A letter, a call to action

Rich Dickerson, Stuart

Letter: Mass protests, civil disobedience needed to save the lagoon

A pretty picture it ain’t. A phosphorus bomb at the crossroads recently. Now releases nearing 5 billion gallons a day. St. Lucie north and south, the middle river down to the crossroads, a freshwater polluted lake. Unimaginable. Unthinkable that this is allowed to happen and that no one is held accountable for destroying hundreds of square miles of the public commons.

It’s time.

To make a change to this horrific crime against the environment you have to force the government to act. The only way the civil rights act was passed in this country is because the people got into the streets to protest in civil disobedience. It got done. The masses protested in force to stop the Vietnam War with a march on Washington. It got done. The people forced the government to act. I feel that’s the only way to stop the discharges.

Decades of conversation now has to lead to action.

Advocates for the river are out there. Rivers Coalition, Audubon, Everglades Foundation. They all have one thing in common, a flow way south. Another thing they have in common is membership. Lots of people. Rivers Coalition alone has 60-plus organizations representing 300,000 people. Imagine 10 percent of them showing up at the St. Lucie locks.

It’s time.

I call on the Rivers Coalition and the many advocates for the river to take action. Rally together and organize a call to action. Plan days of mass protests and civil disobedience. This is our backyard, not a dumping ground for the byproduct of Big Sugar’s greed and profit. Occupy the water district’s offices and big sugar lobby PACs. Demonstrate loud and far. Be willing to be arrested for this dire cause. I am ready.

I hope it’s not too late for the lagoon.

Posted August 4, 2013 at 4 a.m.

This makes me so sick. “Years of waiting ahead”

My thoughts:

I am literally sick to my stomach at the thought of this being a 10 year project.  While it is a realistic timeframe, these conditions are not something that the river can sustain for another decade.


That’s how much water is dumped YEARLY from Okeechobee into our estuary.  It’s killing every living creature in sight, some of whom have never left the lagoon and will certain all be killed off by the time the red tape around this water divergence gets lifted.

One of the wild dolphin feeding moments I captured on camera. Photo by Lindsey Auclair

Un-fun fact: the dolphins of Indian River Lagoon spend their entire lives in the lagoon.  The population once numbered 700, a staggering 10% have already been killed by our pollution this year.  They’ll all be gone.

Does that sink in?  

ALL of the dolphins in our estuary will be gone.  

The dolphins that are being found dead are so emaciated they must have been starving for an extended period.  You’ve all seen the photos, it’s horrific.

This got me thinking about some of my experiences with our lagoon dolphin.  Every.single.time. I’ve been out on our boat, we’ve seen dolphin.  Well that is, until now.

The last few times we were out fishing, the dolphins literally swarmed the boat waiting for our catch-and-release fish to be dropped back into the water.  They ate every one we gave them.  One dolphin repeatedly came right up to the boat, waited patiently for the fish to be unhooked and let us drop it right into his or her mouth.

At the time, I thought this was adorable.  Now, it’s overwhelmingly depressing.  I had no idea they were starving.  I thought they were just clever.  Now I know they were fighting to survive on a night I was just out for a sunset cruise.  Maybe you don’t care about dolphin (which you should by the way, who doesn’t care about dolphin?), but what about the recreational sporting shop owners who make their living showing off the gorgeous dolphin, manatee and wildlife?  What about the fishing guides who can’t book a charter in root beer brown water and feel right charging for a trip they know won’t produce any fish?  What about the kids who want to go tubing at Ski Island and can’t because of the bacteria?  What about the fish that you once were able to catch in the backyard and now

1) can’t find. Surprise: they’re gone!

and 2) can’t eat. Surprise: they’re toxic!

The list of travesties goes on and on.  And that’s why I am sick to my stomach about about a ten year plan.  In ten years, nothing will be left to save.

And all this in a body of water called “an estuary of national significance” for its once unparalleled diversity.  What’s more, now the pollution from the runoff is causing a bacteria harmful to humans, a toxic algae as it were.   With effects such as; hay fever, rashes, diarrhea, vomiting, burning eyes, etc etc etc.

Yet somehow law makers, the Army Corps of Engineers and even our Governor are OK with this?  It makes me want to scream.


Originally found here: http://www.tcpalm.com/news/2013/aug/05/years-of-waiting-ahead-for-opponents-of-lake/

Years of waiting ahead for opponents of Lake Okeechobee discharges

By Tyler Treadway
Posted August 5, 2013 at 1:36 p.m., updated August 5, 2013 at 4:54 p.m.

TROPICAL FARMS — The 5,000-plus people who gathered here Saturday near the St. Lucie Lock and Dam demanding an end to discharges from Lake Okeechobee into the St. Lucie Estuary have a wait on their hands.

Getting the water now heading east to the St. Lucie and west to the Caloosahatchee estuary to flow south instead will take at least 10 to 15 years.

“I may not be around by then,” said Mark Perry, executive director of the Florida Oceanographic Society in Stuart, “but my kids will be. That’s why I refuse to give up hope; that’s why I tell people, ‘Don’t give up. Keep the pressure on.’ ”

The Army Corps of Engineers releases water from Lake O into the estuaries whenever heavy rainfall in southern and Central Florida, and the potential for rainfall, threaten the Herbert Hoover Dike.

Most recently, the Corps began releasing water through the dam May 8, most of it rain runoff in the St. Lucie Canal watershed.

The influx of fresh water has removed practically all the salinity from the naturally brackish estuary, killing oysters and seagrass and allowing coliform bacteria, which can’t survive in salty water, to thrive. Since late July, potentially toxic blue-green algae has been blooming in the estuary, a result of phosphorus and nitrogen in the water.

“The immediate outlook is pretty dismal,” Perry said. “There’s so much water coming into Lake Okeechobee and nowhere for it to go.”

Here’s a look at some of the short-term and long-term proposals to eliminate, or at least alleviate, the discharges.


Perry and other have suggested levels of the lakes above Lake Okeechobee be raised to keep some of the water out of Lake O and thus out of the estuary.

“The water levels in the chain of lakes along the Kissimmee River are kept at a certain height by the Corps of Engineers and the water management district,” he said. “But if they could go above those levels by just a foot, even half a foot, all that water wouldn’t get dumped on us.”

Perry said stormwater treatment areas and water conservation areas south of the lake also could hold more water to help alleviate the discharges.

“Right now they’re not letting any water go south,” he said, “and that’s frustrating.”

In an email titled “Setting the record straight — Lake O water releases” sent Aug. 2, the Corps calls the idea that water facilities north and south of the lake aren’t being utilized a myth.

Canals and other structures north and south of the lake can’t be kept at maximum depths, the Corps stated, because of the threat of tropical storms.

“ … (A) heavy rain could generate runoff that can’t be discharged through the canals, resulting in street flooding and backup of water into yards, fields and possibly homes.”

Ernie Barnett, interim executive director of the water district, said last week about 25,000 acres for sugar in the 650,000-acre Everglades Agricultural Area already has been flooded. All of it, however, is fallow farmland already out of production.

An Aug. 22 state Senate committee headed by Stuart Republican Sen. Joe Negron will look into the possibility of renting farm land to provide short-term storage of water to keep it from being sent to the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries.

“Putting it anywhere is better than putting it in the estuary,” Perry said.


Kevin Powers of Stuart, vice chairman of the South Florida Water Management District Board of Governors, called a 12,000-acre project including a reservoir and stormwater treatment areas under construction along the C-44 Canal connecting the lake and the estuary “the closest thing we’ve got to getting some big relief for the estuary. ”

Still, the earliest the C-44 project could be complete is 2017; and that’s if the water district builds the stormwater treatment area at the same time the Corps, which is tasked with overall construction, builds the reservoir. Otherwise, completion won’t be until 2020 or 2021.

The project, estimated to cost between $750 million and $1 billion, will clean phosphorus and nitrogen out of the canal before it reaches the estuary and the Indian River Lagoon beyond; but the project won’t stop huge amounts of fresh water from pouring into the estuary.

The Central Everglades Planning Project, a $2 billion initiative to use publicly owned land to divert more water from Lake O to the Everglades, will take at least 10 years to complete and account for only a portion of the water dumped east and west from Lake O.

According to Perry, the project would be able to move south about 65.2 billion gallons of water each year.

But, Perry added, the St. Lucie Estuary gets an average of about 143.4 billion gallons of water in discharges from Lake O every year. And almost 326 billion gallons are sent west to the Caloosahatchee every year.

The project needs to be included in the federal Water Resources Development Act, which generally passes once every seven years, by Dec. 31. Everglades advocates worry about missing that deadline, since the water district and Corps still haven’t agreed on a first draft of a plan.

A proposal to complement that project and eliminate the Lake O discharges altogether calls for buying 21,000 acres in the Everglades Agricultural Area and building a 159-billion-gallon reservoir. It would take at least as long, and cost as much, as the Central Everglades project, but the two could done simultaneously.

The proposal, often referred to as Plan 6 in reference to an early plan to create a flow way from Lake Okeechobee to the south, also would cost about $2 billion.

Lagoon Rally Recap + Second Rally on Sunday

Photos by Eric Hasert

Originally found here: http://www.tcpalm.com/photos/galleries/2013/aug/03/indian-river-lagoon-rally/140244/

The Save the St. Lucie River and Martin County Wildlife rally will be at 10 a.m. Aug. 11 at Stuart Beach.

Stuart residents Evan Miller and Clint Starling are organizing rallies to demand a stop to harmful releases of Lake Okeechobee water into the St. Lucie Estuary, which includes the Indian River Lagoon.

For more information, visit their facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/events/513371885399065/

ERIC HASERT/TREASURE COAST NEWSPAPERS  Images from the Indian River Lagoon Rally at Phipps Park and the St. Lucie Locks in Tropical Farms as residents protest the discharge of water pumped into the St. Lucie River from Lake Okeechobee on Saturday August 3, 2013

ERIC HASERT/TREASURE COAST NEWSPAPERS  Images from the Indian River Lagoon Rally at Phipps Park and the St. Lucie Locks in Tropical Farms as residents protest the discharge of water pumped into the St. Lucie River from Lake Okeechobee on Saturday August 3, 2013

ERIC HASERT/TREASURE COAST NEWSPAPERS  Images from the Indian River Lagoon Rally at Phipps Park and the St. Lucie Locks in Tropical Farms as residents protest the discharge of water pumped into the St. Lucie River from Lake Okeechobee on Saturday August 3, 2013

ERIC HASERT/TREASURE COAST NEWSPAPERS  Dona Corbett (front), and Greg Sapp, of Stuart, carry a mock manatee while protesting against the release of  water from Lake Okeechobee into the St. Lucie River Estuary during the Indian River Lagoon Rally at Phipps Park and the St. Lucie Locks in Tropical Farms on Saturday August 3rd.



Call to Action

Repost from Fins and Fluke: http://finsandfluke.wordpress.com/2013/07/16/call-to-action-stand-up-for-the-indian-river-lagoon/

Call to Action: Stand Up for the Indian River Lagoon

The Indian River Lagoon, North America’s most biologically diverse estuary, is facing massive wildlife die-offs in a record amount of time. That’s not a big deal, right?

Yes, it’s a huge deal.

This is an issue that has been brewing for quite a while and it is finally starting to get the attention that it needs, but we need to act fast. Algae is taking over the Lagoon, killing seagrass, suffocating the inhabitants, and although there are many suspected culprits of what is causing the algae to grow in such an abundance and so rapidly, excess nutrient pollution is undeniably a large part of the problem. Excess nutrients wash into the Indian River Lagoon during summer, the rainy season, and that is why we need to urge the local governments to implement strong protective ordinance complete with a ban on fertilizer use during the summer months. Lush, green lawns are nice and all, but a healthy lagoon is better.

This Thursday, July 18th,  at 9am, the county commissioners of Indian River County are holding a special meeting on this subject. The county is currently considering passing a weak state ordinance that will fail to protect Florida’s water quality and does not include a summer moratorium on summer fertilizer use.

Please take time to call or write to the Indian River County commissioners and urge them to pass strong ordinances that protect the beautiful Indian River Lagoon, and the amazing creatures that call it home, such as the bottlenose dolphin and the West Indian manatee.


 You can find the commissioner’s contact information here. We have constructed a small sample letter that you can e-mail to the commissioners.


  • be polite and courteous
  • use strong language such as “I urge you” and “I am calling on you”
  • tell them why this issue is important to you personally


To Whom it May Concern,

I am writing you today urging you to support a protective ordinance for the Indian River Lagoon, including a summer ban on the use of nitrogen and phosphorous fertilizers. The Indian River Lagoon is the lifeblood of the Treasure Coast and we all need to do everything in our power to protect it. The massive wildlife die-offs in the Indian River Lagoon are undeniably unusual and alarming, and this tragedy has captured the attention of people all over the world.

I am calling on you to choose the Indian River Lagoon, the lifeblood of the Treasure Coast, over the fertilizer industry. Please pass a strong ordinance, complete with a summer fertilizer usage moratorium, and stand up for the Lagoon.

We can save the Lagoon!

Research Groups

Article from TC Palm: http://www.tcpalm.com/news/2013/jul/07/our-indian-river-lagoon-research-costs-908m/

Throughout the 156-mile length of the Indian River Lagoon, researchers are taking water samples, analyzing marine life and digging into muck to try to better understand what’s in the lagoon and what’s damaging it. According to a 2008 study commissioned by the Indian River Lagoon National Estuary Program, $90.8 million a year is spent on lagoon research, restoration and education.


Researchers are studying everything from the loss of about 47,000 acres of seagrass to the health and environmental risks to bottlenose dolphins — 200 of which scientists have captured, examined, sampled, marked and released since 2003.

Brian Lapointe, a Harbor Branch research biologist, is studying the effects of the approximately 300,000 septic tanks in the lagoon’s watershed. Human waste from leaking tanks, Lapointe said, is more than a significant contributor to increased pollution in the lagoon.

“It’s the smoking gun,” Lapointe said.

Nitrogen and phosphorous, which septic tank systems do not remove, play a major role spreading algae in the lagoon, which kills seagrass, eliminating a primary food source for wildlife.

Read more of Lapointe’s research publications.


The Fort Pierce-based nonprofit is trying to raise $6 million to take sediment samples and deploy 50 water monitors, called Kilroys, throughout the 156-mile lagoon.

ORCA has deployed 10 Kilroys so far, with plans for another four in Indian River County in late June or early July. All six St. Lucie County Kilroys are in the Fort Pierce Inlet area. The four in Martin County are near Hell’s Gate, Willoughby Creek, the St. Lucie Inlet and outside the Florida Oceanographic Institute. After ORCA receives permits, four more Kilroys will be deployed in Indian River County, near the Vero Beach Yacht Club and the Main, North Relief and South Relief canals.

Kilroys measure:

• Water depth

• Water flow, direction and speed

• Salinity

• Turbidity

• Temperature

• Wave conditions

• Barometric pressure

A live data feed is available online.


Researchers who have been studying seagrass in the lagoon for almost 40 years say they not only serve as nurseries for small fish and other marine creatures and provide food for larger species such as manatees and sea turtles. They also store almost three times as much carbon in their roots and the soil around them as rainforests do. That’s 83,000 metric tons per square kilometer for seagrass versus 30,000 metric tons per square kilometer for rainforests.

Scientists have been have been focusing on the high diversity of species in the lagoon’s environments, including mangrove swamps, oyster and seagrass beds, sand and mud flats, as well as the coral and worm reefs along the Treasure Coast’s shoreline.

Read the Indian River Lagoon Species Inventory and the Field Guide to the Indian River Lagoon.


Its four-year, approximately $3.7 million Indian River Lagoon Protection Initiative will increase scientific understanding of the lagoon system through:

• Monitoring

• Data collection

• Field and lab work

• Model development

Now in its first phase, work is focusing on:

• Water quality monitoring

• Seagrass transplant experiments

• Studies of drift algae.

By the end of the four years, the knowledge gained will be applied to managing lagoon resources. Projects will be focused on the Mosquito, northern Indian River and Banana River lagoons.

Available online is the 2011 superbloom investigation.


A new problem, the invasive and venomous lionfish, was first discovered in the lagoon in 2009. The spiny predator has no natural local predators and threaten the hundreds of species of fish and shellfish that use the lagoon as a nursery.

The only research on lionfish being conducted in the lagoon is by Emily Dark, a master’s degree candidate at Antioch University under the mentorship of Jeff Beal, a biological scientist with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

According to Dark, lionfish are widespread in the Atlantic off the Treasure Coast, and their larvae float into the lagoon on the tides. They can be found under ledges and among mangrove roots.

Video of a lagoon lionfish.

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