My last day n Pensacola, Laurie Murphy and Sue Tadaro took me on a boat trip around Pensacola Bay and a short way into the Gulf. We started out in Bayou Texar, which is very beautiful from the surface up, especially on a day filled with clouds. However, this is one of the most polluted waterways in Pensacola, due to impacts from urban runoff and leaching from the Superfund sites.
A bridge crosses over Bayou Texar and on one side there is a small marina, while on the side closer to Pensacola Bay there are some islands with vegetation. On this side, there are also parts of the shoreline that are undeveloped. This primitive floating house evoked what the bayou must once have looked like before so many houses were constructed.
Next, we went by the Port of Pensacola and met Port Director Amy Miller, the only female port director in Florida and the entire Gulf Coast. I was impressed to see her standing in front of some of the big equipment she manages. Occasionally the Emerald Coastkeeper has seen pollution near the port, but she has not been able to test the water there. On this particular day we couldn't visibly see anything problematic.
In the Spring of 2015, Amy Miller traveled to Cuba as part of a delegation to negotiate possible trade arrangements as restrictions ease. Prior to the 1961 embargo, Pensacola and Havana had a very lucrative arrangement.
The image above gives you an idea of the size of this port.
Pensacola is an important location for the manufacturing of wind turbines. There are two companies in the business: GE Generators and Wind Turbines 7 Energy Cables. On most days, the dock is filled with ready to ship wind turbines. Many are destined for Germany, a country that seems way more wiling to pursue sources of alternate energy. Here in Florida, we should be number one for solar and wind, but sadly this is not the case due to efforts by power companies and political leaders to block Florida's expansion into alternative energy.
The naval base on Pensacola Bay is another one of the Superfund sites, since they dumped so much jet fuel at the end of their runway. The dumping occurred on land, so we could not see where that took place from the water. The discharge above leached into the groundwater and made its way to the bay. The image above shows a crumbling wall right outside a small cove on the base. As this structure continues to disintegrate, more and more rust from the corroding rebar makes its way into the water.
Around the corner, things looked much more idyllic. Pensacola was such an odd combination of pristine sand and shorelines, the redneck rivera, mixed with very toxic sites. Decades ago, when these problems began, the motto was "The Solution to Pollution is Dilution." Today we know this is not good policy, but sometimes it seems our efforts are all bandaids feebly attempting to triage the latest and worst environmental disaster instead of learning from past mistakes and adopting better legislation to protect remaining ecosystems.
The lighthouse was down shore a little way from the naval base. From a distance I could see that the shoreline was comprised of the same crystalline sand I saw on Pensacola Beach.
After we drove around the bay for awhile, we decided to enter a small cove near the abandoned site of Fort McRee. Before I got off the boat, I saw his beautiful heron attempting to find a resting place. The way the Heron was perched made me think of how the environment maintains its own delicate balance, which can be so easily disturbed by man.
When we disembarked and walked towards where the map said the fort was located, we came across this totally grown over entryway. Fortunately the path continued on to other ruins without any walls and a wide open vista beyond.
Then we took the boat out in the Gulf to look for dolphins and sharks, but the water was too choppy. We did see a few sea turtles pop their heads up. Sue often sees dolphins and sharks were we went, but Laurie believes the amount of sea creatures has greatly diminished over the years from the toxicity of the water and the lack of seagrasses. Project GreenShores is focused on reintroducing seagrasses and oysters in Pensacola Bay, to restore the ecosystem. Here is a link with information about their efforts: http://www.dep.state.fl.us/northwest/ecosys/section/restoration.htm.
I felt so fortunate to have these great women as guides on the water. They recognize all the troubles facing Florida's waterways, and will do anything within their power to protect water in their area. These ladies made me realize that women can stand up for change and when they do things happen. I will go to sleep a little easier tonight knowing what these women have already accomplished.