Tag Archives: Stuart NEws

Ernie Lyons’ St Lucie Places of Magic, by Bill Lyons

The creative seed for this blog post dates back to 2011. On November 1st in 2011, my mother forwarded Bill Lyons, son of famed Stuart News conservationist and newspaperman, Ernest Lyons, an email that had been sent to me by Mrs. Sheri Anker of the St Lucie County Conservation Alliance. Sheri had come up with an idea to erect a series of signs throughout the St Lucie River highlighting the favorite spots that “Ernie” so passionately and lovingly wrote about throughout his career.

The following essay is Ernie’s son Bill’s response to my mother’s inquiry for guidance on creating a historic Ernie Lyons’ St Lucie River tour, as Sheri envisioned: “Travels with Ernie on his Rio de Luz.”

Bill’s reply was insightful, poetic, and bittersweet. Bill updated the piece in 2014 -after reading about the St Lucie’s “Lost Summer” of 2013, the tipping point causing a tsunami river movement resurgence that even from the grave, through republished essays in the Stuart News, was inspired by the spirit of Ernie Lyons. Recently my mother rediscovered Bill’s essay in her files and now seems like a good time to rethink the sign idea.

It is my wish that after we read Bill’s tribute to his father, we follow through on Sheri’s idea for signage along the St Lucie River. Indeed, it is difficult to mark what is “favorite” when you love it all, but one thing is certain, we must ensure that our beloved river and the spirit of Mr. Ernest Lyons continues so that “progress” in the future won’t mean a bulldozer.

 

Favorite Places on the River, by Bill Lyons

Ernest Lyons, my father, first came to Stuart, Florida in 1913 and lived there for most of his life. He worked at the Stuart News for 40-some years, retiring as editor in 1975. Dad loved to fish and above all he loved the St. Lucie River, an affection evident in his writings. A few years ago an admirer of that writing suggested erecting signage at Dad’s favorite places on the River. This is my response.

Ernie Lyons as a boy

Dad’s favorite places changed with the moods of the River. For instance, I’m fairly sure North Fork Bay wasn’t his favorite place the day he couldn’t find shelter there from what he called a Blue Norther. He had gathered my mother, my sister and me in his boat and set off up the River to look at a piece of land. It rained and blew all the way up the River, abated for a while as he walked over the property, and then poured buckets all the way back to Stuart. Dad never owned a boat with a cabin or a cover, and I don’t recall that Mother ever got into one of his boats again.

Classic Ernie Lyons as a newspaperman, Stuart News

Dad really did love the North Fork, though. Willard Kiplinger commissioned Florida artist Beanie Backus to do a painting for Dad – “Just contact Beanie and tell him what you want” — so Dad requested a view from the shore where the narrow North Fork opens out into North Fork Bay. Beanie took a boat out there, sketched the scene, and the finished painting hangs in our home today. Many times in the nineteen forties and early fifties, Dad drove us to Burt Pruitt’s Fish Camp, rented a skiff, and motored down to where two branches of the North Fork converge. The River then was alive with fish and birds and alligators, but by the late fifties, it was gone. Drainage from the Rim Ditch Canal (C-24) did so much damage to that part of the River that it lost its sparkle. I don’t think Dad ever went back to the North Fork; after that, he just lived with the memories.

Bean Backus, “The narrow North Fork opening out into North Fork Bay.”

When Dad wrote about festoons of asters along the banks and sprays of orchids hanging from oaks over the River, he was thinking of the South Fork in summer. He took me there many times and we caught lots of fish, but the magical memories are of the flowers and of the tarpon and manatees that came rolling by while we sat quietly watching. During summer, sheet-flow from the Allapattah Flats converged in tiny rivulets into a deep pool with a sand bottom, the first of a series of pools connected by shallow streams of clear water that formed the headwaters of the South Fork. Dad loved that place, not just for its beauty but for its solitude. It could only be reached by Jeep during the wet season, so we hitched rides with the local game warden, who would drop us off and return for us later. Clyde Butcher’s photos of the upper Loxahatchee River are the nearest thing I’ve seen to what once was the upper South Fork. Then in the fifties, construction of the Florida Turnpike cut off the flow of freshwater to the River. Soon saltwater intrusion crept up the South Fork, impeding the spawning of its fish, and the River began to die. In 1962, a friend and I drove to the former site of the headwaters. The area had been bulldozed and the pool had become a cattle watering hole.

Fork of the St Lucie, Sandra Thurlow

Dad loved many places on the River. Some nights he would drive over to Lighthouse Point (the one with the restaurant on US 1, not the development). He took a lantern, a single-tined spear, and a croaker sack and went wading for flounders. He knew just where they would be, hanging at the edge of the bar waiting for unwary fish and shrimp to wash by. A few hours later he would come home, dump a bag of flounders into the kitchen sink, and start cleaning them. Then the mud from Lake Okeechobee washed down the River and the flounders went away.

https://www.savebromeliads.com/floridas-bromeliads

Dad loved the widest part of the River, where vast schools of mullet gathered along the north shore. Tarpon and snook, seatrout and jack crevalle would attack the mullet and drive them grey-hounding in waves across the River, often all the way to the shores of Stuart. Interactions between Plains wolves and bison were no more dramatic. Much of the action happened at night as we lay in our beds, listening to the mullet thundering across the River. When hurricane season approached, immense schools of fingerling mullet moved down the River, sometimes taking several days to pass Stuart. They too ran the gauntlet of snook and jacks, and residents flocked to the shore to fish. Who then could not love the River, unless he were a mullet?

Burt Pruitt’s Fish Camp, North Fork. St Lucie River

In my early years, Dad loved the lower St. Lucie around Hell Gate, that part of the River that separates lower Sewall’s Point from Port Sewall. Again, it was the fishing that brought him there. When winter storms blew, he could find shelter in the lee of Sewall’s Point, and that’s where he would be, trolling for bluefish or bottom-fishing for weakfish. After the months-long runoff from the ’47 and ’49 hurricanes, though, the fish did not return.

Where the River rounds Sewall’s Point it meets the Indian River Lagoon and together their waters flow over large seagrass beds on their way to St. Lucie Inlet. Dad loved casting for large seatrout on the grass flats, and it was there that he and I were fishing in Dale Hipson’s iconic photo that graces one of Dad’s books.

And of course he loved the inlet, where the River meets the sea. Dad was enchanted by the place he called the Sun Parlor, the channel that hooked north around Sailfish Point and spread out to feed the adjacent grass-beds. Ancient black and red mangroves hung in the water along the channel, and sheepshead and snappers could be seen swimming among the snags in the gin-clear waters on flood tides. Sharks were not uncommon in the channel, and queen conchs and large horse conchs lived in the grass-beds. If you wanted to see a roseate spoonbill in Martin County in the fifties, that’s where it would be. Dad spent countless hours in the Sun Parlor. Then the developers came in the late fifties, and it was lost.

“Ernie with son Bill and Pudge pop-corking at the Crossroads off Sewall’s Point, 1950s” Photo courtesy of Dr. Dale Hipson. Cover of The Last Cracker Barrel by Ernest Lyons

Dad loved Bessey Creek, a tributary of the lower North Fork, and once in the early fifties he accompanied me and two other boys on a camping trip to the upper reaches of the creek. Around the campfire at night, Dad told us of a remote pond connected to the main creek by a hidden stream that he found in his youth. We boys searched until we found it, and we took Dad back there to fish. Judging from the abundance of hungry bass in that pond, I don’t think anyone had been there for decades. There were no houses on Bessey Creek then, and we could spend days without seeing another human being. But around 1960 the county built a new road to extend Murphy Road across C-23 Canal. The road cut across upper Bessey Creek virtually on top of our old campsite and passed within 100 yards of the hidden pond. When I returned from the Army in 1962, I walked across a sand lot from the road to the bank of the pond and gazed at the empty bait cups and beer cans on its shore. Humpty Dumpty was off the wall.

Aerial maps suggest that Mile Lake and a few adjacent lakes in southern St. Lucie County may be ox-bows, formed as part of the North Fork but pinched off as the River meandered away. In his boyhood Dad camped and fished around Mile Lake, and he took me there many times. I don’t know if Dad knew Mile Lake had once been part of the River, but it may explain his affection for the place. He loved the River in all of its many parts, but I don’t know how he’d have felt about Mile Lake surrounded by homes and golf courses as it is now.

Ernie Lyons with Bass, possibly Mile Lake

Dad had a love/hate relationship with the St. Lucie Canal. Its discharges damaged the River downstream, and he campaigned tirelessly but futilely for the Army Corps of Engineers to manage it responsibly. Still, when many of his favorite places were gone, fishing remained good in the canal, and Dad could drive out and fish along its banks. Then, testing found some of the nation’s highest readings for pesticides and heavy metals in fish from the canal. That’s when Dad gave up fishing.

If anyone were to put up signage at Dad’s favorite places on the River, they would need lots of signs. And the signs should say “This was one of Ernest Lyons’ favorite places, a place of magic, until progress did it in. Sit quietly, look closely and try to imagine the sparkle that once was here.” If you can’t see the sparkle, it just looks like water. Or, more recently, like guacamole.

~Bill Lyons, son of Ernest Lyons

A mullet jumps at sunset, St Lucie River off of North River Shores, photo Todd Thurlow.

Biography of Bill’s father, Ernest Lyons

Florida Newspaper Hall of Fame, Ernest Lyons, 1994

Lyons began working as a reporter for The Stuart News in 1931. He also worked as an advertising salesman, printing salesman, then as advertising director for the paper. He became editor in 1945, serving until his retirement on March 1, 1975. He died April 6, 1990, at age 85.

Under Lyons the paper grew from a tiny independent weekly to a lively Scripps Howard daily. As editor, Lyons practiced community journalism at its best. He had a keen sense of what local people wanted to read and a zeal to guard their interests. Fearing that rapid population growth and urbanization might ruin coastal Florida, Lyons fought for  protection of endangered water resources and wildlife habitats.

In 1965, his newspaper columns won the nationwide Edward J. Meeman Award for conservation writing. His writings, some composed 30 or more years ago, still are quoted by conservationists because they ring with enduring concepts and timeless values.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My do things change.

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

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

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

Aerials of Our Rain Stained Lagoon, SLR/IRL

Recently, it seems to rain almost every day!

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.

IMG_5231.JPG
SLR at “Hell’s Gate” looking at Sewall’s Point, Sailfish Point and the St Luice Inlet
photo drainage basin
Drainage changes to the SLR. Green is the original watershed. Yellow and pink have been added since ca.1920. (St Lucie River Initiative’s Report to Congress 1994.)

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

TC Palm, Elliott Jones, 6-19-17
Bird Island, IRL east of Sewall’s Point
Bird Island
IRL St Lucie Inlet and Sailfish Point
Sailfish Flats, IRL
Crossroads, confluence SLR/IRL off Sewall’s Point
Spoil Island off Sailfish, bird also roosting here!
Sick looking seagrass beds in IRL looking south towards Jupiter Narrows
SL Inlet near Sailfish Point, no black plume but darker colored waters
Jupiter Island’s state park at St Lucie Inlet
Sailfish Point
St Lucie Inlet looking south
inlet again
Clear ocean water at jetty, St Lucie Inlet
Looking back to St Lucie Inlet mixed colored waters but not black as with Lake O water releases
St Lucie Inlet between Jupiter Island’s state park and Sailfish Point
inlet again
Looking north to SL Inlet
Jetty
Hutchinson Island and Sailfish Flats in IRL. Sewall’s Point in distance.
Parts of the Savannas near Jensen , IRL and Hutchinson Island in distance
Savannas State Preserve Park

Canals draining water into SLR/IRL after rain events:

C-23 http://www.dep.state.fl.us/southeast/ecosum/ecosums/c23.pdf

C-24 http://www.dep.state.fl.us/southeast/ecosum/ecosums/c24.pdf

C-25 http://www.dep.state.fl.us/southeast/ecosum/ecosums/c-25.pdf

C-44 http://www.dep.state.fl.us/southeast/ecosum/ecosums/C-44%20Canal%20.pdf

Thank you to the “The Man in The Arena,” Joe Negron, SLR/IRL

 

Letter to Senator Negron, 2014

THE MAN IN THE ARENA

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

Theodore Roosevelt, from “Citizenship in a Republic,” Paris, 1910

Joe Negron at River Kidz protests at St Lucie Locks and Dam because of Lake O releases in 2102.
River Kidz walk with Senator Joe Negron, Stuart 4th of July Parade 2013

Thank you for keeping your word to the Kidz, and fighting your heart out for Florida’s water future. As you, we will “Never, Never, Never Give Up!”

 

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

file-page1-4.jpg

FullSizeRender 2.jpg
#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/

636153421042051226-Joe-Negron.JPG
President of the Senate, Joe Negron
file-page1.jpg
Senator Negron’s proposed map for land purchase in the EAA.

TCPRC:http://www.tcrpc.org

“Sacrificed for the Protection of U.S. Sugar and Agricultural Lands…” Dr Goforth Refutes US Sugar Ads, SLR/IRL

 

Engineer, Dr Gary Goforth led the SFWMD Storm Water Treatment Dr. Gary Goforth has more than 30 years of experience in water resources engineering, encompassing strategic planning, design, permitting, construction, operation and program management. design for over a decade.
Dr. Gary Goforth has more than 30 years of experience in water resources engineering, encompassing strategic planning, design, permitting, construction, operation and program management. (Photo JTL, 2015)
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The following was written by Dr Gary Goforth as a response to U.S. Sugar Corporation’s months long ad campaign in the Stuart News.
http://garygoforth.net

· The health and economies of the St. Lucie River and Estuary, the Caloosahatchee Estuary, and Florida Bay have been sacrificed for decades by the management of Lake Okeechobee for the protection of US Sugar and other agricultural lands south of the Lake.

The recent ad blitz by US Sugar appears to be an attempt to divert the public’s attention away from this preferential treatment and from an egregious betrayal of south Florida taxpayers perpetrated by US Sugar, the Florida legislature and the Governor’s administration – the failure to exercise the willing seller contract to purchase US Sugar land south of the lake. Failure to secure needed land south of the Lake is the single biggest obstacle to long-term protection of the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries from destructive Lake discharges, and providing Florida Bay and lower east coast wellfields with needed water.

· Water storage necessary to reduce high flows to the estuaries by about 90% will require about 10% of the land in the EAA – not complete elimination of farming in the area. The recent UF Water Institute study reconfirmed what scientists have been saying for decades – additional storage and treatment beyond what is currently planned in CERP and CEPP is needed south of the Lake: “If this required storage were to be provided strictly though deep 12-ft reservoirs, new land area between approximately 11,000 and 43,000 acres would be required south of Lake Okeechobee.” The upper limit – 43,000 acres – is less than ¼ of the amount of land US Sugar was willing to sell to the state (187,000 acres).

· Regarding the numbers in the ads – some are accurate, some are completely fictitious (e.g., the distribution of water from Lake Okeechobee), and many critical numbers are missing, e.g.,

-millions of pounds of nitrogen and phosphorus from lake Okeechobee that  feed algal blooms and wreak havoc on the ecology of the river, estuary, lagoon and near-shore reefs. (million off pounds of nutrients that the State of Florida ignores in their BMAP progress reports for the St Lucie River.)
– the hundreds of millions of pounds of Lake Okeechobee sediment that turned a once sand-bottom clear water estuary into a muck-filled lagoon that belches blackwater every time it rains.
– the hundreds of millions of dollars of economic impact to local businesses, tourism and real estate values attributable to poor water quality
If you’re interested go to the SFWMD’s (or my) website.

· Most of the area that the ads calls “local waterways” did not flow into the St. Lucie River (SLR) until after the major agricultural drainage canals (C-23, C-24, C-25 and C-44) were dug, connecting more than 250,000 acres to the SLR. Historically these areas flowed north into the St. Johns River watershed, south into the Loxahatchee and Everglades watersheds, evaporated or recharged the groundwater.

· The ads ignore the fact that more than half of the “local watershed” is agriculture, and that more than half of the flows and nutrient loads to the St. Lucie River and Estuary come from agricultural land use.

· Nutrient loads from septic tanks along the Indian River Lagoon need to be addressed in cost-effective ways based on good science. Nevertheless, nutrient loading and sediment from Lake Okeechobee and agricultural runoff constitute a far greater threat to the health of the St. Lucie Estuary than does loading from Martin County septic tanks. The loading from septic tanks in Martin County have been overstated by upwards of 200-300%.

· The 2016 Florida Legislature was an unmitigated disaster for the environment of Florida, with misappropriations of Amendment 1 funds for the second year in a row and the passage of a water bill that rolled back environmental protection for the benefit of agricultural interests. What role did lobbyists for US Sugar and other agricultural interests play in this debacle? —–Dr. Gary Goforth

*Dr. Goforth has more than 30 years of experience in water resources engineering encompassing strategic planning, design, permitting, construction, operation and program management. For the last 25 years, his focus has been on large-scale environmental restoration programs in the Kissimmee-Okeechobee-Everglades ecosystem. He was the Chief Consulting Engineer during the design, construction and operation of the $700 million Everglades Construction Project, containing over 41,000 acres of constructed wetlands.  He is experienced in public education, water quality treatment design and evaluation, engineering design and peer review, systems ecology, statistical hydrology, hydrologic modeling, hydrodynamic modeling, water quality modeling, environmental permit acquisition and administration, hydrologic and water quality performance analyses. (Website: http://garygoforth.net)

 

Ad 6-10-15 Stuart News.
Ad 6-10-15 Stuart News.

Overcoming the Propaganda of U.S. Sugar Corporation in the Stuart News, SLR/IRL

US Sugar ad, Stuart News, May 1, 2016.
US Sugar ad, Stuart News, May 1, 2016.
Full page ad 5-1-16 US Sugar, Stuart News.
Full page ad 5-1-16 US Sugar, Stuart News.

It’s easier to communicate your message when you have billions of dollars, but it is not a limiting factor if you don’t…

Today, I will share a “Draft Report” from Dr Gary Goforth. This report is a response he has created specifically to U.S. Sugar Corporation’s May 1st full- page ad in the Stuart News entitled: “The Water That Ends Up In Our Local Waterways.”

This is one of multiple full-page ads U.S. Sugar Corporation has run in the local Martin County paper over that past months trying to “educate” our citizenry. Why are they spending so much money doing this? Why all the propaganda? Because they know that though our advocacy for the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon, we are changing the course of human events. For the first time, many people and some important politicians and are looking at South Florida and saying “It needs to be re-plumbed…..”

Dr Goforth (http://garygoforth.net) is no stranger to these water issues, nor to the controversy and ability to manipulate the numbers complicated by the historic and supportive relationship between those doing business in the Everglades Agricultural Area south of the lake and today’s South Florida Water Management District. Thus the intertwined propaganda.

So here we go, each idea is presented on a separate slide. You can click the slide to enlarge if you need to. Thank you Dr Goforth!

DRAFT COMMENTS ON U.S. SUGAR AD—G.GOFORTH 5-4-16

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Full page ad 5-1-16 US Sugar, Stuart News.
Full page ad 5-1-16 US Sugar, Stuart News.

(http://www.ussugar.com)

1856 pre drainage
1856 pre drainage

My Dream of the Last Black Bear on Hutchinson Island and the “One Sided War,” SLR/IRL

Hutchinson Island is located on the east side of the Indian River Lagoon–

Stuart News article 1976
“Captain Billy Pitchford” with the black bear he killed with a .303 Savage when it was raiding bee hives on Hutchison Island opposite Jensen Beach. This was the last bear killed on Hutchinson Island, 1926. (Stuart (Florida) News, 1969, archives, historian Sandra Henderson Thurlow)
FWC camp Ocala, (JTL)
FWC Conservation and Youth Camp Ocala, (JTL)
....
Lake Eaton

I find myself thinking of bears…recently I was in Silver Springs with my UF Natural Resources Leadership Institute class. We were staying at the Florida Wildlife Commissions’ Ocala Conservation Center and Youth Camp. That night, I couldn’t sleep, tossing and turning—the springs under my mattress squeaked relentlessly through the dead-aired, dark, dusty cabin. I knew I was keeping my bunk-mates awake. It was 2:00AM. I decided to get up. Walking out the door into cool darkness the stars shone like diamonds in a velvet sky; Orion looked down on me as he has since my childhood.

Standing alone in glory of the night, I wondered if I would see a bear. After all, I was in “bear country”…There had been a lot of talk about bears and the controversies of hunting during our session. I imagined that if I did see a bear, I would do what they say to do. I would stand tall and slowly back up. I would not run.

Later that night I fell asleep in my car, and dreamt of bears. In my dream, I forgot the rules and I ran.  The bear did not chase me, but rather stood up like a human and summoned me to a large rock; I went to him and he told me a story… his story of being the last bear shot on Hutchinson Island in Martin County, 1926…

Black Bear public image.
Black Bear public image.
Stuart (Florida) News, 1926
Story: The Last Black Bear on Hutchison Island. Stuart (Florida) News, 1926. (Courtesy of historian, Sandra Henderson Thurlow’s archives)

The bear looked me straight in the eye and began speaking in a steady, low voice:

“For countless centuries there were black bears on Hutchinson Island…they co-existed with the Indians whose mounds are found there. We roamed the beaches on the long summer nights, digging up loggerhead turtle eggs. When the white settlers came a few sailed over from the mainland to put out bees on the island and we knocked over the hives to get the honey…

It was tough being a bear….white men and bears were enemies in a one-sided war. In 1926 I was shot by Captain Billy Pitchford. I was the last bear on Hutchinson Island…”

Suddenly I awoke. My car window was open;  I heard owls hooting close by and the wind whistling through the spanish moss. My bones ached and moisture coated everything. I rolled on my side thinking about my dream. Thinking about the last bear shot on Hutchinson Island and the old Stuart News article my mother had given me…

Bears, I though…

“A one-sided war….”

That was the message.

The Florida Wildlife Commission sanctioned  bear hunt, the first since 1994, will begin in two days on October 24th. There is nothing wrong with hunting, but a man of dignity should never take pride in winning a one-sided war.
_______________________________________

FWC FAQ: (http://m.myfwc.com/wildlifehabitats/managed/bear/plan-faqs/hunting-faqs/)
News 13:

MyNews 13 (http://mynews13.com/content/news/cfnews13/news/article.html/content/news/articles/cfn/2015/6/24/fwc_bear_hunt_vote.html)

UF NRLI: (http://nrli.ifas.ufl.edu)

FWC, 2015.
FWC, 2015.
Image west coast newsletter, 2015.
Image west coast newsletter, 2015.

Recycled Inspiration, The Words of Ernest F. Lyons, St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon

What a wonderful world. Sunset on the St Lucie River, photo by Jenny Flaugh, 2009.
What a wonderful world! Sunset on the St Lucie River, photo by Jenny Flaugh, 2009.

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.”

Recycle symbol.
……
Ernest Lyons copy of column, ca 1950.
Ernest Lyons– copy of column, ca 1950.Copied from old Stuart News paper. Sandra H. Thurlow.

“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)

Stuart Heritage Museum: (http://www.stuartheritagemuseum.com)

Storms of the River, the Timeless Words of Ernest F. Lyons, SLR/IRL

Storm forming over the Indian River Lagoon. (Photo JTL 8-11-15.)
Storm forming over the Indian River Lagoon around sunset, North Sewall’s Point.  (Photo JTL 8-11-15.)

 

Storm approaching over the IRL. (JTL)
Low clouds of storm approaching over the IRL. (JTL)

Late yesterday afternoon, I walked the Ernest Lyons Bridge between Sewall’s Point and Hutchinson Island. There was a storm in the west–way off in the distance over Palm City perhaps. In what seemed like minutes the storm had flattened and stretched out over the St Lucie River and Indian River Lagoon. It was upon me.

For a moment I was scared. There was lightning in the near distance. Cold rain pelted down. The winds generated tremendous power and the birds flying back to Bird Island were caught in place suspended like mobiles.

I started running,  not something I do ever anymore….

After stopping and starting, and taking  photos….. 🙂 I got safely to the other side.

I had ‘made it.” I felt invigorated. It’s good to be aware of your smallness against nature every once in a while….

Today I will share “Reflections on Reflections on a Jungle River” written by famed environmentalist and “Stuart News” editor Ernest Lyons. The work is transcribed by my mother, historian Sandra Henderson Thurlow. I think  Ernie’s essay “captures the storm better than I ever could…although he is writing about the St Lucie or Loxahatchee,  the sister Indian River seems  just the same…

Storm forming in iridescent blue and white. (JTL)
Looking overhead –storm forming in iridescent blue and white. (JTL)

 

Reflection on Reflections on a Jungle River

by Ernest Lyons (http://www.flpress.com/node/63)

Transcribed from My Florida

 

Drifting on the surface of a Florida jungle river, like the South Fork of the St. Lucie or the Northwest Branch of the Loxahatchee, I experience the feeling that nothing is ordinary, nothing is commonplace.

The onyx surface of the water reflects in perfect color the images of the bushy headed cabbage palms, the moss draped live-oaks and cypresses along the banks.

Cascading clumps of wild asters and a fragile white spider-lily are mirrored on the smooth blank film. I drift in my rowboat on top of an image of scenery. There is probably, a natural law which some logically minded egghead can recite to explain how a color image can be reflected on the face of a river, but please don’t quote it. I would rather marvel.

What has happened to awe? Where has wonder gone? I suspect that too much has been “explained” by the ignorant to the stupid. Modern man’s greatest loss of spirit may be that he has ceased to be amazed at the wonders all around him.

Looking up from the tunnel of trees one sees more intimately the blue sky and white clouds. Why blue? Why white? Why are the palm fronds that glittering green? Why is that crimson color on the air plant’s flowering spikes? I glance at the molten sun above the palm trees. Just a glance. What frailty is in us that we can not ever look the sun in the eye? I remember a snatch of Alfred Noyes’ poem to the sun: “My light upon the far, faint planets that attend me…whose flowers watch me with adoring eyes…”

A flower can do what a man cannot; it can look the sun in the eye. Mighty Ra to whom the ancient Egyptians built temples on the banks of the Nile. The Sun God who controlled the seasons, the droughts and the floods. We smile at the fantasies of the Pharaohs and have replaced them with plain, old ordinary sun among millions like it sending out radiation as it burns nuclear fuel. But it still does what Ra did — and sunlight remains as great a mystery now as then.

The river on which I drift begins in that distant flaming sphere pouring our rays of light that suck mists from the sea to make clouds in the sky.

So simple a process. There’s really nothing to it. Just done with light. All of the rivers and all of the clouds all over the world are children of a star. The sun is their father, the sea is their mother and they are born and reborn again so long as the light shines on the waters. We yawn at continuing creation. It is all explainable, if you just have a logical mind. I’m glad I don’t.

Storm over Sewall's Point. (JTL)
Storm in distance over Sewall’s Point. (JTL)
Storm rapidly approaching, IRL. (JTL)
Storm rapidly approaching, IRL. (JTL)

I would make a good Druid. I believe in magic and in miracles, in mysteries and wonders, and that trees, mountains, rivers, even clouds and certain secret places have personalities. I like storms. I enjoy watching the maneuvering of giant thunderheads, edging around each other, moving in closer, muttering and grumbling and threatening, coming together and destroying each other with furies of wind, crashes of lighting and deluges of rain.

They remind me of the ponderous movements of great governments coming in on each other toward a war which everyone wants to avoid —until caught in the thick of it, when all must make the best of it. One is a storm of mist, the other a storm of belief —and the second is the least tangible and the most destructive. The sun makes one from water; we from the other from thoughts and beliefs. As we believe, they are shaped. What a power for good or evil is the human mind, making its own storms, malignant and benign.

Storms up the river remind me of creatures that sneak up and pounce. You hear them muttering, you see them coming, you figure they are going to miss you—and there is a time when you could do something about avoiding them. Then there is a point of no return. You are definitely caught, can do nothing to escape. There is no place to go.

You look at the bright side. You are glad you are not in a small boat at sea. You are going to get wet, but you are not going to be drowned. You are, after all, a land creature, and having shielding trees and firm land close by is relatively comforting. How human it is that, our first thought about the threat of nuclear storms is that perhaps—just perhaps, but hopefully—we may burrow into the earth and escape.

Hauled under a leaning palm, I endure the storm, but it finds me out and soaks me to the skin. And it is gone. Nothing is so completely gone as a storm that has passed or Druids or Pharaohs or empires in which people have stopped believing.

There are trickles and rivulets and creeklets coming into the river, making it whole again, flowing to the sea to be warmed once more by the sun and made into clouds to fill the river again.

What is light? I glance at incandescent Ra, but dare not look him in the eye. “You wet me good,” I say, “Now warm me up.”

Ernest Lyons Bridge marker. (JTL)
Ernest Lyons Bridge marker. (JTL)

 

 

Florida’s Population Growth and the Difficulty of Achieving Clean Water, SLR/IRL

Pipe from home along Indian River Drive directly disposing of sewage into IRL. Photo historian Sandra Thurlow. ca 1950s.
A pipe into the Indian River Lagoon from a cottage along the Indian River Drive goes directly into the river disposing of sewage. In our Treasure Coast’s regions’ early days there were no laws prohibiting this. Photo archives of historian Sandra Thurlow. ca late 1950/60s.

It’s been a tough week for river lovers.

It was reported by the Stuart News and others that a gentleman died suddenly after being “stuck by a fish.” He had put in his line in the Indian River Lagoon, near Harbor Branch, in St Lucie County. Just a few days later, the headlines noted the experience of Mr Bruce Osborn whose “knee and leg turned black, swelled up, and became hot to the touch after he dove into the confluence of the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon. Mr Osborn was boating near the Sandbar which is located within sight of the St Lucie Inlet…

Mr Osborn had an open sore….he recovered with prompt, emergency-room, antibiotic-treatment and a good wife.

Today in Stuart New’s “Letters to the Editor” a retired New York sheriff is of the opinion that the news of the fisherman had been “sensationalized” noting that “no autopsy had been performed on the man– who died…..”

Who is right? Who is wrong? Or does “truth” lie somewhere in between?

Who knows…But it is all certainly worth thinking about.

Interestingly enough, in this river or near-ocean story, the culprit would not be a shark or anything scary like that, but rather a microscopic bacteria or virus that cannot even be seen….

Bacteria is everywhere. In soil and in water. On our skin and in our bodies. For humans there is “good” and “bad” bacteria.

How do we know where there “bad” bacteria is in the river?

Canal and basin map SLR/IRL. (Public)
Canal and basin map SLR/IRL. (Public) The basin has been expanded at least 5x its natural size since 1920.

I don’t know, but I do know numbers of bacteria everywhere in water communities are highest in the sediment.  Sediment is the sand, clay and other soil types that build up on the bottom of the river  in the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon and all estuaries of the world.

(http://voices.nationalgeographic.com/2015/06/14/new-tool-to-monitor-harmful-bacteria-at-beaches/)

Muck from the bottom of the Indian River Lagoon.
Muck from the bottom of the Indian River Lagoon. (Public photo)

In our area, the most recent hundred years of sediment, this “muck,” has been heavily affected by human alteration of the environment, especially by drainage canals, like C-44, the drainage of Lake Okeechobee, C-23, C-24, and C-25,  as well as shoreline development’s tear down of native vegetation along the shoreline. (That can no longer filter runoff.)

Giant, mile-long canals drain mostly agricultural lands from out west. Many if not most of these lands never even drained into the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon in the first place. Not by God. Not by Nature. Just by “us” since around 1920.

So now literally thousands of pounds of fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, metals, oils from cars and roads, septic effluent…..the list goes on and on….so these pollutants run into our waterways building up in the sediments of the river, —-to be re-suspended with every storm, with every boat that races by……as the sediment builds and flocculates, bacteria grows–especially if it is warm..many fish live on the bottom of the river….

Estuary depiction public photo.
Estuary depiction public photo.

On the positive side, as far as water, many things have changed for the better since my childhood.

During  my lifetime, in the early 60s, sewage was directly dumped into the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon from homes and boats….I swam and skied  in this water every weekend….Not many people lived here. As kids, we did not know or notice although we used to make jokes about “logs passing by…”

🙂

And yes, since the 1960s and 70s tremendous improvements in sewage treatment plants, packaging plants, septic systems, “Best Management Practices” for Agriculture to lower runoff, etc…have been made. This is fantastic.

Ag runoff DEP photo.
Ag runoff DEP photo.

But we can never catch up….We are always chasing our tail….Because we keep putting more pollution into the system than we can clean up. Like putting too many fish in a fish tank, and not cleaning your gravel often enough…our relatively closed lagoon system has met its limit…

The chart below just goes to  the year 2000. Florida is now the third most populated state in the nation with over 19 million people. 19 million people’s’ waste….19 million people’s yards, and not just small time farmers anymore, but agribusiness– hundred of thousands of acres of fields and chemicals….a huge portion seeping into our water. Best Management Practices. That’s just not enough…Oh. Let’s not forget what runs down from Orlando….

What’s the truth? The truth is there are too many fish in our fish tank. And we whether we know the cause or not, until we stop draining  so much of our personal and agricultural waste into our waterways, we will continue to “drown in our own filth.”

Population of Florida....chart from Census
Population of Florida….chart from Census

_________________________________________________________________________
New Tool to Monitor Harmful Bacteria on Beaches: (http://voices.nationalgeographic.com/2015/06/14/new-tool-to-monitor-harmful-bacteria-at-beaches/)

Estuaries/Closed systems: (http://microbewiki.kenyon.edu/index.php/Estuaries)

This blog post goes into Vibrio V. the bacteria that can kill that has been documented in the IRL by Harbor Branch: (http://jacquithurlowlippisch.com/2014/11/12/vibrio-vulnificus-flesh-eating-or-not-st-lucie-riverindian-river-lagoon/)

Bacteria: (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bacteria)

“A Dangerous Game,” the SFWMD/Sugar Land Ads, Farm Bureau, SLR/IRL

Ad in Stuart News, 6-12-15.
Ad in Stuart News, 6-12-15.

If you are a regular reader of my blog, you may know that I prefer to write a “happy-Friday” St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon post…Sometimes though, the news of the day is too pressing, and it is more important to respond to the “question of the day.”

So here we go…

Early this morning,  I get a call…

“Jacqui, did you sees the ad in the Stuart News? Who is “We”? Is the ad from the SFWMD?Did the South Florida Water Management District pay for this ad? That would be wrong!”

My husband had already placed  the paper by my bedside; the ad’s headline read: WE DON”T NEED SUGAR’S LAND FOR EVERGLADES….With a foggy head, I recalled that there was a full-page ad in yesterday’s paper from US Sugar:

Ad 6-10-15 Stuart News.
Ad 6-11-15 Stuart News.

Getting up, pouring a cup of coffee, and perusing the ad,  I noted the right bottom corner: “Brought to you by: Western Palm Beach County Farm Bureau.”

I am familiar with Farm Bureaus as my Grandfather Henderson, a soil scientist, UF teacher,  Gainesville IFAS-Extension employee, and leader of the 1952-1969 “Agronomy Project,” was an active member throughout his lifetime. There are farm bureaus throughout Florida; they are key in education, and supporting the rights of farmers. They are powerful, historical entities.

Of course, the Western Palm Beach County Farm Bureau is the largest and most powerful of all… So going to the internet on my phone, I noted who was listed on their board.

I didn’t know anybody except Ms, Judy Sanchez, from US Sugar Corporation, Clewiston. I have met Ms Sanchez. She is really nice and an excellent PR lady;  US Sugar is very lucky to have her. This is her job and she does it very well.  I would imagine the others listed are also “in the business” of the Everglades Agricultural Area south of Lake Okeechobee too…

Board of Directors WPBCFB 2015
Board of Directors WPBCFB 2015

So why is this ad in today’s paper with the headline WE DON’T NEED SUGAR’S LAND FOR EVERGLADES “dangerous?” Well, I think it is dangerous because to the public it could appear that the ad comes from the SFWMD as it uses information from an Op-Ed written by SFWMD Board Chair Dan O’keefe that ran in the Miami Herald but not here on the Treasure Coast. WE is next to Dan Okeefe’s head. Dan chairs the SFWMD Governing Board. The way the ad reads, it almost appears as if the ad is from the SFWMD itself. WE should be clearly referring to the West Palm Beach County Farm Bureau.

Thus mostly the reason for the early morning call….

In case you don’t know, the SFWMD is a “special taxing district.” If you look at your tax bill you will see we all pay taxes to the District. This money is not to be spent on “ads” but rather on their mission “to manage water and related resources for the benefit of the public: the key elements of the Mission are environmental protection and enhancement, water supply, flood protection and water quality protection.” (Data Directory 1999) Maybe their mission has altered since 1999 but I don’t have time to look for the 2015 version. This should be close enough…

Portion of my my and Ed's tax bill 2014 showing SFWMD assessments taken from our taxes.
Portion of my and Ed’s tax bill 2014 showing SFWMD assessments taken from our taxes: $150.73.

In information wars it is very important that players show no “questionable impropriety.” In my opinion, this ad does not achieve this goal.

Full ad 6-12-15
Full ad 6-12-15

WPB County Farm Bureau:(http://www.floridafarmbureau.org/county_farm_bureau/palm_beach_west)

SFWMD: (http://www.sfwmd.gov/portal/page/portal/sfwmdmain/home%20page)

Miami Herald June 6th, 2015 Op-Ed Dan O’Keefe, SFWMD: (http://www.miamiherald.com/opinion/op-ed/article23219004.html)

“Reflections on Reflections on a Jungle River,” Ernie Lyons, SLR/IRL

Jungle River photo, 2006.
“Jungle River” photo, 2006.

Excerpt from “Reflections on Reflections on a Jungle River by Ernest Lyons, 1915-1990, as read for 2015’s “Historic Preservation Month” at Stuart Heritage.  Mr Lyons was an award-winning editor and columnist for the Stuart News, and a state recognized environmental activist against over drainage and development of the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon. He was a gifted fisherman and he had a knack for seeing the wonder of the world…

 

“Drifting on the surface of a Florida jungle river, like the South Fork of the St Lucie or the Northwest Branch of the Loxahatchee, I experience the feeling that nothing is ordinary, nothing is commonplace.

The onyx surface of the water reflects in perfect color the images of the bushy-headed cabbage palms, the moss draped live-oaks and cypresses along the banks.

Cascading clumps of wild asters and fragile white spider-lily are mirrored on the smooth blank film. I drift in my rowboat on top of an image of scenery. This is, probably, a natural law which some logically minded egghead can recite to explain how a color image can be reflected on the face of a river, but please don’t quote it. I’d rather marvel…—- Ernest Lyons

 

 
Ernest Lyons’ biography: (http://www.flpress.com/node/63)

My Lyons’ book, MY FLORIDA, from which this excerpt comes, can be purchased at the Stuart Feed Store, Stuart Heritage: (http://www.stuartheritagemuseum.com)

Ernest Lyon's Bridge marker. Photo JTL.
Ernest Lyon’s Bridge marker for the bridge between Sewall’s Point and Hutchinson Island, designated in 1965.  Photo JTL.

The Wrath of Mother Nature. The Hailstorms of 2015 and 1934, St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon

Photo of Roosevelt Bridge, 1934 hailstorm, by Francis Carlberg King. (Photo courtesy of Sandra Thurlow's book, Stuart on the St Lucie.
Photo of Roosevelt Bridge, 1934, after a  hailstorm. Photo by Francis Carlberg King. (Photo courtesy of Sandra Thurlow’s book, Stuart on the St Lucie.
Limb of tree. One of many that came down in the storm. (Photo JTL)
Limb of tree. One of many that came down in the storm. (Photo JTL)

I love the power of Mother Nature. I appreciate when she reminds me of “who is in control.”

Yesterday, around 6:20 PM as the sky filled with dark clouds, and the rain started to fall, I was driving east on Monterey Road.  Every now and then I’d hear a loud “whack.”  I kept wondering why rocks were hitting my windshield. “This is odd,” I thought, “A construction truck must have gone by….”

The rain pelted down, and the skies darkened. Then suddenly, those “rocks” started pouring out of the sky, pinging loudly off the hood of my car in every direction. Finally, it dawned on me: “Hail!”

Photo of hail by Caroline Lawless, 4-18-15, in front of Team Fit in Cedar Point Plaza, Stuart.
Photo of hail by Caroline Lawless, 4-27-15, in front of Team Fit in Cedar Point Plaza, Stuart.
Photo of Storm by Caroline Lawless, Cedar Point Plaza.
Photo of Storm by Caroline Lawless, Cedar Point Plaza.

Unable to see, and overcome by sound, I pulled my car over into a parking lot sheltered by tall trees. Adrenaline pumping,  I sat there, frozen in my car, like a hiding animal waiting for the storm to pass….

With the rhythmic sound of the windshield wipers and the raging storm, I thought about stories of the old timers….

In my mother’s book “Stuart on the St Lucie,” she writes about the great hail storm of 1934 along the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon.

“Mother Nature initiated the new Roosevelt Bridge with an unusual occurrence that is still remembered by all who experience it. On February 10th, 1934 a hailstorm covered Stuart with ice, creating street scenes that looked like “someplace up North.”

So even though yesterday was intense, as far as hail is concerned, there was probably more in 1934. Mind you it was February….With my yard a mess, huge limbs down, no power, and wondering if my car is dented….I remain grateful for Mother Nature and her moods. Sometimes I feel that way too.

Photo of Roosevelt Bridge, 1934 hailstorm, by Francis Carlberg King. (Photo courtesy of Sandra Thurlow's book, Stuart on the St Lucie.
Photo of Roosevelt Bridge, Stuart, Florida, 1934 hailstorm–by Francis Carlberg King. (Photo courtesy of Sandra Thurlow’s book, Stuart on the St Lucie.
Photo of hail by Becky Engebretsen taken at Stuart Convalescent  Center, Stuart.
Photo of hail by Becky Engebretsen taken at Stuart Convalescent Center, Stuart.4-27-15.
Hail photo by Becky Engebretsen from Stuart Convalescent Center, Stuart.
Hail photo by Becky Engebretsen from Stuart Convalescent Center, Stuart. 4-27-15.

*Thank you to Becky Engebretsen for sharing her photos taken at the Stuart Convalescent Center in Stuart, 1500 Palm Beach Road, and Caroline Lawless, co-owner of  TEAM FIT in Cedar Point Plaza,  just west over the bridge from Sewall’s Point.

_______________________________________

To learn about hail: (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hail)

Havana or Bust! Swamp to Sugar Bowl; the Changing Politics of the Everglades, St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon

My father's photo of his Senior Trip for Stuart High, 1954. (Photo Tom Thurlow)
School bus reads HAVANA OR BUST! My father’s Stuart High senior trip for Stuart High, went to Cuba in 1954. (Photo Tom Thurlow)
My father's 1954 senior class, Stuart High School, Martin County, Florida. (Photo Tom Thurlow)
My father’s 1954 senior class, Stuart High School, Martin County, Florida. My father is in back row, far right second from end.(Photo Tom Thurlow)
The book Swamp to Sugar Bowl was written in 1968 by Lawrence E. Will. (Borrowed from the library of Sandra Henderson Thurlow, historian.)
The book “Swamp to Sugar Bowl” was written in 1968 by Lawrence E. Will. (Borrowed from the library of Sandra Henderson Thurlow, historian.)

It is good to learn about the history and issues of the Everglades, South Florida, and our St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon so that one day, in spite of the difficulties we face today, we will be able to fix our problem in the future…

Perhaps the greatest reason the our former Everglades are now overflowing with sugarcane fields is due to politics between Cuba and the United States. My father graduated from Stuart High School in 1954, and believe it or not, his senior trip was to Havana! Soon after, Castro’s revolutionaries took over Cuba in 1959. And as they say the “rest is history…” as the growing sugar fields blocked the flow of water south to the Everglades, the fate of our precious St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon seemed forever doomed. But it is not, as nothing lasts forever.

This weekend my mother handed me a book entitled “Swamp to Sugar Bowl” by historian, author, businessman, and politician, Lawrence E. Will.  I read the little book with great enjoyment.  Although many things have changed since the book was written in 1968, it provides great insights.

This week I will be sharing some aspects of the books. Today I  will quote a few excerpts from chapter 22, “Florida’s Sugar Bowl.”

“Brother if you’re addicted to using sugar you should come here to these Everglades. Sugar and molasses bring in 110 million to these glades each year, so let’s take a quick look at this sugar bowl. Back in 1922, at Moore Haven, the first feeble attempt was made at producing sugar, but the following year in Canal Point the first successful mill began to operate.

There used to be 33,000 acres of pond apple trees lining the southern rim of Lake Okeechobee. They were cut down to access the rich much soil below them. (Laurence E. Will)
Map showing Canal Point. (Laurence E. Will)

This company was taken over by Southern Sugar Company, now the U.S. Sugar Corporation which ground its first cain in Clewiston in 1929. Although this company owned some 100,000 acres of the best land around the lake, under the US government’s regulation, the state of Florida was permitted to produce only nine-tenths of one percent of this nation’s needs.

However when Fidel Castro took over Cuba, the Everglades reaped the benefit.  For a short time our government permitted the unrestricted planing of sugar cane. Oh brother, you should have seen how cow pastures and vegetable fields were plowed up and planted! Now we have 189,500 acres of sugar cane in the Glades.” –Lawrence E Will, 1968

US Sugar and Florida Crystals map ca 2008.
US Sugar and Florida Crystals map ca. showing ownership of lands, and option to buy lands for state of Florida, 2008.
Stats of Sugar in Florida, 1991, Source Hazen and Sawyer, 1993)
Stats of Sugar average in Florida, 1991, Source Hazen and Sawyer, 1993)

I am not certain how much land U.S. Sugar Corporation owns today, but the Everglades option map from 2008 and IFAS statistics from 1993 show over 450,000 acres combining US Sugar and Florida Crystals.

Sugar has been grown in the glades since the 1920s but it exploded in the glades in the 1960s and became heavily supported by the US government due mostly to political reasons.

Reasons that may be ending soon.

Stuart News front page, 4-11-15.
Stuart News front page, 4-11-15.

______________________________

US Sugar Corporation: (http://www.ussugar.com)

History of Cuba: (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Cuba)

A great book on this topic, Raising Cane, by Gail M. Hollender: (http://www.amazon.com/Raising-Cane-Glades-Transformation-Florida/dp/0226349500)

UF IFAS: (http://ifas.ufl.edu)

Remembering to Enjoy the “Real Florida,” Ernie Lyons, SLR/IRL

Ernie Lyons speaking, ca.1950 (Photo courtesy of Sandra Thurlow, Thurlow Archives)
Ernie Lyons speaking. Timer Powers (right) and other community leaders in background, ca. 1950. (Photo courtesy of Sandra  Henderson Thurlow, Thurlow Archives.)

Ernest Lyons, known to his friends as “Ernie,” is one of my heroes. You probably know of him, but maybe you don’t. He was a  homegrown-boy become “newspaper man” right here in Martin County. He worked for what evolved into the “Stuart News” from 1931 until late into his life. Lyons won many Florida Press awards for his weekly columns that focused mostly on conservation, but also simply on the poetic natural beauty of our area. The bridge between Sewall’s Point and Hutchinson Island is named for him. He was an avid and talented fisherman.

Lyons Bridge marker. (JTL)
Lyons Bridge marker. (JTL)

I think of Mr Lyons often when I walk the bridge and try to listen to his words floating in the winds and waves, and on the wings of the pelicans flying past. Today I would like to share a few words from his essay “Take Time, Enjoy the Real Florida,” from his book “My Florida.”

Ernest Lyons Bridge as seen from Sewall's Point Park, 2014. (JTL)
Ernest Lyons Bridge as seen from Sewall’s Point Park, 2014. (JTL)

“Millions come to Florida–and never see it. They are like motorized pellets in a glamorized pinball machine, hitting the flashing lights of widely publicized artificial attractions before bounding out of the state and back home…

But the Florida we love who have lived here most of our lives has no admission fee, except the desire to appreciate beauty, the awareness to see it and the time to enjoy it…

The real Florida is a land of beauty and serenity, a place to take time to enjoy dawns and sunsets beyond the river against silhouetted pines. It is a place to hear the wind in the needles of the pines and to remember the dancing wreaths of Spanish moss on live-oaks. Florida is for quiet contemplation on a sea beach, watching pelicans skimming the breakers in singe file like long vanished pterodactyls…

Florida is for amazement, wonder, and delight, and refreshment of the soul. It may take a little more time to hunt out and enjoy the real Florida, but you will be well repaid.”

 

I find that the “real Florida” is actually very close and hand, in my yard, in the sky, in the water. Yes, even in the destitute and tired river beauty still prevails. Just look when you drive over the bridge. Look and “see.”

Photo by John Whiticar, St Lucie River, 2014.
Photo by John Whiticar, St Lucie River, 2014.

_______________

Florida Press, Ernest Lyons: (http://www.flpress.com/node/63)

Publications of books “My Florida” and “The Last Cracker Barrel,” compilations of Mr Lyons columns from the Stuart News, can be purchased at Stuart Heritage Museum, 161 SW Flagler Avenue, Stuart, FL.(http://www.stuartheritagemuseum.com)

Mystery Revealed! Exact Date of Peck Lake’s Inlet Breakthrough-“Ash Wednesday Storm, 1962”–Indian River Lagoon

Stuart News article dated March 12, 1962 about the Ash Wednesday Storm and the breakthrough inlet at Peck's Lake along the IRL.
Stuart News article dated March 12, 1962 about the Ash Wednesday Storm and the breakthrough inlet at Peck’s Lake along the IRL.

In case you have been reading my blog the past week or so, you may have noticed that the date/s of Peck Lake’s Inlet breakthrough/s, into the Indian River Lagoon, along Jupiter Island, have been in question.

I originally wrote in my blog dated 12/12/14, “1948 and 1960” as the dates of the Peck’s Lake breakthroughs, based on my mother’s book Sewall’s Point, A History of a Peninsular Community of Florida’s Treasure Coast.

After I wrote, my mother contacted me saying that she had learned throughout the years that the date of 1948 and 1960 may be incorrect as she had taken the 1948/1960 dates off the back of historic photos from “The Ruhnke Collection” in her and my father’s history photo archives. Also there was the fact, that some old timers had said that date/s seemed a bit “off…” and that the 1940’s break may have been somewhere else…

Nonetheless, no one remembered the right dates. Time and tides fade all good memories, even at Stuart Heritage! (http://www.stuartheritagemuseum.com)

I am proud to say, due to some “history detective work” on the part of my mother, who yesterday actually went to the Blake Library and looked through the old papers on the microfilm machine, and a lead from a group email of friend, and attorney, Ted Guy, the exact and correct date of the 1960s break has been revealed!

The exact date that Peck’s Lake Inlet broke through in the 1960s was Thursday, March 12, 1962 during the famous “ASH WEDNESDAY STORM of 1962….” (Still working on 1940s date.)

Being raised Episcopalian, when I heard this clue, I had to ask my mother….”Mom, when is Ash Wednesday? ”

She looked at me and immediately spurted out : “Maybe 40 days before Easter….”

“The Ash Wednesday Storm of 1962 occurred on March 6–8, 1962 along the mid-Atlantic coast of the United States. Also known as the Great March Storm of 1962, it was considered by the U.S. Geological Survey to be one of the most destructive storms ever to affect the mid-Atlantic states. One of the ten worst storms in the United States in the 20th century, it lingered through five high tides over a three-day period, killing 40 people, injuring over 1,000, and causing hundreds of millions in property damage in six states.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ash_Wednesday_Storm_of_1962)

 

Close up of date on newspaper
Close up of date on newspaper

This was my mother’s final message:

 “Jacqui, because of your interest, we have finally pinned down the date of the article that had the wrong year on it. Your dad found a piece by the county on hurricane damage and it said Peck’s Lake washed through in 1965 as well…”

MYSTERY SOLVED, AND YET ANOTHER DATE REVEALED! 

Thank you to all those who helped uncover this “mystery.” It is important to know as surely Peck’s Lake and other areas of Hutchinson Island and Jupiter Island, our ever changing barrier islands, will break through again. 

Here are the photos of the Peck’s Lake 1962 breakthrough originally displayed , in case you did not see them the first time:

Peck's Lake breakthrough 1962
Peck’s Lake breakthrough 1962 (Photo Ruhnke Collection)
Another angle
Another angle, Peck’s Lake Inlet 1962 (Ruhnke Collection)
Inlet open to IRL
Peck’s Lake Inlet open to IRL, ca. 1962
Another Peck's Lake photo (Ruhnke Collection)
Another Peck’s Lake photo after ACOE filled in, (Photo Ruhnke from Thurlow Archives.)
Filled in
Filled in after breakthrough….

_____________________________________________

Original post with updates on Peck’s Lake, JTL: (http://jacquithurlowlippisch.com/2014/12/12/old-photos-jupiter-islands-shorelinepeck-lakes-inlet-along-the-indian-river-lagoon/)

History, Beauty, and Money, River of Light–St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon

Photo by John Whiticar, St Lucie River, 2014.
Sunrise, photo by John Whiticar, St Lucie River, 2014.

Today I thought I’d share a transcribed old Stuart News Column, by award-winning river activist and newspaper man, Ernest Lyons, for whom the bridge between Sewall’s Point and Hutchinson Island is named.  It was given to me by my mother. The year of the piece’s writing is unknown but Lyons lived in Stuart since 1915 and was the paper’s editor for 44 years.  He wrote prolifically about the changes and his love of the St Lucie River and Indian river Lagoon. I  would imagine this piece was written around the 1950s. It is a time capsule and gives perspective on today. Enjoy.

By Ernie Lyons: Retiree’s New Money Crop at River of Light

“One of the earliest names of the St Lucie River was “Rio de Luz,” or “River of Light.” The imaginative Spaniard who gave it that name must have seen the dawn come sweeping in the inlet on a green flood tide, bringing light to the broad estuaries upstream.

Light from the distant sun outlined the rude thatched hut of the Jeagas, the primitive Indians that lived on Hutchinson Island. Those Indians disappeared around 1670 and there were no white settlements until the Armed Occupation Act of 1840.

The white settlers fled fearing Indian attack, and the first serious settlement began in 1875 when Captain Thomas Richards introduced pineapples to the Indian River at Eden just north of Jensen Beach. Pineapples meant money.

No matter how beautiful a river may be, it takes money to provide the fuel for a civilization on its banks. With the coming of the railroad and the building of ice plants, the settlers began harvesting the incredible crops of fish in the Indian and St Lucie Rivers and adjacent ocean.

Some planted small orange groves of hit and run patches of truck crops out in the back country. Drainage was so poor that regular year round farms were impossible. Meat was secured by rounding up a few bony wild cattle or wild hogs. Regular ranging was discouraged by the fact that all of country was open range with no fences.

The flow of money often scant, determined the prosperity of the St Lucie River country. After the pineapples and fish came tourist willing to pay a fee to rent a place for the winter of even to hire a hunting or fishing guide.

Summers were long, hot and plagued by hordes of salt marsh mosquitoes that flew over from the mangrove swamps along the ocean to torment the few brave souls that managed to stick it out.

Money, is still the driving force for the area, although now it is from people. The retirees are now the basis our economy.

Some of them sold their homes or other properties for fancy prices up north and reinvested in the area. They opened savings accounts and bought certificates of deposit in our banks and savings and loans, fueling the building boom.

We are getting the benefits of a new sort of American, where  folks older than 65 receive Social Security checks, often pension checks and, if they have invested wisely , dividend checks.

Sure we have thousands of citrus and productive farms lands, as well as fisheries but the real money that makes the St Lucie River region hum with prosperity comes from people.

And most of it comes from outside of our area. It is in the form of government checks, pension checks, saving interest and dividend checks.

Next time you see a retiree salute him of her and say you’re glad they chose this part of Florida. They are our biggest industry, an industry without a smokestack, the industry that keeps our food stores and shopping centers going, the industry that keeps our many services going.

Retirees are the reason for our modern hospital and the host of specialized medical services the town now has.

The old River of Light has seen some amazing changes but none so remarkable as the constant flow of new money from outside brought by the retirees….”

______________________________________________________________

You can purchase Lyons two books: My Florida and The Cracker Barrel at The Historical Society of Martin County: (http://www.martincountyhistoricalsociety.com)

Thank you to John Whiticar of Whiticar Boatworks for his beautiful photograph!

How About a Toll Bridge to Raise Money for the Indian River Lagoon?

The Jensen Bridge was completed in 1927. (Photographer unknown, photo courtesy of Bob Washam.)
The Jensen Bridge was completed in 1927. (Photographer unknown, photo courtesy of Bob Washam.)

The idea of a toll bridge over the Indian River Lagoon is not a new one as there were toll bridges in Jensen and Stuart in Martin County’s early days.

Toll Tickets for the Jensen Bridge. Courtesy Bob Washam.
Toll Tickets for the Jensen Bridge. Courtesy Bob Washam.
Cover of toll ticket packet for Jensen Bridge. Courtesy Bob Washam.
Cover of toll ticket packet for Jensen Bridge. Courtesy Bob Washam.

As my mother says in her Historic Jensen and Eden on Florida’s Indian River book:

“People fishing on both side os the Jensen Bridge made it necessary for automobiles to cross the narrow wooden bridge with extreme  caution.” 

Over time, we have had caution for people, but not for fish.

This morning the Tyler Treadway’s article in the Stuart News states there has been a catfish kill along the Indian River Lagoon Ft Pierce north; it is not yet reported to be in Martin County; in the 1920s no such virus or water quality issues prevailed and fishing was the sport of the day, some of the best in the nation, along the bridges, in the forks, in the St Lucie and Indian River Lagoon, along the clean and sparkling Atlantic Ocean…

Unidentified man with Goliath Grouper caught in area. Photo courtesy of Bob Washam.
Unidentified man with Goliath Grouper caught in Jensen area. Photo courtesy of Bob Washam.

Mrs Thurlow writes in her book:

The Jensen Bridge was instrumental in the development of Jensen with its numerous tourists camps. In the 1930s, the Pitchford, Gideon, and Wade camps sprang up at the western end of the bridge. Other camps, including the massive Ocean Breeze Park, soon followed. The Jensen Bridge was given so much publicity that it became a nationally famous fishing pier.”

"the Jensen Beach Bridge was advertised in the Martin County Chamber of Commerce Fishing Guide, published in 1935. (Courtesy of Robert McClinton Pitchford, Thurlow archives.)
“The Jensen Beach Bridge was advertised in the Martin County Chamber of Commerce Fishing Guide, published in 1935. (Courtesy of Robert McClinton Pitchford, Thurlow archives.)

Today the Indian River Lagoon is still famous for fishing, but also for its seagrass loss and declining fish stock. Yesterday, my father gave me an issue of Florida Sport Fishing, the lead article was entitled “Gator County, Florida ‘s Famed East Coast Lagoon System May No Longer Be the State’s Premier Destination for Giant Trout,” by Jerry McBride.

The beginning of the article reads:

“Two miles of previously lush green vegetation dotted with sandy potholes and carved by narrow channels–once home to monster gator trout–has been reduced to a single acre of sparse seagrass, I fished the entire stretch in less than an hour and paddled home… The estuary’s south end is losing its 80 plus year battle against polluted discharges from Lake Okeechobee, while the rest of the 156 miles long waterways faces an even more insidious adversary—a multi-source nutrient-fueled brown algae scourge that virtually overnight reduced 43,000 acres of rich seagrass habitat to a sandy desert…”

Most of this seagrass loss may have happened north of us, but it is here too. Also, the lagoon is one waterway, whether it is Lake Okeechobee and local canal releases here in Martin County,  or brown tide in the central and north lagoon, we are all affected.

Usually on Friday I try to post something positive and happy.

I have been wanting to share friend Bob Washam’s Jensen Bridge photos,  today was the day.  Nonetheless, I could not ignore the slow and now pronounced losses to our Indian River Lagoon, especially in light of Mr Treaway’s article this morning.

If the tin-can tourist who hardly had a nickel in their packs could be raised from their graves to see what has happened to the Indian River Lagoon,  I am certain they would say:

“You may have more money, but you sure lost a piece of Heaven…and which would you rather have?”

One good thing is that nature is programmed to heal itself, may we have the strength to continue to fight for some semblance of the “good old days,” and should we need to exact a toll on our bridges to start an IRL Fund, I’ll vote “yes.”

___________________________________________________________

Courtesy SCRIPPS NEWSPAPERS/PUBLIC ANNOUNCEMENT

Stuart News announcement 10/10/14:

Catfish die-off hits lagoon
By Tyler Treadway

tyler.treadway@TCPalm.com 772-221-4219

Thousands of dead hardhead catfish are floating in the Indian River Lagoon from Palm Bay to Fort Pierce.

Because only one species is affected and all the dead fish are juveniles mostly from 4 to 12 inches long, a local marine biologist believes the cause is a specific virus rather than poor water quality in the lagoon.

Weve had die-offs like this in the lagoon before, where only sea cats and nothing else was dying,said Grant Gilmore, lead scientist of Estuarine, Coastal and Ocean Science in Vero Beach.

The cause was a viral infection back then, so I would assume its the same this time. Kelly Richmond, a spokeswoman at the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission laboratory in St. Petersburg, said the agencys hotline has received 16 reports of dead catfish beginning Monday.

Staffers collected three live catfish and water samples from the lagoon for analysis.

Results should be available early next week, Richmond said, and the agency wont guess at a cause until then.

Paul Fafeita, a Vero Beach fishing guide, said he saw dead catfish Wednesday morning in the lagoon from the Barber Bridge in Vero Beach to the North Causeway bridge at Fort Pierce.

Im talking hundreds, if not thousands of dead fish,Fafeita said.­They werent sporadic, one here and one there. They were steady, up and down the lagoon. Mike Peppe, a Sebastian fishing guide, reported seeing dead catfish Wednesday in the lagoon from Wabasso to the Sebastian Inlet.

They were everywhere,Peppe said.There had to be thousands. Look down and youd see a bunch of white things in the waterthe catsbellies.

History of the River Movement; the Tipping Point, It’s Coming, St Lucie/Indian River Lagoon

St Lucie River Initiative's Report to Congress 1995, and River Dayz '96 Festival. (Courtesy of historian Sandra Henderson Thurlow.)
St Lucie River Initiative’s Report to Congress 1995; River Dayz ’96 Festival booklet; and historic newspaper info in this article courtesy of historian Sandra Henderson Thurlow.

A woman’s right to vote did not come come in a day; stopping the horrors of slavery in the Untied States took a civil war and the life of one of our greatest presidents; most recently, in spite of one’s personal beliefs, we are seeing a revolution in gay rights.

These movements take time, but eventually, there is tipping point were things begin to change direction. As we know, our river movement has been going for almost 85 years as the first time the Martin County commission asked the ACOE to stop releasing Lake Okeechobee water into the St Lucie River was documented in their minutes of  1930.

1930 request of the MCBOCC for the ACOE to halt releases from Lake O to SLR.
1930 request of the MCBOCC for the ACOE to halt releases from Lake O to SLR.

Today I wanted to encourage you not to feel discouraged that the St Lucie Indian River Lagoon movement has been going on so long, but to feel empowered that you are part of something that is big, that takes years, and has a moral element to it just like human rights. This moral element is what in time will force the State of Florida and the United States of America to scrutinize our destructive drainage practices of the past.

As it says in our Declaration of Independence:  When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires they should declare the cause which impels them to the separation.

For me, this document gives permission to pull away when necessary. We are and have been pulling away. We envision something better and we are willing to fight for it. Just for the record, some of those before us include:

1. Commercial fishermen in 1925, two years after the canal opened in 1923, in the newspaper of the day, The Florida Developer fought the destructive abundance of fresh water from the lake.

2. A 1931 article from  The Florida Developer’s editorial team notes it was “critical” that the releases from Lake Okeechobee be stopped.

3. 1945 another paper, The Stuart Messenger notes that the river had turned into a “mud soup,” killing fishing; tourism; and real estate.

4. 1958 local citizens filled the Martin County Courthouse to discuss with a delegation of the Flood Control District and the Army Corps of Engineers the possibility of a third outlet from Lake Okeechobee. Although hopes were high, nothing  materialized.

5. Editor, and writer for the Stuart News, Ernest Lyons (1931-1974) wrote many award-winning articles against over canalization in our area of not only C-44 from Lake Okeechobee but also  C-23, C-24 and C-25 further north that drained even more polluted fresh water into the rivers. His newspaper/writing career continued for many years.

6. In the early 1950s the Izzak Walton Group; the  Martin County Conservation Committee and the St  River Restoration League all  openly fought for the river.

7.  In 1990 Ernest Lyons, who had been prominent in all groups  listed in #6, died:  to fill that void, “Leadership Martin County” in 1992 , with the help of Mr Bud Jordan, Kevin Henderson and Tim Kinane, founded the St Lucie River initiative whose report to Congress is today’s blog photo. Their “River Dayz Festival” on behalf of the river brought hundreds together, they created river materials for elementary, middle and high school students, focused on muck removal and business support.

8. In 1993 the Greater Martin County Board of Realtors joined in its support of the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon, sending out a letter stating that the organization had joined the St Lucie River Initiative and encouraged a “call to action to contribute to the organization and to write letters to government officials.”

9. In 1998, after the worst toxic algae bloom and fish kill/fish lesion outbreak ever documented in Martin County during heavy  releases from Lake Okeechobee, the Rivers Coalition came into being unifying businesses and an education program as well as developing the Rivers Coalition Defense Fund set up to sue the Federal Government and others on behalf of the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon. Realtor Leon Abood, became the longstanding and outspoken chair.

10. On December 4th, 2010, a Rivers Coalition Lawsuit against the Federal Government was heard in the Court of Federal Claims in Washington DC. According to edited words of Karl Wickstrom, chair of the Defense Fund at that time, U.S. District Judge Lynn Bush wrote in her explanation:

“The St. Lucie River is by all accounts, a national treasure. The longterm environmental consequences of defendant’s,  U.S. Army Corps of Engineers,’ massive discharges into the river are tragic, and the court takes note of plaintiffs’ tireless efforts to reverse that damage.”

The court ruled that a remedy to stop the harmful discharges must come not from the courts but from Congress; she dismissed the case, but it garnered national attention and moved issues of the river forward.

11. In 2011 the River Kidz were born of two 5th grade girls and became a division of the Rivers Coalition. They held two river rallies at the St Lucie Locks and Dam in 2012 during discharges from Lake Okeechobee. Senator Joe Negron, Chairwoman Sarah Heard, and other politicians mingled with parents looking for a way to deal with the discharges. Congressman Patrick Murphy later also supported the Kidz in their efforts. The key: parental involvement and youth.

12. 2009-2011, going public in 2012/13, it was realized a that a super bloom and brown tide algae bloom had killed 60% of the seagrasses in the northern and central IRL. Unusual Mortality Events (UMEs), declared by NOAA, followed for both endangered manatees and the protected bottle nosed dolphins. Hundreds of pelicans also died.  This galvanized the counties of the IRL, southern, central and northern alike.

13. 2013, the ACOE starts releasing from Lake Okeechobee May 8th until October 21st. This time becomes the “Lost Summer,” toxic conditions ensue. Young Evan Millar and Clint Starling and others call for a rally at the locks on Facebook. Over 5000 show up. Beach rally later brings over 2000. Hands Across the Lagoon unifies thousands across the 156 mile lagoon as well.  The STUART NEWS/SCRIPPS NEWSPAPERS starts a river news campaign that has educated thousands and is still going today. St Lucie County as well as Lee County River Kidz is born…

14. 2013 the Sugarland Rally in Clewiston; Senator Negron’s Senate Hearing on the Indian River Lagoon and Lake Okeechobee Basin;  Congressman Murphy invites the state and local officials, the River Warriors, and River Kidz  to to a meeting on the Indian River Lagoon and Lake O.  in Washington DC. …..Commissioner Ed Fielding forms the Indian River lagoon County Collaborative unifying all counties along the lagoon. (Palm Bach quits.)

15. In 2014 the fight has continued. The pressure has not let up. Presently the University of Florida is studying the issue of “sending water south…”

16. 2014,  last week, the South Florida Water Management District and Dept of Environmental Protection and others recommend against Sugar Hill, a proposed development in Hendry County on option lands, most designated for Everglades restoration or trading.

It has been a long journey, but I am confident that the tipping point is coming. We have over drained our lands, we have destroyed our rivers and lakes, we are wasting 1.7 billion gallons of fresh a day to tide knowing we have a growning population coming…

If nothing else, it will be the need for fresh water and the knowledge that wasting it is wrong that will  in the future push the St Lucie/Indian River Lagoon movement tipping over the edge…

 

Inspirational Slogans From the River Kidz for Our Indian River Lagoon!

Say No to Lake O
Say No to Lake O

River Kidz was started in 2011 in the Town of Sewall’s Point  by two 5th grade girls, Evie Flaugh and Naia Mader after a public call to action by Stuart News/Scripps columnist, Eve Samples for “younger members of the Rivers Coalition.”  The group swelled to over 300 Facebook and event attending member by 2013. Today there are River Kidz chapters in St Lucie County and across the state in Lee County as well. These kids serve as an inspiration to adults.

I believe, politicians are changing water policy because of these kids.

Over the years I have collected and photographed their art work, slogan, and their letters to politicians. Today, I am going to share some of their slogans.  For fun and just to review, a “slogan” is defined as:

noun–

1. a phrase expressing the aim or nature of an enterprise, organization,or candidate; a motto.

2. a phrase used repeatedly , as in advertising or promotion.

and 3. (my favorite). A battle cry of a Scottish clan.

These slogans span from 2011 to 2014. They are from different children, including the students from the honors class at Felix A. Williams Elementary in Jensen; St Josephs Catholic School in Stuart, and the Pine School in Stuart. Public and private schools alike have embraced the message:  “Speak out, get involved and raise awareness, because we believe kids should have a voice in the future of our rivers.”

Enjoy, and “stay strong” for the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon!

Save Our River
Save Our River
Keep It Like This
Keep It Like This
Move the Water South
Move the Water South
Our Water Our Future
Our Water Our Future
Maybe We Can Change the Law
Maybe We Can Change the Law
Stop and Think
Stop and Think
Let It Flow South
Let It Flow South
It's Not Always Black and White
It’s Not Always Black and White
Stop. Don't Trash Our River
Stop. Don’t Trash Our River
Don't Trash the Lagoon
Don’t Trash the Lagoon
Let it Flow South
Let it Flow South
Please Keep It Clean
We Love Our River So Please Keep It Clean
Why Pollute It?
Why Pollute It?
Stop Dumping
Stop Dumping
Stop the Discharges
Stop the Discharges
No! (to fertilizer) Save The River
No! (to fertilizer) Save The River
Why Ruin Our Future?
Why Ruin Our Future?
River Kidz first Art message by artist Julia Kelly: YOU ARE OUR RIVERS' FUTURE
River Kidz’ first art slogan by artist Julia Kelly: YOU ARE OUR RIVERS’ FUTURE

____________________________________________

*Feel free to use any photo or slogan.

River Kidz: (http://riverscoalition.org)

What Exactly is Bioluminescence in the Indian River Lagoon? Is it a Good or Bad Sign?

bioluminescence
“The dinoflagellate, (marine plankton), Pyodinium bahamense is what “produces the light show in the IRL.” Photo credit: https://getupandgokayaking.com

About a week and a half ago, my mother sent me an email with photos of my father and her on a kayak trip at night in the Indian River Lagoon. She had seen an article in the Stuart News about a company called Motorized Kayaks of the Treasure Coast and their trip into the light show of bioluminescence that has been occurring off our shores.

First, I thought about how cool my parents are to be going on kayak trips in their mid- seventies, and second, I thought, “aren’t these little plankton creatures a kind of algae bloom, and aren’t algae blooms bad for the lagoon in spite of bioluminescence’s beauty?”

Algae blooms have been linked to recent 60% plus seagrass die-offs, poor water quality, as well as  IRL pelican, dolphin and manatee deaths.  Super blooms, brown tides, “regular” and “toxic” algae blooms are “fed” by fertilizer, septic effluent, canal and Lake Okeechobee discharges, especially in the southern lagoon.

[caption id="attachment_2989" align="alignnone" width="300"]My father, Tom Thurlow, preparing for a kayak trip into the Indian River Lagoon to view the bioluminescent light show. (Photo Sandra Thurlow, August, 2014) My father, Tom Thurlow, preparing for a kayak trip into the Indian River Lagoon to view the bioluminescent light show. (Photo Sandra Thurlow, August 19, 2014)

Well anyway, I decided to contact Dr. Edie Widder of ORCA, the Ocean Research and Conservation Association, in Ft. Pierce, (http://www.teamorca.org/cfiles/home.cfm) and ask.

Dr Widder  is a world-renowned bioluminescence expert; she has even worked with the US Navy in the “design” of ships that would not cause bioluminescent disruption in the oceans, and thus give away their location to enemy ships.

This was my question to Dr Widder:

Dear Edie,
My parents rented kayaks to go see the bioluminescence in the IRL. It got me
thinking. Is the light caused by the same creatures that cause toxic algae
blooms in the lagoon?
Is the bioluminescence a bad sign for the health of the lagoon? Thank you.
Hope all is well.

Her response:

Hi Jacqui – It’s kind of a good news bad news story. The dinoflagellate
producing the light show, Pyrodinium bahamense, happens to be one that
produces saxitoxin. Interestingly it’s the same dino that’s responsible for
the bioluminescent bays in Puerto Rico and in those bays it doesn’t produce
the saxitoxin. Here it does. It’s not known why although I have a theory
and it has nothing to do with pollution. (It’s a long story having to do
with how their bioluminescence functions to protect them from predators
under different concentrations.)

Dino blooms are usually preceded by rain events that flush nutrients into
the water and then a series of calm sunny days that promote photosynthesis.
Blooms like the one we’re seeing now used to be routine according to some of
the older fishermen I’ve talked to. They called it fire in the water. The
fact is the water can’t be too polluted or the dinoflagellates won’t grow.
I’ll send you an article with some pictures I took.

Cheers,

Edie

Here is a photo Dr Widder took of bioluminescence in the lagoon I copied and a link to a remarkable video.

Bioluminescence in the IRL photographed by Dr Edie Widder.
Bioluminescence in the IRL photographed by Dr Edie Widder.

Incredible pictures of barnacles feeding on bioluminescent dinoflagellates: (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y1jG8qFZyYY)

Thank you for sharing, Dr Widder!

In conclusion, I looked up saxitoxin and learned it is a “paralytic shellfish toxin” that is found is some shellfish and especially puffer fish. It has been found in few other places in the US as well as in  the Indian River Lagoon. I guess the little dinoflagellates, the same ones that make the pretty bioluminescence light,  not always, but sometimes, will produce this toxin which gets spread to some shellfish and some fish. If such a shellfish or fish is ingested,  it will make a human very sick.  Around 2002, 28 people got so sick here, in the Merritt Island area, and in a few other areas of the county, that now there is a permanent government ban on harvesting/eating IRL puffer fish in the entire IRL.

Since I am nowhere close to a scientist, I will just share some links below and refrain from speculating what is “good or bad. ” Nonetheless, I think I can safely say that sometimes beauty and danger walk hand in hand in this magical world of our Indian River Lagoon.

_______________________________________________________

Abstract, Saxitoxin in the IRL, US Food and Drug Administration: (http://www.researchgate.net/publication/250019725_Concentrations_of_Saxitoxin_and_Tetrodotoxin_in_Three_Species_of_Puffers_from_the_Indian_River_Lagoon_Florida_the_Location_for_Multiple_Cases_of_Saxitoxin_Puffer_Poisoning_from_2002_to_2004Sincerely)

Monitoring Toxic Algae and Shellfish in the IRL, FWC, (http://myfwc.com/research/redtide/monitoring/current/indian-river/)

Florida Today: Is the IRL OK for Play? http://www.floridatoday.com/story/news/local/environment/2014/06/14/indian-river-lagoon-ok-play/10527607/)

Dinoflagellate: (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dinoflagellate)

Why I am Such a Big Supporter of Senator Joe Negron, Indian River Lagoon

Senator Joe Negron and I after a torrential down-pour at "Hands Across the Lagoon" Sept 28.2013.Sewall's Point. (Photo Dave Thatcher)
Senator Joe Negron and I after a torrential down-pour at “Hands Across the Lagoon” Sept 28, 2013. Sewall’s Point. (Photo Dave Thatcher.)

I am big supporter of Senator Joe Negron. I believe that his intervention has “changed the game” for the Indian River Lagoon and put the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon squarely on the map in front of every politician and agency in the state. Now we have a chance to save it.

Yes, there have been champions for the lagoon before, but in my opinion, no one has ever done what Senator Negron has done.

I had been aware of Joe Negron for years but it was not until 2012 that I had any  contact with him and that contact changed my life and improved my efforts for saving the Indian River Lagoon.

For half of 2011 and all of 2012 I was the mayor of the Town of Sewall’s Point and in 2011 the River Kidz had started on their own, authentically, in the Town. Two fifth grade girls, Evie Flagh, (my niece) and Naia Mader, held a lemonade stand in Indianlucie giving their proceeds to “those old gentlemen,” the River’s Coalition, who said they “needed youth in their organization.” Columnist, Eve Samples, had written about this and the children filled the calling. River Kidz ended up becoming a force with hundreds of kids joining and spreading to other counties. They even came up with their own mission statement: “Our mission is to speak out, get involved and raise awareness, because we believe kids should have a voice in the future of our rivers.”

As mayor, I made it my priority to help these kids as I have none of my own and am a former teacher. As a lifetime resident, I knew the dying river was a gigantic issue for the town and this all looked like a “good fit.”

Myself, my sister Jenny Flaugh, and good friend Nic Mader, started advocating along with these kids. Many other parents and children joined.

Senator Negron at the River Kidz' first rally for the river in October 2012. St Lucie locks and Dam. (Photo JTL)
Senator Negron at the River Kidz’ first rally for the river in October 2012. St Lucie locks and Dam. (Photo JTL)

In the late summer of 2012, I thought of who could help the cause of the river and the kidz? Who was in a  position to help. “Joe Negron,” I thought. He is our senator and he is the head of the Appropriations Committee, one of the most powerful positions in the state. I was nervous. I really did not know him. He was friends with my husband’s business partner as they had both gone to the Hope Sound Bible School in their youth.  I had seen him once at a birthday party. I was certain he had no idea who I was.  After much angst, one day I called him. Somehow I got his phone number from my husband Ed I think. I was shaking.

“Hello, Senator Negron. This is Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch from the Town of Sewall’s Point. I am the mayor. May I speak to you for a minute please?

“Yes,” he replied.”

I was a wreck. Believe it or not, I am not good at “asking.”

“Sir, I am calling for your help. I am calling about the river….and the future…..about the kids….”

By the end of the short conversation, Joe Negron said he had an op-ed idea for awhile…maybe he would send it in to the paper? It had to do with the river. I encouraged him.

“Yes. Yes.” I said, “Please. We need your help. Thank you.”

Within a month or so the op-ed came out: (http://www.tcpalm.com/news/joe-negron-congress-must-strip-army-corps-of-it) The headlines read: Congress Must Strip the Army Corp of Engineers of their Authority of Lake Okeechobee.”

The day I saw the op-ed, I said to myself, “Wow, he did it.”

In spite of one’s opinion on the situation, this article shook the foundations of the status quo. A state senator, chair of the Appropriations Committee, had said something, written something so taboo and it got the state and federal government’s attention and started a scrutinizing dialogue of the management of the lake and the deathly discharges to our estuaries.

Things ramped up. The ACOE starts releasing water from Lake Okeechobee into the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon in June of  2012. The River Kidz held a protest at the locks with their friends and parents. Joe Negron along with Martin County commissioner, Sarah Heard attended. It poured rain but they came. The Kidz feel important. The movement’s volume turned up. More kids and parents got involved. The river seemed to always be in the Stuart News.

Skip forward to the “Lost Summer” of 2013. The ACOE began dumping in May due to early rains. The river is a putrid, toxic mess. The kids can’t go in the water. The River Kidz rally at the locks again. Joe Negron attends, again….

And then Joe Negron, Senator Joe Negron,  pulls a rarely used and ultimate political card from his pocket going where he, and we, had never gone before. He organizes the “Senate Select Committee on the Indian River Lagoon and Lake Okeechobee Basin.” It  occurs August 22, 2013 at the Kane Center in Stuart. All eyes of the state are upon us. The media, state and national and local, take over. We are on the map like never before. It is an explosion. Even newspapers in Europe cover the story. (http://www.flsenate.gov/Media/Topics/irllob)

By the end of the following year’s legislative process in 2014, more than 200 million dollars goes towards the Indian River Lagoon and related projects supporting “some more” water going south. Everyone is Tallahassee know about the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon and Lake Okeechobee. Not a fix but a start. A large start. Senator Negron has put his neck on the line as he is tapped “to be” Senate President. Some are angered by his complete focus on the IRL. He stands firm.

Between the Select Committee and the threat to cut ties with the Army Corp’s abusive relationship over us, change is in the air.

As an aside, I must admit, I have been criticized by some people, for my blatant  support of Joe Negron. That is OK. I knew that could happen. Politics is emotional. People are allowed to have their opinions and I have mine.

The commercial I did to support  him in this year’s election has been seen across the state. (http://clicks.skem1.com/preview/?c=44003&g=40&p=0794e19e2aa8c747d5d31c46c3822cfa)

At my recent Florida League of Cities meeting in Hollywood, all comments were positive. Elected officials were coming up to me from the panhandle, to Tallahassee, to Miami saying they had seen the commercial or heard of it and were impressed with our campaign for the Indian River Lagoon. “I never knew the estuaries got damaged by Lake Okeechobee…” They said.

Now the University of Florida is charged by the Select Committee with “a technical review of options to move water from Lake Okeechobee to the Everglades…” Will it fix the problem, I doubt it, but it will begin to and have some of the most outstanding minds in our state working on the problem now and in the future. In time,  it could help solve the problem…

In conclusion, I was raised to repay my debts and to Senator Joe Negron I am indebted. And I am honored to be so. I will do everything I can to help him and keep him in office and to encourage him to help the Indian River Lagoon.

Recently,  Eve Samples wrote an article about PACs and monies for Joe Negron’s campaign, which included campaign contribution from US Sugar.  What do I have to say about that?

Politics is a hard and imperfect game and everyone is trying to influence powerful people  however they can. Thankfully, I have a tool more powerful than money. I appeal to “conscience.” And Joe Negron is a man who listens to his. Of that, I am convinced.

 

Martin County, the “Epicenter” of Florida’s Governor Campaign, St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon

Cover of "Let's Keep Florida Beautiful," The environmental plan, Gov. Rick Scott, 2014.
Cover of “Let’s Keep Florida Beautiful,” the environmental reelection plan for Gov. Rick Scott, 2014. Many Florida springs have stopped flowing and are choked with algae. The SPRINGS ETERNAL PROJECT explains the plight of Florida’s ailing springs:  (http://springseternalproject.org) They, like our SLR/IRL, are dying.

Yesterday, I stumbled out of bed by 5:00 A.M to write my blog and make it to Palm City for the Collaborative Chamber Breakfast starting  at 7:30 A.M. I had to get up as Governor Rick Scott’s kick off campaign tour to publicize his “Let’s Keep Florida Beautiful Plan,” was kicking off,  in of all places, Martin County, Florida. I wanted to hear what he had to say.

Scripps reporter, Isadora Rangel,  implies this morning in our Stuart News that Martin County was chosen as the kick off location because “it is the epicenter of grassroots efforts to clean the estuary.”

Reporter Isadora Rangel interviews Congressman, Patrick Murphy who attended the breakfast.
Reporter Isadora Rangel interviews Democrat, Congressman, Patrick Murphy who attended the breakfast. (Photo JTL)

There were about 200 people at Martin Downs County Club and both Democrats and Republicans and were present. The Lagoon goes beyond political boundaries. But politics abounds…

I greeted everyone from Democrat Maggie Hurchalla, to Republican Senator Joe Negron, and found my seat.  I introduced myself to the people at my table. I looked around the room to see a veritable “who’s who.”

Hmmm? I thought.

In spite of the politics. This is pretty cool. Martin County has been chosen to kick off the governor’s reelection campaign. Why?

Because we are the most vocal little county in the state! Because 5000 people protested last summer at the height  of the SLR/IRL toxic algae outbreak and releases from Lake Okeechobee. Our voices were heard. We practiced our right to assemble under our constitution. We are fighting still as last weekend’s 1500 plus at the Clean Water Rally showed.  We have made a name for ourselves. Some of our politicians helped us, yes. But WE did it. We have called attention the dying St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon, the canals and Lake Okeechobee and maybe now there will be help.

As I was daydreaming about how great Martin County’s River Movement is, the governor walked to the front of the room and took the microphone.

He was very well dressed and looked more comfortable than usual. He greeted the crowd and then told the story of his life:

Born in Illinois, single mom, did not know his father, step dad, poor, Eagle Scout, Navy, University of Missouri, Law-Southern Methodist, no money, worked since a kid, rose to success, went to church a lot as his mother said he would….no money…family….made money….the importance of jobs…

I sat there thinking that if the governor had a really good P.R. person they would have written a book on the “Eagle Scout” part….and not concentrated so much on the business….

So anyway, his assistants walked around the room and passed out a booklet with a photo of a spring on the front reading “Rick Scott, Let’s Keep Florida Beautiful.”

“Hmmmm? I thought. This is different. A pretty picture of a Florida spring and Rick Scott’s name on it.”

I opened up the booklet and right on the first page it read: DURING MY SECOND TERM I WILL: 1. Ensure that Everglades and Indian River Lagoon Restoration continue to have the vision and funding to provide a restored ecosystem to our children…”

“Remarkable” I thought. After the “Indian River Lagoon” having “no name” in Tallahassee for years, it is now listed in the first sentence of a governor’s reelection booklet. Will it happen? Time will tell. At least we are recognized.

One thing is for sure. Martin County is not just the epicenter for the Indian River Lagoon, it is the epicenter of water change for the whole state. No place has a reputation like we have. The governor choosing Marin County to start his campaign supports this point. Like him or not, that’s cool.

I have included photos I took of the booklet below. Some are blurry but it will give you an idea of what it says.

Politics are as toxic as the waters of the SLR/IRL. And we, little Marin County, have risen to the top of the fermenting algae heap. Be proud and keep fighting for the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon! 

Booklet passed out  at yesterday's kick off re-election campaign for Rick Scott.

Booklet passed out at yesterday’s kick off re-election campaign for Rick Scott.

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A Time for Alligators Along the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon

An antique post card reads," A Florida Native." ca 1910. (Thurlow collection.)
An antique post card reads, “A Native of Florida,” ca. 1910. (Thurlow collection.)

I have always liked alligators. I have  been around them as long as I can remember in one way or another. When I was a kid and we would go water skiing near North River Shores close to the North Fork of the St Lucie River, we would see small ones leisurely resting in storm pipes coming out of people’s seawalls;  in my household everyone was always cheering for them as my grandfather Henderson, my parents, and later myself and brother also graduated from University of Florida. Jenny my sister is a traitor and went to Emory. 🙂

My parents have an awesome collection of alligator postcards that I will share today, and I figured now is a good time to write about gators as their babies should be hatching soon in nests along the fresh and some brackish areas of the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon. The females lay their eggs in early June and the little ones  hatch out about 65 days later.

“Crocodilla” fossil records show alligators have been on the earth for more than 200 million years. That’s pretty amazing in and of itself. But they have had many hardships.

According to Sandra Thurlow’s history writings on our Treasure Coast, when many of the first pioneers came to Florida and took river tours, they often just shot as many as they could “for fun.” This went for egrets and herons too. Sorry. But what a bunch of idiots. I know, I must be open minded and look at things “historically” within the context of the times….kind of like how people drained the whole state with out thinking…

As far as alligators, more recently, hunting, poaching, the fashion industry, pollution, and loss of habitat pushed the Florida alligator to the brink of extinction by the 1950s. In 1967 the US government listed alligators as an endangered species and gave them protection.  In one of the great comebacks of the “endangered,” alligators were increasing in numbers by the 1980s. They still have protections today, but are off the “endangered” list. 

Here are some of the antique postcards from my parents’ collection.

Alligator post card collection ca. 1910. (Thurlow collection.)
Alligator post card collection ca,. 1910-20 (Thurlow collection.)

IMG_6693 IMG_6691 IMG_6694 IMG_6690 IMG_6688 IMG_6686

Recently, a friend called me up and asked if there was someone who could move a small alligator on her property in Palm City. I called trappers recommended to me, and each of them said by law, if the alligator was reported as a “nuisance” and was over four feet, it would be removed and killed, not relocated.

I found this depressing but this is how the state manages the “nuisance gators.” Apparently they may be used for their leather and meat keeping the population in check.  Hmmm? The trapper also said, “If you don’t want it killed, just leave it alone, chances are it will move in time to another area.” This makes sense to me.

According to a Stuart News article by Ed Killer in 2010, in the state of Florida, the Florida Wildlife Commission from 1948 to 2009 documented that there were a total of  512 allligator bites; unprovoked: 330; provoked, 182; fatalities, 22. There have been two deaths in our Martin/St Lucie area. In 1978 a 14 year old boy was killed while swimming across Hidden River Canal off Bessey Creek and in 1984 an 11 year old boy was killed while swimming in a canal in St Lucie County. The alligators were 11-12 feet long.

This is terrible and heartbreaking. Like sharks, alligators share our environment are dangerous when large; we must be careful in their presence.

To end on a more positive note, in my reading I learned alligators have been noted using tools, like humans, a trait that belongs only to a few “intelligent” species. Yes. Alligators have been documented purposefully diving under the water putting sticks on their heads so water birds will land on them when looking for sticks to build their nests. Ingenious!

Maybe if we destroy the Indian River Lagoon and St Lucie River completely, along with the rest of the planet, they will return walking on two legs? Perhaps they would manage the waters of South Florida a lot better than humans…

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LINKS OF INTEREST

Florida Memory Project/Alligators: (http://www.floridamemory.com/photographiccollection/photo_exhibits/alligators/protection.php)
FWC/Alligator Facts: (http://myfwc.com/wildlifehabitats/managed/alligator/facts/)
FWC/Alligator Management: (http://myfwc.com/wildlifehabitats/managed/alligator/)
Encyclopedia of Life/Alligators: (http://eol.org/data_objects/15661319)

C-44 Basin Runoff 2014, Another Summer of Dirty Water For Our Indian River Lagoon, Why?

Aerial of the confluence of the SLR/IRL off of Sewall's Point, July 27th, 2014. (Photo courtesy of Scott Kuhns.)
Aerial of the confluence of the SLR/IRL off of Sewall’s Point, June 27th, 2014. (Photo courtesy of Scott Kuhns.)

If there is one thing constant about the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon’s problems, it is that they are multi-layered and complex. I believe this is one reason it has been so hard to “fix.” If there were just one problem, it would be easier, but there is not one problem, there are many.

So, today I wanted to focus  on C-44 basin runoff, again, as it has been in the news a lot, especially the two weeks since I was gone as I heard it really rained and we even got our first named hurricane.

The photo above shows the waters just off of the tip of Sewall’s Point on June 27th, 2014. Disgusting.

Basin map Martin/St Lucie SLR.
Basin map Martin/St Lucie SLR.

The basin map above reminds us of the C-44 basin’s location  in southern Martin County. The “basin” is the large area surrounding the C-44 canal in black lines.  As we know, this area is largely agricultural and was expanded over the years to drain more land than nature intended.

Through permits with the South Florida Water Management District the agricultural businesses are allowed to use water from the C-44 canal for irrigation when needed, especially during the “dry” season. The Army Corps of Engineers manages the level of the canal mostly for agricultural use; this is an historic relationship. In spite of “best management practices” much of the water used to irrigate their fields, runs back into the canal, over and over again, filled with fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, etc…This is the untreated, polluted water that goes straight into our rivers.

As we can see looking at the canal map, over the years, the C-44 basin has become tremendous in size in order to drain land for agriculture and development.  Millions of gallons of water come off these lands when it rains, as has been the case the past couple of weeks.

This recent photo below by local river activist and fishing guide, Michael Conner, shows what the C-44 basin water looks like when it comes out of the S-80 gates at St Lucie Locks and Dam, the same gates that are used when water is released from Lake Okeechobee when the ACOE opens S-308 at the lake. This can be confusing because usually we associate this type of photo with releases from Lake Okeechobee. S-80 can release just C-44 canal water or “just lake water,” or both lake and C-44 water…

S-80 releases water from S-80 into the C-44 canal at St Lucie Locks and Dam, July 2014. (Photo  courtesy of Michael Connor.)
Releases from S-80 from the C-44 canal at St Lucie Locks and Dam, July 2014. (Photo courtesy of Michael Connor.)

So why haven’t we talked  about the C-44 basin until this summer, or seen or very much about it in the newspaper “before?”

Well, it is confusing to the lay person, and I don’t claim to know everything, but I will explain what I can.

Generally, in the past,  the ACOE did not usually release the C-44 into the river during the summer…but this summer they are. Why?

Well according the the “Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the 2008 Lake Okeechobee Regulation Schedule (LORS),” the document the ACOE uses to manage Lake Okeechobee:

“All alternatives assume back flow from the St Lucie Canal, C-44, to Lake Okeechobee to be allowed to occur at lake stages of 14.50 ft or 0.25 from the bottom of the the lowest non-baseflow regulatory zone, whichever is lower.”

Basically this means that under most circumstances if the lake is under 14.5 feet,  which it is now, (13.38), the ACOE will “back flow” C-44 canal runoff water into the lake through S-308, rather than sending it east to the SLR/IRL through S-80. This summer the ACOE  has chosen not to do this, so we are getting C-44 basin water released into the SLR/IRL so the water looks gross. In the ACOE’s July 11th, 2014, public periodic scientist call email statement, explaining their choices, it reads:

“The Water Control Plan deliberately allow some flexibility to consider real time and forecasted conditions and decisions made within the guidance provided by the Water Control Plan…for the specific decision not to flow water from the C-44 basin into Lake Okechobee since 12 June 2014, the conditions that we took into consideration were rising lake levels, water supply, remaining duration of the wet season and proximity to the low sub band….the 8 July report from the South Florida Water Management District evaluates the condition of St Lucie Estuary and states “salinity at US1 is within the preferred range for oysters in the mid estuary.”

Photo of  SLR/IRL off Sewall's Point yesterday, 7-15-14. (Thank you Ed Lippisch)
Photo of SLR/IRL off Sewall’s Point yesterday, 7-15-14. (Thank you Ed Lippisch)

Hmmm? Obviously the SFWMD’s salinity report was not that of Mark Perry’s at Florida Oceanographic…Let’s read and take a look.

Mark Perry feels the ACOE should be back flowing the C-44 water into the lake. He says:

“According to the Water Control Plan for the Lake the Corps should be opening S-308 and back flowing this local basin runoff into the lake when the lake is below 14 feet and the C-44 is above 14.5 feet but they have chosen to make steady releases from the C-44 basin through S-80 into the St Lucie at near 1000 cfs since June 14. Not so good outlook for the St Lucie Oysters…”

Please view his chart below that shows what has happened to salinity levels since the C-44 has been flowing into the SLR/IRL. (Mind you C-23, and C-24 are also dumping their basin runoff water, but C-44’s basin area is larger.)

Salinity is going below safe levels for oysters since the C-44 has been opened.
Salinity is going below safe levels for oysters since the C-44 basin at S-80 has been opened.

On the other hand, friend of Mark Perry, Kevin Henderson, long time advocate for the SLR/IRL and founding member of the St Lucie River Initiative, feels the ACOE is perhaps trying a strategy that will help the St Lucie in the “future.” Kevin states:

“I firmly disagree that the Corps should always run C-44 drainage west until the Lake reaches 14.5. That is the pattern that gets us the most continuous lake and C-44  drainage into the fall, and the the patten that kills oysters…It is not basin runoff that kills the estuary, it’s months of continuous discharges at rates that never let salinity recover. This is why I advocate sending C-44 drainage west only when local salinity could recover for a while, then send it east again and do not let Lake O get high enough to wreck us with longer term discharges…”

I think he’s saying, the ACOE, by not consistantly filling the lake up with C-44 basin water during summer, may be avoiding long term runoff into the SRL/ILR in the future come fall…

Hmmm?

Both Mark and Kevin have a point.

My non-scientific perspective?

I think the ACOE was so taken aback by the wrath of the general public last year, the River Warriors, the River Kidz, the River Movement, the Stuart News/media, as well as some politicians, that they will do “almost anything” not to release water from Lake Okeechobee into the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon if they don’t have to.

By letting the C-44 basin water go into the river and not the lake, if a hurricane comes, there is just that much more room in the lake to hold the water so they don’t have to dump here and listen to us scream….

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ACOE Jacksonville/Lake O: (http://w3.saj.usace.army.mil/h2o/reports.htm)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1906-2014, Water Depth Changes in the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon

Hand drawn map Sewall's Point water depths created for Hugh de Laussat Willoughby ca. 1914. (Map and history courtesy of Todd Thurlow and Sandra Thurlow.)
Hand drawn map of Sewall’s Point’s water depths created for Hugh de Laussat Willoughby’s proposed New York Yacht Club at the southern tip of Sewall’s Point. Willoughby came to Sewall’s Point in 1906 in hopes of establishing a Southern New York Yacht Club. (Map and history courtesy of  Sandra Thurlow and Todd Thurlow.)

If Hugh Willoughby had not been searching for a southern location for the prestigious New York Yacht Club in 1906, we would not have the remarkable hand drawn map above. The New York Yacht Club’s southern headquarters was never established at the southern tip of Sewall’s Point, but we can see the water depths in the area were substantial, at 20 feet, around the tip of the protected west side of today’s High Point subdivision.

I stumbled upon the information about the New York Yacht Club again, because of trying to track water depths in the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon over the past century in my mother’s book, The History of Sewall’s Point.

From my parent’s old timer friends, over the years, I have heard stories about the the water depth and clarity being extensive in many areas of the St Lucie River, from Palm City to Stuart to Sewall’s Point, and how over time the sediment, due to canal run off from C-23, C-24 and C-44, has “filled the bottom of the river” in many areas, even forming “islands” north of the Palm City Bridge. C-44, connected to Lake Okeechobee, was first connected in 1923, and then deepened and widened again in the 1930s, and 50s and “improved since.” C-23 and C-24 were built in the 50s and 60s. Tremendous amounts of sediment and pollution has filled the river over time from these once thought “harmless” canals.

Today this sediment fill is often referred to as “muck.”

Anyway, for a baseline comparison of water depths, I started looking thorough my historian mother’s maps and asking questions to my attorney brother, who is a wiz at any type of map old or new, and although I did not get mapping for all of the the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon, I did for my own beloved Sewall’s Point. I imagine it is a microcosm of the rest.

Let’s take a closer look:

IMG_4928

(http://www.charts.noaa.gov/OnLineViewer/11428cgd.shtml)

Hand drawn map Sewall's Point water depths created for Hugh de Laussat Willoughby ca. 1914. (Map and history courtesy of Todd Thurlow and Sandra Thurlow.)

NOAA, 2014 electronic water depth map juxtaposed to hand drawn map of Sewall’s Point ca. 1906.

Comparing the two maps, one can see that the southern tip of Sewall’s Point in the NOAA map is not documented, I imagine because it is too far away from the Okeechobee Waterway. Disappointing. Nonetheless, if one looks at Sewall’s Point’s mid area, across and north of Hell’s Gate (the narrow part of the river) one can see water depth numbers like 19; 15; and 14 feet. Today those numbers on the NOAA chart read 4; 8; and 7.

Looking on the Stuart side, north of Hell’s Gate, the 1906 map reads 10; 8 and 12 feet. The 2014 NOAA map reads 2; 3; and 4 feet. Mind you, the channel has been dredged many times by the Army Corp, and Florida Inland Navigation District since 1906 and this certainly affects depths overall in the river as well. Nonetheless, for me, it is interesting to compare as even the channel depths in this area are no deeper than 11 feet and often more like 8 or 6  feet.

The famous mid 1900s environmentalist editor of the Stuart News, Mr Ernie Lyons, once said “Life too, is a changing river.” I  wonder if he knew how much we were going to fill it in…

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After I wrote this blog , friend, Kevin Stinnette, sent me the insert for south Sewall’s Point as he has experience as an avid sailer. I am adding for interest although I will not adjust my blog. The same principles hold true. 🙂 Thank you Kevin!

InsertD-Chart 11472b SP

 

 

 

 

Not Only Have We Become a Political Force for the Indian River Lagoon; We are in the Driver’s Seat, So Drive!

Gubitorial candidates wrote directly to the residents of the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon area on May 8th, 2014.
Gubitorial candidates wrote directly to the residents of the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon area on May 8th, 2014 in the Stuart News.

I didn’t pick up Sunday’s Stuart News until Monday, as I had been out of town. Sipping my coffee and holding the old fashioned paper, I love so much, my lips curled in a broad smile. The opinion page juxtaposed articles by two candidates running for Florida governor: Nan Rich and Rick Scott.

These letters were not just broad sweeping letters; they were thoughtful and personal, they mentioned the River Warriors and direct stories of inspiration from local residents. Don’t get me wrong, I know it is an election year, but nonetheless, it is simply amazing. In one year, since the discharges from Lake Okeechobee and our local canals turned our world upside down, and news of such “went viral,” the people have accomplished the most impressive of our forefathers’ American expectations. Expectations that years of  social conformity and  acceptance of over-development and  pollution had overridden. The people of the Indian River Lagoon have stood up to their government.

The rebellion of the southern lagoon corresponded to the northern lagoon’s massive deaths of manatees, dolphins, pelicans and loss of almost 100% of its seagrasses. These die-offs and toxic algae blooms in the north, actually began happening in 2011 but did not come out publicly until the uprising in the southern lagoon blended the two tragedies.

I know for many of my friends the politics of the River Movement is hypocritical, frustrating and painful. I feel the same way. In fact lately I have been a bit depressed over the whole thing. But I am getting out of it. Boy is it a pleasure to see that paper, to be in the drivers seat, to have “them” writing letters, visiting, and actually thinking that there is no longer a “golden ticket” to pollute. I have been in Martin County many years, and on “this level,” “this” has never happened before.

Finally, even Senator Rubio is getting heat in the press; long standing Senator Nelson is happy he’s been around, but also nervous he is part of the lagoon “establishment;” Charlie Crist is taking out his old notes about US Sugar; Senator Negron is promising more for the lagoon in 2015; Congressman Murphy is regrouping and studying the Farm Bill after the ACOE refused CEPP on his watch; and the future speakers of the Florida house and senate are making their cases for the future of “water.”

Many times the lagoon has been defiled by our government, in fact 2013 was not the worst its ever been. But  I am telling you, this time it is different because of “us.”  This time we have exposed them. This time we are asking truly for government to do what it is supposed to: “protect the health; safety and welfare” of its people. This time we are united in a brotherhood and sisterhood of diverse backgrounds and interests. This time we have reached a tipping point, as has the lagoon.

And most important for change, this time, “they” are watching and listening to us.

Please take advantage of this opportunity. Don’t turn your back because the politics are so repulsive to watch. Look to the sky—look to the river ——write a letter or make a call and say : ‘thank you; we are happy you are taking an interest in the lagoon; I will be weighing who to vote for based on who really has the desire, passion and an honest heart.”

These politicians may never be able to reach perfection, their world is pretty insane,  but be grateful they are paying attention, and know you are a force for change in a way never before. Drive your points home!

Ten and Five Mile Creeks, the Once Glorious Headwaters of the North Fork of the St Lucie River

North Fork of the St Lucie River is fed by Five and Ten Miles Creeks in St Lucie County. Once the glorious headwaters, they are today hardly recognizable.
North Fork of the St Lucie River is fed by Five and Ten Mile Creeks in St Lucie County. Once the glorious headwaters, they are today hardly recognizable.(Photo by Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch, 2010)

10 mile creek

Map, SLC, Ten and Five Mile Creeks are located in St Lucie County north of Midway Road.

Ernie Lyons wrote in the 1960s: “There was never anything more beautiful than a natural South Florida River, like the North and South Forks of the St Lucie…Their banks of cabbage palms and live oaks draped with Spanish moses and studded with crimson flowered air plants and delicate wild orchids were scenes of tropical wonder, reflected back from the mirror-like onyx surface of the water….”

A recent St Lucie County tourist publication goes back even further back: “Early Ten Mile Creek along with Five Mile Creek to the northeast form the headwaters of the North Fork of the St Lucie. These waters were originally comprised of a large area of interconnected march that eventually formed a creek. This marsh system in times of high water connected with the St Johns River, which flows north, allowing native peoples to  travel many miles by canoe. These native peoples lived and flourished in this area 3000 to 750 years BC.”

Although the north fork and attached waters were awarded the “Florida Outstanding Waters” designation in the 1970s, by 1995 the Department of Environmental Protection published a report on pesticide contamination in the area: (http://www.dep.state.fl.us/southeast/ecosum/ecosums/tenmile_creek.pdf)

Today the area is most well known for “Ten Mile Creek,” the failed storm water treatment area  built by the Army Corp of Engineers and the South Florida Water Management District (http://www.saj.usace.army.mil/Portals/44/docs/FactSheets/10Mile_FS_July2012_508.pdf) Thankfully after more than a decade, the agencies are moving forward on rectifying what they can of the project.

So what happened? How did this paradise die off? How did the “fresh water in the upper zones, furnishing some of the most marvelous sport fishing conceivable” pretty much disappear?

Again, I will quote Stuart News editor and environmentalist, Ernie Lyons: “Drainage canals mostly for agricultural purposes, cut the throats of the upper rivers. During periods of  heavy rainfall, muddy waters gushed down and turned the formerly clear streams into a turbid, silted mess. During dry spells, gated dams held back the water for irrigation. The water table was lowered. Salt marched upstream, turning the formerly fresh waters brackish and eventually so salty that fresh water fish could not procreate.”

As we know, humankind changes his/her environment. Not only were the canals cut in the northern creeks, but Gilbert’s Bar/St Lucie Inlet was opened permanently (by hand) in 1892, allowing salt water permanently into what used to be a fresh water river….the St Lucie.

Somehow it seems we should be able to change things with out creating so much destruction. I have hope our children will…

 

Life is a Changing River: Ernest Lyons, River Kidz and the Indian River Lagoon

The Ernest Lyons Bridge spends the Indian River Lagoon from  Sewall's Point to Hutchinson Island. Mr Lyons was an eloquent and outspoken river activist in his day.
The Ernest Lyons Bridge spans the Indian River Lagoon from Sewall’s Point to Hutchinson Island. Mr Lyons (1905-1990), an eloquent and outspoken Stuart News river activist, remains very much “alive” in Martin County. (Photo by Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch)

Life is a Changing River

“And what a marvelous river it was, with the pelicans diving into the mullet schools, bald eagles screaming as they robbed ospreys of their prey,  a river teeming with interesting things to see and do, and such good things to eat…Pompano jumped into the boats. Tasty oysters were abundant–‘squirt clams put hair on your chest.’ How sad it is to see it change. But life, too, is a changing river. I suppose  the river today is just as wonderful to those who are as young as I was in 1914.” —-Ernest Lyons, 1964, as transcribed by historian Sandra Henderson Thurlow.

Ernest Lyons was one of  Martin County’s  most prolific, and outspoken environmentalist and river advocates. His award winning Stuart News columns were published across the nation romanticizing and documenting pre and post World War growth that turned “sweet watered streams into walled canals.” (http://www.flpress.com/node/63)

Nonetheless, he recognized the power of river’s magic for all generations. He wrote the above, the year that I was born, in 1964.

Yesterday, 10 year old,  St Lucie County River Kidz member, Aidan Lewey, spoke before the South Florida Water Management District’s Governing Board that was voting whether to support the Central Everglades Planning Project, (CEPP), a project that  should, in time, redirect  approximately 20% of the waters from Lake Okeechobee “south.”

Part of what Aidan said was: “Please find it in your hearts to complete (CEPP) for the kids and for the mammals that are dying every day, because there is too much pollution coming into our playground…”  Because to Aidan, and to his generation, just like Mr Lyons said, “the river today, is just as wonderful to those who are as young as I was in 1914.”

 

References:

Today’s Stuart News headline regarding the SFWMD CEPP vote, by Tyler Treadway: WEST PALM BEACH — The South Florida Water Management District board unanimously gave the go-ahead Thursday to a project designed to ease, but not end, catastrophic Lake Okeechobee discharges to the St. Lucie River estuary and Indian River Lagoon.

Official CEPP information: (http://www.evergladesplan.org/pm/projects/proj_51_cepp.aspx)