Tag Archives: State of Florida

A Closer Look at DeSantis’ Executive Order 19-12: “Achieving More Now For Florida’s Environment”

On January 10th, Florida’s Office of the Governor, under very newly elected Ron DeSantis, issued Executive Order 19-12. The title of this order is “Achieving More Now For Florida’s Environment.” It is a remarkable and voluminous piece.

Today, I am going to share it in full as you may have only heard about parts of it in the newspaper.

*For entire Executive Order 19-12 link here; you may wish to print out for your files: https://www.flgov.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/EO-19-12-.pdf

Here we go–

First, note the “Whereases…” giving background and laying foundation for the order.

Whereas, water and natural resources are the foundation of Florida’s communities, economy and way of life; and

Whereas, protection of water resources is one of the most critical issues facing our state and requires immediate action; and

Whereas, recent algae blooms have resulted in an increasing threat to our environment and fragile ecosystems, including our rivers, beaches, and wildlife, as well as causing the issuance of health advisories, closures of recreational areas and economy losses in adjacent communities; and

Whereas, as the Governor of the State of Florida, a primary mission of my tenure is to follow in words of President Theodore Roosevelt by having Florida treat its “natural resources as assets which it must turn over to the next generation increased, and not impaired, in value”;

Now, Therefore, I Ron DeSantis, as Governor of Florida, by virtue of the authority vested in me by Article IV, Section (1) (a) of the Florida Constitution, and all other applicable laws, do hereby issue the following Executive Order, to take immediate effect:

The order is five pages long, with three sections:

Section 1: Focus on Rapid Improvement of Water Quality, Quality, and Supply (A-O) 15 parts directed to the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP); the Department of Health; Visit Florida; and the Department of  Economic  Opportunity.

Section 2: Restructuring, to Focus on Accountability, Transparently, and Science  to Achieve More Now for Florida’s Environment (A-C) 3 parts directed only to the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP)

Section 3: Ensure Florida’s Valuable and Vulnerable Coastlines and Natural Resources are Protected (A-B) 2 parts, again,  directed only to the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP)

There are a total of 20 parts to the executive order. Note state’s organizational chart: DEP’s place is as an executive agency under the governor, Executive Branch. Water Management Districts are under the governor but fall in the “local government” section as the Water Management Districts have the power to levy taxes within their districts,  but are appointed by the Governor.

Please peruse entire executive order below. Read at least first line or underlined and know that it is not one, but all of these “declarations within the declaration” that will empower government structure, if steered by true captains, to abate water woes for all Springs, Estuaries, Rivers, Lakes, and the Everglades of Florida. Thank you Governor DeSantis for this map!

Governor’s website: https://www.flgov.com/2019/01/10/icymi-governor-ron-desantis-discusses-major-water-policy-reforms-in-sarasota/

Map of Public Lands in the EAA, Lands Owned by the State, SLR/IRL

Reporter Tyler Treadway’s Stuart News articles today poses the question: “Can State Build Reservoir on Public Land to Move Lake O Water South?”So, I thought I’d share this map of Everglades Agricultural Area Lands in Public (State) Ownership along with a list of owners created by the Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council. The piece noted in the article is the around the lighter looking triangle, #10 . It’s a great map and very educational…In any case, with any argument, #SupportJoeNegron

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#s enlarged

‘For his part, Negron said he just wants to get whatever land is needed to “store, clean and move enough Lake Okeechobee water south to reduce and ultimately eliminate the discharges. I’m open to considering all options: private land, state land, federal land or any other.” ‘ Stuart News

Tyler Treadway, TCPalm http://www.tcpalm.com/story/news/local/indian-river-lagoon/health/2017/01/13/lake-okeechobee-st-lucie-river-everglades/96484530/

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President of the Senate, Joe Negron
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Senator Negron’s proposed map for land purchase in the EAA.

TCPRC:http://www.tcrpc.org

Citrus Along the Indian River Lagoon, A Killer and a Necessity

Historic postcard, Indian River Citris. (Collection of Sandra Henderson Thurlow)
Historic postcard, Indian River Citris. (Collection of Sandra Henderson Thurlow.)

Thousands of years ago, humankind found a way to avoid the constant nomadic life of following big game, becoming more self sufficient, learning the art of agriculture. Nothing has made our lives better. Unfortunately, after thousands of years of its evolution, nothing has made our lives worse.

Don’t get me wrong, I realize that agriculture an important industry, the second largest after tourism, in the state of Florida. Still, we must look at its issues and try to make things better.

Agriculture is a high intensity land use, using large amounts of pesticides, fertilizers, and fungicides that over time accumulate in the water and the environment. The May 2014 issue of National Geographic states that “farming is the largest endeavor on earth using just under 40 percent of the earth’s surface causing the second largest  impact to the earth, erosion.” 

Much of the land in our area is devoted to agriculture as well, particularly citrus.

The Indian River Lagoon region is famous for its delicious citrus and although the industry is in decline due to canker, it has had huge impacts on the IRL area due to the canal system built to drain the land and water the crops. The muck that has entered the lagoon since the early 1900s is mostly from erosion of canals, due to the runoff from agriculture as they drain their lands that were once swamp or wetlands.

The Indian River Lagoon Region runs from Palm Beach to Volusia Counties, along the 156 miles of the lagoon. (USDA map 2011)
The Indian River Lagoon Region runs from Palm Beach to Volusia Counties, along the 156 miles of the lagoon. (USDA map 2011.)

The USDA documented 89,367 acres of citrus in the Indian River Lagoon region in 2009, declining to 81,673 in 2010. There is a lot of land devoted to citrus, land that has been radically altered from its original state and affects the Indian River Lagoon as there are literally thousands of miles of canals attached and interwoven along these groves. All eventually dump to the river or other water body.

In 1994 the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) determined that the north fork of the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon, a registered state “Aquatic Preserve,” was contaminated by pesticides that came from the citrus groves in the area of the St Lucie’s headwaters, Ten Mile Creek. (http://www.dep.state.fl.us/southeast/ecosum/ecosums/tenmile_creek.pdf)

In 2002, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection labeled the St Lucie River as “impaired.” Reading through the document there is clear determination of agricultures’ role  in this process, especially with sediment run off, pesticides and heavy metals that have accumulated in the environment. (http://www.dep.state.fl.us/southeast/ecosum/ecosums/SLE_Impairment_Narrative_ver_3.7.pdf)

All postcards of citrus industry in Florida, ca. 1912. (Collection of Sandra Henderson Thurlow.)
All postcards of citrus industry in Florida, ca. 1912. (Collection of Sandra Henderson Thurlow.)

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Reading through the documents it is noted that many of the agricultural areas are quite old, as the post cards I am sharing today from my mother’s  collection are from 1912 and 1914.  According to the FDEP, many of the areas around Ten Mile Creek did not have BMPs, or best management practices in place, as they were  there before such rules were voluntarily implemented in the 1980s and 90s.

I don’t get it. Our environmental agencies have seen the writing on the wall for decades and even with the modern implementations of BMPs, (http://solutionsforyourlife.ufl.edu/hot_topics/agriculture/bmps.htmlwhere farmers try to minimize their impacts on our waterbodies, the rivers, estuaries, and lakes are filling up with excess nitrogen and phosphorus from fertilizer and other pollutants at an alarming rate.

Yes, the FDEP is implementing TMDLs or total  maximum daily loads through the BMAP, or basin management action plan, where municipalities and counties are required to lower their nutrient levels in waterbodies, but these are 15 and 30 year goals, that most certainly will take longer to truly implement. Also agriculture is exempt under the law and Right to Farm Act. They, as mentioned, implement BMPs but it may take fifty or more years to get all farms up to speed, if ever. Do we have that much time?

In the meanwhile, we watch or rivers dying from local runoff from C-23, C-23, and C-44  supporting the citrus and agriculture industries in Martin and St Lucie Counties.  On top of this, during major rain events, Lake Okeechobee, also full of agriculture runoff and high nutrients suspended in muck, from the sometimes back pumping sugar industry south of the lake, pours into the St Lucie River as well, wreaking any work we have done locally to meet local TMDLs.

Would I rather see the citrus lands developed for houses?

No. I rather fix the problems we have. And even though its called “corporate welfare,” I think state, federal, and local governments must help agriculture operate in a way that is not killing the environment. Some of the funds from the state this year that came out of the Senate Hearing on the IRL are doing this and the state really has been helping “forever,” but quietly, under the radar.

It is time to come full out to the public and explain the situation: we must feed ourselves and support our historic industry, but agriculture/citrus is killing our waterways.

In conclusion, of course the industry should make every effort itself to improve the situation, and some are more than others. In any case, we cannot just point fingers at them, we must help them. Perhaps we should bond together and put into law even better, stricter management practices, that will give the children of our state a future, not just eating, but also fishing, swimming and boating in a clean river.

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IFAS, Update on Best Management Practices, 2014: (http://www.crec.ifas.ufl.edu/extension/trade_journals/2014/2014_January_best_mgt.pd)

USDA and State of Florida Citrus Report 2009: (http://www.nass.usda.gov/Statistics_by_State/Florida/Publications/Citrus/fcs/2009-10/fcs0910.pdf)

The Spirit of Dugout Canoes and the Modern Paddleboard of the Indian River Lagoon

The dugout canoe is the precursor of today's paddle boards and was used by many Florida Native Tribes for transpiration along the Indian River Lagoon.
The hand made dugout canoe is the precursor of today’s paddle board and was used by many Florida Native American tribes for transportation along the Indian River Lagoon. (Painting, by Ted Morris, Ais Indian warrior hunting along lagoon. Courtesy of historian Sandra Thurlow.)
River Kidz member Mary paddle boards at Paddlefest 2013.
River Kidz member, Mary, paddle boards in the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon, at Paddlefest 2013.

I find the recent craze in paddle boarding fascinating and symbolic. The culmination of this craze locally occurred this past weekend with “Paddlefest 2014,” organized by Mike Flaugh and Cam Collins.  Hundreds of young people and adults were able able to get on the water, many for the very first time, to make a personal connection with the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon.

As we navigate our waters today, we must keep in mind the history of other Florida people’s who used  a similar, handmade, “standing,” basically flat board, hundreds of years  before us. Most notably, here in Stuart, the Ais Indians and later the Seminoles.

Florida Memory Project. Artist unlisted/subject Seminoles on dugout canoe,  near Lake Okeechobee.
“Florida Memory Project, “artist unlisted/subject, Seminoles on dugout canoe, near Lake Okeechobee.
Locations of the historic Native American Tribes in South Florida.
Locations of the historic Native American Tribes in South Florida. (Map, public.)

The Ais lived prior to the mid 1700s roughly from Stuart to Titusville, before their population was decimated by the Spanish; the Seminoles came to Florida from the Southeastern United States to avoid capture, and they too used dugout canoes, very similar to today’s paddle boards to move through the waterways and swamps.

Ebbs photograph of Seminole man in full regalia on dugout canoe, late 1800s early 1900s.
Ebbs photograph of Seminole man in full regalia on dugout canoe, late 1800s early 1900s.

I think the fighting and earth protecting spirit of the Indians is coming back with each person who takes up paddle boarding. In the 1600s, Jonathan Dickinson and others documented the Ais as the most warlike of all Florida tribes never succumbing to their captors, the remaining few left for Cuba. And the Seminoles? We know that story, they outsmarted the US Government, retreating to the interior of the Everglades, and never surrendered.

With a blessing and a plea for forgiveness, for our Native Peoples’ exterminated by prior generations before us, may their spirt protect and inspire us, in our modern fight against our US and State Government, and in many ways ourselves, to save the beautiful, the sacred, the Indian River Lagoon.

hundreds of children and adults paddle boarded thanks to Costal Padleboarding at PADDLEFEST 2014, many for the very first time.
Hundreds of children and adults paddle boarded thanks to Costal Padleboarding at PADDLEFEST 2014, many for the very first time!

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Ais Indians: (http://www.ancientnative.org/ais.php)

Ais Indians Genealogy/History : (http://www.accessgenealogy.com/native/ais-tribe-of-florida.htm)

Seminole Tribe of Florida: (http://www.semtribe.com)

Coastal Paddleboarding, Stuart, Florida  (http://coastalpaddleboarding.com)

Tumored Redfin Needlefish, Clues of Sickness in the Indian River Lagoon

Tumored needlefish are more common in the Indian River Lagoon than anywhere else in the state studied by the Florida Wildlife Commission. Why?
Tumored needlefish are more common in the Indian River Lagoon than anywhere else in the state. Why? (Photograph, public study, 1999-2009, by the Florida Wildlife Commission.)

I have decided to do a series of writings on the sick animals of the Indian River Lagoon because a “picture speaks a thousand words.” I am not trying to “focus on the negative,” or be a “hysterical woman.” I am trying to effect change.

I have heard about the sick animals, fish and bi-valves in the Indian River Lagoon “up close” at Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute’s, “IRL Symposium” of  which I have attended the past three years, since it has been resurrected. At these symposiums, students, state agencies and others share information. In fact, all of these individual agencies and scientists share information on their websites, but for some reason, it never really goes “public.”

So I will post this on Facebook and see if these sad stories that should be a call to our state federal,and local governments, get a bit more coverage. As we know, it seems the people have to scream before the elected officials and agencies pay much attention to the fact that the beautiful Indian River Lagoon world  we are living in is contaminated and crumbling before our very eyes.

So, to get back to the study,  the Florida Wildlife Commission (FWC) did comprehensive  research between 1999 and 2009. Ironically, 2009 is also the year the seagrass started to dip, foreshadowing  the massive die off of seagrasses and marine mammals in  the northern lagoon. The FWC study focused on the “Distribution of Lymphosarcoma in Redfin Needlefish, in the Indian River Lagoon.”

Redfin needlefish are approximately 380 millimeters, to me they look like miniature barracuda with smaller teeth and  are pretty cool, shiny, little fish. They live about three years, commercially serve as bait fish for marlin fishing, and are an important shallow water predators, eating lots of little bottom living  critters, lower on the food chain.

Generally, tumors are caused by chemical carcinogens, radiation, and viruses and can be benign (OK) or malignant (bad). The study included Tampa Bay; Charlotte Harbor; Apalachicola; Cedar Key; the St Johns River, and the Indian River Lagoon. Tumors were found on jaws, flanks, the trunk dorsal fin, the pectoral fin area and the head. The prevalence of these usually malignant tumors, in over 20,000 needlefish studied, specifically and especially  in the Indian River Lagoon was astounding.

chart needlefish

The highest area of tumors was the Banana River. The Banana River is part of the IRL system and is located mostly south of NASA in Brevard County.  As mentioned, it is also where the highest seagrass loss was during the super-bloom of 2011. This super-bloom was followed by a secondary bloom and Brown Tide that spread south, just north of the Fort Pierce Inlet, also killing seagrasses and wildlife.

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I am no scientist, but it seems like the Banana River has some serious issues. Of course we would not want to jump to any conclusions….We wouldn’t want to frighten the public…..We wouldn’t want to hurt tourism, especially now.” Shhhhh!”

Tumored needlefish were also found in the southern lagoon, but not the majority. I feel better already. NOT. The lagoon is a system, the animals and fish know no county lines nor do the tides, wind or water. Even if water does not move much, sickness can spread or point to latent problems of our own.  We must think as “one-system,” and help each other as one entity, if we are going to save this lagoon.

The study of which is included in this post below, has a bullet point that says “no tumors were found after 2009.”  Noting that there is no clue when the study ended, this seems odd.

Hmm….. I wonder if that’s because there was no money put forth by the state for more comprehensive studies after the financial crisis of 2008? I wonder if its because the wonderful hard working people at the state agencies were afraid if they were too brazen the state would fire them? Believe me this happens.

Personally, I think the State of Florida, local governments, and the Department of Environmental Protection have some information to share, and some more research to do, for the little fish, and for us.

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FWC’s Study Tumored Needlefish IRL, 1999-2009: (http://www.ircgov.com/Lagoon/Symposium/Presentations/Part3/3.pdf)