Yesterday we talked about the importance of maps and how they allow us to have a vision for the future. For today’s lesson we are going to visually compare Senator Joe Negron’s land proposal map with a map of land ownership. This ownership map was recently created by the Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council (TCRPC) and I shared these maps with Senator Negron prior to the choice of land ownership possibilities.
Learning about lands south of Lake Okeechobee can be dizzying. The first thing you have to do, not to lose your sense of direction, is to familiarize yourself with the canals. Your landmarks.
From left to right, the largest canals visible running north/south under Lake Okeechobee are the Miami, New River, Hillsborough, and West Palm Beach. You will also notice the Bolles Canal, (L-21), that runs east/west intersecting. When flying over this area with my husband these canals are the only landmarks that guide me in knowing where I am. Otherwise, it is just miles and miles of sugarcane.
I love the TCRPC map below with the list of land owners in the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA). It really makes it easy to “see.” Notice the color coded BLUE: Public (the state or federal government); YELLOW: Private Ownership; and RED: Major Private Ownership.
When I asked the council the difference between private ownership and major private ownership, they said bigger corporations quality as “major private ownership.” One can see by all the red that most of the land under Lake Okeechobee is in major private ownership!
In regard to landownership inside the circles, Isadora Rangel of TC Palm stated in her August 10th article as follows:
“Sugar giant Florida Crystals owns 60 percent of each of those two parcels, Negron said. U.S. Sugar Corp. owns 30 percent of one, and sugar grower King Ranch owns 30 percent of the other. The state and others own the rest of the land. A U.S. Sugar spokesman declined to comment on whether the company will sell. Florida Crystals said it was reviewing Negron’s plan, according to media reports. Negron said he’s “optimistic” the companies will sell and said if the state allocates the money, then negotiations will be easier…”
Well, as we learn about this area (so we can speak in an educated manner to those involved who win on November 8th) let’s look at ALL of the owners on the map.
1.United Stats Sugar Corporation
2. Okeelanta Corp.
3. New Hope Sugar Co.
4. King Ranch Inc.
5. Wedgeworth Farms Inc.
6. SBG Sugar Farms
7. Stofan Co. Inc.
8. Closter Farms Inc.
9. Sugar Cane Growers
10. New Farm Inc.
We know something about one or two but what about the rest?
In the coming days, we will learn about history of these land owners and the history of what was once the “river of grass.” It will benefit us to review the story of the this area, because it our story too, the story of the slow demise of the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon.
Today along the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon, I continue my series “JTL vs the Political Machine,” a retrospective for my county commission district 1 campaign loss. I find that hindsight is always 20/20, reviewing everything is helpful, and certainly understanding how things work will make me a better candidate in the future. As a teacher it is an oportunity for me to share the electoral process so others can learn too.
Yesterday we reviewed Write in Candidates, and the Firefighters Union. Today we begin with one of multiple PACs, or Political Action Committees. On the simplest level, a PAC is an organization that raises money privately to influence elections or legislation. PACs must report monies raised to election offices, and the tiers of giving are often multilayered and not easy to trace.
I am going to start with the PAC closest to home, C-PAC. C-PAC is the political action committee for the Stuart Chamber. https://www.stuartmartinchamber.org
I have a lot of acquaintances in the Stuart Chamber, but due to long-standing relationships and other factors the chamber supported my opponent Doug Smith. Thus we study his post card today.
The Stuart Chamber supported Mr Smith by sending out a post card for him. The average political postcard mailing for design, printing, and mailing runs around $15,000, so it is very helpful if a PAC sends out a postcard for you if you are a candidate because then you don’t have to raise the money yourself!
Below is the postcard C-PAC sent out for Doug Smith. Look closely on the back side bottom, it reads: “Paid Electioneering Communication paid for by C-PAC, 1650 S. Kanner, Highway, FL 34994” if Mr. Smith’s campaign had paid for this, it would say that…
For the busy and hardworking public, it is hard to take the time to find out where PACs get their money and thus who is really supporting a candidate so let’s look a bit deeper and see what we find out. It’s fun. Like being a detective!
First of all as C-PACs address is in Martin County, you have to go to the Martin County Supervisor of Election’s website and click on the COMMITTEE INFO, COMMITTEES, C-PAC, and then “Non Election Specific Reporting:”
Once clicking around one can see that in 2015 and 2016, C-PAC accepted PAC money from the following :
I know most of the donors in 2015, but who is Florida Jobs Pac in 2016 who gave $25,000 to C- PAC on 7/14/16? According to the StPetersburgBlog: Florida Jobs PAC is a political arm of the Florida Chamber of Commerce. That makes sense–but let’s look at the donations. As Florida Jobs Pac’s address is Tallahassee we must go to the Florida Division of Election’s website and type in Florida Jobs under “Committees:” http://dos.elections.myflorida.com/campaign-finance/contributions/
This is what comes up. There are many donors but some stand out like Duda and Sons Inc., Florida Crystals, FPL with so many, and United States Sugar Corporation.
So although the postcard says C-PAC. There is more to it than that. Good to know! We’ll study some more of the Tallahasse PACs in the coming days. They are very interesting too.
The first time I ever laid eyes on Lake Okeechobee, I was eleven years old. I remember thinking that I must be looking at the ocean because I could not see across to the other side. Just enormous!
In spite of its magnificent size, over the past century, Lake Okeechobee has been made smaller–around thirty percent smaller– as its shallow waters have been modified for human use–pushed back, tilled, planted, diked, and controlled. Today, it is managed by the South Florida Water Management District and the Army Corp of Engineers. Sprawling sugar fields, the Everglades Agricultural Area, (EAA), canals, highways, telephone poles, train tracks, processing facilities, a FPL power plant, and small cites surround it.
S-308, (the “S” standing for “structure), opens easterly into the St Lucie Canal, also known as C-44, (Canal 44). About twenty miles east is another structure, S-80, at the St Lucie Locks and Dam. It is S-80 that is usually photographed with its “seven gates of hell,” the waters roaring towards the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon, and the City of Stuart, but it is actually S-308 that allows the waters of Lake Okeechobee “in” from the lake in the first place.
Such a fragile looking structure to be the welcome matt of so much destruction…a sliver unto an ocean. So strange…
Today I will share some aerial photos that my husband took on Friday, May 13th, 2016 at about 700 feet above the lake. I asked Ed if from that height he could see the algae bloom so much in the news last week even though over time blooms migrate, “bloom” and then sink into the water column, becoming less visible but still lurking.
“Yes.” He replied.
” It’s harder to see from that altitude, and it depends on the light, but it’s still visible. It’s green in the brown water. The lighting shows were it is. You can see a difference in texture about 100 yards west of S-308. It is not right up against the structure, but further out. Boats are driving through it leaving a trail. It’s appears that is slowly being sucked in to the opening of the S-308 structure , like when you pull the drain out of the sink….”
TC Palm’s Tyler Treadway reported on 5-13-16: “The lake bloom was spread over 33 square miles near Pahokee, the South Florida Water Management District said Thursday. The Florida Department of Health reported Friday the bloom contains the toxin microcystin, but at a level less than half what the World Health Organization says can cause “adverse health impacts” from recreational exposure.”
Pahokee is south and west of Port Maraca and S-308. (Florida Trails)
It’s easier to communicate your message when you have billions of dollars, but it is not a limiting factor if you don’t…
Today, I will share a “Draft Report” from Dr Gary Goforth. This report is a response he has created specifically to U.S. Sugar Corporation’s May 1st full- page ad in the Stuart News entitled: “The Water That Ends Up In Our Local Waterways.”
This is one of multiple full-page ads U.S. Sugar Corporation has run in the local Martin County paper over that past months trying to “educate” our citizenry. Why are they spending so much money doing this? Why all the propaganda? Because they know that though our advocacy for the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon, we are changing the course of human events. For the first time, many people and some important politicians and are looking at South Florida and saying “It needs to be re-plumbed…..”
Dr Goforth (http://garygoforth.net) is no stranger to these water issues, nor to the controversy and ability to manipulate the numbers complicated by the historic and supportive relationship between those doing business in the Everglades Agricultural Area south of the lake and today’s South Florida Water Management District. Thus the intertwined propaganda.
So here we go, each idea is presented on a separate slide. You can click the slide to enlarge if you need to. Thank you Dr Goforth!
I am part of Class VX for the University of Florida’s Natural Resources Leadership Institute. It has been an incredible journey, and I have learned so much. It has been both exhausting and rewarding. As I am on the campaign trail running for Martin County Commissioner, and a sitting commissioner for the Town of Sewall’s Point, leaving for three to four days every month is difficult. When I get home I am behind and worried I will not meet my fundraising and outreach goals for the month….My husband, Ed, has been supportive, but it is an additional challenge for our family balance and my responsibilities.
Last year Ed and I really talked it through. “Go!” He said.
“You need to learn what they are teaching, Jacqui. You need to learn how to take out the emotion and deal with these political issues objectively…”
And I have been learning….
I have been learning “leadership.” I have been reading. I have been building relationships with others in agencies and government positions across our state. I have been practicing… And most important, I am learning to apply a “framework for understanding conflict,” to resolve conflict together–collaboratively.
—-I keep my notes on my dresser and look at them every morning. Recently, it has all has begun to make sense.
This journey to study some of Florida’s top resource conflicts began almost one year ago and reads like a “Who’s Who”of Florida issues: Titusville, NASA: Indian River Lagoon–Space Port in National Wildlife Refuge; Apalachicola, Water Wars/Dying Historic Oyster Industry; Silver Springs, Aquifer Recharge/Springs Health; Jacksonville, Wildland Interface (where the state burns wooded areas within feet of people’s homes due to rampant development); Key Largo, Sea Level Rise; Crystal River, Manatees/Endangered Species, Recreation/Protections; and finally our last stop tomorrow before graduation in April: Clewiston, Agriculture South of Lake Okeechobee….
I have been to Clewiston before, but that was a few years ago to protest at the “Sugarland Rally.” Remember the Sugarland Rally that statewide paddle-boarder Justin Riney organized during the “Lost Summer of 2013?” When the St Lucie and Indian River Lagoon were toxic for three months with overflow waters of Lake Okeechobee?
This time I will visit not to protest but to study the situation objectively using my new tools. It’s of kind of ironic that Clewiston is my last stop, isn’t it? The final test. My class will be meeting with stakeholders and touring US Sugar Corporation’s headquarters in Clewiston.
I am excited to learn. I am excited to see it up close and hear their side of the story on their home turf. To be fair, this is a historic issue. But whether I can take the emotion out of it or not….that I’ll have to let you know.
Our St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon is again being destroyed by too much fresh, dirty, water….
Why is it so hard to send this water south?
It is “so hard to move water south” because the state of Florida has been compartmentalized to protect the Everglades Agricultural Area south of Lake Okeechobee and to keep-dry much of the lands that we live on. And now our waters are polluted…
Imagine, if you would, what would be going on here in South Florida now if modern man had never “conquered” it….Basically it would be a clean free-flowing marsh all the way from Shingle Creek in Orlando through Lake Okeechobee to the Everglades.
Well that it is no longer the case, is it? Since the 1920s, and more so since the 1940s, these lands have been drained, and diked, and altered, so that humans can grow food, and live here –inadvertently polluting the system. It is an imperfect situation and we must try to understand it, so we can make it better as we all need clean water.
So for the everyday person trying to figure out “what is going on” right now, let’s take a look at “today:”
It has been raining lot. Since the end of January, the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon and Caloosahatchee are being destroyed once again as the state of Florida and the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers dump incoming waters out of Lake Okeechobee so that the Everglades Agricultural Area south of the lake and surrounding communities are not flooded. Drainage and property in our area is part of this too.
A rare situation occurred this past week where Florida’s governor, Rick Scott, issued an order to release water south through a canal into the Everglades. He had to confer with the US ACOE to do this. (Due to poor water quality and safety, just “sending water south” is not allowed. But now with so much water, it is an emergency.)
The Water Conservation Areas south of the EAA, —these gigantic areas (see bottom slide) that are considered part of the Everglades and full of wildlife and in some places sacred Native American tree islands, are so full of water that they have to be dumped first. If they are lowered, then more water can enter from the Everglades Agricultural Area and hopefully Lake Okeechobee itself. Then, and only then, would there be less dumping into the St Lucie River/IRL and Caloosahatchee. We have a long way to go and its not even “rainy season.”
I commend all those working hard to alleviate the overflowing system and I encourage investment in working to improve this relic as well as investment in the children who must be part of the goal to re-plumb this system. Dr Gary Goforth shows us how it is working right now as I asked for a simple explanation to share with the River Kidz.
Due to increased stormwater pumping from the EAA and surrounding areas and direct rainfall, the water levels in the WCAs are too high. Last week the Gov. sent a letter to the Corps requesting authorization to raise water levels in the Tamiami Canal allowing increased flows into the Park through Northeast Shark River Slough. Yesterday the District began making those increased discharges through structure S-333. Whether or not the District will send additional Lake water south is yet to be seen – lowering the stage in the WCAs should help. See the map above. (from page 2 of the attached).”
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 11, 2016
CONTACT: GOVERNOR’S PRESS OFFICE
DEP and FWC Issue Orders to Allow Army Corps of Engineers to Ease Effects of Flooding
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Today, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) issued orders that will allow the U.S. Army Corps to move more water south through Shark River Slough to ease the effects of flooding in South Florida. Click HERE (http://www.flgov.com/wp-content/uploads/pdfs/FFWCC.pdf)
to see the orders.
Earlier today, Governor Scott sent a letter to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to take immediate action to relieve the flooding of the Everglades Water Conservation Areas and the releases of water from Lake Okeechobee to the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie Estuaries. To read the letter, click HERE (http://www.flgov.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/2.11.161.pdf).
At the chance of sounding like “a sounding brass, or a clanging cymbal,” I would like to share my experience yesterday at the Martin County Fair.
Mind you, for me, the Martin County Fair is as apple pie as a once clean river. Growing up in Martin County the fair was THE event of the year. We waited all year for it to come to town!
It was the one place our parents would set us “free” to run around and visit our friends, go on the ferris wheel and the Zipper!—-Scrunched together in the gravity of middle school, this was about as much fun as could possibly be attained…..I have wonderful memories of the fair.
Most recently, I have gone to the Fair with my nieces, and last night by myself. My husband, Ed, wanted to piddle around at the airport just across the street….Well, yesterday when I walked through the fair’s gate there was a most prominently posted sign that read: “U.S. Sugar.”
This surprised me. This bothered me.
I knew they were a sponsor for the fair but I was taken aback that this was the first sign one would see upon walking into the fairgrounds from the entrance gate. Thousands of parents and children saw that sign right before they had a ton of fun…
I complained to Ed later. “Jacqui are you really surprised?” he asked….”The fair needs sponsorships. U.S. Sugar is marketing…”
Maybe my eyes are not totally opened, but I do find a U.S.Sugar banner prominently displayed at the Martin County Fair odd and ironic.
I find this ironic as at this very moment the gates of S-80 are at “maximum capacity” forcing the polluted waters of the Lake Okeechobee into the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon. The lands of U.S. Sugar are blocking the flow south to the Everglades.
Often I hear that the fault lies north as those waters are coming from the Kissimmee basin not south of the lake. To me that is like stopping in traffic and blaming a car two miles up the road for the traffic jam.
Last year, U.S. Sugar did not support the purchase of option lands that could have eventually alleviated this problem. I don’t think it is morally right for them to advertise at our fair until they take leadership on this issue…but then…
Hope (noun) 1. “a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen”. b. “grounds for believing that something good may happen.” 2. archaic “a feeling of trust.”
When looking at the water issues facing the St Lucie/Indian River Lagoon, it sometimes appears that we are doomed to an endless repetition of discharges from Lake Okeechobee and regional canals for ourselves, our children, and our grandchildren. We are not; we must have hope.
I am clearly aware that the Central Everglades Planning Project, (CEPP) will not alleviate all of the waters killing our rivers. In fact, from what I think I understand, it will deal with about 250,000 acre feet of water of a needed at least 200 million. US Sugar Corporation will probably quote 450 million. For me, the number is not the issue right now, the issue is getting started. By getting started, a groundwork is laid for “more” in the future.
Yes, I wish that the state of Florida had purchased the US Sugar option lands and we could have storage and a “flow way south” to the Everglades from Lake O of sorts, but the state did not. We must still fight for this concept, but also for CEPP.
As right now, CEPP is the only thing “on the books” to send water south and thus our only hope for “sending water south” in the future. The last time I wrote about CEPP I was furious because after all of the hard collective advocacy work to get it in the Water Resources Development Act of 2014, it did not make it. Well now we have another chance, and I have hope that it will.
CEPP was intensely reviewed across South Florida by many. It was led by environmental lead Dr Gretchen Ehlinger, ACOE/Jacksonville, and locally, by West Palm Beach’s, project supervisor, Kim Taplin/ACOE. Both tirelessly worked this project. It was truly a miracle in itself that the project was fast tracked. As we know, government is the world of molasses and quicksand….
To review CEPP:
“The goal of the Central Everglades Planning Project (CEPP) is to deliver a finalized plan, known as a Project Implementation Report (PIR), for a suite of restoration projects in the central Everglades to prepare for congressional authorization, as part of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP). The Central Everglades Planning Project will identify and plan for projects on land already in public ownership to allow more water to be directed south to the central Everglades, Everglades National Park and Florida Bay….”
On August 31st, 2015, something big happened. Jo-Ellen Darcy, Assistant Secretary to the Army, finally signed the “record of decision” for the project. Thank you.
So now the project is approved to “move forward” by the Army Corp. The Final Integrated Project Implementation Report and Environmental Impact Statement has been “approved.” (Please read document above.) So what has to happen now? A lot! The project has to become part of the next Water Resources Development Act, (WRDA), that moves through the US Congress only once every 2-7 years….
If CEPP becomes part of the next WRDA bill, then it would have funding to start with, then the funding has to be continued of course….as politics shift and sands sink and rise…. and yes, the project has to be built….and the water has to be there to flow!….Excruciating isn’t it? But we are on our way. ——The business of hope is not for the weak of heart, it is for the strong.
Of course when it rains the waters of the St Lucie River/Southern Indian River Lagoon get darker due to runoff into the river. But unless it keeps raining, the water will clear up. The government likes to call this water “storm water.” This is all of the water that flows into the river from people’s yards, roads, agriculture fields, etc….
Lately it seems to me, our recent storms, like yesterday, and a few days before have concentrated right along our coast. I am not certain, but I looked on the South Florida Water Management District’s website and it did not appear that C-23, C-24 and C-25 were open or if they were it was not a lot. To check C-44 you have to go to the ACOE website; it is definitely not open. So I think most of what we are seeing right now in our river is runoff from the lands closest to the coast not necessary connected to canals. You can see a basin map below.
So anyway, the photo above with the murky-grey colored water was taken yesterday 7-22-15; it was an outgoing tide; and it was around 11AM. Thank you Ed!
Today, I will share some of Ed’s photos and then compare others from when there was some rain, and the ACOE was dumping into our river JUST FROM LAKE O, and others from very rainy times when dumping from Lake O and the area canals of C-23, C-24, C-25 and C-44 by ACOE/and SFWMD was “constant.”
THESE PHOTOS IMMEDIATELY BELOW FROM yesterday 7-22-15 in the area of Sewall’s Point. They show grayish-murky waters from storm water coastal runoff but green-blue shines through…
THIS PHOTO BELOW IS FROM July 14th, 2015, a week ago. It had not recently rained and my yard was bone dry. It was an incoming tide. Sewall’s Point and confluence of SLR/IRL appears very “blue.” It is beautiful although seagrasses and the benthic community are still “recovering.” Blue does not mean the river is “healthy,” but BLUE IS GOOD.
THIS PHOTO BELOW IS DATED May 18th 2015. This is the tip of South Sewall’s Point looking towards the St Lucie Inlet and Jupiter Narrows. Sailfish Point is under the wing. It was not raining much at this time in March of 2015, but the ACOE/SFWMD was dumping from Lake Okeechobee because the lake was “too high.” The river looked brown and gross.
Ironically, now we appear to be on the verge of a serious “water shortage”….too bad there isn’t a place to store this water somewhere north and/or south of Lake O….that the ACOE and AFWMD dump during the dry season trying to get the lake down in case there is a hurricane….The agriculture community could use that water now as could the Everglades, Miami/Dade, wildlife etc…..the C-44 STA/Reservoir is wonderful and we are thankful but it is only for C-44 BASIN RUNOFF not Lake O.
THIS PHOTO BELOW IS SEWALL’S POINT’s west side, IRL, looking north with the confluence of the SLR/IRL in foreground. This was September of 2013 during some of the highest releases from Lake O and C-23, C-24, C-25 and C-44. This is when the river was toxic and there were signs not to touch the water. It is very dark brown. Too dark.
THIS DISGUSTING SHOT BELOW is of the St Lucie Inlet with Sailfish Point foreground. This photo was also taken in September 2013 during very high discharges from Lake O especially and the C-23, C-24, C-25 and C-44. Yes. It was raining! And certainly coastal storm-water runoff not going into canals as seen in the photo at the beginning of this blog was also included. It was all horrible, but the biggest single overdose during this time was from Lake O.
At this time our river was almost black in color and had a strange consistency due to all of the sediment and pollution in the water. During this year of 2013 our river lost about 85 percent of its seagrasses and ALL of its oysters. The releases lasted from May through October. Salinity was way down and 0 in some places. Algae blooms, toxic in nature, were documented from Palm City to Stuart to Sewall’s Point. The Sandbar at the mouth of the inlet was posted as a health hazard area by Martin County. Real estate sales were lost and animals were absent; it was a true state of emergency as filed with the state by many local governments.
We live in a state of unbalance.
South Florida is a swinging pendulum of too much water and not enough water. It makes no sense. We waste water, yet we encourage more people to come to South Florida when do often don’t have enough as it is because we are dumping it all…
We want things to be like they were in 1970 and 80….
We want to be the sugar and vegetable basket for the world, and have everyone move here… Well no matter how much sugar we produce, or how many houses we build, “we can’t have our cake and eat it too.”
We need more storage south and north of Lake Okeechobee. If we can engineer to send a camera to photograph Pluto 2.7 billion miles away, can’t we fix things here at home?
Well, unless we can figure out how to live on Pluto, we are going to have to—
Sometimes you just need to take a break! I will be “blog-breaking” to spend time with my husband; I will return 7-15-15.
In review, before I stop blogging, thus far 2015 has not been a particularly rewarding year for river advocates— mostly because of the state legislature’s tumultuous session, their interpretation of Amendment 1, and their refusal to consider the purchase of the US Sugar’s option lands in the Everglades Agricultural Area.
To top it off, the ACOE began releasing from Lake Okeechobee into the St Lucie River very early this year, starting January 16th and continuing until just recently–the end of May. There may be more coming this rainy season….
The ACOE and the SFWMD decided to “dump” because the lake was “too high” to be safe for the Herbert Hoover’s Dike and its surrounding farms and communities. This is “understandable,” but at great expense to our SLR/IRL economy and ecosystem.
Ironically, ample water supply is now a concern for “users,” such as agriculture, with Lake Okeechobee down to 12.20 feet and rapidly evaporating….((http://w3.saj.usace.army.mil/h2o/currentLL.shtml))You may have heard that Miami is already in a drought…on top of this, the Caloosahatchee needs some lake water right now to keep its salinities from going too high but they are not getting it…
It always seems more likely that South Florida will have a hurricane, and that Lake O could fill up quickly with 3-4 feet in one week, too much to dump fast, so the agencies prefer the lake lower during summer’s rainy season… There is that chance though—that it won’t rain, and dry conditions will parch our state as occurred in 2006/2007.
Wouldn’t that be something? After all that water being released? South Florida going into a drought? The farm fields dying? The ecosystem and its animals in danger? And people not having enough water?
It may seem an odd thought, but it is one that is not the “stuff of science fiction”— that one day, in the future, after an extended drought or a climatic shift, people could be fighting over the billions of gallons of fresh water that is wasted to the Atlantic Ocean through the C-44 basin, the St Lucie River, and Caloosahatchee during storm events…
We need to prepare for this. We must not give up our advocacy. We must keep more of this precious water on the land and going south for the Everglades.
On a positive-personal note regarding the year thus far….
You may have noticed—-
I am enjoying collaborating with my family. To have my mother’s history and most recently my brother’s “flying time capsule maps” to share is very rewarding. I have linked some of Todd time capsule flights below. They have been very popular!
Todd is six years younger than me as you can see from the photo above. My sister, Jenny, is four years younger. Growing up, Todd and Jenny were more together, and I was kind of “old.” I was out of Martin County High School where as they attended during the same time. Now, the years seems fewer in between…. 🙂
In closing, thank you very much for reading my blog; I wish you a good couple of weeks enjoying the Indian River Region, and I’ll see you soon!
Above: Google Earth/Historic Maps Overlay Flights shared on my blog, created by my brother Todd Thurlow, (http://thurlowpa.com) These flights using Topo and other historic maps combined with today’s Google Earth images flashing between “yesterday and today” give tremendous insight into the water and land changes due to drainage for agriculture and development that have occurred in our region. JTL
If you are a regular reader of my blog, you may know that I prefer to write a “happy-Friday” St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon post…Sometimes though, the news of the day is too pressing, and it is more important to respond to the “question of the day.”
So here we go…
Early this morning, I get a call…
“Jacqui, did you sees the ad in the Stuart News? Who is “We”? Is the ad from the SFWMD?Did the South Florida Water Management District pay for this ad? That would be wrong!”
My husband had already placed the paper by my bedside; the ad’s headline read: WE DON”T NEED SUGAR’S LAND FOR EVERGLADES….With a foggy head, I recalled that there was a full-page ad in yesterday’s paper from US Sugar:
Getting up, pouring a cup of coffee, and perusing the ad, I noted the right bottom corner: “Brought to you by: Western Palm Beach County Farm Bureau.”
I am familiar with Farm Bureaus as my Grandfather Henderson, a soil scientist, UF teacher, Gainesville IFAS-Extension employee, and leader of the 1952-1969 “Agronomy Project,” was an active member throughout his lifetime. There are farm bureaus throughout Florida; they are key in education, and supporting the rights of farmers. They are powerful, historical entities.
Of course, the Western Palm Beach County Farm Bureau is the largest and most powerful of all… So going to the internet on my phone, I noted who was listed on their board.
I didn’t know anybody except Ms, Judy Sanchez, from US Sugar Corporation, Clewiston. I have met Ms Sanchez. She is really nice and an excellent PR lady; US Sugar is very lucky to have her. This is her job and she does it very well. I would imagine the others listed are also “in the business” of the Everglades Agricultural Area south of Lake Okeechobee too…
So why is this ad in today’s paper with the headline WE DON’T NEED SUGAR’S LAND FOR EVERGLADES “dangerous?” Well, I think it is dangerous because to the public it could appear that the ad comes from the SFWMD as it uses information from an Op-Ed written by SFWMD Board Chair Dan O’keefe that ran in the Miami Herald but not here on the Treasure Coast. WE is next to Dan Okeefe’s head. Dan chairs the SFWMD Governing Board. The way the ad reads, it almost appears as if the ad is from the SFWMD itself. WE should be clearly referring to the West Palm Beach County Farm Bureau.
Thus mostly the reason for the early morning call….
In case you don’t know, the SFWMD is a “special taxing district.” If you look at your tax bill you will see we all pay taxes to the District. This money is not to be spent on “ads” but rather on their mission “to manage water and related resources for the benefit of the public: the key elements of the Mission are environmental protection and enhancement, water supply, flood protection and water quality protection.” (Data Directory 1999) Maybe their mission has altered since 1999 but I don’t have time to look for the 2015 version. This should be close enough…
In information wars it is very important that players show no “questionable impropriety.” In my opinion, this ad does not achieve this goal.
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?”
“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.
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.
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?
Let’s keep educating ourselves, and can anyone say “revolution?”
I likened it to watching someone step on a roach. It was terrible. With the a motion from Kevin Powers, the South Florida Water Management District just squashed it.
Last Thursday, on May 14th 2015, the SFWMD, with absolutely no mercy at all, killed the option land contract to purchase 46,800 acres from US Sugar Corporation. This option land purchase has been the greatest hope for local environmentalists, the River Warriors, the Everglades Foundation, and many others to lay ground for a future that would not discharge so much fresh, polluted, water from Lake Okeechobee into the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon.
The hope was that a reservoir could be built on this land to then store, clean and convey water south to the Everglades.
Well, it’s dead. No use bemoaning the situation. Let’s brush ourselves off and keep going. Even though the SFWMD killed this option, there are still others.
The best thing to do now is to “read up” and get smart about at what is “on the books” because a reservoir in the EAA is on the books as part of the Central Everglades Restoration Plan known as CERP. It may not be as good as the 46,800 acre option, but it would be something… And we must enlist Senator Joe Negron as he is our only Indian guide. ((http://www.flsenate.gov/Senators/s32)) To include a land purchase for this reservoir, whether it be in the Everglades Agricultural Area or not, through bonding of Amendment 1 monies is our war plan.
Negron’s idea is to crank up talking to scientists and experts on the best property currently available to build a reservoir. We need about 50 to 60,000 acres, as set out in the 2000 CERP…
The dysfunctional 2015 Florida State Legislature is not a great horse to bet on, but we have no other choice. Let’s saddle up and move on.
My conservative attorney father loves listening to singer/songwriter, Jimmy Buffett, and a “Margaritaville state of mind” was certainly part of the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon lifestyle throughout much of my youth.
As he climbed to fame and fortune, Jimmy Buffett always had time to stand up for Florida’s environment. Just this spring, he headlined a rally petitioning the Florida Legislature to buy U.S. Sugar land for Everglades’ restoration; years ago he helped found the Save the Manatee Club with U.S. Senator and former Governor, Bob Graham. Buffett is a Florida “conservationist hero.” Thus it was a welcomed surprise to learn that Mr Buffett would be receiving an honorary doctorate degree of music, and be the commencement speaker for Ed’s niece, Darcie’s, University of Miami graduation last Friday.
It was a day of celebration but the signs were everywhere: “Miami needs more clean water!” “Send the water south!”
The city of Miami was under great construction and cranes filled the horizon. Around the corner, in Coral Gables, there were other signs.
As Darcie and I made our way to the auditorium, we walked past the large pond I had enjoyed so much during Ed and my last visit: “Wow, what happened to the water here?” I asked…
“I know,” she said, “It used to be so clear. Since they built the new Ratskeller and student center, it is all cloudy and brown….runoff maybe?” She inquired.
“What happened to all the fish?” I asked.
Darcie shook her head.
Symbolic of things to come? Jimmy Buffett the speaker…Hmmmm….
Darcie’s generation, more than ever, knows the pressures of a growing world population, the need for more clean water, and the importance of saving and restoring the environment the best we can…
Darcie’s generation also knows that just through south Florida canals, the state of Florida is dumping 1.7 billion gallons of fresh water into the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico every day because US Sugar and other multi-trillion dollar agri-businesses block that flow.
We and earlier generations have to admit that when it comes to Florida and water, we have messed things up. Perhaps we were driven by “hunger and money,” but today, we all recognize the value of clean water and a healthy environment for the survival of our children. It is time that water again makes its way from Lake Okeechobee to the Everglades…
Why don’t we try to help these young people with this issue rather than leaving them with the full burden? It’s time to buy the land.
I will be taking a week’s break to focus on family, but I wanted to leave you with my audio tape of Jimmy Buffett’s commencement speech below; it does not focus on the poor state of Florida’s environment, but rather on life lessons to help: 1. Moderation; 🙂 2. Make your avocation your vocation; 3. Travel this world; and 4. be Santa Clause when you can! Good advice for all us, young or old. Let’s make Jimmy Buffett proud and keep working to save our St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon!
JIMMY BUFFETT’S UNIVERSITY OF MIAMI COMMENCEMENT SPEECH, 2015.
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.
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.”
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.”
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.
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!
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!”
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.
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.
It is good to learn about the history and issues of the Everglades, South Florida, and our St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon so that one day, in spite of the difficulties we face today, we will be able to fix our problem in the future…
Perhaps the greatest reason the our former Everglades are now overflowing with sugarcane fields is due to politics between Cuba and the United States. My father graduated from Stuart High School in 1954, and believe it or not, his senior trip was to Havana! Soon after, Castro’s revolutionaries took over Cuba in 1959. And as they say the “rest is history…” as the growing sugar fields blocked the flow of water south to the Everglades, the fate of our precious St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon seemed forever doomed. But it is not, as nothing lasts forever.
This weekend my mother handed me a book entitled “Swamp to Sugar Bowl” by historian, author, businessman, and politician, Lawrence E. Will. I read the little book with great enjoyment. Although many things have changed since the book was written in 1968, it provides great insights.
This week I will be sharing some aspects of the books. Today I will quote a few excerpts from chapter 22, “Florida’s Sugar Bowl.”
“Brother if you’re addicted to using sugar you should come here to these Everglades. Sugar and molasses bring in 110 million to these glades each year, so let’s take a quick look at this sugar bowl. Back in 1922, at Moore Haven, the first feeble attempt was made at producing sugar, but the following year in Canal Point the first successful mill began to operate.
This company was taken over by Southern Sugar Company, now the U.S. Sugar Corporation which ground its first cain in Clewiston in 1929. Although this company owned some 100,000 acres of the best land around the lake, under the US government’s regulation, the state of Florida was permitted to produce only nine-tenths of one percent of this nation’s needs.
However when Fidel Castro took over Cuba, the Everglades reaped the benefit. For a short time our government permitted the unrestricted planing of sugar cane. Oh brother, you should have seen how cow pastures and vegetable fields were plowed up and planted! Now we have 189,500 acres of sugar cane in the Glades.” –Lawrence E Will, 1968
I am not certain how much land U.S. Sugar Corporation owns today, but the Everglades option map from 2008 and IFAS statistics from 1993 show over 450,000 acres combining US Sugar and Florida Crystals.
Sugar has been grown in the glades since the 1920s but it exploded in the glades in the 1960s and became heavily supported by the US government due mostly to political reasons.
These meetings are difficult to follow, and almost surreal at times. On Thursday, this was especially true with “paid” protesters yelling outside against the option land purchase, and afterwards the group’s slick sun-glassed/suit-wearing organizer coming inside to pat one of the WRAC members on the back.
I sat there thinking “life really is stranger than fiction,” no wonder south Florida satirist and writer Carl Haaisen says almost all of his material is “simply out of the newspapers…”
Another oddity for me was when Bubba Wade, representing US Sugar Corporation, during WRAC members’ comments referencing “2013,” in defense of not purchasing the option lands, quoted the acre footage of water to the St Lucie Estuary/IRL as “4.5 million acre feet annually,” —and thus justifying that if the 26,000 acre option lands located south of the lake were purchased, even with that water “exchanged,” it would never be “enough…”
I’m thinking to myself: “445,000—4.5 million…I saw “that” number in a Palm Beach Post article too, but I swear it said billion and not million acre feet….where are these numbers coming from? Is Bubba using the right numbers? I think they are wrong….Am I wrong?”
After the meeting, I even walked up to Mr Wade, who I have met on many occasions and feel I have a good working relationship with saying: “Bubba, where did you get your numbers? I am almost sure the St Lucie River, no maybe the estuaries received around 1.5 million acre feet of water in 2013, not 4.5 million acre feet to the SLR. What are the numbers? If we can’t agree on what numbers we are talking about, how we ever agree on anything at all? ”
Bubba was talking out loud trying to figure where he got his numbers, and I was wondering where I got mine as well…in the end we just stared at each other…
When I got home I consulted Dr Gary Goforth. I have interpreted and put into laymen terms what he wrote to me below.
It shows that the numbers change depending on what years one is talking about, and over how long a period of time.
The above chart is different as it shows a ten-year, not a twenty-year average, 1996-2005). Here the number, 442,000 looks more like Bubba’s 4.5 million acre feet. (I found this chart in Mark Perry’s presentation on his website at Florida Oceanographic.)This must be the chart Bubba Wade was referring to…?
Which number is better? Which number is correct? That depends what one is trying to prove. Right? 🙂
In any case, when quoting numbers, it is good to know which reference chart one is quoting. One one should also reference which chart one is using….This goes for me as well as for Mr Wade of U.S. Sugar….
Words and images are powerful tools in our quest to save the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon. It is critical that we are part of “writing history,” and not “allowing it to be written for us.”
Even though things get discouraging sometimes and we may feel like we are “getting nowhere,” believe me, in time, we will see that our work has not been in vain. A better river history is being made right now. You are part of that history.
Today I will share the document of Dr Gary Goforth, (http://garygoforth.net) “Resolving System Constraints: An Action Plan,” that is really “making history.”
It was passed out March 12, 2015 at the South Florida Water Management District’s (SFWMD) Governing Board Meeting where eighty members of the public signed up to speak on behalf of supporting the purchase of US Sugar option lands in the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA) in order to create a reservoir to store, clean and convey significant amounts of water south to the Everglades, thus sparing the estuaries from the redirected waters of Lake Okeechobee that are killing our rivers on top of the already destructive discharges from area canals.
This document will be an important part of that day’s “official record”…
Please read and store this document in your reference folder. You can click on the images to enlarge them.
Thank you Dr Goforth, River Warriors, Mark Perry, Maggy Hurchalla, Indian Riverkeeper, Marty Baum, Martin County’s Deborah Drum, Commissioner Ed Fielding, Ray Judah, Rae Anne Wetzel, the Sierra Club, the Everglades Coalition, The Stuart News, the state press, and all others, especially the “varied general public”—who continually speak in support of the St Lucie, Indian, and Caloosahatchee rivers. Thank you to those who everyday are part of this ongoing cause.
Thank you to the SFWMD for hearing our voices and reading our words, even when you are silent….
Thank you toDr Goforth for writing our goals down scientifically for the District to read, reference, and remember, as all of us build a new history we know is coming…
Yesterday, around noon, hours into an outgoing tide, once again, my husband Ed and I flew over the rivers to document the polluted discharges from Lake Okeechobee and the area canals pouring into the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon.
Today I am going to incorporate the “latest” information I have received:
1. The photos from 3-15-15 throughout this blog.
2. The ACOE press release is from 3-12-15:
ACOE Press Release, 3-12-15. Classification: UNCLASSIFIED Caveats: NONE All, Corps has decided next pulse release will be the same as last week–2,500 cfs west and 950 cfs east averaged over seven days. More information is attached. Please contact me if you have questions. Thanks for your help. JHC John H Campbell Public Affairs Specialist Jacksonville District, US Army Corps of Engineers Jacksonville, FL Office: 904-232-1004 Mobile: 904-614-9134 Join our online communities: http://about.me/usacejax/ Classification: UNCLASSIFIED Caveats: NONE
3. Florida Oceanographic’s water quality chart, 3-12-15.
4. The SFWMD’s “water input” chart, 3-3/3-9-15.)
As you can see above, last week with Lake Okeechobee around 14.7 feet, the Army Crop of Engineers, (ACOE) with the input of the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) and stakeholder from 16 counties: “decided next pulse release will be the same as last week–2,500 cfs west to the Calooshatchee and 950 cfs east to the St Lucie/SIRL averaged over seven days…(If this is confusing, a useful way to convert is to know that every 1,000 cfs is equivalent to 650 million gallons per day!)
Today the Lake Okeechobee is reading 14.56 feet. It is going down thankfully and the goal would be 13 feet if the ACOE and SFWMD were allowed to say it….
These releases could not come at a worse time, as we are already inundated by area canals and it is the beginning of spawning season, oyster spating season, and the warm weather drawing the public to area waters, like the Sandbar in the photos below. This year, the ACOE has been dumping since January 16th, very early in the year, foreshadowing another possible toxic summer.
In response to these releases, last Thursday, many of the “River Movement” including the River Warriors, continued their fight for clean water at the SFWMD as hundreds pleaded for US Sugar option lands to be purchase south of Lake Okeechobee in order to, over time, create a reservoir to store, clean and convey water “south” to the water starved Everglades.
The people realize the amounts of water coming into Lake Okeechobee from the Kissimmee River are so tremendous there is no other way to offset the destruction of the estuaries except with a third outlet south of the lake. Activists have been pushing for the this for decades but since the toxic summer of 2013, known as the “Lost Summer” a tipping point has been reached.
The goal is to save the St Lucie/S. Indian River Lagoon, the Caloosahatchee, and the Florida Everglades! Call to action video here: (https://vimeo.com/119495955)
There are really just a couple of things you can do when you are “attacked” or “think you are being attacked.” You can fight back, or you can “play opossum–play dead.”
Sometimes, the game is over faster if you “play opossum,” and simply don’t respond.
This happens in my yard a lot with my dogs and opossums here in the Town of Sewall’s Point, and it in my opinion, it happened yesterday at the South Florida Water Management District’s Governing Board Meeting in West Palm Beach.
Although the front page of the SFWMD’s agenda read:
“The Governing Board may take official action at the is meeting on any item appearing on the agenda and on any item that is added to this agenda as a result of a change to the agenda approved by the presiding officer of the meeting pursuant to Section 120.525, Florida Statutes.”
—no action, not even a comment in response to the 80 public speakers was given at the end of “public comment.” The board remained quiet and simply “moved on…”.
Yes, approximately one hundred members of the public: housewives, grandmothers, activists, veterans, a River Kid, scientists, “River Warriors,” government employees, and politicians from many different counties, (but mostly from Martin and St Lucie Counties), made the long drive to come before the District, a board appointed by our governor…to speak, to exercise their right to speak, and to plead for the life of the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon and Calooshatchee by asking the board to exercise the right to purchase US Sugar option lands south of Lake Okeechobee, or at least to “allow discussion of this item on the agenda.”
This was not achieved….
Thankfully though, Board Chairman, Dan O’Keefe, did allow the public to speak, however, they were told if they clapped, or were disruptive they would be “removed by a deputy….” The public, for the most part, followed the rules, and was “allowed to” raise their hands to show support for each other….Mr O’Keefe empathetically noting hands raised….
It was excruciating…
As a public official myself, who has led and sat through many meetings with an angry public, my eyes actually teared up at one point. Watching the American process in action as the foot of authority stood on their neck…
The underdog in this scenario is certainly “Team David,” of the Indian River Lagoon whose river, the St Lucie, flows with the gushing putrid water of altered area canals and the redirected waters of Lake Okeechobee….
Perhaps the board felt the people weren’t “thankful enough” for all that has been done recently…
It is hard to be thankful when you’re dying….C-44 Reservoir monies and Senator Joe Negron’s Senate Hearing on the Indian River Lagoon and Lake Okeechobee Basin, yes, these state “wins” have been bonanzas of cash in one small area, our county…
We are thankful…
….unfortunately, so much water comes into the SLR/IRL system, the public is educated and knows that more land for storage is needed for all that water or “death is immanent.”
Yesterday, the river movement of the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon chose not to play opossum, giving it their best fight…the government on the other hand, simply rolled over….
If you read my blog, you know that I prefer to do a “feel good” piece on Friday as we all go into the weekend. Sometimes this is difficult when it comes to the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon.
I have been asked to provide a “simple update” as so much information has occurred lately, plus the Army Corp of Engineers (ACOE), and South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) have begun releasing more polluted water from Lake Okeechobee (via the Kissimmee River area), and our area canals, C-23, C-24, C-25 and C-44— due to high rainfall.
As you know, the ACOE began releasing in mid January as the lake is “high.” Going into summer the lake should be able to “hold” three to four feet of rain from a hurricane without breaking the dike which in spite of $650 million in repair is still rated as one of the most dangerous in the nation.
So although for one week the ACOE stopped releasing, they have started up again this week at a higher level going from about 200 to 950 cubic feet per second (cfs). (For perspective during the highest discharged in 2013 the releases where around 5000-7000 cfs.)
You can see from the above chart, that after the rain last weekend, (that in some areas of Martin County, such as Palm City, was 11 inches) there was a spike. The blue is Lake Okeechobee discharges, and the other colors correspond to area canals and basins.
Pretty much “what happens”, every week or so is that there is a stakeholder call and then the ACOE and SFWMD have to come up with a “weekly” decision on how to manage Lake Okeechobee. Not fun.
After they compare notes and get input from state holders, a press release is sent out. This week, it read like this:
PRESS RELEASE ACOE 3-5-15 DISCHARGE INCREASES FROM LAKE O. Classification: UNCLASSIFIED Caveats: NONE All, Corps of Engineers will increase flows on FRI to 2,500 cfs west and 950 cfs east. More information is attached. Please contact me if you have questions. JHC John H Campbell Public Affairs Specialist Jacksonville District, US Army Corps of Engineers Jacksonville, FL Office: 904-232-1004 Mobile: 904-614-9134 Join our online communities: http://about.me/usacejax/ Classification: UNCLASSIFIED Caveats: NONE
The ACOE has to share the bad news as they “control” S-77 and S-308, the giant gates that allow the water to come gushing in to the estuaries St Lucie and Caloosahatee, but really, the decision is made together with the SFWMD, and stakeholders like counties, and state agencies trying to deal with all this exhausting, constant “up and down.”
Another thing the agencies try to do to “help” is send the water in “pulse releases” instead of in one tremendous “flush.” To understand why this is a good idea, you can see the cartoon below that was very popular during the 2013 “Lost Summer…”
Another report that came out yesterday from the Martin County Health Department shows the enterococcus bacteria levels found in the St Lucie River at certain check points. Most are” high” again. This corresponds with the high “discharges” from our area canals and from Lake Okeechobee and is believed to be in many cases connected to non-functioning septic tanks–Nonetheless, many pollutants “rise” and “flow” during these high water times causing our bacteria levels to spike…Martin County is working very hard to pin down this issue.
Just to give perspective, during part of the 2013 “Lost Summer,” the chart above was ALL RED, not only at the Roosevelt Bridge, Sandsprit Park, and Leighton Park, but even at the Sandbar which is practically sitting inside the St Lucie Inlet, an area one would expect to be “flushed” with clean sea water at all times….
In spite of all this “bad news” the SFWMD has been trying to alleviate our problems as one can see from the chart above, they have sent almost 500,000 acre feet (500,000 acres with one foot of water on top) of water “south” from Lake Okeechobee and the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA.) This is truly historic and to be commended. The SFWMD heard our call SEND THE WATER SOUTH. Thank you!
Also this week, thanks to Senator Negron’s IRL Hearing, the University of Florida’s: “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” went public discussing constraints and providing quite a few good ideas of how to “overcome them.”
In summary, I am sorry to say, right now, everything is pointing towards another “lost summer.”
Worst of all is that many fish and oysters begin spawning in March, so their “babies” will get swooped out to sea, lowering the productivity of our estuary by millions of dollars really….and it is almost “Spring”here in Florida—- were we humans, and especially kids, like to play and use the water too. Not mention our real estate values…
“Groundhog Day?” Have you seen the movie?
Watch this very powerful video if you have time, and be ready to defend our St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon once again— this time asking for the EAA option lands owned by Us Sugar Corporation to be bought south of Lake Okeechobee by our state. As we can all see, it is very sad, and rather embarrassing to admit, but we have become the “toilet” of the great state of Florida. We pay too many taxes to allow this.
Under tremendous political pressure, and intense time limitations, the Water Institute of the University of Florida (http://waterinstitute.ufl.edu) has created a professional, “arm’s-length” document, reporting on “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.”
Kudos to Senator Joe Negron and the Senate Committee who put forth the $250,000 for this study after the “Lost Summer” of 2013! Write him, thank him and ask him to support the EAA option land purchase! (http://www.flsenate.gov/Senators/s32)
Kudos to the people who demanded something be done to save the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon that suffers from terrible “local runoff” and then is periodically murdered by the tremendous releases from Lake Okeechobee that are a tipping point, causing the river to go into a toxic state as we saw in 1998, 2004-5, and most recently in 2013!
The UF Water Institute’s report came out yesterday. The study clearly states, as pointed out to me by Dr Gary Goforth, (http://garygoforth.net) who is reviewing the document:
” Achieving substantial reduction in lake-triggered discharges to the estuaries and substantial improvement toward the dry season Everglades demand target will require additional land between the lake and the EAA, e.g., the current U.S. Sugar land purchase option, lands from other willing sellers, and/or use of existing state-owned land (e.g., Holey Land and Rotenberger Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs)).”
Friend, environmental icon, and 20 year county commissioner, Maggy Hurchalla, pointed out this section as we tried to review the 143 page document in quick time:
p102: “Currently, the state of Florida has an option to purchase approximately 46,000 acres in the EAA(Figure V-8). The option is set to expire in October 2015. Thus, the state has a limited window of opportunity to purchase this land at market prices. Given the limited opportunity and the uncertainty of any future similar opportunities to purchase large acreages of lands in the EAA,the state should consider this time-limited option. The particular 46,000 acres at issue may be useful for additional storage and treatment or may serve as lands that the state could trade with other agricultural interests in the area if land in different locations are needed.”
…. the Technical Review Team concludes that relief to the estuaries and the ability to move more water south of Lake Okeechobee can be accomplished using existing technology. The solution is enormous increases in storage and treatment of water both north and south of the lake. Existing and currently authorized storage and treatment projects are insufficient to achieve these goals. The path forward requires significant long-term investment in the infrastructure of the South Florida hydrologic system. Options to Reduce High Volume Freshwater Flows to the Estuaries and Move More Water South from Lake Okeechobee to the Southern Everglades To reduce damage to the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries freshwater inflow and nutrient loads from both Lake Okeechobee and the local basins must be reduced. On average, 70-80% of the freshwater discharge and 65-80% of the nutrient load to the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries originates in the local basins, with the remaining balance contributed from Lake Okeechobee. Previous CERP, NEEPP and ROG planning exercises have all identified that providing large volumes of regional storage is essential to reduce freshwater discharges to the estuaries. The most recent estimates of required storage include: 400,000 acre-feet of water storage within the Caloosahatchee River watershed, 200,000 acre-feet of water storage within the St. Lucie River watershed, and approximately 1,000,000 acre-ft of water storage distributed north and south of Lake Okeechobee. …..
Many opinions will evolve out of this UF document. Fingers will be pointed….
Nonetheless, if we are adaptable, determined, and consistent, like a gator in the swamp, we will be able to “ride” this UF study to achieve the purchase of option lands in the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA).
We must also “ride” the UF report for funding projects to clean up and divert area runoff from area canals C-23, C-24, C-25, and C-44 that are also an ongoing man-made pollution disaster to the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon. Together, Lake O and our area canals are killing our rivers and Lake O is always the “tipping point…”
Keep your eye on the prize, don’t take “no” for an answer…
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
An Independent Technical Review by the University of Florida Water Institute
*This Everglades Trust website allows you to find and contact your elected officials and write them about purchasing option lands in the EAA and saving the everglades; see here for information: (http://www.evergladestrust.org)
Recently US Sugar Corporation, and even some members from the Governing Board of the SFWMD itself , (http://www.sfwmd.gov/portal/page/portal/xweb%20about%20us/governing%20board) “hijacked” Mr Kivett’s document, to make it seem like it proves everything is “in stone,” justifies the atrocities of the plumbing system, and makes the idea of buying land south of Lake Okeechobee null and void….Nothing, could be further than the truth….and was not the intension of Mr Kivett’s document.
The way I see it, and after talking to Mr Kivett myself, he has given us a map “of flight.” A map for us to learn and understand how to overcome our present limitations. I am grateful to him for the map, and I will use it not to keep things the same, but to promote change.
Today I am going to share a document written by my friend Dr Gary Goforth. Dr Goforth (http://garygoforth.net) and I took Mr Kivett’s document and wrote about each “constraint” in such a way as to understand how to overcome it.
Please read, learn and speak out about it —- thank you for working to be part the solution and inspiration to “overcome,” the failures of the present South Florida system so that in the future it does not only provide flood control, but also provides even more clean, fresh water to the Everglades, and to South Florida, and no longer kills two of the most productive and economically important estuaries in North America, the St Lucie/Southern Indian River Lagoon and the Caloosahatchee.
Please use the map to refer to the numbers from top to bottom.
Identifying and understanding system constraints is a fundamental step in identifying long-term solutions to minimizing destructive Lake releases to the estuaries. Many constraints represent short-term, i.e., daily or weekly, restrictions, and are not absolute limitations to achieving long-term goals. With proper planning, interim goals can be achieved in light of these short-term restrictions. Compiling the system constraints is particularly important to identifying long-term solutions for sending additional Lake water to the Everglades and minimizing destructive releases to the estuaries. A properly constructed “System Constraints” document provides fundamental engineering justification for the State to purchase available lands within the EAA in order to add to the storage and treatment necessary to achieve this long-term goal.
Herbert Hoover Dike around Lake Okeechobee is a “dynamic constraint” since its importance in decision making is related to the time of year, the water level in Lake Okeechobee, and its structural integrity. At low water levels, the dike is not necessarily a constraint. Parts of the dike were constructed in the 1930s, and concerns over its structural integrity led to lowering the overall regulation schedule to the current interim operating schedule (LORS2008). It will be possible to hold more water in the lake, thus reduce the destructive discharges to the estuaries, as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers continues the rehabilitation. The Corps has already spent $650 million in rehabilitation and they should speed this process up as fast as possible.
Lake Okeechobee Regulation Schedule or LORS provides guidance on how much Lake water goes south and how much goes to the estuaries. The flexibility provided to the District and Corps to make lake operations decreases as lake water levels drop too low or rise too high, and as such, is also a “dynamic constraint.” LORS takes into consideration many factors, including the integrity of the Herbert Hoover Dike, the ecology of the lake ecosystem, and water supply needs of adjacent landowners. The current LORS (“LORS2008”) was developed in 2008 as an interim schedule in response to concerns about dike safety, and it is possible for it to be “reworked.” In light of the $650 million in rehabilitation work on the dike, the SFWMD could press for the Corps to revise LORS to provide greater storage in the Lake and reduce the destructive discharges to the estuaries. Senator Negron, Congressman Murphy and US Senator Rubio also have been breeching this subject. The Corps says that LORS will probably not be reworked until HHD is “fixed.” Another good reason to speed that up.
Structure Capacity: “Structure capacity” refers to the amount of water that can be sent south during a relatively short timeframe (e.g., a day or a week) through the spillways and culverts located around Lake Okeechobee. The total structure capacity varies depending on Lake level and EAA canal level, allowing for different amounts of water to be sent south during different times of the year. Water control plans for regions like the EAA are developed to achieve long-term goals in recognition of short-term structure capacities. FYI: It is best to send water south all year round, especially in the dry season when the stormwater treatment areas (STAs) and Everglades need water at the same time the Lake water levels need to drop for the health of the Lake ecology and in anticipation of the upcoming wet season. Alternatives for minimizing estuary discharges that send additional Lake water south recognize this constraint, and include increased numbers and capacity of the structures along Lake Okeechobee.
Canal conveyance capacity refers to the rate at which water can flow through a canal. During storm events, the EAA canals are used primarily to provide flood protection, however, these canals are not needed for flood protection every day of the year, and their capacity can then be used to deliver Lake water to the south. For this reason, canal conveyance capacity is not a fixed constraint in the context of making year-round deliveries of Lake water to the south. The canals could be enlarged to allow more water to go south. In addition, canal conveyance capacity could be increased as part of a flow-way/reservoir system constructed in the EAA on purchased option lands. This should be a goal with the new Amendment 1 funding.
Species Protection. As water levels drop within the STAs during the dry season, migratory ground nesting birds (e.g., black necked stilts) and protected species (e.g., snail kites) find it conducive to build their nests. Once they nest in an STA, restrictions to protect the nests are put into place which severely limit the amount of water that can be sent through the STA. To discourage this nesting, the STAs’ Avian Protection Plan encourages a minimum depth of 6 inches. Achieving this operational guidance is a secondary benefit of treating Lake water in the STAs during the dry season. As an example, the only STA-5/6 with nesting snail kites at this time is STA-5/6 – coincidently the only STA that has not received Lake water.
STA Treatment Capability. Overloading the treatment areas with nutrients from the EAA and Lake Okeechobee can adversely affect the ability of the STAs to optimally reduce phosphorus levels. However, as Lake water was delivered throughout the year at a relatively low rate, treatment performance has not diminished. In fact, STA performance has improved concurrent with the sustained delivery of historic large volumes of Lake releases to the south in a year-round operation. Over the last year, the outflow phosphorus concentration from STA-1E, STA-1W, STA-2 and STA-3/4 improved by 4 parts per billion (ppb), decreasing from 21 ppb to 17 ppb. The only STA that has not exhibited a performance improvement was STA-5/6 which did not receive any Lake water. In addition, District scientists indicate there have been no adverse impacts on the treatment vegetation due to Lake water.
Pump Capacity: With the construction of the STAs, there is now more capacity to remove EAA floodwaters than ever before. This extra pumping capacity has also been used in the last year to significantly increase the delivery of Lake water to the Everglades. Many of the STA pumps are quite large and are not run 24/7. If smaller pumps can be built, additional Lake water could to be sent south “all day and night.” Amendment 1 funding could be used to construct additional pumps, purchase lands and build additional STAs or other features.
STA 5/6 Connectivity: There are 5 STAs, and STA-5/6, located in Hendry County, is the only STA that has not received Lake water in several years. This STA has the poorest performance of the STAs and is currently the only STA with nesting Snail Kites, which places strict limits on allowable water depths within the STA. While a physical connection exists between the Lake and the STA, the associated operations are complicated. Improving the connection to the Lake should be a priority so even more Lake water can be sent south while providing hydrologic benefits to the STA. Portions of STA-5/6 can be sent directly to the northwest portion of WCA-3A, an area that needs Lake water to keep from drying out, without passing through the EAA canals.
Wildlife Management Areas: Over 60,000 acres of public lands lie between the EAA and the lake, and water levels are managed to improve remnant Everglades habitat and are very important to wildlife. These areas are not being used to store and treat additional Lake water, and could be used to do so during the temporary periods of emergency releases from the Lake. The current operating schedule attempts to maintain water depths between 0 and 1 foot deep, which also provides suitable habitat for game hunting. The hunting community is our friend and we need to ask them for help during these temporary periods of emergency Lake releases.
Water Level Limitation (Tree Islands & Wildlife): These areas, too, are very sensitive as the tree islands are sacred to our state’s native peoples/they are protected. The animals get on them when water is high to stay safe. It is only possible to send more water around them if it does not hurt the integrity of the tree islands. We should maintain good relationships with our native American friends; they have huge water problems too. Delivering treated Lake water to the WCAs throughout the year (not just during the wet season) and increasing out flows from the WCAs along the Tamiami Trail will help protect the remaining tree islands.
LEC (Lower East Coast Canal Conveyance): These are canals that move local floodwaters and Lake O water east to replenish drinking water wellfields and send excess water into the Atlantic. They could be enlarged to increase their conveyance, although it would be better not to waste this water to the ocean, and instead, keep it within the south Florida system. As sea levels rise, additional Lake water will be needed to stave off saltwater intrusion in the coastal wellfields.
Levee Safety: This earthen levee was built along the eastern boundary of the water conservation areas (WCAs) and keeps water from going into developed areas along the east coast. The safety of these levees places a constraint on the water depths within the WCAs. Water depths within the WCAs are a function of rainfall, evaporation, seepage and the movement of water into and out of the WCAs. Delivering treated Lake water to the WCAs throughout the year (not just during the wet season) and increasing out flows from the WCAs along the Tamiami Trail will help maintain safe water levels.
Flow Limitation: The Tamiami Trail blocks the flow of water south into the Everglades National Park; more openings are being installed to increase this flow, and more could be put in for the future. Stringent limits of phosphorus are in place along the Tamiami Trail, and the State and Federal governments are currently discussing potential appropriate revisions. For the most recent year, the geometric mean of phosphorus was 5.6 ppb – well below the 10 ppb criterion.
Flood Risk (G3273, South Dade Conveyance System): This area is around the city of Homestead, adjacent to the Everglades National Park. Right now they are having serious high-groundwater issues, stemming from the desire to hold higher water levels in Park. This is being studied and groundwater levels may be exacerbated with sea level rise. Potential solutions include construction of a cut-off wall to minimize seepage from the Park.
*The bottom line is that resolving “constraints” is only limited by our will and imagination and they should not be presented as “unchangeable.”
I always enjoy looking at old photographs, and fortunately my mother and father have acquired hundreds through their history work. Many of them spawn memories of what for me was a “simpler time and place” in Martin County history—as I was a child.
My mother probably took me to the “Bathtub Beach,” with family and friends, for the very first time, when I was an infant, but in my first memories of the place I was probably four or five years old.
I can remember my mother parking along the road and all of us walking– carrying all of our towels, buckets, and nets to catch tropical fish in the reef (to be returned) and my looking down and seeing bright, yellow beach-sunflowers— the sand was SO hot, you wouldn’t believe it, and there were stickers. Hundreds of stickers that stuck in your feet and you had to stop and pull them out as the sun beat down on you like a flashlight.
I remember, it became a game with me to see if I could walk in the burning sand from the road, along the path, to the beach without any shoes. I remember jumping in the cool water and swimming to the reef and sticking my homemade net into a hole to catch a little fish and a moray eel came right out and put its scary face up to my mask!
I remember the simplicity of these times, and the beauty of this place that is no longer wild like it was then, but is still equally remarkable.
The photo above shows Seminole Shores, that became “Sailfish Point” and a formalized county beach–“Bathtub Reef Beach.” Even at the time of this photograph there were “issues:” the photo is labeled “Washout.” As we all know, today, this area is still eroding away and the county must spend substantial amounts of monies in partnerships with the state of Florida to “re-nourish” this area. See chart below for all Martin County, provided for me by Martin County.
When I really think about it, every era of history has its difficulties. It is never simple.
The aerial photos I am sharing today were taken not long after the atrocities of World War II. I was born in the social and political unrest of the 1960s…Today has its own set of problems whether it be the possibility of terrorists training in Treasure Coast airports; our eroding beaches; the “tipping point” that has occurred with releases from Lake Okeechobee and the area canals into our St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon; our struggles with the US Sugar option land purchase; or the next population explosion that our state is counting on….
Nonetheless, it is rather amusing to me, that after all these years, some things remain the same: it is still beautiful here; I still love the fish; and somehow sometimes I still feel like I am running on the hot sands to see how long I can stand it, having to stop to pull out those irritating stickers; and every once in a while, I stick my net into a hole, and out pops a moray eel…. 🙂
I must begin by saying that my recent blogging has been somewhat “uncomfortable” for me, as I was raised to act like a “lady,” and recently I feel more like a fighter pilot.
Politics sometimes makes “being a lady” a difficult goal, so I do apologize to anyone, such as my mother, who may be offended by my relentless “fighting” blog posts recently regarding the importance of state purchase of the 46,800 acres of option lands for sale by US Sugar Corporation.
As a warning, mom and others, today’s blog post will be more of the same, as a “type of war” has started.
—-A war of information. A war to influence our governor and legislature….a war over how to use Florida’s Amendment 1 monies….a war to save the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon, Caloosahatchee, Everglades, and drinking water for South Florida, or just to keep the “status-quo…”
In order to explain this, I will share what has happened over the past few days…
On Wednesday, February 18th, Eric Draper, the Executive Director of Florida Audubon, (http://fl.audubon.org) was quoted in a “Sunshine State News” piece as saying (regarding the flow way south) “—it will never happen, it’s pie in the sky…”
Knowing Mr Draper and knowing that words in news articles often are twisted for effect, I wrote Audubon immediately asking about the situation. Mr Draper replied with an apologetic email and a letter he had written that day to Governor Scott in support of purchasing the option lands. See below:
In my effort to promote the idea of an EAA reservoir and distinguish that from the hard to explain Plan Six I unwittingly played into a storyline not my own. I found the story confusing and somewhat unrelated to what I was trying to say. Nevertheless, I am sure that folks are disappointed to hear me discount the flow way and that was not my word or intent. As an 30 year advocate for the Everglades and Lake Okeechobee I feel strongly about moving water south. Audubon will continue to work on getting the US Sugar land purchased for the purpose of establishing a CERP reservoir.
I apologize to both of you and to all the supporters of the idea of Plan Six and a flow way.
Eric Draper Executive Director
I believe Mr Draper did not mean for his words as they were reported. Speaking with the media is sometimes tricky business and anyone who speaks to them long enough will feel that he or she has been “misquoted.” Mr Draper’s work is one of the main reasons Amendment 1 passed in the first place, and you can see by his letter above to Governor Scott he supports buying the option lands.
OK, one bomb down…Two to go….
So then on Saturday, Feb 21st, I get an email from my Florida League of Cities colleague, Teresa Heitman, who is a councilwoman for the City of Naples. She simply forwarded me an email she had received from US Sugar Corporation. You can click on the image below to read it, but basically it says: “Send the Water South?” “Not so fast”…and gives three articles supporting why the option lands should not be purchased, why the “enviros”are nuts, and one of the articles quoted is the one quoting Eric Draper that I mentioned above!
As an aside, and as an elected official myself, I must say that I find it in poor taste that this email was sent from US Sugar Corporation directly to an elected official. Maybe Council- woman Heitman is on a “mailing list” for US Sugar, but this seems doubtful to me.
How many other elected officials were sent this email and why is US Sugar sending it out?
On the other hand, it kind of made me feel good when I saw it–like they were threatened by the grassroots river movement here along the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon and the Everglades in general. Kind of ironic to think that US Sugar would need to influence elected officials with direct emails; seems like they already do that with everything else they do like spending millions of dollars on lobbying politicians…….sending this “tiny” email makes them look kind of desperate….
—obviously we have more influence than we realize….
Also, the thought of a “David and Goliath” fight is very appealing to me, as in that story, as we all know, David wins…
Below is part of the email from US Sugar, just so you can see it. I also made sure the hyperlinks worked in case you want to read the “email bombs” being sent out.
Buy the land? Send the water south? Not so fast…
In case you missed it, please find below highlights from a few recent articles discussing the constraints, risks and concerns with purchasing the U.S. Sugar land option to create a flow-way to send water south to the Everglades:
You can access the articles in their entirety by clicking on the hyperlinked titles. 1. Officials to enviros: Buying land, moving lake water south has risks
By: Christine Stapleton, Palm Beach Post February 12, 2015
The 60-second TV spot starts airing 2-22-15 and sponsored by the Everglades Trust (http://www.evergladestrust.org) is running on cable and broadcast stations in Tampa Bay, Orlando, Fort Myers, West Palm Beach and Tallahassee.
The scrip reads:
“Decades of uncontrolled pollution in the Everglades and Lake Okeechobee is endangering our health, killing our wildlife and threatening our drinking water.
Four years ago, the sugar industry signed a binding written contract to sell us land to clean up their pollution, and for a reservoir to protect our water.
It’s been called the most critical piece of land ever for Everglades restoration. Last November, 75% of Floridians voted YES to Amendment 1, making vital land purchases for the Everglades a part of the Florida Constitution.
Now, it’s up to the Governor to back it and the Legislature to fund it.
Call the Governor, call your legislator, and tell them to buy the land. Build the reservoir. And save Florida’s drinking water. Now, while there’s still time.
So I think that this is a war of sorts. Between US Sugar and the Everglades Trust. For most readers of my blog interested in saving the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon, our ideology is that of the Everglades Trust….
In closing, when you have some extra time, please write to Governor Scott below, and sign the petition above, asking to support the purchase of option lands. And feel good about the influence you are already having in the war to save the Indian River Lagoon!
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….”
In Beijing, China, last year, the government erected a televised screen showing sunsets, as the people could not see their sunsets any longer— due to the tremendous smog in their city. What a price to pay for economic “success.”
Oddly enough, on some level, we have experienced the same thing. On a level of world comparison, we have a “thriving economy;” however, somehow, over the past 100 years, we have “lost our river.” Yet in most of the adds one sees, the river still looks beautiful and healthy.
Right now, the Army Corp of Engineers (ACOE) is discharging water from Lake Okeechobee, while the South Florida Water Management District canals C-44, C-24, C-23, and C-25 are also dumping polluted water into our estuary. All of this extra water has been “engineered” to come here so agriculture and development can thrive. Us included…
So, right now there is “no other way,” and the ACOE and South Florida Water Management District are locked in a cycle of struggle to send more water south when the entire southern area south of Lake Okeechobee is blocked by the Everglades Agricultural Area— other than a few canals, to “send water south.” Plus the water is too dirty for the Everglades—but not for the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon that is already “impaired.”
The “mighty” Kissimmee too has been “engineered for the success of farming and ranches and development in its former watershed. It is being partially restored by the SFWMD; this is wonderful, a testament of the ability of the system to recover if given a chance….
And after all, it’s not so bad here right? We can still see the sun…..AGGGGG!
Let’s continue to turn this ship; let’s continue to fix our own yards, towns, cities, and counties; let’s keep pushing the State for a reservoir/flow way to store, clean and convey water south. As Eric Eichenberg, CEO of the Everglades Foundation said yesterday at the Rivers Coalition meeting, this is the “only way” as the Kissimmee River’s continued restoration is simply not enough to hold all the water.
“Sunrise, sunset….sunrise, sunset….”we are thankful and we are inspired….
The first time I ever saw Lake Okeechobee, I was fourteen years old. I was visiting River Ranch, at Yeehaw Junction, with my friend Vicki Whipkey, and her family. Jay Brock, who was by far the smartest of any of us kids there that summer vacation, and my first real “crush,” recommended we go see sunset on the lake. I don’t remember how we got there, but we did.
Once we arrived, the sun was starting to fall. The horizon was miles away, and the water went as far as the eye could see in all directions.
“It looks like the ocean, not a lake.” I said, taken aback.
Jay, spouted off some statistics saying something like: “The lake is about 730 square miles; 35 miles long; and up to 25 miles wide. It is the largest lake entirely within a state in the United States of America; it is half the size of Rhode Island.”
I wondered how he know all this stuff, and we sat there watching the sunset.
I wondered if I would have my first kiss at this beautiful, but almost eerie, “ocean of a lake.” It never happened…
I never really forgot Jay Brock, and we remained friends throughout our lives.
I never, never, ever, forgot Lake Okeechobee.
Years later, an adult, I started going back to Lake Okeechobee in my forties when I started to become concerned about the releases from the lake into the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon. I wanted and needed to see it through “adult eyes.”
—-I have flown over the lake with my husband and his friends many times; I have entered the lake by boat; and I have driven 30 miles west with my niece Evie, on Highway 76, until arriving at Port Mayaca. No matter how I have gotten there, every time I see the lake, I have the same experience I had at fourteen years old, I am completely “overcome by its size.”
Yesterday, Governor Rick Scott pledged Amendment 1 monies to the Everglades, but not for buying the US Sugar option 1 lands south of Lake Okeechobee,
I am thankful for this, but disappointed; I am thankful Governor Scott has the Everglades and local projects in his budget recommendation for the 2015 Legislative Session. Nonetheless, I recognize that our St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon problems will never be fixed until there is land and eventually a reservoir south of the lake to store, clean, and convey water south— a flow way of sorts to move that water south….
THERE IS TOO MUCH WATER. SOME MUST GO SOUTH. WE NEED A COMBINATION AND THE OPTION 1 LANDS EXPIRE THIS OCTOBER, 2015.
Let’s think a minute. Let’s review, and contemplate about what we can still do to politely convince our governor and legislature. There is still time.
Florida Oceanographic Society quotes 1.5 or so million acres feet coming out the Kissimmee River into Lake Okeechobee in 2013, (not our worst of years), with approximately 300,000 acre feet being released to the St Lucie/IRL and 660,000 acre feet being releases to the Caloosahatchee. The rest going to sustain the Everglades Agriculture Area south of the lake, and a smaller portion yet trickling to the dying Everglades.
So even if the Kissimmee holds more water, it won’t hold enough water. The water is meant to go south….
I wonder if the governor or Adam Putnam have any grandchildren who might be able to explain this? 🙂
Remember that the Governor’s recommendation is just that. It must be approved by the legislature. We still have time to make our voices heard and to ask for one thing to be added. ——one thing that would really help hold the tremendous and over-pouring waters of Lake Okeechobee, —-a lands purchase and a reservoir south of the lake. Then the senate, the house and the governor can duke it out….it’s not over yet!
What did Winston Churchill say? “Never, never, never, —-never give up!” 🙂
After the horrendous “Lost Summer of 2013,” and public outcry, more water has been sent south to the Everglades by the Army Corp of Engineers and South Florida Water Management District in 2014/15 than in the past ten years. But we are still drowning…
With this in mind, the Everglades Coalition’s 30th Annual Conference (http://evergladescoalition.org) was a whirlwind; its theme “Send it South: Water for America’s Everglades.”
Let’s begin, by looking at some water/land maps and think about the big picture.
The image below is a “simplified chronology of water management changes,” and shows the canals and structures that waste water to the ocean destroying our precious estuaries. This map was shared by Robert Johnson during the coalition meeting. It made a big impression on me, because it gives historical perspective, is simple, and is clear.
The red lines are canals that drain lake Okeechobee. We know them well: the Caloosahatchee (C-43); the Miami: the North New River: the Hillsboro: the West Palm Beach; and our own St Lucie (C-44). The grey shows the Herbert Hoover Dike built around Lake Okeechobee in the 1930s after the terrible hurricanes of the late 1920s; the Eastern Protective Levee is also in grey, on the far right, and basically is like a giant underground wall between the Everglades and eastern coastal development; the Everglades Agricultural Area Levee System, which I think is the grey line depicting a structure built south and almost around the Everglades Agricultural area; the Water Conservation Area Levees (WCAs-areas where water slowly travels south after being cleaned in Storm Water Treatment Areas (STAs) above them) are the grey lines around the WCAs; and last on this chart, the South Dade Conveyance System…
There are other canals as well. Thousands of miles of them….
These canals make our lives a living hell along the Indian River Lagoon, and must be re-plumed, but we must note that they also have allowed South Florida to rise above the poverty of our ancestors, and to develop some of the world’s most “productive” sugar and vegetable farms. Too bad they had to build their riches south of Lake Okeechobee blocking the flow of the lake! Also, much of this drainage system has allowed development of the east coast of south Florida, inside the Everglades’ boundary which is in yellow on the map above and red below.
The red line, shows were development has “crept into the Everglades.” This is obviously a problem for sending water south. Therefore, whatever is created to “send more water south,” must be created so as to avoid destroying lives or property.
So narrowing this down to “our” needs, how does one build a way to send more water south? And aren’t we already doing that? Let’s look at the projects being built first before we conclude our goals for more storage.
There are many projects on the books to help with sending water south: some include CERP (http://www.evergladesplan.org/about/about_cerp_brief.aspx) and CEPP…(http://www.evergladesplan.org/docs/fs_cepp_jan_2013.pdf), in fact parts of the Tamiami Trail are being raised right now, but according to many experts at the coalition, one thing is missing, enormous amounts of LAND. Land would help these projects come into being. There must be land to hold some of the tremendous amounts of water, and to clean it. Also realistically, the above projects will take generations to complete. Land purchase or no land purchase.
One thing is for sure, more land south of the lake would help the situation tremendously. As even a five year old can see, lack of lands south of the lake is the true disconnect. But where is there that much land and what are our options?
Below is a map of “Option 1,” and “Option 2”, lands in the Everglades Agricultural Area, lands that US Sugar agreed to sell in 2008. These lands remain for sale.
Perhaps US Sugar rather not sell these lands anymore. In 2008 they were going broke, but today, ironically after an infusion of cash from the South Florida Water Management District that was given to buy the paired down 26,800 acres purchased, and since the economy has improved since, US Sugar is thriving again.
But a “contract is a contract,” and thus there remains a contract allowing for the state of Florida to buy the option lands.
Would purchasing these slow everyone down even more, taking moneys and energy away from other projects?
Hmmmm? Maybe, but according to some very seasoned River/Everglades Warriors, it is worth it.
At the Everglades Coalition meeting Nathaniel Reed, Maggie Hurchalla, Mary Barely, former governor Bob Graham, and Mark Perry gave the group a “call to action” to purchase these option lands. It is a lofty goal and one that would change the game forever.
But there is not much time, and the legislature is in committee meetings “now.” (January through Feburary) and convenes (starts) March 3, 2015, and then ends in May! A rabbit race!
There is not a second to spare.
So long story short, there may be options as far a purchasing the sugar lands, but there is no option when it comes to advocating for such. Should this be your goal, you must start today! Start writing and calling below and thank you for being a part of history!
A woman’s right to vote did not come come in a day; stopping the horrors of slavery in the Untied States took a civil war and the life of one of our greatest presidents; most recently, we are seeing a revolution in gay rights.
These movements take time, but eventually, there is tipping point were things begin to change direction. As we know, our river movement has been going for almost 85 years as the first time the Martin County commission asked the ACOE to stop releasing Lake Okeechobee water into the St Lucie River was documented in their minutes of 1930.
Today I wanted to encourage you not to feel discouraged that the St Lucie Indian River Lagoon movement has been going on so long, but to feel empowered that you are part of something that is big, that takes years, and has a moral element to it just like human rights. This moral element is what in time will force the State of Florida and the United States of America to scrutinize our destructive drainage practices of the past.
As it says in our Declaration of Independence: When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires they should declare the cause which impels them to the separation.
For me, this document gives permission to pull away when necessary. We are and have been pulling away. We envision something better and we are willing to fight for it. Just for the record, some of those before us include:
1. Commercial fishermen in 1925, two years after the canal opened in 1923, in the newspaper of the day, The Florida Developer fought the destructive abundance of fresh water from the lake.
2. A 1931 article from The Florida Developer’s editorial team notes it was “critical” that the releases from Lake Okeechobee be stopped.
3. 1945 another paper, The Stuart Messenger notes that the river had turned into a “mud soup,” killing fishing; tourism; and real estate.
4. 1958 local citizens filled the Martin County Courthouse to discuss with a delegation of the Flood Control District and the Army Corps of Engineers the possibility of a third outlet from Lake Okeechobee. Although hopes were high, nothing materialized.
5. Editor, and writer for the Stuart News, Ernest Lyons (1931-1974) wrote many award-winning articles against over canalization in our area of not only C-44 from Lake Okeechobee but also C-23, C-24 and C-25 further north that drained even more polluted fresh water into the rivers. His newspaper/writing career continued for many years.
6. In the early 1950s the Izzak Walton Group; the Martin County Conservation Committee and the St Lucie- Indian Rivers Rivers Restoration League all fought for the river even garnering meetings with top government officials. Apparently the ACOE met with locals and a report was done “but nothing ever happened…”
7. In 1990 Ernest Lyons, who had been prominent in all groups listed in #6, died: to fill that void, “Leadership Martin County” in 1992 , with the help of Mr Bud Jordan, Kevin Henderson and Tim Kinane, founded the St Lucie River initiative whose report to Congress is today’s blog photo. Their “River Dayz Festival” on behalf of the river brought hundreds together, they created river materials for elementary, middle and high school students, focused on muck removal and business support.
8. In 1993 the Greater Martin County Board of Realtors joined in its support of the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon, sending out a letter stating that the organization had joined the St Lucie River Initiative and encouraged a “call to action to contribute to the organization and to write letters to government officials.”
9. In 1998, after the worst toxic algae bloom and fish kill/fish lesion outbreak ever documented in Martin County during heavy releases from Lake Okeechobee, the Rivers Coalition came into being unifying businesses and an education program as well as developing the Rivers Coalition Defense Fund set up to sue the Federal Government and others on behalf of the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon. Realtor Leon Abood, became the longstanding and outspoken chair.
10. On December 4th, 2010, a Rivers Coalition Lawsuit against the Federal Government was heard in the Court of Federal Claims in Washington DC. According to edited words of Karl Wickstrom, chair of the Defense Fund at that time, U.S. District Judge Lynn Bush wrote in her explanation:
“The St. Lucie River is by all accounts, a national treasure.The longterm environmental consequences of defendant’s, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers,’ massive discharges into the river are tragic, and the court takes note of plaintiffs’ tireless efforts to reverse that damage.”
The court ruled that a remedy to stop the harmful discharges must come not from the courts but from Congress; she dismissed the case, but it garnered national attention and moved issues of the river forward.
11. In 2011 the River Kidz were born of two 5th grade girls and became a division of the Rivers Coalition. They held two river rallies at the St Lucie Locks and Dam in 2012 during discharges from Lake Okeechobee. Senator Joe Negron, Chairwoman Sarah Heard, and other politicians mingled with parents looking for a way to deal with the discharges. Congressman Patrick Murphy later also supported the Kidz in their efforts. The key: parental involvement and youth.
12. 2009-2011, going public in 2012/13, it was realized a that a super bloom and brown tide algae bloom had killed 60% of the seagrasses in the northern and central IRL. Unusual Mortality Events (UMEs), declared by NOAA, followed for both endangered manatees and the protected bottle nosed dolphins. Hundreds of pelicans also died. This galvanized the counties of the IRL, southern, central and northern alike.
13. 2013, the ACOE starts releasing from Lake Okeechobee May 8th until October 21st. This time becomes the “Lost Summer,” toxic conditions ensue. Young Evan Millar and Clint Starling and others call for a rally at the locks on Facebook. Over 5000 show up. Beach rally later brings over 2000. Hands Across the Lagoon unifies thousands across the 156 mile lagoon as well. The STUART NEWS/SCRIPPS NEWSPAPERS starts a river news campaign that has educated thousands and is still going today. St Lucie County as well as Lee County River Kidz is born…
14. 2013 the Sugarland Rally in Clewiston; Senator Negron’s Senate Hearing on the Indian River Lagoon and Lake Okeechobee Basin; Congressman Murphy invites the state and local officials, the River Warriors, and River Kidz to to a meeting on the Indian River Lagoon and Lake O. in Washington DC. …..Commissioner Ed Fielding forms the Indian River lagoon County Collaborative unifying all counties along the lagoon. (Palm Bach quits.)
15. In 2014 the fight has continued. The pressure has not let up. Presently the University of Florida is studying the issue of “sending water south…”
16. 2014, last week, the South Florida Water Management District and Dept of Environmental Protection and others recommend against Sugar Hill, a proposed development in Hendry County on option lands, most designated for Everglades restoration or trading.
It has been a long journey, but I am confident that the tipping point is coming. We have over drained our lands, we have destroyed our rivers and lakes, we are wasting 1.7 billion gallons of fresh a day to tide knowing we have a growning population coming…
If nothing else, it will be the need for fresh water and the knowledge that wasting it is wrong that will in the future push the St Lucie/Indian River Lagoon movement tipping over the edge…
On Sunday, a beautiful day, Dr Shawn Engebretsen flew my husband and I, in his Piper Lance, to get a “higher view” of the proposed Sugar Hill Sector Plan around the area of Clewiston in Hendry County and to get a shot of its heart, Airglades Airport.
I decided to continue this planned trip even though on Friday, October 3rd, the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) sent a letter to the state land planning agency “recommending against approving the proposed Sugar Hill Sector Plan, DEO #14-3SP, as it does not provide sufficient information to show that future Everglades restoration efforts will not be harmed…” The letter goes on to give additional comments on flood protection, pollutant loading , irrigation sources, and ecosystem restoration.
Kudos to the SFWMD!
Nonetheless, we must keep a close eye on this the project as it still has other state reviews and could resurrect itself at any time depending on timing, politics, and money.
So let’s go!
The most interesting way to fly to Clewiston from Witham Airfield in Stuart is to follow the C-44 canal from the St Lucie River to Lake Okeechobee and then fly to the southern edge of the lake. In doing so one sees the towns/cities of Canal Point, Pahokee, Bell Glade and South Bay on the easterly and southern side of the lake and Clewiston and Moore Haven further west.
It is a huge place out here and time and space somehow seem enlarged, like in the American West. The distances are vast and it takes a while to get one’s bearing.
After about thirty minutes, passing Pahokee and Bell Glade, hugging the southern edge of Lake Okeechobee and looking out toward the horizon one finally one sees, emerging out of the smoke of its processing plant, the historic city of Clewiston.
In the photo above one sees the sugar processing plant (smoke), the old Clewiston Airport which is no longer functioning, parts of the city and the agriculture lands south. The sector map below shows this same area but looking straight on. Clewiston is the gray square at the edge of the lake.
Continuing, the next landmarks out in this open agricultural land, one sees the Airglades Airport and Highway 27 turning north. This area would be the “heart” of a Sugar Hill development. Right now there is just the air strip and miles and miles of agricultural lands. I believe many in this area are citrus.
The third area on the far western edge of the proposed Sugar Hill development has Lake Hipochee as a landmark. Lake Hipochee was the headwaters of the Caloosahatchee River that Hamilton Disston put a canal through and dynamited its waterfall in order to lower Lake Okeechobee in the late 1800s. Although the lake appears as “a lake” on maps it has been destroyed by drainage and is now a sprawling wetland.
So hopefully this little tour has helped you get your bearings and not totally confused you.
Why do we need to know about this?
Basically many of these option lands need to be purchases by the state by October, 2015 for Everglades restoration and or trading for other lands, to create a “flow way south.” Otherwise certainly, in time, there will be one more sprawling city in the area of the historic Everglades blocking it regaining a healthy future and water supply for south Florida. Personally I believe the way to build an economic future for the people south of the lake is through Everglades restoration not development.
But presently, the state does not want to buy these lands as they say there is not enough money to manage them and the purchase would impede on the continuation of projects already in progress.
I believe this to be true, but sometimes you’ve got to take advantage of an opportunity before its gone. Sometimes you just have to “do it,” or you never get another chance.
I could not be a passenger, it was too windy and I knew I would be sick hanging my head over the edge of the Cub. It has happened before.
In the yellow Piper Cub, the fight to Clewiston from the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon, in Stuart, is about 45 minutes one way, a long time if the air becomes a rough ocean.
So my husband, Ed flew alone and sent me a few photos along the way. He will do anything to get up in that airplane. For him it is fun even if it is windy.
So let’s take a closer look where Ed flew, to that area we all keep taking about in Hendry County and proposed first by US Sugar Corporation: SugarHill.
As one can see from the map below, Airglades Airport is west of Clewiston close to where Highway 27 shoots north. The SugarHill sector plan land use change encompasses a tremendous amount of land, 44,000 acres, these lands are located where the state has an option to buy for Everglades restoration. If some of those lands get zoned for residential and commercial development it could complicate trying to send water south through trading these lands or using them for restoration in the future. That’s why we want to take a look.
So basically the SugarHill sector lands are west of Clewiston, there is an airport, some development and miles and miles of agriculture. What is shall become only time will tell. I hope now that you’ve had a look, it will be easier for you to make a decision to protect these lands for the Everglades, St Lucie River and Indian River Lagoon.
Do you remember the historic Everglades restoration plan entitled the “Reviving the River of Grass?” In all honesty, “I do, but I don’t,” as I was just jumping into the boiling pot of small town politics at this time having run for my Sewall’s Point commission seat in 2008.
From what I recall, this was an amazing time, in that it appeared possible for the state of Florida to purchase lands south and around Lake Okeechobee so that overflow waters could flow south of the lake and thus not cause such incredible destruction to the St Lucie/Indian River Lagoon and Caloosahatcee estuaries.
The short version of this deal and how it changed is as follows:
2008: included 180,000 acres for 1.34 billion; 2009: included 73,000 acres for 536 million with option for remainder; 2010: 26,800 acres was bought for 194 million in cash, with option/s to purchase remaining 153,200 acres.
The clock is still ticking on these option lands and although it is not on the state’s agenda to buy these lands at this time, the recent sector lands’ land use change/s proposal has brought the US Sugar Lands Option and Everglades Restoration back into the limelight.
Even though our governor and state legislature would consider it a headache, now would be a good time for the people to push for the purchase of these lands.
Let’s learn about them and let’s begin by reviewing the history according to the deal’s biggest player, US Sugar Corporation:
“2008 through 2010 was a bittersweet time for U.S. Sugar – a company that has been farming in the Lake Okeechobee region for more than four generations. It was during this time period when the Company agreed to sell a considerable amount of its sugar cane and citrus acreage to the South Florida Water Management District for the “River of Grass” restoration project. U.S. Sugar is firm in its belief that the sale was for a good cause and is proud to be part of this historic opportunity to make extraordinary progress in Everglades restoration and restore much of the natural footprint of South Florida.”
History of the Agreement
2008 In June of 2008, an announcement was made that the South Florida Water Management District would purchase 187,000 acres of U.S. Sugar’s land (292 square miles or three times the size of the city of Orlando) located in environmentally strategic areas that would help restoration efforts for Lake Okeechobee, the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie estuaries and the Everglades. Under the terms of the original agreement, sufficient land would also be available for critical water storage and treatment as well as for allowing sustainable farming in the Everglades Agricultural Area and the Everglades to be sustainable.
Over the course of the next two years, modifications were made to the agreement. In May 2009, an amended agreement provided for the initial purchase of close to 73,000 acres for $536 million, with options to purchase the remaining 107,000 acres during the next ten years when economic and financial conditions improve.
2009 In 2009, a proposal for a scaled down acquisition was made due to the global economic crisis. Under the new contract, U.S. Sugar agreed to sell 72,500 acres of the Company’s land for approximately $530 million to the SFWMD. While the SFWMD finalized plans for the land, the Company would continue to farm the 72,500 acres through a 7-year lease that may be extended under certain circumstances. The agreement also provided the SFWMD with an option to acquire the Company’s remaining 107,500 acres for up to ten years.
2010 On August 12, 2010, a second amended agreement was reached for the South Florida Water Management District to buy 26,800 acres of land for $197 million along with the option to acquire 153,200 acres in the future.
In October 2010, the agreement for 26,800 acres was finalized and the following month the Florida Supreme Court struck down a challenge to the land acquisition stating that the purchase of U.S. Sugar lands fulfills a valid and extremely important public purpose in providing land for water storage and treatment to benefit the Everglades ecosystem and the coastal estuaries.
The next part gets confusing, and I don’t think I understand it all, but I will try to share what I think I know. This is the part about the Sugar Hill Sector Plan controversy and how it relates to the US Sugar Option and Everglades restoration.
First: So in 2010 the state purchased two huge pieces of land. This purchase, totaling 26,000 acres, is shown in black in the map above. I believe they are the piece in the upper right east corner and the piece below the lake all the way at the very bottom left.
Second: There was a 10 year option negotiated between US Sugar and the State of Florida to buy the remaining 153,000 acres. This is still out there.
Third: Another element of this option mentioned above is a “2 year non-exclusive option” to buy 46,000 acres by October 12, 2015. This requires the purchase of 46,000 acres of land and it is shown in the map above; the four arrows point to these lands. One of these arrows is pointing to the lands that are the proposed Sugar Hill Sector Plan Lands in Hendry County; it is the second arrow from the left.
Confused yet? Don’t feel bad, I always am!
So it is these sector lands that the second arrow on the left side points to that are the proposed Sugar Hill development in Hendry County. These are the lands causing much controversy because they are located inside “option lands.”
Hendry County wants their land use changed for future economic development; for that I cannot blame them, this is the job of every commission. Nonetheless, the issue for the state and for those of us inundated with toxic waters from Lake Okeechobee every few years is that these lands were set aside for the “River of Grass Restoration Project.”
If the land use is changed from agricultural to residential/commercial its price will be much higher and realistically never purchased by the state of Florida for Everglades restoration.
To keep going with this, the map above shows that the possible US Sugar land purchase option lands and the Sector Plan lands of Sugar Hill. You can see in the black lined areas that there is an overlap by approximately 13,250 acres. These are the acres that are requesting land use change that are located within the option lands. So if it is only part of the lands, why the problem?
According to Mr Mark Perry of Florida Oceanographic who provided the maps for this blog entry, ”
The issue here is that the subsequent 2-year, non-exclusive option —46,000 acres (by October 12, 2015) must be bought in total and with changing “land use” on part of the lands, it may pose a problem for the State purchase.”
At this time many conservation groups led by the *Everglades Foundation have sent letters to Governor Scott stating stating:
“We are concerned the proposed land purchase can be jeopardized by a recent 43,000 development plan (The Sugar Hills Sector Plan…) We encourage your administration to revue the impact this Sector Plan may have on the ability of the state to move forward with the land purchase with special attention given to the fiscal impact a land use change could have on the market value of the option lands…”
Only time shall tell if development interests or Everglades restoration wins out. One way to help is to write Governor Scott at the website below. Thank you trying to learn all this and for continuing to fight for the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon.
*It was pointed out to me that it was the Sierra Club, not the Everglades Foundation that sent a letter inclusive of many environmentalist groups. The Everglades Foundation did send a letter but just from their board. Thank you Chris Maroney.
Since last week, you may have seen press on “Sugar Hill and Airglades Airport,” a land use change proposal located in Hendry County southwest of Lake Okeechobee. This is a highly controversial, approximately 67 square miles, of present “farmland” that could change to residential, (up to 18,000 homes), and commercial lands, built around an airport that is already in place with the potential to expand.
Anyway, this morning I do not have time to debate this issue in detail, but I will say of course that it is a true “game changer.” I wanted to SHOW where these lands are located in reference to lands that are still available for purchase by the state of Florida due to an option you may have heard of as well.
If purchased, these “option” lands would be key in Everglades restoration from Lake Okeechobee to the Everglades and restoring some pathetic remnant of its historic flow.
Presently, the state does not want to buy these lands because politicians claim there is no money to maintain them and if they were bought the lands will just end up “sitting there,” at great expense until a possible time they could be utilized in the future, like 2060.
This argument may sound “reasonable” but in order to save the Everglades and the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon, purchasing these lands is critical and should be done “now” because if these lands are not purchased “now,” as the Sugar Hill Sector Plan shows, their land use could be changed and then the lands will be too expensive for the state to ever purchase. Market value for agricultural lands is less than residential. Sometimes life demands you spend money now to save in the future.
So, just so we know where we are talking about, where are these Sugar Hill and Airglades lands located? See map below.
They are located on Highway 27 west of Clewiston. Highway 27 runs through the Everglades Agricultural Area south of Lake Okeechobee connecting both coasts. The Airglades Airport and Sugar Hill Sector Proposal are located right before the highway shoots north. See red dots above and below. The 67 square miles of Sugar Hill Proposed Sector lands are “around” the airport. I do not know exactly where, but I would think mostly south.
Now if we look at a partial map of the option lands we can see that the Airglades Airport and Sugar Hill Sector Proposal are located in lands that were designated for purchase to one day benefit Everglades restoration for posterity. (Dark green is of “most importance” and yellow is of “importance,” both are option lands…)
Overall EAA option lands:
OK…so how would this fit into the Plan 6, River of Grass restoration? Please keep in mind Plan 6 and all “plans” are fluid as they have not happened yet…The amount of water we are talking about it almost beyond comprehension and requires great areas of land beyond lines on a sheet of paper. So even though this Plan 6 chart concentrates flow between the Miami and New River Canals the lands west of this area where Sugar Hill would be located are part of the overall restoration plan for this area as we can tell from the option lands maps above.
In conclusion, and to repeat myself: all the lands marked as option lands are important for the overall Everglades/Northern Estuaries restoration project. The Sugar Hill Sector Plan, if successful, is setting a precedent for changes in agricultural land use in Florida. There may be no turning back on this at this point as the Scott Administration gutted the Department of Community Affairs that used to keep such land use changes in check. As usual the state of Florida has put development before restoration of natural lands and water’s protection.
When Florida’s future waters are just one big toxic algae bloom, and people do not want to live here, I wonder if some of our politicians will wish they had voted another way? Oh but they will be dead like me, so I guess it doesn’t matter….
It does matter. It matters almost more than anything in the world. Please make your voice known and let’s leave something to the children of the future other than cookie cutter homes.
I am big supporter of Senator Joe Negron. I believe that his intervention has “changed the game” for the Indian River Lagoon and put the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon squarely on the map in front of every politician and agency in the state. Now we have a chance to save it.
Yes, there have been champions for the lagoon before, but in my opinion, no one has ever done what Senator Negron has done.
I had been aware of Joe Negron for years but it was not until 2012 that I had any contact with him and that contact changed my life and improved my efforts for saving the Indian River Lagoon.
For half of 2011 and all of 2012 I was the mayor of the Town of Sewall’s Point and in 2011 the River Kidz had started on their own, authentically, in the Town. Two fifth grade girls, Evie Flagh, (my niece) and Naia Mader, held a lemonade stand in Indianlucie giving their proceeds to “those old gentlemen,” the River’s Coalition, who said they “needed youth in their organization.” Columnist, Eve Samples, had written about this and the children filled the calling. River Kidz ended up becoming a force with hundreds of kids joining and spreading to other counties. They even came up with their own mission statement: “Our mission is to speak out, get involved and raise awareness, because we believe kids should have a voice in the future of our rivers.”
As mayor, I made it my priority to help these kids as I have none of my own and am a former teacher. As a lifetime resident, I knew the dying river was a gigantic issue for the town and this all looked like a “good fit.”
Myself, my sister Jenny Flaugh, and good friend Nic Mader, started advocating along with these kids. Many other parents and children joined.
In the late summer of 2012, I thought of who could help the cause of the river and the kidz? Who was in a position to help. “Joe Negron,” I thought. He is our senator and he is the head of the Appropriations Committee, one of the most powerful positions in the state. I was nervous. I really did not know him. He was friends with my husband’s business partner as they had both gone to the Hope Sound Bible School in their youth. I had seen him once at a birthday party. I was certain he had no idea who I was. After much angst, one day I called him. Somehow I got his phone number from my husband Ed I think. I was shaking.
“Hello, Senator Negron. This is Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch from the Town of Sewall’s Point. I am the mayor. May I speak to you for a minute please?
“Yes,” he replied.”
I was a wreck. Believe it or not, I am not good at “asking.”
“Sir, I am calling for your help. I am calling about the river….and the future…..about the kids….”
By the end of the short conversation, Joe Negron said he had an op-ed idea for awhile…maybe he would send it in to the paper? It had to do with the river. I encouraged him.
“Yes. Yes.” I said, “Please. We need your help. Thank you.”
The day I saw the op-ed, I said to myself, “Wow, he did it.”
In spite of one’s opinion on the situation, this article shook the foundations of the status quo. A state senator, chair of the Appropriations Committee, had said something, written something so taboo and it got the state and federal government’s attention and started a scrutinizing dialogue of the management of the lake and the deathly discharges to our estuaries.
Things ramped up. The ACOE starts releasing water from Lake Okeechobee into the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon in June of 2012. The River Kidz held a protest at the locks with their friends and parents. Joe Negron along with Martin County commissioner, Sarah Heard attended. It poured rain but they came. The Kidz feel important. The movement’s volume turned up. More kids and parents got involved. The river seemed to always be in the Stuart News.
Skip forward to the “Lost Summer” of 2013. The ACOE began dumping in May due to early rains. The river is a putrid, toxic mess. The kids can’t go in the water. The River Kidz rally at the locks again. Joe Negron attends, again….
And then Joe Negron, Senator Joe Negron, pulls a rarely used and ultimate political card from his pocket going where he, and we, had never gone before. He organizes the “Senate Select Committee on the Indian River Lagoon and Lake Okeechobee Basin.” It occurs August 22, 2013 at the Kane Center in Stuart. All eyes of the state are upon us. The media, state and national and local, take over. We are on the map like never before. It is an explosion. Even newspapers in Europe cover the story. (http://www.flsenate.gov/Media/Topics/irllob)
By the end of the following year’s legislative process in 2014, more than 200 million dollars goes towards the Indian River Lagoon and related projects supporting “some more” water going south. Everyone is Tallahassee know about the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon and Lake Okeechobee. Not a fix but a start. A large start. Senator Negron has put his neck on the line as he is tapped “to be” Senate President. Some are angered by his complete focus on the IRL. He stands firm.
Between the Select Committee and the threat to cut ties with the Army Corp’s abusive relationship over us, change is in the air.
As an aside, I must admit, I have been criticized by some people, for my blatant support of Joe Negron. That is OK. I knew that could happen. Politics is emotional. People are allowed to have their opinions and I have mine.
At my recent Florida League of Cities meeting in Hollywood, all comments were positive. Elected officials were coming up to me from the panhandle, to Tallahassee, to Miami saying they had seen the commercial or heard of it and were impressed with our campaign for the Indian River Lagoon. “I never knew the estuaries got damaged by Lake Okeechobee…” They said.
Now the University of Florida is charged by the Select Committee with “a technical review of options to move water from Lake Okeechobee to the Everglades…” Will it fix the problem, I doubt it, but it will begin to and have some of the most outstanding minds in our state working on the problem now and in the future. In time, it could help solve the problem…
In conclusion, I was raised to repay my debts and to Senator Joe Negron I am indebted. And I am honored to be so. I will do everything I can to help him and keep him in office and to encourage him to help the Indian River Lagoon.
Recently, Eve Samples wrote an article about PACs and monies for Joe Negron’s campaign, which included campaign contribution from US Sugar. What do I have to say about that?
Politics is a hard and imperfect game and everyone is trying to influence powerful people however they can. Thankfully, I have a tool more powerful than money. I appeal to “conscience.” And Joe Negron is a man who listens to his. Of that, I am convinced.
There is a lot of controversy surrounding the idea of “sending water south,” mostly because in order to do so privately owned lands would be taken out of sugar productivity. This post is meant to share some of the history of ideas over the years to do so, not debate it.
As we all know, before the lands south of Lake Okeechobee were drained for the budding agriculture industry in the late 1800s onward, when Lake Okeechobee overflowed, ever so gently its waters ran over the southern lip of the lake through a pond apple forest, creating a “river of grass” that became the Everglades.
In the 1920s at the direction of Congress and the State of Florida the Army Corp of Engineers (ACOE) redirected these overflow waters that had functioned as such for thousands of years through canals C-44 to the St Lucie River and C-43 to the Caloosahatchee.
This achieved better flood control for agriculture and development but has caused an environmental disaster for the northern estuaries and for the Everglades.
The environmental destruction and safety issues of the Herbert Hoover Dike were noted early on. As far as the destruction of a local industry, the fishing industry in the St Lucie River was the poster child. This and many other reasons caused many people over the years to seeks “improvements,” to the overall ecological system.
One of the first was the 1955 ACOE Central and Southern Florida Project Part IV. It was a proposal evaluating different options (plans) for “increasing lake outlet capacity. One component was “Plan 6,” a one mile wide floodway extending from the Herbert Hoover Dike to one mile into Water Conservation Area 3. For this report, Plan 6 was the recommended improvement. Dr Gary Goforth notes discharges to the St Lucie would have been lessened about by half, but “not eliminate lake discharges to the St Lucie River.” In the end, the entire plan was not acted upon as many tax payer paid plans are not…but Plan 6 was not forgotten…
Dr Goforth also notes a “more robust plan,”a plan co-authored in 2009 by Karl Wickstrum, Paul Gray, Maggy Hurchalla, Tom Van Lent, Mark Oncavgne, Cynthia Interlandi, and Jennifer Nelson. (See first photo in this blog.) This plan is referenced by Mark Perry in his well known “River of Grass” presentation.
The Art Marshal Foundation (Art was one of the great conservationist of the early 1960/70s environmental movement and has a wildlife preserve named after him) also notes in their literature that Plan 6 is traceable to the Marshall Plan-1981.
Most recently in 2013, the Rivers Coalition published on its website “Plan 6 Flowway, River of Grass, Missing Link.”
You can learn more about this version of the plan by clicking on the above link.
All of these plans, I believe, are one way or another based upon the 1955 ACOE Report. it may not have come to fruition but it certainly provided a lot of inspiration!
Also last year, Senator Joe Negron was able to secure $250,000 for a University of Florida study that should occur in 2014 for “Sending more water south.” Wonder what their plan will recommend?
If history repeats itself, even more Plan 6 versions will be created. In any case, let’s keep pushing for change to save the estuaries and find some way to move more water south. And thank you Army Corp of Engineers for the inspiration…
This past weekend, my girlfriends from high school decided to travel across the state to celebrate our 50th birthdays!
It was a great time. We stayed in the area of the Caloosahatchee River which is the sister river the the St Lucie River. Both rivers have been plumbed to take overflow waters from Lake Okeechobee that Nature meant to flow south to the Everglades. The Caloosahatchee, in fact, is the “bigger sister,” in that when the rains come, she takes three to four times as much polluted, fresh water as we do—she is longer and larger than ourself. Ironically now, year long, the river needs constant small releases of fresh water from the lake as she becomes too saline. The system is suffering as is the St Lucie.
“Caloosahtchee” means “river of the Calusa,” after the native peoples who lived and thrived there thousands of years ago.
So how does the Calooshatchee compare to the St Lucie? Well, according to the Caloosahatchee River Citizens Association, (CRCA), as sea levels receded after the last ice age, a series of lakes connected by wet prairies fed a tiny lake in the center of a valley feeding a “tortuously” long, crooked river that flowed slowly west to the Gulf of Mexico. So the Calooshatchee like the St Lucie drained to the sea but was never “connected” to Lake Okechobee.
But then entered “modern man.”
In 1881, investor and business man, Hamilton Disston, bought four million acres of Florida lands for development and agriculture getting the state out of debt. His first project was to drain the land around lake Okeechobee.
He dynamited the water fall between Lake Flirt and the Caloosahatchee and connected an old Indian passage from the Caloosahtchee to the lake. With that and the dredging and channeling of the mouth of the Kissimmee, the lake dropped tremendously, and although Disston committed suicide in a bathtub after the Panic of 1893, he inspired those following him to continue the drainage machine that has formed the Florida we know today.
After the floods and hurricanes of 1926 and 1928 the Caloosahatchee was straightened, deepened, and widened, draining surrounding agricultural lands and controlling flood waters. The “improvements” continued again in the the 1950s as more people moved into the area.
The story of the Calooshatchee is very similar to the St Lucie.
On another note, one of the most interesting parts of getting to the Caloosahatchee with my friends was driving “under” Lake Okeechobee taking Highways 441, to 80, to 27 and passing through the sugar towns of Belle Glade, South Bay, Clewiston and La Belle. It was a three and a half hour drive from Stuart to Captiva and most of the drive was through the Everglades Agricultural Area.
As we were driving through we were amazed to think that historically the waters of Lake Okeechobee went south, as today, south of the lake, it is sugar fields for as far as the eye can see! And for many, many miles you are driving right next to the dike.
“This is kind of weird…”
I reminded my friends of the hurricane of 1928 and the thousands of migrant workers that were killed with no alert of the coming doom. The small dike around the southern lake certainly did not look like it would hold if another monster storm came. We talked about how clueless we were as kids to the environmental effects of agriculture on our St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon compared to what the children are learning today.
Of course we need agriculture but to have 700,000 acres completely cut off water flow south of the lake is an accident waiting to happen and a death sentence for our St Lucie Indian River Lagoon and for the Caloosahatchee.
As I talked about a possible third outlet to the lake, I told my friend Jill not to speed because if we were stopped, and I was in the car, we would all certainly go to jail!They laughed knowing I am an advocate for the St Lucie/Indian River Lagoon an often contentious issue when it comes to sugar farming.
Once in Captiva, we had a great time, paddle boarding, riding bicycles, swimming, and going out in Sanibel/Captiva Island.
Such a wonderful time would not have been possible had the Army Corp and South Florida Water Management District been releasing masses of polluted, fresh water from Lake Okeechobee. United we are on both sides of the state, that there has to be another option for Lake Okeechobee’s water coming through our estuaries–we are sisters!
I didn’t pick up Sunday’s Stuart News until Monday, as I had been out of town. Sipping my coffee and holding the old fashioned paper, I love so much, my lips curled in a broad smile. The opinion page juxtaposed articles by two candidates running for Florida governor: Nan Rich and Rick Scott.
These letters were not just broad sweeping letters; they were thoughtful and personal, they mentioned the River Warriors and direct stories of inspiration from local residents. Don’t get me wrong, I know it is an election year, but nonetheless, it is simply amazing. In one year, since the discharges from Lake Okeechobee and our local canals turned our world upside down, and news of such “went viral,” the people have accomplished the most impressive of our forefathers’ American expectations. Expectations that years of social conformity and acceptance of over-development and pollution had overridden. The people of the Indian River Lagoon have stood up to their government.
The rebellion of the southern lagoon corresponded to the northern lagoon’s massive deaths of manatees, dolphins, pelicans and loss of almost 100% of its seagrasses. These die-offs and toxic algae blooms in the north, actually began happening in 2011 but did not come out publicly until the uprising in the southern lagoon blended the two tragedies.
I know for many of my friends the politics of the River Movement is hypocritical, frustrating and painful. I feel the same way. In fact lately I have been a bit depressed over the whole thing. But I am getting out of it. Boy is it a pleasure to see that paper, to be in the drivers seat, to have “them” writing letters, visiting, and actually thinking that there is no longer a “golden ticket” to pollute. I have been in Martin County many years, and on “this level,” “this” has never happened before.
Finally, even Senator Rubio is getting heat in the press; long standing Senator Nelson is happy he’s been around, but also nervous he is part of the lagoon “establishment;” Charlie Crist is taking out his old notes about US Sugar; Senator Negron is promising more for the lagoon in 2015; Congressman Murphy is regrouping and studying the Farm Bill after the ACOE refused CEPP on his watch; and the future speakers of the Florida house and senate are making their cases for the future of “water.”
Many times the lagoon has been defiled by our government, in fact 2013 was not the worst its ever been. But I am telling you, this time it is different because of “us.” This time we have exposed them. This time we are asking truly for government to do what it is supposed to: “protect the health; safety and welfare” of its people. This time we are united in a brotherhood and sisterhood of diverse backgrounds and interests. This time we have reached a tipping point, as has the lagoon.
And most important for change, this time, “they” are watching and listening to us.
Please take advantage of this opportunity. Don’t turn your back because the politics are so repulsive to watch. Look to the sky—look to the river ——write a letter or make a call and say : ‘thank you; we are happy you are taking an interest in the lagoon; I will be weighing who to vote for based on who really has the desire, passion and an honest heart.”
These politicians may never be able to reach perfection, their world is pretty insane, but be grateful they are paying attention, and know you are a force for change in a way never before. Drive your points home!
But since February of last year, I have gotten more insight.
As an elected official, I am allowed to sit in on the Army Corp of Engineers “Periodic Scientists Call” that occurs about once every two weeks. Last year I was invited to sit in with Martin County and I have attend ever since.
No experience has helped me understand the south Florida water process as much as consistently sitting in on these calls.
The call is a meeting of the scientific stakeholders to give their input to the ACOE before the Corp makes its “guidance” for Lake Okeechobee, and usually the following Thursday, after, meeting with the SFWMD, a “recommendation.”
As you can imagine, the call is run by the US Army, so it is very systematic and the language is filled with acronyms and science jargon. For the first six months, I was basically a silent idiot listening to a foreign language. But slowly I have been catching on.
Thankfully some things are totally predicable. For instance, every call the first thing that is accomplished after reading the rules of the call, is that the roll call is taken. I like to listen to who is there: ACOE? Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission? City of Sanibel? Ft Meyers? Martin County? St Lucie County? NOAA? Florida Dept. of Environmental Protection? Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services? SFWMD? Broward County? Highlands County? Osceola County? Tribal Nations? Lee County? Ding Darling? Congressmen and other elected representatives? Members of the public? Other?
Next, each stakeholder, one at a time, gives an update on their specialty and makes their case for their interest. Public members are then allowed to speak and and the again the ACOE leader goes through everyone one more time to see if if anyone has new comments based on the other just shared.
The calls are scientific and unemotional. However, there times of tension and difficulty like last year when the ACOE began releasing to the St Lucie River, Indian River Lagoon and Caloosahatchee on May 8th and continued steadily, then intensely, through September 21, 2013. This tension may start up again soon, as the lake is higher than they wish for this time of year and it has been a wet winter. The “decision” should become public today.
I have to say that after sitting in on all these calls, the Army Corp often holds back when the LORS chart, and maybe even the SFWMD, says to “release.” But in the end, the inevitable occurs.
Although I appreciative of the hard working men and women who run the ACOE, I do think the overall system fails to take into account the long term survival needs of the natural system which includes “us,” and favors the security of resources of the sugar industry and agriculture south of the lake. It is easy to fall back on “flood control” each time the lake rises, and dump east and west, but the system is more far reaching and has greater demands than just that. The water they are dumping, 1.7 billion gallons on average a day, is simply wasted due to an outdated system. (FOS, Mark Perry)
On a deeper level, the intertwined culture of the SFWMD, the ACOE and agriculture, especially the sugar industry, is one going back over 100 years. Their connection runs deep and is a cultural one, one that has allowed them to control water and politics for their own interests in South Florida, past and present.
But times change and world views evolve. Personally, I am pushing for a future a little less Orwellian, and a little more respectful, of our natural resources and Mother Nature.