Guest blog an photos by Geoff Norris, Indian River Plantation POA Group:
Guest blog an photos by Geoff Norris, Indian River Plantation POA Group:
These photographs of the Indian River Lagoon were taken on 11 October 2017, between the bridge at East Ocean Blvd, Stuart and north to Indian Riverside Park and Jensen Beach, Florida. The lagoon waters have been polluted for several days with run-off from Lake Okeechobee making the lagoon various shades of brown, orange, red and grey, with dirty scummy foam a feature at the shorelines and also as foamy windrows and wave crests in open water. The St Lucie River is in much the same state.
During this time the Army Corps of Engineers has been opening the locks at Port Mayaca to discharge water from Lake Okeechobee down the St Lucie Canal to the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon estuarine system. Rates vary from 4500 to 5500 cubic feet per second, equivalent to 2.9 to 3.5 billion gallons per day. It has been calculated that this amount of discharge would cover the Stuart peninsula north of Monterey Road with four feet or more of water in one day.
The Florida Oceanographic Society reports for 10 October 2017 that salinities in the Lagoon have been drastically reduced by this lake discharge to between 1 and 3 parts per thousand sufficient to kill many estuarine fish and other plants and animals (normally the salinity would be between about 20 and 25 parts per thousand in this section of the lagoon). The Society has graded the overall health of the Lagoon on either side of the East Ocean Bridge as “Poor to Destructive”. See this link:
The Army Corps of Engineers is aware that they are killing the St Lucie/Indian River Lagoon estuarine system by their actions, but consider it more important to lower the Lake Okeechobee level from the current level of 17.2 (feet above mean sea level) to a desired level of between 12 ft and 15 ft.
These are the facts. It is also a fact that politicians have not managed to stop this destruction.
Yesterday, I asked Ed to take me up in the plane, once again to document the discharges. In the wake of much rain and an active hurricane season, the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon continues to sacrifice its economy, health, and ecosystem for the EAA and South Florida drainage. A standard operating procedure that is outdated and dangerous.
The discharges from Lake O. have been on and off since Hurricane Irma hit on September 20th. Presently they are “on,” and it shows. Right now our river and ocean shores near the inlet should be at available to boaters, fisher-people, and youth, in”full-turquoise-glory.” Instead, the estuary, beaches, and near offshore is a ghost-town along a chocolate ocean and a black river. The edge of the plume can hardly be distinguished as all is dark, sediment filled waters. A disgrace.
One thing’s for sure, if you don’t have small fish, you won’t have big fish. Being a little fish is actually the most important thing in world. A small fish is a “big fish” we could say, part of it anyway… As kids, we learn about the food chain and it makes perfect sense. All life is dependent upon another; everything is connected.
I have to say when Cameron Jaggerd contacted me, I had to look up “menhaden” in Wikipedia. I was not familiar with the name. When I saw this fish has many names such as shad, bunker, shiner, and pogy, I recognized it.
All those names, incredible! It is obviously an important fish to many regions, and to many people. In fact, I found an article in The American Naturalist entitled “A Study of the Popular Names of the Menhaden,” noting there are over 35 names!
Cameron invited me to attend today’s public hearing to support this important and underrated fish. I hope you can attend too. I myself have witnessed the beauty of terns catching the smallest of these fish, silver-sparkling, like metal against the sun. So beautiful! So important! An inspiration! We must protect these filter-feeding little-big guys, who clean our waters, and feed the world.
Below, Cameron gives great insight and teaches about the history and politics of tonight’s public hearing. His contact info is below.
My name is Cameron Jaggard and I work on public policy, specifically fisheries management, at The Pew Charitable Trusts. I am based in North Palm Beach and grew up on the southern stretch of the IRL. I am contacting you because there is an important public hearing scheduled for October 10 6pm at the Melbourne Beach Community Center that I thought you’d want to attend. This hearing, the only one in the South, will help decide the fate of “the most important fish in the sea,” also known as Atlantic menhaden or pogy.
With strong encouragement, the Commission could decide to leave hundreds of millions more menhaden in the ocean to grow abundance and provide for predators, such as tarpon, king mackerel, and osprey, or, without it, they could stick with the current single-species approach and likely take hundreds of millions more out of the ocean for fish meal, pet food, and other products. Issue 2.6 Reference Points – Option E of draft Amendment 3 is the option that gets us to this 21st century approach as soon as possible and as such, enjoys broad support from conservation groups (e.g. Audubon, Earthjustice, Wild Oceans, FWF), fishing organizations (e.g. IGFA, ASA, CCA, TRCP, Anglers for Conservation), and the best available science. As a matter of fact, Stony Brook is currently championing a PhD sign-on letter in support that currently has over 100 signers. This piece from Ed Killer last week gives a nice local take on what’s at stake http://www.tcpalm.com/story/sports/outdoors/fishing/2017/09/28/most-important-fish-sea-discussed-oct-10/711709001/
This hearing is a rare and important opportunity for you, your family, and friends to affect change that could have widespread, positive impacts for menhaden, their predators, and the people who depend on them. I heard the big commercial menhaden fishery had 150-200 folks turnout at hearings up north last week. This will be the only hearing in the South, vey important.
Also…I was trying to think of how you could best relate the story of menhaden to your readers. Some thought bubbles I came up with during this brainstorm are below. Seems there are some clear parallels between menhaden and the IRL. Specifically, that we want management of water and management of menhaden that benefits all, not just a select few businesses. Maybe these thoughts will provide some useful inspiration for your story or maybe not.
· Menhaden might not be well known outside of the fishing world, but their plight should be familiar to all those who have fought for the health of the Indian River Lagoon. Much as Florida’s water management has been shaped by Big Sugar, menhaden have been at the mercy of the commercial menhaden reduction fishery, which nets and vacuums menhaden out of the sea to be ground up and processed, like sugar cane, into ingredients for everything from cosmetics to pet food.
· This one-sided approach has produced very clear benefits for these special interests, while leaving everyone else who depends on healthy estuaries and plentiful menhaden in the lurch.
· Now, a proposed rulemaking, known as Amendment 3 to the…, could flip the tables and see to it that an important public trust resource is managed to the benefit of all.
o With your support, Amendment 3 could put much needed restraints on the commercial menhaden fishery to ensure we leave enough menhaden in the ocean to provide for the predators and people that depend on them from Florida to Maine.
· If you support this equitable approach to managing our precious natural resources, I encourage to attend the menhaden hearing today, October 10 6pm at the Town of Melbourne Beach Community Center and make sure to speak in favor of “Reference Points Option E.” Please also submit a written comment in support of “Reference Points Option E” to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject “Draft Amd. 3” by October 24, 2017. For more information on Amendment 3 please visit http://www.pewtrusts.org/en/research-and-analysis/blogs/compass-points/2017/08/31/fate-of-most-important-fish-in-the-sea-hangs-on-commission-decision
(1) What’s happening?
The state officials that set rules for menhaden commercial fishing along the East Coast, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, will decide at a November 13 meeting in Baltimore how to move forward a new management model for this important fish. While fisheries managers throughout the country are starting to set catch limits for forage fish like menhaden in a way that leaves enough in the ocean for predators to eat, it will make history if menhaden are managed this way. That’s because menhaden is the biggest fishery by volume on the East Coast, and third in the country, after Alaska pollock and Gulf menhaden.
(3) Why do people here care?
Menhaden (also called bunker and pogy) are prey for many species that people care about. Recreational fishermen want to see plentiful menhaden in the water for tarpon, king mackerel, billfish and more to eat; same goes for birders looking for eagles and ospreys and whale-watching tourists and residents looking for humpbacks close to shore.
(4) Who can I talk to?
I can arrange a time for you to speak with Pew’s Joseph Gordon, who leads the Mid-Atlantic ocean conservation team and can give you the national context for this issue; here’s his latest Pew blog on menhaden. A member of Joseph’s team will be at each hearing and can help you find people to talk to there, so let me know if you’d like to be in touch with him.
(5) Are there any visuals?
Great visuals are out there on menhaden and their predators. In the last few summers, videos showing these species feasting on menhaden (see this shark video and this humpback video as examples) are popular.
(6) What’s interesting about menhaden?
Many people may not have heard of menhaden, because they don’t end up as seafood in this country. Commercial fishing for menhaden is mostly a “reduction” fishery that grinds them into pet food, fertilizer and fish oil; about a quarter of menhaden caught end up as bait for other fishermen to use. Despite menhaden being one of the country’s biggest fishery by volume, there were no catch limits at all until 2013. While the menhaden population seems to be growing, it is still at near-historic lows. It was much larger in the 1960s, 70s and 80s, before hitting lows in the 1990s and 2000s.
Principal Associate, U.S. Oceans, Southeast |
The Pew Charitable Trusts | c: 202-590-8954 |
e: email@example.com | pewtrusts.org
Shad, bunker, shiner, pogey, and no telling how many other names, are all describing the menhaden (Brevoortia patronus). They grow to approximately one foot and are very similar in appearance to the freshwater shad, but are not the same fish. Menhaden are extremely oily, which is why they have been commercially netted for so many years for the oil and meal that can be produced from them. They are many people’s “secret” bait for almost all species, using them alive, dead, or cut. They should be hooked just like all the other baits that I have written about so far — For trolling, hook them through the nose; for bottom fishing, through the nose or over the anal fin; and as cut bait, they should be cut diagonally and hooked over the top of the cut surface.
Menhaden are plankton filter feeders and can only be caught with a cast net since they won’t bite a hook. Sometimes when you see bait “striking” or rolling on the surface, it is a school of menhaden making surface slurps of minute surface food items. We used to be able to spot menhaden inside Tampa Bay in the summer time by the oil slick that will form over a large school. They also have a very distinctive smell if you are downwind of them. They are a very fast moving fish, and usually by the time you see them on your fish finder, they have moved far enough away from the boat so that you cannot net them. We try blind throws of the cast net in the area where we can see them flipping on the surface; this usually will produce bait. Menhaden are also very intolerant of low dissolved oxygen and will die quickly in a poorly aerated live well. Still, they are five star on my list of baits.
Just as a note, if you have never seen live menhaden, many of them have a small critter that comes crawling out of their mouths when they die. This is quite a surprise the first time you see it. It appears to be some sort of shrimp or crab that looks like a mantis shrimp and must live inside the mouth or gill area without hurting the menhaden. I don’t remember seeing this written about in any of the fish books, but surely some biologist somewhere has seen this.
Todd: S-80 hit 6,727 cfs on 10/06/2004. The lake was at 17.86 and rising it peaked at 18.02 on 10/13/04.
Hurricane Jeanne had hit days earlier on Sept. 25
Jacqui: I remember that. Bad.
Todd: Also. The 4000+ right now is instantaneous. The stats you always see are a mean for the day. Right now that are piling between 1000cfs and the high 5000s. It looks like they did almost hit 6000 earlier today.
Pulsing not piling.
Jacqui: Awful. I think it stinks that unless you know how to access all the technology, you don’t know the river is getting slaughtered until the following days. A nightmare. Thanks Todd. Goodnight.
“Right now billions of gallons of fertilizer, sewage, and legacy pollution from Lake Okeechobee are spewing into the St. Lucie River, carrying a new threat of toxic algae. Water managers may say Irma left them no choice, but of course that’s a half-truth…”
Documentation of primary and secondary plumes at St Lucie Inlet caused predominantly from human directed ACOE/SFWMD discharges post Irma and other from Lake Okeechobee & canals C-44, C-23, C-24, C-25. 10am, September 30, 2017. Primary plume out 3 miles; secondary 3 1/2 and not quite south to Peck’s Lake. We must continue to #ReplumbFlorida #forthefuture #forthewildlife #forthekidz #fortheeconomy for our #indianriverlagoon JTL/EL
As the possibility of a direct hit from Hurricane Irma approaches, I can’t help but reflect.
Looking back, we see that it was the severe flooding and the hurricane season of 1947 that led Florida and the U.S. Government down the track to where we are today through the creation of the Florida Central and South Florida Flood Project, (CSFP).
In 1947, during the United States’ post World War II boom, Florida had a very active and destructive hurricane season. This slightly edited excerpt from the ACOE’s book River of Interest does a good job giving a short overview of that year:
“…Rain began falling on the Everglades in large amounts. On 1 March, a storm dropped six inches of rain, while April and May also saw above average totals. The situation became severe in the summer…
As September approached and the rains continued, the ground in the Everglades became waterlogged and lake levels reached dangerous heights. Then, on 17 September, a hurricane hit Florida on the southwest coast, passing Lake Okeechobee on the west and dumping large amounts of rain on the upper Everglades, flooding most of the agricultural land south of Lake Okeechobee.
George Wedgworth, who would later become president of the Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative of Florida and whose parents were vegetable growers in the Everglades, related that his mother called him during the storm and told him, “ this is the last call I’ll make from this telephone because I’m leaving. . . . “We’ve got an inch or two of water over our oak floors and they’re taking me out on a row boat.”
Such conditions were prevalent throughout the region. Before the area had a chance to recover from the devastation, another hurricane developed, moving into South Florida and the Atlantic Ocean by way of Fort Lauderdale. Coastal cities received rain in large quantities, including six inches in two hours at Hialeah and nearly 15 inches at Fort Lauderdale in less than 24 hours.
The Everglades Drainage District kept its drainage canals open to discharge to the ocean as much of the floodwater in the agricultural area as it could, exacerbating coastal flooding. East coast residents charged the District with endangering their lives in order to please ag- ricultural interests, but this was vehemently denied…
Whoever was to blame, the hurricanes had devastating effects. Although the levee around Lake Okeechobee held, preventing the large numbers of deaths that occurred in 1926 and 1928, over 2,000 square miles of land south of the lake was covered by, in the words of U.S. Senator Spessard Holland, “an endless sheet of water anywhere from 6 to 7 feet deep down to a lesser depth.” The Corps estimated that the storms caused $59 million in property damage throughout southern Florida, but Holland believed that the agency had “under- stated the actual figures.” The destruction shocked citizens of South Florida, both in the upper Everglades and in the coastal cities, and they demanded that something be done.”
Well, what was done was the Central and South Florida Flood Project.
Key Florida politicians, and the public demanded the Federal Government assist, and as both the resources and will were present, the project was authorized in 1948 with massive additional components making way not only for flood protection, but for even more agriculture and development. In Martin County and St Lucie County this happened by the controversial building of canals C-23, C-24, C-25 and “improving” the infamous C-44 canal that connects to Lake Okeechobee. This construction was basically the nail in the coffin for the St Lucie River and Southern Indian River Lagoon.
But before the death of the environment was clear, the Corps developed a plan that would include 1,000 miles of levees, 720 miles of canals, and almost 200 water control structures. Flooding in coastal cities and in the agricultural lands south of Lake Okeechobee would be minimized and more controllable.
Yes, a goal of the program was to provide conservation areas for water storage, protecting fish and wildlife habitat. Although water conservation areas were constructed, conservation of wildlife did not work out so well, and has caused extreme habitat degradation of the Everglades system, Lake Okeechobee, the southern and northern estuaries, the Kissimmee chain of lakes, and Florida Bay. Nonetheless, this project made possible for over five million people to now live and work in the 18,000 square mile area that extends from south of Orlando to Florida Bay “protected from flooding” but in 2017 living with serious water quality issues.
With problems apparent, in 1992 the Central and South Florida Project was “re-studied” and we continue to work on that today both for people and for wildlife…
Irma many be the system’s greatest test yet…
Yesterday’s Army Corp of Engineer Periodic Scientist Call was focused on saving people’s lives and safety. After the built-system was discussed, Mr Tyler Beck of the Florida Wildlife Commission, and Mr Steve Schubert of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reported on the endangered Everglades Snail Kites and their nests at Lake Okeechobee. Like most birds, pairs mate for life. There are presently fifty-five active nests, thirty-three in incubation, and twenty-three with baby chicks…
In the coming days, as the waters rise on Lake Okeechobee, and the winds scream through an empty void that was once a cathedral of colossal cypress trees, Mother Nature will again change the lives of Florida’s wildlife and its people, just as she did in 1947. Perhaps this time, she will give us vision for a future where nature and humankind can live in greater harmony…
It is amazing to realize how much of the Florida Constitution ensures protections of the environment, and yet we see the continued degradation of the natural resources of our state. It’s time we learn our constitution by heart, make sure it’s followed, and take action to see if something need be added.
Today, I am going to list the areas of the constitution that have to do with the environment for easy reference. You can click the links below to see the full amendments.
In 1968, “ardent environmentalist” and respected state representative, John Robert Middlemas, of Panama City, insisted that words of support for environmental policy were placed in the historic constitutional revision that same year.
In his honor, I ask that all fellow environmentalists review below, and ask oneself how to make these words take on a new sense of urgency as our springs, rivers, and natural lands need our voice. At the end of this article, and after reviewing our state constitution, if so inspired, please feel free to enter your own constitutional proposal or improve one that’s simply being ignored.
The CRC is considering September 22nd as the deadline for public proposals so please submit soon!
As an aside, it is my honor to serve as the Chair of the CRC’s General Provisions Committee, which is charged with examining Article II of the Florida Constitution. If you have comments or thoughts regarding Article II (or other provisions relating to the environment), please email me at Jacqui.Lippisch@flcrc.gov.
Here is the list of current environmental provisions in the Florida Constitution:
General Provisions (Article II): Section 7, Natural Resources & Scenic Beauty/Everglades Agricultural Area
Miscellaneous (Article X): Section 11, sovereignty lands; Section 16, limiting marine net fishing; Section 17, Everglades Trust Fund; Section 18, disposition of conservation lands; Section 28, Land Acquisition Trust Fund, (Florida Water and Land Conservation Initiative, 2014.)
To enter your own proposal or idea regarding the environment:
Go to gov/Proposals/Submit to create a free account and submit your proposed change to the Florida constitution. The online tool allows you to create your proposal using legal language by redacting or adding language. Remember to keep it simple and clear.
Using the same program, submit your proposal to the Constitution Revision Commission and sign up for the alert emails. Commissioners will review proposals and determine which proposals should be placed on Florida’s 2018 General Election ballot.
*Proposals can also be emailed to the commission at firstname.lastname@example.org, or sent in the mail to: Constitution Revision Commission, The Capitol, 400 S. Monroe St., Tallahassee, FL 32399. Thank you so much for conserving and protecting the great state of Florida!