Tag Archives: water policy

River Kidz Expands to All South Florida, SLR/IRL

river-kidz-cover-color
New cover for 3rd Edition River Kidz workbook that will be released this Spring, by Julia Kelly.

New artwork by Julia Kelly: http://juliakellyart.com

River Kidz, an organization created in 2011 in the Town of Sewall’s Point “by kids for kids,” whose mission is “to speak out, get involved, and raise awareness, because we believe kids should have a voice in the future of our rivers,” is expanding its range.

The group’s message will now encompass not only the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon, but also the Caloosahatchee and Florida Bay. These three south Florida estuaries all suffer due to longstanding mis-management practices of Lake Okeechobee by the Army Corp of Engineers and the South Florida Water Management District. You may have most recently heard about these three estuaries together as Senate President Joe Negron has proposed a land purchase in the Everglades Agricultural Area and a deep reservoir to improve the situation.

So what’s the problem?

Ft Meyer’s Calooshahatchee River on the west coast gets too much, or too little water, “depending.” And Florida Bay, especially in regards to Taylor Slough near Homestead, hardly gets any water at all. In fact the waterbody is reported to have lost up to 50,000 acres of seagrass due to high salinity. No way! And here at home, as we know first hand, during wet years the St Lucie/Indian River Lagoon is pummeled with Lake O water causing toxic algae blooms beyond comprehension as experienced in 2016.

In all cases, whether it is too much, or too little water, algae blooms, destruction of water quality, and demise of valuable wildlife habitat ensues. Kids know about this because the most recent generation has lived this first hand. -A kid growing up, not being able to go in the water or fish or swim? No way!!!!

We can see from the satellite photo below how odd the situation is with the EAA lands just south of Lake Okeechobee engineered to be devoid of water so the EAA plants “don’t get their feet wet” while the rest of the southern state suffers. Yes, even a four-year old kid can see this! ¬†ūüôā

EAA drainage 2005
This satellite photo shows water on lands in 2005. One can see the lands in the EAA are devoid of water. This water has been pumped off the lands into the Water Conservation Areas, sometimes back pumped into the lake if flooding, and also stored in other canals. (Captiva Conservation 2005.)

To tell this story, in Kidz fashion, new characters have been created. Familiar, Marty the Manatee of the St Lucie River/Southern Indian River Lagoon, has been joined by two new friends: Milly the Manatee from the Caloosahatchee, and Manny the Manatee from Florida Bay. Quite the trio! river-kidz-cover-color

Also joining the motley crew is a white pelican, sometimes visitor to Lake Okeechobee, Florida Bay, and the Central IRL; also a stunning orange footed Everglades Snail Kite complete with Apple Snail; and last but not least, the poor “blamed for mankind’s woes of not being able to send water south,” the Cape Sable Seaside Sparrow. Finally, she will have a chance to share her story. Endangered¬†species, weather, and the water-cycle will be added to the curriculum.

Workbooks will be available free of charge thanks to donations from The Knoph Family Foundation, and Ms. Michelle Weiler.

River Kidz is a division of the Rivers Coalition: http://riverscoalition.org/riverkidz/

group-shot
Cover of 2nd Edition River Kidz Workbook, with Marty the Manatee and friends of the St Lucie River and Southern Indian River Lagoon. For the 3rd Edition, new characters have been added.

Workbook Brainstormers: River Kidz co- founders Evie Flaugh and Naia Mader; the River Kidz, (especially River Kidz member #1, Jack Benton); Julia Kelly, artist; Valerie Gaynor, Martin County School System; Nic Mader, Dolphin Ecology Project; Crystal Lucas, Marine Biology teacher and her daughter Hannah; and Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch, former mayor and commissioner of the Town of Sewall’s Point. Workbooks will meet Florida Standards and be approved by the Martin County School System thanks to Superintendent, Laurie Gaylord.

“Coming to a River Near You!”

Cities Addressing Florida’s Water Problems Together, Tuning the Tide, St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon

The Florida League of Cities advocates the Florida legilature on behalf of the majority of Florida's 410 municipalities.
The Florida League of Cities advocates the Florida legislature on behalf of over 400 Florida municipalities.

Today I would like to share good news from the Florida League of Cities of which I have been an active member, as an elected official of the Town of Sewall’s Point, since 2009. I was also fortunate to be chosen to chair the league’s environmental committee last year in 2013 and in 2013 the SLR/IRL became a part of the leagues legislative priorities. Today I am happy to share continued support by the FLC regarding ¬†the plight of the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon and Caloosahatchee River due to excess polluted discharges from Lake Okeechobee.

Only a few years ago, the league had never heard of the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon, and thanks to last year’s public outcry and the leadership of Senator Joe Negron, and others, today we are part of their greater lobbying effort!

To give some background, the Florida League of Cities is the “united voice” for Florida’s municipal governments and was first started in 1922. ¬†Its goals are to serve the needs of Florida’s cities and to promote local self-government and Home Rule. The league was founded with the idea that local self-government is the keystone of American Democracy. Today there are over 400 municipal members, (towns, cities, villages) represented by the league. (http://www.floridaleagueofcities.com)

Florida League of Cities Legislative Committeee
Florida League of Cities Legislative Committee, 2014. (Photo Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch)

Regionally, ¬†the Town of Sewall’s Point, City of Stuart, Town of Ocean Breeze, Town of Jupiter Island, St Lucie Village, City of Port St Lucie, Ft Pierce, Fellsmere, Sebastian, Vero Beach and Okeechobee are active members of the league.¬†

There are five legislative committees of the league and ten priorities come out of each legislative session based on the work of the legislative committees that comprise members from all over the state with as many as 50 members sitting on a committee. This year’s Legislative Committee for the FLC occurred November 12-14 in Orlando.

The committees are as follows: Energy, Environmental and Natural Resources; Finance and Taxation; Growth Management and Economic Affairs; Transportation and Intergovernmental Relations; and Urban Administration.

Sam Henderson 2014 Chair for the EENR Committee, presenting with FLC's Ryan Matthews.
Sam Henderson 2014 Chair for the EENR Committee, presenting with FLC’s Ryan Matthews.

As I mentioned, I chaired the Energy and Environmental and Natural Resources Legislative Committee last year, but this year did not, and I was wondering if estuaries of the SLR/IRL and Caloosahatchee would take a back seat as there is fierce competition and many water problems throughout the state.  I was delighted to see that the committee continued its commitment to calling attention on a statewide level to the water problems of our region.

The POLICY STATEMENT for Water Quality and Quantity 2014 reads:

The Florida League of Cities supports legislation that provides recurring allocations of financial resources for local government programs and projects resulting in the protection of water resources, the improvement of water quality and quantity, and the expanded use of alternative sources of water.

The background immediately following this priority is even more specific stating:

Florida is currently dealing with multiple water challenges. South Florida faces water quality problems in the form of massive water releases of nutrient enriched waters. Those releases, which are controlled by the Army Corp of Engineers–a federal agency, pollute the estuaries and water systems that flow to the St Lucie on the east and the Caloosahatchee on the west. ¬†North Florida faces an impending disaster in its oyster industry due to increased water¬†usage by neighboring states Alabama and Georgia. Meanwhile all of Florida is struggling with how to efficiently conserve water and avoid devastation to the Florian Aquifer….

I am thankful to the league and to the many elected officials from all parts of our state who supported this legislative policy statement for 2014. This statement will go before the state legislature as the league lobbys and works for policies of the league.

We must be mindful of all of our water issues, from spring degradation, dying lakes and rivers, aquifer depletion, as well as the St Lucie/Indian River/Caloosahatchee/Lake Okeechobee issues we deal with at here home.

Understanding all of our water issues together is necessary, as we are all connected.

Together as cities fighting for what we love, our cities, we can overcome the common apathy of our state legislature and the destruction that has been brought upon our state by overdevelopment and lack of appreciation of our natural systems and the role they play in strong economies and quality of life.

With cities addressing Florida’s water problems together, we just might turn the tide….