Lake O Roundtable, Senator Marco Rubio, St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon


King Arthur is historically noted for creating the concept of a “round table.”

Yesterday, at the Wolf Technology Center, on the campus of Indian River State College, Todd Reid, the Deputy Chief of Staff and State Director for the Office of Marco Rubio oversaw a “Lake Okeechobee Roundtable.” New US Army Corp of Engineers Lt Col. Jennifer Reynolds broke the ice with her introduction, noting she was curious as to whether there would truly be a “roundtable…” She smiled saying she was happy to see the “rectangle-roundtable…” Her comments were funny and refreshing. The point was everyone was sitting around the table—“together,” like in King Arthur’s days….

Agenda, L.O. Roundtable, Office Senator Marco Rubio, 2015
Agenda, L.O. Roundtable, Office Senator Marco Rubio, 2015

I want to thank Senator Rubio’s office and Senator Rubio himself for the meeting. Could the meeting have been politically motivated? I hope so! Political motivation in any form is the gas that drives the bus. I’ll take it and I’ll hitch a ride….

The meeting was a rare opportunity to sit face to face in a non-charged environment and to listen, to ask questions, to learn, and to get to know each other.

Other than the many Army Corp, South Florida Water Management, and Rubio official leaders that sat at the table, some regional names you might recognize who also were there are:  Comr. Ed Fielding, Kate Parmalee and Don Donaldson, Martin County; Richard Gilmore, Mayor, Sebastian; Dr Jacoby, St John’s River Water Management District; Nyla Pipes; Meagan Davis, HBOI; Mark Perry; Rae Ann Wessel, Caloosahatchee; Jason Bessey, SLC and myself. Sorry if I missed anyone. There were a few some empty chairs with name tags prepared for people who did not make it. Their loss. Of course Gayle Ryan of the River Warriors was in the audience as were others! 🙂 Thank you PUBLIC!

I have written many times, that “building relationships” is what is going to get us beyond the St Lucie/Indian River Lagoon nightmare we live in today. I appreciate the opportunity to build those relationships.

I did learn a lot.

The "Roundtable..."
The “Roundtable…”

One thing I learned again is that is that the ACOE and SFWMD don’t know how to promote the good things they do. Perhaps this is because they are “government.”

For instance Jim Jeffords, Chief of the ACOE Operations Division noted very quietly that the ACOE under the LORS (Lake Okeechobee Regulation Schedule) this water year had only released 40% of the Lake O water that COULD HAVE gone to the Caloosahatchee River; and only 24% on the water that COULD HAVE gone to the St Lucie.  Holy Cow? Are you kidding me?

I don’t really get the complexities of the entire system but basically LORS has huge ranges it gives the ACOE flexibility so they use discretion to determine how much water is actually released rather than just opening the gates to match the number on the chart. So even though they released from Lake O into our SLR since January 16 until a few weeks ago–apparently it could have been worse. Kind of like when you got  into trouble in my day as a kid and got sent to the office and the principal only spanks you three times when he or she could have spanked you fifteen times. You still walk away crying and humiliated, but it could have been worse….We never thank the ACOE for not releasing even more, a lot more, because basically we don’t know that they could….they don’t tell us..they don’t brag. I do; I guess that’s why I’m a “civilian….”

LORS schedule releases SLR 2014 and some of 2015.
LORS schedule releases SLR 2014 and some of 2015.(Photo ACOE Twitter)

And then Jeff Kivett, Divisions Director Operations, Engineering and Construction SFWMD, gave a really nice and erudite presentation with an awesome color copy packet and he just kind of goes right through what for me, if I were him, would have been the most important part: “the SFWMD has sent more than 500,000 acre feet of water south this dry season.” I get this all mixed up like “water year,” “annual year,” dry season, from Lake O, or from the sugar farmer in the EAA, —-in any case for me what’s important is they sent so much water south!

Dr Gary Goforth has written about this and if I remember correctly the most ever sent was in 1995 (like a million acre feet and it killed Biscayne Bay’s reefs) but after 2002 it really slowed due to the convent decree law suit on phosphorus numbers —but then after 2013’s toxic estuary disaster the SRWMD started sending more water south again. Because now that water is CLEAN due to STAs.

Two years ago I remember being happy it was over 250,000 acre feet and now the District has sent more than 500,000 acre feet almost two years in a row… In any case, this is awesome and to be commended. If I worked at the SFWMD  I would be jumping up and down screaming from the rooftops, but government people just kind of “mention it…..”

Anyway–Good job guys and gals. Good job!

Also, there was also a presentation on the slow but steady-going, expensive repair of the Herbert Hoover Dike by Ingrid Bon, and an update by Howard Gonzales on ecosystem restoration projects. Yes the ones whose names we know by heart that have been taking eight billion years to complete but are actually getting closer! There were also hopeful updates on CEPP (Central Everglades Planning Project) and Ten Mile Creek..again very slow-moving like molasses, but moving…maybe….yes….no maybe….YES! How old am I now? Will the projects be done before I am dead? Not funny, but sometime you wonder.

In the end, it was a great meeting and I appreciate that I was allowed to sit “at the roundtable.” It was so good to see Greg Langowski who I have known through Rubio’s office since my early days in the Treasure Coast Council of Local Governments, as well as my dear friend mayor, Richard Gilmore of Sebastian! We are all getting older, but  wiser too, and if we stick together, we just might make a difference for the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon and the kids of the future that just want to fish, swim and boat in the river and be a “kid.”

Thank you for the Roundtable Senator Rubio. I hope there will be more…

Great visual from Jeff Kivett's presentation on changes to the Everglades system.
Great visual from Jeff Kivett’s presentation on changes to the Everglades system.


headshot-jtl-2013About Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch:

Although born at Travis Air Base, California, Jacqui considers herself a native of Stuart, Florida, having moved there at eight months old. Her father’s family, originally from Syracuse, New York, has lived in Stuart since 1952. Her mother is a 5th generation Floridian from Gainesville. Jacqui is a Daughter of the American Revolution.

Jacqui is journalism graduate of the University of Florida, and an education master’s graduate of the University of West Florida. She went on to teach English and German and later after a serious accident of breaking her neck, started selling real estate. Later, she ran for public office having served on the Town of Sewall’s Point Commission since 2008, and is former mayor. During this time she saw the opportunity to help showcase the work of a locally formed river group, the River Kidz, and this has been her passion ever. She incorporates youth/river education  into her political work for the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon.

Jacqui is the treasurer/secretary of the Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council; has chaired the Florida League of Cities Environmental and Energy Committee; was chair, and a six year member of the Treasure Coast Council of Local Governments; is an alternate for the Water Resources Advisory Commission for the South Florida Water Management District; and is a board member for Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute Foundation, in St Lucie County.  She also serves as a board member (ex-officio) for the Rivers Coalition Defense Fund, and is head administrator for her beloved River Kidz, now a division of the Rivers Coalition.

Jacqui’s reach involves not only local, but state and federal government. In 2013,  she served on Senator Joe Negron’s panel for the Select Senate Hearing on the Indian River Lagoon and Lake Okeechobee. In 2014, she actively supported the elections of both Senator Joe Negron and Congressman Patrick Murphy who have both been strong supporters of  Indian River Lagoon issues. In 2015, she is part of the Florida League Cities Treasure Coast Advocacy team to influence and educate Tallahassee. Jacqui received the Everglades Coalition’s 2015 “John V. Kabler Award” for “Grassroots Activism” working to organize and educate the public, generating grassroots support for Everglades restoration.

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