Archive for August 2013
River of grass under siege; citizens and paddlers to the rescue!
Something is foul in south Florida, and it’s not just the hot and humid summer air. Millions of gallons of polluted water is being pumped to waterways on both the east and west coasts, clogging once beautiful and fertile rivers and bays with swaths of algae. With their favorite waterways threatened, people are taking action to rally for clean water and environmental restoration, this week on The Paddler’s Planet with Leslie Kolovich and Christian Wagley.
Lake Okeechobee is a large lake in the middle of south Florida, lying at the head of the magnificent ecosystem that is the Everglades. Often called the “river of grass”, the broad expanse of marsh used to work as a giant filter that for thousands of years cleansed the gentle flow of water that trickled south toward Florida Bay.
But in the early 20th Century, much of the area was replumbed to drain the land, control the waters, and open the land to agriculture and development. Rivers were replaced with ditches, and dikes built to stop the natural flow and send it off to the coasts.
With a wet summer bringing lots of rain, huge amounts of water laden with nutrients from sugarcane farming and cattle operations is running to the coasts. In places like the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee Rivers there are huge blooms of algae that have made waterways so sick as to be dangerous for human contact. From this context comes the upcoming Sugarland Rally, uniting the east and west coasts of Florida in a peaceful, historic demonstration to speak out against the pollution of our estuaries from Lake Okeechobee discharges.
Unfortunately, it often takes a crisis to push us to the big changes we need to bring our planet back into balance. There is an ambitous plan to fix the errors of the past and restore the natural flow of water to the Everglades—it will take more money and citizen demands to get there. Hear more about the threats to south Florida’s waterways and how paddlers and citizens are taking action, this week on The Paddler’s Planet.
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Hey there! This is Leslie Kolovich and today I caught up with Justin Riney of Expedition Florida 500 to talk about something he is very, passionate about, the state of Florida and it’s land and waterways. Justin tells us about The Sugarland Rally a very important event which is set for Sunday September 1st, in Clewiston Florida.
Text taken from Sugarland Rally Facebook page:
The Sugarland Rally will unite the east and west coasts of Florida in a peaceful, historic demonstration to speak out against the pollution of our estuaries from Lake Okeechobee discharges. We support both immediate and long-term solutions, but ecosystems and communities along the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee Estuaries are in crisis. We cannot afford to wait for ecological and economic collapse. We urge all stakeholders–especially local, state and federal governments–to act immediately.
We chose Clewiston as a central location to unify east and west at Lake Okeechobee, the source that is polluting our estuaries, and because we believe Florida’s sugar industry can be part of the solution. Please don’t misinterpret our intentions–we are NOT holding a rally at Clewiston to protest or point fingers at “Big Sugar.” It’s quite the opposite, actually. We invite Florida’s powerful sugar industry to join us in crafting an immediate solution to the ecological and economic crisis caused by discharges from Lake Okeechobee. Here’s a golden opportunity to earn the respect, loyalty, and trust of Floridians for generations to come–to squash the stereotypes–by standing with the people in support of a solution. Without the healthy longevity of Florida’s land and water, we’re all out of business. Our children and grandchildren are out of business. We invite Florida’s sugar industry to stand with us in support of preserving the wonderful land and water that keeps us all in business. We must think longer term, we must think sustainably, and the time to act is now.
Our message is a peaceful one to emphasize a powerful sense of unity needed among ALL Floridians, and to urge local, state, and federal governments to act immediately to stop the pollution of our estuaries from Lake Okeechobee discharges. We are all entitled to healthy land and water, and it is our responsibility as citizens, working with our government, to preserve these treasured assets and ensure their longevity for generations to come. Let’s all unite as Floridians in support of both immediate and long-term solutions. The Sugarland Rally will be a peaceful demonstration that we can all be proud of.
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Bringing people together in the name of conservation is always a lot of fun, and what better way than a waterway cleanup? Well, there’s one coming up on Lake Powell–the largest of Northwest Florida’s very rare coastal dune lakes and home to World Paddle for the Planet October 10 – 13. Tune in as a special guest joins Leslie and Christian to talk about the upcoming cleanup and a bit more about coastal dune lakes, this week on The Paddler’s Planet.
Our special guest is Emily Ellis of the Lake Powell Community Alliance, an active and passionate group that works to preserve and protect the very special place that is Lake Powell. Emily tells us more about the lake and the cleanup coming up on Saturday, September 21. This event is one of thousands being held that day as part of the Ocean Conservancy’s International Coastal Cleanup, a global effort to remove trash from our coastal beaches and inland waterways.
While litter is far from the biggest problem in our waterways, it’s a very visible and tangible one. After all, it’s hard to enjoy a paddle while gliding past discarded cups and bottles. Plus, it can have an impact on wildlife like sea turtles, which sometimes mistakenly consume plastic bags that look like their normal prey of jellyfish.
So our thanks to Emily and the Lake Powell Community Alliance—because of them we’ll all enjoy a clean lake at World Paddle for the Planet Day. Learn more about coastal dune lakes and the cleanup on Lake Powell, this week on The Paddler’s Planet.
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Hey there! This is Leslie Kolovich and joining me today is Anne Pizey founder of Stand Up For Rivers a non profit organization that aims to coordinate projects which will raise awareness about issues that face rivers and the people who rely on them. Based out of Colorado and Phnum Penh, Cambodia.
Anne talks about falling in love with Cambodia when she experienced paddling down the Mekong River on a 22 day adventure with 6 other paddle boarders and one kayaker. Anne talks about the Irrawaddy Dolphins on the Mekong, which have been declining in numbers. She and the group helped to count healthy dolphins for research information. She also talks about the environmental issues facing the people who live literally on this river in floating villages. The environment is of most importance to Anne, and helping to raise the awareness of the people that live along the river is the goal. She said most of the people that live on the river are unaware of what is happening upstream, and through her education now are taking action to protect the water they rely on for life.
Anne spends most of her time now in Cambodia and leads eco tours through mangrove forests to pagodas, out to islands or through the floating villages. Her tours are unique in that they also give you the opportunity for volunteerism and giving back to this beautiful country. Anne describes the simplicity of living on the river, and commented how much she could feel the happiness from the people in the villages. The villagers had never seen a modern paddle board, as they don’t have recreation. They work on the river, fishing, planting, building, they wondered what she was going to do with the board. She showed them how to “play” and how to work with the boards. Anne makes a difference with the people here, and Stand Up Paddling seems to have been a very nice bridge to help.
To learn more about Anne’s eco tours to Cambodia visit www.supasia.org
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Dolphins are one of the world’s most popular animals, and one that coastal paddlers delight in seeing. We love their friendliness and curiosity, and marvel at their strength and grace in the water. But dolphins in the northern Gulf of Mexico are locked in a struggle for survival as a major dieoff has killed over 1000 of the animals in the last three years. Leslie and Christian search for answers to what’s killing the dolphins, this week on The Paddler’s Planet.
Steve Shippee, marine biologist and marine mammal research and stranding team coordinator for Emerald Coast Wildlife Refuge, joins us to talk about what’s happening with dolphins. It turns out that scientists call the dolphin dieoff an “unusual mortality event” (UME), and it’s a standard scientists use to trigger additional efforts to document the event and find its cause.
For Steve and his biologist colleagues, much of their work with a UME is pretty gruesome—conducting “necropsies” of dead dolphins that wash ashore, which involves taking samples from the animal for later analysis. Past dieoffs of dolphins have often been found to be caused by toxins released by harmful algae, which may be more prevalent now due to nutrients washing into coastal waters.
One possible cause that scientists are researching is the bacteria Brucella, which has been found in many of the dolphins and can lead to secondary infections that can cause death. As the discussion with Steve reminds us, it’s often difficult for scientists to pinpoint the exact cause of these events, which can be frustrating. As for a possible link to the BP oil tragedy of 2010?…Scientists aren’t sure about that, either, as the UME actually began prior to the spill.
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