interesting to ponder, don’t you think? Maybe that’s why they mowed everything down.

Looking at the rest, Mr Willingham’s rant continues:

Here’s another duzzie: “Nerve.” That word nerve spells success. I was looking through some of old papers the other day and I ran across and old advertisement I put in a Florida newspaper a few years ago. At the at time I tried my level best to persuade someone to buy a certain property for $11,000. No one seemed to have the nerve. Finally I persuaded my brother to go in with me and buy it. All that was required a small  cash payment and just a little nerve. Now to make a long story short, we recently sold a part of that property for $137,000 and we have some o the property left. In a few short years you will wonder why you did not accumulate just a little nerve when Pinecrest was just starting. Pincerest has a mighty bright future. I am going to give you an opportunity to pick up a few Pinecrest lots at auction. W.J. WILLINGHAM

This is a good one, today we would write “Do you know of anything that has destroyed America’s Everglades more than Tamiami Trail?

W.J. Willlingham’s final words are a harsh motivator as well: “J.J. Hill Said:” James J. Hill, one of the greatest builders this county has produced, designated thrift as the one qualification without which no man could succeed. He said: If you want to know whether you are destined to be a success or a failure in life, you can easily find out. The test is simple, and infallible. Are you able to save money? In not drop out. You will lose. You may think not. But you will lose as sure as you live. The seed of success not in you.” W.J. WILLINGHAM

The seed of success not in you? Hmmmm. I agree with being thrifty, but how the “seeds of success change.” To be successful, the new developers of South Florida will have to adapt to our new world of rising seas, stronger storms, climate change, and the subtleties of selling to modern society. This could be a challenge; we may have to get some advice from the gators who have around a long, long time.

Alligator, public photo.

Links:

Pinecrest went on to be a very successful community. I wonder what the ads in the future will look like as it goes underwater…

Pinecrest: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pinecrest,_Florida

Pinecrest History: https://www.pinecrest-fl.gov/our-village/history

Pinecrest website: https://www.pinecrest-fl.gov/our-village

James Jaudon, Father of the Tamiami Trail: http://everglades.fiu.edu/reclaim/bios/jaudon.htm

Roads in the Everglades, Collier, Jaudon, Willlingham: https://books.google.com/books?id=oOvcDAAAQBAJ&pg=PA147&lpg=PA147&dq=wj+willingham+fl+pinecrest&source=bl&ots=TzcvzlZ04_&sig=1uugd2-UG8ag8B1QEy0IyD6oYzM&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwitwbfgwIjeAhWqTd8KHXnuCVcQ6AEwA3oECAcQAQ#v=onepage&q=wj%20willingham%20fl%20pinecrest&f=false

An Owl In My Kitchen, SLR/IRL

A rather remarkable thing happened. There was an owl in my kitchen. Yes, an owl, a real owl.

I woke up, went outside to get the newspaper, and then I fed my fish. When I looked from the dining room into the kitchen, I saw the silhouette of a little owl patiently seated on the back of a chair in our sunroom open to the kitchen. Of course, I did a double-take! And then I thought to myself: “Is it that owl? Is Ed playing a trick on me….?”

Why a trick?

Just a few days ago, I had bought a fake, feathered owl at the Lamp Shop. I attached it to a fake palm tree in my sunroom. You know, the kind of thing with wire for feet, so you can twist it around the branches?

So, in the darkness of early morning, I wondered if Ed had put that thing on the back of the chair just to freak me out.

He had not. I looked again and again, and for certain, a living screech-owl was sitting in my sunroom, in my kitchen. Unbelievable!

I quietly snuck over and closed the surrounding pocket doors to that area. And then quickly went to find my husband, Ed.

From afar, I whispered sounding panicked: “Eddie! Eddie!”

Ed got up out of his chair, leaving the computer with the dogs gleefully trailing behind him.

“Put the dogs in the crates, now!” I said.

Ed looked at me,  confused.

“In their crates! ” Again, I stated.

“O.K. he said.” Looking bewildered.

“Turning around, Ed took Luna, an 80 pound, black, German Shepard, and Bo, an old and now crippled Corgi, to the other side of the house…

Ed returned.

“What’s up with you?” He inquired, irritated. Not even a  “good morning” ?”

“Ed, there’s an owl in our kitchen.”

“What?” He inquired.

“An owl!”

“Do you mean that owl you bought at the store?” Ed snickered.

“No.  A real owl. I think it was attracted to the other owl.”

“What are you talking about?….” He said…

I slowly slid open one of the pocket doors. Sure enough, the beautiful little owl sat there with its head turned towards the fake owl.

Ed let out an explicative and shut the door.

“The owl must have seen the other owl from outside.” I whispered.

” How did it get in?” Ed quietly asked.

“I don’t know, from you? When you let the dogs out? I don’t know, but we have an owl in our kitchen!”

Ed and I looked incredulously at one another, then smiled.

Gently opening the door, we slowly snuck over, as quiet as could be. Ed started removing the screen from behind the joulosy windows. The owl lifted off the chair and flew about the kitchen landing by the fake owl, but the plastic branch sunk under its weight so it flew off and around the kitchen in high circles without a whisper. Ed and I were transfixed, fascinated. When it landed, we took pictures.

Ed  finally got the screen off and cranked the window. It popped open, braking the silence of the morning. Wind blew inside the room.

The owl looked back to its friend, and then, without a sound, flew through the window, and was gone.

same owl with ears up and lit up when it landed a top the refrigerator arrangement

Death by Fertilizer, SLR/IRL

Definition of fertilizer: one that fertilizes specifically, a substance (such as manure or a chemical mixture) used to make soil more fertile so things grow. Usually containing phosphorus and nitrogen.

..

SFWMD 2005

“Death by Fertilizer” or “Our Sick Friends” was originally a booklet created by the River Kidz in 2012 to bring awareness to the ailing health of the bottlenose dolphins in the Indian River Lagoon; I think the message remains a relevant teaching tool today.

Why?

South Florida’s water issues~

~The Lake Okeechobee Watershed: 88% agricultural in nature running into a now sick, eutrophic, algae-ridden, Cyanobacteria filled Lake;  a 700,000 acre Everglades Agricultural Area south of the Lake allowed to back bump when flooding occurs; all this water, in turn, discharged into the ailing St Lucie River and the Caloosahatchee Estuary by the ACOE while the SFWMD and FDEP, and their bosses, the  Executive and Legislative branches of government look on. This putrid, polluted water runs out into the ocean. We think that’s the end of the water destruction, but it’s not, as red tide and seaweed are fertilized, growing into monsters we have never seen before.

Phosphorus Loading by Land Use, Gary Goforth: https://jacquithurlowlippisch.com/tag/phosphorus-loading-by-land-use-what-fdep-isnt-telling-us-gary-goforth/

Septic and sewer pollution is a type of fertilizer too. Some people around the world fertilize their crops with their own human waste; dog poop is also a “fertilizer,” and all this fertilizer leeches or runs off into our estuaries and ends up blending with the polluted Lake O water coming down the pike to the ocean. Every rain event runs right down the storm drains of our neighborhoods and shopping malls with all the “crap” it carries. We designed it that way, years ago, and have not changed this model. The fertilizer put put on our lawns, of course, runs off too.

Yes, it is death by fertilizer that we are experiencing this 2018. Eutrophication, Blooms of algae and cyanobacteria; red tide; too much seaweed suffocating the little sea turtles when they try to come up for air…

The fancy, confusing words of “nutrient pollution” must be replaced with “fertilizer,” something we can all understand. From the time we are children, we learn that “nutrients” are good, they make us strong. Fertilizer can be good, but we instinctively know it can also burn. We know not to eat it; it is not nutritious.  Nutrient Pollution is an oxymoron created by industries and government so we have a hard time understanding what is going on.

In conclusion, fertilizer (phosphorus and nitrogen) from corporate agriculture; poop from animals and people, (mostly nitrogen) and it is feeding, “fertilizing” Lake Okeechobee’s cyanobacteria blue-green blooms that in turn are poured into the St Lucie and Calooshatchee, which in turn this year are feeding, “fertilizing,” tremendous sargassum seaweed blooms, and red tide in the Gulf of Mexico and now in the Atlantic. These blooms are giant multi-celled intelligent, organisms, kind of like a bee-hive. They are hungry and determined and we are feeding them.  It is  a vicious cycle that only we can stop by forcing our government to take charge and coordinate municipal, state and federal programs of education and coordinated implementation. We know what to do.

Developing an effective strategy for reducing the impacts of nutrients, easier understood as “fertilizer over enrichment,” requires all of us to change how we live and the powerful agriculture industry to lead.

Otherwise, it is, and will remain, death by fertilizer.

National Research Council’s book, written in 2000, Understanding and Reducing the Effects of Nutrient Pollution is a step by step guide to this problem: https://www.nap.edu/catalog/9812/clean-coastal-waters-understanding-and-reducing-the-effects-of-nutrient

.

SFWMD 2005

Links:

EPA, Nutrient Pollution: https://www.epa.gov/nutrientpollution/problem

2018 Palm Beach Post, Red Tide:

“Red tide was reported on the east coast in 2007 when it spread to the Treasure Coast south from Jacksonville where LaPointe said discharge from the St. John’s River may have aided its growth. LaPointe said this summer’s plethora of sargassum on southeast Florida beaches could feed red tide with a boost of nutrients leeching into the ocean when the seaweed dies.
Red tide is different from the freshwater blue-green algae, or cyanobacteria, that has spread in Lake Okeechobee, the St. Lucie Estuary and the Caloosahatchee River this summer. But red tide and the cyanobacteria both thrive in nutrient-heavy conditions.
“You have discharges coming out the Jupiter Inlet,” LaPointe said. “Red tide likes the kind of slightly reduced salinity in areas where there’s a river plume.”
https://www.palmbeachpost.com/news/crime–law/new-stretch-beach-jupiter-closed-police-after-odor-sickens-beachgoers/cVD3CBHqrYDrLCFFDV4T7L/

2018 Sun Sentinel, Lake O toxic algae blooms:

“Lake O and Estuaries’ Blooms: Not that this comes as much of a surprise. (Though state leaders feign shock with each new algae outbreak, as if they’ve just discovered gambling in Casablanca.) Environmental scientists have been warning Florida that the watershed lake was an environmental catastrophe since 1969.” Fred Grimm, reporting.
http://www.sun-sentinel.com/opinion/fl-op-column-fred-grimm-lake-okeechobee-algae-returns-20180705-story.html

Close up toxic algae, JTL

2018 Palm Beach Post, Overabundance of Seaweed:

“Palm Beach Post:LaPointe is in the second year of a three-year NASA grant to study how nutrients are changing in the sargassum. What he’s found so far is nitrogen levels have increased, likely from heavy doses of fertilizer and sewage runoff.
“We have altered the nitrogen cycle on our planet and it started with the invention of fertilizer,” LaPointe said. “We think this is what is behind the increased abundance of sargassum.” https://www.mypalmbeachpost.com/weather/why-ugly-thick-brownish-seaweed-cursing-south-florida-beaches/yILMtAMMlxxOXqqYz5H1ZO/

Red tide 2018 #toxic18 site
Plethora of sargassum weed or seaweed at Jensen Beach, 2018 photo Ed Lippisch

Phosphorus Loading by Land Use, What FDEP is not Telling Us, 2018, Gary Goforth: https://jacquithurlowlippisch.com/tag/phosphorus-loading-by-land-use-what-fdep-isnt-telling-us-gary-goforth/

The Late, Great, Johnny and Mariana Jones; Learning From Their Legacy, SLR/IRL

I first met Michelle Jones Connor during 2013’s “Lost Summer,” the year coffee colored, sediment-filled water flowed through the gates of the Army Corp of Engineers for most the year, from Lake Okeechobee into our St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon. At that time, with energy surging as thousands of peoples’ anger ramped-up the River Movement, at a rally Michelle told me about her environmental-legend grandfather and grandmother, Johnny and Mariana Jones.

Ironically, not too long after this, my mother and father discovered the above plaque while on a field trip to the Hungryland, an area also named after the couple.

Who were these incredible people?

The Florida Wildlife Commission’s dedication to Hungryland explains:

“The Hungryland Wildlife Environmental Area honors the conservation legacy of Johnny and Marianna Jones, passionate advocates for the protection of fish and wildlife resources throughout Florida. During their 61-year marriage, the couple lobbied for environmental issues, were leaders of the Florida Wildlife Federation and were instrumental in the establishment of over 3 million acres of public lands, including the John C. and Mariana Jones/Hungryland Wildlife Environmental Area.”

The list of their achievements is incredible! Almost impossible. Could we ever do something like that today? Of course we could; we just have to learn the tricks of the trade before they are forgotten.

Michelle’s grandparents have recently passed as have so many other of the “greats.” We must fill their shoes. We have no choice but to do so. And learning from the past can be a great help along our journey.

Thankfully, Michelle has given us some of the treasures of her late grandparents.

Today I share with you, with the permission of Michelle, three things from the Joneses and their library. First, a fascinating and insightful 2001 University of Florida interview where Mr Jones answers the question: “What are the two or three most important contributing factors that have led to the present problems in the Everglades?”; Second, “The Marshall Plan, Repairing the Florida Everglades;” and third Johnny Jones’  “The Rain Machine,” my favorite, about how human greed, development, and canalization, and drainage  of Lake Okeechobee and surrounding areas altered Florida’s water cycle ~and thus Florida’s weather itself ~by removing so much water from the land.

Upon reading, you will notice names, such as Marjorie Stoneman Douglas, Arthur R. Marshall, and Nathaniel Reed ~just to name a few. In spite of the difficulties, pressures,  and of course the hottest potato, politics, it was relationships and perseverance  that allowed the Joneses to achieve so much. We must do the same.

Thank you  Michelle  for sharing these rare and valuable documents. We shall honor the legacy of your grandparents and be inspired..

UF/Interview of Johnny Jones by Brian Gridley, 2001:
http://ufdcimages.uflib.ufl.edu/AA/00/00/72/23/00001/EVG_009_Johnny_Jones_5-23-2001Final.pdf

Marshall Plan PDF

The Rain Machine PDF

Michelle Jones Connor 2013, Lost Summer, Michelle is the granddaughter of the late, great Johnny and Mariana Jones.

Link to the Facebook Page Michelle’s Aunt Linda created, shared by Michelle: https://www.facebook.com/FloridaConservation/

Why the name “Hungryland:”…in the mid-1800s, Seminoles seeking to escape the U.S. Army hid out in these wetlands. The Army destroyed and cut off their food supplies, leading local ranchers to refer to the region as “Hungryland.” The slough that still runs through the area was called the Hungryland Slough and was primarily used for grazing cattle.”
FWC: http://myfwc.com/viewing/recreation/wmas/lead/jones-hungryland/history/

Hungryland Slough Guide, FWC: http://discover.pbcgov.org/erm/Publications/HungrylandSloughTrailGuide.pdf

Sofia Memorials, and photo of Johnny Jones above: https://sofia.usgs.gov/memorials/Johnny-Mariana-Jones/

Obituary Johnny Jones: https://www.palmbeachpost.com/news/johnny-jones-remembered-stubborn-advocate-for-the-environment/8va3cqDSp3waubFTm3vBCJ/

Obituary Mariana Jones: https://www.dignitymemorial.com/obituaries/lake-worth-fl/mariana-jones-6456420

UF Interview Johnny Jones/Smather’s Library format: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00005378/00001/1j

Hungryland Field Trip, Sandy and Tom Thurlow, 2014.

To Close the Beach, or Not to Close the Beach, This is not the Question, SLR/IRL

“Yes. No. No. Yes. Oh wait, sure OK…Sorry, No!”

Such has been the direction from Martin County Government of whether the public is allowed to swim at area beaches.

Let’s review recent days….

8-21-18: Bathtub Beach reported as closed

8-24-18 Bathtub Beach reported as not closed

8-25-18 Bathtub Beach, Stuart Beach, and Jensen Beach reported as closed

These changes are very difficult to keep up with!

Although the 2018 pulse release schedule from the ACOE is certainly a good thing, and a positive effort, one has to wonder if that is part of the reason for the recent back and forth scenario reporting. In 2016 with no pulse releases the algae was everywhere and plastered the beaches with no breaks.

screenshot 2.png

In any case, it has been crazy around here, and unfortunately, the only safe way to deal with things, is to take the “may” out of the permanent signs and not to swim in the water anywhere.

When I visited lifeguards at Bathtub Beach on August 24, the word was if one got on a surfboard and paddled out 50 yards, cyanobacteria was floating in clumps in the sea water watered down by fresh water discharges from Lake Okeechobee since June 1st.

~On and off that is…

To try to get a handle on things, Ed and I took up the SuperCub for the first time on Saturday,  the day all beaches were closed, and boy was that a good thing they were closed because blue-green algae was flowing down the St Lucie River in long arched lines. Right in the middle of the river!  And this was a day the ACOE had stopped discharging from the Lake…As Ed and I were flying around up there in heavy winds,  I was trying to figure out the timing of the algae’s 35 or so mile journey from Lake O and how the pulse releases would affect it.

When Ed and I photographed, the algae was just west of the beautiful peninsula of Sewall’s Point and out in the main St Lucie River.

God what have we done?  My home town?

To close the beach or not to close the beach, that is not the question. The question is how did the state of Florida let the most bio-diverse estuary in North America go straight to hell.

The wild thing about flying in the SuperCub is that I can communicate via text and Facebook. As Ed and I were taking photos from the sky of what was heading to Martin County beaches, reports were coming in of the algae blowing up from the ground from my friend Mary Radabaugh at Central Marine, located in the same area Ed and I were flying. Go to Toxic#18 Facebook for more reports.

Martin County Beach Hotline:http://martin.floridahealth.gov/programs-and-services/environmental-health/beach-and-river-sampling/results/index.html

John Moran’s “Florida’s Summer of Slime: Stuart and Lake Okeechobee”

It’s an honor to present:

“Florida’s Summer of Slime: Stuart and Lake Okeechobee,” photo essay by John Moran, August 2018

I reported last month on the plight of the Caloosahatchee River and its befouled waters flowing from Lake Okeechobee; delivering slime to waterfront neighborhoods in Fort Myers and Cape Coral along the way to the Gulf Islands of Southwest Florida.

Next up on our Summer of Slime photo tour is a visit to Stuart and Lake O…Stuart and environs is a glistening jewel born of water. It may well top the list of Florida cities in shoreline per capita. There’s simply water everywhere. Two forks of the St. Lucie River, the Indian River Lagoon, canals and peninsulas and islands, and the Atlantic Ocean beyond. Stuart is pictured above; below is neighboring Hutchinson Island.

But it wasn’t Stuart’s reputation for abundant clean water that drew me south from Gainesville with my cameras. In effect, I’ve become a traveling crime scene photographer—and slime is the crime. A devastating outbreak of toxic algae has once again hit the St. Lucie River and the Treasure Coast, fueled by the polluted waters of Lake Okeechobee and the Kissimmee River basin to the north. Damaging headlines trumpet the story to the nation and the world and Governor Scott has declared a state of emergency. It’s déjà vu all over again.

My hosts in Stuart were water blogger Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch and her husband, Ed Lippisch.

Ed took me up for a photo flight in his Piper Cub so I could get the big picture.

Seen from a small plane at 500 feet, Florida is a beautiful place.

Here’s Lake Okeechobee and the western terminus of the St. Lucie C-44 Canal. Administered by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Port Mayaca Lock and Dam has the capacity to discharge 14,800 cubic feet of water per second downstream to Stuart and the St. Lucie River Estuary, 26 miles away.

Sugar industry representatives say the water coming out of Lake Okeechobee is not the problem and that the algae outbreak in Stuart is primarily caused by Stuart’s own septic tanks and urban stormwater. This claim is contradicted by the extensive algae mats seen along the C-44 Canal between the Port Mayaca and St. Lucie Locks, well upstream from Stuart.

Lake Okeechobee historically drained south to Florida Bay, not east and west to the Atlantic and Gulf. The C-44 canal was built in 1916 to divert floodwaters to the coast.

A view of the St. Lucie Lock and Dam, several miles southwest of Stuart. On the day of my photo flight in late July, the dam gates were closed, visibly holding back algae from flowing downstream. Look closely and you can see what some people call The Seven Gates of Hell.

The St. Lucie Lock and Dam are an integral part of South Florida’s complex web of water management structures, born of an age when the Everglades was reviled as a watery wasteland and America was driven to drain it.

Below the St. Lucie Lock and Dam, in Palm City and Stuart, you can still find waterfront homes untouched by the algae bloom. But that’s no consolation for the thousands of Martin County residents whose lives are in upheaval once again this summer. The familiar pattern of algae outbreaks is fueled by fertilizer, manure and urban sources of nutrient pollution, including septic tanks.

All of this is compounded by denial and neglect by elected officials and agencies to whom we entrust the important work of environmental protection and public health.

Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch took me on a driving tour of the C-44 Canal from Stuart to enormous Lake O, which is more like a stormwater treatment pond than a biologically healthy lake. “There are toxic algae blooms across the globe, but only one place where the government dumps it on you: Florida,” she says.

It’s not just the algae from Lake Okeechobee causing headaches along Florida’s east coast; the sheer volume of freshwater discharges is an environmental pollutant that overwhelms the estuary.

The Lake O gunk visible in the satellite view, above, is shown in the detail photo below.

Fishermen are still drawn to Port Mayaca. On the day we visited, I counted nine.

Dinner in hand (speckled perch), Felix Gui, Jr. has been fishing Lake O for 30 years. “The algae doesn’t affect the fish,” he says. “They eat the same, algae or no algae, and I haven’t gotten sick.” Experts have warned against eating fish exposed to the algae.

A Martin County Health Department sign at Port Mayaca warns against contact with the water but I saw no messaging about whether fish caught in these waters is safe to eat.

Enroute home to Stuart, Jacqui and I stopped at deserted Timer Powers Park on the St. Lucie Canal in Indiantown.

At the St. Lucie Lock, a surreal scene of impaired water, above, and a vortex of slime, below, waiting to be flushed downstream.

A pair of jet-skiers signaled for the lock to be opened, and another pulse of algae-laden water is released towards Stuart and the coast.

Wouldn’t want to anyway, thanks.

Further downstream, the algae spreads…

Nearing the coast, Rio Nature Park and the neighboring Central Marine in Stuart are slimed again. This was the epicenter of the infamous Treasure Coast algae outbreak of 2016.

Reporter Tyler Treadway of TCPalm gathered a sample of the polluted water from a canal behind the offices of Florida Sportsman magazine in Stuart.

Staff complaints of headaches, nausea and dizziness prompted Florida Sportsman publisher Blair Wickstrom to temporarily close the office in late July. “It smells like death,” he said.

The Shepard Park boat ramp parking lot in Stuart was nearly empty on the day we visited.

A man on a mission, Mike Knepper, above and below, posts videos on his Youtube channel documenting the degradation of natural Florida.

“It’s totally unacceptable to me what we’re doing to this planet because we’re very rapidly destroying it,” Knepper says. “My children and grandchildren will be paying the price for all the bad decisions we’re making today. I want to be able to look them in the face and say, ‘I tried to make a difference.’”

Dead-end canals along the St. Lucie River with their limited water exchange have been hardest hit by the toxic blue-green algae, which scientists refer to as cyanobacteria.

A growing body of medical research links exposure to cyanobacteria with neurodegenerative diseases including Parkinson’s, ALS and Alzheimer’s. Google it.

Meanwhile, we’re getting conflicting messages from officialdom. Martin County has erected signs warning against contact with the water but the Florida Dept. of Health website, under the heading How to Keep Your Family Safe While Enjoying Florida’s Water Ways, has this to say: “Cyanobacteria/ blue-green algae…are naturally occurring in Florida’s environment and are also found all over the world. They are part of a healthy ecosystem and help support a wide variety of aquatic life.” (http://www.floridahealth.gov/environmental-health/aquatic-toxins/cyanobacteria.html) In other words, Lighten up, Florida. This is just nature being natural.

An open question remains: What will become of the value of the Florida brand when the world fully sees what we have done to our waters?

Even in disaster, strange beauty emerges.

Greg Fedele has lived in his water-front home since 1991. He grieves for his loss. “I have three kids who can’t enjoy the waterways of Martin County like I did growing up.”

The sign at Ocean Blue Yacht Sales in Stuart echoes a wide swath of community sentiment. Asked to describe in a word how the algae outbreak has impacted his business, president Bryan Boyd replied, “Horrible. The last three years, our bay boat sales have been a third of what they used to be.”

A roadside sign seen in Stuart in late July. If you’re wondering what you can do about the ongoing crisis of Florida waters, we are called to consider our own water footprint, learn about the issues and get involved. And never forget that elections have consequences. Vote for Clean Water. (https://www.bullsugar.org/#)

What we have here in Florida is not just a crisis of water, we have a crisis of democracy and civic engagement.

From the beleaguered springs of North Florida to the sickened rivers and coasts of South Florida, we must understand that no savior is waiting on the horizon who will fix this thing for us.

It took a group effort to create this mess and we need all hands on deck if are to reclaim our waters. Florida needs environmental patriots willing to face down politicians funded by wealthy interests who think nothing of sacrificing our public waters on the altar of their private profits.

We don’t have the luxury of time to get this right. We are losing our waters now. This is our moment. It’s time to set aside our differences and focus on what is at stake, for this is nothing less than a battle for the soul of Florida.

The pictures don’t lie. We the people of Florida bear witness today to nothing less than a crime against nature, and a crime against the children who shall inherit our natural legacy.

A long time ago, Florida political leaders—Republicans and Democrats in common cause—understood there can be no healthy economy without a healthy environment. They wisely enacted laws and regulatory safeguards accordingly.

But that was then and this is now. It’s time to end the popular fiction in Florida that we can plunder and pollute our way to prosperity.

Gov. Reubin Askew said it best when he declared in 1971, “Ecological destruction is nothing less than economic suicide.”

In this, our Summer of Slime, can I get an amen?

by John Moran
August 2018

web: http://johnmoranphoto.com
email: JohnMoranPhoto@gmail.com
cell: 352.514.7670

Feel free to forward or post this photo essay as you wish; attribution is appreciated. Please share this with elected officials and ask them: what’s their plan to clean up our waters?