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.

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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.”

 

Everglades project not good enough

From TCPalm: http://www.tcpalm.com/news/2013/jul/31/central-everglades-project-related-reservoir-okd/

Central Everglades project-related reservoir OK’d; good but not enough, environmentalist says

 

Central Everglades-related reservoir OK’d; good but not enough, environmentalist says

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection has issued a permit for a shallow reservoir that will help reduce, but by no means eliminate, discharges of Lake Okeechobee water into the St. Lucie Estuary.

The permit authorizes the South Florida Water Management District to build, operate and maintain the A-1 Flow Equalization Basin south of Lake O. The impoundment will cover more than 15,000 acres and hold nearly 2 billion gallons of water.

Construction of the basin is a prerequisite for the Central Everglades Planning Project, a $2 billion initiative to use publicly owned land to divert more water from Lake O to the Everglades.

The basin will contain vegetation to help reduce phosphorus concentrations before moving water to the stormwater treatment areas, man-made wetlands that naturally remove phosphorus from water before it is discharged into the Everglades.

Ernie Barnett, the water district’s interim director, said the basin is scheduled to be complete July 30, 2016.

Barnett said a second reservoir, aptly named A-2, will be built and “bolted onto the A-1 to make it twice as big,” as part of the Central Everglades Planning Project. Mark Perry, executive director of the Florida Oceanographic Society, said the basin construction will benefit the St. Lucie Estuary, as long as it’s a first step.

According to the society, the estuary receives an average of about 144 billion gallons a year from Lake Okeechobee; the Caloosahatchee River estuary on the west coast receives about 316 billion gallons a year.

“I’m glad (the state) is heading in the right direction,” Perry said, “but there’s a lot more that needs to be done to save our estuaries.”

Perry has proposed a plan that would complement the project and eliminate the Lake O discharges by requiring the purchase of 21,000 acres of U.S. Sugar Corp. land and 32,000 acres of Florida Crystals land to build a reservoir that would store 159 billion gallons of water.

Indian River Lagoon Rally on Saturday the 3rd

STUART — As many as 2,000 people said they’ll join forces at Phipps Park on Saturday to show they’ve had enough of the pollution being pumped into the St. Lucie Estuary from Lake Okeechobee.

That’s how many RSVPs people had posted on the Save the St. Lucie River rally’sFacebook page as of Friday morning.

“My hope is that enough people will show up to prove that Martin County is willing to stand up and fight for its rivers,” said Clint Starling, who co-organized the rally with Evan Miller.

Attendees are encouraged to bring signs and posters and even dress in costumes that illustrate their agitation, the most creative of which will receive prizes donated by local businesses.

The rally will kick off at 10:30 a.m. with several speakers, followed by a march at 11 a.m. from Phipps Park to the adjacent government property where the infamous locks are located.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says it must drain water from Lake Okeechobee to prevent a levee breach and flooding of the surrounding communities. Water is discharged through several South Florida Water Management District canals, including one that flows into the Indian River Lagoon via the St. Lucie River.

High levels of nitrogen, phosphorous and freshwater that reduces salinity in the brackish estuary can cause potentially toxic algae blooms, such as the lagoon is experiencing now, and other issues that kill wildlife.

Some say the government should protect the lagoon instead of sugar farmland around the lake, and advocate flooding their fields.

“We’re trying to educate the crowd,” Starling said. Miller added, “People know the river is screwed up, but we want to educate them as to why and how.”

IF YOU GO

What: Save the St. Lucie River rally

When: 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday

Where: Phipps Park, 2175 S.W. Locks Road, Stuart

Information: http://on.fb.me/16MHL2H

SCHEDULE OF EVENTS

10:35 a.m.: Florida Water and Land Legacy

10:40 a.m.: Larry Jones, Snook & Gamefish Foundation

10:45 a.m.: Mark Perry, Florida Oceanographic Society

10:50 a.m.: Leon Abood, Rivers Coalition

10:55: Protest across the locks

Noon: Return to rally point for costume and sign awards

LOGISTICS

Traffic: Expected to be heavy due to tight entrance on Locks Road; attendees are encouraged to arrive early.

Parking: Martin County Sheriff’s Office volunteers will assist; attendees are encouraged to carpool.

Food/drinks: Bring your own. None will be available for purchase because the permit/insurance does not cover the presence of vendors.

Restrooms: There are permanent facilities at the park.

Donations: Welcomed to cover costs, including the $50 permit and $365 insurance, and to support the Rivers Coalition.

Sign & Share: Petition to Stop Draining Lake Okeechobee into the river

Here is the petition, please please sign and share!

http://www.change.org/petitions/governor-rick-scott-stop-the-lake-okeechobee-discharges-into-the-st-lucie-river-and-estuaries

Governor Rick Scott: Stop the Lake Okeechobee discharges into the St Lucie River and Estuaries

    We are sure that you are aware of the impending disaster of the St Lucie River Esturary and the Indian River Lagoon that we local residents (and tourists who vacation here annually) are now facing because of the illegal pollution that is killing the wildlife and creating a health hazard for humans. We ask you to please help us clean up this problem before it is too late.

The St. Lucie River Estuary and the Indian River Lagoon are in critical condition due to large discharges of polluted freshwater from Lake Okeechobee and the agricultural canals. Discharges now exceed 4.5 billion gallons per day! The water has high levels of phosphorus, nitrogen and pesticides while depositing over 500 cubic yards of sediment into the estuaries daily during the discharges. This is also a direct loss of billions of gallons of freshwater to the ocean that would normally recharge south Floridas drinking water aquifers.

Direct impacts of the discharges include fish with lesions, dying oyster populations and loss of seagrass habitat. Declines in tourism, boating, fishing, and all water-related activities are causing a major economic loss in our community. Here, the environment IS the economy. Protected areas are also being impacted, including two State Aquatic Preserves, the Indian River Lagoon National Estuary, NOAA Essential Fish Habitat, EPA Critical Habitat for Seagrass, the St. Lucie Inlet State Preserve Reefs, and St. Lucie Near shore Reefs nominated for National Marine Sanctuary. These estuaries and coastal ecosystems are habitat for over 4,300 species of plants and animals, including 33 endangered and threatened species, the most bio-diverse ecosystem in North America.

Stop the Discharges and Pollution Now Before it is Too Late!

We, the undersigned, demand that the US Army Corps of Engineers and the South Florida Water Management District stop the discharges of pollution that are killing our estuaries; The St. Lucie River, the Indian River Lagoon, and coastal reefs. To our elected officials: We support the buyback of the 700,000 acre “Everglades Agricultural Area” and restoring the land to its original use as the “River of Grass. We demand that our government enforce the Federal “Clean Water Act”, and other similar laws, prohibiting the discharge of any polluted water into the canals and waterways that flow into the St. Lucie River and Indian River Lagoon. This is not just a tourism related issue, but a serious health hazard that deserves the utmost urgency.

To:
Rick Scott, Govenor
Stop the Lake Okeechobee discharges into the St Lucie River and Estuaries

Sincerely,
[Your name]