Last Thursday, concerned citizens traveled to Tallahassee. Some were from the East Coast, some were from the West Coast, and some were from Florida’s Southern Tip. Those from the Southern Tip, like us from the Northern Estuaries, are experiencing a die off.
But their estuary is even larger and more famous; its name is Florida Bay. The sometimes confusing part of reading about all the present water issues is that Florida Bay’s die off is due to lack of fresh water, rather than too much such as ours. Nonetheless, as with everything in life, it’s all connected.
Florida Bay has been heavily impacted over the years not only because of the redirection of about *20 percent of its waters from Lake Okeechobee that used to flow south, but also due to the encroachment of development into the Everglades’ watershed near Homestead and north thereof. Years ago this development cut off water to Florida Bay especially through Taylor Slough, a shallow river. (See map below)
During a recent visit, my husband and I noted this area east of Everglades National Park experiencing a real estate boom of highway construction and the sell off of agricultural lands for residential development, so this encroachment issue will only increase over the coming years.
Shark River Slough, to the east, is much larger and also feeds the Bay. (See map below)
Although the South Florida Water Management District and Army Corp of Engineers have been “working hard” on the area of the Taylor Slough area of the state, it will not be enough to save the dying Bay that has lost up to 50,000 acres of seagrass recently according to Dr Davis of the Everglades Foundation and reports by local fishermen.
The photos shared in this post by Captain Daniel Andrews of Ft Meyers show the a section of the Bay on December 20th, 2016, at around 1500 feet south of Cape Sable. Cape Sable is west of Taylor Slough but still affected. The waters of the Bay have been decreased not only through Taylor Slough, but also Shark River Slew, of which Lake Okeechobee was once connected as documented by our Native Americans.
Captain Daniel said in an interview: ” The last major die off the Bay had was in 1987, and it resulted in a decade of algae blooms from all the nutrients that were released by the decaying grass. It took ten years for it to recover.”
Now this cycle is happening all over again, in sync with toxic blooms in the St Lucie and Caloosahatchee Estuaries caused by too much water.
Question posed to River Kid: “So do you think you’ll become a politician?”
“Ummm..no…but I think I’ll be a better public speaker….:)”
This blog post is a follow-up to yesterday’s: “Tallahassee or Bust! River Kidz and the Clean Water Rally, Tallahassee, 2015.”
Yesterday, River Mom, Nic Mader, dropped off Naia, Olivia, Keile and I in front of the state capitol building for the Clean Water/Amendment 1 Rally…The sounds of speakers and music filled the air; the bright colors and black skeletons of Janeen Mason’s Solidarity Fish project could be seen in the distance….(http://www.solidarityarts.com); various members of the RIVER WARRIORS, and others, came up to say “hello;” it was a cool, bright, sunny day and a sense of history exuded from every giant oak tree draped with spanish moss….
“Girls stop.” I said.
Naia, 14, Olivia, 13, and Keile, 10 turned around and looked at me inquisitively.
“River Kidz, I want you to look around you for a minute. I want to share something with you that you may not think too much about… “THIS is part of the First Amendment, of the United States of America: “the right of the people to peaceably assemble, and to petition their government”…not all countries of the world allow this. My friend Aletha Jones teaching in China in 1989 when their government brought tanks into Tiananmen Square opening fire. Our country and our form of government, have many failures…but our “right to assemble” is key to what is “good” in our democracy….Participate today and know, you too, are a part of this great history of our country ….”
The rally was a message to the governor and the legislature to spend those monies as is intended within the language of the bill. For those of us coming from the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon Region, this means spending some of this money to purchase option lands south of Lake Okeechobee to store, clean and convey water south to the Everglades, in time, saving the dying estuaries of St Lucie/IRL and Caloosahatchee rivers.
Before the capitol and on its stairs, were people from all over the state; we even saw Dr Bob Knight, a legend in the springs movement. Most of Florida’s springs have been equally deviated by poor “water” decisions by state, federal and local governments.
It was a whirlwind of a day. The River Kidz were able speak at the rally; write short speeches, and to present them before Representative Larry Lee, Senator Joe Negron, and then, again, at the Senate Natural Resources Committee. They passed out their new River Kidz Second Edition Workbook, “Marty the Manatee” inspired by Mr Marty Baum, the Treasure Coast Indian Riverkeeper.
It was a good day.
Did we feel “warm and fuzzy feedback” regarding our request for option land purchase in the Everglades Agriculture Area (EAA) south of Lake Okeechobee?
Did I hear such things as “Steve Crisafulli, the House Speaker may want to be the Commissioner of Agriculture, and Adam Putnam does want to be governor.”….”agriculture/sugar does not want to sell the land now”—“and believe you me they are 20 years ahead the rest of you investing millions, if not billions of dollars, on a state and national level—–to influence politicians”…..”but its not all doom and gloom—things are moving”—–“and the subsiding EAA lands”—-“oh yes, and the future of Cuba,” “you never know—- maybe”…..”it’s changing so fast…”the advocacy along the Treasure Coast is noticed and making a difference…”
YES. I did hear such things….
🙂 (I will never reveal my sources but I can tell you I have good ones and spoke to many people…..)
Did we, the River Kidz: did I Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch, and River Mom , Nichole Mader find “this” discouraging?
“Yes, and No.”
Yes, because coming up against any wall is never fun when one is looking to go forward…
Nonetheless, I also know, and have been told, all this pushing IS having effect. I also know it may push the “powers that be” faster into what-ever-it-is that breaks this wall of historical government/agriculture “self-interest,” because water and the flood gates of the people will in time bring it down.
Of that I am certain.
Thank you River Kidz! Thank you all! For securing a better water future!
It’s been a long time since I was in a car full of kids for eight hours!
Three members of the River Kidz, River Mom, Nic Mader, and I took off from Martin County yesterday to make certain these kids had a voice—and an experience of a lifetime.
Today starting a 11:30 the steps of the Florida capitol will be filled with hundreds of people from across our state for Florida’s Clean Water and Amendment 1 Rally. Multiple organization will take part with the Sierra Club leading the way. Founding member, John Muir, must be smiling in his California grave, at the thought of Americans continuing to fight for the beauty and wonder of nature and it’s most precious resource, clean water!
It was awesome. The kids truly get it and are fulfilling their created mission statement: “to speak out, get involved and raise awareness, because we believe kids should have a voice in the future of our rivers.”
We talked about the state of our St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon; Amendment 1 and how it works; we talked about the goal for a land purchase in the Everglades Agricultural Area; we talked about the power and history of the sugar industry and then we stopped at Diary Queen and got a “blizzard!” I had an lemon-lime slush….
Caught in traffic for a solid two and a half hours outside of Gainesville, Naia, Kiele, and Olivia made the best of it while Nic and I wondered if we were going to run out gas!
Arriving at our hotel room at 8:00 PM, after showing the girls the Capitol and the campus of FSU, (Nic and I are both Gators!) we had dinner at Ruby Tuesdays. I told Nic we had to go somewhere where I could get a beer!
Nic and I were exhausted. The kids ate by themselves in a separate booth. I looked at Nic saying: Nic, you are a really good mom. She is. She was incredible yesterday pulling snacks out of secret compartments and having the patience of a saint……She smiled. ” Jacqui, they’ll remember this this rest of their lives and most important, it will help save our river….”
Last week, on a hazy smoked filled afternoon, Ed and I flew over Lake Okeechobee and the once mighty Kissimmee River. There was the normal stress involved with me giving Ed directions and the fun of an adventure. It went something like this:
“Oh there it is, the Kissimmee’s opening to the lake, over there!”
I can’t fly north of “over there,” it’s off limits; it’s a near a bombing range or air force base…” says Ed, shooting me a serious glance.
“What a bombing range-air force base? You’re kidding, close to of some of the state’s richest wildlife habitat? How symbolic…”
Ed rolls his eyes, I can feel it. But he tries harder…
Somehow, Ed talks to Miami Air Traffic Conrol and we get lucky. It is a Sunday and we are allowed to fly over at least part of the area I wish to see.
On the way, we fly over the southwest area of the lake’s agricultural lands. The hand of humankind is reflected in organized, perfect sized boxes of agriculture and straight canals.
We veer off to the northwestern area of the Lake Okeechobee where earth and water meet; on this side of the lake the hand of the Creator still evident. Little specks of light blend together in a blinding symphony of light.
We near the area in Okeechobee County where the mouth of the once great Kissimmee meets Lake Okeechobee. The straightened canal looks out of place among the lush greenery and a small town is evident. There are people here. Flooding is an issue.
It is great seeing “it all” from above as I have never really been able to figure out on a map where the Kissimmee River restoration is happening. It starts about 20 miles north of the lake.
The Kissimmee river was once 103 miles of wildlife/fish filled meandering oxbows, but it was canalized to a depth of 30 feet as C-38 from 1962-71. This was part of the Army Corp of Engineers and the Central and South Florida “Flood Control Project” of 1954. The state had asked for help after two back to back hurricanes and wide spread flooding and destruction in 1945. The state got help but with untended consequences…
The Kissimmee River that once meandered south to Lake Okeechobee as part of a two mile wide flood plane now shot down to the lake with grave environmental effects that included the destruction of the estuaries, St Lucie/Indian River Lagoon and Caloosahatechee.
Since 1994, around 23 miles of the now 56 mile long canal, C-38, from Lake Kissimmee to Lake Okeechobee has been/is being backfilled and considered part of “the” most ambitious environmental restoration project in the world.
Recently, the ACOE and SFWMD have been in a dispute over the completion of the restoration project. The project is tremendously expensive requiring federal and state funding which has not come easy since 2008. The two agencies “cost share” in its completion. Word is they are “working things out…”
The long term goal is to continue the restoration of at least 20 miles more of the 56 miles of the canal.
In light of the dying Indian River Lagoon, it is important to see that restoration can be accomplished. Mother Nature is quick to rebound once given the chance.
The Kissimmee’s restoration is critical, as the polluted waters coming from Orlando south carry sediment, and urban and agricultural runoff into the lake. As we know, when the lake gets too full the water is diverted to the estuaries because the water is not presently allowed to flow south, as the EAA (Everglades Agricultural Area) is located there along with cities of people.
So we here along the St Lucie Indian River Lagoon, are fighting a two front war. One north and the other south of the lake. We are winning in the north because the ACOE and SFWMD recognized their/our mistakes, and have been working since 1994. We are also getting closer in the to finding a safe way to “move the water south…” CEPP (Central Everglades Planning Project) is not looking good right now, but the pressure is on, and even Tallahassee is saying “move the water south!”
We must have inspiration or we will never complete our goal of saving the estuaries. The Kissimmee River is a place to look and find hope.
2014 Google Earth map of restored area of Kissimmee River.
“Let us throw off everything that hinders, and run with perseverance, the race marked out for us…” Hebrews
We might still be a long way from the finish line, but no one can say that the Indian River Lagoon hasn’t hasn’t been “heard.” In 2012, few state legislators, not even the Governor, sitting in his chair in Tallahassee knew what, or even where, the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon was… Today literally, “everyone” in Tallahassee knows about the, dying manatees, sick dolphins, toxic waters, the disappearing seagrasses, and deadly releases from Lake Okeechobee. On top of that “Tally” is watching the IRL positioned to walk away with a large chunk of the pie, a pie that others wanted too. Others who had been fighting longer than the IRL and were very much know by name… Remarkable.
(Specifics of Negron’s Senate/House negotiated IRL/L.O. 3-year budget for 231.9 million dollars. This “recommendation” must still go before the Governor’s pen.)
How did this happen? How did the Indian River Lagoon get so well known so quickly?
This happened because the the people, River Kidz, and local officials of Stuart, Port St Lucie, eventually all eight counties along the lagoon, rose up, demanded change, exposed health, safety, and moral issues, and then the local press, Scripps, took that flame of the people, threw kerosine on it, and has continued to keep the fire going. State and Congressional politicians along with state and federal agencies, usually free to do whatever they pleased, were taken off guard, suddenly their constituency was watching where officials got their money, how they were voting, and if they were supporting the lagoon.
Senator Joe Negron listened and made the Indian River Lagoon his first priority creating the budget list above, held a Senate Hearing that took the topic “viral,” possibly under-cutting his Senate presidency because of his outspoken support, and then proceeded to tell the ACOE they needed to give up their control of the lake and that they were “killing us;” Rep. Gayle Harrell made a memorial in DC her “top”priority; newcomer Rep. Larry Lee voted against party line for the sake of the lagoon; and freshman Rep. Mary Lynn Magar passed out bottles of muck ridden toxic river water and aerial photo booklets to her colleagues, Rep. Debbie Mayfield called her closest contacts… At the federal level, Congressman Patrick Murphy did every single thing possible to familiarize the ACOE leaders with the C-44 IRL project, and even invited the public to DC for a special meeting. In walks Nancy Pelosi, and then this bipartisan group helps get the WRDA (Water Resources Development Act) bill passed in the US House of Representatives where usually people can’t make a decision to save their lives. Holy Cow!
OK, let’s pull back for a moment, because I come from a group of erudite and very skeptical river supporters. And although I am excited, I am not wearing rose colored glasses and never have. I know politicians can dance like marionettes when they need to; I know that a lot more has to be done, like a flow way south; I know that if it starts raining intensely tomorrow and doesn’t stop, a repeat of the “Lost Summer” will happen all over again. But Karl…Michael….the others….even you, the harshest, most honest critics, have to admit that the end of 2013, and so far 2014, has been one remarkable year. Less than a year actually…
Just May 8th of last year, the releases from Lake Okeechobee began releasing for 5 months, and set off a series of events that galvanized public outcry. Thousands of people rallied at the locks and shoreline; social media whipped the situation to a frenzy, and today we are still today talking about it, fighting for it, and defining ourselves and our children by it. There are no social, age or economic boundaries. It is all of us. We are making history.
Yes, a great disappointment, the ACOE’s recent denial of CEPP (Central Everglades Planning Project) into the WRDA Bill last week is a huge setback, but the Army Corp of Engineers has forgotten something. When passions are repressed, they only get stronger.
This Saturday at 9 AM, locals have organized a “Funeral Services for the Lagoon” at St Lucie Locks and Dam in response to the ACOE’s inaction. (Go to Facebook for information.) Here again locals will plead their case to “send the water south.”
When I reminisce about the past year and even present, I am reminded of Dr Suess’ famous children’s book, Horton Hears a Who. The story is about the miniature city of people who live on the speck of dust. After being lost, Horton the elephant and the other animals hear the screaming “We’re here!” “We’re here!” of the tiny people of Who-ville, and agree to protect them. But they wouldn’t have protected them if they did not hear them. Remember?
Like the story, the Indian River Lagoon has finally been heard! Be proud of this. It is a huge accomplishment. We are certainly not yet at the finish line, but let’s be happy that 2013/14 has been, “The Year of the Indian River Lagoon,” and that everyone knows our name!