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.

Rich_Dickerson
Posted August 4, 2013 at 4 a.m.

Lagoon facing uncertain future

Originally from: http://www.newsobserver.com/2013/07/31/3073154/floridas-indian-river-lagoon-facing.html

Published: July 31, 2013

 

By SUSAN COCKING — scocking@MiamiHerald.com

Just about every summer for the past decade or more, anglers and guides who ply the Indian River Lagoon have prayed for drought. Drought means less discharge of fresh water from Lake Okeechobee into the St. Lucie Estuary. Lower-than-normal rainfall means less chance of storm drains gushing, sewage treatment plants overflowing, and septic tanks leaking.

SPORTS OTD-FLORIDALAGOON MI

But summer 2013 has been anything but dry so far, and too much fresh water is only one of myriad factors that might be propelling the 156-mile lagoon toward ecological collapse.

“Unless they do something quick – like yesterday – this isn’t going to be a viable body of water,” Palm City fly-fishing guide Marcia Foosaner said. “It’s really heart-breaking. It was such a great area.

“I think this has hit the tipping point.”

Throughout the lagoon – a shallow body of water sheltered by barrier islands that extends from just north of Jupiter Inlet to Ponce Inlet – horror stories abound: dead manatees, pelicans and dolphins; sporadic fish kills; once-lush meadows of sea grass now gone; pervasive algae blooms; and foul-smelling, opaque waters.

“For me, sight fishing is out,” said Foosaner, a dedicated wader. “The water looks so bad, I felt like I had to fumigate myself.”

The lagoon has experienced sea grass die-offs and algae blooms before, but practically nobody can remember anything like what’s been going on since spring 2011. That’s when a “superbloom” of phytoplankton overtook the Mosquito Lagoon and northern Indian River Lagoon, and more than 30,000 acres of sea grass died. As if that weren’t trouble enough, in June last year, the area was beset by brown algae blamed for ecological problems in Texas estuaries in the 1990s but never seen before in Florida. The brown algae, which turned previously clear waters a muddy brown, was followed by a reddish algae that creates saxitoxin, a poison that makes people ill.

The brown algae subsided last winter, according to captain Chris Myers, who conducts charters in Mosquito Lagoon.

“November through May, it was crystal clear,” Myers said. “But as soon as that water hit 75 degrees, it’s exploded again. It’s from Titusville north to the dead end of the river and all of Mosquito Lagoon. It’s made what I do – sight fishing – in the lagoon, it kills it.”

But not all lagoon waters are steeped in algae and mud.

For some reason, the area around Sebastian Inlet remains crystal clear, according to veteran light-tackle guide Glyn Austin of Palm Bay.

“The water is clean with no habitat,” Austin said. “Eighty percent of the grass is gone on the flats at the inlet. I’m not sure why it died. There are some fish around – snook, trout and redfish.”

Scientists and resource managers say they can not pinpoint exactly what’s killing the grass, birds and marine mammals, but there are several possible causes – excessive fresh water releases; degradation of water quality; nutrient and contaminant loading; and ocean acidification – or a combination of all of these factors.

Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute in Fort Pierce was supposed to get $2 million from the state to look into the problem, but Florida Gov. Rick Scott vetoed the bill.

The Indian River Estuary Program is looking at the feasibility of channeling more ocean water into the estuary to flush out the algae and dirty water. Possibilities include dredging a new inlet or deepening the existing ones, or building culverts through the barrier islands. Some people are even hoping a hurricane will blast a new path into the lagoon.

Meanwhile, the problems already are affecting the livelihoods of fishing guides who earn their living putting anglers on fish in the lagoon.

“You’ve either got to tell people the truth and half of them don’t want to go, or you could lie to them, then they’ll see how bad it is and they’ll tell everybody,” Myers said.

“I don’t know that there’s any cure that man can do.”

 

Algae in River threatens wildlife

From TCPalm: http://www.tcpalm.com/news/2013/aug/01/blue-green-algae-bloom-threatens-wildlife-economy/

Blue-green algae bloom threatens wildlife, economy

  • By Jeff Skrzypek, WPTV NewsChannel 5
  • Posted August 1, 2013 at 8:59 p.m.

Photojournalist Christopher Arnold found this blue-green algae Monday afternoon at Shepard Park in Stuart.

STUART — The Florida Department of Environmental Protection continued on Thursday to analyze water samples linked to toxic algae in the St. Lucie Estuary.

Signs were posted by the Martin County Health Department at locations like Sandsprit Park warning of bacteria and blue-green algae in the water.

Sport fishermen like J.J. Klarmann of Jensen Beach said he is seeing the algae blooms all over the St. Lucie Inlet.

“Chocolate milk mixed with slime. I mean it’s getting pretty bad,” said Klarmann.

The bright, green clumps could be seen all over on Thursday bunching up along the shore.

“This place is such a beautiful place and to have slime all over the beach, no one wants to see that,” said Klarmann.

Researchers like Dr. Brian LaPointe at the Florida Atlantic University Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute said the algae could be floating around for awhile.

“Once the problem is here it’s very difficult to deal with it in this environment,” said La Pointe.

Researchers said other chemicals can be dumped in the water to deal with the algae, but it could be just as harmful to the environment.

“These blooms are harmful and that’s why we call them harmful algae blooms,” said LaPointe.

The longer the “green goo” remains in the water, LaPointe estimates the public could start seeing more and more dead fish or plant life and more cases of people reporting injuries from being too close to the algae.

Sport fishermen like Klarmann worry the situation could impact the local economy.

“A lot of people around here depend on fishing because they’re captains and run charters. They don’t want to take clients out in green sludge. I wouldn’t want to take a client out in green sludge,” said Klarmann.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said while it is aware of the toxic algae bloom, it has no plans to stop the discharge. Engineers said water levels at Lake Okeechobee remain critically high.

State investigators expect to have the result of three rounds of testing next week. The results are expected to shed more light on the intensity of the problem.