6 December 2013
"Toxic Waters are what we work in daily"
Story by Jana Eschbach / CBS 12 News
STUART, Fla. -- The first official claim for lost wages is filed against the Army Corps of Engineers for the toxic waterways on the Treasure Coast. The claim for lost wages is not a lawsuit, but a disaster relief claim for foreseeable harm done by the government. What harm? Thick toxic algae all over at St. Lucie Estuary where the water remains posted for a health advisory due to high bacteria levels. Just the sight of the toxic green algae is driving local businesses into the red. The S-80 locks are wide open where the discharges come out of the C44 Canal, directly from Myacca and the lake, 1.2 billion gallons a day.
"I have not been in the water since July 2. I can't in good faith bring clients into this." said Capt Mike Conner, who argues once these Locks opened up, his river charter fishing business began to go down. "90% of my fishing is in the St Lucie River, or the Indian River Lagoon, because of my boat I have a a small skiff, and I cant get out the Inlet many days at all." Offshore charter captains are still doing business, by driving past the 9 mile plume offshore. "I am very honest and upfront with my customers and they know about the situation here--its become national news and they ask me for my opinion--is it okay to fish. I cant take them out--not in good conscious," Conner said. "I would ask the Corps for lost trips so far, basically I am looking at probably $4-5,000. My problem is the future bookings aren't coming. And now we get word that these discharges may last well into 2014."
Conner tried filing a grievance with many agencies, then the Army Corps of Engineers Lt. Col. said,' come talk to me.' "The Col. Thomas Greco said, to his credit--the balls stops here. I'm the man to talk to and I did. He's going to get back to me in 48 hours, with a point person at the Corps who can listen to my claim," Conner said. The ACOE Colonel told CBS 12 this week, there is no quick fix to the dirty water and pollution. "It won't happen overnight. It will take time," said Lt. Col. Thomas Greco, Deputy District Commander for South Florida Army Corps of Engineers. "It takes a tremendous amount of resources, not only in time but in terms of construction, but also in dollars and pulling people together to make it happen."
"They are talking about a 15 year plan. I don't have 15 years. None of us do," Conner said. "I would ask the Corps for lost trips so far, basically I am looking at probably 4,000 to 5,000 dollars. My problem is the future bookings aren't coming. And now we get word that these discharges may last well into 2014." Conner hopes other businesses file claims right behind him. "My friends are losing their tackle shops. They have no one coming in the doors. SUP they are done. They closed up, and a good friend of mine in the (Manatee) pocket--no longer in business," Conner said. "The difference is this is a government action--not a private enterprise making a monumental mistake. This is not a mistake." But does Conner think he can win? He said maybe. Maybe not. It's the premise. "It is my BP. It is my BP. I hope everybody in Martin County related to fishing--the trickle down..I hope they look at it this way. This is no different than BP," Connor said.
If the Captain is successful, a line of businesses are sure to file claims. We asked Congressman Patrick Murphy to weigh in on the debate over filing lost wages claims. "I have always said that our local economy is closely tied to the health of the local environment and ecosystem of the St. Lucie," Murphy wrote from his trip to Israel. "That is why I have been working since day one in Congress from every angle to address the pollution in the river â? including fighting for funding for vital reservoir projects that will filter water discharges; pressing for projects that will let water from Lake Okeechobee flow south; working on water storage solutions; and bringing officials together to discuss how we can all work together to help stop the pollution in the river. I was encouraged that last week when Gov. Scott and I spoke that he accepted my invitation to bring together the agency representatives from both state and federal organizations to have an open dialogue about protecting our waterways. This problem took decades to create and will take all of us working together to fix.
A protest is scheduled for this weekend on Jensen Beach Sunday at 10 am to support cleaning up the river. 10,000 ware expected to attend and form a human chain along Hutchinson Island.
15 December 2011
What a difference a year makes, especially when you’re talking marine growth. The heavy rains that brought Lake Okeechobee to dyke threatening levels in 2010 gave way to 6 or 7 months of drought this year and the effects on the St. Lucie Estuary were dramatic. As usual, to relieve the dyke the St. Lucie Locks were thrown open for much of 2010. The resulting marine growth was unbelievable. A single month’s growth on a boat’s running gear rendered it unusable and cleaning a 40 ft. boat docked in the current of the river was an hour’s hard work for 2 divers.
The difference this year is like night and day. The dry months gave us what we optimistically call ‘normal growth’. One month of normal growth knocks 150 rpms from a diesel powered planning hull; very reasonable. When the rain picked up in late summer we watched the runoff with some worry but there wasn’t a bloom. Salinity dropped, the water got very dark and presumably the nutrient levels rose but the marine growth response was not chaotic growth as we saw in 2010. Several factors may be contributors: the rains came after the water temps had peaked, the period of daylight was declining and the runoff lacked the turbidity generated from the locks. It was dark but clear.
We’ve got fairly wet ground for December but we should be drying out and the lake isn’t too high. Let’s hope for another moderate year in 2012 and no lake dumping.
Scott's View 8 July 2011
Good day! Just some of my observations concerning bottom maintenance... I have found that the boats I have cleaned after just a month from bottom painting (with a sponge!) are getting away with longer periods between painting...( I have at least 25 boats that I maintain this way!) if I can keep the grass and barnacles from getting a foot in, I am able to continue using a sponge on the bottom (instead of a scrub pad which is required with grass and barnacles) which leaves much more paint behind and still keeps it working! If you wait 3 or more months chances are the grass is "rooted" requiring scrubbing. (the same goes with pressure cleaning...as I stated before this is only good for paint prep). Looks like rainy season has finally started... double check bilge pumps and their wiring!
Have a safe week!
Scott's View 27 June 2011
Hi! The summer growth pattern is now full ahead! Barnacles are growing quickly on metal and un- painted surfaces... Don't forget to call ahead for trips! Also a note on pressure cleaning... I don't suggest pressure cleaning unless your plans are to re- paint...this is the first step for prep for a new bottom... it will take off lots of paint! If you don't plan to re-paint then call for a cleaning before you haul for service! You will be rewarded with a longer lasting bottom! The water is still rather clear and clean for this time of year... fish in the river is great if your an early riser! Have a great summer!
Scott's View 4/18-4/26
Good Day! The water has reached the upper 70s and some low 80s in spots. Growth is increasing quickly. Those getting new bottom paint should not wait beyond 2 months for your first cleaning. We have to scrub a lot harder at that point. Best to start this just after a month with a sponge (except running gear without a coating of any sort!!). I have done this on many boats and find that the paint lasts much longer when it's maintained this way. The only exception I have found is on boats in the open river (currents and splash shorten the life of the paint, mostly at the waterline.) Barnacle growth is also much worse in open waters. The waters in our rivers continue to be healthy...lots of new grasses for the fish. Small mullet are still thick in the C-23 canal area. The Indian River is beautiful when the winds are light, very clear and full of life. Have a great week!
Scott's View 4/4-8, 2011
Observations this week; red algae and grass are making there appearance (Quickly!) Barnacles still are slower growing than when the water reaches 80... jellyfish are showing up in the St Lucie river...swimmers beware! The Corinthian Yacht Club should consider "piggy backing" on the dredging to be done near them.. as the dredging done last year has filled back in...at low tide boats with A/C running will have mud in the filters...could cause problems!! The water in ours rivers continues to be relatively clean, the Indian River in particular! Have a great weekend!
Martin County residents with gardens and yards viewed winter and early spring 2010 as ideal for growing things. Rainfall was timely and generous and although it was cold there wasn't a serious freeze. Those of us who also have interest in the waters of Martin County are always torn between green lawns and a clean estuary. In years of drought we have several feet of visibility in the river. We catch weak fish and red fish in the North Fork. Residents see schools of snapper from their docks. Oyster bars revive. The brief periods of drought we've enjoyed on the water have shown us a little of what is destroyed by the dumping of the lake.
Boaters have more than an aesthetic concern with the dumping. Bottom paint is made useless by the fresh water at the same time barnacles and cement worms are triggered to bloom. Even new paint can be covered with barnacles. Most boatyards have had boaters complain of ineffective paint during lake dumping. I'm forever explaining that a week to ten days is all it takes in these conditions for a boat to become too fouled to use.
Bottom paint is usually revived by abrasive cleaning but its life is diminished. It's not unusual for a 60 foot boat to have $10,000 invested in a bottom job. It seems fair to me that the Corps of Engineers and the Water Management people should share responsibility for that expense; as well as reduced waterfront values, silted channels, damaged and killed marine life and a host of weird infections divers suffer from contact with the water.