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Surprise! Fish go where the food is

(Note: This is an excellent and succinct educational article. It points to one fact that has grown from the "Chicken Little, sky is falling" language deception being spoon-fed to folks under the guise of "endangered," "threatened" or "invasive" whatever: "...forty gazillion federal, state, and local workers have jobs in perpetuity, looking for the perfect waters." Amen and Bravo, Ed Clark!)

December 26, 2006

By Ed Clark
Editor, The Brevard Insider escmc@aol.com

The Indians followed the buffalo and deer. Modern man follows the equivalent, his food source, commonly referred to as a job opportunity. Grass, which can't move, grows greener when you fertilize it.

Why, then, are we surprised when fish are found more abundant and bigger in nutritious water?

My question was prompted by Mike Thomas’ December 10, 2006, Orlando [Florida] Sentinel column ("We put nature into 'cells' and pave the rest" http://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/columnists/orl-miket1006dec10,0,5422371.column?coll=orl-news-col). He had visited Farm 13, a water impoundment area in South Brevard and Indian River Counties that is known for lots of fish, and big ones. Mike was fishing for what he calls “crappies.” We Crackers just call them “specs.” Mike, in typical curmudgeonly fashion, found it deplorable that we had penned up “nature” in a “cell."

My response to him: “Mike, you got it right when you said the "cells" produce more fish than any natural lake. But you didn't ask why.

“The ‘cells’ are supposed to filter out the nutrients before they go into the river. The nutrients raise fish, lots of them. Just like your grass needs fertilizer, the lakes need runoff from the uplands.

“So you don't fish in the St. Johns river anymore; you fish in the "cells." That's where the fish are.

“’Clean up’ the rivers and the fish numbers decline.

“If you want to have some fun, tell this to your local Sierra Club president.”

The theory that you had to reduce nutrients in rivers and lakes was codified into deity in the Clean Water Act, which opined that U.S. waters should be “fishable and swimmable.” Anyone who knows anything about either knows that the more fishable water is, the less swimmable it is, and vice versa.

But that would have been okay, too, except that bureaucracies, being themselves organic, began to grow. Soon the “fishable and swimmable” mantra demanded conditions so precise that virtually no water bodies qualified. But forty gazillion federal, state, and local workers have jobs in perpetuity, looking for the perfect waters.

So, where do we find the fish? In the impoundments intended to catch the nutrients, a function that used to be served by the rivers themselves. Fish ain't dummies.

And where do we find swimmers? In their own little “cells” called swimming pools. Try raising fish in one of those.

Copyright 2006, The Brevard Insider.


The Brevard Insider is a subscription only publication. The above article has received permission to post and share. The Brevard Insider is published five times each week, except holidays. Subscription price: $6.50 each month.

1106 Ramblebrook Street
Malabar, Florida 32950
Fax: 321-956-8762
To submit a Letter to the Editor: escmc@aol.com


Related reading:

Saying goodbye once again to the one I love (excerpt)

(Note: It is of interest that Mike Thomas is so attached: to his air conditioner. This is the third of nineteen columns listed in his article archive, to date.)

September 3, 2004

... I have to send out this personal note before Frances hits:

I know we're going to be apart very soon -- for only the second time in our lives. Our separation after Charley seemed like an eternity, and yet here we go again. I can't begin to explain how much I missed you then and how much I'll miss you again in the ensuing days. Life without you is unbearable.

Love, Mike

I had to say goodbye to my air conditioner. ...


We put nature into 'cells' and pave the rest

December 10, 2006

By Mike Thomas,
Orlando Sentinel news columnist 



The first time I went out to Farm 13, it was a farm.

The sweet corn that grew in the muck soil was sweeter than candy corn. Now I have returned for another sweet treat -- crappie.

Appropriately fried in cornmeal, they are as tasty as God can possibly make a fish. And there is a bumper crop out there, so big and thick they are called slabs.

Farm 13 sits under eight feet of water now. It has been turned into a reservoir, a man-made rectangular fish factory that puts any natural lake to shame unless one includes aesthetics as a necessary part of the angling experience.

If Florida's environment has a future, this is it.

Farm 13 is a compromise. It is what you get when going back to nature no longer is possible.

Such was the case in the headwaters of the St. Johns River, where this reservoir is located.

Most of us know the river only from driving over it on Interstate 4. But the St. Johns actually begins more than 100 miles to the south in a remote, Everglades-like swamp that encompasses western Indian River and Brevard counties.

Early farmers carved out massive swaths of this swamp, including more than 3,000 acres known as Farm 13.

The skinny strip of remaining marsh was not enough to store and cleanse water, making the river prone to fish kills, floods and droughts.

The state could not afford to buy back all the farmland when it turned its attention to the problem 25 years ago. So what it did was buy acreage along the river's main corridor.

Engineers did not simply tear down the dikes and return this land to the river. It created a number of isolated cells, using floodgates and pumps to move water in and out of them.

Some cells, like Farm 13, are managed as reservoirs. Some are managed as marshes. Some are managed to benefit specific kinds of wildlife.

The St. Johns headwaters is a collection of carefully managed pieces-parts, patched together to create a Frankenstein river.

It is unnatural nature.

There are too many people in Florida to let nature run free anymore.

The floods, droughts and wildfires that once made this state a natural marvel are no longer tolerated. The land required for animals to disperse and flourish is no longer spared.

And so we condense nature into tightly controlled, isolated cells. There are cells for bass and deer. Call them fishing and hunting zoos.

There are cells for slices of vanishing ecosystems, like scrub pine forests and beach shorelines.

Florida's population will double by 2060. At that point, even the survival of our cells will be in doubt. The need for water and flood protection will turn reservoirs and marshes into deep, dead storage bins.

Animals that cannot live in confinement will die off. Bears will vanish from the Wekiva cell and it will become little more than a park.

The struggle to stop the onslaught seems hopeless. Back when I was an environmental reporter and people asked my occupation, I answered, "I write obituaries."

But we can't just surrender.

So the battle to create new cells and protect the ones we have must go on. But it can go on tomorrow.

Today is for fishing.

Copyright 2006, The Orlando Sentinel.


The Orlando Sentinel
633 North Orange Avenue
Orlando, Florida 32801
Fax: 407-420-5286
mthomas@orlandosentinel.com or 407-420-5525

To submit a Letter to the Editor: insight@orlandosentinel.com (250-word limit)

Mike Thomas Column Archive: http://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/columnists/orl-thomas,0,4139332.columnist?coll=orl-news-col 



In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, any copyrighted work in this message is distributed under fair use without profit or payment for non-profit research and educational purposes only. [Ref. http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml]

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