Tag Archives: st johns river water management district

Central Florida Water Initiative, Running Out of Water, What Could This Mean to the SLR/IRL?

The Central Florida Water Initiative is an area of Florida that "does not have enough water." Could they use ours?
The Central Florida Water Initiative is an area of Florida around Orlando that “does not have enough water.” Could they use ours?

We keep hearing: “Water is the new oil.”

This is hard to believe when one lives in Martin County and watches the destruction from too much fresh water into the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon from canals C-23, C-24, C-25, C-44 and releases from Lake Okeechobee. According to the Florida Oceanographic Society, 1.7 billion gallons of fresh water per day is sent/wasted to the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico through the St Lucie, Caloosahatchee and other South Florida canals.

Well, there is one area of our state, not too far away, that is running out of water. Today, these counties are part of what is called the “Central Florida Water Initiative,” CFWI. They include:  Seminole, Orange, Osceola, Lake, Polk, Brevard and Volusia.

I must divert for a moment because this is really something as this area holds the “headwaters of the Everglades.”

“Shingle Creek,” in Orlando’s Orange County, is generally considered to be the northernmost headwaters of the Everglades’ watershed. This is an area you probably drive right past upon a visit to Disney World. It was named after the cypress trees that were used to make roof shingles in the pioneer era and beyond.

In the 1960s and 70s, after the cypress trees were cut for the shingle industry, Shingle Creek and the other surrounding streams and lakes’ water-levels were “brought down” in order to allow more development.  One of the ways this was achieved was through the Army Corp of Engineers’ canalization of the once long, serpentine, Kissimmee River. Canalization of the Kissimmee not only helped lower the lakes so they could drain, but also created lands along the now straight canal  for ranch and real estate development.

Today, as we know, all that now dirty, unfiltered, water shoots down the Kissimmee into Lake Okeechobee and then is redirected to the St Lucie and Caloosahatchee so the sugar and vegetable farmers south of the lake have “dry feet,” as well… Thankfully, parts of the Kissimmee have been restored and society recognizes the canalization of the Kissimmee River as an environmental disaster. Our disaster.

Nonetheless, there is no way to completely undo what we have done, so now south of Lake Okeechobee and north of Lake Okeechobee often does not have enough water, while the Northern Estuaries sometimes HAVE TOO MUCH.

Where am I going with all this?

So fast forward, it is now 2014, and as I mentioned the “headwaters of the Everglades” and the counties surrounding it are literally “running ” out of water.

This is why the Central Florida Water Initiative, mentioned at the beginning of this write up, was formed.

An excellent article entitled “Central Florida Water Initiative,  “A Regional Response to Avoid a Pending Crisis” written by attorneys  Michael Minton, Laura Minton, and John Wharton, of Dean Mead for the Florida Engineering Society succinctly explains the history, goals, and future for the CFWI. I would like to share some of this article.

The article notes how from 2007-20012, the St Johns, South Florida, and Southwest Florida water management districts undertook an assessment of available groundwater for the seven counties listed at the beginning of this blog, noting insufficient quantities for the area’s projected growth— projected to be 6.6 million by approximately 2050. This would include an addition of  3,000,000  people to the population today.

Thus over time and through much coordination and work the CFWI was born.

After deep explanations, the article explains that the CFWI’s conclusions  and recommendation include the following concepts: water is undervalued; continued use of just groundwater sources would cause unacceptable environmental impacts to the Floridan aquifer; the importance of conservation; the importance of alternative water sources, its expense and the coordinated regional effort that would be required to achieve such for the future.

The CFWI is obviously a complex effort thus I will not attempt to go into too great of detail. If you are interested, you can read more about it here:

(http://cfwiwater.com); (http://floridaswater.com/watersupply/CFWIinitiative.html ); (http://cfwiwater.com/pdfs/CFWI_RWSP_FinalDraft_Vol1.pdf)

What I must mention is that on  the final page of the Dean Mead article something very interesting is stated:

“The Solutions Planning Team’s (STP) report is scheduled to be made public in Fall 2014. Once the findings of the SPT are approved by the Steering Committee, it is anticipated that the findings will be made available to the Central Florida Legislative Delegation. The collection of uniquely talented individuals who have volunteered their time and effort to serve on the committee has yielded many novel and creative concepts. Some of the creative opportunities look beyond the CFWI’s geographic boundaries and contemplate transmission of surface water from regions with excess water supply, to the detriment of their environment, to Central Florida to supplement the existing supply. These creative and innovative options are the type of out of the box thinking that long-term solution Florida’s water strategy and policy will require…”

I wonder and I hope they are talking about “us…”

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The Article, Central Florida Water Initiative,  A Regional Response to Avoid a Pending Crisis by Dean Mead, was published in the JOURNAL of the Florida Engineering Society, to access this article you must be a member: (http://www.fleng.org/pubs.cfm)

 

 

DEP’s “2014 Indian River Lagoon System Management Plan” for the Once Outstanding Waters of Our Aquatic Preserves

Cover of NOAA/DEP Indian river Lagoon System Management Plan, 2014.
Cover of NOAA/DEP “Draft”Indian River Lagoon System Management Plan, 2014.

My husband came home from the airport yesterday, I was on the couch in the living room reading.  “Have you had a good afternoon?” He asked.

“Awesome,” I replied. “I have been reading the most wonderful document  that contains all of  the important information about  the entire Indian River Lagoon.” I energetically held up my gigantic copy of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and NOAA- Indian River Lagoon, Draft Report for 2014.  (http://www.dep.state.fl.us/coastal/sites/indianriver/plan.htm)

Ed smiled and looked at me like he usually looks at me in such instances. “That’s great,” he ironically replied, “government publications are my favorite too, how exciting…”

I am not always enamored with government publications, but I am with this one, especially as it is not finalized yet and the agencies are taking comment from the public.

What I like best about the document is that is deals with the entire lagoon, not just one section, including the lagoon’s  four aquatic preserves: 1. Banana River; 2. Malabar to Vero Beach; 3. Vero Beach to Ft Pierce; and 4. Jensen Beach (really just south of the City of Ft Pierce) to Jupiter Inlet.

Locations of the IRL's four aquatic preserves
Locations of the IRL’s four aquatic preserves

According to the document, “each of the four aquatic preserves comprising the IRL System was classified by the state of Florida as OFWs or “Outstanding Florida Waters, “in 1979 (Rule 62-3-2.700 (9) F.A.C.

I was 15 years old at that time. I remember those waters and how they shaped and enriched my life growing up here in Stuart. To think that these “Outstanding Florida Waters,” are now “impaired” makes me sad and makes me angry.

It has been coming for years, but in 2011 through 2013 the lagoon system really “crashed” with the “super-bloom” and brown tides in the central and northern lagoon, killing more than 60% of the area’s seagrass and leading to two federally designated “Unusual Mortality Events” of the endangered manatee, and the protected bottle nosed dolphin.

And also in 2013 the months long toxic algae outbreak in the southern lagoon… This occurred  due to blue-green “microcysis aeruginoas” algae water released by the ACOE from Lake Okeechobee, into the St Lucie River/IRL system. The SLR/IRL system was already over stressed from discharges coming from local canals C-44; C-23; C-24 and C-25…the lake Okeechobee water was the nail in the coffin so to speak.

I think there is a disconnect here. Aren’t these waters protected?

According to the publication, the mission statement of the Florida Coastal Office/Department of Environmental Protection is the following:

1. protect  and enhance the ecological integrity of the aquatic preserves;

2. restore areas to the natural condition;

3. encourage sustainable use and foster active stewardship by engaging local communities in the protection of aquatic preserves; and

4. improve management effectiveness through a process based on sound science, consistent evaluation, and continual reassessment.

I will refrain from bashing of the Department of Environmental Protection as I do not think our fair state’s leadership over the past hundred and fifty plus years has helped them attain their mission. How do you “direct” an agency to protect something and then simultaneously promote over drainage of natural systems,  channelizing, overdevelopment along the lands of these once “outstanding waters,” and allow water districts to over-grant permits for aquifer withdrawal for more agriculture and development?

Another irony I have to add here is that these once “outstanding waters” are what helped bring  people to our  locations and supported their high real estate values. That is changing as some people are now leaving. Last year, in the Town of Sewall’s Point, although the real estate market  improved overall in the county, our property values only increased 0.13%. As a “desirable” water front community with some of the highest property values in the county, this came as a surprise and is certainly directly linked to the “lost summer” and toxic waters of 2013.

The state of Florida needs to “wake up.” The Town of Sewall’s Point is a microcosm for the rest of the state. So what can we do to help? Speak up! 

Please if you have time and interest, check out Indian River Lagoon System Management Plan, Draft Report 2014 below. Even if you don’t read it all, which is almost impossible, keep it as an electronic resource,  and MAKE A COMMENT to the DEP. Even if it is just one that you appreciate that they are reevaluating their management plan and how much the IRL means to you.

It is only through the continued pressure of a caring public that the Indian River Lagoon will be resurrected and its “living waters” will run through our cities again.

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*Copy of Draft IRL System Management Plan,DEP/NOAA, 2014, and list of public meetings that can be attended to make public comment on the document. (http://www.dep.state.fl.us/coastal/sites/indianriver/plan.htm)

* The IRL is managed also by the South Florida Water Management District and the St Johns River Water Management District.