Just last weekend, I presented at the “Future of Florida Summit” at the University of Florida’s Graham Center. Eric Eikenberg, CEO of the Everglades Foundation, gave a passionate speech to hundreds of young people during the lunchtime session. My husband, Ed, usually quiet, turned to me saying: ” He is a really good speaker.”
The crowd listened…
Mr Eikenberg noted that he was a graduate of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Broward County, Florida and that even though the school was literally built in what was once the Everglades, there had not been studies on that subject while he attended the school. He talked about the importance of our state waters and the need to involve youth in the education of our natural world, especially here in South Florida.
Ironically, four days later, the horrific shooting at Mr Eikenberg’s alma mater, has called attention, once again, to the shortcomings, and cultural sickness in our society.
In 1991, the “Marjory Stoneman Douglas Everglades Protection Act” was enacted by the Florida Legislature becoming the precursor to the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP). Douglas ended up asking for her name to be removed from the legislation. At the time, she was 103 years old. After fighting for the Everglades for a lifetime, she said she felt the legislation was too favorable to the Sugar Farmers. “Growers should clean up the water on their own land…” meaning the state and federal government shouldn’t be building Storm Water Treatment Areas with taxpayer dollars to do it for them….
In time, Ms Douglas’ name was removed.
I wonder if she were alive today, if she would want her name removed from the school? I doubt it. She may have been tough on those destroying the Everglades, but she had a soft heart for youth. Lore states that when she was starting her famed organization Friends for the Everglades she refused to have the membership fee too high for students to be able to join, as she knew they were the most internal of keys.
My greatest sorrow and prayers for the families of the dead.
May the blood of the slain remind us to stop looking at our phones, and to turn to nature and Nature’s God for insight and inspiration in this crazy and destructive human-made world.
The chart below provides a good visual of 2016 Lake O releases though the C-44 Canal from S-80 comparing 2016, 2013, and 2015. S-80 discharges include the surrounding man-made basin as well as releases from Lake Okeechobee. This info has been compiled by my brother, Todd Thurlow, http://www.thurlowpa.com/LakeOLiveData/ via SFWMD. (Automatic updates every 7 days.)
In order to fix a problem, you have to know what the problem is…..yesterday’s visual makes clear to all the problem. Don’t be mistaken, this problem although overwhelming, can be greatly alleviated –“fixed.”
In March of 2015, the University of Florida published: OPTIONS TO REDUCE HIGH VOLUME FRESHWATER FLOWS TO THE ST LUCIE AND CALOOSAHATCHEE ESTUARIES AND MOVE MORE WATER FROM LAKE OKEECHOBEE TO THE SOUTHERN EVERGLADES. This was an independent technical review by the University of Florida Water Institute.
The 134 document summarizes three things necessary to give relief to the estuaries:
200,000 acre-feet of water storage within the St Lucie River watershed. (*For C-23, C-24, C-25 and C-44 canal alone—not including releases from Lake Okeechobee through C-44 JTL)
400,000 acre-feet of water storage within the Caloosahatchee watershed.
approximately 1,000,000 acres of water storage distributed north and south of Lake Okeechobee.
Senate President Elect Joe Negron’s plan for land purchase in the EAA fulfills part of #3. This reservoir would be “dynamic,” meaning that in simple terms it would hold, clean, and move water south to the Everglades. In other words, it would move multiple acre feet over time.
Our St Lucie River is degrading in ways that may not be reversible. We must work for land purchase south of Lake Okeechobee to begin to alleviate the destruction. —We must not just support, but also help Joe Negron. Get ready for Florida’s legislative session 2017.
As part of my University of Florida “Natural Resources Leadership Institute” program, I will be leaving this Wednesday for five days to Apalachicola Bay in Florida’s panhandle where the historic oyster industry is dying due to lack of upstream fresh water from Georgia. Last month, I traveled to Titusville, along the Indian River Lagoon, to learn about NASA, Space Florida, and serious concerns over possible future land use inside the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge.
I have been waiting to write about my experience in Titusville until now. It was rather intense, and I wanted time to think. Also our NRLI Class XV newsletter came out recently and provides perspective and background on the visit and the program.
On the second day of NRLI, after much preparation, our class was driven to NASA to visit the assembly building for the rockets and to take a tour of the grounds. Nothing would have prepared me for walking into that building. I can only liken it to the cathedrals in Belgium and Germany I saw when I was younger whose Gothic architecture “forced my eye to God.”
Upon entering the building, I was struck by a feeling of awe. It hit me, the creative force of humanity necessary to organize and go into space. The successes and the failures. Lives lost and new perspective of the universe gained….and what about the future?
I felt proud to be American, my eyes teared up, and I turned away from my fellow classmates for fear they would think me nuts. Later on, I learned that many others had the same experience.
It is very difficult in a blog post to get into all the detail of my visit, but I can share that NASA’s Kennedy a Space Center is presently located in the area where you see Highway 528 on the above map. NASA is recreating itself since the Federal Government basically shut down the space program here just a few years ago, and around 8000 people lost their jobs. According to NASA’s literature:
“Kennedy Space Center will pursue transformation through consolidation of NASA operations, asset partnering, and agreements development in order to preserve the Center’s and nations crucial launch infrastructure. The transformation to a multi-user spaceport will allow NASA to subsidize costs of expensive infrastructure and facilities and still maintain the country’s ability to push the boundaries of our understand of the universe.
KSC was established in 1962; is a 6 billion $ asset; 140,000 acres; 55,000 acres of submerged wetlands; 3500 acres of development. “
In 1963, NASA realized it had so much land, as only a small part is developed, that they asked it to be managed as a national wildlife refuge… and thus it has been for over 50 years.
“The Refuge, which is an overlay of the John F. Kennedy Space Center, was established in August 1963 to provide a buffer zone for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in the quest for space exploration.”
“Space Florida is the aerospace economic development agency of the State of Florida. The agency was created by consolidating three existing space entities into a single new organization via the Space Florida Act, enacted in May 2006 by the Florida Legislature.”
Space Florida is proposing to put a launch pad at Shiloh north of Titusville in an area of the wildlife refuge along the lagoon that is very sensitive as it contains many endangered species, historic cultural resources, as well as Native American historic resources. This area is utilized by fishermen and “recreationalist” today. You can see this location near the red pin in the Google Maps image above. Some say they “couldn’t have chosen a more sensitive area….”
I did not go to Titusville to have an opinion on what is right or wrong concerning this situation. But I have thought on it, and those of you who know me can probably guess where I ended up with my position. But this is only for me personally, not for what I am supposed to learn at NRLI.
At NRLI, I am there to learn how to be a “leader in collaborative decision-making.”
NRLI puts it like this:
“We are all dependent on Florida’s natural resources. Decisions about natural resources involve complex sets of issues and stakeholders. Expensive and time-consuming disputes often emerge over issues such as endangered species, land use, coastal and marine resources, and water quality and quantity. Effective leadership in managing such issues requires a specialized set of skills, tools, and strategies to build trust and promote collaboration among competing interests. In recognition of this, the Florida Natural Resources Leadership Institute (NRLI) was founded in 1998 to bring together professionals in sectors that impact or are impacted by natural resource issues to develop the skills required to work towards collaborative solutions.
Vision NRLI seeks to impact decision-making in Florida by creating a network of professionals prepared to effectively address natural resource issues through conflict management and collaborative leadership.”
Well, I hope I gave you enough information to get started on your own opinion.
I am looking forward to my second NRLI session this week. There are great people from many backgrounds in the program and I learn from them just as much as anything…For it is really through building relationships that we will better the condition of our state and our Indian River Lagoon.
Something very exciting is going to start happening for me this week.
I am beginning a new journey as a “fellow” of University of Florida’s IFAS Natural Resources Leadership Institute, or NRLI (http://nrli.ifas.ufl.edu). Our first of seven “field trips and study sessions” over the next year begins this Thursday right here along the Indian River Lagoon at NASA where our state’s developing space program is eyeing lands in the National Wildlife Refuge for new runways.
NRLI teaches “leadership skills” in dealing with such explosive environmental natural resource issues…it tries to teach you to build a “cohort” to get things done.
I will be participating as an elected official from the Town of Sewall’s Point. Elected officials in the program are rare and when they invited me to apply last year, I said: “Are you sure? I don’t see many “politicians or bloggers ” on your list of graduates and my town is really small….?” I was assured there had been elected officials before, and if I wanted to apply, I was encouraged to do so….
So I did…
I first came into contact with NRLI, when I was invited to be a speaker. In 2014, a year after the “Lost Summer,” and the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon’s toxic mess caused by releases from Lake Okeechobee and area canals. Area canals mind you that have been expanded to dump agriculture and development water into the river’s basin at five times beyond what Nature envisioned. So NRLI “Class 14,” was studying the “Indian River Lagoon, —-an Estuary in Decline.” Pretty bleak title isn’t it?
Along with their directors, the fellows met at a room at the Marriott on Hutchinson Island just over bridge from Sewall’s Point. There were about twenty “fellows” from varied backgrounds such as the ACOE, Water Districts, Florida Fish and Wildlife; the Nature Conservancy, the Miccosukee Tribe; the Department of Agriculture; South Florida County governments; etc…some younger, some older, all different…
It was cool.
I sat on a the panel with Jim Brother, a recreational fisherman; Leroy Creswell, University of Florida IFAS Extension Sea Grant Program; Scott Deal, CEO and President Maverick Boat Company; and George Jones, Indian River Keeper. I spoke about how the releases impacted Sewall’s Point’s peninsular real estate and wildlife as well as the grassroots formation of River Kidz and local advocacy. We the “panel people” sipped our bottled water and answered questions. We listened to ourselves talk and wondered how what we were saying could be happening…loss of seagrasses and oysters, dying and sick wildlife, loss of real estate values, loss of boat sales, kids can’t go in the water….
The fellows were attentive, inquisitive, and ask great questions. They were from all over the state so many were not familiar with the IRL. I always wondered what the fellows said behind closed doors after the session? “Man that’s one big mess! Didn’t they see it coming? Those kids are going to have to save that river!” or maybe not, maybe they had great ideas of how to really start moving in the right direction. Maybe they are doing that now behind the scenes as NRLI graduates? Maybe this is how we change the world?
NRLI states their purpose as the following:
We are all dependent on Florida’s natural resources. Decisions about natural resources involve complex sets of issues and stakeholders. Expensive and time-consuming disputes often emerge over issues such as endangered species, land use, coastal and marine resources, and water quality and quantity. Effective leadership in managing such issues requires a specialized set of skills, tools, and strategies to build trust and promote collaboration among competing interests. In recognition of this, the Florida Natural Resources Leadership Institute (NRLI) was founded in 1998 to bring together professionals in sectors that impact or are impacted by natural resource issues to develop the skills required to work towards collaborative solutions.
When I got accepted, I immediately emailed my Uncle Russell, now retired in Gainesville. My mother’s brother, an Annapolis graduate who served in Vietnam and lived under the ice in the North Pole finding spy submarines or something top secret…..He is my favorite uncle…. My Grandfather Henderson, his father, worked for UF and IFAS so I wanted to share that I would be part of that legacy although it would be in a different capacity different from the “rape and pillage goals” of the 1930s and 40s. IFAS is remaking itself…
He congratulated me and then said: “You know Jacqui, they are probably trying to take the fire out of you…you know….calm you down….make everybody get along….but congratulations! Grandaddy would be proud…”
I laughed and said something like, “you know what Uncle Russ, you are probably right but I’m pretty good at capturing from the inside and keeping my head.”
He laughed…. we laughed….Dead Silence….
All I know right now, is that when I see my name on the list, I am honored, excited, and hoping to be a part of a better natural resources future for Florida and the Indian River Lagoon.
UF IFAS means: University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. IFAS has extension offices in almost all Florida counties. My Grandfather worked for IFAS for many years in the 1930s and 40. He taught Soil Sciences at University of Florida and surveyed the Florida Everglades.
Humankind has not woven the web of life. We are but one thread within it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves. All things are bound together. All things connect. —Chief Seattle, Duwanish Tribe, Washington
As I have mentioned before, living close the St Lucie River and Indian River Lagoon, I look to nature for inspiration and this year inspiration has surrounded my house in the form of tiny spiny-backed orbweaver spiders. My husband and I have seen these very small spiders, half the size of a dime, throw a connecting web to their interior design at least twenty feet if not more. It is absolutely remarkable, seemingly impossible, that these little creatures can do this.
Their beautiful webs blow in the wind reflecting sunshine like baskets catching insects. From what I have read, it is the female that makes the web and though I have never seen one, the smaller male is somewhere hanging on a single thread beside her.
I learn a lot watching these little spider. First of all, that “you can do something seemly impossible”–it’s in you—. Second, I often see their webs which must have taken hours to weave get destroyed by birds, rain, wind or even me accidentally running into them–they just “quickly crawl back up and start right over again”…This is a good life lesson.
I have also learned that butterflies must be able to see spider webs as I have watched the many in my yard purposefully navigate away from them. Pretty cool.
In fact, I think that after the many months of the spiny-backed orbweaver spiders living in Ed’s and my yard, (much more so since we took out the grass and stopped using fertilizer and sprayed pesticides) they are learning to adapt to where we walk. I swear they now build their webs right in front of our walkways and doors but leave a large open space for us to walk though!
They do not bite and are they not aggressive…..like all of God’s creatures, they are my friends, and I learn from them.
…My mother used to sometimes say: “The webs we weave……”
Seeing the little hard-working spiders each day makes me mindful that, yes, we are all connected, and that I choose where and how to build my web.
Recently, I kept hearing about “rain gardens,” and how they could be used in the Town of Sewall’s Point to help the Indian River Lagoon. I kept nodding my head, but I really had no idea what they were. A “garden for rain” obviously, but nonetheless, no image would crystallize in my mind.
After a field trip with UF IFAS extension office representative (http://martin.ifas.ufl.edu) Mr Fred Burkey to the Hoke Library, I now know. So today, I am going to share with you about a very cool, beautiful, and useful thing Martin County and others are promoting to help our ailing St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon and waterways across our nation.
The idea of a rain garden is to hold water and filter it before it enters our waterways and if everyone held just a “little bit” of water it could make a very big difference. In most circumstances today’s drainage is designed to “roll off the land” as fast as possible, and is directed to a gutter or pipe which leads to a body of water. There is little filtration so all the pollutants go directly into the “river.”
Mr Burkey is an expert and professional on the subject of water, but still it was amusing to be working with him on water ideas for the Town of Sewall’s Point, as in the early years of my life he was my neighbor….
He and his wife Jackie, live across the street from my parents in Indialucie, Sewall’s Point. I lived across from the Burkey family from 10 years old until I was 18. The Burkeys have four kids and we all grew up together. Mr Burkey was always “Mr Burkey.” But the day of the rain garden it was “adult to adult.”
My morning went something like this:
“Ding dong” went the door bell and Mrs Burkey answered the door.
“Hello Mrs Burkey . Is Mr Burkey here please? We are supposed to look at a rain garden…”
“Call me Jackie please. Fred! Jacqui’s here!” she yelled into the kitchen.
He came to the door.
“Hello Mr Burkey.”
“By gosh, Call me Fred! You are making me feel old…”
So after a quick conversation and being told to call Mr and Mrs Burkey by their first names, something I was trained never to do as a kid, “Fred” and I got in my car and made our way to the Hoke Library in Jensen. As I mentioned, Fred works for IFAS, the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences and in coordination with the Dainne Hughes at Martin County, he is promoting rain gardens. He was my guide.
Once we arrived and I got out of the car, it all finally made sense because I “could see.”
Fred explained that a rain garden is meant to filter water coming from impervious surfaces. In the case of the Hoke Library, they took an area that had very heavy gutter runoff, put rocks right at the base of the gutter, dug out the earth for a distance of about 50 feet, to hold and filter the water, planted native and Florida Friendly plants to help with filtering , and then put a berm around the area.
Here are some pictures of the Hoke’s rain garden to help you envision what a rain garden can look like.
A rain garden is a relatively easy and inexpensive thing to do.
When I got home and started looking at Sewall’ Point I could now see there are many areas where the water just runs off houses and buildings onto driveways and dirty streets into the river. Could we create a shallow area with native plants to hold, clean and filter that water? I’m sure we could.
We can all help in little ways to improve our rivers. Together, it is a big way. Take a look at your yard please. Hopefully, you see a rain garden in your future!
One of the projects that was born from Senator Joe Negron’s led “Select Committee on the Indian River Lagoon and Lake Okeechobee Basin” Senate Hearing of 2013 is linked to an agreement between the Florida Senate and the University of Florida Board of Trustees. The project title is a “Technical Review of Options to Move Water from Lake Okeechobee to the Everglades.”
The project has been given $250,000, the “project period” ends March 1, 2015, and will be led by Wendy Graham of the UF Water Institute. Other great minds of our state university system will also be a part of this process. (http://waterinstitute.ufl.edu)
As a Florida Gator myself, Class of 1986, I am hopeful. Nonetheless, I recognize that the university is historically tied into the politics of development and agribusiness that has been part of the destruction of the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon and our state.
My Grandfather Henderson was an agronomist/soil scientist, UF graduate, and teacher. He taught citrus magnet and UF Bull Gator, Ben Hill Griffin. He was very proud of this. When I was kid and my grandfather would drive me from Gainesville to Stuart, he would try to make me memorize every scientific name and genetic history of every cow we passed along the Florida Turnpike, and also tell me what quality of soil was located where the cow was standing.
My grandfather, my mother’s father, was a farm boy, had lived through the Great Depression and was not thinking about “preserving” this state; he was thinking about using it for the “betterment of mankind, for progress.” I, on the other hand, have lived a kinder, gentler life, and so my goal is to save the beauty and nature of the state for future generations, and I see its connection to property values. My grandfather probably figured “what good are property values if there is no food on the table?”
These ideological conflicts still exist today just in a different way. For the University of Florida and people like my grandfather, historical friendships and connections run deep and it is difficult to not be affected by such in ones ‘ judgement, even if one is a scientist…
But in my opinion, today when thinking about this “conflict, we must think more about the future….and the future of this state is inexorably tied to the health and quantity of its fresh water resources…also we must trust and support those who have been charged to complete the project.
Yes, in spite of the political intricacies, I can think of no better place for a review of “moving water south,” than the University of Florida Water Institute.
According to engineer Dr Gary Goforth, of Stuart, now independent but formerly of the South Florida Water Management District, the UF team is “highly qualified.”
He states: “I am optimistic the review team will produce an excellent report after meeting with interested members of the public if they can make recommendations that may be in conflict with existing state and federal agency positions and policies. This is often difficult for agencies that depend on continued State funding as does the University...”
Kevin Henderson, also of Stuart, (no relation to my grandfather) engineer, and long-standing estuary advocate and Rivers Coalition member says:
“I believe the folks at UF understand the issues and will have a good handle on options that will work, could work, and will not work.
So my view is- let them do it, don’t believe everything you read in the papers, and read the scope below with an understanding of the political document it has to be to even get started.
What would be really useful is the Corps making clear that HHD cannot be made into a legal dam without having a very large flood discharge outlet that does not exist today.“
Me? I just want to wish Wendy Graham’s team luck, and let them know that I for one am rooting for them.
Below is a copy of the agreement between the Florida Senate and UF Board of Trustees. This is important for everyone to read.
Before I close, I can’t resist yelling out loud for all the souls of history and future generations to hear: GO GATORS!