Here in Martin County we’ve heard that it’s all our fault:

“It’s not the Lake Okeechobee discharges. It’s your septic tanks!”

“It’s not the Lake discharges. It’s YOUR watershed!”

Senators, members of the Board of the SFWMD, supporters of Big Sugar, and others have expressed indignation at Martin County residents for waving pitchforks and torches and demanding action while we watch our estuary die.

They have criticized the Stuart News for pandering to the mob of angry locals who want something done.

Is it our fault?

Every environmentalist recognizes that we all contribute to the problem of dirty water. Being less than perfect it not a reason to take the blame for what is happening to the St. Lucie River.

In our 1982 comp plan we adopted septic tank rules much stricter than state standards. We have fewer septic tanks than any county on the Indian River Lagoon. Since 1982 they have been on larger lots with better setbacks from the water.

When it rains hard on Martin County septic tanks, we don’t get toxic green slime. When they dump Lake Okeechobee, we do.

When it rains hard on Martin County, we don’t get sick fish. When we have large Lake discharges we do. Check the graph from the SFWMD report on lesioned fish.

Discharges from the St. Lucie watershed usually exceed discharges from Lake Okeechobee. Not surprising. The watershed belongs to the St. Lucie. The Lake doesn’t. They usually aren’t dumping the Lake.

Our watershed is part of the problem. We know that, but the C44, C23, and C24 canals were not dug by Martin County. They are part of the Central and South Florida flood control system CERP is designed to fix.

Martin County has supported the IRL Plan to solve the problems caused by those canals. They bring too much dirty water, too fast, into the estuary. Taxpayers here have put up $48 million to help the state buy the land necessary for the IRL Plan.

The watershed canals hurt the estuary.

Lake runoff kills it.

A pint of straight vodka isn’t good for you.

Two or three pints can kill you.

Biologists tell us that what kills the estuary is very large discharges over a long period of time.

What happened this summer?

May was no problem. The maximum discharge from the watershed canals was on any single day was 948cfs. The maximum discharge day for the Lake was 245cfs.

In June, it rained. The maximum discharge day for the watershed was 4319cfs, but it went up and down. The maximum discharge day for the Lake was 729cfs. No slime. No sick fish.

In July the Lake got too high and dumping started. From July 7th through July 13th a steady discharge from the Lake totaled 9760cfs over 7days. It ranged from 1280 to 1460cfs over the seven day period.Discharges from the watershed canals went up and down from 786cfs to 1414cfs and totaled 7471 cfs.

The green slime first appeared on July 13th.

From July 25th through August 21st the Locks at the Lake opened wide. Daily discharges were up to 4680cfs. Add up the cfs for each of those 27 days. The Lake discharged 126,550cfs. The watershed canals discharged a total of 59,676 cfs.

The estuary died.

It’s not our fault. If we didn’t have the flood control canals in the watershed and the Lake dumping, we’d have one of the happiest estuaries around. If we only had the watershed canals, we wouldn’t have toxic green slime and sick fish.

We have watershed problems caused by the flood control canals and we have Lake discharge problems that are catastrophic. Both need to be fixed.

We’ve been part of the solution. We’ve done more than most to control development to keep from making the problem worse. We’ve supported the IRL Plan for the watershed with lobbying and money. There isn’t a county in South Florida that has done more to support the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan.

We need solutions that will work. For starters they could buy the land they need for the IRL Plan, start construction on the C44 reservoir, get CEPP authorized and buy Us Sugar land to send water south.

It’s not our fault.

We have a right to demand solutions.