Tag Archives: Sugar Industry

Sugarcane, Indians, and Roundup, Professor Geoffrey Norris, SLR/IRL

Today I share the second paper of guest, Geoffrey Norris Ph.D. I recently shared Blue-green algal blooms in the lakes, rivers, and marine waters of south Florida surrounding Lake Okeechobee.

I must admit, I hesitated publishing this second paper, “Sugarcane and Indians,”  as I  am sure some may interpret it as “politically incorrect.” I apologize to anyone who may, but I decided to print Dr Norris’ paper because the main message is important.

The message is:

“Is Sugar’s use of ripening stalks with “Roundup” feeding toxic algae blooms and why are lands/waters south of Lake Okeechobee “protected” while ours of the northern estuaries are not? “

You will learn something about this in Dr Norris’ paper below, and I thank him for sharing his work.

In closing, I believe we have something important to learn from history and the Native People of North America; I admire them. They are great warriors and respect Nature, the gift of our Creator. And in the case of the Miccosukee, they “never surrendered” and if I have anything to do with it, neither will we.

Jacqui

(http://www.miccosukee.com/tribe/)

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JTL 2015 Miccosukee Reservation, Tamiami Trail

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This blog is the work and opinion of Professor Geoffrey Norris

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 By

Geoffrey Norris Ph.D. FRSC

http://www.es.utoronto.ca/people/faculty/norris-geof/

..”In the 1960s, I lived and worked as a petroleum exploration geologist in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Subsequently, I spent almost 40 years at the University of Toronto in teaching and research in geology…A geologist by training, I have a specialized knowledge of fossil algae, their ecology, morphology, and distribution. I have published hundreds of scientific papers on fossil algae and related topics.”  ~Geoffrey Norris Ph.D.

rosalex@interlog.com

unknown.jpgSugarcane and Indians

Executive summary

  • The area around Lake Okeechobee accounts for almost half the total production of sugarcane in the United States.
  • Sugarcane in south Florida is very needy of phosphorus and potassium fertilizers, but nitrogen fixed in the muck soils largely eliminates the need for extra nitrogen fertilizers.
  • Sugarcane also demands the use of the phosphorus-rich herbicide “Roundup” (glyphosate) several times each year. Firstly, in the fallow season (approximately May-September) to control weeds and allow the sugarcane underground rhizomes to regenerate.  Secondly, as the new shoots come through in the Fall to continue weed control.  Thirdly, during maturation and harvesting (October through March) glyphosate is applied to “chemically ripen” the sugarcane and improve sugar yields.
  • Land south of Lake Okeechobee could be used for storage and bio-cleansing of excess lake water. However, the 1997 water quality agreement between the Environmental Protection Agency and the Miccosukee Indians (aka Mikasuki, Miccosuki) states that phosphorus shall not be present in quantities greater than 10 parts per billion, and that no substance shall be present to stimulate algal growth and produce objectionable algal densities in the 300,000 acres of tribal lands in the Everglades south of Alligator Alley.
  • This legal agreement would suggest that Lake Okeechobee waters destined for southern storage must be cleaned to rigorous standards before discharge into southward flowing streams feeding the Everglades, at least near the Miccosukee tribal lands.
  • A case could be made for the sugar industry and related agriculture to “clean up its act” to mitigate the effects of heavy fertilizer and herbicide usage on the environment in general and on lake and stream waters in particular.

Sugarcane and Indians

First about nutrients and farm land and how much is planted in sugarcane.

Here are three maps that graphically answer the question about the extent of sugarcane plantations:unknown.jpg

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A couple of years ago I had the opportunity the fly over the area south of Lake Okeechobee in a light plane at about 1000ft altitude.  The extent of the sugarcane is truly mind-boggling. Its plantations surround the entire southern perimeter of the Lake and reach to the horizon.  Smaller plantations occur elsewhere around the Lake.  It is a very big operation.

Now to the nutrients themselves.  I had a great deal of difficulty finding precise information on how much fertilizer is applied per unit area.  There were general articles that confirmed that sugarcane is very needy of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium fertilizers together with other elements. It is after all a giant grass, so just think how much stuff you have to put on your own lawn to make it grow green!  Apparently, in the south Florida area the need to apply nitrogen fertilizer to sugar cane is not so critical because the mucky soils generate their own nitrates through soil microbial activity.  However, phosphates must be applied as  fertilizer for sugarcane at various times of the year together with potassium etc.  But actual numbers were hard to come by, other than that sugarcane is voracious for fertilizers.  This is when I stumbled upon some marvellous work that the U.S. Geological Survey has been doing on the extent and the total quantitates of pesticides being applied to farmland across USA.  I used their maps of glyphosate (Roundup) as what I thought might be a reasonable proxy for phosphate fertilizer.  In other words, if you use Roundup as a weedkiller on crops, then very likely you will be using fertilizer as well.  It turns out I was right and I was wrong!  First take a look at this summary map for two separate years, 1992 being the earliest year available in this USGS study:

Details are difficult to see in these summary maps but the originals are much clearer.  The area around Lake Okeechobee was already in 1992 applying large amounts of glyphosate, and this intensified in succeeding years.  What I didn’t understand was why the sugarcane fields should be so needy of weedkiller – fertilizers OK, but why so much weedkiller?  It would seem that 25% of the cost of sugar production is due to heavy nutrient need (up to 75 lbs phosphate per acre, with 400,000 acres in sugarcane in south Florida).  But weedkiller.  Then I dug deeper following your email comments and found out why.  Indeed glyphosate is used at least three ways on sugarcane as follows:

Firstly, during the fallow season (approx. May-September 2016) following harvesting, glyphosate is applied to control weeds which would otherwise grow up and choke out the underground cane sugar rhizomes left in the ground to regenerate as the next crop.

Secondly, glyphosate application continues in different amounts as the new shoots come through in the Fall.  This is tricky because glyphosate kills just about anything that is green, but careful control can kill the young weeds while not harming – at least not very much – the young sugarcane shoots.  Other herbicides are also involved but glyphosate is the big one.

Thirdly, the sugarcane matures and is harvested in the winter months at various times from October through March.  During this time the stem of the sugarcane ripens and becomes rich in sugar (sucrose) prior to going to the mill.  Astonishingly (to me anyway) it has been found that about a month or two prior to harvesting, another application of glyphosate will help ripen and enrich the crop with significantly more sugar.  This process is called “chemical ripening”.  Other chemicals can be involved but glyphosate is a popular choice (it got cheaper once Monsanto’s patent expired in the year 2000).

So yes, I think cane sugar farming is being pursued intensively, but I’m not sure how it can be stopped.  Its effects on Lake O could be mitigated as discussed in my previous document but stopping an entire industry would be almost impossible to my mind.  Cleaning up the sugar industry might be a more realistic aim.
Change of land usage and water flow.

It would be nice to think that Lake Okeechobee water could be redirected southwards along its original historic course on its way to the Everglades.  Here’s a graphic of how things used to be:
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For thousands of years, water drained from Lake O through a wide series of shallow tributaries and interconnected lakes to the Everglades.  It’s unlikely that this could be recreated but certainly use of land south of the Lake for water transport and storage and bio-cleansing of some sort or another would be an improvement.  However, it would seem that this is unlikely given the actions of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and its agreement in 1997 re the  Clean Water Act with the Miccosukee Indians, a tribe which occupies part of the Everglades.

https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2014-12/documents/miccosukee.pdf

This agreement set out comprehensively water quality standards for the Tribes drinking water, wildlife habitat water, and recreational water (boating, swimming etc).  In particular, Section 3 reads:
MICCOSUKEE ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION CODE
SECTION 3. Tribal Water Quality Standards

The following minimum water quality criteria shall apply to all surface waters of the Miccosukee Tribe of Indians of Florida unless those water bodies are designated with higher or stricter water quality standards. Stricter standards for a given water body shall supersede these general Water Quality Standards. These standards shall provide a legal basis for including whole effluent toxicity requirements in all federally issued permits.

(there follows a list of 16 physical, biological, and toxicological conditions of which these two are particularly germane):

E. NUISANCE CONDITIONS: Plant nutrients or other substances stimulating algal growth, from other than natural causes, shall not be present in concentrations that produce objectionable algal densities or nuisance aquatic vegetation, or that result in a dominance of nuisance species instream, or that cause nuisance conditions in any other fashion. Phosphorus and nitrogen concentrations shall not be permitted to reach levels which result in man-induced eutrophication problems. Total phosphorus shall not exceed 10 parts per billion in Class III-A waters. In Class III-B waters, total phosphorous discharges shall not be made which result in undesirable aquatic life effects or which result in chronic or acute toxicity to aquatic life.

N. NUTRIENTS: In no case shall nutrient concentrations of Tribal Class I or Class III-A surface waters be altered so as to cause an imbalance in natural populations of aquatic flora or fauna. Total phosphorus concentrations shall not exceed 10 parts per billion in Class III-A waters. In Class III-B waters, nutrients shall not be discharged which result in undesirable aquatic life effects or which result in chronic or acute toxicity to aquatic life.

So what this and other sections of agreement mean is that nutrient-rich water from Lake Okeechobee must be cleaned to rigorous standards before discharge into southward flowing streams feeding the Everglades.  So bio-cleansing within the Everglades – or at least near the Miccosukee tribal lands (about 300,000 acres in the vicinity of the Tamiami Trail and Alligator Alley) is not a possibility within this legal framework.

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However what’s good for the goose is surely good for the gander.  I looked into the history  of the Miccosukee Indians, and it would seem they are only fairly recent arrivals in Florida, arriving about the same time as Stuart was being settled.  The Miccosukee appear to have originated in what is now Georgia and then migrated south to north Florida where they became entwined with the Seminoles.  After the Seminole wars of the 19th century they migrated to central Florida in the late 1800’s and then decided to disentwine themselves from the Seminoles as a culturally distinct society.  They appear to have seen an opportunity during the construction of the Tamiami Trail in the first quarter of the 20th century and migrated further south and became embedded in the adjacent Everglades. First  Florida (1957) then federally (1962) they became recognized as a tribe distinct from the Seminoles.

Meanwhile in th early 20th century, as the migrant Miccosuki Indians were settling down in their new home in the Everglades as “Trail Indians”, Stuart was incorporated as a town (1914) then a city (1925) after being settled by migrant northerners about half a century earlier.  Total population of Stuart is now about 16,000.

640 migrant Indians – how many are fishing  and frogging?  16,000 migrant non-Indian northerners – how many lives and livings are being disrupted by ruined beaches and waterfronts?
the Indians pushed for a great deal from EPA and got it.  So now a total of about 640 Miccosukee (Mikasuki) Indians (some now  living in Miami-Dade and not the Everglades) can pursue their supposedly traditional way of life (fishing, frogging, subsistence agriculture) plus gaming resorts and casinos and tobacco shops – while many of the 151,000 citizens of Martin County are prevented from pursuing their traditional way of life.  Surely our waters (habitat, recreational, drinking) should be subject to the same rigorous standards as laid down by the EPA/Clean Water Act for the people living in the Everglades.

We are all equal – as George Orwell said – but some are more equal than others.  Well, so it seems.  What do you think?
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River of Interest, ACOE, The Ultimate Hammer, chapter about the lawsuit http://141.232.10.32/docs/river_interest/031512_river_interests_2012_chap_12.pdf

Alligators and Litigators: Keith Rizzardi http://www.floridabar.org/DIVCOM/JN/JNJournal01.nsf/76d28aa8f2ee03e185256aa9005d8d9a/d0fe7ce69afa102885256adb005d635e?OpenDocument

Previous blog post, Norris: Blue-green algal blooms in the lakes, rivers, and marine waters of south Florida surrounding Lake Okeechobee: https://jacquithurlowlippisch.com/tag/dr-norris/

The Road of No Return, Connors’ Highway, Lake Okeechobee, SLR/IRL

Fingy Conners, History’s Forgotten Villain

Video about Fingy Connors:https://www.buffalorising.com/2013/09/fingy-conners-historys-forgotten-villain/

Canal Point, the lake town just south of today’s Martin County line, was once an epicenter of life changing activity, a road trip there is no turning back from…

As we learned previously, in 1917, the construction of the West Palm Beach Canal created Canal Point, the town of lumber-man and developer, Mr. Gilbert A Watkins. During this era, planting sugarcane in the rich muck soils surrounding Lake Okeechobee was becoming even more of a rage and the federal and state government helped it take shape.

In 1913, Florida’s Internal Improvement Fund appointed an engineering commission to study the feasibility of draining the Everglades. At this same time, roads were assessed. In 1919 those belonging to Southern Land and Timber Company, Hamilton Disston’s heirs’ lands around Lake Okeechobee–some that became Watkins’—were determined to be “inadequate.” The only east/west road was Jupiter -Indiantown, and that was not enough.

Nationally, it was all the rage to be part of South Florida’s new-found” investment. “Buffalo’s New Yorker, Fingy Connors, was perfect for the job. He’d lost his thumb when he was young, but this didn’t keep him from grasping or getting what he wanted. After a visit to the area celebrating the building of the West Palm Beach Canal, he bought lands in the area of Canal Point and built his road.

Connors’ Highway Toll-Road became an “engineering and development marvel” and all knew it was Fingy’s skill as a big time political boss that got it done. Like the video and biography in this post implies, some saw him as a villain, and others as a hero…

What is for sure, is that although a large section of the road was built from Canal Point north to Okeechobee, it later was extended under the lake and across the state becoming Highway-80, paving the way for the future of the sugar industry  and what would  evolve into the riches of the Everglades Agricultural Area.

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William Fingy Conners

Tycoon, Saloon Boss, Businessman, Politician, Philanthropist:

William J. Conners, aka Fingy (1857-1929) was born in the slums of the Old First Ward. Fingy obtained his nick-name because he lost his thumb when he was young. When he was 19, his parents passed and he acquired a small saloon/rooming house on Louisiana St. He then bought a 2nd saloon on Ohio St. With Conners’s flashy, tough personality, he managed to form contracts to supply labor all across the Great Lakes utilizing 1,000s. His men would eat, sleep, drink, and spend their earnings at his saloons. He had sovereignty over the work force for over a decade. Next in life, he became a leading real-estate developer, operated his own paving company and brewing company, poultry farm, and started the early stages of the Courier Express. Conners definitely tested the waters by reducing wages of grain scoopers which caused a strike. This strike caught nation-wide attention, as 8,000,000 bushels of wheat were backed up. After dipping into politics, he came to control 85% of the packaged freight business on the Great Lakes (Great Lakes Transit Corporation). Conners donated a small fortune to Buffalo’s poor. Later in life, Fingy resided in Florida for half of the year. Floridians considered Fingy to be of hero stature.

HISTORIC PHOTOS CIA FLORIDA MEMORY, CONNORS’ HIGHWAY 1920s.

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Connors’ Hwy. toll area with non-diked Lake Okeechobee in background ca. 1925. (Florida Memory Project)
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A car drives along Connors’ Hwy. with Everglades fauna to right. (FMP) 
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Connors’ Hwy and Everglades fauna. 

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Cistern with Lake O in background.
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Connors’ Hwy along area of canal or rim canal-here I am uncertain but this photo too is included in the Florida Memory Projects documentation of the Connors’ Hwy. 

HISTOROR MARKER TEXT AND PHOTO

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*Thank you to my mother for the photos retrieved from Florida Memory and the write up of the historical marker and the video history.

Palm Beach Historical Society:http://www.pbchistoryonline.org/page/land-boom-and-bust-conners-highway

https://dedicatedtobuffalo.wordpress.com/history/defining-men/fingy-conners/

#5 PAC “Committee to Protect Florida,” Inside the Alligator Pit, SLR/IRL

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JTL vs the Political Machine,  A Retrospective, Part #5

When I saw my mother yesterday, she said, “Jacqui, I think you need to stop writing about those PACs…I get it now…” One of my Grassroots Team members implied that I may ruin my reputation for running a clean campaign, and compromise my chances to run again,  with all the harsh comments coming in on my recent posts….My husband looked at me wide-eyed over a glass of wine: “I thought you tried to keep your campaign out of the blog…?” Joe Catrambone, CEO of the Stuart Chamber, who I like very much, sent out a group email saying: “Jacqui isn’t accepting defeat very well! Speaks volumes doesn’t it!!!”

For those of you who are uncomfortable, or think I am a sore loser, please don’t fret.  Today will be my final day investigating those who spent time and money to affect my loss for Martin County Commission District 1.

I do apologize to the Stuart Chamber as they really don’t belong in the category of reptiles as they chose not to send out a negative post card against me, just for Doug Smith; I was simply trying to make the point that the influence of Tallahassee affects home.

Early on, in my own head, I knew that whether  I lost or won, I would be reporting on the outcome dynamics of the campaign in my blog. Writing on this issue is all part of my river journey. I know what I am doing, and it will be shared. These insights in time will help us get closer to saving our dying river…

Mom, “don’t worry,” I will stop taunting the alligators very soon! 🙂 But first we must try to see the truth behind the scenes.

Here we go:

#5

Our last PAC to add to the previous three days of postings: Write in Candidate Chase Lurgio;  Martin County Firefighters Union’s “Citizens for Public Safety;” C-Pac; and “Committee to Elect Real Conservatives;” (all ridiculous names) and today’s”Committee to Protect Florida.”

So when we look at the third negative post card that came out against the JTL campaign, we see on the bottom it reads: “Paid electioneering Communication for by Committee to Protect Florida, PO Box  102005 Tallahassee, FL 32302.” It is yet another ad full of lies, but I do appreciate that they used two of my favorite pictures of myself, my younger looking real estate head shot from 2007 and the hysterical “piranha photo” Ed took of me in Peru along the Amazon River.

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So let’s quickly do what we have learned and look up this PAC on the Florida Division of Elections website by COMMITTEE: http://dos.elections.myflorida.com/committees/

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This PAC’s chairperson is Mr Roger “Rockie” Pennington. Mr Pennington is a very well-known in Tallahassee politics.  I first heard about Mr Pennington, when I was told in the last campaign cycle that he ran  Doug Smith’s campaigns. At the time I wondered why Doug would use someone from Tallahassee….

Rockie Pennington owns Southern Campaign Resources, and according to his website “has been a fixture in Republican politics for nearly four decades.” You can read more here: http://www.southerncampaigns.com

Let’s look up who contributed to his PAC:  ironically the Florida Chamber of Commerce at over $100,000 dollars, Florida Jobs Pac, $50,000. These are the same PACs that gave money to C-PAC and Committee to Elect Real Conservatives from yesterday with sprinkles of the sugar industry.

But what is even weirder is when you look up “Nature Coast Conservatives” that gave the lion’s share of the donations, $100,000s of dollars. This PAC is run by Roger Pennington’s partner in Southern Campaign Resources, Mr Mark Zubaly who is listed along with Rocky Pennington on the bio page of Southern Campaign Resources.

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As the bio states “(Mark) is a partner in two Tallahassee-based companies that count at least one-fourth of the Florida Legislature among their clients: Southern Campaign Resources, a political consulting and lobbying firm, and Summit Communications, a media production firm. He also serves as the campaign consultant to a number of Florida’s city, county and judicial elected officials.”

http://dos.elections.myflorida.com/campaign-finance/contributions/

And yes…Mark Zubaly was also Rockie Pennington’s PACs treasurer…

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Of course as you dig deeper the money keeps going and going and going….

So The Doug Smith Campaign had its own campaign manager with his own PAC with his own partner funding the PAC from his own PAC that uses many of the same questionable donors that were linked to, C-PAC, and the # 2 post card of Josh Cooper who ran opposition research for the Governor. On top of this there was the Firefighters Union PAC, Citizens for Public Safety, sending out positive post cards for Doug Smith, sending out negative post cards against JTL all the while building signs, placing signs, making negative phone calls against JTL, pulling up opposition JTL signs, and waving….

I’d say we did pretty well considering our opponents! What an alligator pit!

I feel like we’re in a Carl Hiaasen book! We don’t even need to go to Miami!

In conclusion, The Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch Grassroots Campaign lost to this Political Machine by 2.9% or 677 votes…raised considerably more money and had considerably more diverse support. Supported a clean river and land purchase south of lake…in any case, did not support the status quo…

Wow! What a race!

It was exciting!

And now that we know who we’re in the pit with, maybe next time we’ll get them on their backs and Protect Florida For Real.

 

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Trying to Understand the Structure of the SFWMD within Government, St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon

Florida Statutes books on shelf. Public photo.
Florida Statutes books on shelf. Public photo.

If there is one thing I have learned in my seven-year stint in local government, it is that for the public, the structure of government and how it works is unclear. In my opinion, this happens due to many reasons, but first and foremost is because government as a whole is terrible at being open and explaining itself, perhaps preferring to function behind a shroud of confusion. Also, governments’ sense of responsibility to communicate with the public is often nonexistent or skewed at best… plus communicating is expensive…This situation is compounded by the fact that every year there are new laws, and every few years new elected officials coming in….so the public is constantly having to “catch up.”

To make a point, let me give a simple example from the Town of Sewall’s Point, where I live and am a town commissioner. Prior to 2006 the town did not have a full-time town manager. In 2006 the town charter was amended by the commission creating a manager/commission form of government as opposed to commissioners being in charge of different departments. I was elected in 2008. For years, many citizens did not know this change had occurred, and their expectations were functioning off the old system and their expectations were not met. They came into the commission meetings very upset. The town did not “advertise” the charter changes. I was too new to really understand what was going on….it took me a year or so to figure it out, and the public—

People are too busy trying to live their lives, raise their children, and “put bread on the table,” to follow every move of government be it local, state or federal. Add to this that government itself is a terrible communicator, and what happens? The mechanisms are not in place for government to work….This is how I see it anyway. The answer? Better communication and learning to understand how things work.

A few months ago when the South Florida Water Management District was ignoring a desperate and pleading public that had come before them begging for the purchase of the US Sugar Option Lands through Amendment 1 monies, to help save the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon and Calooshatchee, I drove to West Palm Beach and met with high level officials. They were very nice but it was a frustrating meeting. Basically I asked them, “What are you doing?” “Why are you acting like this?”

The answer?

“Commissioner, you know the power isn’t in our hands anymore anyway…”
“What do you mean?” I inquired.

A conversation around the table ensured:

SFWMD: “Well after the debacle that occurred 2008-2010 with then Governor Charlie Christ, the recession, and the attempted buyout of all of US Sugar’s lands, basically a water district was trying to purchase a corporation…..the Florida Legislature got fed up.  So later,  in section 373.556 of Florida Statutes, the Florida Legislature made sure the District would never be in a position to do that again….Significant legislative changes have occurred related to water management budgeting with substantial ramification for Water Management District land transactions. In 2013, Senate Bill 1986 provided that certain District land transaction should be subject to the scrutiny of the Legislative Budget Commission. As this bill renewed the authority of the Governor to approve or disapprove the SFWMD budget, as with all water management budgets of the state, we can no longer do things we have done in the past like oversee giant land purchases using the monies from our ad-valorem taxes…There is a lot more to it but that’s the main difference now. You are talking to the wrong people….”

I stood there just staring…..”I didn’t know this gentlemen, so how do you expect the public to know this ? Are you telling me, the SFWMD has no power to purchase those Sugar Lands?”

“I am telling you the legislature is in charge of the budget and we don’t have enough money to buy the lands, and couldn’t without their approval….”

“So why don’t you explain that to the public?” I asked.

Stares….

Long awkward silence….

The reply was more or less: “It’s best not to get involved in such a discussion…..”

I lectured them on the importance of communication and education and said they certainly still have influence even if they say they “do not” …..but this did go over particularly well… the meeting ended. I shook their hands. I felt like an idiot. I drove home.

Since that time I have been trying to learn more…..So I read about the history of the Water Management Districts in Florida.

Florida's five water managements districts map DEP.
Florida’s five water managements districts map DEP.

To me it seems that originally when the water management districts were created in the 1970s they were allowed to levy taxes from the public in order to be an independent entity of water knowledgeable citizens  advising the governor as to how best manage water resources.  Also, the Dept of Environmental Protection was just evolving at this time so when the water districts were formed they did not work “under” or “beside” the DEP like today.

Over time, the laws have changed and our water management districts  have become an arm of the governor and his or her people in the state legislature. The SFWMD is and has been losing its power. Especially since 2013. This  loss of influence has politicized the structure of Florida’s water management districts to a level that “the people” no longer have a voice locally with their districts, and they don’t know they are now expected to go to their state legislature;  and even if they did, their local delegation is one in hundreds in that structure  that would need to be convinced to change water policy (for land purchase south of Lake Okeechobee for the health of the estuaries, for instance.)

I have learned too through this journey that really today about ten people run our state: Right now it is our governor, Rick Scott: cabinet members, Adam Putnam, Dept of Agriculture; Pam Bondi, Attorney General; Jeff Atwater, Chief Financial Officer; “leadership,” Speaker of the House: Steve Crisafulli; President of the Senate, Andy Gardiner; and the committee heads of the senate and the house which are only a few “tapped” people. (People who have agreed to conform or are smart enough to walk the razors’ edge.)”Leadership” keeps all elected officials  in line by allowing them, or not allowing them, to be on, or to chair, certain committees, or by allowing, or not allowing their bills “to be heard”… also by discouraging new candidates from running for office if this is against “leaderships’ master-plan.” This behavior is worse in the republican party than the democratic party, but they are all encouraging conformity rather than leadership.

So how can we best communicate with our government?

Hmmmm?

Let’s keep educating ourselves,  and can anyone say “revolution?”

Seal of Florida
Seal of Florida

 

 

2013 DEP letter explaining changes to SFWMD structure: (http://www.dep.state.fl.us/secretary/watman/files/017_Land_Acquisition_Revised_Guidance_032713.pdf)

2011 DEP letter leading up to changes in 2013 letter above:(http://www.dep.state.fl.us/secretary/watman/files/004_land_acquistion_042511.pdf)

DEP Florida’s Water Management Districts:(http://www.dep.state.fl.us/secretary/watman/)

SFWMD, Florida’s oldest water management district: (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/South_Florida_Water_Management_District)

Florida Statures Section 373 (http://www.leg.state.fl.us/STATUTES/index.cfm?App_mode=Display_Statute&URL=0300-0399/0373/0373ContentsIndex.html&StatuteYear=2014&Title=%2D%3E2014%2D%3EChapter%20373)

The Mechanization of the Sugar Industry as a Metaphor for Change, St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon

Historic postcard, ca.1900 sugarcane in Florida, from the Thurlow Collection.
Historic postcard, ca.1900 “Cutting Sugarcane in Florida,” from the Thurlow Collection.

This week, due to the inspiration of small book my mother handed me, I have been exploring the history, and political change encompassing the sugar industry. Monday, I wrote about Cuba; Tuesday, I wrote about the Calusa Indians, pioneers, and workers; and yesterday, I wrote about  the pond apple forest that used to border the southern rim of Lake Okeechobee.

Today, based on chapter 29 of Lawrence E. Will’s 1968 book, “Swamp to Sugar Bowl, Pioneer Days in Belle Glade,” I will briefly write about the evolution of labor practices in Florida’s sugar industry and how public pressure led to the mechanization of the industry. For me, the mechanization of the sugar Industry is a metaphor for change for our St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon.

The point of this journey is to learn our history and to remind ourselves that even the “worst of circumstances” can be improved. I believe, that one day, we too, will see improvement of the government sponsored destruction of the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon from Lake Okeechobee. Our relation to the sugar industry? For those who may not know.. .Their location blocks the flow of Lake Okeechobee’s waters flowing south to the Everglades. 

The delay of CEPP, the Central Everglades Planning Project may end up symbolically being the beginning of Florida's  4th Seminole War.
The Everglades Agricultural Area is just south of Lake Okeechobee, it is composed mostly sugar farming and block the flow of waters flowing south from Lake O so they are directed to the northern estuaries. (EF)

Before I start, I must say that “everyone has a history,” and the history of the world is mostly “not a pretty one.” This goes for me as well. Parts of my family have been here before the American Revolution, and a few of  my ancestors owned slaves. I have read the wills these relatives handing down their slaves from one generation to the next like these souls were pieces of furniture. It is retched. It is uncomfortable. It is immoral. But to forget, is not the answer. It is important to know our own history and the history of businesses in our state no matter how difficult. As is said, we must “Never Forget…” Slavery and the extermination of Florida’s native peoples “is the ground we sit on,” and our job today is to continue to make this world, and our living waters a “better place.”

Back of postcard.
Back of postcard.

So, let’s begin.

The history of sugarcane has “roots” all over the world, but in our area it is connected to the Caribbean. I recommend a book entitled: “History of the Caribbean,” by Frank Moya Pons.

The basis of this book is the extermination of the Arawak Indians due to colonization and the bloody wars on both sides of the Atlantic over control of the region’s lucrative sugar market . The Arawaks were native to the Caribbean. When they were unwilling slaves for the Europeans, and died as a race due to european-brought diseases, African slaves were brought in to replace them.

After centuries involving  world political struggles for “sugar dominance,” and with the rise of the United States and the horrible world wars, sugar came to be seen as “national security issue,” not just a food source as it can be used for the making of explosives/weapons.  As we know, over the centuries, through political strategy, the United States rose as a power in sugar production, as Cuban dominance declined.

The apex of this shift in our area was around 1960. For reference, my husband, Ed, came to this county when he was four, with his family from Argentina, in 1960, the Perons had been in power; and I was born in California, at Travis Air Force Base in 1964. It was the Vietnam Era.

The Everglades Agricultural Area south of Lake Okeechobee where the sugar industry resides expanded the most it ever has around this time. To quote Mr Lawrence E. Wills:

“when Fidel Castro took over Cuba, (1958) the Everglades reaped the benefit. For a short time our government permitted the unrestricted planting of sugar cane …and before that time, under the U.S government’s regulations, the state of Florida was permitted to produce only nine-tenths of one percent of the nation’s needs.”

The US government helped the sugar industry grow and for “a reason:” Power. Influence. National Security. Food Source. Weapons. This is heavy currency in world politics and it is achieved at any expense….here in south Florida, it was achieved at the expense of the uneducated and poor worker.

Chapter 29 of Mr Will’s book is entitled, “Harvest of Shame.”

(http://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=Documentary+Harvest+of+Shame&FORM=RESTAB#view=detail&mid=D9218CAC685FC8880984D9218CAC685FC8880984)

Mr Wills writes about a television documentary that was released on Thanksgiving Day in 1960. Mr Wills says the piece is “sensationalized.” It was produced  by the Columbia Broadcasting System, presented by Edgar R. Murrow and sponsored by Philip Morris Cigarette Company. Certainly the piece was “sensationalized,” but undoubtedly there was also truth regarding the difficult conditions for migrant workers.

What is important here, is that the explosive public reaction to the documentary pressured the sugar industry to move towards mechanization, which they achieved just over thirty years later around 1992.

As the industry moved towards this goal, other problems ensued, such as H-2 program changes.  With claims that the local labor force “could not,” or “would not” do the back-breaking work of cutting the sugar cane with machete, the H-2 program allowed the sugar industry to hire foreign workers, mostly from the Caribbean, especially Jamaica, who as we already know had a history with this difficult work.

The rub for labor activists was that these workers could be deported if they did not “produce.” They could be shipped out and replaced. Some called this a form of modern slavery. An award-winning documentary, on this subject, H-2 Worker, was produced by Stephanie Black in 1990. She points out that although the sugar industry had basically achieved mechanization by this time, others had not. (http://www.docurama.com/docurama/h-2-worker/)

The sugar industry moved to mechanization because of public outcry. Of course it is more complicated than that and is driven by economics, nonetheless, it was a huge factor. With more outcry regarding our St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon, the same thing could happen. Change. More water flowing south. A flow way. A reservoir. Lands to clean, store and convey water south….fewer, or no more polluted/toxic releases into the St Lucie River/IRL…

To deviate just a bit before I close, we may ask ourselves, how could this happen? Slavery? Mistreatment of workers? Destruction of the environment?

Well, the answer is the same today as it was in 1500; it happens because government allows, supports, and encourages it. The U.S. Department of Labor, the United States Department of Agriculture and others. Some right under our nose.

USDA: (http://naldc.nal.usda.gov/download/20644/PDF)

Remember, today’s state and federal agencies are made up of people; people are hired by government entities;  government entities are directed by politicians, and politicians are voted for by the people. It all starts with us.

Make sure your voice is heard, and vote accordingly.

History is in the making, and somewhere out there, there  is a better water future for the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon!

Inside page of Stuart News, US President Obama meets with Raul Castro, Fidel Castro's brother, 4/2015.)
Inside page of Stuart News, US President Obama meets with Raul Castro, Fidel Castro’s brother, 4/2015.)

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Another source for this post and excellent reading is “Raising Cane in the ‘Glades, The Global Sugar Trade and the Transformation of Florida,” by Gail M. Hollander. (http://www.press.uchicago.edu/ucp/books/book/chicago/R/bo5704198.html)

Public Information on H-2 Lawsuit: (http://www.leagle.com/decision/19951403660So2d743_11274.xml/OKEELANTA%20CORP.%20v.%20BYGRAVE)

Agriculture’s Eradication of the Mythical Pond Apple Forest, Lake Okeechobee, SLR/IRL

Photo of pond apples in Big Cypress, a shared flicker photo by Mac
Photo of pond apples in Big Cypress, a shared Flicker photo by Mac Stone, 2014.
Pond apple also known as custard apple--this is the custard apple forest as depicted by artist Julia Kelly in the River Kidz second edition workbook, 2015.
Pond apple is also known as custard apple–this is the custard apple forest as depicted by artist Julia Kelly in the River Kidz second edition workbook, 2015.

In Florida, the pond apple is also known by many locals as the “custard apple,”(http://www.regionalconservation.org/beta/nfyn/plantdetail.asp?tx=Annoglab)

The mythical pond apple forest….Imagine, for a mile or two back from the water’s edge the trees grew, and like God’s magic sieve, their colossal roots strained the water of Lake Okeechobee before it inched its way south through the river of grass to the Everglades. Over thousands of years, the lake’s muck built up inside, around, and under, their gigantic roots, a forest grew, until one day the farmer came, the engineer came, the “white man” came, and took it all.

“We are chosen!” they said. “We are chosen to have dominion over the earth! Strip it! Cut it! Burn it! Tear it out! Expose the muck, the precious muck, and let us build an empire. Let us lift ourselves from poverty, feed ourselves, and become rich!”

Pond apple
Pond apple public photo.
Pond apple blossom. Photo by Lisa Jefferson, 2015.
Pond apple blossom. Photo by Lisa Jefferson, Stuart, Florida, 2015.
Pond apple blossom opening, photo Chuck McCartney.
Pond apple blossom opening, photo Chuck McCartney.

And many of today’s generations have become rich from this soil.

The story of the explosion of agriculture, and the sugar industry below the great lake known as “big waters,” or “Okeechobee,” as the Seminole people called it, is a not a tale for the weak. It is the story of the nature of man, and his destruction of the environment of which he is part. It is the story of “success,” and the difficult  journey of a culture to define what “success” really means.

Lawrence E.  Will, in his book, “Swamp to Sugar Bowl,” writes in his cracker style in 1968:

“That part of the woods along the south shore and half way up the eastern side, was a dense forest of tropical custard apple trees. For a mile to two miles back from the water’s edge they grew, and on all the islands as well. About 33,000 acres of solid custard apple tress there were, and that’s a heap of woods.”

33,000 acres of custard apple trees destroyed. Gone. Forever.

Today, the Everglades Agricultural Area is 700,000 square miles south of the lake. It produces sugar and vegetables.  The growth of the area is the reason why the overflow waters of Lake Okeechobee are directed thorough the northern estuaries killing local economies, rivers, and wildlife. Thus the story of the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon.

Once during a conversation with Mr Tom MacVicar, a respected engineer who works with the agricultural and sugar industry, I was told that Lake Okeechobee used to be about “30% bigger.” At the time, I wondered what he was talking about, but over the years through reading and study I have come to understand.

Let me explain. In the late 1800s when the early farmers planted their crops they would do so in winter when Lake Okeechobee’s waters had “receded back” as it was the “dry season.”  This would be after the back-breaking work in some areas of tearing out the pond apple trees in order to get to the rich muck, “black gold,” that lies underneath. Over the years the edge of the southern shore of the lake was pushed back and then the “smaller” lake was entirely diked. This is one reason why the lake can’t hold its historical water level. Through Florida and Congress, the history of the South Florida Water Management District and the Army Corp of Engineers is linked to this history of pushing back the lake and building the agricultural empire, although now their mission includes environmental restoration.

Hmmm?

I think it would be fitting to replant some pond apple trees each year until one day, perhaps, we can regain part of the soul of that lake that was ripped out at the roots.

Old military map from 1846 shows how the fingers of water south of Lake Okeechobee that are no longer there today as the lake is diked.
Old military map from 1846 shows the fingers of water south of Lake Okeechobee that are no longer there today as the lake is diked. This would have been one area where the pond apple grew.

 

EAA below Lake Okeechobee. (Public map.)
EAA below Lake Okeechobee. (Public map.)
Today's black gold south of Lake Okeechobee. (Photo JTL, 2014)
Today’s black gold south of Lake Okeechobee. (Photo JTL, 2014)
Photo from Swamp to Suagrland, showing pond apple with moon vines around Lake O. (Lawrence E Will)
Photo from Swamp to Sugarland, showing pond apple with moon vines around Lake O. Lawrence E Will, 1968.
Close up of small pond apple on Torry Island, by Lawrence E Will.
Close up of small pond apple on Torry Island, by Belle Glade , by Lawrence E Will, 1968.
Florida Memory Project, photo by John Kunkel Small 1869-1938.
Florida Memory Project, pond apples in a creek of the  Lake Okeechobee area photo by John Kunkel Small 1869-1938.

 

History of EAA: (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Everglades#Everglades_Agricultural_Area)

Nature for Your Neighborhood, A Program of the Institute for Regional Conservation: (http://www.regionalconservation.org/beta/nfyn/plantdetail.asp?tx=Annoglab)

Mr Tom MacVicar: (http://www.macvicarconsulting.com)

ACOE Herbert Hoover Dike around Lake Okeechobee: http://www.saj.usace.army.mil/Missions/CivilWorks/LakeOkeechobee/HerbertHooverDike.aspx

Is Freedom of Speech of Florida’s State Agencies in Chains? SLR/IRL

 

You work  for the State of Florida? That's great! "Smile and don't say a word..."
You work for the State of Florida? That’s great! “Smile and don’t say a word…”

The Department of Environmental Protection, the South Florida Water Management District, Departments of Health,—less so, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission….Afraid to speak?

Yes, and to a degree, it has probably always “been this way,” but right now, based on what I’m learning, I believe, it’s the worst it’s ever been.

My feeling now is that many wonderful employees who work for our Florida state agencies, —many historically the “best in the world,” have “gone mum” feeling that in order to survive, or to fit in, to keep their jobs, or positions, they have to remain “quiet and happy.”

The recent climate change debacle in the national and state media is just the tip of the iceberg.

Iceberg image, public  photo.
Iceberg image, public photo.

All things start with leadership–with a tone that is set from “above–” This is true whether it be a family or a state agency. In Florida all state agencies are directly answering  to the governor, Governor Rick Scott.

I met Rick Scott face to face in 2014. I have to say I liked him. I liked him for coming to Stuart to see our toxic, polluted St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon. I liked him for sitting on the couch with me at Kevin Power’s house, of the SFWMD Governing Board. I liked that he used a Sharpie blue pen to take notes on a yellow legal pad, and I have taken to signing many documents with a Sharpie as well. (It makes your name stand out…) I do appreciate the great effort that has been made to connect with local leaders and the monies towards area canal runoff for the C-44 STA/Reservoir… but I would be remiss if I did not say that “something is wrong.” Something is terribly wrong when people say they feel stifled, when people feel hand-cuffed, when people feel threatened.

This is as un-American as communism or socialism.

American flag.
American flag.

The red on our flag stands for the blood that was shed to extract tyranny. There must be a moral code to allow people to speak, to allow the agencies to advise. It is well-known that  the golden area of conservation in the state of Florida occurred under both democrats and republicans in the 1970s and 80s when governors allowed talented, educated scientists and specialists to ADVISE and speak. Ofcouse there were “politics” but there was most definitely more freedom than today.

For example, two weeks ago, after 80 people signed up to speak on behalf of getting on the agenda the possibility to buy US option land south of Lake Okeechobee, the Governing Board of the South Florida Water Management District did not say one word. Not the scientists. Not the board. Not leadership.

Another state agency, the Department of Environmental Protection, you would think would be documenting the destruction of our St Lucie River by Lake Okeechobee, was so “gutted” in 2010, that basically their reef protection programs are now funded and run by a federal agency, NOAA. It’s hard for DEP to say a word I am learning because basically no one is around….and yeah, isn’t it the SFWMD that’s been given the job to document the dying seagrasses anyway?  No report lately? I wonder why….

Supposedly,  if were not for NOAA, the state of Florida probably would not have a Department of Environmental Protection. —-YES. The 2008 Financial Crisis ….I get it. I lived it as a small town commissioner in south Florida. It was scary, but we did not fall over the edge of the cliff, almost, but we didn’t. Money is slowly coming back into the system. But many agency scientists and leaders are still “scared” as under the Scott administration they watched their friends get fired and years of work and institutionalized knowledge get wiped off the map like toy soldiers swiped off a dining-room table. Could it happen again? Absolutely.  A precedent was set….OFF WITH THEIR HEADS!

It is time for the governor’s office and those of traditional power and influence, who are running the show behind the curtain, the agriculture community and some water utilities,  to look at our flag, and to remember that we are American, and that we are a state tied to the values of our forefathers, and that no government shall abridge the freedom of speech. That tyranny is repugnant….

Whether the chains are seen or unseen, they are chains…

You work  for the State of Florida? That's great! "Smile and don't say a word..."
“Smile, don’t enforce protections, and don’t say a word…”

It is also time for state employees to recall that in 1992 Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, (PEER), was formed. PEER is a non-profit service organization with the goal to protect  local, state, and federal government employees “committed to upholding the public trust through responsible management of the nation’s environmental and natural resources.”

PEER objectives include:
-Organizing a support base of employees from public sector resource management agencies, retired public employees, and private citizens.

-Monitoring local, state, and national resource-management agencies in an effort to defend the environment for the public interest.

-Informing the federal and state administrations, politicians, media, and the public about crucial environmental issues.

-Defending public sector “whistle-blowers,” and striving to strengthen their legal rights in regards to environmental issues.

-Providing free legal assistance to “whistle-blowers” and others when necessary.

(http://www.peer.org/about-us/peer-field-offices/florida.html)

(http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Public_Employees_for_Environmental_Responsibility)

Sounds like a good idea, but then maybe state employees would get fired for joining PEER, or are blackballed if they already have joined?…

WE MUST BREAK FREE!

Smile!
Smile!

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I read about PEER in the book Conservation in Florida, It’s History and Heroes, by Gary L White.