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100501-
Machines and microbes will clean up oil
CNN-News - by Jim Kavanagh
May 1, 2010
 (CNN) -- There's no way to stop oily water from reaching land along the Gulf Coast, but experts will use tools both massive and microscopic to clean it up.
Oil-soaked sand on beaches in the eastern Gulf Coast can be scooped up with heavy equipment, but the grassy marshes in the Mississippi Delta can't be handled that way, said Ralph Portier, a professor of environmental sciences at Louisiana State University.
Along the Louisiana and Mississippi coast, "you're talking about a sea of grass, if you will," similar to the Florida Everglades, Portier said. "When it gets oiled, if you try and remove some of this stuff, you're going to do more damage than good.
"In Gulf Shores, Alabama, and Destin, Florida, you can do that, but not here in what we like to call the Redneck Riviera," the southern Louisiana native said.
Tides, wind and rain will drive the oil deeper into the marsh, down into the vegetative mat, making it impossible for humans to go in and clean manually, he said. But once the flow of oil is stopped -- and no one knows when that will be -- scientists will spread fertilizer to boost several species of microscopic plants that degrade hydrocarbons such as oil.
In areas of especially heavy oiling, millions more of these microbes, grown in laboratories, could be brought in as reinforcements, Portier said. In warm spring and summer weather, the light, sweet crude "will degrade in weeks to months," he said.
Asphalt-like balls of petroleum embedded in the marshes "will be a little more complicated," he said.
"The microbial community will have to bite off little pieces and degrade them a bit at a time," he said.
There is no environmental concern with the technique because the microbes are not toxic and are native to the area, with different species thriving in fresh, brackish and salt water, Portier added.
"The question is what that long time frame will do to those plant species and what that will mean for habitat for seafood and migratory birds," he said. "Picture if the Everglades were being oiled, what a national tragedy that would be. And this area is even more fragile and productive."
The Gulf Coast is home to vast numbers of birds, animals and fish that need to be protected, said Tom MacKenzie of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Endangered sea turtles are due to come in to shore soon and lay eggs in the coastal sand.
"A whole generation could be affected," MacKenzie said.
Floating booms to block oil from coming in cannot protect the entire coast, he said, so crews are prioritizing sensitive wildlife areas, including nesting grounds for pelicans and butterfly migration areas.
"This has the potential to be truly devastating," he said.
The oil spill response team has recovered 23,968 barrels (1,006,656 gallons) of an oil-water mix, according to the Deepwater Horizon Joint Information Center. Nearly 70 boats, including skimmers, tugs, barges and recovery vessels, are being used to deploy booms and chemical dispersant, which makes the oil evaporate more readily.
Another powerful tool being used to fight the oil slick is the Mississippi River itself, Portier said.
Engineers opened floodgates on Friday to divert Mississippi water through parts of the marshlands. The force of the river water flowing toward the Gulf will help push back against the oily seawater, and later it will help flush the contamination out of the grasslands, he said.
The damage to the crawfish, shrimp and oyster populations -- and the economy that relies on them -- could be severe, Portier said. Scientists can help rebuild the aquatic species, but many businesses could be ruined by then, he said.
"This whole economic fabric could be ripped, and that in turn will affect the cultural fabric" of the Delta region, he said. Still, Portier remains optimistic.
"All of us Cajuns are tragically hopeful," he said. "My ancestors -- if you can survive yellow fever and all the other things that happened growing up in the swamps and bayous of southern Louisiana, you'd better have a smile on your face, because that's about all you have some days."

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100430-1
Corps of Engineers to drain more of Lake Okeechobee before rainy season
Miami Herald  -  BY CURTIS MORGAN,  cmorgan@MiamiHerald.com
April 29, 2010
Engineers expect to dump more water from Lake Okeechobee next week to protect its aging dike as the hurricane and rainy seasons approach.
Lake Okeechobee, hammered by drought-driven lows over the past decade, brimmed Thursday with more than 15 feet of water. It will continue going up for several more days.
Problem is, South Florida's hurricane and rainy seasons are right around the corner. The big lake is rising when it ought to be falling.
That's not a good scenario for its aging dike or for aquatic life in the lake and river systems that will soon be getting big doses of dirty lake water. By next week, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which has been slowly trying to lower Lake O for months, will likely crank the flood gates open a lot wider.
``We would expect this during the wet season, but we're seeing it during the dry season,'' said Luis Alejandro, Lake Okeechobee basin manager for the Corps. ``We are in the high end of the range we would like to see.''
TAKING ACTION
Under a management plan the Corps adopted two years ago intended to balance water supply demands with environmental protection, the goal is to keep the lake's water between 12.5 and 15.5 feet above sea level. But the peak is supposed to come at the end of the wet and hurricane seasons, not before they begin.
The primary reason for the higher levels: an extra rainy winter and spring.
For the Corps, the most immediate concern is protecting the nearly 80-year-old earthen levee, currently undergoing a decades-long, expensive -- estimated at more than $1 billion -- construction effort to beef it up.
``There is always a concern about dike safety,'' Alejandro said. ``That's the highest priority for the Corps.''
The lake is about a foot and a half above where the Corps would like to see it, and it's expected to continue rising for much of the week as runoff from Monday's heavy rains spill south down the Kissimmee River.
As the lake rises, the Corps increases its dike inspection, conducting daily reviews at 16.5 feet. Above that level, worries about leaks, seepage and more serious ruptures rise considerably.
Unseasonably high water levels also damage marsh plants that serve as shelter for bass and other fish.
The lake, the primary water supply for surrounding farms and towns and backup for the urban Southeast coast, typically falls in the winter and spring. But storms have reversed the trends this year.
In March, the Corps began a series of ``pulse releases,'' relatively small discharges down its main drainage channels, the Caloosahatchee River on the west and the St. Lucie on the east. But the lake has risen nearly three-quarters of a foot since then, and the Corps is considering ratcheting up dumping when the pulses end on Tuesday.
After the 2004 and 2005 hurricane seasons, the Corps dumped massive volumes of lake water to protect the dike, but polluted runoff ravaged estuaries, killing fish and triggering algae blooms. These releases won't be as large, but the water still won't be happily received on either coast.
WEIGHING OPTIONS
Alejandro said the Corps is exploring options, including sending some lake water into the Everglades. The South Florida Management District, under federal court orders to reduce phosphorous levels in the marsh, has discouraged that in past years.
With much of South Florida's basins full, Alejandro said there are few places to put excess lake water without raising flooding or environmental issues. Water managers and environmentalists tout Gov. Charlie Crist's controversial sugar land deal as the best way to resolve problems linked to the lake's roller-coaster water levels.
Concerns over the integrity of the dike -- built in the 1930s after hurricanes swamped Belle Glade and surrounding towns, killing 3,000 people -- intensified in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.
In 2007, engineering experts hired by South Florida water managers issued an alarming report that said the dike was at high risk of breeching, a threat temporarily eliminated by record-low lake water levels.

Read more: http://www.miamiherald.com/2010/04/30/1605333/corps-of-engineers-to-drain-more.html#ixzz0mdvSwaoR
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100430-2
South Florida water managers urge feds to back off proposed tightening of pollution limits
Palm Beach Post - by Christine Stapleton, Staff Writer
April 30, 2010
The South Florida Water Management District -- recently blasted by a federal judge for failing to enforce the Clean Water Act -- "respectfully" recommended to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that it "reconstruct" its controversial proposal to limit nutrient pollution in Florida's inland waters.
In a 94-page report, filed just hours before the midnight deadline for public comment on Wednesday, the district challenged the science behind the EPA's proposal to limit phosphorus and nitrogen discharges into inland waters, including canals. Water managers also took aim at the EPA's cost estimate for implementing the nutrient criteria.
The EPA estimated the new rules would cost as much as $130 million to put into place and about $10 million a year after that. However, a study conducted by the state agriculture officials found the annual cost to be over $1 billion. More than 14,000 jobs would be lost and homeowners can expect their water bills to rise by about $700 every year.
"They're not practical people," Barney Bishop, president of Associated Industries, said about federal regulators. "These are people on a mission and that mission is to have clear air and water regardless of what it costs."
Phosphorous, nitrogen and other nutrients in fertilizer, manure and urban runoff have polluted Florida waters for decades, causing deadly algae blooms and red tides that kill fish and drive away tourists.
In 1998, the EPA ordered states to set their own nutrient pollution standards by 2004. Florida let the deadline pass, prompting environmentalists to sue in 2008. Last year a federal judge ordered the state to propose "nutrient water quality criteria" for inland waters by the end of 2010.
In January the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency proposed criteria that would require Florida's inland waters — rivers, springs, canals and lakes to meet criteria spelled out in the Federal Clean Water Act.
The EPA's request for public comment attracted more than 1,400 environmentalists, ranchers, golfers, water managers, teachers, taxpayer watchdogs, growers, politicians, heads of industry and a Girl Scout Troop, who shared their very strong opinions about the nutrient criteria.
"This is a shift from no regulation to regulation," said David Guest, attorney for Earth Justice, the group that filed the lawsuit. "They are going from it costing zero to it costing something and they're in panic land."
Earlier this month a federal judge accused the EPA, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the South Florida Water Management District of deliberately ignoring and refusing to enforce the laws limiting the amount of phosphorus discharged into the Everglades.
Next, the EPA will conduct a peer review study of the criteria. The agency will then re-evaluate its proposal and make revisions before it is implemented in November. Both sides expect the final criteria will be appealed in court.
Christine_Stapleton@pbpost.com

100429-



100429-
Lake Okeechobee is brimming with water -- and that's not good right now
Miami Herald - BY CURTIS MORGAN,  cmorgan@MiamiHerald.com
April 29, 2010
Lake Okeechobee, hammered by drought-driven lows over the last decade, brimmed Thursday with more than 15 feet of water. It will continue going up for several more days.
Problem is, South Florida's hurricane and rainy seasons are right around the corner. The big lake is rising when it ought to be falling.
That's not a good scenario for its aging dike or aquatic life in the lake and river systems that will soon be getting big doses of dirty lake water. By next week, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which has been slowly trying to lower Lake O for months, will likely crank open the flood gates a lot wider.
``We would expect this during the wet season, but we're seeing it during the dry season, said Luis Alejandro, Lake Okeechobee basin manager for the Corps. ``We are in the high end of the range we would like to see.''
Under a management plan the Corps adopted two years ago intended to balance water supply demands with environmental protection, the goal is to keep the lake's water between 12.5 and 15.5 feet above sea level. But the peak is supposed to come at the end of the wet and hurricane seasons, not before they begin.
The primary reason for the higher levels: an extra rainy winter and spring.
For the Corps, the most immediate concern is protecting the nearly 80-year-old earthen levee, currently undergoing a decades-long, expensive -- an estimated $1 billion-plus -- construction effort to beef it up.
``There is always a concern about dike safety,'' Alejandro said. ``That's the highest priority for the Corps.''
The lake is about a foot and a half above where the Corps would like to see it at this time of year, and is expected to continue rising for much of the week as runoff from Monday's heavy rains spill south down the Kissimmee River.
As the lake rises, the Corps increases its dike inspection, conducting daily reviews at 16.5 feet. Above that level, worries about leaks, seepage and more serious ruptures rise considerably.
Unseasonably high water levels also damage marsh plants that serve as shelter for bass and other fish.
The lake, the primary water supply for surrounding farms and towns and backup for the urban Southeast coast, typically falls in the winter and spring. But storms have reversed the trends this year.
In March, the Corps began a series of ``pulse releases,'' relatively small discharges down its main drainage channels, the Caloosahatchee River on the west and the St. Lucie on the east. But the lake has risen nearly three-quarters of a foot since and the Corps is weighing ratcheting up dumping when the pulses end on Tuesday.
After the 2004 and 2005 hurricane seasons, the Corps dumped massive volumes of lake water to protect the dike, but the polluted runoff ravaged estuaries, killing fish and triggering algae blooms that angered residents.
These releases won't be nearly as large, but the lake water still won't be happily received on either coast.
Alejandro said the Corps is exploring options, including sending some lake water into the Everglades. The South Florida Management District, under federal court orders to reduce phosphorous levels in the marsh, has discouraged that in past years.
With much of South Florida's basins full, Alejandro said there are few places to put excess lake water without raising flooding or environmental issues. Water managers and environmentalists tout Gov. Charlie Crist's controversial sugar land deal as the best way to resolve the long-standing problems linked to the lake's roller-coaster water levels and high phosphorus readings.
Concerns over the integrity of the dike -- built in the 1930s after hurricanes swamped Belle Glade and surrounding towns, killing 3,000 people -- intensified in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, which overwhelmed a faulty levee and flooded New Orleans in 2005.
In 2007, engineering experts hired by South Florida water managers issued an alarming report that said the dike was at high risk of breeching, a threat temporarily eliminated by record-low lake water levels.

Read more: http://www.miamiherald.com/2010/04/29/1605058/lake-okeechobee-is-brimming-with.html#ixzz0mdy80xZv
100428-



100428-
Oil spill poses real risks for Florida
HeraldTribune.com - by Dale White
April 28, 2010
WHAT'S THAT SMELL ?
The oil leak off the Louisiana Coast, or at least the odor from it, may already have reached Southwest Florida.
For a couple of days, residents along the Gulf Coast have complained to local and state agencies about an odor similar to that of burning oil. Prevailing winds may have sent odors from the explosion into this area, Logan Johnson, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Ruskin, said Tuesday.
 “We can't say conclusively but it is a possibility,” Johnson said.
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection should have results from air quality tests taken in Pinellas County later this week. The DEP will check whether the air samples contain pollutants that could be linked to the explosion.
Mike Lowry, who lives on Manasota Key Road in Englewood, called the Sarasota County Fire Department when he smelled the odor. Firefighters could not find a local source.
 “It's coming off the Gulf,” Lowry said Tuesday afternoon. “The smell is getting worse.”
–Dale White

OIL SPILL RISKS
Workers are racing against time to cap a badly leaking rig off the Louisiana coast and prevent what a Coast Guard admiral on Tuesday said could become one of the worst oil spills in United States history.
done to protect Louisiana's Delta National Wildlife Refuge, a recovery team standing by in Pensacola could place berms in front of the Panhandle's most sensitive shorelines in advance to block the floating oil.
"This could get real ugly," said Frank Alcock, director of the Marine Policy Institute at Mote Marine Laboratory.
"If we don't secure the well, this could be one of the most significant oil spills in U.S. history," said Coast Guard Rear Admiral Mary Landry from an operations center in Louisiana shared by several agencies.
Even if Florida is spared, the threat is likely to have a major impact on the debate about whether to allow oil drilling off Florida's coast.
Gov. Charlie Crist, who has supported drilling, said he is reevaluating his position in light of the accident.
"If this doesn't give somebody pause, there's something wrong," Crist said.
More than 1,000 employees of federal and state agencies and an oil industry consortium are working to contain and track the spill.
Crews on 49 vessels were using more than 29,000 feet of boom to trap floating oil, which had created a rainbow sheen atop the Gulf with a circumference of 600 miles.
As of late Tuesday, roughly 157,000 gallons of mixed oil and water had been recovered.
The chances of the spill hitting the Gulf coastline depend on efforts to cap the leaking rig and disperse much of the existing spill that cannot be contained.
Authorities said Tuesday that efforts to use robotic submarines to shut off a valve 5,000 feet beneath the Gulf's surface have not worked but will continue.
Lars Herbst, a regional director for the U.S. Minerals Management Service, said that agency had just authorized the construction of a 3.2-mile-long well that would approach the sunken rig at an angle and inject heavy fluids and cement into the damaged rig to stop the flow of oil.
Landry said authorities are also considering the option of a controlled burn, a method she said was successfully tested in Newfoundland in 1993.
"There are benefits and trade-offs," Landry said.
Burning the oil slick is likely to quickly get rid of most of the remaining spill, Landry said. Yet environmental authorities would have to weigh that option against the air pollution it will cause.
Authorities are also working on plans to place a domed cap atop the leak and then pipe the escaping oil to the surface to be collected.
Landry warned that the recovery operation, which is costing about $6 million a day, could take about three months before the leak is permanently sealed.
That puts environmental authorities in the position of trying to recover oil faster than it spills.
Should the spill reach Florida's shores, how much damage it may cause depends on how concentrated it remains. Authorities are dropping dispersing chemicals from planes to break up the spill.
Yet that is an example of another ecological trade off, said Mark Ferrulo of the environmental group Progress Florida.
"That's just adding a new pollutant to the Gulf of Mexico," Ferrulo said. "It will wreak havoc on marine life."
"We hope our policymakers realize this is a wake-up call for Florida," Ferrulo added. "Oil spills don't follow state boundaries."
Ferrulo noted that some state legislators favor drilling within three miles of Florida's coast.
"If this spill happened just three miles off our coast, how many people from around the world would be cancelling hotel reservations," Ferrulo said.
The state could require years to recover from the damage to coastlines and fisheries, Ferrulo said. "Our coast defines us around the world."
Locally, residents -- especially those dependent on tourism -- kept their fingers crossed that the crude does not darken this area's sugar-white beaches or environmentally-sensitive mangroves and marshes.
Whoever gets hit is going to be in trouble," said David Teitlebaum, a motel owner on Anna Maria Island and a member of Manatee County's Tourism Development Council. "The beaches are extremely important to the vitality of Florida."
Karen Bell of the A. P. Bell Fish Co. and Star Fish Market in Cortez said the spill could adversely affect the commercial fishing industry.
"Our boats mostly stay about 50 to 60 miles out, from Panama City to the Keys," Bell said.
"The governor is keeping a close eye on the situation, and although Florida's Emergency Operation Center is not currently activated, the State Emergency Response team is prepared to take immediate action if it becomes necessary," said Dee Ann Miller, spokesperson for the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.
Oil spill response teams are also on stand by in Biloxi, Miss., Pascagoula, Miss., and Theodore, Ala.
The oil spill occurred April 20 after the Transocean Deepwater Horizon rig 130 miles southeast of New Orleans exploded.
In Washington, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said her agency will assist the Department of the Interior in an investigation of the explosion.
This region has experienced oil spills before.
On Aug. 10. 1993, two barges and a freighter collided in Tampa Bay, spilling 328,440 gallons of oil. The spill spread across 300 square miles of water.
The cleanup cost more than $50 million.
Oil washed ashore on about 16 miles of beaches in upper Tampa Bay. More than 39,000 cubic yards of soiled sand had to be removed from Redington Shores to Fort DeSoto Park and at Egmont Key.
An estimated 9,477 square feet of oyster beds and three quarters of an acre of salt marsh was damaged. Wildlife experts counted 732 dead or harmed birds. Two loggerhead turtles died. Affected mangroves included rookeries for pelicans and wading birds.
In July 1991, a corroded valve in an oil pipeline at Port Manatee caused a 5,000 gallon spill, about 1,000 gallons of which drifted into the bay.

100427-1



100427-1
BP to tackle Gulf oil spill with relief well
CBC News - The Associated Press
April 27, 2010
Crews are to begin drilling in the Gulf of Mexico by Thursday to reduce the pressure from a blown-out well off the Louisiana coast that is spewing 159,000 litres of crude oil a day into the Gulf.
The Deepwater Horizon, the offshore oil rig that exploded last week, triggering the spill, was leased by British oil giant BP. Company spokesman Robert Wine said Tuesday it will cost $100 million US and take up to three months to drill a relief well from another rig brought to the site where the Deepwater Horizon sank after the blast.
Most of the 126 workers on board escaped, but 11 are missing and presumed dead. No cause has been determined.
The Obama administration said it has launched a full investigation into the explosion. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said they will devote every available resource to a comprehensive investigation.
Unable to stop flow
The oil is coming from a pipe rising from the seabed about 1.6 kilometres underwater. So far, crews using robotic subs have been unable to activate a shutoff device at the head of the well. A kink in the pipe is keeping oil from flowing even more heavily.
If the well cannot be closed, almost 100,000 barrels, or 15.9 million litres, of oil could spill before the relief well gets up and running. The worst oil spill in U.S. history occurred when the Exxon Valdez spilled 41.6 million litres in Alaska's Prince William Sound in 1989.
BP said it will drill the relief well even if it is able to shut off the flow of oil.
Improving weather on Tuesday jump-started efforts to contain the spill, which threatens to coat marine mammals and birds with oily slime and taint hundreds of kilometres of white-sand beaches and rich seafood grounds.
Louisiana-based BP spokesperson Neil Chapman said 49 vessels — oil skimmers, tugboats, barges and special recovery boats that separate oil from water — are working to round up oil as the spill area continues to expand.
As of Tuesday morning, oil that leaked from the rig site was spread over an area about 80 kilometres long and 130 kilometres wide at its widest. The borders of the spill were uneven, making it difficult to calculate how many square kilometres are covered.
Coastal concerns
Though oil is not expected to reach the coast until late in the week, if at all, concern has been growing about what will happen if it does.
In Gulfport, Miss., where white sand beaches are a tourist playground and dolphins, whales and manatees are frequent visitors to Mississippi Sound, residents braced for the worst.
Louis Skremette, 54, operates the Ship Island Excursions company his grandfather started in 1926. He takes tourists to the barrier islands about 16 kilometres south of Gulfport in the Gulf Islands National Seashore. Its powder-white beaches and clear, green water create an idyllic setting for sunning and observing marine birds and sea life.
He sees the advancing spill as a threat to everything important in his life.
"This is the worst possible thing that could happen to the Mississippi Gulf Coast," he said. "It will wipe out the oyster industry. Shrimping wouldn't recover for years. It would kill family tourism — that's our livelihood."

Read more: http://www.cbc.ca/world/story/2010/04/27/louisiana-oil-rig-spill.html#ixzz0mPBdwi9w
100427-2



100427-2
'Drill, baby, drill' is now 'Spill, baby, spill'
HeraldTribune.com - by Tom Lyons
April 27, 2010
Doug Holder, the real estate broker and state representative from Sarasota, still owes me a call back about oil drilling.
He's almost a year overdue.
The last time we discussed his vote in favor of exploratory oil drilling three to nine miles off Florida's Gulf coast, he said he didn't mean he was OK with drilling near Sarasota. No way.
Good, I said. But the bill didn't exclude Sarasota.
When I pressed further and asked if he thought drilling would be fine near Venice or Naples or the Everglades or the Florida Keys or off Sanibel Island or Cedar Key, Holder said no, no, no, no, no and no. He didn't want oil drilling near any touristy places or environmentally sensitive shores, you see.
I wasn't sure what that left in the way of Florida's Gulf coast. I asked him to name a few places he sees as acceptable for drilling.
"I haven't looked at a map to pinpoint" any exact spots, Holder replied. We agreed he'd have to get back to me on that.
That was in the spring of last year. No word yet, nor did he return my call on Monday, at least not before deadline.
But he did tell a reporter several months ago that he had been led to believe any drilling rigs used in Florida would be underwater and invisible from shore.
That would offer no protection from oil spills, of course. And it is also untrue. As a Herald-Tribune story revealed in November, that was baloney handed to lawmakers by pro-drilling lobbyists. The expensive underwater rigs exist, but are used only in much, much deeper water.
We'd get rigs that look like steel skeletons of mammoth buildings perpetually under construction.
And earlier this month, when a Herald-Tribune reporter talked to him in Tallahassee, Holder touted a report that lawmakers had just been given. It included some rosy statements.
"Construction and operations standards in oil and gas have improved dramatically" in recent decades, so there is less worry now about oil spills and other problems. That is so even during a hurricane, though that remains the most high-risk time, the report says.
True, 117 oil rigs were lost during hurricanes Katrina and Rita. But the report used a bar graph to stress that only 24 of those lost rigs were ones built after 1989.
Only 24? The alleged comfort in that number escapes me. And the fine print added that when there is a spill, "the closer to shore, the greater the emergency response capability required."
Imagine a massive oil spill a few miles from our beaches in the same week we are handling the damage and power outages ashore after after a hurricane strike. Some fun.
But, yes, drilling engineers have worked wonders. Look at the impressive Deepwater Horizon, a floating drill platform twice the size of a football field, and built just nine years ago. Could you find a finer example of oil industry engineering?
It now rests 50 miles off the Louisiana coast, on the Gulf bottom, probably with the remains of 11 crew members who did not escape the fiery explosion that wrecked it during perfectly fine weather.
The oil spill from that disaster seemed fairly modest at first, partly because much of the oil was going up in the huge cloud of black smoke as the fire raged for days. But now that the rig has sunk, there's a 45-mile long oil slick approaching the Gulf's north shore, and it's still growing rapidly.
I'm looking through the report our lawmakers got, but haven't found the part that explains why this would be no big deal if it happens five miles off Florida's coast.
If Holder finds it, I hope he'll call.
Tom Lyons can be contacted at tom.lyons@heraldtribune.com or (941) 361-4964.

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100427-3
Help save our Everglades
Sun-Sentinel – Letter by Erik Brown
April 27, 2010
At Lake Okeechobee, 22 billion gallons of water are dumped at sea. What's that worth by the bottle at Publix? $100 billion? What are we doing lambasting Charlie Crist for trying to solve the problem long-term, saying he overpaid to buy a piece of the Everglades. Is there anyone in Florida who bought property and overpaid based on today's values? The bottom line is reservoirs are fine, but the water still has to be cleaned to make it drinkable.
Organizations like the Arthur R. Marshall Foundation are fighting to save the Everglades. They have only 160 contributing members fighting for 5 million people in South Florida who just think it's somebody else's problem. Join the fight for your grandchildren's water.
Erik Brown, Palm Beach

100427-4



100427-4
Oil slick in Gulf of Mexico seen from space on NASA Satellite
Baltimore Weather Examiner - Tony Pann
April 27, 2010
The oil rig explosion of the Deepwater Horizon last week continues to spill 42,000 gallons of oil per day into the water less than 50 miles from the coast of Louisiana. NASA Goddard Space Flight Center based in Greenbelt Maryland provided images of the oil leak from space.  The MODIS (Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer) Rapid Responce Team provided this and other images of the oil slick as seen on NASA's Aqua Satellite.  Here is a close up taken on Sunday (see more in the slide show below).  The oil slick has grown to  48 miles by 39 miles wide. That is more than 1,800 square miles, larger than the state of Rhode Island. The explosion and fire of the oil rig on April 20th, 2010 burned over 24 hours (see video here) and leaked 700,000 gallons of diesel fuel into the Gulf of Mexico.  It was originally expected to add an additional 300,000 barrels of oil per day from the leak into the water.   However this still has major environmental implications to marine life and the Louisiana coastline.  There is also fear from locals that the summer beach season might be affeted as well.
Under Water Oil Leak Not Contained
About 5,000 feet deep, this pipe continues to leak 42,000 gallons of oil each day.  This image showing the leaking oil was provided by the US Coast Guard. 
British Petroleum had used a robot submarine to attempt to cap the pipe, but no success yet.  According to an AP report:
BP plans to collect leaking oil on the ocean bottom by lowering a large dome to capture the oil and then pumping it through pipes and hoses into a vessel on the surface, said Doug Suttles, chief operating officer of BP Exploration and Production.
It could take up to a month to get the equipment in place.

100426-1



100426-1
Florida citrus growers reject EPA water rules
Freshplaza.com
April 26, 2010
Plans by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to clean up Florida's waterways set unattainable goals and would saddle the state's farm industry with billions of dollars of costs it cannot afford, Florida citrus growers said on Friday.
"There is no way Florida agriculture, including the $9 billion citrus industry, can survive if the EPA actually follows through with their proposal," said Michael Sparks, head of Florida Citrus Mutual, the state's main citrus growers association.
"Of course we all want clean water, it is essential to our livelihood in agriculture, but we need to set reasonable goals," Sparks said in a statement.
New restrictions on the release of phosphorous and nitrogen, also known as "nutrient" pollutants, into Florida's lakes and waterways could cost between $855 million and $3 billion to implement, the statement said.
It cited a report issued on Thursday by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) that said recurring costs from the EPA restrictions would total between $902 million and $1.6 billion per year, with additional indirect economic impacts to the state of $1.15 billion annually.
The EPA's proposals, which are open to public comment until the end of this month, are in line with the agency's January 2009 determination that numeric nutrient standards were needed in Florida to meet requirements of the Clean Water Act.
The state, with an economy heavily dependent on tourism and recreational use of its waterways, suffers from substantial water quality degradation due to nutrient over-enrichment.
The EPA has said the problem is expected to worsen due to population growth and land-use changes.
The FDACS report said the EPA had estimated the annual cost of compliance with the restrictions on nutrient pollutants at about $35 million. But it said that estimate was incomplete, both in terms of the estimated number of agricultural acres affected and the methods used to determine the economic impact.
The EPA did not respond specifically to the question raised by the FDACS about its cost estimates.
But in a statement provided to Reuters, the agency said "clean and safe waters are central to Florida's prosperity" as well as to people's health.
"We do not have to make a false choice between our health and the economy. EPA is proposing a cost-effective rule to curb the impacts of nutrient pollution that decimates property values and can cause costly illnesses," the EPA said.
"We are working closely with Floridians to make sure that these waters are drinkable, fishable and swimmable, which then ensures a future for those industries that want to prosper in Florida."
Source: reuters.com
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New Florida Study Heats Up Water War With Feds
Sunshine News
April 26, 2010
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's proposed water standards for Florida will cost the state more than $1 billion -- nearly 30 times the EPA's estimates -- according to a new study.
Researchers from the University of Florida and the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services said that the numeric water nutrient standards would create "significant ripple effects on suppliers and employees."
The study predicted that "more than 14,000 jobs will be lost."
While the EPA has projected a $35 million price tag, state researchers said the final costs will depend on "how many agriculture acres are actually impacted and how the standards are implemented."
EPA has estimated that about 6 million acres of agricultural and forest lands surrounding water bodies will be affected, but the study indicates the number is more than 13 1/2 million impacted acres.
The study says EPA's numbers are skewed because the agency has assumed that numeric water quality standards developed by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection are already in place and the infrastructure necessary to meet the standards has been paid for and is also in place. However, that is not the case.
DEP put the development of numeric nutrient standards on hold when the EPA settled a lawsuit filed by environmental groups by agreeing to establish federal standards.

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Everglades cleanup said to be mired in `glacial delay'
Miami Herald - by CURTIS MORGAN,  cmorgan@MiamiHerald.com
April 25, 2010
Judges share environmentalists' concerns about the slow pace of Everglades cleanup -- but not their enthusiasm for Gov. Crist's sugar land deal.
In the two decades since pledging to clean up the Everglades, Florida water managers, environmental regulators and political leaders have professed unwavering commitment to getting the difficult and costly job done.
In a double-barreled legal blast this month, two Miami federal judges found the state, abetted by a lax U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, more committed to something else in the Everglades: foot dragging.
``Glacial delay'' is how an exasperated U.S. District Judge Alan Gold summed it up in a blistering ruling that ordered Florida environmental chief Michael Sole and EPA administrator Lisa Jackson to appear personally in court in October with new plans and hard deadlines.
The orders, issued back to back over just three weeks, could produce significant ripple effects, from potentially derailing Gov. Charlie Crist's controversial sugar land buy to hitting farmers with tougher fertilizer rules to measuring just how much clout federal judges wield over agencies leading Everglades efforts.
``It really is a test of whether or not we are a rule-of-law country,'' said Dexter Lehtinen, an attorney for the Miccosukee Tribe, whose lawsuits and motions led to both rulings. ``We have a mandate in this country that the law applies to everyone equally, including the government.''
State, federal, environmental and agricultural industry attorneys are still assessing the full implications of the orders, but this much is clear:
Federal judges in two separate cases came to a conclusion long ago reached by the tribe and environmental groups -- that the state is failing to protect the Everglades from damaging phosphorus, which flows from farms, cattle ranches and yards after every rainstorm.
Chief U.S. District Judge Federico Moreno, who oversees the landmark 1992 settlement that originally forced the state to cut the nutrient pollution destroying native plants, was first up with a March 31 ruling.
Saying he was tired of waiting for the promising but twice downsized and repeatedly delayed U.S. Sugar land buy, Moreno ordered the state to restart a stalled $700 million reservoir and meet with a special master to hash out new construction deadlines and cleanup plans.
Less than two weeks later, Gold followed up in another lawsuit brought by the tribe and environmental group Friends of the Everglades. He expanded on a July 2008 ruling where he found the EPA erred in approving a controversial state overhaul of Everglades cleanup laws in 2004.
The ruling was a razor-edged rebuke to the state's long-standing insistence that it was doing all it could to clean up the Everglades and that its effort was largely on track, despite a few minor recent violations.
`INCOMPREHENSIBLE'
Gold determined state lawmakers had simply moved the goal line to make it easier to declare victory, crafting ``incomprehensible'' rules that watered down pollution standards, opened loopholes and effectively pushed back a 2006 deadline by a decade to 2016 -- all in violation of the U.S. Clean Water Act.
Gold wrote that the state, which has spent more than $1 billion to build some 40,000 acres of storm water treatment marshes, had made progress, but had only marginally improved the health of the Glades.
The legal phosphorous target for the pristine Everglades is a super-low 10 parts per billion and even now, three years after the previous 2006 deadline, the marshes are turning out from 13 to 93 ppb, he wrote.
None of the governmental agencies involved directly told the public the hard truth: We have not solved the problem, we do not know for sure when the problem will be solved, and we do not know if the Everglades will survive by the time we can meet the 10 ppb standard,'' he wrote.
Gold gave the EPA until Sept. 3 to craft an enforceable plan with the state to cut phosphorus levels or draft one itself. He stopped short of finding the agencies in contempt but threatened fines and other measures to force compliance if they continue to ignore his orders.
Sole, secretary of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, issued a statement defending Everglades efforts and calling Gold's ruling ``extremely disappointing.''
DEP spokeswoman Dee Ann Miller said the state intends to appeal. The EPA issued a statement saying it was reviewing the decision before deciding its next steps.
Both agencies pledged to continue working together.
In the Moreno case, state and federal attorneys had already been negotiating a more cleanup measures after two violations in the Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge. Among the steps under consideration: tougher limits on fertilizer use for farms, and possibly suburban yards, and a major expansion of the state's network of marshes -- with talks focusing on the 73,000 acres of groves and fields that state wants to buy from U.S. Sugar.
Environmentalists hope the dual rulings will speed and expand cleanup but they also worry they could ironically undermine the sugar deal they believe offers the best long-term hope to resolving the Glades' persistent water pollution and supply problems.
The South Florida Water Management District, hit with declining tax revenues, already is struggling to pay for the $536 million deal. Being forced to build the massive reservoir would almost certainly kill it.
MOTION TO BE FILED
Miller said the state plans to file a motion asking for relief from building the reservoir. Thom Rumberger, chairman of the Everglades Trust, said environmentalists will support that plea, arguing the state shouldn't waste dwindling capital on a project that won't get the job done. The state, he said, needs more land -- at least 62,000 acres by the estimates of restoration experts -- and the sugar deal offers the cheaper deal to get it.
``If you can't get that land out of U.S. Sugar, you're going to have to condemn it,'' he said. ``If you condemn it, you're going to pay a lot more. I am not sure of how we lost track of that.''
Both judges, however, expressed skepticism the governor's land deal would get done -- or help resolve pollution problems any time soon.
The tribe, which along with rival grower Florida Crystals has been among the most vocal critics of the deal, contends the district won't have money to build anything on the land for decades.
``Our position,'' said Lehtinen, ``is sugar land, schmugar land. It's just an excuse for more delay.''
Read more: http://www.miamiherald.com/2010/04/25/1596979_p2/everglades-cleanup-said-to-be.html#ixzz0mA3VNKuA
Read more: http://www.miamiherald.com/2010/04/25/1596979/everglades-cleanup-said-to-be.html#ixzz0mA3BtQ4h

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Quick end to gulf oil leak depends on robot subs
Associated Press - by CAIN BURDEAU
April 25, 2010
NEW ORLEANS — It could take hours or it could take months to stop a 42,000-gallon-a-day oil leak polluting the Gulf of Mexico at the site of a wrecked drilling platform. Whether the environmental threat grows many times bigger depends on whether the oil company can turn the well completely off.
Crews are using robot submarines to activate valves at the well head in hopes of cutting off the leak, which threatens the Gulf Coast's fragile ecosystem of shrimp, fish, birds and coral. If the effort fails, they'll have to start drilling again.
The submarine work will take 24 to 36 hours, Doug Suttles, chief operating officer for BP Exploration and Production, said Sunday afternoon.
"I should emphasize this is a highly complex operation being performed at 5,000 feet below the surface and it may not be successful," he said.
Oil continued to leak nearly a mile underwater Sunday at the site where the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded on Tuesday. Eleven workers are missing and presumed dead.
For the second consecutive day, high waves prevented boats and equipment from going out to clean the spill. Airplanes sprayed chemicals to break up the oil.
The spill initially appeared to be easily manageable after the oil rig sank Thursday about 50 miles off the Louisiana coast, but it has turned into a more serious environmental problem. Officials on Saturday discovered the leak, which is spewing as much as 1,000 barrels — or 42,000 gallons — of oil each day.
The oil spill has been growing — officials said the oily sheen on the surface of the gulf covered about 600 square miles Sunday. The environmental damage would be especially serious if it reaches land.
The spill was still about 70 miles from the mainland, but only about 30 miles from an important chain of barrier islands known as the Chandeleurs.
The islands, part of a national wildlife refuge, are an important nesting ground for pelicans and other sea birds. They have been under serious threat since Hurricane Katrina washed out much of the sand there.
"Katrina did kick it pretty good, but they have been growing back," said Greg Thornton, the 52-year-old owner of Horn Island and Due South Charters in Biloxi. He takes fishing parties out to the islands.
Looking at wind patterns on his computer, which showed favorable conditions until Thursday, Thornton held out hope that the oil could be contained.
"We might have some trouble if they don't get the boom around it and stop it from spreading," he said.
The spill so far appears to be small relative to some major oil accidents. The Exxon Valdez spilled 11 million gallons in Alaska's Prince William Sound in 1989 — the worst oil spill in U.S. history.
"It has the potential to be pretty serious, but at 1,000 barrels a day, if it comes to the surface they'll probably be able to contain it and vacuum it up," said James Cowan, an oceanography and coastal sciences professor at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge.
The company is planning to collect leaking oil on the ocean bottom by lowering a large dome to capture the oil and using pipes and hoses to pump it into a vessel on the surface, said Suttles, the BP executive.
"That system has been deployed in shallower water," he said, "but it has never been deployed at 5,000 feet of water, so we have to be careful."
The robot submarines are attempting to close off the flow of oil by activating a shutoff device at the well head known as a blowout preventer.
In case that doesn't work, BP PLC, which leased the Deepwater, moved another deepwater rig, the DD3, toward the explosion site. If necessary, the new rig would drill relief wells into the damaged well underneath the ocean floor. That could take several months.
Benton F. Baugh, who holds numerous patents for blowout preventer parts, said the subs should be able to do the job.
"If they can't get it closed off, something really unusual happened," said Baugh, president of Radoil Inc. in Houston and a National Academy of Engineering member.
Kenneth E. Arnold, an offshore production facility expert and another member of the engineering academy, said drilling a relief well is not an easy task.
"You have to intersect the well," he said. "Sometimes you have to drill through the steel, and that's what happened in Australia. It took them three times before they were successful."
He was referring to a blowout on the West Atlas rig in the Timor Sea last August. It wasn't until November that mud could be pumped through a relief well to shut off the deepwater spigot. The oil spill has resulted in major environmental damage along the coast of East Timor and Indonesia
NEW ORLEANS — Coast Guard officials said weather conditions for the next three days would help keep the Gulf spill away from the coast.
Mark Schexnayder, a regional coastal adviser at the Louisiana Sea Grant, said the oil spill had the potential to do long-term damage to the coastal environment. The location of the spill is crisscrossed by marine species, including sperm whales, whale sharks, sea turtles, grouper and porpoises, he said.
"We're a month away from opening up the inshore shrimp season, crab season is just getting underway," he said. "It could close oyster beds."
BP said it has activated an extensive oil spill response, including the robot submarines, 700 workers, four planes and 32 vessels to mop up the spill and spray chemicals that will disperse the oil.
The Marine Spill Response Corp., an energy industry cleanup consortium, also brought in equipment. So far, crews have retrieved about 1,143 barrels of oily water.
Complicating efforts to stop the leak is the well head's depth at 5,000 feet underwater, said Lars Herbst, the regional director for the U.S. Minerals Management Service, which regulates oil rigs. Leaks have been fixed at similar depths before, but the process is difficult, he said.
The explosion appeared to be a blowout, in which natural gas or oil forces its way up a well pipe and smashes the equipment. But precisely what went wrong is under investigation.

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See ?  Keep the rigs far away: Explosion in the gulf should be warning to Florida.
The Palm Beach Post
April 25, 2010
Last week's explosion of an oil rig off the Louisiana coast undercuts every argument in favor of allowing oil and natural gas drilling much closer to the Florida coast.
The push to put rigs near Florida is happening on two levels. In Washington, President Obama backs expanded offshore drilling as a way to draw support for cap-and-trade climate change legislation. Currently, drilling can't take place closer than 125 miles from Florida's northwest gulf coast and 235 miles from the southwest coast. The Transocean Deepwater Horizon rig blew up 43 miles south of Venice, La.
In Florida, some legislators want to end the ban on drilling in state waters, beginning 3 miles from shore and extending about 10 miles out. Supporters all but said that new technology had made the chance of an oil spill roughly the same as winning the lottery and getting struck by lightning on the same day. After getting a last-minute bill through the House last year, they have held off this election year. The three major-party candidates for governor all oppose ending the state ban.
For all the promises of jobs and new revenue for the state - promises weakened by a recent Collins Center study - the threat remains too high, and the Louisiana explosion reinforces that point. On Friday, a storm began to push the oil northeast toward Mississippi. Worries of an environmental disaster had been high. Florida's beaches mean much more to this state's economy than the beaches of Louisiana and Mississippi mean to those states. If it makes sense to keep drilling in federal water as far away as possible - and it does - it makes no sense to put rigs so close to the coast that there is no margin for error if a spill occurs.
The rig that exploded was less than a decade old, and Transocean considered it one of the company's safest rigs. One way or another, however, workers lost control of the rig, and 11 of them were killed. U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., has asked Interior Secretary Ken Salazar how the government would respond to a "major offshore oil spill."
Turning Florida into Louisiana, as some in Washington and Tallahassee want to do, would change the character of this state. The bursting of the housing bubble has made Florida reassess our business model, but beaches don't just bring tourists; they bring new residents. Drilling supporters had a weak case before last week. The case just got weaker.

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Oyster project endangered
WPTV.com
April 24, 2010
STUART, FL -- This week the U.S. Army Corps of engineers started releasing millions of gallons of fresh water from Lake Okeechobee into the usually salty St. Lucie Estuary.
"It’s not just the water it’s what’s in the water; there’s suspended silt and sediment and chemicals," said Mark Perry, a biologist with the Florida Oceanographic Society.
The Corps says it needs to lower the lake level before rainy season to limit the flood risk.
But biologist Mark Perry says doing this damages the river, killing sea grasses and endangering a wide array of aquatic life.
"We’ve got to stop these releases and give this estuary a break," he said.
The problem isn’t new.  The Army Corps has been releasing water into the estuary for generations.
The difference this year: $4 million of your tax money, part of the federal stimulus plan, is going toward populating the river with oysters to help clean it.
Perry says those oysters could very well die because of the lake releases.
"If you get too much fresh water it is very detrimental and damaging to the oysters," he said.
Perry says oysters provide a powerful, natural way of cleaning water.  The oysters spawn now, during the spring, but he says they need salty water to thrive and with so much lake water coming their way he says you might as well scrap the stimulus project at least for this year because the oysters will never survive.
Army Corps officials say they’re sensitive to the oyster problem, and that they’ve scaled back the releases as much as possible.
"It’s a tough balancing act. We’re trying to make sure we take into account all aspects of the environment of the estuary as well as the lake and public health and safety," said Sean Smith of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Perry said he was thrilled to learn the government was finally investing in the river’s future, but now he’s afraid that money may wash away with nothing to show for it.
The releases will continue through May 4.

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Environmental Dispute goes to Top Court in the Sunshine State
Green Chip Stocks - by Brigid Darragh
April 23, 2010
The People, Sugar Companies and Water District vs. The Everglades
U.S. Sugar Corp met the Sunshine State in Florida's Supreme Court to settle a dispute over a 73,000-acre Everglades restoration deal earlier this month.
The proposed $536 million deal was signed off on in 2009 by the South Florida Water Management District. The Supreme Court is now being asked to determine if the District was justified in approving the sale of bonds for the land last year.
Members of the Miccosukee Tribe who live near the Everglades are joined by U.S. Sugar's competition (namely, Florida Crystals) in saying the land will only allow U.S. Sugar to farm much of the parcel once the sale is complete.
U.S. Sugar Corp is currently the country's biggest sugarcane grower and would be granting the state 73,000 acres of farmland for its restoration project.
Last August, a Palm Beach County Circuit Court judge authorized the Florida Water Management District to sell as much as $650 million of certificates of participation for the purchase of Everglade land in an effort to preserve the wetlands and the more than 65 endangered species that inhabit the area.
The opposition protests the land deal in saying that the Water Management District was not authorized to sign off on this deal last year.
In 2008, Florida's governor planned to purchase from U.S. Sugar 180,000 acres of Everglade farmland.
The plan was for the state to buy U.S. Sugar, its manufacturing and production facilities, and allow production for six years more before shutting down the plant and dismissing employees. The land would then be rehabilitated and restored.
But like most states, Florida suffered from the recessions and the land deal was significantly cut down to less than half that acreage. In November 2008, the deal was renegotiated to involve less land at a lower price, allowing sugar production to remain in production.
And come 2009, Florida's water management district decided to levy $536 million in bonds to pay for the newly proposed 73,000 acres.
Meanwhile, environmentalists and water management officials feel the restoration deal is critical to reviving the River of Grass ecosystem within the acreage that U.S. Sugar Corp would purchase through this deal.
According to environmentalists, the protection of this particular part of the Everglades trumps the complaints of lawyers on the Miccosukee side.
The attorney representing Florida Audubon was quoted as saying, "We believe this land acquisition provides the best and last chance for significant Everglades."
The River of Grass area winds south from Orland through the Kissimmee Lakes, including Lake Okeechobee, and out to the Florida Bay. Restoration efforts of this area have been in effect since 1988, when then Florida Governor Chiles officially committed the state to cleaning up and preserving the Everglades. Since 1988, Florida has invested nearly $2.5 billion to the $10.9 billion state-federal Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP).
The Miccosukees continue to challenge the proposed $536 million deal because they maintain the land is not serving public purpose. The Water Management District does not have the right to float bonds to pay for the land if it lacks this characteristic.
They feel the plan is waste of taxpayer dollars that will actually slow current Everglade restoration projects and those planned for the future. Critics of the revised land deal are also concerned that the new plan will ensure sugarcane is grown on Everglade farmland for at least another ten years.
No ruling has been made yet regarding the case
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Environmentalists can get in way of quality development: Roy M. Whitehead
TCPalm - by Roy M. Whitehead
April 23, 2010
Regarding Michael Goforth’s recent column about Florida development dragons, there are two sides to every argument. Having been a developer and builder during my working career, I have seen and heard (and given) most arguments for and against development.
We agree that many developments in recent years have been ill-advised and ill-planned, approved by local governments more for tax revenues than for benefit to the community. We have seen this in Fort Pierce. We also agree there has been a too-great proliferation of paving and infrastructure extensions, but some of this problem can be laid at the feet of environmentalists.
For a time, I represented a builder of garden apartment projects in the Midwest, for which I handled much of the rezoning and land plan approvals. For these projects to be feasible, densities had to be higher than single-family developments, which local environmentalists usually fought against. The company was providing a high-quality product, usually two-story brick structures of the “Williamsburg” design. The developments usually included a clubhouse, playgrounds and considerable open space. A golf course was sometimes included to provide open space and an amenity for the community. Reasonable and quality rentals of relatively high-density were, and still are, needed to provide decent housing for those who can’t afford, or don’t want to own, a single-family home.
In the early 1970s, I was chief executive of a development company on Hilton Head Island, S.C. The best developments on the island in the early years took place without benefit of zoning laws or building codes. Design was market-driven, with developers competing based on good architecture, quality and environmental considerations. Many of these developments had relatively high density. Zoning laws and building codes were enacted due mostly to efforts of environmentalists and development reverted to the “clear-and-pave” mentality of municipal planners. Environmental planning became secondary.
In recent years, we saw the push for ultra-low densities in Martin County and other areas in Florida, driving development into agricultural areas. Recently, some advocates of low-density zoning awakened to the rapid encroachment of development into agricultural lands and the Everglades. They concluded that perhaps cities should be redeveloped with higher densities to avoid paving over the Everglades.
There still is the question about where we are going to put people as the population expands. We understand concerns about over-development in Florida, but is this not the same “not-in-my-backyard” mentality we see regarding power plants, solar energy panels and wind generators? This is reflective of the “burn-the-bridge” syndrome: “I have mine, let’s keep everyone else out.”
Locally, we have seen the fight against high-density developments, but the argument has been more about building height than density. Harbor Isle is a good example of what high density can be when there are height restrictions in place. The argument always has been about obstructing views, but Harbor Isle, while probably a pleasant place to live, is an impenetrable view-blocker. Taller buildings with more open space might be preferable. A two- or three-story building obstructs one’s view, anyway, and a solid phalanx of low buildings obstructs views far worse than a single, taller building with open space around it. With under-building parking, the paving footprint and infrastructure is substantially reduced, a plus for those concerned with the environment.
There is no magic answer and people will continue to come. Local governments would do better to find ways to allow well-designed and higher-density developments even if building height restrictions have to be modified. Unless we do this, we might as well fire up the bulldozers and pavers. The Everglades will continue to disappear as will the lifestyle and environment that we cherish.
Whitehead is a retired builder/developer residing in Fort Pierce.
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EPA water plan could cost billions, Florida says
Palm Beach Post - by Susan Salisbury, Staff Writer
April 23, 2010
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's proposed water regulations could cost Florida residents billions of dollars and result in the loss of more than 14,000 jobs, according to a report issued this week by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
Florida agricultural producers are alarmed about the strict numeric standards the EPA is in the process of developing for the nutrient levels in the state's lakes, streams and coastal areas. The agricultural community says the extremely low nutrient standards being proposed may be impossible to achieve and would put them out of business. The standards would apply only to Florida.
"There is no way Florida agriculture, including the $9 billion citrus industry, can survive if the EPA actually follows through with their proposal. Of course we all want clean water, it is essential to our livelihood in agriculture, but we need to set reasonable goals," said Michael Sparks, executive vice president/CEO of Florida Citrus Mutual of Lakeland.
The study, conducted in conjunction with University of Florida economists, estimates that the total initial costs for Florida agriculture to implement the additional practices will range from $855 million to $3 billion. Recurring annual costs would be an estimated $271 million to $974 million. Lost revenues associated with land taken out of production to implement additional on-farm water treatment and retention practices are pegged at $631 million, the report said.
EPA officials could not be reached Friday, but the agency's position is stated in a fact sheet on the issue. The proposed limits on the nutrients - nitrogen and phosphorus - would improve water quality, protect public health, aquatic life and the long-term recreational uses of Florida's waters, which are a critical part of the state's economy, the agency said.
During the past two months, the EPA has held six public meetings across Florida on the proposed regulations.
Charles Shinn, assistant director of government and community affairs, Florida Farm Bureau Federation in Vero Beach, said Friday, "Any new regulations must be based on sound science that is peer reviewed. This is lacking with where the EPA is thus far."
U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney, R-Tequesta, said Friday, "This report confirms what we have all feared. The economic ramifications of this proposed rule would be devastating to our state. … Now is not the time to punish Florida's small businesses, workers and farmers with increased costs while they struggle to survive."
U.S. Rep. Adam Putnam, R-Bartow, has organized a bipartisan request from 20 members of Florida's Congressional delegation asking EPA to take more time and to involve a third-party scientific review .
Last month, EPA agreed to seek more public input and announced it would delay the implementation of some of the proposed rules until 2011. Comments on the proposed rules are due at the end of this month.
To read the report, go to www.flcitrusmutual.com/industry-issues/water/numericnutrient.aspx

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Florida citrus growers reject EPA water rules
Reuters - by Tom Brown
April 23, 2010
* Agency urged to set "reasonable" goals on nutrients
* EPA warns against "false choice" of health vs economy
MIAMI, April 23 (Reuters) - Plans by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to clean up Florida's waterways set unattainable goals and would saddle the state's farm industry with billions of dollars of costs it cannot afford, Florida citrus growers said on Friday.
"There is no way Florida agriculture, including the $9 billion citrus industry, can survive if the EPA actually follows through with their proposal," said Michael Sparks, head of Florida Citrus Mutual, the state's main citrus growers association.
"Of course we all want clean water, it is essential to our livelihood in agriculture, but we need to set reasonable goals," Sparks said in a statement.
New restrictions on the release of phosphorous and nitrogen, also known as "nutrient" pollutants, into Florida's lakes and waterways could cost between $855 million and $3 billion to implement, the statement said.
It cited a report issued on Thursday by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) that said recurring costs from the EPA restrictions would total between $902 million and $1.6 billion per year, with additional indirect economic impacts to the state of $1.15 billion annually.
The EPA's proposals, which are open to public comment until the end of this month, are in line with the agency's January 2009 determination that numeric nutrient standards were needed in Florida to meet requirements of the Clean Water Act.
The state, with an economy heavily dependent on tourism and recreational use of its waterways, suffers from substantial water quality degradation due to nutrient over-enrichment.
The EPA has said the problem is expected to worsen due to population growth and land-use changes.
The FDACS report said the EPA had estimated the annual cost of compliance with the restrictions on nutrient pollutants at about $35 million. But it said that estimate was incomplete, both in terms of the estimated number of agricultural acres affected and the methods used to determine the economic impact.
The EPA did not respond specifically to the question raised by the FDACS about its cost estimates.
But in a statement provided to Reuters, the agency said "clean and safe waters are central to Florida's prosperity" as well as to people's health.
"We do not have to make a false choice between our health and the economy. EPA is proposing a cost-effective rule to curb the impacts of nutrient pollution that decimates property values and can cause costly illnesses," the EPA said.
"We are working closely with Floridians to make sure that these waters are drinkable, fishable and swimmable, which then ensures a future for those industries that want to prosper in Florida." (Editing by Pascal Fletcher and Marguerita Choy)

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Oil Rig Explosion: Environmental disaster pending as Deepwater Horizon sinks (video)
Baltimore Weather Examiner – by Tony Pann
April 23, 2010
The Deepwater Horizon burned for more than 24 hours before sinking on April 22, 2010. The fear is for more than 300,000 barrels of oil a day leaking into the Gulf of Mexico and spreading into marine-life rich water and the coastline of Louisiana.
The burning oil rig has sunk below the water. (See slide show). The two problems today include 11 missing workers and an oil spill of epoch proportions.  The Deepwater Horizon began burning on Tuesday night, and continued over 24 hours before sinking into the Gulf of Mexico on Thursday (see video below).  The chance for survival is very slim, but the leaking fuel seems very likely.  This has added fuel to the opponents of the recent government lifting of east coast oil drilling near Maryland.
This photo shows the fire and attempted rescue efforts on Wednesday April 21.  (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
The Deep Water Horizon carried 700,000 gallons of diesel fuel.  It is unsure how much burned in the fire, and how much spilled into the water.  The rig itself had been pumping crude oil, which now is leaking at the rate of 300,000 barrels a day.  This is not only a major threat to marine life, but the coastline of Louisiana about 50 miles away.
According to an AP report:
Coast Guard Rear Adm. Mary Landry said crews saw a 1-mile-by-5-mile rainbow sheen with a dark center of what appeared to be a crude oil mix on the surface of the water. She said there wasn't any evidence crude oil was coming out after the rig sank, but officials also aren't sure what's going on underwater. They have dispatched a vessel to check.
A combination of High Pressure off of the Florida coast, and a strong storm developing between Texas and eastern Colorado will enhance the southerly wind flow. Today will bring the largest severe storm threat to the nation this year.  See video of yesterday's tornadoes here). Through the end of March, this season had been running about 25% of normal for the storm count.  The energy feeding into this storm will change that this afternoon.  This will spread heavy rain east
The Deep Water Horizon (see explosion pictures in the slide show below) sits about 50 miles south of the Louisiana coast, and the southerly flow of air will also drag along the water. 
This image shows the northeastern Gulf of Mexico wave flow.  The winds influence the water, which are pushing towards the Louisiana coastline.  The estimates are that it will take 4-5 days, arriving this weekend.
Comment:
Seven Years Ago Today - History Repeats
On April 27, 2003, Exactley seven years ago the Bouchard Barge B-120 hit an obstacle in Buzzards Bay, creating a 12-foot rupture in its hull and discharging an estimated 100,000 gallons of No. 6 oil. The oil is known to have affected an estimated 90 miles of shoreline, numerous bird species, and recreational use of the bay, such as shell fishing and boating.
A jury through an environmental class action suit has awarded Mattapoisett, Massachusetts property owners damages seven years after the oil spill ravaged Buzzards Bay, polluting residential beaches, devastating ecosystems and hurting local property values, according to lawyers for the plaintiffs.
What's needed is a federal law that protects Buzzards Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. Lets call out our federal legislators, Rep. Barney Frank, Sen. Scott Brown and Sen. John Kerry from Massachusetts.

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Army Corps of Engineers: Pulse releases to continue, like it or not
TCPalm - by Ed Killer
April 22, 2010
STUART — So much for Earth Day.
Despite weeks of protest and appeals by advocates of the St. Lucie River Estuary, the Army Corps of Engineers announced Thursday that destructive releases of freshwater from Lake Okeechobee will continue for another 13 days into the St. Lucie River.
The Corps said the releases will continue at an average rate of 475 cubic feet per second into the St. Lucie or about 306 million gallons per day. Discharges will continue to the west into the Caloosahatchee River at rate of 2,200 cfs.
“I’m livid about this,” said Mark Perry, executive director of Florida Oceanographic Society. “For them to do this on Earth Day is a real insult.”
Perry and scientists with the South Florida Water Management District requested Tuesday that the Corps consider suspending the pulse releases into the St. Lucie because of dramatically low salinity levels. Low salinity, measured at 5 parts per thousand in parts of the St. Lucie River Wednesday, will contribute to the stress and death of organisms that live in the St. Lucie River estuary including oysters that help filter the water.
The schedule announced by the Corps said the current releases will continue from Thursday through May 4. The pulse releases from Lake Okeechobee began March 27. For the first 13 days, the Corps released water through the St. Lucie Lock and Dam in Tropical Farms at a rate of 950 cfs. On April 8, that amount was reduced to 475 cfs.
However, salinity measurements conducted by FOS reveal that salinity in the estuary at the Roosevelt Bridge declined from 10 ppt on March 27 to less than 5 ppt by March 30. Through Wednesday, the salinity at that location has yet to climb above 5 ppt.
“Keeping salinity at a low level for an extended period of time will definitely harm juvenile and adult oysters,” said Vincent Encomio, shellfish research scientist at FOS. “After seven days of salinity less than 5 ppt, juveniles and oyster spat will die. After 14 days, adults will die.”
A brief survey Wednesday of historic oyster beds in the middle estuary of the St. Lucie River in Rio revealed that naturally occurring oysters appear to be in good condition — for now. That is important, Perry said, because a healthy adult oyster can filter 40-50 gallons of water per day and a typical density of oysters grows at 600,000 per acre. Perry said that if not killed by poor salinity, an acre of oysters could cleanse 30 million gallons of water per day.
“Everything is right on the cusp,” he said. “It’s a shame they can’t give the estuary a break.”

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Deepwater Horizon Incident
NOAA – National Ocean Service
April 22, 2010
http://www.incidentnews.gov/incident/8220
NOAA is currently on-scene, supporting an explosion and fire on a deepwater semi-submersible drilling platform some 50 miles southeast of the Mississippi Delta. The incident on the Deepwater Horizon occurred at approximately 11:00 pm on April 20, 2010, with more than 120 crew reported aboard. The rig is still on fire, has been evacuated, and the U.S. Coast Guard Search and Rescue (SAR) operations are continuing.
A secondary concern is the estimated 700,000 gallons (approximately 16,700 barrels) of #2 fuel reported onboard. The U.S. Coast Guard has requested scientific support from NOAA's Office of Response and Restoration (OR&R). NOAA is running oil spill trajectory models of potential spilled oil. The NOAA Weather Service is providing forecasting support. A NOAA Scientific Support Coordinator is on-scene in Morgan City, Louisiana. NOAA will continue to provide scientific support as needed.
Updates by USCG:      http://www.incidentnews.gov/entry/526050      
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County Commission approves additional rock mining
Sun Sentinel - by Andy Reid
April 22, 2010
Rock mining can eat up another 2,400 acres of western agricultural land, despite environmental concerns, Palm Beach County commissioners decided Thursday.
Not even the public relations black eye of endorsing more rock mining on Earth Day stopped the commission from allowing Palm Beach Aggregates to expand its operations west of Royal Palm Beach.
Palm Beach Aggregates proposes teaming up with sugar giant Florida Crystals to spread rock mining to more of the Everglades Agricultural Area – which covers 700,000 acres south of Lake Okeechobee that was drained to make way for farming.
Environmental groups are trying to stop rock mining in the vast agricultural area. They contend that rock mining's deep digging threatens to pollute water supplies and get in the way of using agricultural land to restore water flow to the Everglades.
So far, that argument hasn't worked on Palm Beach County commissioners. The commission in recent years allowed new or expanded rock mines to spread to almost 12,000 acres of western agricultural land, not counting Thursday's 2,400-acre Palm Beach Aggregates approval.
"It's going to have a devastating impact," said Palm Beach County Environmental Coalition's Panagioti Tsolkas, who was removed from the meeting by two sheriff's deputies after speaking out of turn. "We just continue being poisoned."
Commissioners voted 5-2 to approve the mining expansion west of Royal Palm Beach. An extensive state permitting process will address the environmental concerns, Commissioner Jeff Koons said. The pits left behind could be used to build another reservoir to help supplement local water supplies, he said.
"This offers a real opportunity for the region," Koons said.
Commissioners Jess Santamaria and Karen Marcus cast the only votes against mining proposal.
"When is enough enough?" Santamaria asked.                                    
Palm Beach Aggregates for two decades has been digging and blasting through limestone, carving out 30-foot-deep pits that produce about 4 million tons of rock a year to fuel road building and other construction.
A towering crane pulls a drag line that scraps the rock from massive, water-filled pits. The rock gets crushed, sorted and loaded onto a parade of dump trucks that haul the materials to construction sites.
The expansion onto Florida Crystals' land would allow Palm Beach Aggregates to keep mining for another 25 years. Without the expansion, the company contends it has room for about four more years of mining at the current rate.
Even with the home building slowdown, rock is still in need for road building as well as Everglades restoration projects, according to Palm Beach Aggregates.
Palm Beach Aggregates maintains that its expanded rock mining steers clear of land proposed for the construction of reservoirs and treatment areas envisioned for Everglades restoration.
"We have met all the requirements," said Ernie Cox, an attorney for Palm Beach Aggregates. "We are not going to take any chances with the environment."
Palm Beach Aggregates still needs to get state and federal environmental permits before the digging on the expanded area could begin.
Past controversies dogged Palm Beach Aggregates' push to expand.
Rock pits left by Palm Beach Aggregates' mining were turned into a reservoir in a publicly funded, $217 million deal with the South Florida Water Management District. The 15 billion-gallon reservoir dug down to nearly 60 feet deep was completed in 2008, but costly pumps have yet to be built to use that water to replenish the Loxahatchee River, as planned.
The reservoir has been used to boost community water supplies during recent droughts, but quality problems with water left stagnant in the reservoir – because of the delayed pumps – is raising concerns about its future usefulness.
Also, the reservoir deal and Palm Beach Aggregates' past development efforts were linked to corruption scandals that led two Palm Beach County commissioners to resign and go to prison amid a federal corruption investigation. Palm Beach Aggregates owners were not charged.
The new mining proposal comes as a coalition of water utilities in Broward and Palm Beach counties are exploring the possibility of building another reservoir near Palm Beach Aggregates to supplement drinking water supplies.
Drew Martin of the Sierra Club called it "mindboggling" that the Palm Beach County Commission would allow more rock mining to fuel construction, despite threats to water supplies and Everglades restoration.
"Roads are not an endangered species. … There's no shortage of roads," Martin said. "We are trying to protect something of Palm Beach County."
Andy Reid can be reached at abreid@SunSentinel.com or 561-228-5504

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Search for missing workers continues after rig sinks
Houston Chronicle - by TOM FOWLER, MONICA HATCHER and BRETT CLANTON
April 22, 2010
Rescue crews continued scouring the waters of the Gulf of Mexico today looking for 11 missing drilling rig workers even as the rig, which had been burning since Tuesday night, sank beneath the waves.
A U.S. Coast Guard spokesman said the rig sank at 10:20 a.m. A few hours later, Coast Guard officials confirmed again the rig was fully submerged and that the fire had been extinguished.
The agency had initiated plans to mitigate the environmental impact of the accident, Coast Guard Fireman Katherine McNamara said. The “worst case scenario,” she said, was the vessel would spill 700,000 gallons of diesel fuel as well as crude oil into the Gulf.
She did not have more details on cleanup efforts.
There were 126 crew members aboard the semi-submersible rig, owned and operated by Transocean, who had only minutes to abandon the platform before it was swallowed in fire, according to company officials.
 “This would have happened very, very rapidly,” said Adrian Rose, vice president of quality, health, safety and environment for Transocean, the largest drilling contractor in the world, which is based in Switzerland but keeps major offices in Houston.
Stanley Murray, the father of one of the workers who escaped from the rig said in an interview in Louisiana this morning his son told him he didn’t think any of the missing could have survived.
“The 11 that’s missing, they won’t find ‘em,” Murray said. “They’re burned up.”
Three people were critically injured among 17 who were flown by air ambulance to hospitals in New Orleans and Mobile, Ala., for treatment after the fire broke out around 10 p.m. Tuesday.
Family of one of the missing crew members has filed the first federal lawsuit Thursday in the Eastern District Court of Louisiana against Transocean and BP.
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Shane Roshto, a roustabout who was working on the rig when the accident took place. Roshto is believed to have been thrown overboard and killed while following the instructions of his employer, Transocean, and performing his duties, according to the suit.
The complaint alleges negligence on the part of Transocean and BP and that the accident was caused by the companies’ failure to comply with federal regulations and statutes, as well as failing to provide a competant crew, a safe workplace and properly supervise employees, among other allegations.
Natalie Roshto, Shane Roshto’s wife, who also is a plaintiff in the suit, “is distraught as she does not know whether or not her husband is alive and is currently suffering from post traumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety and other injuries which will be show upon the trial of this matter,” the complaint read.
The plaintiffs are seeking unspecified damages.
The semi-submersible rig has been under lease by BP since 2007. It had completed cementing and casing of an 18,000-foot exploratory well, Rose said, when a sudden and abnormal pressure buildup occurred in piping connecting the well to the rig. The well depth includes the 5,000 feet of water in which the rig was floating.
“Gas or oil got into the pipe and as it came up through the riser it expanded rapidly and ignited,” Rose said.
While the incident appeared to resemble a blowout, Rose cautioned that it was far too early to determine the exact cause. He said a formal investigation would begin only after the missing crew members have been found and other workers have been reunited with their families.
While most of the hydrocarbons were being burned off by the fire, a light sheen could be seen on the surrounding waters, and seven major oil spill response vessels were in route to the area, said Rear Admiral Mary Landry, commander of the Eighth Coast Guard District.
Landry also said a “massive” rescue effort included three helicopters, a plane and four Coast Guard cutters that scoured a 900-square-mile area. Overnight, the search was scaled back to two cutters and early this morning a broader search, including aircraft, will resume.
Coast Guard Fireman McNamara said Thursday afternoon that one helicopter and one Coast Guard cutter were currently searching Gulf waters for the workers. and that so far the agency had covered 2,000 square miles.
Crew from several firms
Rose said 79 of the workers were Transocean employees. BP spokesman Daren Beaudo said his firm had six employees on board who have been found safe. Halliburton said it had four workers on board and that all were accounted for. Evacuees from other third-party firms were still being identified.
The affiliations of the 11 missing remained unclear, and Transocean declined to release their names.
The firm is setting up bases in New Orleans and Port Fourchon, La., where families can get information and be reunited with loved ones.
 “Our greatest responsibility is the safety and well-being of our crews,” Rose said. “The ongoing care and support and counseling of families is also on our minds.”
In a recent fleet report, Transocean said that Deep­water Horizon entered service in 2001, can operate in 10,000 feet of water and drill to a depth of 30,000 feet. Last year, the rig drilled the deepest oil and gas well ever at BP’s Tiber discovery in the Gulf of Mexico — to a depth of 35,050 feet — while operating in 4,130 feet of water.
The Coast Guard’s Landry said she believed the rig had been inspected three times since the beginning of the year.
Transocean has 14 rigs operating in the Gulf of Mexico. The company employs about 18,500 people.
Rebuilding the same rig today would cost between $600 million and $700 million.
One of the worst in years
The incident on the Deepwater Horizon, which was working on the Macondo prospect for BP in a deep- water area known as Mississippi Canyon, appears to be one of the worst offshore fires in the Gulf in several years. Major offshore fires are relatively rare and can be caused by any number of events, from improper welding to blowouts of flammable hydrocarbons.
The Coast Guard will try to determine the cause of the blaze with BP and the U.S. Minerals Management Service, the Coast Guard said.
The incident is the latest in a string of accidents at U.S. oil and gas facilities that have put the industry’s safety record in the spotlight.
Six people died during an April 2 explosion and fire at Tesoro’s Anacortes, Wash., refinery. Three workers were injured at an April 14 fire at Exxon Mobil’s Baton Rouge refinery, and one worker died April 19 in a crane accident at Motiva Enterprises’ Port Arthur refinery.
 “Every time an incident like this occurs, we ask ourselves what we can do better,” Jack Gerard, CEO of the American Petroleum Institute, an industry trade group, told reporters in Houston Wednesday morning after hearing about the Deepwater Horizon fire. ”Among the oil and gas industry, any injury or fatality is too much.”
Chronicle reporters Jennifer Latson and Lindsay Wise contributed.

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12 are missing after blast in Gulf of Mexico
Houston Chronicle – by Monica Hatcher
April 21, 2010
The U.S. Coast Guard confirmed that 12 people were still missing mid-morning on Wednesday following a massive overnight fire aboard an offshore rig operating about 50 miles off the Louisiana coast in the Gulf of Mexico.
A coast guard official said firefighters were still battling the blaze that broke out around 10 p.m. aboard the Deepwater Horizon.
The semi-submersible rig is owned and operated by Houston-based Transocean, the world's largest offshroe drilling contractor, and has been under lease by BP since 2007.
The U.S. Coast Guard said 15 workers had been transported by air ambulance early Wednesday morning and were being treated at West Jefferson Hospital in New Orleans and at the Mobile Trauma Center in Mobile, Ala.
A spokeswoman for West Jefferson Medical Center said four of the injured were taken there early this morning but three have been discharged.
Seven people in all were critically injured in the fire, the cause of which is still being investigated. Ninety-nine others who were safely evacuated from the rig are currently en route to Port Fourchon,the U.S. Coast Guard said.
In a recent fleet report, Transocean said Deepwater Horizon entered service in 2001 and can operate in 10,000 feet of water and drilling to a depth of 30,000 feet. The company has about 17 rigs operating in the Gulf of Mexico.
BP spokesman Daren Beaudo said his firm had six employees on board who were safe and accounted for.
Coast Guard officials have described the incident as an explosion and fire, but a statement from Transocean just describes it as a fire. The incident appears to be one of the worst offshore fires in the Gulf of Mexico in the last two decades.
Offshore fires are relatively rare and can be caused by any number of events, from improper welding to blowouts of flammable hydrocarbons. The U.S. Minerals Management Service, which inspects rigs for safety and investigates accidents, has records of 11 fires since 1990, two resulting in two fatalities.
The Coast Guard will be conducting an investigation of the cause of the blaze with BP and the U.S. Minerals Management Service, the Coast Guard said.
The incident comes only weeks after a major fire at a Tesoro refinery in Anacortes, Washington killed six people and five years after a massive explosion at a BP refining facility in Texas City claimed the lives of 15 workers. The accidents have put the safety record of the oil and gas industry in the spotlight.
“Every time an incident like this occurs, we ask ourselves what, can we do better,” Jack Gerard, CEO of the American Petroleum Institute, an oil and gas industry trade group, told reporters in Houston this morning after hearing about the incident offshore Louisiana. ”Among the oil and gas industry, any injury or fatality is too much.”
Transocean has set up a phone number for family members of the workers onboard the drilling rig. They may call (832) 587-8554 for any updates or information.
Business writers Brett Clanton and Tom Fowler contributed to this report.
monica.hatcher@chron.com

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US coast guards are searching the Gulf of Mexico for at least 11 oil workers missing after an explosion and fire on a drilling platform.
BBC News
April 21, 2010

  • designated a semisubmersible drilling unit
  • built in 2001 by South Korea's Hyundai Heavy Industries Shipyard
  • 396ft (120m) long and 256ft (78m) wide
  • designed to operate in water depths of up to 8,000ft

The rig was still burning hours after the blast on Tuesday night, 52 miles (84km) south-east of the Louisiana port of Venice.
Coast guards spoke of conflicting reports on the number of missing, which ranged from 11 to 15.
Seven badly injured workers were airlifted to hospitals.
Workers evacuated the Deepwater Horizon, a semi-submersible rig operated by Swiss-based contractor Transocean, after the blast at around 2200 on Tuesday (0300 GMT Wednesday).
There were 126 workers aboard the rig at the time.
'Burning pretty good'
Coast guard spokesman Senior Chief Petty Officer Mike O'Berry said four helicopters, four coast guard boats and a plane were helping search for the missing workers.
"We're hoping everyone's in a life raft," he added.
The seven injured workers were airlifted to a naval air station near New Orleans, then taken to hospitals. Two were taken to a trauma centre in Mobile, Alabama, which has a burns unit.
Fire boats were still battling the flames on the rig on Wednesday morning.
"It's burning pretty good and there's no estimate on when the fire will be put out," the coast guard spokesman said.
Coast guard environmental teams were on stand-by to assess any environmental damage once the fire was out, he added.
Deepwater Horizon was drilling for BP on Mississippi Canyon Block 252.
In a statement, Transocean said "a substantial majority" of the crew were safe but "some" crew members remained unaccounted for.
A Transocean spokesman in Houston, Greg Panagos, said it was too early to talk about the possible cause of the explosion.
The rig, he added, had been drilling and had not been in production.
Deepwater Horizon, built in 2001 by South Korea's Hyundai, is 396ft (120m) long and 256ft (78m) wide, according to the company's website.
It was working on a part of the block known as the Macondo prospect, in 5,000ft (1.5km) of water.
On its website, Transocean describes itself as the world's largest offshore drilling contractor, with more than 50 years' experience "with the highest specification rigs" and 18,000 employees.

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Eating the Dead in the Everglades
Counterpunch - by ALAN FARAGO (Friends of the Everglades)
April 20, 2010
"How Much Land is Society Going to Sacrifice?"
In June 2002, Washington Post writer Michael Grunwald quoted one of the nation's GOP power brokers, Al Hoffman:
""You can't stop it," said (Hoffman), the most influential developer in a state crowded with influential developers. At the time he was the top money man for Gov. Jeb Bush and lead an exclusive council of CEOs who advised the governor on policy. He had been co-chair of George W. Bush's presidential campaign and the Republican National Committee's finance chair. "There's no power on earth that can stop it!" Hoffman, cried ... "The unstoppable force Hoffman was talking about is the runaway development marching from southwest Florida toward the Everglades. The Naples area was the second-fastest-growing in America in the 1990s. The Fort Myers-Cape Coral area is not far behind. And the gated golf course communities that have come to define this subtropical mecca are spreading east." (Washington Post, June 25, 2002)
In the summer of 2002, Jeb Bush was on cruise control to a final term as Florida governor. State Democrats were nowhere. Hoffman knew what he was talking about. Bush's opponent during that campaign was a Tampa based attorney, Bill McBride, whose wife, Alex Sink, is now the Democratic candidate for governor. Life was good in Bushland. Low interest rates triggered by 9/11 and concern for the economy provided fuel and political kindling for a housing boom of historic proportions. Jebco fully mechanized the process of harvesting campaign contributions; its baling wire looped around every water pipe, driller, engineer, farmer and land speculator from Miami to Jacksonville, from the Atlantic to the Gulf of Mexico. It was inconceivable, except to a few planners and environmentalists, that exuberance would turn to dust.
"It's an inevitable tidal wave!" declared Hoffman to the Washington Post. The hubris foreshadowed the detritus littering the Florida landscape in the worst housing bust since the Great Depression. In August 2008, Hoffman's former company, WCI Communities, Inc., declared bankruptcy with more than $2 billion in debt. There is so little good news that the local newspaper ballyhoo'd when the region dropped to sixth place in March, from second in February of all regions in the nation for its foreclosure rate (April 15, 2010, "Cape Coral-Fort Myers foreclosure rate drops to sixth in US", Naples Daily News). Apocryphal tales abound in Florida. The state is a graveyard for them.
Gusto filled the proscenium stage when Bush gave his inaugural address in January 2003. As was his want, Bush brushed critics off and gave words to a zeitgeist that still smolders in the hearts of Tea Party activists: “There will be no greater tribute to our maturity as a society," Bush said, "than if we can make these buildings around us empty of workers; as silent monuments to the time when government played a larger role than it deserved or could adequately fill." At virtually the same moment of Bush's speech in Tallahassee, HUD Secretary Mel Martinez, a former Orange County (Orlando) commissioner was laying the foundation for Florida's future.
In late January 2003 Martinez delivered the keynote address to the National Association of Homebuilders annual meeting in Las Vegas. "We also must work in close partnership to dispel the myth that our nation is experiencing a "housing bubble," Martinez said. "Bubbles of course do burst, but the housing market is not in the same category of other weaker and less competitive sectors of the economy… this Administration is making it easier for people to purchase their own homes - a change that will help drive home development and sales. And, it will help more minorities become homeowners.” Martinez, who would become a one term US Senator, yielded his seat to the current GOP primary battle between the state's governor, Charlie Crist, a Bush stand-in; former Florida House speaker Marco Rubio.
Today, in its mainly GOP ghost suburbs, Collier County homeowners have forgotten all about Al Hoffman and the exuberance of Bush era Manifest Destiny. They keep lights on at night to keep copper pipes from being stolen. The Obama administration could reveal the scale of devastation--like flares lighting the nightime sky in the HBO series, "Pacific"-- but requiring the nation's financial institutions to mark their "assets"-- formed of real estate loans in places like Collier County-- to market is more reality than a nation, addicted to reality, can bear.
WCI Communities is, today, another 'dead cat walking'. It is not a casual metaphor. It is the subtitle of a new series published this weekend in The St. Pete Times by investigative journalist Craig Pittman, 2 years in the making, detailing the struggle of the Florida panther for survival.
Here's a sample from Pittman's report:
"Most of the projects the Fish and Wildlife Service has approved since 1995 are in Collier County. The largest is the new town of Ave Maria, which in 2005 was given permission to destroy 5,027 acres of habitat that had been nine miles from the nearest suburb."
Pittman doesn't say, but it is clear enough that the Jeb Bush environmental destruction machinery caused Ave Maria, for the benefit of right-wing pizza king Tom Monaghan, to be zoned and permitted in panther habitat.
Today, Collier County and Miami-Dade County are aiming to pass a comprehensive master plan amendment to create a 1600 acre off-road vehicle park in the middle of the Big Cypress National Preserve; prime panther habitat. The state agency helping to push the plan is chaired by Rodney Barreto, a Jeb's top lieutenant and left-over from the old regime.
In 2002, the Washington Post wrote:
"Al Hoffman is tired of the Florida panther... His business, after all, is booming. When he took WCI public in March, he predicted 15 to 20 percent annual growth rates. (The Florida House celebrated the occasion with a resolution honoring his "entrepreneurial spirit, unrivaled vision, strong leadership, generous nature and love of Florida.")
"As far as Hoffman is concerned, it makes a lot more sense to use land to provide shelter for thousands of people than to lock it up to preserve vast swaths of foraging habitat for a single cross-bred cat. He has said as much to Jeb Bush. "What is the cost of protecting this bastardized species?" Hoffman asked. "How much land is society going to sacrifice?"
Apparently, a lot.
Tell the facts about the environment and the public groans and retracts. Tell "good news", and keep the public engaged at least for a little while longer. In the 1980s, Joe Podgor-- then director of Friends of the Everglades, summed up what is at stake: "The Everglades is a test. Pass, and we may get to keep the planet."
Just last week, a federal court judge -- Alan S. Gold-- issued a stinging rebuke of the EPA in litigation brought by Friends of the Everglades for failing to follow federal laws in issuing pollution discharge permits to the State of Florida. Judge Gold's ruling, to paraphrase, told the EPA and the state of Florida that his courtroom was through with the lies and excuses by the EPA and state agencies. This news has to be shared. It has to find its way to the public, where all kinds of constituents angry with government have yet to figure out the math. On that front, so far not so good unless you are a vulture: if it's dead, eat it.
Alan Farago, conservation chair of Friends of the Everglades, lives in south Florida. He can be reached at: afarago@bellsouth.net

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A New Shade of Green
The Wall Street Journal
April 17, 2010
Today's environmental challenges are far different from those of 40 years ago. And so, argues William Ruckelshaus, the solutions must change as well.
By WILLIAM RUCKELSHAUS
In the 1960s, it all seemed so simple.
We humans with our big cars and our big factories and our big cities were discharging terrible stuff into the air and water, and it had to be stopped or we would soon make our nest uninhabitable. The public was growing increasingly outraged. Every night on color television, we saw yellow sludge flowing into blue rivers; every day as we drove to work, we saw black smudges against the barely visible blue sky. We knew that our indiscriminate use of pesticides and toxic substances was threatening wildlife and public health.
But we didn't do much about it. Until 1970, most regulation of industry was done by the states, which competed so strongly for plants and jobs that regulating companies to protect public health was beyond them.
Environmentally, it was a race to the bottom.
Until, that is, the public had enough and demanded action. A seminal moment: the first Earth Day, on April 22, 1970, when cars were buried and action was demanded from the Nixon administration and Congress.
And they both acted. President Nixon created the Environmental Protection Agency, and Congress, starting with the Council on Environmental Quality, passed a cascade of laws designed to clean up our act.
One of my first public actions as the first head of the EPA was to bring major enforcement actions against three large cities for violations of the Clean Water Act. We followed that with additional action against the steel industry and other industrial polluters. I knew that the job of the EPA would be far more contentious in the future if we didn't establish its credibility and its willingness to take forceful—and symbolic—action right from the start. The American people had to know we were serious about meeting their demands.
Fast forward to 2010. In so many ways, the problems of the 1970s seem almost quaint now—simpler problems of a simpler time. Our biggest challenge now is to make sure we don't succumb to our inevitable tendency to fight the last war. Or to put it more bluntly: Yesterday's solutions worked well on yesterday's problems, but the solutions we devised back in the 1970s aren't likely to make much of a dent in the environmental problems we face today.
Don't get me wrong: Considerable progress has been made thanks to those early laws. Air pollution, particularly of the kinds listed in the Clean Air Act of 1970, has been driven to much lower concentrations, and public health and the environment have benefited greatly.
Similarly, under the Clean Water Act, river basins and watersheds have been cleaned up all over the country. Back in the 1960s, Lake Erie was declared dead; it now supports a fishery of several hundred million dollars a year. The same can be said for many gross pollution problems—the smell, touch and feel kind. How quickly we forget what the world was like in the 1940s and '50s when most everyone burned soft coal in their furnaces to stay warm during the winter, putting an intolerable burden on our lungs and respiratory system.
No Place to Hide
The tactics of the 1970s show what we can accomplish if we put our minds to the task. But today's tasks require more than putting our minds to them. They require a new mind-set.
To understand why, remember that most of the laws we put in place back then were based on the belief that the fundamental problem was the weakness of state regulatory programs. If we just centralized the regulation of industry at the federal level, there would be no place for the polluters to hide.
The current generation of problems that we are facing, though, is much more subtle, much less visible to the naked eye—and often not nearly as susceptible to a top-down, command-and-control approach.
The rise of climate change as a major national and global problem offers a vivid example. Climate change is difficult to deal with politically because the people who benefit (future generations) are not the same as those who pay (the current generation). That is, our children and grandchildren will reap the gains of any costs that we bear in reducing our current use of carbon.
On these kinds of issues where the payer and beneficiary are not the same, the American people are ideological liberals and operational conservatives. They are all for the promised results; they just don't want to pay for them. Little wonder that most people will tell their pollsters they are in favor of reducing the impact of our current lifestyle on future generations, but their scant support for policies that will accomplish that belie their commitment.
I believe that if we are going to address climate change successfully, the top-down, standard-setting enforcement process of the 1970s has to be rethought. It worked just fine when the goal was clear: cutting the amount of specific pollutants from a finite number of industrial and municipal entities. But climate change—which involves the behavior of all of us who heat our homes and drive our cars, not just business and industry—is too big and too complicated for something as blunt as this approach.
Instead, I believe we are going to have to make the substances that cause the problem (for example, carbon or methane) cost more. In other words, if you want people to use less of something, tax it, and then give society flexibility in achieving the desired reductions. If we ever get serious about climate change, that's what we will do.
Let me offer another example of how the environmental fight has to change tactics. In 1970, when the EPA was first started, the estimate of its water-quality office was that 85% of the problems of water pollution in the country were large point-source discharges, like municipal sewage-treatment plants or industrial operations. Only 15% were non-point sources—the runoff from city streets, suburban lawns, and rural and farm areas.
Over the course of the past four decades, we have largely brought the point-source pollution problem under control by instituting a national permit program that spells out for each discharger, whether industrial or municipal, precisely what they are allowed to put into waterways, and in the event they do not live up to those permit requirements, enforcement action is likely to follow.
By the same token, we have made little or no progress on non-point-source pollution. In fact, the EPA's latest estimate is that the percentage impact on receiving waters is just the reverse of that in 1970: 15% of the problem is point sources, and 85% of the impact is non-point sources.
Impractical Approach
The problem is that instituting a top-down solution for this kind of pollution is a lot more difficult than passing laws that target big industrial or municipal offenders. It turns out that while people will support such rules in the abstract, they aren't nearly as eager when it comes to allowing inspectors on their land to tell them how they should manage, say, storm-water runoffs. What's more, in practical terms, it's simply impossible to regulate and monitor everyone who owns property in these areas, as opposed to the comparatively small number of industrial plants and sewage facilities.
The result has been to frustrate efforts to clean up places like the Chesapeake Bay or the Great Lakes. These efforts have floundered on the shoals of landowner intractability in the face of regulatory mandates. Often the people who support the controls in the abstract and those who resist in the particular are one and the same.
Even when legislators or local governments mandate certain land-use practices, they will not appropriate money to hire inspectors to enforce them, or local courts will not back up the full reach of land-use restrictions. Our lawmakers and courts are simply reflecting the public's ideological/operational disconnect by their actions. (After all, that is what elected officials who want to stay elected do.)
Lessons for the Future
So what does this all mean for 2010? What does it mean for protecting the environment 40 years after that first Earth Day and nearly 40 years after the EPA first opened its doors?
I am convinced that when we put our creative minds to it, we are perfectly capable of harmonizing human prosperity and growth with environmental protection. But putting our mind to some of the more intractable modern problems like climate change and non-point-source pollution is indeed quite a task. It will take a level of public understanding and knowledge of the relationship between the way we live and what we are doing to our natural systems, coupled with a sense of responsibility for the stewardship of our planet, that does not currently exist.
My own experience in a variety of posts over the past 40 years leads me to certain conclusions.
First is that people affected by change have to be deeply involved in the crafting of solutions—they are going to pay for them either economically or through changes in how they live. We need more democracy, not less. Trying to enact rules centrally to control the behavior of hundreds, sometimes thousands of people in a watershed when their individual contribution is minuscule, but collectively overwhelming, is futile. We have been trying a command-and-control, top-down approach for the past four decades to control non-point sources of water pollution. The examples of the Great Lakes, Chesapeake Bay and Puget Sound are grim testimony to our failure. If one solution doesn't work, the answer is not to push it harder but to look for new approaches.
Second, we have to get better at both involving people in the process of change and providing them with enough information to make that involvement useful and worthwhile. My experience recently helping with salmon recovery efforts in Puget Sound tells me that when people understand their self-interest in solving a problem, they are more than willing to agree to the trade-offs necessary to come to a solution.
Third, we need uniformly supported science and technical support to inform the discretion of the "deeply involved" people if they are going to come up with sustainable solutions. Dueling scientists make for confused participants in the decision-making process and the subsequent lawsuits lead to expensive and time-consuming nonsolutions. Yes, scientists often disagree, but if the parties affected take an adversarial position to one another at the outset, then scientific disagreement is inevitable. If all interested parties are working together and can agree on a scientist or group of scientists as they start their efforts to fashion a solution, they can avoid the court-inspired dueling-scientist phenomenon.
Hard Collaboration
Fortunately, we have some examples in the Great Lakes, Chesapeake Bay and Puget Sound where all the interests affected by the needed changes have been invited to the table, and challenged by the government or themselves to put their positions in their pocket and their interests on the table. What people often find is that their interests can be harmonized, and we can have prosperous farms and healthy fish, safe drinking water and sustainable development, and so forth.
These citizen collaborations have to be carefully structured, stimulated and led by leaders in the government or private sector, facilitated by trained professionals, and end with an outcome of clear goals and objectives.
This is hard work: It takes time, effort and skills not often enjoyed by governments. But the payoffs from avoiding delays—and the economic and environmental costs that come with those delays—are well worth it.
If there is any overriding lesson we should learn from the progress we made over the past 40 years, it is this: We have always shown our ability to adapt to meet new and complex challenges, as long as we are given the chance to go to work on them.
Mr. Ruckelshaus was the first administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency upon its creation in 1970, and served as EPA administrator again during the 1980s. He is now the strategic director of Madrona Venture Group and chairman of the Leadership Council of Puget Sound Partnership. He can be reached at reports@wsj.com .

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Letter: U.S. Sugar land purchase 'essential' for Everglades restoration
TC-Palm – Letter by Ted Guy, Stuart, FL
April 17, 2010
In reference to “Our View: Sugarcoating won’t suffice: What effect will U.S. Sugar deal have on other water restoration projects?” (April 6): If the editor who penned the subject editorial had paid attention to the South Florida Water Management District’s Water Resources Advisory Commission’s Lake O meeting outputs the past 15 months, he’d know the answers to his questions.
Nine teams of very knowlegeable volunteers and professionals spent those months coming up with plans for use of the U.S. Sugar land purchase. Those plans are available on the district’s River of Grass Web site. We are now into 18 months of phase two, more detailed planning. The district has done an outstanding job of involving the stakeholder public in the planning.
And, the Everglades Agricultural Area’s A-1 reservoir was doomed to failure from the start, since it was modeled after the completely failed Tampa Bill Young reservoir and the completely failed Ten Mile Creek reservoir in St. Lucie County. Deep water above ground reservoirs of that design simply don’t work. They leak with disastrous consequences and deteriorate water quality instead of enhancing it.
If you read Judge Federico Moreno’s order carefully, he’s suggesting modification of the 1992 consent decree. After 18 years, the decree no longer reflects reality for the Everglades. For example, the judge suggests raising the phosphorous limit for the Everglades from 10 parts per billion to to 17 parts per billion.
We do appreciate that the Stuart News champions the U.S. Sugar purchase. It is essential! Without it, we would remain at stalemate in saving the Everglades and the estuaries. A flow way south from Lake Okeechobee to the Everglades is absolutely necessary.
I also commend to everyone to read Nat Reed’s excellent op-ed on the same page of the April 6 edition about the pulse releases. He’s right!
Ted Guy, Stuart, FL

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Winter devastates pythons in Everglades
Tampabay.com - by BRIAN SKOLOFF, Associated Press Writer
April 17, 2010
WEST PALM BEACH — Florida's first python hunting season ends Saturday with no reptiles reported captured and killed, wildlife officials said Friday.
The season opened March 8 for anyone with a hunting license who paid a $26 permit fee to hunt nonnative reptiles on state-managed lands around the Everglades.
But the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission thinks the unseasonably cold winter weather got to the pythons first, killing up to half of them.
Scott Hardin, exotic species coordinator, said nine out of 10 pythons scientists had been tracking with radio collars in Everglades National Park apparently died from the weather.
But he said the species remains a threat, with an estimated tens of thousands of pythons in the Glades.
The critters have few natural enemies in the Glades and feed on endangered species. The constrictors can grow to 26 feet and weigh more than 200 pounds.

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White House Conference Focuses on Northern Everglades, Other National Landscapes
The Nature Conservancy
April 16, 2010
National discussion on wilderness and working ranches coming to Florida.
ALTAMONTE SPRINGS, FL — April 16, 2010 — The Obama Administration today included the Everglades when it announced a focus on protecting big, iconic landscapes that connect Americans to the outdoors, a focus The Nature Conservancy welcomes wholeheartedly.
President Barack Obama spoke at the Great Outdoors America conference this morning, a conference the likes of which has not been seen in the last 100 years, he said. He stated that conservation is consistent with economic well being and that he wants to “enrich” the legacy of President Teddy Roosevelt, who began the movement to protect the country’s iconic places.
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said one of several listening sessions around the country to touch base with people already bonded with the land will occur in Florida and focus on the Northern Everglades. The Nature Conservancy has helped protect 1.2 million acres in Florida, including 355,000 acres in the Everglades, and is currently working with partners on several Northern Everglades projects that would result in more than 150,000 acres being conserved.
 “We are excited to learn there will be a listening session in Florida and look forward to the discussion of how protecting the Northern Everglades working lands fit into the administration’s priorities,” said Jeff Danter, The Nature Conservancy’s director in Florida.
The vast region of wilderness and working ranches called the Northern Everglades is such a place. Extending some 170 miles from the outskirts of Orlando to the Big Cypress Preserve is one of the great grassland and savanna landscapes of eastern North America. Still largely rural, the 4-million-acre watershed sustains one of the most important assemblages of imperiled vertebrate wildlife in the southeast and a large portion of the natural habitat remaining in peninsular Florida, including globally rare habits.
 “Credit the Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service with recognizing years ago the need to protect these large swaths of open land and wetlands in a fast-growing state like Florida and making possible today’s news,” said Danter.
“There is a unique opportunity right now to conserve wildlife, wetlands and water in the greater Everglades ecosystem and at the same time sustain Florida’s ranching culture.  Protecting Florida’s working lands provides huge conservation benefits, and by using conservation easements we can leverage dollars and keep management in the hands of our best stewards, Florida ranchers,” he said.
 “We are counting on the full support of Florida’s congressional delegation and look forward to working with them to secure funding for these conservation priorities in Florida,” said Danter. “We thank Sen. Nelson for hosting the Florida congressional delegation for a Northern Everglades briefing last month in D.C.”
Dedicated funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund, through a bill currently under consideration in Congress (S. 2747 by Senators Jeff Bingaman and Max Baucus), will be essential in order to realize what is possible in this area, Danter said. The Land and Water Conservation Fund has only received a small portion of its fully authorized amount over the last several years. Danter urges the Florida congressional delegation to support this legislation.

The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. The Conservancy and its more than 1 million members have protected nearly 120 million acres worldwide. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at www.nature.org
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Audubon pushing tougher pollution cleanup rules for farmers to boost Everglades restoration
Sun Sentinel - by Andy Reid
April 15, 2010
Audubon of Florida picked a political fight with Big Sugar on Thursday, calling for tougher water pollution rules for agriculture to try to jumpstart Everglades restoration.
The push for tougher water quality requirements comes after a federal judge's blistering ruling Wednesday that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the state of Florida left Everglades restoration "rudderless" by failing to enforce the Clean Water Act.
Audubon contends that the most immediate way to respond to the judge's call for action is to toughen the water quality requirements for runoff from sugar cane fields and other farms in 700,000-acre Everglades Agricultural Area, south of Lake Okeechobee.
The environmental advocacy group wants the South Florida Water Management District to update pollution cleanup rules in place since 1992 on growers in the vast agricultural area.
That could mean requiring farmers to store more stormwater on their properties and to more frequently clean up polluted muck from the drainage canals that deliver water that ends up in the Everglades.
"There are some distinct opportunities … that could leverage tremendous amounts of improvements," said Charles Lee, Audubon director of advocacy. "It's probably the most practical and immediate movement you can make."
Agricultural representatives on Thursday countered that growers already have changed their practices to improve water quality. They blame urban stormwater runoff and polluted water from Lake Okeechobee for South Florida failing to meet water quality standards set for the Everglades.
"It's not the farm water that's the issue," said Judy Sanchez, U.S. Sugar Corp. spokeswoman. "Tweaking the [cleanup rules] is just going to cost the farmers more money and it won't give you any cleaner water."
The South Florida Water Management District plans to wade into the politically divisive water quality issue in the next few months. That could include updating the "best management practices" required of farmers to lessen agricultural pollution.
The concern is the amount of phosphorus that ends up in the Everglades.
Phosphorus comes from fertilizer as well as the natural decay of soil on agricultural fields. Stormwater that drains off farmland, as well as urban areas, carries phosphorus to the Everglades and fuels the growth of cattails that squeeze out sawgrass and other native habitat.
The water management district built more than 40,000 acres of manmade filter marshes – called stormwater treatment areas – to remove phosphorus and other pollutants from water needed to hydrate the Everglades. So far, those treatment areas have failed to consistently meet water quality standards that call for limiting phosphorus levels to 10 parts per billion.
Florida was supposed to start meeting the 10 parts per billion standard in 2006. U.S. District Judge Alan Gold on Wednesday blasted the EPA for "glacial slowness," threatening fines and sanctions if officials don't set an "enforceable" timetable to start imposing the water pollution standards.
Audubon contends tougher rules for farmers should be the first step, but Charles Shinn of the Florida Farm Bureau says that growers are already doing their part. The 10 parts per billion standard is not economically feasible, Shinn said.
"We are stacking these blocks higher and higher and higher," Shinn said about the water quality regulations.
Shinn said more needs to be done to clean up polluted runoff before it reaches Lake Okeechobee, which gets tapped for irrigation, and to remove polluted muck from the lake to improve the quality of water headed to South Florida.
Sanchez points to U.S. Sugar's proposed $536 million Everglades restoration land deal with the Water Management District as a way to address South Florida's water quality problems.
The still-pending deal calls for using 73,000 acres of U.S. Sugar land south of Lake Okeechobee to build reservoirs and treatment areas to store and clean polluted stormwater needed to replinish the Everglades.
Audubon supports the U.S. Sugar land deal, but contends that tougher water quality rules for South Florida farms are still needed.
Andy Reid can be reached at abreid@SunSentinel.com or 561-228-5504

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Florida Water Resources Annual Conference Focuses on Numeric Nutrient and Other Water Issues
PRweb
April 15, 2010
 (PRWEB) April 15, 2010 -- As green technology progresses at an unprecedented rate and the demand for efficient, effective equipment and supplies continues, the importance of the Florida Water Resources Conference (FWRC) is paramount. This 3-day utility conference, packed with technical sessions, exhibits, and networking opportunities, is the largest of it’s kind in the Southeast. Planned for May 16 –19, 2010 at the Renaissance Resort at Seaworld, Orlando, over 250 exhibitors and 2,400 attendees are expected.
A joint conference of the Florida Section American Water Works Association, the Florida Water Environment Association, and the Florida Water and Pollution Control Operators Association, the FWRC is celebrating it’s 85th gathering.
A comprehensive, quality technical program including daily workshops and sessions, will focus on industry and environmental hot topics such as numeric nutrient criteria, which is being closely monitored by all. In January 2009 the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) decided that Florida – and only Florida – needed statewide numeric nutrient water quality standards.
Florida utilities, through the Florida Water Environment Association (FWEA) Utility Council, believe the existing narrative nutrient criteria have served the State well. The FWEA Utility Council is supportive of science-based criteria that protect waters of the state, and was actively participating in an ongoing program by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to evaluate water body specific nutrient criteria. EPA's actions, unfortunately, have derailed this scientific approach. Therefore, they are opposing EPA's actions as being contrary to law and unscientific. The FWEA Utility Council believes that EPAs actions will have numerous unintended consequences with little or no environmental benefit.
The Student Design Competition will take place on Sunday, May 16 where brilliant teams from Florida Universities present their recommendations and fresh solutions to real life environmental issues and wastewater projects. This year we will have two (2) teams each from University of Central Florida, University of Florida, Florida Atlantic University, University of Miami, University of South Florida. This is a great opportunity to see the young guns demonstrate their very capable abilities. University of Florida, last year’s winners, topic was “Green Infrastructure and LID Design for Florida Constructed Environs, Subject to Rainfall Runoff Loadings”. This team won the Water Environment Federation National Competition held last October.
This year the Operations Challenge, scheduled for Monday, May 17, brings teams of treatment plant operators and laboratory technicians from around the state, to compete in timed Collection System, Laboratory, Process Control, Pump Maintenance, and Safety events. The winning team will go to the national Water Environment Federations conference in October to compete against other state winners.
On Tuesday the Top Ops Competition, teams of 3 from utilities around the state, will be judged on operator knowledge of water treatment, troubleshooting, process control, safety, laboratory procedures and regulations in a College Bowl quiz-show format. They to will compete against other states at the national American Water Works Association Annual ACE event in June.
For more information visit www.fwrc.org
Contact: Holly Hanson, Executive Director
Florida Water Resources Conference Inc.
407-363-7751

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No pythons caught during Fla. hunting season
Associated Press
April 15, 2010
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — An unseasonably cold winter in Florida may have taken care of what python hunters could not.
Not a single python has been caught since the state started allowing hunters with special permits to track them on state-managed lands around the Everglades. The season started March 8 and ends Saturday.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission says cold weather is believed to have killed up to 50 percent of the pythons.
They are a problem because they have few natural predators in Florida and are feeding on native wildlife, including endangered species.
Officials say pet owners have freed their snakes and reptiles when they get too big. They also think some Burmese pythons may have escaped from pet shops during Hurricane Andrew in 1992.

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Judge: Everglades pollution violated laws
Herald Tribume.com - by Kate Spinner
April 14, 2010
A U.S. District Court judge in Miami has ruled that the federal Environmental Protection Agency and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection have violated federal clean water laws by allowing too much phosphorus pollution to flow into the Everglades for two decades.
Judge Alan Gold told the agencies to abide by the federal laws that set limits on how much phosphorus can reach the Everglades, or face penalties.
Phosphorus -- mostly from fertilizer runoff from farms -- causes a nutrient imbalance in the Everglades, leading to major ecological changes that are bad for wildlife, including algae blooms and the overgrowth of cattails.
Instead of following the laws, the agencies routinely postponed taking measures to clean the water to acceptable standards.
The judge has ordered that top administrators for the EPA and the DEP appear before him on Oct. 7 to report on the steps they have taken to follow his judicial order.
The order arises from a lawsuit filed by the Miccosukee Tribe of Indians, who live in the Everglades, and the environmental group Friends of the Everglades.

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Crist helping company, not Everglades, with sugar deal
The Palm Beach Post – Commentary by Gaston Cantens
April 14, 2010
Joel Engelhardt's column and U.S. Sugar CEO Robert Buker's op-ed article attempt to distort reality, both subscribing to "don't let facts get in the way of a good story."
Mr. Buker claims that U.S. Sugar's deal with the governor is for Everglades preservation, not the enrichment of a struggling company, while Mr. Engelhardt attempts to characterize our dealings with the South Florida Water Management District and U.S. Sugar as opportunistic.
In June 2008, Gov. Charlie Crist announced a $1.75 billion deal to buy all of U.S. Sugar's assets, with the stated goal of establishing a connection between Lake Okeechobee and the Everglades. Florida Crystals did not oppose this deal. We felt it could provide solutions while ensuring sustainable agriculture's vibrant future.
Florida Crystals shares the same management team as its parent company, Fanjul Corp., which produces 4.5 million tons of refined sugar annually. Over the past 50 years, Florida Crystals' growth has resulted from many successful negotiations with some of the world's leading business groups. Unfortunately, we soon realized that the governor's deal would not be based on sound business practices and negotiation. It was driven by political science and personal ambition.
At the district's request, we made an offer for part of U.S. Sugar's assets not needed for restoration. Since Florida Crystals owns most of the land required for a flowway, our offer included land swaps for acreage to connect Lake Okeechobee to the Everglades. Contrary to Mr. Engelhardt, our offer was not for all of U.S. Sugar's assets. We had no interest in 32,600 acres of citrus land or the juice plant. Also excluded was land the district needed for a flowway. Our offer was based on the best information available without the benefit of due diligence that would accompany any business transaction.
The insight we did have was that U.S. Sugar's new mill was not operating as designed. Being unable to produce sufficient raw sugar on its own, U.S. Sugar imported Mexican sugar — a costly situation for an inland refinery and certainly indicative of the mill's problems. Given our success, and the fact that Florida Crystals is the state's largest sugar producer, U.S. Sugar's claim, that it could not allow us due diligence prior to the offer because doing so would divulge trade secrets, is humorous.
Beyond offering the land, we participated in the district's planning process and proposed a flowway that achieved key environmental goals at a fraction of other proposals' costs. Neither the state nor the district even responded to our offers.
Soon, however, the picture came into focus: This was a charade. The governor's discussions were limited to U.S. Sugar's demands. District Chairman Eric Buermann recently acknowledged that U.S. Sugar had the negotiation advantage and "required" that the deal include the citrus groves of limited value to the Everglades. Gov. Crist's June 2008 news conference announcing the flowway connection — knowing that Florida Crystals owned most of the land needed for it — was designed to garner national attention for his vice-presidential ambitions.
We challenged this waste of money better spent constructing meaningful Everglades projects. In mid-2009, the deal got worse: a $536 million sale/lease back plan. U.S. Sugar continues farming the land for decades, vital preservation projects are halted, property owners face higher tax bills and no flowway is possible.
Fortunately, we have a judiciary independent of politics. Two weeks ago, U.S. District Judge Federico Moreno ordered the district to resume construction of the A-1 reservoir abandoned for this deal. Judge Moreno stated: "Although the partial sugar land acquisition may be in the best interest of the Everglades in the very distant future… environmental suffering is immediate."
Florida Crystals and U.S. Sugar were longtime partners in education efforts about pollution sources north of Lake Okeechobee. As U.S. Sugar Senior Vice President Robert Coker once wrote in the Orlando Sentinel: "Common sense says you store and treat all that water where it originates; then it will not pollute Lake Okeechobee, the coastal estuaries or the Everglades." What caused U.S. Sugar to change its tune? You decide.
Gaston Cantens is a vice president of Florida Crystals Corp.

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EPA Delays Florida Coastal Water Protection, Proceeds on Inland Water Rule
Environment News Service
April 14,2010
TALLAHASSEE, Florida, April 14, 2010 (ENS) - Federal standards to keep excess nutrients from tainting Florida's coastal waters will not be ready this year, according to a letter released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, PEER.
Instead, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will proceed with standards for springs, lakes and streams this year but standards for estuaries and coastal waters will undergo a new "third party review of the scientific basis," a process that will last until 2011.
Nutrients are phosphorus and nitrogen that enter waterways from stormwater runoff, municipal wastewater treatment, fertilization of crops and livestock manure.
The March 17 letter from Peter Silva, EPA assistant administrator for water programs, to Michael Sole, secretary of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection indicates that the federal agency has split off rulemaking on standards for coastal waters from the standards for inland waters.
The letter states, "First, the Agency has decided to delay finalizing promulgation of the 'downstream protection value,' or DPVs with respect to downstream estuary protection and to address this issue in the 2011 estuary and coastal rulemaking ..."
The letter also states, "Second, EPA will seek additional third party review of the scientific basis for water quality standards to protect downstream estuarine and coastal waters. We commit to consult with FDEP on the scope of third party review and will announce in early April the specific plans for that review."
"This appears to be more foot dragging by EPA, which has spent years avoiding doing its job for Florida's waters," said Florida PEER Director Jerry Phillips, a former water enforcement attorney with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.
The correspondence was released as the EPA is holding a series of public hearings across Florida on the new rule to set numeric limits on the amount of phosphorus and nitrogen allowed in Florida waters.
The proposed rule would replace state narrative water quality criteria, which have been criticized as ineffective, and would apply only in the state of Florida.
The rulemaking to establish new nutrient limits is the result of a 2008 lawsuit brought by Florida Wildlife Federation, Sierra Club, St. John's Riverkeeper, and the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, represented by the law firm Earthjustice.
In August 2009, the EPA entered into a consent decree with the plaintiff environmental groups, committing to propose numeric nutrient standards for lakes and flowing waters in Florida by January 2010, and for Florida's estuarine and coastal waters by January 2011.
"These dates are consistent with those outlined in EPA's January 14, 2009 determination under the Clean Water Act that numeric nutrient standards are needed in Florida. EPA also agreed to establish final standards by October 2010 for lakes and flowing waters and by October 2011 for estuarine and coastal waters," the agency said in a statement January 15.
But on the new schedule outlined in Silva's letter, the EPA will propose new standards for estuaries and coastal waters in 2011, beginning a public comment and rulemaking process that could extend into 2012, a presidential election year.
At the first public hearing Tuesday in Fort Myers, about 150 environmentalists, business people and sports enthusiasts packed the meeting room at the Harborside Event Center to support the proposed standards to curb excess nutrient pollution in Florida waters.
Many attendees argued in favor of limits on the sewage, fertilizer and manure pollution in public waterways. They recounted stories from bygone times when the water was cleaner, seagrass beds were healthier and birds and fish flourished.
In recent years, the Caloosahatchee River and the coastal waters around Sanibel Island have suffered outbreaks of toxic algae and red tide that cause fish kills, close beaches, foul drinking water supplies, and destroy the tourism-dependent economy.
Representatives of agriculture and business groups told the hearing that the new standards would be too costly and are unscientific.
In his testimony on behalf of the Southwest Florida Chamber of Commerce, Dr. Richard Lewis, co-owner of HSA Scientists and Engineers, said the impact of this new regulation is anticipated to cost business, counties and cities, utilities and families billions of dollars each year.
"It is the consensus that our chamber members support the development of numeric nutrient criteria, but we believe the criteria should be based on sound science, ensure adequate time for development, and address our diverse water resources and the many restoration activities currently under way," Lewis said.
Lewis encouraged the EPA to "slow down the process long enough to develop a better understanding of the economic impacts and feasibility of the new rules."
"We are concerned that the cost of implementing systems to address numeric nutrient criteria may be cost-prohibitive for local municipalities considering that it affects how they treat their wastewater, reuse water, storm water and canal systems," Lewis said. "Some estimates predict as much as $50 billion in capital improvements will be required to address the new criteria."
In his March 17 letter, the EPA's Silva indicates the federal agency will address these concerns by seeking additional review of the scientific basis for water quality standards for downstream estuarine and coastal waters.
"We will work together with Florida DEP to ensure we have the best science and analyses to support developing water quality standards to protect downstream estuarine and coastal waters," Silva wrote.
The EPA says excess nitrogen and phosphorus, "can damage drinking water sources; increase exposure to harmful algal blooms, which are made of toxic microbes that can cause damage to the nervous system or even death; and form byproducts in drinking water from disinfection chemicals, some of which have been linked with serious human illnesses like bladder cancer."
The EPA is holding two more public hearings this week on the proposed nutrient standards:
April 14, 2010: Tampa
Hilton Tampa Airport
2225 North Lois Avenue, Tampa
12 pm to 4 pm
6 pm to 9 pm
and
April 15, 2010: Jacksonville
Clarion Hotel Airport Conference Center
2101 Dixie Clipper Drive, Jacksonville
1 pm to 5 pm
7 pm to 10 pm

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Judge blames feds, state environmental officials for delaying Everglades water cleanup
Sun Sentinel  - by Andy Reid
April 14, 2010|
"Glacial slowness" in imposing water pollution cleanup standards leaves Everglades restoration "rudderless," according to a judge's blistering ruling Wednesday that faults federal and state environmental officials for delays.
U.S. District Judge Alan Gold blamed the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection for failing to heed his 2008 ruling that directed the agencies to enforce water cleanup standards that were supposed to begin in 2006.
Instead, federal and state officials have opted for a 10-year extension to enforce tougher standards to cleanup phosphorus levels in water that flows to the Everglades.
On Wednesday, Gold ordered the EPA and DEP to "immediately carry out" his previous mandates, or face fines and sanctions for violating the federal Clean Water Act.
Gold also called out the South Florida Water Management District, which leads Everglades restoration. Gold said the district "has chosen to ignore" the court's call to enforce the water quality standard.
"The hard reality is that ongoing destruction due to pollution within the Everglades Protection Area continues to this day at an alarming rate," Gold said in his ruling.
In addition, Gold criticized Gov. Charlie Crist's proposed $536 million Everglades restoration land deal with U.S. Sugar Corp., saying other restoration efforts "may be effected, if not indefinitely postponed" by the proposed 73,000-acre purchase.
Crist wants to buy the land to reshape restoration by using U.S. Sugar's land to build reservoirs and treatment areas to store, clean and redirect water to the Everglades.
Gold became the second federal judge in recent weeks to raise concerns about the repercussions of the U.S. Sugar land deal on already overdue Everglades restoration efforts.
U.S. District Judge Federico Moreno on March 31 ordered construction to resume on an Everglades restoration reservoir that had been shelved as the district tried to finalize the still-pending land deal with U.S. Sugar. The unfinished reservoir in western Palm Beach County already cost taxpayers almost $280 million.
The Miccosukees, which contend that Everglades restoration is off course, filed the legal challenges that led to both judges' rulings.

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Judge warns EPA of contempt in Everglades case
Associated Press - by BRIAN SKOLOFF (AP)
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — A federal judge threatened the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency with contempt of court in a ruling Wednesday that accuses the agency of ignoring Clean Water Act requirements in Florida's Everglades.
U.S. District Judge Alan S. Gold ruled in 2008 that the EPA had turned a "blind eye" to Florida's Everglades cleanup efforts, while the state continued to violate its own commitment to restore the vast ecosystem. He ordered the EPA to review water pollution standards and timelines set for cleanup.
Gold wrote Wednesday that the EPA and Florida have ignored his previous order.
"I express in the strongest possible terms my frustration and disappointment," Gold wrote.
The Miccosukee Indians, who live in the Everglades, and Friends of the Everglades sued the EPA over phosphorous pollution in 2004. They claimed the agency was allowing Florida to delay Everglades restoration while failing to meet pollution requirements in the Clean Water Act.
The phosphorous pollution comes largely from fertilizer runoff from farms and development. The nutrient has long suffocated life in the ecosystem, driving out native species and poisoning the water.
The state and federal governments been entrenched in a decades-long effort to fix the problem, but have been stymied by funding shortfalls, political bickering and lawsuits.
Gold ordered EPA's administrator to appear at an Oct. 7 hearing to report on compliance with his latest ruling.
The EPA had no comment Wednesday. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection said in a statement it was disappointed.
"The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) maintains that its permitting actions have been consistent with the Clean Water Act, Florida law and the court's earlier order," according to the statement, which also said the agency would appeal the ruling.
Gold also questioned how the state's plan to spend $536 million for 73,000 acres of U.S. Sugar Corp. farmland in the Everglades would help with restoration efforts. The deal has already faced numerous obstacles and has been lambasted by critics as a waste of taxpayer money that will only further delay Everglades restoration.
The state Supreme Court is set to rule soon on whether Florida can move forward with the deal.
"No scientific analysis has been conducted to determine if such a purchase, and related postponement of construction projects to finance it, would either further or hinder achievement of the now mandatory phosphorous criteria," Gold wrote.

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EPA holds public hearings on proposed Florida water quality standards
WaterTech Online.com
April 13, 2010
ATLANTA — The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) held a public forum in Fort Myers, Fla. today to give residents a chance to voice their opinions on the agency’s proposed Florida water quality standards, according to a press release.
The standards aim to protect public health, aquatic life and the long term recreational uses of Florida’s waters, which are a critical part of the state’s economy, the release stated.
Two more hearings are scheduled for April 14 and April 15 in Tampa and Jacksonville respectively.
EPA will accept public comments on the proposed standards through April 28, and is holding public hearings to obtain input and comments on the direction of EPA’s rulemaking, according to the release.

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EPA to Hold Additional Public Hearings on Proposed Florida Waters Standards in Tampa
EPA News Releases     EPA Home
April 13, 2010
Contact Information: Enesta Jones, jones.enesta@epa.gov , 202.236.2426
(ATLANTA – April 13, 2010) On Wednesday, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will hold additional public hearings in Tampa to ensure that Florida residents’ voices are heard regarding the agency’s proposed Florida water quality standards. The standards will protect people’s health, aquatic life and the long term recreational uses of Florida’s waters, which are a critical part of the state’s economy.
EPA is accepting public comments on the proposed standards through April 28, and is holding public hearings on the proposed rule in three Florida cities to obtain input and comments on the direction of EPA’s rulemaking. The hearings are scheduled for April 13, April 14, and April 15 in Fort Myers, Tampa, and Jacksonville respectively.
Nutrient pollution can damage drinking water sources; increase exposure to harmful algal blooms, which are made of toxic microbes that can cause damage to the nervous system or even death; and form byproducts in drinking water from disinfection chemicals, some of which have been linked with serious human illnesses like bladder cancer. Nutrient pollution problems can happen locally or much further downstream, leading to degraded lakes, reservoirs, and estuaries, and to hypoxic “dead” zones where aquatic life can no longer survive.
WHO: Ephraim King, Director, Office of Science and Technology, EPA Office of Water
WHAT: EPA proposed water quality standards for Florida
WHEN: Wednesday, April 14, 2010, Noon – 4:00 pm; 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.
WHERE: Hilton Tampa Airport
2225 North Lois Avenue, Tampa, FL 33607

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Hearing for tightening Florida water quality standards begins
NaplesNews.com - by ERIC STAATS
April 13, 2010
A daylong public hearing has begun in Fort Myers on a federal proposal to tighten water quality standards in Florida.
The proposal is aimed at reducing the amount of nitrogen and phosphorus, such as in wastewater and fertilizer, that enter streams and canals and cause algae blooms that can sicken people, kill fish and smother ecosystems.
About 150 people are waiting to have their say at the Harborside Event Center - many of them wearing white baseball caps that say “No Slime.”
Others have brought neon green placards that say “Stop the Slime” or poster-sized photos of algae blooms and dead fish.
Called a numeric nutrient standard, the proposal would set numbers to limit the amount of nitrogen and phosphorus in canals, streams and lakes.
Florida law is less specific, requiring only that nutrient levels not upset the natural balance of plants and animals in a waterway.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency proposed the standard in January as part of a lawsuit settlement with environmental groups, who state Florida was moving too slowly.
Backers say the new standards are needed to protect the state's environmental and economy, but opponents say they would cost too much to meet and are unscientific.
The settlement calls for the EPA to finalize the standards by October 2010; standards for downstream estuaries are due by October 2011.
The Fort Myers hearing is one of three this week around the state. Hearings also are set for Tampa and Jacksonville. The public comment period ends April 28.

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Environmental hurdles could cost Palm Beach County a job-producing ‘inland port’
Sun Sentinel - by Andy Reid
April 12, 2010
Palm Beach County officials are trying to hold onto a job-producing "inland port," despite state concerns about new industrial development threatening Everglades restoration.
The Port of Palm Beach and sugar giant Florida Crystals are negotiating a deal to use western farmland to build an inland industrial distribution center, a connection hub for cargo coming to and from coastal ports.
If environmental concerns scuttle the proposed Palm Beach County site, the Port of Palm Beach could give business leaders in St. Lucie County the next crack at landing the industrial center and the thousands of new jobs expected to follow.
The land-locked Port of Palm Beach sees the deal with Florida Crystals as a chance to tap into a boost in cargo shipments expected after improvements to the Panama Canal in 2014.
Struggling cities beside Lake Okeechobee consider the inland port a job-creation savior for communities suffering with 40 percent unemployment. They want their hometown port to stick with a local site.
But environmental groups are fighting the proposed location beside Florida Crystals' Okeelanta sugar mill and power plant, west of U.S. 27 in western Palm Beach County.
They argue that industrial development on agricultural land that was once part of the Everglades threatens efforts to restore water flows to Florida's famed River of Grass.
The Florida Department of Community Affairs, which regulates growth, also has raised concerns about putting the inland port at Okeelanta. In addition to the environmental concerns, the DCA questioned the potential strain on roads and other infrastructure, as well as whether alternative locations were adequately considered.
In December, an industrial site near Port St. Lucie came in second in the running for the inland port site. It would be next in line if Florida Crystals' deal with the Port of Palm Beach fails.
The port and Florida Crystals have nearly completed an initial round of negotiations and so far the talks are "right on track," port board Chairman Edward Oppel told county leaders Monday.
However, Oppel also acknowledged that should the talks break down, the Port of Palm Beach could "break off and go to that second" option.
The port's board meets April 21 to discuss the status of the inland port negotiations with Florida Crystals.
Florida Crystals Vice President Danny Martell on Monday said the company and the Port of Palm Beach are "well on our way" to reaching an agreement. The goal, he said, is to work out "an amicable solution" with state regulators and avoid a May hearing before a state administrative law judge.
Those settlement talks with the state have included possibly moving the proposed inland port to other western property owned by Florida Crystals.
"We will certainly look at other sites," Martell said. "We just don't think that they are any better."
Moving the proposed inland port to other Florida Crystals' land still would need the approval of the Port of Palm Beach to keep that partnership in place.
Even if the Port of Palm Beach rejected moving the inland port site, Florida Crystals still would press ahead with industrial development, Martell said.
The fate of the inland port was among the economic concerns discussed Monday in Belle Glade at a meeting of county commissioners and city leaders from Belle Glade, Pahokee and South Bay.
Belle Glade Mayor Steve Wilson contends that the inland port offers the long-awaited economic jumpstart that lakeside communities need.
"Nobody wants to invest in the Glades because they don't think anything is happening in the Glades," Wilson said.
Andy Reid can be reached at abreid@SunSentinel.com or 561-228-5504.

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Lake Okeechobee releases show need for land buy
The News-Press - Editorial
April 12, 2010
The Army Corps of Engineers has opened up the Lake Okeechobee faucet, which sends a shiver up the spines of those who remember the devastating releases of polluted lake water a few years ago.
But while the effects of the current releases are being watched carefully, they should not be anything like as damaging as the much large surges after the hurricanes of 2004 and 2005. But they remind us that our Caloosahatchee River and its valuable coastal estuary are still used as a storm sewer for excess lake water, heavy with agricultural nutrients that have caused devastating algae blooms downriver and upset the salinity the estuary needs to function as a marine life factory.
Water has to be released from the lake if levels rise high enough to threaten the dike that protects lakeside communities, where storm flooding in the 1920s killed thousands.
The lake level is up because of recent rains and has to be lowered to make room for storage of water from the summer wet season and - we hope - make huge releases unnecessary.
But the danger will be with us until the state acquires the land south of the lake needed to recreate a southern flowway. That will allow lake overflow to go where nature intended it to go, into the Everglades to restore that system.
That's why we should take every opportunity to urge completion of the purchase of U.S. Sugar company land that would be part of the southern flowway project.
The current surge in the Caloosahatchee, 1.42 billion gallons a day, should be reminder enough.

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Army Corps of Engineers backs off on Lake Okeechobee releases
TCPalm - by Ed Killer
April 11, 2010
Fifteen down; 24 to go, hopefully.
On Thursday, a minor battle was won in a long, ongoing war. The winners of this skirmish were those fighting for the health of the St. Lucie River. The side that blinked was the immovable object that is the Army Corps of Engineers.
At least this week.
And until there is another 3-inch rain event within 100 miles north of Basinger.
Last month, the ACOE began discharging water from Lake Okeechobee into the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers. The reason behind the agency’s decision hinged upon rising water levels inside Lake Okeechobee.
Rising water levels create two problems for water managers.
First, there is an issue with aquatic vegetation that is critical for the health of the ecosystem of Florida’s largest natural lake. Too much water -- or too little damages -- the plant life which leads to poor water quality in the lake.
Second, there is an issue with the Herbert Hoover Dike that offers protection from the lake’s potentially flooding waters for residents in Sand Cut, Pahokee, Belle Glade, South Bay and Clewiston.
These are the reasons the communities in Palm City, Stuart, Port St. Lucie, Port Salerno, Rio, Jensen Beach and many surrounding Fort Myers must endure more than a month of scheduled dumping of low quality water.
The plan by the ACOE is to conduct three 13-day long pulse releases. With the start of rainy season, June 1, approaching quickly, the Corps aims to get the level of the lake much lower than its present 14.75 feet above sea level.
THE GOOD NEWS
On Thursday, the ACOE announced it will scale back its second of three rounds of pulse releases discharging water from Lake Okeechobee into the South Fork of the St. Lucie River.
Instead of an average of 950 cubic feet per second of murky brown water pouring through the gates at the St. Lucie Locks, “only” 475 cfs will come down the St. Lucie Canal or C-44 as it is marked on water management district maps.
So what’s a cfs? One cubic foot of liquid is equal to 7.48 gallons. A typical backyard swimming pool consists of 20,000 gallons of water.
Even at a “half-rate” of 475 cfs, the Army Corps is sending the equivalent of 15,374 swimming pools each day through the flood gates at the St. Lucie Locks. Per its own policy, the ACOE can dump as much as 1,800 cfs down the St. Lucie, so the agency’s engineers really consider this giving us a break.
THE NUMBERS
Last week I promised to update readers on the incredible waste of water and environment taking place right beneath the bridges we travel across every day.
The pulse releases began March 27. Through Saturday, 8.51 billion gallons of freshwater have poured from Lake Okeechobee through the St. Lucie River and into the Atlantic Ocean.
Why does this matter? Because if Mother Nature was still in charge of Florida’s landscape, zero gallons of water would have traveled the same route.
That’s zero. As in none. Nada. Nil.
The 8.51 billion gallons, by the way, could supply all of South Florida’s population its entire water needs for about a week. All it’s doing in the St. Lucie, Indian River Lagoon and Atlantic Ocean is creating light-shading turbidity and dropping salinity to devastatingly low levels.
SALTY OYSTERS
The ACOE listened to Treasure Coast members of the South Florida Water Management District’s Water Resources Advisory Committee. Mark Perry, Tom Kenny, Patrick Hayes, Chad Kennedy and George Jones were among those who strongly voiced concerns about the ACOE’s plan. Since before the releases began, the Corps has been pressured by these and many others to stop the releases.
Oysters are a big reason why. According to research conducted by Florida Oceanographic, oyster spat and juvenile oysters begin to suffer adversely when salinity drops below 14 parts per thousand. Tuesday, the salinity at the Roosevelt Bridge measured 2.8 ppt.
If oysters can help clean the water in the St. Lucie, they won’t be doing so at 2.8 ppt.
WHAT CAN BE DONE
Concerned citizens are encouraged to take immediate action. Mark Perry, executive director of Florida Oceanographic in Stuart, recommends that in order to stop the damaging releases, voices must be heard.
Visit http://floridaoceanographic.org/riveralertnew.html, print the letter, sign it and fax it to congressmen who can put additional pressure on the Corps to develop a better solution than the one we must live with now.
Ed Killer is a columnist for Scripps Treasure Coast Newspapers. This column reflects his opinion. For more on Outdoors and Fishing topics, follow his blog at www.tcpalm.com/killer. Contact him at (772) 221-4201 or edward.killer@scripps.com.

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Lake Okeechobee dike's face-lift under way, will help prevent flooding
News-Press.com - by kevin lollar • klollar@news-press.com
April 10, 2010
The aging Herbert Hoover Dike is in rehab. By 2030, the flood-control structure around Lake Okeechobee will have undergone $856 million in repairs.
The aging Herbert Hoover Dike is in rehab. By 2030, the flood-control structure around Lake Okeechobee will have undergone $856 million in repairs.
In the early 20th century, people who lived around the lake built sand and muck embankments to prevent flooding.
After floods from hurricanes in 1926 and 1928 caused 2,500 deaths, the River and Harbor Act of 1930 authorized 67.8 miles of levee along the lake's south shore and 15.7 miles on the north shore. Today, the dike is 143 miles of levee and a series of water control structures.
In 2007, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers put the dike in its Top 6 list of dams needing repair.
The dike's biggest problem is a type of erosion called "piping," when small tunnels form inside the dike.
Dividing the dike into eight sections, or reaches, the Corps started rehabilitation in 2005 on Reach 1, 22.4 miles between Port Mayaka and Belle Glade.
A major part of the project is an 18- to 36-inch thick "cutoff wall" that will run vertically through the dike and close the piping.
Another feature is a seepage berm on the landward side of the dike to reinforce the structure and stop erosion.
Construction on Reach 1 is scheduled to be finished in 2013; work on Reaches 2 and 3 should begin in 2011.
The whole job should be done by 2030.

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Commentary: Why we need U.S. Sugar's land
The Palm Beach Post - Commentary by Eric Buermann
April 9, 2010
On Wednesday, the Florida Supreme Court heard oral arguments as it reviews a lower court's approval of the financing for the South Florida Water Management District's purchase of U.S. Sugar Corp. lands for Everglades restoration.
Last year, the lower court properly and thoughtfully ruled that the district met its legal requirements for issuing its financing, but special interests, mainly U.S. Sugar's longtime rival in the competitive sugar industry, appealed to the state Supreme Court.
Citizens following the U.S. Sugar acquisition have witnessed these special interests and their lobbyists in Tallahassee attempting to turn what is usually a routine legal review into a stage for distorting the facts surrounding the acquisition's purpose and terms. They have tried to foster doubt about the public benefit from the lands, and even personally disparaged those who champion the acquisition as part of Everglades restoration.
The same thirst for profits that contributed to pollution of the Everglades is now obstructing restoration of the Everglades. Fortunately, none of these detractors, nor their well-publicized spin, will distract the courts from their methodical review and, hopefully, will not fool the public, which mostly supports the purchase.
Simply put, the district will eventually have to buy more land for true restoration of the Everglades and its watersheds, whether it is from U.S. Sugar or another seller. The district is under increasing pressure from courts and federal regulators to add more storage and treatment areas beyond those originally contemplated in the state/federal Everglades restoration program.
Regrettably, the Herbert Hoover Dike surrounding Lake Okeechobee is in a weakened condition, preventing adequate water storage in the lake itself due to flood concerns. When a hurricane, tropical storm or even seasonal rain affects South Florida, water must be released from the lake, mainly down the two estuaries to the ocean. There is no place to store it. These releases can cause tremendous damage to the environment, economies and quality of life along our coasts and beyond.
Before the Everglades was drained to now only 40 percent of its original size, water overflowed the lake's southern rim, and the Everglades provided that storage. Indeed, if such land as U.S. Sugar's had been available when the current environmental restoration program was designed some 10 years ago, it would have been a showcase feature in lieu of certain existing components for providing storage and treatment.
The 73,000-acre acquisition under review is but the first phase of the 180,000-acre U.S. Sugar purchase to address these problems for South Florida. Water storage of this magnitude will significantly reduce freshwater releases into coastal estuaries and vastly improve water flow into the Everglades. Let's not forget that not only the environment but our water supply is at stake: South Florida, lacking mountains whose snowcaps melt into reservoirs, depends on rainwater flowing through the Everglades to recharge our underground aquifers.
How do we plan to use most of the initial 73,000 acres?
Twenty-five thousand acres directly south of Lake Okeechobee for water storage and treatment.
Twenty thousand acres for water treatment wetlands, to improve water quality in an area south of the lake where farm runoff pollution has been historically high.
Ten thousand acres to expand existing water treatment areas feeding the Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge
Ten thousand acres near Lake Hicpochee to store and treat water, improving water quality flowing into the Caloosahatchee Estuary
Thirty-five hundred acres to store and treat water, significantly reducing the harmful effects of back-pumping polluted agricultural runoff into Lake Okeechobee
To achieve these goals, a collaborative, public planning process is under way to identify projects for the acquisition lands, and there is no shortage of options. Stakeholders and citizens have been working with district engineers and scientists to evaluate all viable restoration proposals that an unprecedented 73,000 acres have to offer. It goes without saying that the first step is to buy them.
Eric Buermann is chairman of the South Florida Water Management District Governing Board

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Not an Everglades setback: Judge leaves room for U.S. Sugar deal to proceed
The Palm Beach Post
April 8, 2010
U.S. District Judge Federico Moreno seemingly dealt a significant setback to Gov. Crist's plan to buy U.S. Sugar land for Everglades restoration. But the judge's March 31 ruling calling on the South Florida Water Management District to make good on its promise to build a reservoir in southwestern Palm Beach County isn't damaging. It's constructive.
Within his 20-page ruling, Judge Moreno issues instructions on how the district can fix the problem his order raises. Yes, the district promised a reservoir. Yes, the district suspended construction, pending the $536 million U.S. Sugar deal that's before the Florida Supreme Court. But if the district would file a 60(b)(5) motion, the judge writes, this reservoir issue could be cleared up.
Under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, Judge Moreno writes, such a motion would allow the district to seek relief if " 'a significant change either in factual conditions or in law' renders continued enforcement 'detrimental to the public interest.' " If the U.S. Sugar deal goes through, the $700 million A-1 reservoir would be in the way, making the reservoir "detrimental to the public interest." The judge all but begs the district to file a motion that would allow him to do what he has been doing as the second judicial overseer of Everglades cleanup in a case that dates to 1988: watch out for the Everglades.
The district argues convincingly that it stopped construction, after spending $280 million, in time to convert what would have been a reservoir with high walls into a marsh without walls. The U.S. Sugar deal enables the district to build a reservoir farther north, next to Lake Okeechobee. From there, dirty water would flow south to the A-1 site for cleansing before entering the Everglades.
Judge Moreno's order calls for reservoir construction to start again. Fortunately, there's a lawsuit, which environmental groups filed in 2007, arguing that the reservoir may not help the Everglades at all. Before construction starts, that lawsuit, dismissed in light of the U.S. Sugar deal, is likely to be reinstated.
Judge Moreno also ruled that water entering the Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge in Palm Beach County in November 2008 and June 2009 exceeded allowable pollution levels, thus violating a 2006 consent decree. Again, he suggests a solution: a hearing before a special master.
Judge Moreno worries that Miccosukee tribal lands within the Everglades "will ultimately be sacrificed to nutrient pollution" because of delays. But the judge is realistic about the "benefits" to be gained from building a reservoir in the wrong place and the potential benefits of holding out for the U.S. Sugar land. He's not threatening the deal. He's playing his role as the person who keeps all the competing parties on track to restore the Everglades.

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Top Florida court mulling Everglades debt deal
Reuters - byMichael Peltier, TALLAHASSEE
April 8, 2010
TALLAHASSEE (Reuters) - Florida's top court has taken on a high-stakes environmental dispute over a proposed $536 million deal between the state and U.S. Sugar Corp to purchase 73,000 acres of farmland for Everglades restoration.
U.S.
Lawyers on Wednesday asked the Florida Supreme Court to determine if the South Florida Water Management District was justified in approving the sale of bonds to buy the land when it signed off on the historic deal in 2009.
In oral arguments, attorneys for the Miccosukee Tribe living near the Everglades and U.S. Sugar competitors say the parcel, reduced from an original footprint of more than 180,000 acres, is a sweetheart deal that will allow U.S. Sugar to farm much of the tract for years to come.
Water management officials and environmentalists discount that argument, calling the purchase critical to efforts to substantially improve water quality in the Everglades as part of a sweeping effort to revive the "River of Grass" ecosystem.
"We believe this land acquisition provides the best and last chance for significant Everglades restoration," said Thom Rumberger, an attorney representing Florida Audubon. "The purchase of the land itself has merit."
Gov. Charlie Crist, a Republican, announced plans in 2008 to purchase from U.S. Sugar 180,000 acres south of Lake Okeechobee for more than $1.3 billion in what would have been the largest land purchase in state history.
The severe U.S. recession that stung Florida especially hard and other economic headwinds, however, forced negotiators to downsize to 73,000 acres. Last year, the water management district voted to levy $536 million in bonds to pay for it.
The Miccosukees challenged the new deal, saying the parcel no longer satisfies a requirement that it serve a public purpose. If the deal does not meet that standard, the water management district cannot float bonds to pay for it.
The court's review is limited to the propriety of the bond sale, but other issues, including a recent federal court ruling ordering water managers to continue work on a reservoir project stalled by the U.S. Sugar deal, provide a larger backdrop.
In March, Chief U.S. District Judge Frederico Moreno ordered the state to restart an $800 million reservoir project in the Everglades Agricultural Area mothballed to free up funds for the U.S. Sugar deal. By his order, Moreno upheld a 2006 special master's ruling recommending the construction in response to a lawsuit by the Miccosukee Tribe.
The Florida justices made no ruling Wednesday and may issue a decision at any time.
(Additional reporting by Michael Connor in Miami; Editing by Padraic Cassidy)

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Florida Supreme Court raises its own questions about Everglades land deal
Sun Sentinel - by Andy Reid
April 07, 2010
A ruling could still be months away in the $536 million deal.
After nearly two years of political fights and legal battles over Gov. Charlie Crist's Everglades-restoration land deal, the Florida Supreme Court now decides whether the public benefit is worth the cost to South Florida taxpayers.
Supporters and opponents of Crist's $536 million bid to buy 73,000 acres from U.S. Sugar Corp. argued their sides Wednesday morning before the Florida Supreme Court.
Opponents, led by the Miccosukee Tribe and U.S. Sugar rival Florida Crystals, maintain that $536 million costs taxpayers too much and takes money away from already overdue Everglades-restoration projects.
Miccosukee Attorney Dexter Lehtinen hammered the South Florida Water Management District for having no specific plan for, or ability to pay for, the construction of reservoirs and treatment areas proposed for the U.S. Sugar land.
"The tribe doesn't believe in, ‘I'm from the government, trust me,'" Lehtinen told the Supreme Court justices. Later he said, "Land purchases alone accomplish nothing."
Proponents of the deal contend it offers a historic opportunity to acquire strategically located farmland long unavailable to Everglades restoration. They say plans are in the works to use the property to build a series of reservoirs and treatment areas to restore water flows from Lake Okeechobee to the Everglades.
"This land acquisition provides the best and last chance for significant Everglades restoration," attorney Thom Rumberger, representing Audubon of Florida, told the justices. "It's an essential part of Everglades restoration."
The Supreme Court must decide whether to uphold the ruling of Palm Beach County Circuit Court Judge Donald Hafele, who in August found that the deal provides a public purpose that justifies allowing the South Florida Water Management District to borrow the money.
As proposed, the district would be able to borrow up to $650 million to buy the 73,000 acres and cover other costs, with South Florida property taxpayers paying off the long term debt.
On Wednesday, Supreme Court justices peppered both sides with questions.
They justices questioned the deal's proponents about plans to use tax money to buy the land and then potentially sell or trade some of it to cobble together other restoration land deals.
"Where does that stop?" Justice Fred Lewis asked.

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Lawyers: Everglades land deal should be rejected
The Associated Press - by BRIAN SKOLOFF
April 7, 2010
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla.  A half-billion-dollar deal aimed at buying farmland in the Everglades to help the ailing ecosystem should be rejected because it serves no public purpose and will only delay restoration further, an attorney argued Wednesday before Florida's Supreme Court.
"Land purchases alone accomplish nothing," Dexter Lehtinen, a lawyer representing the Miccosukee Indians living in the Everglades, argued before the justices in Tallahassee.
Republican Gov. Charlie Crist wants the state to pay $536 million to U.S. Sugar Corp. for 73,000 acres of the company's holdings in the Everglades. Crist has called it a "once in a lifetime" opportunity to buy back key land long used in agricultural production.
The Miccosukee and U.S. Sugar's main rival, Florida Crystals, however, say the deal is a waste of taxpayer money.
They argue that the South Florida Water Management District, which oversees Everglades restoration, has no specific restoration plans in place for the land, which will only be bought, then leased back to U.S. Sugar at a nominal rate until construction projects are developed.
The state says it plans to build reservoirs and treatment marshes on the land to help restore some natural flow and clean pollutants from urban runoff and fertilizers in the water before it flows south into the remainder of the Everglades.
"As complicated and convoluted as the appellants want to make this case, it's very simple," argued water district attorney Randall Hanna. "What we're doing here is we're buying land for Everglades restoration."
The tribe and Florida Crystals want the High Court to reject a state bid to issue bonds to pay for the purchase. They argue that without specific plans for the land, any deal would pad the pockets of executives at the nation's largest cane sugar producer at the expense of taxpayers.
"Their plan is to buy the land and figure out what they're going to do with it later," argued Joseph Klock, an attorney representing U.S. Sugar rivals, who also claims the leaseback option in the deal will give its competitor an unfair advantage.
The justices peppered attorneys with questions about why the state must have more detailed plans for the land to consider the purchase a benefit to the public.
"How specific does the plan have to be? Do we have to have every detail outlined before we can say, 'Yes, you can begin to acquire this land?'" asked Chief Justice Peggy A. Quince.
Lehtinen argued that not enough specifics have been provided under Florida law.
"There is no proposed project," he said. "They commit to nothing."
The proposal has been supported by environmental groups as key to putting long-stalled restoration back on track.
"We believe this land acquisition provides the best and last chance for significant Everglades restoration," argued attorney E. Thom Rumberger on behalf of the Florida Audubon Society.
The Everglades have been dying for decades. Burgeoning farms and development have effectively drained and polluted much of the swamp, long dissected by dikes, dams and canals.
The state and federal governments' efforts to restore the wetlands have been stymied for years by funding shortfalls, legal challenges and political bickering.
The U.S. Sugar deal has already been cut by more than half from the initial plan announced in 2008, when Crist proposed buying out the company holdings altogether in a $1.75 billion purchase for all its 180,000 acres and assets.
Meanwhile, U.S. Sugar says it's done negotiating with the state. If this deal falls through, it's over.
"This deal is the deal," said company spokeswoman Judy Sanchez.
Associated Press writer Bill Kaczor contributed to this report from Tallahassee.

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Public deserves honest answer to question: What effect will U.S. Sugar deal have on other water restoration projects ?
TCPlam - Editorial
April 6, 2010
What projects will be delayed or not completed if the South Florida Water Management District consummates its $536 million purchase of 73,000 acres of U.S. Sugar land for Everglades restoration?
The district’s governing board needs to be forthcoming with the public on this issue.
The question — and answers — are important.
The agency’s stated mission, in part, is to “manage and protect water resources of the region by balancing and improving water quality, flood control, natural systems and water supply. A key initiative is cleanup and restoration of the Everglades.”
The proposed purchase of U.S. Sugar land has presented the district with an enormous opportunity to accelerate Everglades restoration. But at what cost to other components of the district’s mission: improving water quality, flood control, etc.? And what effect would the U.S. Sugar purchase have on projects designed to help the St. Lucie estuary?
The $536 million price tag may force the governing board to make difficult decisions about more than a dozen restoration projects, some of which already have begun and others that have been planned for years.
The public deserves to know what’s at stake if the water management district completes this landmark deal.
Asked if the purchase will force the district to shelve other projects, Eric Buermann, chairman of the district’s governing board, said “I don’t think so.”
Buermann’s response sounded more hopeful than realistic.
In 2008, one month after Gov. Charlie Crist announced the deal to purchase U.S. Sugar land, the state suspended work on the 25-square-mile A-1 reservoir on the northeastern edge of the Everglades. Why? Concerns the district can’t afford to complete both the $800 million reservoir project and purchase U.S. Sugar property.
Last week, a federal judge ordered the state to resume work on the A-1 reservoir.
From the beginning of this process, we have championed the purchase of U.S. Sugar land for Everglades restoration. Acquiring that land and negotiating with Florida Crystals, another sugar company that owns property that should be transformed into a flowway reconnecting Lake Okeechobee to the Everglades, is critical to solving perhaps the deadliest ecological problem on the Treasure Coast.
Buermann is correct when he characterizes the proposed deal with U.S. Sugar as “the opportunity of the century.” But critical decisions must be made — and the district’s governing board needs to be honest and upfront with how, specifically, saving the St. Lucie and the Everglades will be accomplished.

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Pulse releases will have devastating consequences for fragile fishery
TCPalm – Letter by Nathaniel Reed, reader submitted
April 6, 2010
I wish to reiterate Mark Perry’s critique of the recent announcement that the Army Corps of Engineers would release 950 cubic feet of water per second through the St. Lucie Canal at “the recommendation of the South Florida Water Management District.”
First objection: 950 cubic feet per second will fortify the belief that either the district or the Corps simply ignores the environmental impacts of a release of that size in the middle of the dry season, and at the beginning of the most important spawning season for fish and shell fish.
Recognizing that the level of Lake Okeechobee is higher than the water managers would prefer at the present time, three, 13-day pulse releases will have devastating consequences to a vastly diminished population of snook and sea trout that were hammered by the long, cold weather conditions that killed hundreds of thousands of these prize sport fish and the smaller bait fish on which they depend. We desperately need a highly successful spawning season to rebuild stocks of prized sport fish and their prey.
I can hardly believe that competent scientists at the district, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service or the Corps could have coordinated their opinions on the proposed release schedule. It occurs to me that “management” has simply decided to drop the lake’s level without any regard to the consequences.
For instance, a 30-day release of 250 cubic feet per second would have far less impact on the fishery than the “gusher” that you plan to release from the lake over three, 13-day periods.
Recognizing the nearly desperate imperative that the Hoover Dike must be protected from an early hurricane simultaneously with a high lake stage — and recognizing that weather predictions in Florida are notoriously inaccurate — my complaint is obvious: Why can’t the least environmentally damaging water-release schedule be discussed and publicly examined for comment by fisheries experts before the Corps and district summarily decide to undo months of estuarine recovery?
Frankly, I thought those autocratic days were over, but I recognize that the “managers” have chosen to do their thing without regard to the environmental consequences of their actions.
Better coordination, communication and the willingness to listen to a different method of lowering the lake has been abandoned for a speedy management decision.
Mark me down as bitterly disappointed.
Nathaniel Reed, Jupiter Island

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100406-3
U.S. Sugar deal is key to Everglades restoration
Tallahassee.com – My View by Eric Buermann
April 6, 2010
On Wednesday, the Florida Supreme Court will hear oral arguments as it reviews a lower court's approval of the financing for the South Florida Water Management District's purchase of U.S. Sugar Corp. lands for Everglades restoration.
Last year, the lower court properly and thoughtfully ruled that the SFWMD met its legal requirements for issuing its financing, but special interests, mainly U.S. Sugar's longtime rival in the competitive sugar industry, appealed to the Florida Supreme Court.
Citizens following the U.S. Sugar acquisition have witnessed these special interests — and their lobbyists in Tallahassee — attempting to turn what is usually a routine legal review into a stage for distorting the facts surrounding the acquisition's purpose and terms. These opponents have tried to foster doubt about the public benefit from the lands and even personally disparaged those who champion the acquisition as part of Everglades restoration. It is ironic that the same thirst for profits that contributed to pollution of the Everglades is now obstructing restoration of the Everglades. Fortunately, none of these detractors, nor their well-publicized spin, will distract the court from its methodical legal review and, hopefully, will not fool the public that, for the large part, supports the purchase.
Simply put, the SFWMD will eventually have to buy more land for true restoration of the Everglades and its watersheds, whether it is from U.S. Sugar or another seller. The district is under increasing pressure from courts and federal regulators to add more storage and treatment areas beyond those originally contemplated in the state-federal Everglades restoration program.
Regrettably, the Herbert Hoover Dike surrounding Lake Okeechobee is in a weakened condition, preventing adequate water storage in the lake itself due to flood concerns. When a hurricane, tropical storm or even seasonal rain impacts South Florida, water must be released from the lake, mainly down its two estuaries to the ocean. There is no place to store it. These releases can cause tremendous damage to the environment, economies and quality of life along our coasts, and beyond.
Before the Everglades were drained to now only 40 percent of their original size, water overflowed the lake's southern rim, and the Everglades provided that storage. Indeed, if such land as U.S. Sugar's had been available when the current environmental restoration program was designed some 10 years ago, it would have been a showcase feature in lieu of certain existing components for providing storage and treatment.
The 73,000-acre acquisition under review is but the first phase of the 180,000-acre U.S. Sugar purchase to address these problems for South Florida. Water storage of this magnitude will significantly reduce freshwater releases into coastal estuaries and vastly improve water flow into the Everglades. Let's not forget that not only the environment but our water supply is at stake: South Florida, lacking mountains whose snowcaps melt into reservoirs, depends on rainwater flowing through the Everglades to recharge its underground aquifers.
How do we plan to use most of the initial 73,000 acres?
  25,000 acres directly south of Lake Okeechobee for water storage and treatment.
  20,000 acres for water treatment wetlands to improve water quality in an area south of the lake, where farm runoff pollution has been historically high.
  10,000 acres to expand existing water treatment areas feeding the Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge.
  10,000 acres near Lake Hicpochee to store and treat water, improving water quality flowing into the Caloosahatchee Estuary.
  3,500 acres to store and treat water, significantly reducing the harmful effects of back-pumping polluted agricultural runoff into Lake Okeechobee.
To achieve these goals, a collaborative, public planning process is under way to identify specific projects for the acquisition lands, and there is no shortage of options. Stakeholders and citizens have been working with SFWMD engineers and scientists to evaluate all viable restoration proposals that an unprecedented 73,000 acres have to offer. It goes without saying that the first step is to buy them.
Eric Buermann is chairman of the South Florida Water Management District Governing Board.

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100406-4
U.S. Sugar land is a good deal for Florida
Tampabay.com -by Robert H. Buker Jr., US-Sugar -  special to the Times
April 6, 2010
U.S. Sugar Corp. was not for sale when Gov. Charlie Crist approached us about buying out all our assets. We considered his proposal because he was the governor and our owners believed that we could play a major part in resolving the huge problems of the Everglades, Lake Okeechobee and the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie rivers, a fitting legacy for our land.
Our business competitors have attempted to characterize this acquisition as a bailout of a struggling company. That is a lie.
While our business had accumulated significant debt due to hurricanes and the multiyear construction of our state-of-the-art sugar factory, we have weathered storms like this since 1931. We prioritized spending and cut costs. Now our sugar factory is running smoothly, our refinery had record production and we have best sugar market in 30 years.
Today, U.S. Sugar is well capitalized and has retired more than $200 million of debt. Our new sugar factory, railroad and cost reductions make us by far the lowest-cost U.S. producer of refined cane sugar. We expect strong sugar demand, sales and pricing to continue. We're the lowest-cost producer of Florida not-from-concentrate orange juice. We also have the only disease-resistant citrus trees in the United States.
Florida Crystals, our competitor, is spending tens of millions of dollars in court, in the Legislature and in the media opposing this transaction in an attempt to get some of U.S. Sugar's superior assets for themselves. They sued over the state's purchase of Talisman Sugar in 1999 and came away with land swaps and long-term leases. After Crist announced his bold vision, Florida Crystals secretly sent their own "sweetheart" proposal "to acquire a portion of the U.S. Sugar assets." When refused, they sued.
Due to the economy, we have twice re-negotiated this contract to make it more affordable to the state. Public review and an extensive court process approved its public purpose. We are confident the Florida Supreme Court will uphold bond validation and then the South Florida Water Management District Governing Board can complete its budget process, making this acquisition a high priority without raising taxes.
All prior restoration projects had to be designed around the fact that no land was available in the Everglades Agricultural Area for reconnecting Lake Okeechobee with the historic Everglades. The Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan consists of 68 small projects, each with only limited regional benefits. Acquiring this much land south of Lake Okeechobee provides the opportunity to provide massive storage and treatment that will benefit not only the lake and the Everglades. It will also help prevent damaging releases to the St. Lucie and Caloo- sahatchee rivers and estuaries. That makes this a higher priority than projects with more limited benefits. In addition, storing water on our land replaces the need for nearly $2 billion of unreliable technology that provided the major storage component of the Everglades restoration plan.
Florida has a rare opportunity to reacquire a large swath of historic Everglades from a willing seller at a fair, independently appraised price. Don't allow that opportunity to slip away.
Robert H. Buker Jr. is president and chief executive officer of U.S. Sugar Corp.

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100405-1
DEP Announces Completed Projects With Stimulus Funds To Benefit Water Quality
WCTV.tv - DEP Press Release
April 5, 2010
TALLAHASSEE – The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) announced that it has committed all $218.9 million in Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF) and Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (DWSRF) project money made available through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA).
Florida secured the ARRA money to help local governments across the state finance improvements to wastewater, stormwater and drinking water facilities essential to protecting public health and the environment. Florida was one of the first states to meet all the requirements necessary to obtain the full amount of ARRA funds.
“Investing in our wastewater, stormwater and drinking water infrastructure is critical to water quality and public health protection for our citizens. The stimulus money offered an important supplement to our existing programs to fund infrastructure for local communities,” said DEP Secretary Michael W. Sole. “These projects have also boosted the local economy through job creation and helped provide the communities with new sources of revenue.”
Twenty-eight projects have been awarded stimulus funds totaling more than $132 million through the department’s CWSRF and another 40 projects have been awarded more than $86 million through the DWSRF. All local construction contracts have been awarded and all projects have started construction.
DEP received more than $850 million in requests for the $86.6 million of ARRA drinking water project funds and more than $1.5 billion in requests competing for $132.3 million in ARRA wastewater and stormwater funding. Qualifying projects were selected for ARRA funding, based on their construction-readiness and environmental or public health priority.
The East County Water Control District (ECWCD) is a prime example of stimulus money at work. With $2,418,819 awarded by DEP on June 26, 2009, ECWCD has completed construction of the Harns Marsh Phase I Improvements and the Yellowtail Replacement Project—Florida’s first completed ARRA projects. Working with DEP, ECWCD has been able to replace four structures and build one new structure in order to reduce flooding to downstream neighbors on the Orange River, improve water quality and storage; and recharge the groundwater aquifers.
The Harns Marsh Phase I Improvement Project and Yellowtail 1A Replacement Project created jobs that otherwise might not have been available in a down economy. More than 40 jobs in construction, engineering and project management put money in people’s pockets and into the businesses of local communities.
“The support ECWCD has received from DEP enabled us to improve our services to local residents by replacing and constructing much needed infrastructure,” said Dave Lindsay, ECWCD District Manager. “The Harns Marsh Phase I and Yellowtail Replacement Projects have allowed us to recharge local basins, alleviate flooding to our Orange River residents and prepare for water storage for the 2010 rainy season.”
ECWCD preserves and protects water resources in Lehigh Acres (eastern Lee County) and western Hendry County through drainage, conservation, mitigation, navigational and water management practices. The District maintains 360 culvert crossing, 22 bridges, 66 water control structures and maintains 1,298 preserve acres within 70,000 acres of land – approximately 68,000 of which lie in eastern Lee County.
DEP established its SRF programs, under agreements with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, to provide low-interest financing to plan, design and build wastewater, stormwater and drinking water systems. Funded by federal capitalization grants, state matching funds, loan repayments, interest earnings, and periodic bond issues, SRF loans are offered at interest rates substantially below current market rates and help make loans affordable.
Since 1999, Florida has invested more than $3.7 billion to upgrade and improve water and wastewater facilities and clean up stormwater pollution, funding about 2,400 projects statewide.
For more information on the State Revolving Funds, visit: www.dep.state.fl.us/water/wff.
For a list of communities awarded drinking water and clean water ARRA funding, visit: www.dep.state.fl.us/water/wff/dwsrf/docs/final-dwsrf-certification.pdf, and www.dep.state.fl.us/water/wff/cwsrf/docs/final-cwsrf-certification.pdf, respectively.
For more information about Florida’s use of the federal recovery dollars made available through ARRA, please visit www.FlaRecovery.com.

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South Florida leads nation in potential storm-surge losses
Miami Herald - by CURTIS MORGAN;  cmorgan@MiamiHerald.com
April 5, 2010
Read more: http://www.miamiherald.com/2010/04/04/1563421_p2/south-florida-leads-nation-in.html#ixzz0kF8CRIQu
When it comes to storm-surge damage, South Florida has more at risk than any other place in the country. A new study puts it at $53.6 billion.
The ZIP Codes 33140 in Miami Beach, 33301 in Fort Lauderdale and 33480 in Palm Beach have some of the region's priciest homes -- with the owners among those having the most to lose if a hurricane drives the Atlantic Ocean inland.
The potential dollar losses from storm surge in heavily developed Southeast Florida are bigger than in any other metro area in the nation, according to a new ZIP-Code analysis produced by a private risk-assessment company.
The study projects that a Category 5 hurricane could expose more than a quarter million homes in the tri-county region worth $53.6 billion to flood damage, topping Virginia Beach's $39.5 billion, and that even a minimal Category 1 storm could expose 55,000-plus homes worth nearly $20 billion to surge flooding.
Two other Florida cities -- Jacksonville and Tampa -- ranked No. 3 and No. 7 in the analysis of 13 communities on the Gulf and Atlantic coasts by First American Corp., which assesses real estate risks for mortgage lenders and insurers. New Orleans, flooded by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, ranked only No. 6.
The list shouldn't be confused with a simple ranking of areas most vulnerable to the effects of storm surge.
`Really what this is focusing on is what is the potential dollar loss,'' said Howard Botts, vice president of database development for the company, which is based in Austin.
That's why low-lying but lightly populated islands of the Florida Keys, for instance, weren't assessed though storm-surge experts consider them clearly at the top of high-risk zones.
Instead the company chose coastal areas with a combination of high density, high property values and high risk of hurricane strikes. It also plugged in worst-case conditions -- storms at maximum wind speeds for each category, arriving at high tide, with the strongest right front quarter making landfall.
The Miami metro area, which the study defined as a stretch from South Miami-Dade to Jupiter dotted with multimillion-dollar waterfront mansions on canals, ranked at the top of the list -- as it has in previous risk-assessment studies by other companies and researchers.
``From the property value standpoint, it's very hard to find a place that rivals South Florida,'' said Stephen Leatherman, director of Florida International University's International Hurricane Research Center.
While Southeast Florida is a frequent hurricane target, he said, a shoreline that steeply slopes into deep ocean helps limit the height of surges -- at least from Miami Beach northward.
``Off the beach, it drops pretty quickly and a mile or so offshore, it can be a hundred feet deep,'' he said. ``Because of that, even with a direct hit, you're not going to get that much of a huge storm surge.''
Along the Gulf Coast, the wide and shallow continental shelf allows surge water to stack up and push deep inland. Hurricane Ike pushed waters 12 miles inland in the Panhandle. And Hurricane Katrina's surge, which breached the levees surrounding New Orleans, was actually higher in Mississippi, hitting 27 feet and wiping out coastal homes.
By contrast, Hurricane Andrew, a small but intensely powerful Category 5 storm, generated a surge that topped out at 17 feet near the Deering Estate, where shallow Biscayne Bay helped raise surge levels. The impacts to Miami Beach were minimal.
That's not to suggest South Florida -- always a primary target during hurricane season -- should ever shrug off surge threats.
SERIOUS THREAT
A surge doesn't have to be two stories high to threaten lives and properties in South Florida, said Jamie Rhome, who heads the storm-surge unit at the National Hurricane Center in Miami. ``Once you start getting above five or six feet, it's all extreme to me,'' Rhome said. ``That's the point you start drowning.''
Though not every storm that has hit South Florida has produced killer surge, when they're bad, they can be very very bad.
The unnamed category four hurricane that hit Miami and Miami Beach in 1926, for example, was ranked as the most damaging ever in a 2008 study by Christopher Landsea of the National Hurricane Center and Roger Pielke Jr. of the University of Colorado. The inflation adjusted loss: $157 billion, much of that from massive flooding. Losses from Katrina are estimated at $80 billion.
For its analysis, First American overlaid surge model maps with its extensive real estate data base to calculate exposure, parcel by parcel. The study identified 10 ZIP Codes in South Florida with the most property value at risk -- with some surprising results.
While homes close to the coast are typically considered most vulnerable, the analysis underlined that rivers and inland waterways and other factors can add to surge threats.
In Broward, for instance, the top-ranked ZIP Codes -- 33301 and 33308 -- include mansions along the New River and canals of Las Olas Isles and more densely populated Lauderdale-by-the-Sea.
In Miami-Dade, however, Pinecrest and the more modest but also numerous homes of Palmetto Bay and Cutler Bay in ZIP Codes 33317 and 33156 ranked high -- primarily because of the proximity to shallow Biscayne Bay. The Miami Beach ZIP Code of 33140 includes Indian Creek and some of the county's most expensive homes.
David Rogers, vice president of market for First American, said the message for most homeowners should be to buy federal flood insurance, which covers surge losses. There have been legal battles over the limits of hurricane insurance, with private insurers arguing they shouldn't pay damages caused by storm surges.
NOT NEW ORLEANS
Unlike New Orleans, which sits below sea level, South Florida wouldn't fill up like a swimming pool from surge, said FIU's Leatherman. ``We're not going to have that kind of damage,'' he said. ``It seems obvious but so many people ask me that question.''
But a strong surge still could undermine foundations, blow out walls and flood streets before draining off and leaving behind a stinking mess that could easily run into tens of billions. Because so many factors -- from the size, speed and angle of the storm to tidal phases at landfall -- play into surge impacts, homeowners who have weathered a storm too often dismiss the threat, said Rhome.
``That's one of the things that trip people up the most,'' he said. ``They think they went through a Category 1 storm five years and they weren't flooded so they won't be flooded again. That kind of thinking is absolutely wrong.''
Read more: http://www.miamiherald.com/2010/04/04/1563421_p2/south-florida-leads-nation-in.html#ixzz0kF7zQb6N

Read more: http://www.miamiherald.com/2010/04/04/1563421/south-florida-leads-nation-in.html#ixzz0kF7FjRYt
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Wondering about Everglades restoration ?  Take a look at Lake O
TCPalm – by Eve Samples
April 5, 2010
MARTIN COUNTY — We didn’t ask for a reminder.
But late last month, we got one.
When the Army Corps of Engineers opened the flood gates from Lake Okeechobee on March 27, resuming its practice of dumping billions of gallons of dirty water into the St. Lucie River, it reminded us why water managers must make Everglades restoration a priority.
In about a week’s time, the releases from Lake O have lowered salinity levels in the St. Lucie River — levels that were already depleted after a rainy March.
They have threatened marine life such as oysters during their spring spawning season.
“We keep doing little feel-good projects, and they get people elected, but they don’t get the discharges stopped,” said Karl Wickstrom, founder of Stuart-based Florida Sportsman Magazine and a member of the Rivers Coalition, which has waged a legal battle to stop the Lake O releases.
Until the lake water flows south to the Everglades — instead of east to the St. Lucie River and west to the Caloosahatchee River — the estuaries will continue to suffer.
The South Florida Water Management District has a rare chance to stop the suffering by buying U.S. Sugar’s vast holdings south of the lake, helping to create an all-important flow way to the Everglades.
Considering the cost of the investment, it won’t be the most popular decision. But it’s what’s right for the Everglades and for the St. Lucie River.
The U.S. Sugar deal pitched by Gov. Charlie Crist has been criticized for its expense ($536 million for the first 73,000 acres), panned by rival corporate interests (especially Florida Crystals) and stymied by a federal judge’s ruling last week.
It faces another hurdle Wednesday as the Florida Supreme Court considers the validity of bonds the water management district intends to use to pay for U.S. Sugar’s land.
But the potential benefits outweigh the negatives.
Buying the U.S. Sugar land would take vast swaths of farm land out of pollution-heavy production. And, most important for the St. Lucie River, it would provide a more logical place to send Lake O’s surplus water.
“This is such a great opportunity that we can’t pass it up. We have to do this because this is a way to get the water moving south to the Everglades, not east and west to the estuaries,” said Mark Perry, director of Florida Oceanographic Society and a Rivers Coalition member.
Meanwhile, the Army Corps’ series of three 13-day releases from Lake Okeechobee continue. They are particularly disturbing because the rainy season is yet to come.
Carol Wehle, executive director of the water management district, warned Martin County commissioners last week that more wet weather would complicate matters.
“I hope I’m wrong, but I’m just feeling a wet summer and some challenges.” Wehle said.
That means more releases, and more damage.
Ed Killer, this news organization’s outdoors and fishing columnist, has vowed to publicly keep tabs on the Corps’ releases. Each week, he intends to print the updated amount of lake water that the Corps dumps into the St. Lucie River.
It’s not pleasant reading, but it’s important.
When you get tired of reading about it and seeing the damage, call or write to our water management district governing board members.
Remind them why we need a solution.
Eve Samples is a columnist for Scripps Treasure Coast Newspapers. This column reflects her opinion. For more on Martin County topics, follow her blog at TCPalm.com/samples. Contact her at (772) 221-4217 or eve.samples@scripps.com.

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100404-1
'They' are the ones who are wasting water: Ed Killer:
TCPalm – by Ed Killer
April 4, 2010
Nine down; 30 to go.
At least that’s what they say.
“They,” in this case, refers to the Army Corps of Engineers. They are the faceless, ambiguous agency of title-holders who control the flow of the majority of the storm water that falls from the sky on Florida’s terra firma.
Ten days ago, “they” decided that the water level in Lake Okeechobee was beginning to climb to a level that was too high. “They” decided that it would be of critical importance to send that water out of the lake lest the lake’s dike would fail. A second reason “they” cited was that some of the lake’s aquatic vegetation was nearly underwater.
So “they” notified the communities along the watersheds of the St. Lucie River and the Caloosahatchee River that a great flow of lake water would be coming their way. The same day in some cases, the South Florida Water Management District, in this case, a different “they,” said South Floridians needed to heed water restrictions for irrigation use.
Never mind the billions of gallons of water a day that are flowing through the canal out to sea. It is OK to waste that water, just don’t waste water on your lawn.
In most years when the dumping of lake water into the St. Lucie and Indian River Lagoon estuaries takes place, I will write a column expressing my disgust. Then, so I don’t wear out the topic on readers who have other outdoor interests, I write about different topics.
Not this time.
Something has to change.
The ACOE announced there would be three sets of 13-day pulse releases sending water from Lake Okeechobee to the east and west. These releases are uncalled for and severely damaging to the two estuaries that are being forced to absorb polluted water.
That’s not my opinion. That is fact.
Has the ACOE slowed down the rate of water flowing into the lake from the north? No. Is any of the lake’s water going to the south toward the Everglades where it is supposed to go anyway? No.
Can these two things be done? Yes and perhaps in the future, yes.
Each week, I will print the updated amount of water that has flowed down the St. Lucie River and into the Atlantic Ocean — water that never was to flow into either of those two bodies of water according to Mother Nature’s original plan.
After seven days of releases (updating through Friday), some 5.6 billion gallons of lake water and Kissimmee River water has gone through the St. Lucie River.
I know 5.6 billion is one of those numbers too big to comprehend. Let me try to help with its visualization. Picture one gallon milk in the refrigerator. Now, think of there being 5.6 billion of those in the refrigerator.
Right. That’s a lot of milk.
And “they” don’t get it.

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United States Geological Service, Gordon Rodda; Fabricate Science
AxcessNews
April 4, 2010
Government officials and employees are stacking the deck in their efforts to push an extreme animal rights agenda. Dr. Gordon Rodda is a scientist that works for the United States Geological Service. The USGS is the Federal agency that has recently become the source of science by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service. Rodda along with the federal leadership are crafting not science, but carefully tailored papers masquerading as 'reports' in order to bring about the agenda of the Humane Society of the United States. The HSUS is bent on taking all animals out of the hands of mankind and is pushing a number of bills now working their way through the US House and the Senate that require this custom work that Rodda is adept at. The doctoring of facts is now systemic and eating away at a system that is supposed to safeguard the rights of US citizens while maintaining stewardship of the United States natural world.
Gordon Rodda with the able assistance of Robert Reed was commissioned by the USGS to write a report on the potential expansion of Burmese Pythons that exist today in the Everglades. This was a request for 'science' from the USFWS. The report was called: "What parts of the US mainland are climatically suitable for invasive alien pythons spreading from Everglades National Park?" This inner office report has been criticized by scientist on many levels. The USFWS, the USGS and Rodda/Reed all know there are many other considerations that need to be quantified in making a legitimate study of this sort. However, a legitimate determination of the possible invasive success of the Burmese Python is not the goal of this requested 'science'. The goal is to use this report as ammunition in gaining the animal rights extremists' ideological goals. They seek to shut down a large segment of the pet industry where millions of scaly critters inhabit aquaria in little boy's bedrooms and in science classrooms across the nation. An industry that employs thousands and according to the HSUS' own numbers, produce $3 billion in business a year.
One particular point illustrates perfectly the cooperation between Rodda/Reed and the USFWS leadership in their animal rights agenda.
Rodda and Reed wrote, "The Burmese Python is a questionable subspecies of the Indian Python, Python molurus" (McDiarmid et al. 1999).
Here is the significance of that singularly damning statement. Now it is not immediately clear why this is damning to the nonsnake keeping public. The problem snakes in the Everglades are Burmese Pythons. The climactic data for Burmese Pythons is no where near as wide ranging as is the climatic data of Indian Pythons is. Hence, this one statement that relegates Burmese and Indian Pythons into one indecipherable mess. To illustrate the folly and patent unfairness of this little trick, imagine saying that Sun Bears, which inhabit lowland tropical rain forests, could survive and thrive everyplace that other bears live. That is silly on the face of it. No less silly, or in this case, dishonest is the mislabeling of the highly specialized Burmese Python with the vastly variable Indian Python. The Burmese Python inhabits the same lowland rain forest as the Sun Bear coincidentally. A Burmese Python would be as far out of his climatic range in Atlanta Georgia as the Sun Bear would be. But not according to Rodda/Reed who require this deception to fabricate their contracted for conclussions.
Further, the USFWS does not agree with that statement either. The USFWS knows that Burmese and Indians Pythons are completely different animals. The Indian Python is already federally regulated. Import and export are illegal. Interstate sales are illegal as well without a Permit granted by the USFWS. Permits for commercial interstate shipping are only granted to individuals who pass through a rigorous application process. If the USFWS believed that the problem Burmese Python is actually the Indian Python, as Rodda and Reed claim in that single sentence, USFWS could end the trade in Burmese Pythons overnight. However, the USFWS leadership is after much more than just that problem species. They never mention the fact that the USFWS disagrees.
As Rodda and Reed gave one another high fives for the genius of this game changing false sentence, they know they will then ply all the climatic data that applies to Indian Pythons fraudulently to Burmese Pythons. They believe their legitimate credentials will discourage others from questioning this betrayal of science and academic integrity. They are stacking the deck in the favor of the extreme animal rights agenda they willingly serve.
In 2009 Hans J. Jacobs, Mark Auliya & Wolfgang Bohme, published a legitimately peer reviewed scientific paper called "Zur taxonomie des dunklen tigerpythons, Python molurus bivittatus Kuhl, 1820, speziell der population von Sulawesi". This document proves that Burmese Pythons are NOT Indian Pythons. The papers abstract reads, "This raised the taxonomic status of the Burmese Python (Python molurus bivittatus) is reassessed and elevated to specific rank again." Rodda and Reed are fully aware of this and yet this was ignored in favor of producing the customized science that pushed their own ideological agendas.
Rodda and Reed know full well that the scientific community does not accept that Burmese are Indian Pythons. They never mentioned that fact.
Rodda and Reed know that Burmese Pythons in the Everglades have been proven to be descendants of South East Asian Rain Forest dwelling Burmese Pythons. Timothy M. Collins, Barbie Freeman and Skip Snow proved the genetic origin of the Burmese Pythons in the Everglades in the FINAL REPORT GENETIC CHARACTERIZATION OF POPULATIONS OF THE NONINDIGENOUS BURMESE PYTHON IN EVERGLADES NATIONAL PARK, a report prepared for the South Florida Water Management District in 2008). Yet, Rodda and Reed failed to acknowledge this fact. Instead they used the data of the Indian Python, which created the nightmare scenario of Burmese Pythons at the Kentucky Derby and all across the southern half of the United States. The Rain Forest habitat preferring Burmese Python would not have their legitimate possible threat analyzed if Rodda and Reed could find another way to cook the books.
World renowned Reptile Author and conservationist Mark O'Shea remarks about Indian and Burmese Pythons on his web site:
http://www.markoshea.tv/series3/series03-02a.html
"The two pythons certainly seem to prefer different habitats, the Indian being found in dry woodland locations and the Burmese living in wetter grassland habitats..."
O'Shea knows this. Every Reptile expert on the planet knows this, including Rodda and Reed. The Indian and Burmese Pythons are different animals with different natural requirements. However, Rodda and Reed have chosen the path of deception, which apparently was perfectly fine with Dan Ashe who was the science advisor for the USFWS and is now the number two man at the USFWS and the point man pushing this deception.
The contrast of suitable habitat and range for the non-problem Indian Python, and the problem Burmese Python is dramatic. The Indian is much smaller and tolerant of temperatures that do mirror the data discussed by Rodda and Reed. Not so for the Burmese Python, which is limited to an extremely closely defined range of tropical rainforest in South East Asia. The Everglades is the closest thing to tropical rainforest in the US. Rodda and Reed might have some ground to stand on if the Indian Python was the species in question. Sadly it's not, and Burmese data has been severely bastardized.
An inconvenient occurrence for Rodda and Reed et al was the cold front that hit the United States including Florida during the first two weeks on January 2010. Weather did what weather does in North America and the temperatures in the Everglades dropped into the mid 30's. This happens every 20 to 25 years down south and Burmese Pythons are turning up dead all over the place in the Everglades. The cold weather killed hundreds of warm blooded endangered Manatees and 100 American Crocodiles have turned belly up from the cold. Rodda claimed that Burmese Pythons would invade the lower half of the United States from coast to coast. This includes areas all the way north to Washington DC where they are having record snow falls this winter. I wonder if the Burmese Pythons will be bringing their snowshoes. Talk about bad luck, unfortunately for the animal rights extremists, the University of Florida implanted radio transmitters in ten Burmese Pythons which were monitored before and after the cold snap. A number of those snakes succumbed to the cold! They are preparing a paper about these facts and are currently closely guarding the exact numbers.
The temperature in Tallahassee Florida dropped to 14 degrees over that cold period. A third grader can tell you what would happen to every single Burmese Python that would be subjected to those kind of temps. Eventually the sun comes out and shines brightly. Brightly enough to shine the light of truth on the blatant preconcived conclusion Rodda and the leadership of the USFWS hold to rather than honest science. Now the world is wondering how the cold blooded invaders, that are hell bent on that northward invasion were planning on bundling up next time weather happens. Surely Rodda knows the answer.

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Court Ruling Endangers Everglades Purchase
RedOrbit.com
April 2, 2010
A deal proposed by Florida Gov. Charlie Crist to save the Everglades is in danger now that a Federal District Court Judge has ordered construction of a $700 million reservoir in Palm Beach County to resume.
Approximately two years ago, Crist proposed to purchase the Everglades land owned by United States Sugar Corp. for $1.75 billion dollars. At the time, he called it a deal that would rescue the wetlands and would be "as monumental as the creation of the nation’s first national park, Yellowstone."
However, the proposal has been reduced twice since then, and on Tuesday, the now $536 million purchase of 73,000 acres of Everglades territory became endangered when Justice Federico A. Moreno ruled that postponed construction of the reservoir be resumed.  The cost of the facility could make it impossible for the state to raise the funds necessary to complete the Everglades purchase.
Work on the 25-square mile reservoir was postponed in 2008 after water managers claimed that lawsuits from environmentalists could endanger the project. The reservoir, which would be the largest such facility on the planet, was put on hold a month before Crist's plan to purchase the land from United States Sugar was initially announced.
In his ruling, Moreno agreed with Miccosukee Indian representatives that halting construction on the reservoir would cause pollution on the tribe's lands, which is located within the Everglades.
U.S. Sugar spokesperson Judy Sanchez still said that the Everglades sale, which also faces a challenge in the Supreme Court, could still be completed. "With the time frame involved in all that considering, the U.S. Sugar deal could very well be approved and worked into the district’s budget," she told Damien Cave of the New York Times on Thursday

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Lake Okeechobee water levels higher than normal
The Associated Press
April 2, 2010
PAHOKEE, Fla. -- Officials say water levels in Lake Okeechobee are above normal because of an unusually rainy dry season.
Lake levels sat at about 14.6 feet above sea level this week, about 2.5 feet higher than this time last year and more than 4 feet higher than in 2008.
The higher levels have raised concerns about the lake's aging Herbert Hoover Dike, in the midst of a decades-long effort to strengthen its earthen walls.
Since Jan. 1, the Army Corps of Engineers has dumped 22 billion gallons out to sea to lower water levels.
The corps tries to keep lake levels below 15.5 feet. It serves as backup water supply for South Florida residents and irrigation for area farmers, but water must be released when it gets too high, in part, to relieve pressure on the dike.

Read more: http://www.miamiherald.com/2010/04/02/1560195/lake-okeechobee-water-levels-higher.html#ixzz0k5eLhQQS
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Let sugar deal slide – Editorial
Newsherald.com
April 02, 2010
A ruling by a Miami federal judge this week might signal the end for a controversial Big Sugar land deal that should not have been approved in the first place.
On Wednesday, Chief U.S. District Judge Federico Moreno issued a ruling that should see deadlines set for restarting construction of a city-size reservoir in the Everglades. The $800 million reservoir project was halted in May 2008 to clear the way for Gov. Charlie Crist’s questionable land deal with U.S. Sugar to restore part of the Everglades.
U.S. Sugar rival Florida Crystals and the Miccosukee Tribe of Indians have opposed Crist’s plan saying that it represented a bailout for an agricultural giant with political influence because the state would spend $536 million buying 73,000 acres from the nation’s largest cane sugar producer.
Crist’s initial plan was even bigger, calling for the state to spend $1.75 billion to buy all of U.S. Sugar’s 180,000 acres and assets in the Everglades. The original plan had appeal because U.S. Sugar would have been liquidated, removing a major industrial presence from the fragile Everglades ecosystem.
But in the two years since Crist announced his intentions, the deal has gone sour.
The water management district that Crist tapped to finance the plan had previously said that it likely could not afford both the land deal and the reservoir project.
Then Florida took a hard hit during the economic downturn, causing a scale back of the land purchase to 73,00 acres — less than half its original size — and instead of closing, U.S. Sugar would continue operations. This gives credit to opponents’ bailout claims because the government would seem to be helping one grower’s bottom line, while not inviting its rival to the party.
The sugar land deal could also face another blow based on the outcome of a hearing before the Florida Supreme Court next week. After a lawsuit brought by the tribe and Florida Crystals in 2009, the district had seen its credit line cut by two-thirds, according to the Miami Herald. And on Tuesday, the court will hear an appeal from the South Florida Water Management District to approve funding the purchase with bonds.
The reservoir project also faces legal uncertainty because the judge’s ruling could reopen a lawsuit by the Natural Resources Defense Council, questioning whether the water would go to the Everglades and not urban development.
But there is debate about whether Crist’s plan would even aid Everglades restoration. The tribe and Florida Crystals have argued that the land deal would set restoration plans back decades. And a member of the water management district’s board contends that most of the tracts for sale aren’t needed and are in the wrong place to facilitate Everglades restoration. The district could be buying 73,000 acres it doesn’t really need with money it doesn’t have.
As the judge did not order an immediate restart of the reservoir project, Crist and district officials should ensure that the any plan to meet the state’s environmental goals represents the best terms for public dollars and not a bailout for private business.

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Lake Okeechobee water levels rising, raising flood control concerns
Sun-Sentinel – by Andy Reid
April 01, 2010
Lake Okeechobee's yo-yoing water level is on the rise again, renewing safety concerns about the aging dike relied on to guard against flooding.
That has the Army Corps of Engineers dumping lake water out to sea, wasting water relied on to back up South Florida supplies in order to ease the strain on the 70-year-old dike.
The Herbert Hoover Dike is considered one of the country's six most at-risk of failing, and is in the midst of a decades-long rehab project to strengthen the earthen structure.
To lessen the dike's load, the corps — which oversees the dike and lake levels — has dumped 22 billion gallons out to sea since Jan. 1. That's enough to fill more than 33,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools.
Dry spring weather usually lowers the lake, allowing room for the water expected during the stormy summer months to come.
But this year, a rainy spring washed away South Florida's usual "dry season" and instead of receding, the lake rose about a foot during the past 30 days.
"As the lake level increases, the concern about the Lake Okeechobee dike also increases," said Luis Alejandro, the corps' Lake Okeechobee basin manager.
On Thursday, the lake measured 14.63 feet above sea level, about 2.5 feet higher than this time last year and more than 4 feet higher than in 2008.
The corps tries to keep the lake between 12.5 and 15.5 feet.
Sugar cane growers and other farmers, who tap Lake Okeechobee water for irrigation, in recent months have questioned whether the corps is draining too much lake water too early in the November-to-May dry season.
Growers support releasing lake water to protect the dike, but the lake's current water level shouldn't have the corps "overly excited" about draining away water, said Barbara Miedema, vice president of the Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative of Florida.
"You look at Lake Okeechobee as your bank account," Miedema said. "We think they should be cautious in their releases."
Current lake levels are not necessarily a threat to the lake's environmental health or the safety of the dike, but that can quickly change, Audubon of Florida scientist Paul Gray said. He pointed to Tropical Storm Fay's 4-foot boost to the lake in 2008.
"We are only one [tropical] storm away from being in really bad shape," Gray said. "We don't have to panic now … but you also can't sit around with your hands in your pockets."

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Everglades Coalition works to restore, protect 2-million-acre wetland ecosystem in
Hollywood Gazette – by Caron Conway
April 1, 2010
Ten years after the largest ecosystem restoration project in our nation’s history was approved, the Everglades Coalition, which includes a Hollywood-based conservation organization, is leading the charge for continued progress in saving Florida’s unique environmental treasure.
The Everglades Coalition is an alliance of 53 national, state and local conservation and environmental organizations – including the Sun Coast Regional Office of the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) in Hollywood – that advocates for the restoration, protection and enhancement of the series of rivers, lakes and estuaries that comprise the Everglades.
Working in the public arena, the coalition informs decision makers of the conservation community’s collective view of the 2-million-acre wetland ecosystem that reaches from the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes into Lake Okeechobee, through the “River of Grass” and Everglades National Park, and out to Florida Bay and the Keys.
Toward this end, the coalition met with elected officials and community leaders at its 25th annual conference in January to develop solutions for the next 10 years of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP). Congress passed the landmark multibillion-dollar plan, which will take decades to achieve, in 2000.
Plans call for improving natural water flow and water quality, and reviving the habitats of 68 endangered and threatened plants and species, which include the Florida panther and American crocodile, by removing levees, filling in canals and building reservoirs and treatment areas. Most of the approximately 1.7 billion gallons of fresh water that drains from the Everglades to coastal waters each day will be captured and stored in surface and underground storage areas until it’s needed to supply the natural system, as well as urban and agricultural uses.
Originally, close to 8.9 million acres extending from the lakes and marshes of Central Florida to the Florida Bay were composed of interconnected wetlands, 4 million acres of which were known as the Everglades. Decades of farming, urban development and the massive water engineering and drainage project – known as the Central and Southern Florida Project – have reduced the Everglades ecosystem to half its former size, diverting and fragmenting its vital freshwater flows with levees and canals and releasing polluted water into its fragile habitats.
The Everglades ecosystem supports agriculture and provides drinking water and flood protection for South Florida. The wetlands improve water quality by filtering out pollutants and absorbing excess nutrients, as well as replenish aquifers and reduce flooding. Everglades and Biscayne National Parks, Big Cypress National Preserve and Dry Tortugas National Park also depend on the wetland ecosystem.
With the release of the Everglades Coalition’s 2020 Vision for Everglades Restoration, Sara Fain, Everglades restoration program manager with the NPCA and the coalition’s national co-chair, said it’s crucial for the environmental community and state and federal partners to “work together to ensure the next decade of restoration puts us well on our way to a restored Everglades.”
In the past year, significant federal funding for Everglades restoration has enabled two key projects to move forward.
In December, ground was broken on the Tamiami Trail project in Miami-Dade County, which entails the construction of a mile-long bridge to replace a portion of the east-west highway that for decades has blocked natural freshwater flows southward into Everglades National Park. And in January, ground was broken on a $53 million project to turn an unsuccessful subdivision in the Picayune Strand in Southwest Florida back into 55,000 acres of wetlands.
 “This is an exciting time in restoration, but we can’t stop now,” said Mark Perry, state co-chair of the Everglades Coalition and the executive director of the Florida Oceanographic Society. “As the Everglades continues to decline, we believe our list of priorities for 2020 is key to turning restoration around.”
The coalition’s 2020 Vision for Everglades Restoration provides detailed recommendations for local, state and federal officials to successfully move the restoration toward completion. The coalition’s priorities include $305 million in federal and state funding of key restoration programs and projects to ensure “critical on-the-ground benefits throughout the ecosystem,” and congressional authorization of four key restoration projects – the Biscayne Bay Coastal Wetlands, C-111 Spreader Canal phase 1, C-43 Reservoir and Broward County Water Preserve Area.
The coalition also urges Florida, upon closing its first restoration land deal with U.S. Sugar Corp., to immediately announce the start of a restoration project on the 73,000-acre site and begin negotiations to act on its option to acquire the more than 100,000 remaining acres of sugar cane land.
With the restoration project now in its second decade, the Everglades Coalition is stressing that the time has come to fully fund and complete critical projects.
 “If we are successful here over the next decade, we will set an example for all other ecosystem restoration initiatives nationally and internationally,” Perry said.
For more information on the Everglades Coalition or restoration project, visit www.evergladescoalition.org.
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New Hope for the Everglades
Sunshine News -by Nancy Smith;  Florida Retail Federation
April 1, 2010
Crist's U.S. Sugar deal likely dead in the water
When Federal District Court Judge Federico Moreno ordered construction to resume on the 16,700-acre A-1 reservoir, some of the most significant figures in the past 20 years of Everglades restoration gathered in South Florida to celebrate.
"It was the happiest moment we could remember in a long while," said Mike Collins, former South Florida Water Management District board member. "Just Jeb Bush, Henry Dean, Chip Merriam and me.
"All of us said, 'At least now there's a prayer' for preserving the Everglades."
Judge Moreno decided Wednesday in favor of the Miccosukee tribe's motion to restart the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP), a years-in-the-making, 68-project plan to better control water releases, restore wildlife habitat and protect the state's estuaries.
The judge's ruling could be the kiss of death for Gov. Charlie Crist's twice-downsized, $536 million land deal to buy 73,000 acres from U.S. Sugar.
With a tight economy and an investigative report by The New York Times that revealed the land deal was a "deal" only for U.S. Sugar, Crist's land purchase was on a precipice even before the judge's decision.
"We are reviewing the court's ruling to determine the next steps for the state," said the governor's press secretary, Sterling Ivey, in an e-mailed statement.
Taxpayers had already shelled out almost $300 million of the $800 million reservoir pricetag when Crist -- working with the SFWMD -- shut reservoir construction down in 2008. Had the shut-down never happened, the A-1 reservoir would have been completed this year and would have been ready to store 62 billion gallons of water -- the equivalent of more than 5 million residential swimming pools.
No spokesperson for U.S. Sugar returned the Sunshine State News' calls on Wednesday.
Gaston Cantens, vice president of U.S.-Sugar competitor Florida Crystals and consistent critic of the Crist-U.S. Sugar deal, said going ahead with the purchase "would be a disaster for the Everglades. We're just thankful there's an independent judiciary in this country."
That "independent judiciary" apparently took the Everglades Trust by surprise.
On Wednesday, the same day as Judge Moreno's ruling, Thom Rumberger of the Trust issued a press release chiding sugar cane growers:
"Recently, the president of Florida’s sugar cane coop suggested that the restoration of America’s Everglades should be done under the oversight of a 'well-intentioned third party to drive a process that is free of politics and self-serving interests.' George Wedgworth should be delighted to learn that just such a party, the Federal Court, is driving the process, and has been for more than two decades."
Rumberger could not be reached for comment Wednesday night.
But Barbara Miedema, vice president of the Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative, said the coop has been a participant in Everglades restoration efforts for 20 years. She said she'll be "thrilled" to see reservoir construction resumed.
"You know," said Collins, "the judge's ruling makes me feel good for Chip Merriam, a Water Management District scientist who was fired -- that's right, fired -- for refusing to go along with the new baloney. All of a sudden the Everglades Foundation comes along, and after we built a plan with sound science and financial responsibility, they're making scientific decisions because a bunch of faux environmentalists gives them a lot of money ...
"And," he said, "I feel good for Henry Dean, too." Dean, an attorney versed in all 68 of CERP's restoration projects, retired as executive director of SFWMD in 2005.
"But it's Jeb (Bush) who deserves to be celebrating the most," Collins said. "Jeb has always been committed to the Everglades. Always. I've had him in my boat, taking him around, showing him the 'glades time after time. You can't compare Charlie's commitment to Jeb's.
"The Crist-Sugar deal has set Everglades preservation back a decade," he said. "And, by the way, it isn't restoration now, it's only preservation.
"The Everglades can never be restored."
On Aug. 2, 2006, when then-Gov. Jeb Bush broke ground on the A-1 Reservoir, he said, "Florida is keeping its promise to restore the River of Grass and protect this national treasure. ..."
Along with capturing runoff from agricultural areas, the reservoir will store freshwater releases from Lake Okeechobee to reduce harmful discharges to the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries.
Reach Executive Editor Nancy Smith at nsmith@sunshinestatenews.com or at 850-583-1823.

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Is Obama’s drilling plan a pawn in climate debate?
Sun Sentinel - by William Gibson
April 1, 2010
President Obama’s plan to expand offshore drilling near Florida and other parts of the East Coast has gotten tangled in a larger debate in Congress over climate-change legislation.
The administration and Democratic leaders in Congress hope to cobble together enough votes to pass a long-stalled climate bill. More drilling might help mollify moderate Democrats and Republicans intent on boosting domestic energy supplies.
Yellow areas proposed for drilling (map -  US East Coast and the Gulf of Mexico))
Or will it?
Skeptics say the president is compromising away environmental interests without gaining support from those who are bent on blocking his agenda on global warming and most every other issue.
 “Obama is usually too ready to bargain. In some cases there’s no gain from it,” said Pedro Monteiro, who has served as chairman of energy and coastal issues for the Sierra Club of Broward County. “He gave up a lot on the health bill to get votes from Republicans, and in the end not a single Republican voted for it.”
“I can’t help but think he is doing the same thing on the energy bill while bending over backwards for the oil oligarchy.”
Some leaders of the oil industry were encouraged by the president’s plan. It would open huge parts of the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Ocean to exploration but leave a no-drill buffer along Florida’s west coast.
In Tallahassee, David Mica, executive director of the Florida Petroleum Council, was pressing for more. “This is just step one,” he said. “We hope consideration will be given to other resource-rich areas.”
Florida Republican Senator George LeMieux issued a mixed message indicating support for more drilling under certain circumstances, especially if it brings revenue to the state.
Wasserman Schultz
“Energy independence is one of our generation’s ultimate challenges, and Florida can play a critical role,” LeMieux said. “Safe and clean technologies used far enough from our shores is a proposal worth considering, but only if Florida’s interests are protected and we benefit from the proceeds just like other states.”
Some Florida Democrats are adamantly opposed.
“While I appreciate President Obama's commitment to developing a comprehensive energy policy, I have a long history of opposing expanded drilling for oil and gas off of Florida’s coasts and remain opposed today,” said Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a Democrat from Weston.
“Ecologically, this exploration could threaten Florida’s unique coastal resources, home to 85 percent of the United States coral reefs,” she said. “Economically, it threatens Florida’s $65-billion-a-year tourism industry, which relies on pristine beaches.”
Her Democratic colleague Kendrick Meek of Miami, who is running for the Senate, said something similar without explicitly opposing the plan. He said it “requires serious consideration and study as questions remain unanswered, but caution must trump expediency.”
Will this debate lead to limits on air pollution to prevent global warming? The answer may come in the next few weeks after Congress returns from its spring break.
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Ruling puts U.S. Sugar-Everglades land buy in peril
Miami Herald - by CURTIS MORGAN
April 1, 2010
A Miami federal judge, saying he is out of patience regarding Everglades restoration, ordered the state to restart a reservoir project that could derail the controversial land purchase.
The Miami federal judge overseeing Everglades cleanup issued a ruling Wednesday that could prove the final nail in the coffin of Gov. Charlie Crist's controversial Big Sugar land buy -- or serve as a judicial kick in the butt to finally seal the much-delayed, twice-downsized deal.
Saying he was tired of waiting, Chief U.S. District Judge Federico Moreno ordered water managers to restart construction on a $700 million reservoir in western Palm Beach County -- a project once touted as critical to Everglades restoration but halted two years ago and left in limbo while the state bargained to buy massive tracts from the U.S. Sugar Corp.
Moreno sided with the Miccosukee Tribe, which had argued that halting the reservoir exposed tribal lands to worsening pollution that the $536 million sugar deal, scaled back in size and cost twice by the deteriorating economy, might not alleviate for a decade or more.
``Although the partial sugar land acquisition may be in the best interests of the Everglades in the very distant future, the Tribe's environmental suffering is immediate,'' Moreno wrote.
``The court recognizes the complications of acquiring the vast acreage proposed and the apparent difficulties in attaining the original goal. But it is not the role of the Court to negotiate with competing land owners or to manage the treasury of'' the state agencies.
Dexter Lehtinen, the tribe's attorney, said the ruling put ``restoration back on the proper track.''
The tribe and Florida Crystals, a rival grower of U.S. Sugar, have waged a fierce legal and lobbying war to derail the U.S. Sugar deal. They have painted it as a bailout for a struggling and politically influential agricultural giant that would siphon money from existing projects and ultimately push back restoration by decades.
Gaston Cantens, a vice president of Florida Crystals, praised the decision.
``Thankfully, we have an independent judiciary that is willing to do the right thing and is not blinded by politics,'' he said.
The South Florida Water Management District, which is negotiating to buy the U.S. Sugar land, issued a statement saying attorneys were reviewing the ruling to determine the next step. Crist's office also said it was reviewing the ruling.
Supporters acknowledged it posed another hurdle, potentially a serious one, but insisted it was not the death knell for a deal they argue is essential to resolving water pollution problems that have plagued the Everglades for decades.
The judge left open windows to completing the land purchase, said David Guest, an attorney for Earthjustice who represents a number of environmental groups in a landmark 22-year-old settlement that forced Florida to halt the flow of pollution into the Everglades. Moreno has monitored the effort since 2003.
Guest, echoed by U.S. Sugar, said the judge did not order an immediate restart of the reservoir but instead ordered hearings to set construction deadlines before a special master, John Barkett. Moreno appointed Barkett in 2005 to assess cleanup progress and propose remedies to pollution violations in the Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge.
``It plainly doesn't help, but it certainly doesn't foreclose it,'' Guest said of the larger deal.
The judge also noted that the state and federal governments could ask to amend the cleanup settlement, known as a consent decree, at any time. The state is negotiating with the federal government over two more recent water quality violations, talks likely to include pledges of using some of the 72,500 acres of sugar lands and citrus groves to expand the state's existing 41,000 acres of pollution treatment marshes.
Thom Rumberger, chairman of the Everglades Trust, called the decision an ``unwelcome complication'' and said its timing was a surprise.
On Tuesday, the Florida Supreme Court is scheduled to hear an appeal of Water District plans to bankroll the deal with bonds. Last year, in a lawsuit brought by Florida Crystals and the tribe, a Palm Beach County circuit court judge approved enough bonding capacity to close the first of the two-phase deal, but chopped the $2.2 billion credit line by two-thirds.
Rumberger said he shared the judge's frustration with repeated delays and blown deadlines and hoped the ruling would ``help move folks along.
``Nothing in the Everglades is ever simple,'' he said.
Water managers, who have acknowledged that bleak financial projections threaten plans to bankroll the deal with bonds, have been exploring options. They include paying for all of part of the deal with cash -- possibly by canceling other projects or selling land -- or by further downsizing the initial purchase.
Being forced to build the reservoir would further strain the district's finances.
In his ruling, Moreno credited the state for progress and ``good faith efforts'' by Crist, previous governors and water managers in the $1.1 billion cleanup effort.
But he also said he was ``now uncertain about what role the downsized land purchase will play in Everglades restoration'' and that he could not allow water managers to ``abandon projects when new opportunities arise unless the proper process is employed to amend those commitments.''
Read more: http://www.miamiherald.com/2010/03/31/1557866/ruling-puts-big-sugar-land-buy.html#ixzz0jrty4whq

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E-mail: evergladeshub@gmail.com