Aerials of St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon taken February 3, 2023, 1pm “about two hours before low tide.”Florida Oceanographic Society graded the St. Lucie River at an overall “B” for water quality January 26 through February 1st. An “A” for the IRL and a “C” for the SLR west of Sewall’s Point. Since January 22, 2023, the ACOE continues to discharge 500 cubic feet per second from Lake Okeechobee to lower the lake in avoidance of toxic algae blooms predicted in Lake Okeechobee this summer due to Hurricane Ian. The lake is presently at 15.92 feet down from 16.10 feet on January 22, 2023. ~Photographs Ed Lippisch
-Indian River Lagoon & St Luice River meet to flow into the Atlantic Ocean as seen over the savannas. Nettles Island , a landmark, juts into the IRL (upper left.) Note peninsula of Sewall’s Point and St Lucie Inlet. Aerial photograph by Ed Lippisch, 9/11/22, 6:15pm.Recently, I have been asking Ed to get a “different view” while flying-something other than the location between Sewall’s Point and Hutchinson Island near the St Lucie Inlet. That area is the heart of the matter when documenting seagrass recovery or destructive discharges from Lake Okeechobee. However, the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon includes much more than that. The undeveloped savannas region seen above is quite striking.
Here Ed looks south over the savannas, now Savannas Preserve State Park, an area west of the railroad tracks stretching ten miles between Jensen Beach and Fort Pierce.
As my mother, author Sandra Thurlow writes in her book, Historic Jensen and Eden on Florida’s Indian River, …”ours is not a savanna at all. A true savanna is grassland with scattered, small drought resistant trees. Many eons ago the Jensen Savannas was a lagoon like the Indian River. Now the ancient lagoon is a region of lakes, marsh and pine flatwoods. When polar icecaps formed, bringing Florida out of the sea, tides and winds shaped a primary dune along the east coast of the peninsula. The shallow waters in the wetlands behind the dune were brackish. The ocean levels continued to drop and sand bars just off the coast were exposed, forming Hutchinson Island. What had been the primary dune became the Atlantic Coastal Ridge.”
She goes on to explain that prior to modern times the savannas’ ecosystem was almost 200 miles long, but due to development along the Indian River Lagoon the region has been reduced to just ten ecologically intact miles.
Areas such as these “savannas” are critical to the health of the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon and an inspiration for more comprehensive protection in the future.
On Saturday, June 5, 2021, Ed took me for a ride in the Maverick. Sometimes I am fussy, refusing to go if the waves are too big or the wind is too strong. But on Saturday, conditions were perfect.
It was a beautiful day, and I was grateful. I was grateful that the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon was not a toxic soup this year. I was grateful for the small amount of life in the river. Ed and I put in at the Jensen Beach Boat Ramp and it was crowded. Resident wading birds were there waiting to see if someone would throw them a fish. I noticed, thankfully, the county had put up a sign since the last time Ed and I had visited. Once Ed and I got beyond the docks and out into the Indian River Lagoon the wind picked up and I held on tight! I Suddenly it seemed we were weaving in and out of other boats. I kept yelling “Be careful of manatees!”
“I’m in the channel!” Ed replied, looking at me incredulously.
First we visited Boy Scout Island between Sewall’s and Sailfish Points as I wanted to check out the seagrass or lack thereof. It was growing! There were different kinds, one like a feather, (Johnsons) the other like a thick hair (Shoal). I saw blue crabs and hundreds of small snails. I was so happy to see this. I remember other times recently when there was not one bit of life. Still, it hurts that I have to “be happy” for such a small banquet of what I experienced in my childhood.
“If we can just hold off Lake Okeechobee releases…” I thought and was pleased the ACOE has done so for most of this year. Lake Worth Lagoon and the Caloosahatchee have not been so lucky.
Here, the rains began in late May and the river’s a little darker, not the turquoise blue you sometimes see. Nonetheless, the water looked good and and many families were enjoying themselves. Ed anchored being careful of grasses. I took a walk while he fished. Together we photographed the area.
-Boy Scout Island lies between Sewall’s and Sailfish Points near the Sailfish Flats and St Lucie Inlet -Seagrass beds slowly recovering just off Boy Scout Island 6-5-21-Excessive sargassum weed and macro-algae not as welcome to see a budding seagrasses-Head of horseshoe crab – maybe molted. Good sign they are still here! -Thousands of snails leaving paths in the sand-A small hermit crab took someone’s shell. A nice one! -Little snails up close-Hand sized hermit crabs, old friends. Once there were thousands. We held races on the beach.-Boy Scout Island is a mangrove island with tidal areas for wildlife. We visited at low tide.Next, Ed and I got back in the boat and jutted through the Crossroads, me holding on for dear life again, -Ed in his glory! Spray on our faces! We arched off around the sea of boats onto a large sandbar close to the St Lucie Inlet.
It was a great adventure anchoring and then walking in the waist high water to the sandbar. I felt like I was a kid again roaming around, looking for shells, breathing in the clear air, lost in the happiness of the experience. We found quite a few fighting conch, pin shells, and clam like creatures all alive inside their shells! But no queen conch. Ed decided to go check that the anchor still held.
I wandered around losing track of time. I don’t think think there is anything more I love than this. I collected shells. Looked in holes. Birds rested and hunted for food. I even saw an osprey catch a fish in the lagoon’s shallow waters. The cloud formations were unbelievable.
When I finally returned to the boat, Ed was asleep. What a classic!
“This is the Life.”
This is the life indeed!-Pin shell and mollusk-Fighting Conch – orange in color -Tiny bit of seagrass and macroalge -Ed sleeps, Sandbar, St Lucie Inlet
Looking back through my photo library, I was stuck by the color differences between these photos, so I decided to share….
The first two photos were taken recently, Saturday, December 5, 2020, the afternoon of the same morning the ACOE closed S-80 at the C-44 canal, and S-308 at Port Mayaca, Lake Okeechobee. This seems a bit quick for improvement, but so it was.
The second two photos were taken almost two months earlier, October 17, 2020 a few days after Lake Okeechobee discharges began and C-44 had already been discharging.
The first three photos, taken by my husband, Ed Lippisch, feature the confluence of the St Lucie River and Indian River Lagoon between Sewall’s Point and Sailfish Point. The final October 17 photos shows the plume from Lake O and basin runoff passing Peck’s Lake in the Jupiter Narrows.
We all await the closing of both structures S-308 and S-80 for good. The issue at hand is always the height of the Lake Okeechobee and the story that accompanies such.
Saturday, December 5, 2020, photo Ed Lippisch
October 17, 2020, photo Ed Lippisch
ACOE- Lake O discharges began Oct 14, 2020 and have stopped temporarily for 5 days, December 5, 2020. This is the most recent inflow chart, SFWMD.
Today I share an incredible historic piece about commercial fishing, written by a leading citizen of Stuart’s earliest days, Mr Curt Schroeder. My mother, historian, Sandra Henderson Thurlow, transcribed his writings. They are typed from a handwritten, unpublished, manuscript. The first time she shared the piece with me I was spellbound and even speechless during parts.
As an animal lover, the story of capturing the manatee, eating loggerhead turtles, or having to tie a line around a cabbage palm tree to hold off a net full of thousands of pounds of fighting mullet was unsettling to me. Nevertheless, those were the times, people were struggling to make ends meet, and the river fed them. They were trying to get everything they could get! In time, it was realized that they were “killing the goose that laid the golden egg…”
Mr Schroeder’s excerpt about the effects of the St Lucie Canal’s (C-44) connection to the river and the destruction that followed, only reinforces my present opinion. He writes: “all self-respecting fish left the river, the silt covered the large feeding places, and the continued fresh water killed the mussels, clams and oysters, and changed the depth of our river….”
It’s all quite a story!🐟
Thank you to my mother for her work and for sharing. As it’s a long narrative, I have highlighted some of the most astounding parts for easy reading. Hope you enjoy!
COMMERCIAL FISHING IN AND AROUND THE ST. LUCIE RIVER
THE MEMORIES, THEORIES AND OPINIONS OF STUART PIONEER CURT SCHROEDER
A manuscript, handwritten by Crut Schroedure during the 1940s, was among the papers of his granddaughter Emily Beach. I have tried to type it as it was written with minimal editing and have not changed the spelling he used for local fishes. Though many of Curt Schroeder’s articles have been published in the Stuart News, I do not believe this piece has ever appeared in print. Sandra Thurlow, July 24, 1994
The crews, two gill net and one seine stayed till mid March, at Palm City, our fish camp. At the beginning of March millions of crabs came into the river and damaged our gill nets, chewing long holes along the lead-line, no sale for crab meat then. One bright moonlit night in February, Capt. John Blakeslee, father of C. D., woke the writer and asked him to get his shotgun and load it with buckshot as there was a black bear across from us, near Noah Parks’ palmetto shack. Slipping into my pants and loading the shotgun with buckshot took a moment. Coming out of our door, I could see across the way near the seine crew shack, something that looked like a bear standing motionless watching. No movement could be detected. From the rear came the encouragement, “Shoot, damn you, shoot!”
Near the line of fire were Noah’s and Sam Young’s bunks. Knowing buckshot to scatter, the watching for movement continued. Finally convinced that there was no animal across from us, we advanced and found Capt. MacCloud’s winter overcoat thrown over a small bush. Part of the overcoat was adorned with black sheepskin. It looked like a bear all right, and if this apparition had been clear of the other shack the writer would have turned loose both barrels.
Speaking of shotguns, my partner that year was a Norwegian, Anderson Stolzwig, who had built our skip jack the “Pompano.” Well Andy owned a single barrel shotgun (maybe some old-timers remember the “Zulu Guns” with the 3 inch firing pins.) This was a 12 gauge. Well in his travel overland and sea, (He had walked from Tampa to Malabar) he had lost the firing pin and used a 20-penny spike in its place. Shooting ducks from the boat, he used to warn anyone with him to stand to the left near him, as the recoil of the shot would throw the 20-penny spike back. Of course, he could not aim this gun as the firing pin would have hit him so he simply pointed the gun. He became a good shot and killed many a duck. But he had no takers when he offered his Zulu to others for a trial shot. Of course the had to carry a pound of 20-penny spikes on his hunting trips, as he never found any of the used ones after firing.
We had lots of visitors at Palm City. Our palmetto shacks stood in a fine palmetto and oak hammock. One evening Noah’s father, Uncle Ben Parks, came to see us about dusk. Standing near the writer, he asked ,”Did you hear him?.”
Of course a head shake was the answer. “Well,” he said, “a big gobbler flew up to roost within 300 yards of us.” He went off located his gobbler and next morning at daybreak, armed with his 10 gauge double-barreled shotgun, he went to the roost and killed the big gobbler.
The first seine fished in our section was manned by Brice Loveless and Noah Parks. In those days, seines ordered were hung at the factory in New York. As the crew lived at Waveland, most fishing was done in the Indian River.
In September 1895, R. D. Hoke, Harry Schultz and George Keller entered into a partnership ordered one 800-yard seine, wings of 9-thread near mid 12-thread and ________15 thread net. A very heavy seine. Their end cables were 3/4 inch rope The steamboat “Lillian” furnished the power to lay out the net, and with trip lines and pulleys hauled it ashore.
Keller was an experienced fisherman and also owned the seine boat. Their first remarkable haul was on Rocky Point in early November, they caught over 50 tons of fish, 20 tons salable, balance foul.
In this haul they had over 10,000 pounds of stingrays some weighing up to 200 pounds. As stated earlier one of the crews fishing out of Palm City was a seine crew, Noah Parks, Captain Sam Young, A. C. MacCloud and Sam Martin the crew. Noah had an accident and hurt his knees badly so to fill his crew he asked the writer to take over and captain his rig. Going towards the inlet after clearing Rocky Point, a large school of mullet was spotted, preparations made for the half circle to enclose the school of fish. Two men were set overboard in knee-deep water, at that time our shorelines were about 50 yards, as soon as the crail or end staff dropped off the boat, these men began to pull for shore. Seining the school of mullet near the shore, the writer used only 2/3 of the net, which was a 500 yard seine and got criticized for not using all the net. Seining the thick school of mullet only a crazy man would have tried to use the entire net, when our boat came near shore we pulled net off to reach shore and tied it securely to a tree. As a strong flood was running, we hauled the end first put over, to keep the net in shape, then next to the end put over last, got same in shape, returned to the first put over end, by this time there were about 250 yards of net out, after pulling a few feet, the school of fish decided it was time for their turn, the fish massed, hit the net and pulled us four men into the river, seeing this, the writer went back and tied the cork line around a cabbage palm standing on the river bank, for a few minutes the crew gained, as this was a slack, a new onset by the mullet, we dug in our heels and it seemed were holding our own, then everyone sat down or fell on the other one behind, the terrific strain was over, we hauled the net in fast, formed about 20 feet of number-9-thread webbing gone between cork and let-line. Picking up we had a 40 dollar haul, but lost about 100.000 pounds of mullet. It was the same day the “Lillian” made her big haul.
About February 1897 Noah and his crew caught a bull sea cow, manatee that weighed a ton. There was demand for sea cow in our northern zoos. The boys put an inch cable around the narrow part in front of the broad tail and fastened the other end of the cable to a cabbage palm. Delivering their catch of fish they went to Juno, the county seat, for permission to sell the manatee, same was granted. Noah came to the writer and asked him if he could load this big bulk. Having studied this beforehand, he was assured, “yes.” As the sale was confirmed on a Sunday, Noah with the crew and the writer, with two large boats went to the scene of capture. The water at the end of the cable, where the manatee rested, was 4 1/2 feet. We sank the large bateaux which could carry 3000 pounds, slipped it under the sea cow, till same rested in the center and bailed the boat dry. For some reason the old bull did not like the planking under him, he rolled over to the side and upset the boat, anticipating some trouble the manatee had not been untied. Well, the same procedure had to be gone through again. The writer dispatched one of the crew to the camp to bring an additional boat. When this boat arrived a boat was lashed to each side holding the middle one with the bull safe. The buyer had a tank built at West Palm Beach, loaded on a flatcar and brought to north Stuart where the manatee was loaded over a ramp with help of block and tackle. About two weeks later one of the New York Sunday papers told how the brave buyer had captured the monster of the deep at peril of his life. Of course our manatees are very timid, the only danger lies in coming too close to the broad tail. In deep water, a blow with that tail will knock a man senseless.
In summer 1894, Cousin Henry Stypmann and the writer had rowed down to Sewall’s Point, while there about one hundred yards off shore, the rear of the row boat went up about 2 feet above water, throwing the writer, who handled the oars, backward, all his hair standing on end. Well Henry set in the back seat laughing, asking for an explanation, he told me that the s—— of the rowboat had hit a sleeping sea cow. I had the same pleasure in the summer of 1918, sailing up river in a light skiff the center board hit a sleeping sea cow knocking the boat about a foot out of the water. The old sea cow got scared and made for the deep. Manatee Creek and Manatee Pocket also called Scobee’s Pocket, seemed to be the favored spots for sea cows to come ashore on high tides and take their sun baths. As many as 7 have been seen there at one time, sunbathing.
During the summer they came up the river and were often seen in the North and South Forks. In the early days when game was plentiful, no one though of eating manatee, but around 1916 young manatees were butchered, pickled and smoked, the meat tasting like pork. In April 1897, C. D. Blakeslee and self decided to take up seining. Charles had ordered a 350 yard specified cotton net. When this net arrived, we went up to his homestead to tar and hang this net. Having given lots of thought to this new undertaking — this was the first seine hung in South Florida. — We hung our cork-line reasonably tight, the lead-line was pulled tight by two men and securely tied, making same 20 feet shorter than the cork line. In hanging the net, each cork and lead were tied separately. Captain John kept our hanging needles filed and Robert, better known as “Pete,” by his friends was the chef, conscientiously cooking three pots of Lima beans each day, the fourth day Pete struck as cook. Our first one-man strike in upper Dade. Pete by inclination and training was a horse trainer, also a good man with cattle. Pete trained trotting horses, owned a rig of his own and won many a race in Yankee land. From 1912 till 1918 he was a teamster and always had fine horses. He passed away in 1926, while this writer was North.
Coming to the fish house with our small seine, Uncle Ernest Stypmann, then part owner of the fish house said, “Once already that seine will never glut our marked.” The 350 yards of light twine 4-inch mesh on wings. Three and one half-inch bunt–looked a very small pile. We ran 100 yard end lines which gave us a 550 yard half-circle. After handling it a few days making paying catches, the two of us made 8 hauls a day. Three weeks after our first landing at the fish house we came in with 1200 pounds of large pompano and about 400 pounds of bottom fish. Well, Uncle Ernest scratched his beard. Ogletree said he’d take 600 pounds of pompano at 6 cents and ship 600 pounds or three barrels on commission, bottom fish 1 cent per pound. It seemed the little seine had glutted the market. Each barrel and packing the fish was $2.00. The commission 10 percent. About six days after our catch, Ogletree made the proposition to give us 6 cents per pound for the fish sent out on commission. Our attitude was that we take what the commission sale would bring, win or loose. These pompano had been sent to Washington D. C. and returned eighty bucks for the 3 barrels, $8.00 for commission and $6.00 for the 3 barrels ice and packing, left $64.00 for the fish. About 10 1/2 cents per pound. No wonder Ogletree wanted to take them at 6 cents. The pompano market became glutted that late spring. To keep on making grits we caught 500 pounds of pompano for M. R. Johns, who paid us $10.00 as we caught the fish in two hauls in less than 3 hours, we were making many.
By 1901 seining was in full swing. There were 3 fish house on the river. In February 1901, a big run of sheepshead had come up the river, the writer was fishing gill nets, Gus Griffin, was our helper, that night the gill nets picked up 50,000 pounds of sheepshead, our boat had 5000 pounds. Charles Blakeslee and hid dad caught 48,000 in their seine haul at Rocky Point. Russian Ed got over 90,000 pounds at Sewall’s Point. The sheepshead were so thick and massed, that a man could have walked on them for a long distance. The sheepsheads will fight a net for a short while, but not as savage and massed as mullet. Two days after these catches the market broke. You could not sell sheepshead for anything.
In 1904 we had three fish houses on the River, and 15 seines running, fishing North and South Fork our main bay, Hogg’s Cove, the sandsprit and the Indian River at Bessey’s Cove. Fishing was good. In February, March and April, big schools of blues came up river to spawn and feed. The seines made big catches of blues. Our first Palmer-powered launches turned out for trawling caught big catches with two lines running. One hundred pound per hour trolling catch was common that spring per boat with one man.
Fall 1902 instead of fishing, a garden was started. Beans, tomatoes, squash were planted on about three acres, located from the east side of the Stuart Department Store to the east end of the Pressel Building, including Osceola Avenue, to near the Post Office, also Seminole Street. As the strong northers were hurting the growth of plants we had to put up a 10 foot high wind brake, getting edgings for same from the Dupont and Middleton Sawmill on the north side of the River, location was South of the Wiley Garage, this mill cut 25,000 square feet each day. The first vegetables planting paid expenses and some profit. Our pineapples were making money and carpenter work during winter months helped out. Prospects were grand. Everyone here was making money. One met none but smiling faces. Our banner crop of 1908 promised great returns, till the F. E. C. turned loose their Cuban Fruit Express. The operation of same has been explained in a former article. Christmas Eve 1909 brought a slight freeze and February 1910 brought a white frost. The writer with John Michelis as a partner and Jack Spiers had farmed at Cane Slough fall 1909 till mid June 1910. The Christmas cold killed our beans, four acres between the three February white frosts killed another four acres. In March, Johns and self had 1 1/4 acre of fine Irish potatoes ready to dry when a heavy rainfall flooded same, loss about $500.00. The three of us had 5, more acres of potatoes on the west side of Big Cane Slough, but same so planted later were badly damaged by the flood and brought only a few bushel large enough to sell locally. That season’s farming will never be forgotten. The writer had never handled teams or plows. Jack and John did our plowing, the three of us had bought a good big horse, “Jim.” as they did the plowing. Well they wished a bull and three oxen on me to do the disking. Oh boy, what a life! The two yokes pulling the disks moved about 1 1/2 miles per hour. As a short handled 10-foot whip went along, it took a very short time to learn how to flick a small piece of hide from the oxen. The bull when whipped, would stop, and the three oxen had to haul the disk and the bull. No more whipping the bull, but speed went down to about 1 mile per hour. On a Saturday night coming to town, saw my friend Pete Blakeslee and asked his advise about the bull — how to accelerate his movements. Well Pete laughed, said believe it or not, but try it, takes a small piece of board put it under the bulls tail take a piece of wood about 2 inches wide 4 to 6 inches long, use the edge of same and scrape the bull’s tail, but be sure you are free of whatever the bull is hitched too. Will next Monday while disking with the ox and bull team, when the bull — he belonged to Hans Olsen –got lazy, the board and scraper was tried. I am glad that Pete had advised to stand clear, as after about four scrapes, the bull tried to run away with the disk and oxen. Only one more scrape treatment was given after that, banging the two pieces of wood was enough to convince the bull it was time to work. Well, the best this ox and bull team would do was one-half acre in 10 hours. Rental for the ox and bull team was 40 quarts of sweet feed per day, also the rounding up of same every morning as these cattle were turned loose to graze. Well on the 8th day the writer went on a strike. No more oxen or bulls– too pay for work returned. We hired Byron Ball’s “Nellie,” a large black mare and with our “Jim” had a fine span of houses, turned out 1 1/2 acres and better per day of well disked land. Growing that year was jinxed: freeze out, frost out, drown out — after the water had run off, John agreed to go in with two acres of tomatoes. Picking out a piece of good prairie land, the writer did his first plowing and turned up two acres in two days. Luckily, Will Crews, had a very large seed bed of tomatoes, ready to plant. Well, we planted our tomatoes in the damp soil and with plenty of fertilizer they grew rapidly and in early May plenty of fruit had set. There was hope that we might retrieve some of our losses. Well you know, “Hope is eternal,” as May sped into June, hope was lost, as we did not have a drop of rain till near the end of June. Our tomatoes were looking fine and had plenty of fruit, but on account of the drought were too small to ship. We sold plenty of tomatoes locally at 10 cents per basket, shipped about 10 crates North.
Our pineapple crop that year was very small, no prospects of any work. Well, when we went out to Cane Slough in early November 1909, we had no debts, some cash money. Coming back we owed the Trueman Fertilizer Company 457 bucks. The feed fill at Parks’ $100.00, our grocery bill nearly $200.00 and we had done seven months of hard work, hours from daylight to dark. As we sold our team, the feed bill was paid, the pineapple crop helped to pay for some of the groceries. Well, things did not look rosy. Talking things over with the boys here, seine fishing was thought of the sinecure.
Well in 1910 it was against the law to seine as matters were grave, the writer went to West Palm Beach, to ask for help from the County Commissioners while in session. The help asked was to allow seining. As the County Commissioners had not made the law, they could not set same aside. Well, Capt. Baker, our first sheriff of Palm Beach County, was tackled, he was told that matters were really desperate. It was a matter of robbing a bank or breaking the law seining. Old Capt. shook his head, “Curt, if you rob a bank, I will put you in the pen, if you seine, well if I don’t see you, I can’t catch you.” Well this oracle was good enough.
With the exception of about 10 elderly men every male went a-seining. John Michaelis and self got an 800 yard used seine weak in spots, a round bottom seine boat with a 5 horse power Palmer and a large bateaux. Seining method had advanced, using 200 yards of 3/8 end-lines on each end of the net, the net was hauled ashore by one man windlass power and about 200 yards of each side of the half circle was hauled in by windlass, balance of 400 yards was hauled in by hand. Six months of fishing paid up the farming debt my share about $600. In the summer of 1910, the river was full of pompano, one thousand pound per single haul occurred often. One day in August, while laying out, our seine got around a school of pompano over on the sandsprit in front of Rio, as we reeled the net to shore the cork line in about the center broke in two and the web tore half way down. We tied the net back together — when the haul was finished we had 853 pounds of pompano. How many got away? Who knows? In September John and self ordered a new net and new lines, our lead lines now were double lines, to avoid the rolling of the seine when hauled in. We tarred one net and hung it. As part of the net was hauled by hand the lead line in an eight hundred yard seine was at least 60 feet shorter than the cork-line, object to form a slack in the web to kind of pocket the fish when pulled ashore — later regular pockets were knit into the bunt. About October John decided to go to West Palm Beach leaving me to look for a new partner. Well, my good friend Bill Baker wanted to try, we fished for two weeks, made about $15.00 between us in that time, one day in the second week we caught an eight pound loggerhead turtle, Bill said, “There is some fine meat. Let’s kill it, when we get home.” Well we got home, sometime, in 1909, while horse trading, the legislature enacted a law, declaring it illegal to kill loggerheads, or have their meat in possession. Knowing the law and also knowing that Bill Baker was our Justice of Peace, Bill was told if his kids needed meat, he was elected to decapitate said Loggerhead. The writer was willing to do the butchering. Well, we ate turtle meat for supper. Bill quit on Saturday night. Pete Blakeslee who had just returned from the nutmeg state was elected to jump in. In our first haul next Monday night we caught about 3000 pounds of mutton fish, snooks and some pompano at total of $35.00. We had made the bill haul, and after making same steady each day took out over $1000.00 in 6 weeks time. Who was jinxed in Bill’s time?
Through the years all obstructions: logs, brush, tree trunks had been hauled ashore. The river bed was cleared, there were a few places up the North Fork and in Hogg’s Cove where the bottom was muck which would foul the lead-line and pull the seine under. These spots were avoided.
When we started seining in July 1910 we started fishing at night, on account of the “no seine law” which Capt. Baker’s dictum had eased considerably. One night, going up the South Fork to make a haul, we came close to the shore near the junction of the North and Sough Forks, someone was hauling a seine there. The Next day we learned that Capt. Hansen with Jack Spiers and Cleve had been nearly caught fishing, when they saw our boat they had taken to the Palmettos believing the law had come for them. Talk about poetic justice, about three weeks later, the same thing happened, only this time John and the writer who melted soundlessly into the saw palmettos, and Jack, Cleve and Hansen had the laugh. After an hour of hiding we came out finished our haul, most the fish got away, we sold about $3.00 worth that night. The opening of the St. Lucie Canal brought great changes. The roiled water ran out all self respecting fish, the silt covered the large feeding places, and the continued fresh water killed the mussels, clams and oysters. During the years it changed the depth of our river. The North and South had an average depth of about 14 feet, our main bay 16 feet and better — figures set up by the 1895 Geodetic Survey of our Government. All these bodies have shallowed more than 4 feet. Most of the clear sand bottom is gone, now filled over with silt and muck. Fishing methods changed in former years it took two boats, power and bateaux, two good men could make two hauls a day an eight hundred yard seine using elbow grease and hand windlass. Now a different style of net is used, hung in reverse to the old customs, the lead line being about 100 foot longer than the cork line. Each crew has two heaving engines, hauling shorelines and net in by power, a seine crew now used 4 boats. The silt bottom changed the method of hauling. In former years the lead line at all times was ahead of the cork line. Now the lead line, weighted down with about 4 times the amount of lead used in former years, drags many feet behind the cork line. This kind of fishing today seems to be all fun and no work.
Seining laws have been enacted several time in the past 40 years. Many theories have been advanced pro and con. The earliest theory advanced was that seining would catch up all the fish and there would be none left to catch. I twice overheard conversations, when a big seine catch was brought in, a gill-net crew said, “It was no use to set the net that night as the damn seiner had caught all the fish in the river.” Another a few days later where a tourist made nearly the same remark. What a nonsense, what folly!
If our river was a closed body of water without ingress or egress to sea, these remarks would have been well founded, but with an inlet at the mouth of our river and more inlets within 20 miles each way, such remarks are more than foolish. Most of our fish varieties are migrating. Our pompano during a part of the year go as far as Africa, coming in from the sea in small schools on the November quarter moon, followed in December and January. When coming in from the sea, they are lean and silver white in color, within four weeks their bellies show a slight golden hue and in three months the fat set only the rich river-fed pompano shows golden color in two-thirds of their body. Pompano feed on small white-shelled clams. Far back in their mouth they have a “kind of nutcracker” with which they crack the clam shell. By the beginning of June the Pompano show roe. By August they have finished spawning. Blues, mackerel, trout and sheephead go north. Mutton fish and snooks, just as the mullets, go and come, many of them stay the year around. The Jew fish–large kind of bass– seems native, same as flounders. Sailor’s choice used to come in large schools and were regular on the first North Easters in September each year. The Gaff-top sail cat migrates and comes back in January and February. Tarpon come up in June to spawn. The young tarpon stay up river and can be found there in considerable schools. All kinds of fish return from October till March to spawn in our shallows. Seining is bringing in considerable amounts of “new” money from out of State. Seines seem to deplete, but at the same time destroys, thousand of game fish that would have devoured near the amounts caught in years to come.
Before the war, fish was a staple food for the poor. Now it seems only rich people can eat fish. Two years ago a three pound flounder was brought home cost, cleaned and dressed, ninety-five cents. Well, well, we used to get three cents for a three pound flounder. Have not had anymore flounders at my house since.
Seining keeps the river bottom clean and free of snags and stranded trees. It helps to mix the spawn dropped by the different varieties of fish. You may know that when fish spawn they go into shallow waters drop their spawn and roil the sand and water, that the commotion will mix the white milky spawn with the yellow roe–fish eggs. The seines hauling over the spawning grounds again stir water and sand and help to fruition much of the spawn that laid there sterile. Of course the haul has to be made within a few hours after the spawning. Mullet and Jack fish could be heard for miles over the river in calm nights while spawning.
Our first outrage against seining was the custom of the seine crew to ‘bail” the foul fish ashore, in the very early days there were few homes on the river but with the influx of people, more and more homes were built along our shores. Well you have heard of tourists. Have you heard of tourist buzzards? I mean the bird. Well, from 1901, for years, there were thousands of buzzards on our and the Indian River. They came in November and left in April. Tons of foul fish were dumped ashore daily. After the seine law in 1909, the buzzards stopped coming. It was common sight to see 100 to 200 buzzards run along the shore in one flock. In September 1917, Russian Ed caught a school of sailor’s choice on the Indian River, sold 50,000 pounds and let more than 100,000 pounds rot there, creating a stench that stayed there for many weeks.
Some of our masons belonging to the Chapter and Commadery at Fort Pierce, used to make weekly runs via Dixie to For Pierce and were near choked traversing that stench zone on the Indian River. We voted seining out that year. The fault that seining has been voted out time and again lies with the fisherman. In the years long ago, it was the dumping of foul fish that raised opposition, later there was “greediness.” by using smaller and smaller mesh in their bunts and pockets.
When we started seining, we used four-inch mesh on wings and three and one-half inch mesh in center. Two pound blues, trout and large mullet would gill, or rather “jam” and were caught. One and a half-pound fish would easily go through the mesh, occasionally we had a one and one-half pound trout or blue, bundled up with other fish but these were exceptions. Today with the small mesh, trout, blues mackerel, mullet and other fish are caught that weigh less than one pound. A two pound fish spawns and reproduces, a one pound fish is not developed for spawning and when caught cannot reproduce. Continued practice of this will help to lower reproduction. A sensible seine law should be passed allowing 800 yard seines, prescribing four-inch mesh wings and the bunt of 150 yards to be three and one-half inch mesh. The web hung four inches and three and one-half inches to each two meshes. This would give half grown fish a chance to find its way through the mesh. Any net with smaller mesh should be confiscated for good, burned or destroyed by rock line, so later legal tricks could not restore such net to some mysterious owner.
Laws of protection for spawning fish should be set out for each species. Fish are spawning the year around when one species finished another starts, etc. These laws would protect the fishermen and assure him and posterity of plenty of fish. Catching pompano of under one pound (in bygone years they brought one cent per pound) a wise fisherman should return these small pompano to the river as the hauling ashore does little harm to them.
But with the seine law, restrictions should be more stringent about gill nets in the forbidden zone of the inlet. Up to 1901 there were no restrictions about fishing in the or near the Inlet. John Michaelis and self fished partner boats with Captain John Houston and his brother, making our circles just outside the mouth of the inlet. Later when the Houstons returned to Eau Galie we fished with Phil O’Brien, and old Bank fisherman from Glouchester, Massachusetts. We saw after 1901 many a net drift end ways out of the Inlets, forbidden waters, then as today. In the old time we used two sets of ten-foot oars. Now power boats capable of making 20 m. p. h. fish these waters, use their bright spotlights to dazzle the fish and catch them easier than the old-timer ever dreamed of. It is not a common practice to fish the forbidden zone, but believe it is fished. This new power method turns many a fish back into sea, that would have come into the river.
Many of the fish here have different methods to evade capture, mullet and pompano will jump the cork line. A trout, watching the encroachment of the net, will back off, get his underfins busy, fan a hole into the sand, stick his snout into the hole and let the lead-line slip over his head and body. We never made big trout catches in the old days. The good old snook will stick his snout into a mesh open his jaws, get his two razor blades, located in front of the gills, busy and cut himself out. A mullet will jump to a light. In the old days it was easy to catch a mess of mullet at night. A lantern sat on the thwart would do the trick, but you sure had to douse the light quickly, as there were more than enough mullet around to sink the boat.
Neither seine nor gill nets have diminished our food-fish supply. The disregard, legal or illegal, of catching fish during spawning periods will make our returning schools of fish ever smaller.
As stated, the different times, each species of food fish should be protected by stringent Federal laws. We had a state mullet law, trying to protect that fine food fish for about 15 days each year. (Who laughed?) Well, our fine Indian River mullet are few and far between, in the 1890s they came in schools of millions.
Seine and gill net fishermen and their dealers should ask for decent laws, including closed seasons of at least 4 weeks for all salt-water food-fish, to protect this great industry that has brought many millions to our state. Get together, there is no use of the pot calling the kettle black.
TCPalm’s Elliott Jones reported this morning that Stuart has received a whopping 11.30 inches of rain just so far this month! (The average being 7.14.)
Although due to the recent drought, the ACOE/SFWMD are not dumping Lake Okeechobee through Canal C-44, canals C-23, C-24, C-25, and areas along C-44, as well as our own basin, are draining right into the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon. Very little of this water is cleansed before it enters and thus is damaging to the eco system. Next time you see water draining through a grate in a parking lot, think about this. Remember too that before the major canals were constructed the 1900s, the river received less than half the water it gets every time it rains today.
The aerials below were taken 6-13-17 by my husband Ed Lippisch and pilot Dave Stone. It is important to monitor the river all of the time so we can view changes.
“Rain stained” we are; please remember not to fertilize during the rainy season. The birds on Bird Island will appreciate it! (http://befloridian.org)
Canals draining water into SLR/IRL after rain events:
My “Road Trip to the Glades” series is meant to be an experience of exploration. Exploration into a world many of us from the Coast have not seen. It is my hope that through learning about the Glades communities we can forge insights and hopefully friendships that assist us in our journey for a solution to Lake O’s discharges, Senate President Elect Joe Negron’s land purchase proposal for 2017, and a restored Everglades including a healthy St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon.
At this point, as river advocates, we must make clear that we wish to attain these things, not at the expense of the communities of Lake Okeechobee. The best way to begin this conversation is to educate and visit there ourselves, because yes, #GladesLivesMatter.
We begin first our journey driving west from Stuart on Kanner Highway, named for Judge A.O. Kanner. “A.O.” had an accomplished legal and legislative career, and in 1925 was chosen to move to Martin County by longtime friend and colleague, Governor Martin, to get newly founded Martin County “off to a good start.” A note of interest is that “Abram” and his wife Mary were one of Martin County’s few Jewish families. At the time, Jews were not allowed to buy in certain subdivisions. But thankfully Kanner was embraced by the Martin County community, and became one of its most respected citizens. He lived in Stuart until his death in 1967. As a legislator, Kanner fought for roads. State Road 76, was the result of his effort to get good roads to the Glades. It is on his legacy that we will drive forward.
Driving west about twenty miles outside of Stuart, we pass Indiantown. We see train tracks, agricultural fields, and wonderful open natural lands such as DuPuis Wildlife Area. All the while the C-44 canal is to our right. An eagle flies overhead. The blue and white clouded sky seems bigger here.
Just a few miles before reaching the Lake we see the looming Port Mayaca Cemetery. In this cemetery are buried in a mass grave 1600 of the 3000 dead from the horrific 1928 Hurricane. A stark reminder of the past, the power of Mother Nature, and how we live dangerously so in a drained swamp. There are graves of others not associated with the hurricane too. Old families. People whose blood and sweat laid the ground for South Florida’s development. Many of the family plots go back to the 1800s.
Getting back into the car and back on Kanner Highway, we drive past sod farms and sugarcane fields. King Ranch has a sign with their brand atop. After about 10 minutes, slowly and with caution we approach Port Mayaca. It is impossible to see Lake Okeechobee herself as a gigantic berm and structure surround her. We do see the ACOE’s S-308, the structure that allows water to enter the C-44 from Lake Okeechobee that eventually flows and destroys the St Lucie River. Strangely, we notice an “advisory” blue-green algae sign prominently displayed while at least four people are fishing in the canal. Pulling onto the once famous toll road of Connors Highway and going south, we see the berm of Lake Okeechobee. We leave Martin and enter Palm Beach County. Large trucks fill the road. It is nerve-wracking but exciting. Some beautiful old homes stand amoungst thickets of royal palms and tropical vegetation. Roses and honey are for sale if one has the nerve to pull over.
After about twelve miles we reach Canal Point. Canal Point is not incorporated, but part of Palm Beach County. At this location is S-352 built in 1917, today’s SFWMD’s structure allowing water into the West Palm Beach Canal, Water Conservation Area 1, as well as being used for irrigation.
We take a sharp turn into the Canal Point Recreation Area praying not to get rear ended. Here we can drive on top of the dike and take a look at Lake Okeechobee and across the street. Fishermen fish near the structure. An alligator waits nearby. It’s nice to see some wildlife.
A beautiful Baptist church stands among tidy homes. A U.S.Department of Agriculture Research Service Sugarcane Station also sits along the Connor Highway that hugs the lake not too far from S-352.
Canal Point has about 525 people and the town is very small located between Lake Okeechobee and sugarcane fields. From what we can see there is also a post office, one elementary school, and a store. Larger, Pahokee is just a few miles away.
This little town has a rich and important history. In the coming days we will learn about Canal Point’s mark on the Northern Everglades of which we are part.
The idiomatic expression “death by a thousand cuts” has been used by many people in many situations…but the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon is the expression’s poster child…
Idiom: Death of a thousand cuts Idiom Definitions for ‘Death of a thousand cuts’
“If something is suffering the death of a thousand cuts, or death by a thousand cuts, lots of bad things are happening, none of which are fatal in themselves, but which add up to a slow and painful demise.”
The St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon has been dying, has been “being killed” by our local, state, and federal governments since before I was born. Since the 1940s when the 1915 “slice” between Lake Okeechobee and the South Fork of the St Lucie River was deepened, widened and made permanent by the ACOE as requested by a state protecting agriculture and development interests.
Does this make it “right?” —That it has been happening for so long? Does this mean we should have nothing to say about the present very high level discharges killing our estuary? Absolutely not.
As in most instances righting cultural wrongs takes time. It takes many years of pain and realization. And then it takes people rising up for change.—- It takes bravery, determination, and exposure.
For instance, it wasn’t until the first TV stations in the 1960s showed black Americans displaying non-violence in the face of attack dogs and beatings; it wasn’t until a few brave women spoke out publicly and were arrested as displayed in the first newspapers of the day that these hundred year old issues began to change.
For Florida, we are that new issue. Our river is that “new issue.” Without the advent of social media and Go Pros allowing a pilot, like my husband Ed, to attach a camera to his plane and share formerly unseen images with the world, the cuts of Lake Okeechobee and area canal discharges at S-80 would happen again and again and again. But since 2013 images have been shared, social media has ripped through the hearts of people who want something different. Not just here but on the west coast and all across our state. The River Warriors, the Rivers Coalition and thousands of others have stood up. We are primed to do this again but even more effectively. Film it. Share it. Expose it.
The SFWMD chart below, found by my brother Todd, shows the Lake Okeechobee and C-44 area canal releases from Structure-80 displayed from 1955-2015. Dr Gary Goforth has shown us in a blog I wrote in 2013 that in the 1920s the release levels were even higher. We can see the destructive releases have happened many times at horrific levels. They are going down. Now they must stop.
These red lines are the historic destruction that is driving our actions today. Each line a new cut causing a weaker estuary. ——-We are the chosen generation to change this. We are the chosen generation to save the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon.
Yesterday, after the vocal encouragement of the River Warriors and others our Martin County Commission unanimously voted to send a resolution to Governor Scott asking for a “State of Emergency.”
In my opinion, this means that not some, but every commissioner must support the purchase of land south of Lake Okeechobee. Because the propaganda of “finishing the projects” as the answer— just isn’t going to cut it.
It has been awhile since I have blogged; a lot has happened. I think I’ll start with Cuba.
One of the stories my father relays to me with great relish is his 1954 Stuart High School senior trip to Havana, Cuba. Can you imagine that? A senior trip to Cuba? My dad grew up on Riverside Drive in Stuart, Florida, in the 1950s, on the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon.
With a broad smile and sparkling eyes, he tells of magnificent buildings, music, art, restaurants, and night clubs around Port of Havana, and having “lots of fun.” “In fact one of the students had so much fun, he was sent back to Stuart!” My dad laughs out loud, with thoughts of the “good old days.”
My father’s Stuart High School class traveled with chaperones before Fidel Castro’s 1958 rise to power over Batista and later the embargo and tumultuous history that the world has watched unfold for over a half century.
My husband, Ed and I, traveled for a very different reason during a very different time. Two weeks ago we left on a journey with the Episcopal Diocese of South East Florida and we were classified by the government as”pilgrims.”
Our journey was led by Bishop Leo Frade of Miami and his wife.
The trip took about fifty people, including other priests, to Havana, Cardenas, Lemonar, Bolondron, Metanzas and back again to Havana. We visited churches that were rebuilding since the communist government allowed them in the 1990s to once again worship. They have few resources but great spirit.
It was a great education for me. If I had to describe the experience in one sentence I would say: “Government is corrupt, not its people.”
To see the smiles and hear the appreciation of those we met along the way, to think about all they have endured, to realize more than ever before how much I take for granted.
I have visited poor countries before. I lived and taught in Berlin, Germany in 1990 just after the Berlin Wall came down and East Germany was emerging from the brace of communism…I think what was so different for me about Cuba, is that it is so close to home and I know some people who lost everything. Also, the flight took less than an hour. Cuba’s climate is much like Florida; it is geologically considered part of North America.
Although most of the buildings were falling apart, it is a beautiful, beautiful country…So here are some photos. May the next generation of Thurlows see something better, but may the smiles and the warm spirits of the Cuban people stay the same.
Inlets, the shifting sands of time on our barrier islands. Fascinating, and a reminder of the power of Nature and the limited control of human endeavors….
Recently I looked closely at my mother’s business card and asked “Why is the St Lucie Inlet so far north?” Looking closely one can see it once was located midway across from South Sewall’s Point. “It looks like it was there, because at that time, it was,” she replied.
Such is the matter-a-factness of coastal change…
Today, I am going to feature one of my brother Todd’s amazing flight videos incorporating historic maps and today’s Google images to show the changing sands of time, our barrier islands, in a way you may never have seen before. Todd has a talent for this rare communication format and he will be teaching us more before the end of the year!
This is his write up”
This video is a time capsule review of the inlet of Hutchinson island that appeared on maps between 1515 and 1900. It is a rough draft of a larger project that I wasn’t going to post yet. I planned to drop the music and break it down into 5 shorter videos which were kind of the chapters of the long one: 1. 1515 to 1871 Freducci, Jeffreys and Romans 2. St. Lucie Sound 1763 to 1834 – 5 maps 3. Gilbert’s Bar 1850 to 1861 – 4 survey maps 4. Hurricanes and The Gap 1871 to 1882 – hurricane tracks and 2 maps 5. Digging the St. Lucie Inlet 1887 to 1900 – 2 maps I believe there was an inlet, referred to on the old maps as “The Gap”, that reappeared in the mid 1800s. It was in the general area of today’s Florida Oceanographic Society and probably opened and closed many times like the other inlets. Coincidentally the area was struck by back-to-back Cat 2 and Cat 3 hurricanes around that time (sound familiar?). “The Gap” will be the topic of another project the I would like to post some day on Jonathan Dickinson because I believe that it could be described in his journal. I will update this summary later… Todd Thurlow
Few people realize that a little piece of Stuart history sits on Torry Island near the City of Belle Glade. Belle Glade of course sits south the man-made southern shore of Lake Okeechobee….I didn’t know about the bridge connection either, until I visited my mother last week.
When I got to her house, she handed me what appeared to be a gold leaf yearbook, but when I looked closer it read: “Florida Trails to Turnpikes 1914-1964, Florida State Road Department.” Page 216 was marked:
“The old original bridge across the St Lucie River had been built by E.P. Maule in 1917 with a twelve-foot-wide roadway swing span across the navigation channel. We moved that swing span of barges down the St Lucie Canal and down Lake Okeechobee to Torry Island. Should you cross from the mainland over the canal onto Torry Island today, you would cross on the old swing span of th abridge that originally went across the St Lucie River.”
“Wow that’s cool mom. Like you always say, we’re all connected.”
“Your father and I visited not too long ago. The Corbin family has been manning the bridge for generations. It’s a fascinating story that you should know about.”
A short history is explained here:
“The story of the bridge’s origins flow smoothly from Corbin… The 1928 hurricane that ravaged the Glades set in motion the chain of events that would bring the bridge to Belle Glade. The storm destroyed the original dike that surrounded the lake. To build the replacement dike, the federal government spooned out a canal, separating Torry Island from Belle Glade, and used the dirt for the dike. The new canal, called the Okeechobee Waterway, needed a bridge. In 1938, state contractors built the Point Chosen Bridge, replacing a pontoon bridge with a swing bridge that was built in 1916 and relocated from the St. Lucie River near Stuart. The bridge consisted of the movable portion and wooden trestles on each end.” Associated Press article, 2009.
“Very interesting. Do you have any pictures of your and dad’s field trip ?”
My mother disappeared and was back within minutes:
“Thanks mom”…..as I read more about it, I learned that the bridge’s name, “Point Chosen Bridge,” was chosen because there used to be town named “Chosen” located there. Chosen was one of the original towns along the shores of Lake Okeechobee. It was destroyed in the 1928 hurricane. So the bridge swing span from Stuart was chosen to rest at Chosen. Wow. An intertwined history indeed….
Art has always been political. It is by nature. It makes us think. It makes us feel—whether we want to or not. Our reaction to art is ancient and deeply programmed into our innermost being….
Today, I say “Kudos!” to 10-year-old Aiden Serafica, a student at Lynn Barletta’s “Visionary School of the Arts,” in Stuart. As you probably know, the school is doing a wide range of amazing things with area youth. (http://www.visionaryschoolof-arts.org)
So this past Sunday, I was at Carson’s Tavern having dinner with my husband, Ed, and friends Anne and Peter Schmidt, when an adorable ten-year old boy walks up to me and says: “My grandmother told me I should show you this…”—he was smiling from ear to ear! He reaches out and shows me a phone, and this is what I saw:
“Aiden Serafica age 10 is in Miss Robyn’s Thursday class. Aiden was commissioned to paint a toilet seat in a “SAVE OUR RIVER” theme by local business owner Susan of Palm City Farms. Aiden received $100.00 for his beautiful rendition in acrylics. In addition this piece won first place in a contest at Martin County Fairgrounds as part of the best booth of the fairgrounds! Congratulations to Aiden on acompletely unique and daring project of creativity. Art is indeed everywhere!”
I was so excited by what I saw and read, and that this young man, Aiden, would share this with me.
“This is wonderful Aiden! Congratulations! Very powerful! So proud of your artwork and expression. Thank you for speaking out on behalf of our St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon! ” Aiden and I shook hands. He was beaming; he even winked…
I think the Army Corp, the South Florida Water Management District, the state legislature and the Governor’s office are going to have to have a lot of pressure from future generations to “get the water right….” —-perhaps they too, if they see Aiden’s toilet art, will come up with some daring and creative ways to speed up fixing our rivers.
The words of Ernest F. Lyons, famed fisherman, environmentalist, and veteran editor of the Stuart News, can be used over, and over, and over again…
Lyons grew up in Stuart in the early 1900s and witnesses first hand the destruction of his beloved St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon. In the 1940s and 50s, for “flood control” and EAA interests, he watched St Lucie Locks and Dam, C-44, and S-80 be “improved,” by the ACOE and SFWMD—-destroying fishing grounds that will never be replaced…He witnessed canals C-23, C-24 and C-25 be constructed to scar the land and pour poisonous sediment from orange groves and development into the North Fork and central estuary.
But even amongst this destruction, Lyons never stopped seeing the miracle of the world around him. And no where did life continue to be more miraculous than along his beloved river.
This week so far, I have written about things that bring light to the destruction of our rivers, I must not forget that in spite of this destruction, beauty and life still exist….To do our work as advocates for the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon we cannot become negative, we must be inspired….one of the best ways to achieve this is to recall the work and words of our forefathers….to “recycle inspiration.”
Although Ernie Lyon’s work was first read on the pages of the Stuart News, my mother historian Sandra Henderson Thurlow, has clipped old pages, been in touch with Ernie’s children, and transcribed many of Lyon’s columns as part of the work of Stuart Heritage. Stuart Heritage helps keeps our rich “river-heritage” alive. After all, our founding name was “Stuart on the St Lucie.”
“What a Wonderful World”
I get an indescribable “lift” from the habit of appreciating life.
All of us, even the most harried, have moments when we are fleetingly aware of the glory that surrounds us. Like moles that occasionally break throughout their tunnels, we infrequently catch a glimpse of the natural beauty and awesome majesty outside the corridor within which we have bound ourselves.
And pop back into our holes!
The habit of appreciation—–the cultivation of the sense of awareness—are forgotten roads to enrichment of personal experience. Not money in the bank, or real estate, or houses, or the exercise of power are true riches. By the true tally, the only value is “how much do you enjoy life?”
All around each of us are the wonders of creation—the shining sun, a living star bathing us with the magic mystery of light…we look to the heavens at night and wonder at the glittering panoply of suns so distant and so strange, while accepting as commonplace our own.
We live in a world of indescribable wonder. Words cannot tell why beauty is beautiful, our senses must perceive what makes it so.
What we call art, literature, genuine poetry, and true religion are the products of awareness, seeing and feeling the magic which lies beyond the mole-tunnel view.
One man, in his mole-tunnel, says he is inconsequential, a slave to his job, of dust and to dust going. Another, poking his head our into the light, realizes that he is a miraculous as any engine, with eyes to see, a mind which to think, a spirit whose wings know no limitations.
The mole-man is bound to a commonplace earth and a commonplace life. He lives among God’s wonders without ever seeing them. But those who make a habit of appreciation find wonder in every moment, and every day, by the sense of participation in a miracle.
They see the glory of the flowers, the shapes and colors of trees and grass, the grace of tigers and serpents, the stories of selfishness or selflessness that are written on the faces men and women. They feel the wind upon their faces and the immeasurable majesty of distances in sky and sea.
And in those things there is the only true value. This a wonderful world. Take time to see it. You’re cheat yourself unless you appreciate it.—–E.L.
Ernest F. Lyons: (http://www.flpress.com/node/63)
This past Friday, I attended a Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council meeting and was treated to a wonderful presentation entitled: “A Brief History of Florida Water Management 1800-2000 Ponce to CERP.” The talk was given by Mr Bob Ulevich, president of Polymath Consulting Services, L.L.C. ” (http://polymathconsultingservices.com). Bob” is a beloved man who has a long history himself as senior water resources project manager for the South Florida Water Management District. Bob is considered the “father of water farming.”
His presentation left me speechless, once again being reminded of the history of agriculture in the state of Florida and its deep intertwinement with the state’s government and politicians….basically they are one in the same. This is how it is….St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon and every inch of the rest of the state. “We” may not like this, but we must accept this…
With rumor that Adam Putnam, the Commissioner of Agriculture, could be our next governor, it is critical to refresh our memory on this historic relationship. Today I will share a book a from my historian mother’s shelf and also post the raw iPhone footage of Bob speaking before the council. It is my belief that we have got to learn to understand this historic relationship along with the power agriculture yields and “work with it,” in our quest for better water quality. They too are “naturalist” at heart….they are. Some of them in our South Floirda region have just “morphed,” and need some help getting back to their roots. 🙂 They hold the key to Florida’s water future.
The first page of the booklet talks about “getting back to nature” as farming is deeply intertwined with nature. Unfortunately today many of the intense practices of farming destroy nature and our water resources.
This is an another excerpt from the book:
….the independent countryman’s life must appeal, for he is a free man, master of himself, is conversant with nature in its many moods, enjoys the first fruits of the earth with the gleam still on them, and all its first impulses and pleasures….”
“No wonder, then, the cry of today is, “Back to the back and nature.” And back we must and will go, for this threatening catastrophe is too appalling to be passed by unchallenged.”
The catastrophe Mr Waldin is speaking of is that so many people were leaving America’s lands to go to the cities, that the “vitality of our nation was being drained proportionately…” Mr Waldin feared the lands would be empty and all would move to the cities…..It basically has happened, hasn’t it!
Below are the links to Mr Ulevich’s presentation, his presentation does not encompass the little book. I added that. Bob speaks on “A Brief History of Water Management 1800-2000 and although my “Jacqui home videos” are poor quality, you can hear the message. I had to break the videos up into 15 minutes sections as my You Tube account is not set to post anything over 15 minutes…Bob’s presentation is excellent. For those of you who have time to listen, you will enjoy it very much and learn a ton! Bob will finish his presentation next month covering approximately from 1910 to today.——– And that’s where we get to hear “the rest of the story….” 🙂
Just a few days ago, friend, and sometimes vet to our dogs, Dr Dave Carlson, sent me some unusual photographs of foam pouring out of the St Lucie River’s C-24 spillway, managed by the South Florida Water Management District.
Dave wrote: “Hi Jacqui, was out this am and shot these on the C24 canal. “Iceburgs” in the canal! Real time follow-up to your blogs on these canals.”
“That’s really weird,” I thought. “Foam everywhere!”
I remember foam building up along the shoreline at Stuart Beach periodically when I was a kid. We would pick it up in our cupped hands and throw it at each other; it was great fun. I never knew what formed it though. Was it pollution? It looked kind of gross….
I wrote Dave. “Where is it; and what is it?” I asked.
He replied: “At the spillway going into the North Fork. Are a result of decayed plant and animal protein according to SFWMD. Tyler Treadway did a piece on this after tropical storm Fay, 2008.”
Hmmm? I thought. Decaying plants and animals?…Bizarre. I looked up the TCPalm article, it had one quote regarding foam:
“What you’re seeing is denatured protein,” said Boyd E. Gunsalus, lead environmental scientist for the South Florida Water Management District’s office on the Treasure Coast, “which is the result of decaying plants and animals.”
That’s nice, and Boyd is awesome. But what does that mean? What are “denatured proteins” and how do they get “denatured?” So I looked them up too. You have to put on your eighth grade science cap! Basically, I think, a denatured protein is an unfolded protein that can then bond with other things to form something else…..in this case causing foam.
Now we have to learn, or remember, yet another odd word…. 🙂
In order for the foam to form, and the proteins to “denatureate,” there has to be a “surfactant,” in the water.
Yikes! This sounds like a project for the River Kidz! My science skills are rather rusty! Please share more if you know how this all works!
A surfactant is something that lessens the surface tension on the surface of the water….
According to my reading, the natural surfactant is called DOC (dissolved organic carbon). DOC comes from the decomposition of a wide variety of plant material including algae, decaying animal protein, and aquatic plants…
So to summarize: the surfactant effect caused by decaying protein bonds and agitation of wind and rain forms foam. This is the basically same phenomenon that happens with detergents and “dirt.” Detergents are also surfactants. There are natural and man-made surfactants. What’s occurring in the SLR is “natural.”
Well that was fun. Leaning about something that looks like pollution in the St Lucie River but isn’t, what a rarity. Nonetheless, I would think all the pollution in the water really helps “stir things up!” Read about it here, these DEP reports are “old” but nothing has changed much so they still apply:
There are over 2000 miles of canals draining precious fresh water off South Florida; it’s a good idea to know the main ones. I started thinking about this after going through some old files and finding this awesome 1909 Map Dr Gary Goforth shared with me showing a plan in 1909 to drain the Everglades and Lake Okeechobee WITHOUT killing the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon.
Well as they say: “The rest is history….” As we know, the C-44, or St Lucie Canal, was later built.
So when I was looking on-line for a good map to show the canals of South Florida today to compare to Gary’s canal map of 1909, believe it or not, I could not find one! One that was well labeled anyway. So I made my own.
It’s pretty “home-school” but its readable. From left to right, below, you will see canals Caloosahatchee, (C-43); Miami, (L-23); New River, (L-18); Hillsboro, (L-15); West Palm Beach, (L-12); L-8 that never got a name as far as I am aware; and St Lucie, (C-44.) I do not know why some are labeled “C” and others are “L,” but you can follow them to see where they dump.
I believe the first two built were the Miami and the New River— by 1911, as I often see those two on historic maps prior to 1920. Today our state canal plumbing system is outdated and wasteful sending on average over 1.7 billion gallons of fresh water to tide (to the ocean) every day. (Mark Perry, Florida Oceanographic.)
Even though I grew up in Stuart, I was never really taught about the canals. As a young adult and even older, I drove around for years not knowing about these canals and others like C-23, C-24, and C-25. If I “saw” them, I did not “recognize” them. I knew the land had been “drained” but really had no conception of what that meant or the extent thereof…
I remember my mom used to say if we were driving around in Ft Pierce in the 80s, “And to think there used to be inches of water covering all this land at certain times of the year….” I just stared at her but didn’t really “get it.” The pine trees flashed by and it seemed “impossible” what she was saying…
In any case, the young people today should be learning in detail about these canals so they can be “updated,” “refreshed,” “reworked,” and “replugged.” Say “no” to old-fashioned canals, and “hello” to a new and better South Florida!
Below is a history of the South Florida canals as written in an email to me by Dr Gary Goforth. It is very enlightening. Thanks Gary!
As you know, plans to manage the level of Lake Okeechobee (by discharging to tide) in order to develop and protect the agricultural lands south of the lake were developed before 1850 and evolved through the mid-1950s.
1. Buckingham Smith, Esq. in 1848 proposed connecting the Lake with the Loxahatchee River and/or the San Lucia (report to the Sec. of the US Treasury; copy available).
2. In 1905, Gov. Broward rejected a proposal to lower the Lake with a new canal connecting to the St. Lucie River.
3. Attached is a 1909 map of South Florida from the 1909 State of Florida report “Report on the Drainage of the Everglades of Florida, By J. O. Wright, Supervising Drainage Engineer”. The importance of this map and report is the recommendation to manage the water level in Lake Okeechobee via drainage into multiple canals from the Lake to the Atlantic Ocean – but NOT the St. Lucie Canal. The primary canal for moving Lake water to the Atlantic was to be the Hillsboro Canal which would connect the Lake to the Hillsboro River in present day Deerfield Beach / Boca Raton. Note the recommendation is to construct what is now called the “West Palm Beach Canal” and route Lake water into the Loxahatchee River and then out to the ocean via the Jupiter Inlet – this is actually being accomplished as part of CERP and the Loxahatchee River restoration program.
4. In 1913, the State accepted the recommendation of an NY engineer (Isham Randolph) to construct a canal connecting the Lake to the St. Lucie River (report available). The Everglades Drainage District was formed the same year, and was responsible for the construction of the canal and associated locks/water control gates. (historical construction photos available). Construction lasted from May 1915 through 1924, and the first Lake discharges to the St. Lucie occurred June 15, 1923 (ref: Nat Osborn Master’s thesis 2012, copy available)
5. After the 1928 hurricane, the State asked for and received federal assistance. The canal was enlarged by 1938; new St. Lucie Locks was rebuilt in 1941; the new spillway was constructed in 1944. —Dr Gary Goforth (http://garygoforth.net)
Sometimes you just need to take a break! I will be “blog-breaking” to spend time with my husband; I will return 7-15-15.
In review, before I stop blogging, thus far 2015 has not been a particularly rewarding year for river advocates— mostly because of the state legislature’s tumultuous session, their interpretation of Amendment 1, and their refusal to consider the purchase of the US Sugar’s option lands in the Everglades Agricultural Area.
To top it off, the ACOE began releasing from Lake Okeechobee into the St Lucie River very early this year, starting January 16th and continuing until just recently–the end of May. There may be more coming this rainy season….
The ACOE and the SFWMD decided to “dump” because the lake was “too high” to be safe for the Herbert Hoover’s Dike and its surrounding farms and communities. This is “understandable,” but at great expense to our SLR/IRL economy and ecosystem.
Ironically, ample water supply is now a concern for “users,” such as agriculture, with Lake Okeechobee down to 12.20 feet and rapidly evaporating….((http://w3.saj.usace.army.mil/h2o/currentLL.shtml))You may have heard that Miami is already in a drought…on top of this, the Caloosahatchee needs some lake water right now to keep its salinities from going too high but they are not getting it…
It always seems more likely that South Florida will have a hurricane, and that Lake O could fill up quickly with 3-4 feet in one week, too much to dump fast, so the agencies prefer the lake lower during summer’s rainy season… There is that chance though—that it won’t rain, and dry conditions will parch our state as occurred in 2006/2007.
Wouldn’t that be something? After all that water being released? South Florida going into a drought? The farm fields dying? The ecosystem and its animals in danger? And people not having enough water?
It may seem an odd thought, but it is one that is not the “stuff of science fiction”— that one day, in the future, after an extended drought or a climatic shift, people could be fighting over the billions of gallons of fresh water that is wasted to the Atlantic Ocean through the C-44 basin, the St Lucie River, and Caloosahatchee during storm events…
We need to prepare for this. We must not give up our advocacy. We must keep more of this precious water on the land and going south for the Everglades.
On a positive-personal note regarding the year thus far….
You may have noticed—-
I am enjoying collaborating with my family. To have my mother’s history and most recently my brother’s “flying time capsule maps” to share is very rewarding. I have linked some of Todd time capsule flights below. They have been very popular!
Todd is six years younger than me as you can see from the photo above. My sister, Jenny, is four years younger. Growing up, Todd and Jenny were more together, and I was kind of “old.” I was out of Martin County High School where as they attended during the same time. Now, the years seems fewer in between…. 🙂
In closing, thank you very much for reading my blog; I wish you a good couple of weeks enjoying the Indian River Region, and I’ll see you soon!
Above: Google Earth/Historic Maps Overlay Flights shared on my blog, created by my brother Todd Thurlow, (http://thurlowpa.com) These flights using Topo and other historic maps combined with today’s Google Earth images flashing between “yesterday and today” give tremendous insight into the water and land changes due to drainage for agriculture and development that have occurred in our region. JTL
A tidal wave….always a scary thought, and usually associated with the ocean, however, tidal waves or “seiches,” can occur in enclosed bodies of water as well, such as a lake— like that of “big water,” or Lake Okeechobee.
As we have entered hurricane season and live in Florida, the most vulnerable state in the nation for strikes, it is important that all of us in the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon/Lake Okeechobee region know our evacuation plan should one be necessary….
A while back, I wrote about my frightening experience with a storm in the proximity of Lake Okeechobee and my friend, Dr Gary Goforth, wrote me back. Today I will share his thoughts on the subject of “tidal waves” in Lake Okeechobee.
Since “we” first walled the lake for agriculture in the 1920s, “white man” has changed the dynamics of both water and of storms….Recently, the ACOE has spent over 65 million dollars to repair the aging dike. As you know, nature evolved so Lake Okeechobee’s overflow waters would slowly flow south to the Everglades. This is no more, and her overflow waters are directed with great destruction through the Northern Estuaries…
Your comments on the “tidal waves” within the Lake inspired me to chart the fluctuations in water levels in the Lake resulting from the 2004 hurricanes Frances and Jeanne…
The attached images below show two charts and a reference map.
The first chart shows the fluctuation in Lake stage as Hurricane Frances slowly moved through the area and the 2nd is a similar chart for Hurricane Jeanne. An interesting feature is that as the storm approached the Lake, strong north winds blew the water to the southern rim against the HHDike (as reflected by the rising red line: water level along the south shore) and simultaneously moved water away from the northern sections of the Dike (as reflected by the descending blue line: water level along the north shore). This phenomenon contributed to the catastrophic flooding south of the Lake in the 1926 and 1928 storms as the muck dike failed. For Hurricane Frances, the water level along the south shore rose by more than 5 ft as the eye approached!
As the eye of the storms passed over the Lake, the wind quickly changed direction and the water that was piled up along the south shore moved to the north rim of the Dike (rising blue line). For Hurricane Frances, the water level along the north shore rose by 10 ft or more when the winds shifted! For Hurricane Jeanne, which was moving faster than Frances, the water level on the north shore rose by more than 4 ft per hour – I suspect it looked like a slow-moving tidal wave coming towards the Dike!
For both storms, the water levels overtopped the stage gauges at both stations – so the fluctuations were actually greater than depicted in the charts!
I grew up in both Stuart and Sewall’s Point, not on, but close to the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon. My mother named our second home, “Shady Refuge,” because of the tremendous oak trees arching over the property. Many animals visited, and we welcomed them. Some even lived with our family for short periods of time. Early on, there was no Treasure Coast Wildlife Center like today, so we took animals that needed care to the vet or tried to help them ourselves. My mother was an expert at this. We were taught not to fear animals, even poisonous ones, but to respect them, and to learn from them. It was a great childhood; a great lesson for life.
The photos I am sharing today were taken at my parent’s home in Indialucie over many years.
I still live in Sewall’s Point today, 30 years later. Of course with continued development of the Treasure Coast, population growth, and continued degradation of our waterways, wildlife is not as plentiful. But it is still here! When I see an any animal, it is one of my greatest joys. Right now, a hawk is living in my and Ed’s yard. I always feel that having one of God’s wild creatures visiting me is a gift.
Thank you mom and dad for keeping this family wildlife album and know that siblings, Jenny, Todd, and I, are “passing it on….”
This week, due to the inspiration of small book my mother handed me, I have been exploring the history, and political change encompassing the sugar industry. Monday, I wrote about Cuba; Tuesday, I wrote about the Calusa Indians, pioneers, and workers; and yesterday, I wrote about the pond apple forest that used to border the southern rim of Lake Okeechobee.
Today, based on chapter 29 of Lawrence E. Will’s 1968 book, “Swamp to Sugar Bowl, Pioneer Days in Belle Glade,” I will briefly write about the evolution of labor practices in Florida’s sugar industry and how public pressure led to the mechanization of the industry. For me, the mechanization of the sugar Industry is a metaphor for change for our St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon.
The point of this journey is to learn our history and to remind ourselves that even the “worst of circumstances” can be improved. I believe, that one day, we too, will see improvement of the government sponsored destruction of the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon from Lake Okeechobee. Our relation to the sugar industry? For those who may not know.. .Their location blocks the flow of Lake Okeechobee’s waters flowing south to the Everglades.
Before I start, I must say that “everyone has a history,” and the history of the world is mostly “not a pretty one.” This goes for me as well. Parts of my family have been here before the American Revolution, and a few of my ancestors owned slaves. I have read the wills these relatives handing down their slaves from one generation to the next like these souls were pieces of furniture. It is retched. It is uncomfortable. It is immoral. But to forget, is not the answer. It is important to know our own history and the history of businesses in our state no matter how difficult. As is said, we must “Never Forget…” Slavery and the extermination of Florida’s native peoples “is the ground we sit on,” and our job today is to continue to make this world, and our living waters a “better place.”
So, let’s begin.
The history of sugarcane has “roots” all over the world, but in our area it is connected to the Caribbean. I recommend a book entitled: “History of the Caribbean,” by Frank Moya Pons.
The basis of this book is the extermination of the Arawak Indians due to colonization and the bloody wars on both sides of the Atlantic over control of the region’s lucrative sugar market . The Arawaks were native to the Caribbean. When they were unwilling slaves for the Europeans, and died as a race due to european-brought diseases, African slaves were brought in to replace them.
After centuries involving world political struggles for “sugar dominance,” and with the rise of the United States and the horrible world wars, sugar came to be seen as “national security issue,” not just a food source as it can be used for the making of explosives/weapons. As we know, over the centuries, through political strategy, the United States rose as a power in sugar production, as Cuban dominance declined.
The apex of this shift in our area was around 1960. For reference, my husband, Ed, came to this county when he was four, with his family from Argentina, in 1960, the Perons had been in power; and I was born in California, at Travis Air Force Base in 1964. It was the Vietnam Era.
The Everglades Agricultural Area south of Lake Okeechobee where the sugar industry resides expanded the most it ever has around this time. To quote Mr Lawrence E. Wills:
“when Fidel Castro took over Cuba, (1958) the Everglades reaped the benefit. For a short time our government permitted the unrestricted planting of sugar cane …and before that time, under the U.S government’s regulations, the state of Florida was permitted to produce only nine-tenths of one percent of the nation’s needs.”
The US government helped the sugar industry grow and for “a reason:” Power. Influence. National Security. Food Source. Weapons. This is heavy currency in world politics and it is achieved at any expense….here in south Florida, it was achieved at the expense of the uneducated and poor worker.
Chapter 29 of Mr Will’s book is entitled, “Harvest of Shame.”
Mr Wills writes about a television documentary that was released on Thanksgiving Day in 1960. Mr Wills says the piece is “sensationalized.” It was produced by the Columbia Broadcasting System, presented by Edgar R. Murrow and sponsored by Philip Morris Cigarette Company. Certainly the piece was “sensationalized,” but undoubtedly there was also truth regarding the difficult conditions for migrant workers.
What is important here, is that the explosive public reaction to the documentary pressured the sugar industry to move towards mechanization, which they achieved just over thirty years later around 1992.
As the industry moved towards this goal, other problems ensued, such as H-2 program changes. With claims that the local labor force “could not,” or “would not” do the back-breaking work of cutting the sugar cane with machete, the H-2 program allowed the sugar industry to hire foreign workers, mostly from the Caribbean, especially Jamaica, who as we already know had a history with this difficult work.
The rub for labor activists was that these workers could be deported if they did not “produce.” They could be shipped out and replaced. Some called this a form of modern slavery. An award-winning documentary, on this subject, H-2 Worker, was produced by Stephanie Black in 1990. She points out that although the sugar industry had basically achieved mechanization by this time, others had not. (http://www.docurama.com/docurama/h-2-worker/)
The sugar industry moved to mechanization because of public outcry. Of course it is more complicated than that and is driven by economics, nonetheless, it was a huge factor. With more outcry regarding our St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon, the same thing could happen. Change. More water flowing south. A flow way. A reservoir. Lands to clean, store and convey water south….fewer, or no more polluted/toxic releases into the St Lucie River/IRL…
To deviate just a bit before I close, we may ask ourselves, how could this happen? Slavery? Mistreatment of workers? Destruction of the environment?
Well, the answer is the same today as it was in 1500; it happens because government allows, supports, and encourages it. The U.S. Department of Labor, the United States Department of Agriculture and others. Some right under our nose.
Remember, today’s state and federal agencies are made up of people; people are hired by government entities; government entities are directed by politicians, and politicians are voted for by the people. It all starts with us.
Make sure your voice is heard, and vote accordingly.
History is in the making, and somewhere out there, there is a better water future for the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon!
Real estate taxes are paid in arrears, so one learns about the property values of a calendar year, a year later. In the Town of Sewall’s Point, the 2014 (really 2013) tax value increased .14%. This seemed low compared to other similar areas of the state. During this time, I contacted Laurel Kelly, our Martin County property appraiser. She had her staff research the issue, and assured me that the answer to my question: “Did the toxic St Lucie River/Southern Indian River Lagoon of 2013 have anything to do with lower property values?” was a negative– or at least could not be verified.
Rather, data showed it had to do with other things like the number of homesteaded properties and a limited commercial district….I saw the picture and understood, but I was still unconvinced.
As someone who has worked in the real estate industry, as a commissioner of Sewall’s Point, as a home owner, as someone with more than three brain cells in my head, I know that, of course, a clean, beautiful, waterway is more desirable than a toxic one. Also I know that numbers “right away” don’t show the big picture….
Yesterday, a report entitled: “The Effects of Water Quality on Housing Prices” was released by Florida Realtors, and the Everglades Foundation. The study focuses on Lee and Martin Counties with estuaries St Lucie (Martin) and Caloosahatchee (Lee) running through their boarders. These once life-filled, property-value-enhancing estuaries have reached a tipping point as the conduits for polluted water from Lake Okeechobee compounded with area growth, put them “over the edge.”
Some may say any report attached to the Everglades Foundation is biased. Here, I think not. In this case the report reflects a simple reality. People don’t pay full market value for real estate on rivers that “go toxic.” The greatest contributor to that toxicity is Lake Okeechobee’s fresh and dirty water released by the Army Corp of Engineers and South Florida Water Management District that destroys the salinity and visibility within these water ways.
An article today in the Palm Beach Post about the study states:
“The study found that “as water quality degrades, home values decrease and could potentially cost Florida’s real estate market nearly $1 billion in Lee and Martin County alone,” said 2015 Florida Realtors® president Andrew Barbar, in a statement released Tuesday. Barbar is a broker with Keller Williams Realty Services in Boca Raton.
The loss is attributable to polluted discharges from Lake Okeechobee, according to the release put out by the Foundation and Florida Realtors® – the largest professional trade organization in the state.” (http://www.floridarealtors.org)
I do believe water quality affects home values. Don’t you? I believe the releases by the ACOE and SFWMD, overseen and directed by our governor, state legislature, and Congress, destroy our property values. Don’t you?
The state and federal government don’t want to admit this openly as truly fixing the Lake Okeechobee issue is costly beyond human proportion and requires going against the seats of power and influence. I imagine they are probably thinking “tourism is doing just fine in the great state of Florida…”
Well guess what? Florida can’t be a “great state” and America can’t be a great county with an environmental disaster on its hands for almost 500,000 people every few years. And 500,000 people won’t tolerate repeditive losses on their greatest investment. The river has reached a tipping point and its coming for the people. This problem needs a BIG FIX. Best to address the problem before it gets worse.
Two years ago, in 2013, when the toxic waters of the St Lucie River/Southern Indian River Lagoon, stagnated under the baking sun of summer, and every man, woman, child, and dog was told by the Martin County Health Department, “not to touch the water,” there was a dream…
A dream that even the president of the United States of America would know that the polluted discharges by the ACOE and SFWMD from Lake Okeechobee “tip our rivers over the edge” turning them into a toxic soup, killing “protected” seagrasses, nearshore reefs, wildlife, property values, tourism, and every child’s summer. (A “lost summer” that may happen again with the government agencies discharging since January 16th, 2015.)
In 2013, the situation was so dire, that multiple schools along the Treasure Coast organized writing letters, by the hundreds, to the president of the United States, Barack Obama, asking him to help to SAVE OUR RIVERS.
Those letters and art work did get to the White House and were surely hedged-off by White House staff, who read the letters, but then neatly filed them away, sending a nice packet back to the students and teachers “thanking them for the drawings of their dying rivers.”
This is just reality and no fault of the president or staff—today we live in an evolved bureaucracy, a system that perpetuates itself, that holds one at bay, that protects power and influence, that stagnates—-just like the waters of Lake Okeechobee flowing into our St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon….
But bureaucracies can be penetrated; walls can come down; dreams can come true..
For that to happen, you have to push very, very hard, and someone with some influence has to help you break through, someone has to cut you a break, someone has to stand up, someone has to stick their neck out….a champion….a champion, like Patrick Murphy.
Kudos to Congressman Patrick Murphy, our Treasure Coast congressman soon to be running for US Senate, who must have had to make a decision “quickly and under pressure” as to what message he would bring President Barack Obama on the tarmac.
When the president arrived along the Treasure Coast for a weekend of golf at the famed “Floridian” this past Saturday, Congressman Murphy could have spoken about anything, but chose a message that had to do with everyone, a message that is neither “democrat” or “republican,” a message about the future….and today:
“the wish for clean water”….
Will President Obama go back to Washington and everything with our rivers will suddenly change?
Of course not.
But the president will know the name of the river he likes to play golf on, and he will know it has problems. He will talk to other people about his trip over a beer, and he will say:
“You know, that young Congressman, Murphy, he greeted me with a bottle of toxic water. Can you believe it? It surprised me. He spoke up for those people. I looked the St Lucie River up on the internet on the flight home…unbelievable…”
These words, and others spoken over time, will make great headway for our dreams of a better water future. History has been made.