Yesterday, 9:30 AM, May 5, 2020, at a Martin County Commission Meeting there was a nondescript preset entitled: Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP) – Indian River Lagoon (IRLS) South Presentation.
I learned about this presentation after the fact and was not invited to attend by the South Florida Water Management District. At no time was I ever briefed that the District or the Corp would be making a presentation in my hometown. I found out that not only was CERP discussed, but Drew Bartlett, Executive Director of the South Florida Water Management District and Col. Andrew Kelly of the Jacksonville District, Army Corp of Engineers were the presenters.
The most simple courtesy normally extended to all Governing Board Members, was not extended to me. I wonder why I was not included? Of that I will never be sure, but I will be sure today to say what I would have shared, or have insisted be shared if I were at that meeting especially because Part D of Governor DeSantis’ Executive Order 19-12 reads: “Instruct the SFWMD to immediately start the next phase of the EAA Storage Reservoir Project design and ensure the US ACOE approves the project according to schedule.”
Yesterday Col. Kelly announced to the Martin County Commission that 130 million dollars has been put towards the C-23/C-24 Reservoir/STA. The C-23/C-24 getting money is a good thing, however I do not believe it was made clear where that money is coming from. That money is on the books to be re-channeled because of the “New Start” status of the EAA Reservoir. Yes, the money that the EAA Reservoir would have had for *2020, is now going to C-23/24 Reservoir/STA project.
So what is a “New Start,” other than a complicated bureaucratic word with nuances to confuse? A New Start basically means a project cannot get the funding it was to receive. Oh yes, of course it is possible to get it in the future, but we all know what that means when it comes to the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers as clear in this video at 1:56.
After I was so rudely not informed to attend the Martin County Commission meeting, I did receive a phone call apologizing from the District. In that phone call and following email I insisted that the New Start language be explained clearly to the public and put on a timeline so that those who have given their lives advocating for EAA Reservoir could be informed. I was given the following one pager that is helpful. Thus today I share it with you. Please click to read the following: EAA Reservoir and STA New Start
My take on this? If you know me, you know what I’m thinking. It’s time to start fighting again. As necessary as the C-23 C-24 STA and Reservoir is, it is not the most important fix. The most important fix for the St Lucie River is to stop the putrid discharges that destroy the St Lucie River from Lake Okeechobee.
Today I am going to share an entire 25 piece slide presentation from the Army Corp of Engineers’ Periodic Scientists Call, 7-25-14. It’s a lot of slides, but I think you’ll enjoy trying to interpret them, and I’ll help the best I can. These presentations include a lot of information and show how the ACOE decides how much Lake Okeechobee water is going to go the estuaries, south, to the Everglades, and held, or released, to other places. This information is UNCLASSIFIED so I can share it.
I first was invited to sit in on these calls in 2012, as I was former mayor and continued commissioner, as today, for the Town of Sewall’s Point. I have talked about this before in my blog but I will restate. I felt like a complete idiot for the first six months as the ACOE kind of speaks in their own language. A military language.
Eventually, I started to catch on, and even gained the confidence to comment. Although not a scientist, as an elected official I am allowed to give succinct perspective.
These calls take place approximately every two weeks depending on the circumstances. During the terrible 2013 releases from Lake Okeechobee into the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon and the Caloosahatchee, calls took place every week. “Stakeholders” from the lakes south of Orlando to the Everglades participate in these calls. Representatives from agriculture, the state agencies, counties and others are present.
Here is the entire presentation from the last call on July 25, 2014.
In the slides one sees weather outlooks; inflows/outflows (west, east, south) from Lake Okeechobee and/or the southern flow of water from the EAA or Storm Water Treatment Areas into the Water Conservation Areas and Everglades; position/historical analysis of water levels in the lake; Lake Okeechobee Regulation Schedule (LORS) guidance for releases; estuary salinities; basin and lake runoff/releases into the estuaries; ongoing emergency storage of water…
In all honesty, it’s a lot for me. I mostly pay attention to the level of Lake Okeechobee and how much they may or may not decide to release into the St Lucie River/IRL. Here the LORS guidance said they could release 1170 cfs cubic feet per second into the SLR/IRL but the ACOE chose not to. Yes, many times the ACOE actually cuts us a break. But when the lake is really high, over 15 feet or so, there is no break.
I also pay more attention to how much water is going south, as this would help alleviate our situation. It appears to me that usually the water “going south” is from the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA), not from the lake, as in this presentation, the canals just south of the lake are not noted or say “0.” Understandably, the agriculture people like to hold the water in the lake, in case a drought comes, as they need water for their crops.
I will never interpret these calls like a scientist and some the scientist may cringe when I make my non-scientific statements. But that’s OK. I am “trying.”
I think the ACOE and shared South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) slides have gotten better and show more information than when I first started attending. I think they know the people and some politicians of Martin and St Lucie Counties, really all over the state now, are watching like hawks and demanding more disclosure and transparency in how the ACOE and SFWMD decide to manage Lake Okeechobee and surrounding areas.
I do hope you find this information interesting and not overwhelming. You can find some of it on the ACOE Facebook page (Jacksonville District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers) or on their website (http://www.saj.usace.army.mil).
Personally, I still find the info for the SLR/IRL hard to find. I wish the ACOE would devote a special area on their website to us like the SRWMD has because the more we as citizens can easily learn and pay attention, the better chance we have, one day, for a healthier St Lucie River Indian River Lagoon for our children.