Tag Archives: water shortage

The Striking Endangered Everglades Snail Kite, and the Fight for Water. St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon

Everglades Snail Kite, Audubon web site. Photo
Everglades Snail Kite, Audubon web site. Photo by R. J. Wiley.

To me there are few birds as striking as the Everglades snail kite, especially the hooked-beaked, wicked-talloned, dark/red-orange colored male. They are raptors in the family of eagles, hawks and vultures. Skilled beyond belief they have specialized their hunting ritual to include one thing, the apple snail. They fly with what is described as the slow, head-down, gargoyle-like flight of a blue heron, but eyes lowered with radar vision positioned to see and seize their tiny prey. Beautiful, remarkable, a machine of God’s creation and nature’s adaptation. An inspiration to all.

Video: Photographer Mac Stone: (http://youtu.be/ZrVFZFa_W2Q)
Well almost all….

You may have heard that recently at the South Florida Water Management District the Snail Kite  was discussed in light of pumping water from Lake Okeechobee. I do not know all the details of the meeting, but I would imagine it had something to do with the Endangered Species Act, the birds are endangered, and that the snail kite’s habitat. Their habit is around Lake Okeechobee, so if too much water were pumped out of the lake, more than likely their habitat and health would be affected. They are protected by federal law.

Another species also affected by the level of Lake Okeechobee is humans. We are not endangered. Homo Sapiens flourish in Florida. Especially those who are farming south of the Lake in the Everglades Agricultural Area, (EAA), 700,000 acres of sugar cane, vegetables, and citrus that is also reliant on the waters of the lake (to water their crops free of charge….) This area totally blocks the once free-flowing waters of Lake Okeechobee. Those waters were diverted to the estuaries such as the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon and Caloosahatchee.

Do I sound like I have a chip on my shoulder? I do.

Also— I believe the aquifers under and surrounding the Water Conservation Areas south/outside of the EAA are connected to the people of Miami-Dade and their water supply.

This is huge….

Presently it is not raining that much and the lake is close to being near “water shortage,” for the Homo Sapiens as defined by the SFWMD.

I feel for everyone “hemmed in by this situation,” I really do  but I also feel for the birds, for the lake, and for all of us who endure the wrath of a system that is totally altered and totally out of balance. A system we have created and can work harder to improve.

Perhaps situations like these will push us to develop more water storage south, north, and around the lake? To buy more land? To support Amendment  1? To exercise the option…or something like it?

Because we all know, with out the needed water levels, we too, like the snail kite are “dead.”

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Endangered Species Act 1973:(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Endangered_Species_Act)

Audubon Snail Kites:(http://fl.audubon.org/sites/default/files/documents/audubon_evergladesnailkite_jan2013.pdf)

Water Shortage SFWMD:(http://mytest.sfwmd.gov/portal/page/portal/xweb%20-%20release%203%20water%20conservation/water%20restrictions)

Blog Break, June Review 2015, St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon

River, unlabeled. 2007.
River, unlabeled. 2007.

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.

DEP drought: (http://www.protectingourwater.org/transcripts/18/))

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!

My brother Todd and I on Ronnie Nelson's dock, Martin County, FL, IRL, ca 1974. (Thurlow Family Album)
My brother Todd and I on Ronnie Nelson’s dock, Martin County, FL, IRL, ca 1974. (Thurlow Family Album)

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!

River, unlabeled. 2007.
“Tranquility”…..Unlabeled photo, Thurlow Files, dated 2007.

Todd’s Videos:

1. The Inlets at Peck’s Lake and Jupiter Narrows. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yO650JyADwQ)

2. Hal-pa-ti-okee Swamp: Port St Lucie and Western Martin County. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f2f-e0ul1mY)
3. Bog and Ponds of Martin County, 1940s. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VvH5H0TiG5c)
4. The Spoil Islands of the Indian River Lagoon, Martin County (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sODqzQ8EW9o)
5. Capt. Henry Sewall’s Dock, Sewall’s Point, Where Was it Located? (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OFkL9YgPSmI)

*6. Where did the South Fork of the St Lucie River and the St Lucie Canal Connect? EDD/ACOE 1915-1923 (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gYI34XZUNYs&feature=youtu.be)

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