FULL TEXTS OF
Climate Change: The Question Of Bread
NewsJunkiePost – by Mike Kaulbars
August 30, 2010
I despair when I hear people talk about climate change in terms of failing ski resorts and longer growing seasons. The disconnect between the common perception of what climate change really is and what people think it means is truly terrifying.
One of the unfortunate things about Al Gore’s “Inconvenient Truth” is it led to the notion that the principle threat posed by climate change is coastal flooding. One could watch the film and conclude that if you didn’t live near a coast climate change is problem that need not concern you directly – NOT!
About a year ago articles like “Billions could go hungry from global warming by 2100 started appearing and this seemed to surprise a lot of people. Reality check. Far and away the most serious threat posed by climate change is famine; truly massive, global famine.
This seems counter-intuitive as another unfortunate climate change myth is that it will be good for plants. More warmth and higher CO2 levels sure sounds like it should. The threat to crops is is in various ways and not all regions are threatened. In fact under conditions of moderate climate change a few regions of the world will actually benefit in the short to medium term. (Note “short to medium term” = decades, not centuries)
However they are the exception. For the majority the effects will range from negative to devastating. Indeed Australia, northeast Africa, and the western United States are already visibly suffering the consequences.
Climate change affects crops in different ways because they are complex systems. Yes there is more CO2 and it will get warmer, but “warmer” leads to quite a few different consequences depending on other factors. I would like to offer a quick survey to help people appreciate what we are facing.
Let’s start with rising seas. A two meter rise in sea level may not seem like much if you are thinking of the cliffs of Dover, but for low lying places like Bangladesh and Florida it is huge. Some of the worlds best agricultural land is in river deltas like the Nile and the Mekong which are very close to sea level.
The greater threat from rising sea levels is not actual flooding, but infiltration of ground water by sea water. Once the ground water becomes saline the salt migrates up through the soil and turns productive land into a salt desert.
A two meter rise in sea level can affect agricultural land quite some distance from the ocean. A majority of the world’s food production is within 5 m of sea level.
Warmer weather means different weather, and that means changes in rainfall. There are a great many variables involved in creating weather, but some broad patterns are known.
Warmer air can hold more moisture, which will mean more rainfall in some regions when the air masses bring in more moisture. In other regions it will mean greater drought as the warmer air sucks up more moisture. It depends on how saturated with moisture the air is, and on whether the system is warming or cooling. Systems that are cooling will tend to drop rain. Systems that are warming will tend to suck up moisture.
Weather systems coming off of the ocean will tend to be wet. Systems coming from mountains will tend to be drying as the air descends and warms. The same will tend to be true for systems moving from north to south (ie they will be warming).
In crude terms we expect dry areas to get drier, and wet areas to get wetter. Neither is good news.
Most grain growing regions in the world are really pretty dry, including the Canadian prairies, the American West, the Ukraine and northern China. Marginal lands will become desert and good land degraded. Already areas of Oklahoma and Texas are experiencing drought comparable to what they experienced in the Great Dust Bowl of the 1930s.
Yes the IPCC stated that for North America “In the early decades of the century, moderate climate change is projected to increase aggregate yields …”, but the rest of that quote is “… of rain-fed agriculture by 5 to 20%, but with important variability among regions. “
In other words food production that depends on irrigation and/or is already in a water stressed region will not benefit; in these regions food production will decline.
So what areas of North America have been experiencing more drought in the past decade or so? The West of course (Canada and USA), California, the South East, and Florida; ie almost everywhere that grows the majority of North American food.
But more rain is not a good thing either as flooding will kill a crop as effectively as drought, as happened in the American mid-west and is happening in Pakistan.
Even without floods more water can be a problem as low lying areas become flooded or marshy, and poorer draining soils become waterlogged, all of which damages crops or removes land from production entirely.
Any farmer can tell you that it’s not just how much rain they get, it’s when it comes. For regions that experience changes in rainfall it is critical how and when the rain comes.
It seems likely that the increases we expect will not be spread out, but rather come as stronger, more intense storms. These will damage crops directly without necessarily benefiting them as the water simply runs off. Increased runoff will cause more soil erosion and flood waterways.
Even if the total rainfall is “just right”, it won’t matter if it doesn’t come at the right times. Drenching storms followed long dry periods are of no particular benefit.
Lack of rain during planting will not be fixed by heavy rain later. Too much rain during harvest season can destroy a crop completely. Wetter will also mean increased mold, rot, and other diseases for many crops.
Warmer weather also means more intense heat waves, and more of them. Heat waves stress crops and reduce productivity at the best of times. If there is an intense heat wave during germination, flower set, or fruit set it can wipe the crop out completely.
The worlds glaciers are in catastrophic decline and this is disaster for agriculture in many parts of the world. Historically in winter the glaciers act as a storehouse for accumulated snow which then melts in high summer.
Many regions of the world depend on glacier fed rivers for irrigation during the driest part of the summer. This is true of the Canadian prairies, large areas of the American West, temperate South America, and much of central Asia. At current rates of decline glaciers will cease to be a meaningful source of water sometime in the next 30 to 40 years.
Climate change not only threatens crops, but fisheries as well. The increased acidification of ocean caused by CO2 absorption impacts marine life in many ways, and for the most part not good. As things currently stand we anticipate almost all fisheries to be wiped out within decades under the dual pressure of climate change and over fishing.
Regardless of the morality of it, the fact is that at least some of the worlds cropland is dedicated to biofuels and that will probably increase as the price of oil increases. Farmers will sell where they get the best price, and if the wealthy are willing to pay more to continue to indulge their luxuries, then the poor will be without food just as they are now.
The Global Outlook
Large areas of the worlds most productive regions are expected to suffer reduced yields from climate change. Indeed for most years in the past decade the world has consumed more grain than it produced and world grain reserves are now near record lows.
Many countries already ban or limit food exports and that is going to increase. At the same time many western countries are encouraging the production of biofuels for economic reasons, but that is taking the land out of food production.
Crops and Fisheries at Risk
Looking at the above map ask yourself “In 30 years where will my food come from? and how much will it cost?”
Needless to say this is still a very simplistic overview of a complex issue. Many posts could be written on the physiology of plant responses to heat stress, or pests and diseases on crops, never mind the uncertainties of predicting regional climate.
Even so I hope it has helped to banish the notion that climate change will have some positive benefits, at least if you agree that famine and accompanying civic collapse tends to over-shadow things like “more beach days.”
There is a certain irony that diet, which is the largest portion of our carbon footprint for most of us, is also the part of our life that is most threatened by climate change. There are numerous simplistic suggestions for dealing with the coming food crisis, but many of them are as flawed as the “more CO2 means more food” fable is.
Of the coming food crisis New Scientist said “…3 billion people will have to choose between going hungry and moving…” Uhm, move to where? Where exactly do we currently have the room for 3 billion people?
A far more likely scenario is that presented by the series “Climate Wars” (Ideas1 Ideas2 Ideas3) and highly recommended.
“The question of bread for myself is a material question, but the question of bread for my neighbor is a spiritual question.”
New federal water rules threaten Florida's economy
NewsJournalOnline - by Chris Smith, Florida Voices
August 30, 2010
The new water regulations proposed by the federal Environmental Protection Agency would require the state's water utilities to spend tens of billions of dollars to upgrade water-treatment facilities. Although the goals of the new regulations are noble, the state of Florida is facing a $5 billion to $6 billion budget deficit, and our counties and cities are facing proportional shortfalls. Now is not the time to implement these new regulations. During this period of high unemployment, these costs could impede our state's economic recovery, force Florida businesses to cut jobs and increase the price of utilities, food and other necessities for Florida employers, families and consumers.
As a lifelong Floridian, I still marvel at our state's beauty and have voted in a manner to protect its splendid beauty. I know that all Floridians want to protect our state's waters, but we must make sure that we do so in a manner that does not hamper job growth or pose unreasonable new costs on families.
The reason for my concern is a study provided to me by the Florida Water Environment Association Utility Council, which projects that the new EPA rules will force city wastewater-treatment facilities to spend up to $50.7 billion in capital costs for additional treatment facilities, as well as up to $1.3 billion per year in additional operating costs. For Broward County alone, these increases could top $2 billion.
These costs likely will be passed on to families through higher water bills, which could increase water bills by around $700 a year for the average Florida household. For most families these days, that is a lot of money. My fear is that, without programs in place to ensure our most vulnerable citizens can afford these utility bills, these costs could function as a regressive tax on water whose burden would fall most heavily on black, Hispanic and elderly households surviving on low and fixed incomes.
Most of Florida's congressional delegation, a bipartisan group of 21 members of Congress including my congressman, Alcee Hastings, signed a letter stating the "EPA's unprecedented nutrient criteria rule-making appears poised to impose substantial regulatory and economic consequences on Floridians." This group of Democrats and Republicans urged the EPA to allow an independent analysis of the regulation's economic impact on Florida that would look at how the rules could force costly expenses on Florida industry, employers, utilities and consumers.
The troubling aspect of these new regulations to me, and probably to the congressional delegation, is that the new regulations were brought about by litigation rather than legislation. The rules have resulted from a lawsuit brought by environmental-advocacy groups against the EPA. Our elected officials have had little to say in this matter, and Florida would be the only state targeted by the EPA with deadlines and strict federal oversight. I don't believe this is fair, particularly considering Florida has been a national leader in enforcing aggressive water-quality standards to keep our waterways clean for conservation and recreation.
All these reasons inform my conclusion that this action by the EPA is much too hasty and could not come at a worse time for Florida's struggling families. For the sake of Florida's struggling economy and working families, I sincerely hope the EPA will reconsider the necessity of this approach or delay enforcement of these proposed regulations and allow Florida's economy a greater chance to get back on its feet.
Return on saving Everglades: $90 billion
Palm Beach Post - by Letters To The Editor
August 30, First posted: August 27, 2010
Restoration of the Everglades is at a critical point. In a pending Florida Supreme Court appeal, litigants have argued against the purchase of the U.S. Sugar Corp. land on economic grounds. The newest deal calls for buying 26,800 acres that could be used to build reservoirs and treatment areas to restore water flows from Lake Okeechobee to the southern Everglades.
The litigants' main argument states that the high cost of the South Florida Water Management District issuing $200 million in bonds does not serve the "public good." Litigants imply that restoring the land bought with bonds will cost still more and take away from other Everglades restoration projects. Those critics, who argue "sticker shock" from the price, have failed to consider the economic benefits that restoration will bring, or claim that these benefits are intangible or incalculable. However, there are objective, scientific methods of valuing the services provided to nature and society by restored ecosystems.
While the cost of buying the land is evident, the greater benefits from the land are less apparent. To assess these benefits, we have quantified the economic value of the services provided by ecosystems: flood protection, water supply, recreation, etc. We have used and modified the methodology for "valuing ecosystem services," first quantified by a group of international economists and biologists in 1997 and recommended for application by the National Academy of Sciences.
Our point is that natural systems and restoration provide economic value. Furthermore, we must recognize that the natural ecosystem has tangible economic value. We argue that it can be evaluated as an investment, and we calculated the return on the purchase of the U.S. Sugar land. Our assessment compared the costs to the ecological and economic benefits of the proposed plans for Everglades restoration. Costs include the purchase of land, building necessary reservoirs and storm water treatment areas, and ongoing operations and maintenance. Benefits include flood control, water regulation and the revitalization of the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries, which have been damaged by harmful discharges from Lake Okeechobee.
Investment in any of the proposed restoration plans would result in a substantial return within 10 years and contribute up to $90 billion to the economy over 40 years. What the investors and taxpayers need to remember is that restoration is not only a "feel good" environmental project, but also an economic investment with a huge return. With a benefit-to-cost ratio of at least 6 to 1 there is an astounding "sticker benefit" associated with the purchase and restoration of this land.
- ANGELIQUE GIRAUD, ED PRITCHARD, DYLAN SCOTT, ADRIENNE SMITH, JIM WALLY - 2010 summer interns,
Arthur R. Marshall Foundation & Florida Environmental Institute, Inc.
West Palm Beach
Destroy those waters and you destroy us
CapeCoral Daily Breeze - Letters To The Editor - by SAM BAILEY
August 28, 2010
As a concerned Florida citizen nearing 90 years of age, I have always been very conscious of the environment and the history of Lee County, as well as the sorry history of what man has done to disturb the beautiful system nature devised for the waters in our state.
Here in Southwest Florida, we are nothing and will have nothing without our precious water at the high quality we and our visitors have come to expect through the years.
I am just devastated by the lack of interest the government is taking in the Lake Okeechobee problem. It's just crazy to neglect a situation that can be solved.
Lake Okeechobee has too much fresh water, and the Everglades is crying for fresh water. If the lake water flows south through the "River of Grass," it will purify itself. That does not happen when it's released from the lake via man-made locks according to a man-made schedule down the Caloosahatchee, which once meandered with cleansing twists and turns of grasses but was long ago straightened to nothing more than a canal. The more lake water that comes down the Caloosahatchee, the more destruction is visited upon our river, our bays and estuaries. Destroy those waters and you destroy us. It's just ridiculous.
Can someone please explain to me why the government has seen fit to put water that's wanted and needed in the Everglades in a place it's not needed and not wanted (here); where in fact it is destructive?
Rebuilding the Herbert Hoover Dike to make it safe for the people who live there is the highest priority. I was around in the 1920s when so many people lost their lives as Lake Okeechobee overflowed its banks. Yet here it is, more than 82 years later, and the federal government is still fiddling around with that dike. The dike is still dangerous; the problem has not been solved.
There is a plan that would go a long way toward solving all of these problems, but the government's apparent lack of interest is causing it to dwindle away to almost nothing; that is the state's purchase of the maximum possible acreage from the U.S. Sugar Corp., including all the option lands available over the next few years. That land would eventually allow water to flow south through the Everglades, eliminate the dam problem, the polluted fresh water destroying estuaries on the west and east coasts, and keep the proper and natural amount of water flowing where it belongs to balance salinity levels as nature intended.
As it stands now, we're robbing Peter to pay Paul, especially when the water can be used somewhere else. As an old, hard-working, conscientious American and Floridian, I feel very strongly about this.
SAM BAILEY, Board Member, PURRE Water Coalition
Eric Buermann: Reduced U.S. Sugar land buy was wise move in tough times
News-press.com – special by Eric Buermann
August 28, 2010
Much has changed in the two years since Gov. Charlie Crist stood on the edge of America’s Everglades and called upon the South Florida Water Management District to negotiate a historic land acquisition with U.S. Sugar Corp. that would help restore this national treasure.
Since 2008, the economic impacts that have been felt across the nation have led to a decline of $150 million in district revenues.
Legal challenges have drawn the acquisition out in the courts. And recent federal court rulings have changed the landscape of restoration planning.
In the midst of change, what has remained constant is the need for more land south of Lake Okeechobee — whether through this acquisition or from another willing seller — to achieve water quality improvements and restoration of the Everglades and its watersheds.
A second amended acquisition, recently approved by the SFWMD Governing Board and U.S. Sugar’s Board of Directors, keeps that dream alive to provide near-term benefits for South Florida’s ecosystems while addressing the new fiscal constraints and legal obligations that we face.
The modified contract calls for the district to utilize $197 million in cash on-hand — already reserved for land acquisition and restoration projects — to initially purchase approximately 26,800 acres of land. The agency retains options over the next 10 years to acquire the corporation’s remaining 153,200 acres should economic conditions allow.
In crafting this new agreement, the district carefully evaluated its existing requirements and mandates to identify acreage that could significantly enhance restoration and water quality efforts already under way for key basins.
The acquisition consists of two strategically located parcels. One, lying just west of two of the agency’s water treatment wetlands, is 17,900 acres of citrus land in Hendry County. This site will be used for projects to improve water quality in the C-139 agricultural basin, where phosphorus levels historically have been high. The second parcel is 8,900 acres of sugar cane land in Palm Beach County. This will be used to enhance existing treatment wetlands to help meet federally mandated water quality targets in the Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge.
Along with achieving some important water quality benefits, this latest version of the purchase fulfills the SFWMD Governing Board’s pledge not to increase the burden on taxpayers or hamper the district’s ability to carry out its core missions.
By paying for the initial acreage with a portion of cash saved during better economic times, the district eliminates the immediate need for financing with certificates of participation.
That approach saves taxpayers millions of dollars that would have been spent on annual debt service payments.
When the state and federal governments partnered more than a decade ago to restore the Everglades, no one imagined vast areas of agricultural land south of the lake would ever be available for that purpose. The new realities of the last two years have forced the district to rethink how to approach the River of Grass acquisition in a fiscally responsible way.
However, the benefits of this rare opportunity remain as clear as ever.
— Eric Buermann is chairman of the Governing Board of the South Florida Water Management District.
New EPA water regulations threaten Floridians surviving on low and fixed incomes
Online Journal - by State Senator Chris Smith, Guest Writer
Aug 27, 2010, 00:16
The new water regulations proposed by the EPA would require the state’s water utilities to spend tens of billions of dollars to upgrade water treatment facilities. Although the goals of the new regulations are noble, at a time when the state of Florida is facing a $5 to $6 billion budget deficit and our counties and cities are facing proportional deficits, now is not the time to implement these new regulations.
During this period of high unemployment, these costs could impede our state’s economic recovery, force Florida businesses to cut jobs, and increase the price of utilities, food and other necessities for Florida employers, families and consumers.
As a lifelong Floridian, I still marvel at our state’s beauty and have voted in a manner to protect its splendid beauty. I know that all Floridians want to protect our state’s waters, but we must make sure that we do so in a manner that does not hamper job growth or pose unreasonable new costs on strong families.
The reason for my concern is a study provided to me by the Florida Water Environment Association Utility Council, which projects that the new EPA rules will force city wastewater treatment facilities to spend up to $50.7 billion in capital costs for additional treatment facilities, as well as up to $1.3 billion per year in additional operating costs. For Broward County alone, these increases could top $2 billion.
These costs likely will be passed on to families through higher water bills which could increase water bills by around $700 a year for the average Florida household. For most families these days, that is a lot of money.
My fear is that, without programs in place to ensure our most vulnerable citizens can afford these utility bills, these cost could function as a regressive tax on water whose burden would fall most heavily on black, Hispanic and elderly households surviving on low and fixed incomes.
Most of Florida’s congressional delegation, a bipartisan group of 21 members of Congress including my congressman Alcee Hastings, signed a letter stating the “EPA’s unprecedented nutrient criteria rule-making appears poised to impose substantial regulatory and economic consequences on Floridians.” This group of Democrats and Republicans urged the EPA to allow an independent analysis of the regulation’s economic impact on Florida that would look at how the rules could force costly expenses on Florida industry, employers, utilities and consumers.
The troubling aspect of these new regulations to me, and probably to the congressional delegation, is that the new regulations were brought by litigation rather than legislation. The rules have resulted from a lawsuit brought by environmental advocacy groups against the EPA. Our elected officials have had little to say in this matter and Florida would be the only state targeted by the EPA with deadlines and strict federal oversight. I don’t believe this is fair, particularly considering Florida has been a national leader in enforcing aggressive water quality standards to keep our waterways clean for conservation and recreation.
All these reasons inform my conclusion that this action by the EPA is much too hasty and could not come at a worse time for Florida’s struggling families. For the sake of Florida’s struggling economy and working families, I sincerely hope the EPA will reconsider the necessity of this approach or delay enforcement of these proposed regulations and allow Florida’s economy a greater chance to get back on its feet.
Chris Smith is a member of the Florida Senate representing District 29 in Broward and Palm Beach counties.
Everything is wrong about how taxpayers prop up Big Sugar
TCPalm – Letter by Joseph D. Pirrotta
August 26, 2010
Big Sugar is snickering while its dirty work is done for it by the South Florida Water Management District as another low blow is delivered to taxpayers.
The district OK’d a $197 million purchase of land from Big Sugar for the taxpayers to build and pay for reservoirs and treatment areas for Lake Okeechobee water.
The district already allows Big Sugar to send its excess water to the publicly funded water conservation areas, filling them up, which then requires lake water to be sent into our estuaries both east and west. In the real world, everyone else with a business or any development is required to deal with and pay for that business’s own water management on its own land.
Actually, the district is just another pawn in Big Sugar’s arsenal. The sugar industry is rigged to guarantee a profit via the federal government’s sugar policy sustained by lobbyists, campaign and other types of payola. The policy provides price support, marketing controls, import quotas and raw material for ethanol (added in 2008), with complete disregard of public interests.
In addition to the destruction of natural resources and health issues, these policies, according to the Government Accountability Office, add $ 1.9 billion to food costs. The U.S. international Trade Commission states that there is an additional $1.5 billion of cost to society.
The rest of the world produces sugar at about half the government’s price support guarantee. To add insult to injury, if Big Sugar is able to sell sugar for more than the price support, it keeps the excess profits.
Hold onto your wallets and kiss our ecosystem goodbye; price support goes up 28 percent for 2011.
Sugar is not a strategic material. Support any initiative to put an end to this madness.
Joseph D. Pirrotta, Palm City, FL
Rock mining moratorium gets final OK
Palm Beach Post - by Jennifer Sorentrue, Staff Writer
August 26, 2010
Palm Beach County commissioners gave final approval for a year-long moratorium on rock mining in the Everglades Agricultural Area, a move that will give county planners time to craft long-term restrictions.
The 700,000 acres of former Everglades marsh, south of Lake Okeechobee, was drained decades ago to create farmland. During the past four years, the commission allowed seven new or expanded gravel mines, over objections that blasting could interfere with Everglades restoration.
Saving the Everglades requires a scientific plan
TCPalm – letter by Edward_Losch
August 26, 2010
“Saving the Everglades” has become an industry with well-meaning participants frustrated by their failure to solve the problem.
Proactive politicians and judges hold the key since they control the necessary legal interpretations and the purse strings. The $8 billion “plan” envisioned by Congress 20 years ago was based on faulty science, ignored existing laws, had no escalation provision and forgot to consider the unintended consequences that caused the St. Lucie estuary to become the sewer for central Florida’s excess water.
Gov. Jeb Bush, a proponent, gave away more than he gained by taking the sugar industry and others off the hook until 2016 for clean up of their own effluent. Gov. Charlie Crist’s farsighted initiative unveiled two years ago to purchase U.S. Sugar’s operations south of Lake Okeechobee for $1.75 billion (about $100 for every Floridian) has been diminished to $197 million for land that will contribute little to the ultimate solution.
Isn’t it time to stop spending money on piecemeal projects that lack a real purpose? A new comprehensive plan for the future is needed, one that takes into account all we have learned from failures like purchase of the Allapattah ranch, the Talisman boondoggle, plans to build reservoirs that hold less flood water than that discharged daily into the St. Lucie estuary and other well-intended Band-aid solutions to a complex disaster.
Needed is a pragmatic scientific plan, a realistic political assessment, an economic evaluation of the long-term cost, a legal review of the conflicts to be resolved before implementation, including use of eminent domain, and a federalstate financing plan that spreads the costs over a manageable time-frame.
Edward D. Losch, Palm City, FL
Battle Over Everglades Deal: It's No 'Emergency' But it's Still an Issue
Sunshine News - Kenric Ward's blog
August 24, 2010
While proponents of the Everglades-U.S. Sugar deal hailed a federal judge's favorable ruling this week, opponents of the purchase say, "Not so fast."
U.S. District Judge Federico Moreno on Monday rejected the Miccosukee Tribe's request for an injunction. The decision was applauded by Kirk Fordham, CEO of the Everglades Foundation.
"With the pending acquisition of U.S. Sugar Corp. land for Everglades restoration now imminent, the Everglades Foundation commends the decision of Judge Moreno to see that this initial purchase moves forward. Continued delay is the greatest enemy of Everglades restoration. The sooner steps are taken to improve water quality, the better," Fordham said in a statement.
But Marianne Moran of Tea Party in Action had a different take.
"We're pleased that the court ruling in no way endorsed the bailout. Also we’re pleased that the judge recognized that this insider deal by Governor (Charlie) Crist's biggest campaign donors is far from being closed," said Moran, who has led protests at South Florida Water Management District headquarters in West Palm Beach.
In his ruling on the Miccosukees' emergency motion, Moreno said no actual emergency exists since the 28,000-acre, $197 million deal would not close until Oct. 11.
"The Tea Party in Action continues to join with our coalition partners across Florida who agree that this corporate bailout is bad for taxpayers. The water district chairman acknowledged that this bailout will mean higher property taxes," Moran said.
In response, SFWMD spokeswoman Kayla Bergeron noted that the district's governing board "has already agreed not to raise the millage rate."
CF Industries told to clean up: The Green Gauge
August 24, 2010
CF Industries, a manufacturer of nitrogen and phosphate fertilizers reached a settlement with the Environmental Protection Agency to spend $12 million in order to properly manage waste at a fertilizer manufacturing facility in Plant City, Florida. The settlement also requires the company to pay a fine of $700,000 for violations of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act. In addition the company is required to guarantee an amount of $163.5 million to ensure the proper care for the facility once it is closed in the future, an amount representing 155 percent of the company’s 2010 fiscal year net profit.
A copy of the EPA’s Consent degree is available here:
Diverse Interests Challenge Federal Licensing
Everglades Law Center - Southern Alliance for Clean Energy - National Parks Conservation Association - RELEASE
Diverse Interests Challenge Federal Licensing of FPL’s Proposed New Turkey Point Nuclear Reactors: Utility’s plan poses great risks to public, environment and economy
Miami, Fla. – Concerned citizens and organizations in Florida filed a request to intervene in proceedings before the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) over Florida Power & Light’s (FPL) costly proposal to build two additional nuclear reactors at their existing Turkey Point plant adjacent to Biscayne Bay and Biscayne National Park, about 25 miles from Miami. The organizations, including the National Parks Conservation Association and Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, along with local citizens from the Miami area, raised their concerns about the serious environmental and public health issues this addition poses. The Everglades Law Center and Emory University School of Law’s Turner Environmental Law Clinic are representing the concerned parties.
“As stated in the petition we filed on behalf of our clients, one would be hard pressed to find a less compatible and more ecologically sensitive location in which to expand the operations of a nuclear power plant than Turkey Point,” said Jason Totoiu, staff attorney with the Everglades Law Center. “There is a state-managed aquatic preserve, an expansive wetlands habitat preserve, two national parks, and one national wildlife refuge within ten miles of the proposed site.”
The petition called upon the NRC to reject the proposal to build two new Toshiba-Westinghouse AP1000 reactors due to the effects it would have on communities located near the plant, various aquatic species, water supply and quality, and public health and safety.
“Biscayne National Park is already threatened by the existing nuclear plant, which diminishes the natural freshwater flows to the Park,” said Kahlil Kettering, Biscayne Restoration Program Analyst for the National Parks Conservation Association’s Sun Coast Regional Office. “Additional nuclear expansion would starve the Park of freshwater even further, directly impede the multi-dollar state and federal government investment in the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP), and make ecological conditions worse for wildlife at Biscayne National Park.”
Additionally, the petition raised concerns over FPL’s need for power analysis and its failure to fully evaluate other viable energy alternatives including energy efficiency and conservation along with renewable energy options.
“Investing in new nuclear reactors with a price tag of nearly $20 billion is a risky, costly mistake that will only make South Florida communities more vulnerable,” said Sara Barczak, high risk energy choices program director with Southern Alliance for Clean Energy. “An energy future built upon safe, affordable energy that provides good jobs while protecting the environment such as energy efficiency and conservation, wind, solar and bioenergy is a much wiser investment.”
Several contentions related to environmental impacts were raised. The petition challenged FPL’s proposed plans to use radial collector wells underneath Biscayne Bay that could withdraw much needed fresh water from the system, the proposed use of millions of gallons of reclaimed water per day that would otherwise be used for Everglades restoration, the loss of several hundreds of acres of wetlands to accommodate miles of new transmission lines, and the utilities lack of planning for future potential sea level rise that would adversely impact the operations of the facility. The petition also challenges FPL’s cursory treatment of the potential cumulative impacts of the proposed project stating, “In a place where in many ways, it is all about the water, FPL’s plan to expand its operations and consume even more water must be examined.”
“I am disgusted with FPL’s failure to address how Turkey Point will deal with climate change and sea level rise. Just a few more inches of ocean height will not only affect the facility but probably damage coastal communities and decrease their water supplies,” said Mark Oncavage, resident of Miami who joined the intervention. “Further, already struggling families and businesses here in South Florida will likely pay a lot more for electricity as these proposed reactors could trigger the biggest rate increases ever to hit FPL customers.”
Though FPL and Progress Energy of Florida are proposing to build a total of four new reactors in Florida, at combined costs of more than $40 billion, the intervening parties believe future energy demand in Florida should be met by aggressive energy efficiency, conservation and renewable energy measures. Such methods pose less risk to local communities and the sensitive South Florida environment and play an important role in reducing global warming pollution.
FPL submitted their licensing application to the NRC for a combined operating license (COL) in June 2009. The NRC is the federal licensing agency overseeing nuclear power plants. A COL is valid for 40 years and can be renewed for an additional 20 years.
For more information on the intervening organizations and legal counsel, visit:
Everglades Law Center, www.evergladeslaw.org - National Parks Conservation Association - Sun Coast Regional Office, www.npca.org/southflorida
Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, www.cleanenergy.org
Emory University School of Law’s Turner Environmental Law Clinic, www.law.emory.edu/academics/academic-programs/environmental-law/turner-clinic.html
Courtney Darrow, SACE, Development and New Media Coordinator, 865.235.1448
Jason Totoiu, Everglades Law Center, 561.568.6740
Kahlil Kettering, National Parks Conservation Association, 954.961.1280
Sara Barczak, Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, 912.201.0354
Download the August 17, 2010 petition.
Click here for more information on the Turkey Point licensing process.
Click here for more information on proposed new nuclear reactors in Florida.
Do Floridians really want dirty rivers and lakes ?
The Ledger.com - by Tom Palmer
August 23rd, 2010
I received word of a new poll that asked voters if they’d support candidates who supported stronger pollution rules IF that meant that people might pay an extra $700 a year on their sewer bills.
As you might suspect, the majority opposed the idea.
As polling experts I’ve listened to have said, it’s all in how you ask the question.
The poll relates to pending U.S.Environmental Protecion Agency rules that will limit pollution that’s allowed to flow into rivers, lakes and bays as laid out by the 1972 Clean Water Act.
What if some pollster had asked the question this way:
Would you support elected officials who demand that federal environmental agencies enforce the laws that Congress passed if you knew that not demanding enforcement would increase the cleanup costs by millions of dollars?
Perhaps the silliest argument against the rules I read today came from Florida Senator Chris Smith, who represents part of South Florida, where the solution to sewer discharges has been pipe it into the Atlantic Ocean.
Smith unbelievably argued against the rules because they are the result of” litigation rather than legislation.”
The rules are the result of litigation brought to enforce legislation after the agencies charged with doing so failed to do their jobs.
Yes, it’s going to be expensive to implement the new pollution standards and it probably will take some time because saying you ought to do something and coming up with some kind of organized plan for actually doing it are two separate things. However, it won’t get any cheaper if we wait another 25 years.
In the meantime, water quality is declining in ways that are hard to miss.
I was just out on a local creek two weeks ago where the water was clear 20 years ago and now is clouded with algae.
Clean Water Act, my eye.
Facts don't change: Everglades needs land
Palm Beach Post - by E. Buermann, Letters To The Editor
August 23, 2010
Much has changed in the two years since Gov. Crist stood on the edge of America's Everglades and called upon the South Florida Water Management District to negotiate a historic land acquisition with U.S. Sugar Corp. that would help restore this national treasure.
Since 2008, the district has lost $150 million in tax revenue. Legal challenges have drawn the acquisition out in the courts. Recent federal court rulings have changed the landscape of restoration planning. What has remained constant is the need for more land south of Lake Okeechobee, whether through this acquisition or from another willing seller, to achieve water quality improvements.
A second amended acquisition, just approved by the district governing board and U.S. Sugar's board of directors, keeps that dream alive while addressing new fiscal constraints and legal obligations. The modified contract calls for the district to use $197 million in cash on-hand - already reserved for land acquisition and restoration projects - to purchase approximately 26,800 acres. The agency retains options over t0 years to acquire U.S. Sugar's remaining 153,200 acres, should economic conditions allow.
The acquisition consists of two strategic parcels. One, just west of two of the agency's water treatment wetlands, is 17,900 acres of citrus land in Hendry County. This site will be used to improve water quality in the C-139 agricultural basin. The second parcel is 8,900 acres of sugar cane land in Palm Beach County. This will be used to enhance treatment wetlands to help meet federally mandated water quality targets in the Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge.
Along with achieving important water quality benefits, this latest version of the purchase fulfills the governing board's pledge not to increase taxes or hamper the district's ability to carry out its core missions. By paying for the initial acreage with cash saved during better times, the district saves taxpayers millions of dollars that would have been spent on debt payments.
New realities have forced the district to rethink how to approach the River of Grass acquisition in a fiscally responsible way. However, the benefits of this rare opportunity remain as clear as ever.
West Palm Beach
Editor's note: Eric Buermann is chairman of the South Florida Water Management District Governing Board.
Injunction denied for Everglades/US Sugar deal
The Associated Press
August 23, 2010
MIAMI -- A federal judge has denied the request by the Miccosukee Indians to stop the state from purchasing agricultural land in the Everglades.
Judge Federico Moreno ruled Monday that the tribe's emergency motion, filed earlier this month in Miami federal court, was not actually emergency since the land deal would not close until Oct. 11.
The South Florida Water Management District has agreed to purchase 26,791 acres for about $197.4 million from U.S. Sugar. The state says the land will be used to help restore the Everglades, but the tribe has argued that the deal would stall other key restoration projects.
The initial deal announced in 2008 was to pay $1.75 billion to buy all of U.S. Sugar's 180,000 acres, but it has been scaled back, in part, because of the economy.
Sound the alarm: Edict from EPA poses severe threat to Florida
Online Journal - by Richard Griswold, Guest Writer
August 23, 2010
Over the past several years, Floridians have seen more than their share of disasters. Hurricanes, recession and an ecological disaster of monumental proportions have dealt severe blows -- but the economic devastation of these events pale in comparison to the manmade disaster looming on our horizon. As we struggle to recover from losses measured in millions and billions, bureaucrats in Washington are preparing to up the ante with new regulations that only Floridians will have to meet -- and it will cost us more than a trillion.
It is a complicated issue, but if Floridians don’t take the time to understand the threat and speak up, the bottom line is fairly simple. Your monthly water bills will increase by 100 percent or perhaps even more -- and your property taxes will go through the roof.
The increase stems from a new rule being imposed by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requiring any discharge to a water body to meet strict numeric limits on nitrogen and phosphorus levels. No one disagrees that limits on nutrients are important to the health of a water body -- but despite years of research in Florida and across the nation, scientists have not figured out what those limits should be. The relationship between nutrients and water bodies is too complex for a precise determination of a concentration that fits all water bodies.
Unfortunately, the lack of any scientific basis isn’t stopping the EPA from imposing costly restrictions on the State of Florida. Stymied by the use of science, they have decided to use a statistical approach. They analyzed the water of streams appearing to be healthy, determined the average value of nitrogen and phosphorus for those reference streams, and set those levels as the new standard everyone in the state must meet.
It would be nice to think the money spent to meet the standard would pay off in improved water quality. But the rules, as currently crafted, could very well do more harm than good. Nutrients cannot be treated like any other pollutant. Nutrients are food and they have to be dosed properly. Overfeeding is bad and underfeeding is bad. Since the limits being set by EPA are a statistical mean, it stands to reason that all water bodies will be either overfed or underfed.
Based on the proposed rule that EPA will enact in October of this year, the only method of extracting nutrients from discharges will be reverse osmosis. Wastewater treatment facilities will be required to first make sure their facilities all meet advanced wastewater treatment (AWT) standards and then they will be required to install a new reverse osmosis plant to treat the discharge from their AWT plant. Storm sewers and drainage ditches will need to have their flows redirected to a reverse osmosis plant for treatment.
The costs of this effort for the entire State of Florida will be well over a trillion dollars. For some reason EPA does not understand this. To bring this number into perspective, monthly utility bills will likely double. But more far reaching, property taxes will have to quadruple. All these costs are verifiable -- and only result in treatment of point sources that account for a fraction of the nutrient load entering our water bodies. The major sources of nutrient discharge into our water -- runoff from yards, discharge from wetlands, atmospheric deposition, septic tank discharge and water flowing into Florida from other states -- will not be reduced in any way under the new rule.
Even more troubling is that EPA is abandoning a proven method for addressing nutrient loads. For years, the State of Florida has followed the EPA mandate to methodically examine water bodies to determine specific characteristics and needs, and then establish programs to improve water quality. It works, people have faith in it, and it represents a point of community pride wherever it has been used. Now EPA wants to abandon it all for a prescriptive and draconian move that will not and cannot improve the water quality of all water bodies in Florida.
When all is said and done, Florida, and only Florida, will be required to spend upwards of a trillion dollars to comply with the new rule and for this amount may receive nothing -- while residents of every other state get a free pass.
Good luck to us all.
Richard F. Griswold, a registered professional engineer, serves as general manager of Destin Water Users Inc., a member-owned water and wastewater utility in Destin, Florida.
Florida settles for less for Everglades, estuaries
Cape Coral Daily - by EMILIE ALFINO
August 21, 2010
Opinions divided on downsized purchase of land from U.S. Sugar Corporation
Some environmental groups called the drastically downsized land purchase deal approved last week by the South Florida Water Management District a "scary mini-purchase." They said it would do nothing to advance the formation of the critically needed flow way to relieve destructive discharges to the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie estuaries.
The approved purchase is one-sixth the size of the plan Gov. Crist proposed two years ago when he said it was "as monumental as the creation of the nation's first national park."
Many other environmental organizations, though, supported the smaller deal, including the Sanibel-Captiva Conser-vation Foundation, Everglades Foundation, Audubon of Florida, Conservancy of Southwest Florida, and the Sierra Club. Also supporting the purchase were the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; the Superintendent of Everglades National Park Dan Kimball; and Michael Sole, Secretary of Florida's Department of Environmental Protection. All these groups had representatives speak in favor of the deal at the meeting of the water management district's governing board Aug. 12 prior to its unanimous vote of approval, with one abstention.
Sanibel Vice-Mayor Mick Denham said he is disappointed but not surprised.
"I am disappointed that the vision of Gov. Crist for a much larger land purchase to help protect our estuary could not be realized, but with the state of the economy it is not surprising that a smaller purchase is now planned. But it is a first baby step toward redirecting the polluted discharge from Lake Okeechobee south where nature intended it to go. This purchase, however, should not distract the estuary community from continuing to push the South Florida Water Management District to right the inequities our region endures. There is just too much water released to our estuary, damaging the environment and economy of southwest Florida and that really isn't fair."
The PURRE Water Coalition, in a message to its members, said the once historic deal, which "would have provided the greatest opportunity we could ever have to store, treat water and move water south," had been "looted" and now provides "virtually no assistance to the Caloosahatchee River." But the statement went on to say, "Is this remnant of Gov. Crist's brave deal of 2008 better than nothing? Yes, it is. But we will not allow this deal to end here without a fight to acquire all the necessary option land to restore the historic flow through the River of Grass to Florida Bay to save the Caloosahatchee and the west coast estuaries, and join with our east coast friends in their quest to save their precious water resources."
The Rivers Coalition Defense Fund came out strongly against the revised deal and issued a scathing statement before the meeting calling on the district to "kill this deal and start fresh." Signed by the defense fund board of directors, the statement said the new plan "would not move forward at all toward connecting the Glades and Lake Okeechobee. "We may now expect to face massive additional degradations as our political system fails once again to consider the public good over private profits for a relative few."
At the meeting, Ted Guy of the Rivers Coalition came to the podium clearly emotional. "The Everglades Agricultural Area should pay for this purchase since it benefits only them," he said. "If we're going to support anything, we have to see a timetable pointing toward a flow way. Nothing else is going to work for the Everglades."
Kirk Fordham, CEO of the Everglades Foundation, didn't see it that way. "Every one of the concerns of the critics of this plan has been satisfied," he told the governing board. "It's been two years. It's time."
Drew Martin, chairman of the Everglades Committee for the Sierra Club, compared this purchase to the Louisiana Purchase and urged the Water District governing board to be as bold as Thomas Jefferson. "If he hadn't done it, we would now be 13 colonies along the eastern seaboard," Martin said. "Purchasing land is a good idea."
"There is nothing, nothing you could do that would be better to serve all the purposes of Everglades restoration than to acquire land," echoed Erick Lindblad, executive director of the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation. "We are 100 percent supportive."
The amended purchase agreement provides for the initial purchase of approximately 26,800 acres of land with options to purchase another 153,000 acres should economic conditions allow in the future.
Under the amended terms, the district would initially invest approximately $197 million in cash to immediately acquire 26,800 acres, or 42 square miles, of land in the Everglades Agricultural Area and C-139 basin for water quality and environmental restoration projects. The district would have options to purchase the remaining 153,000 acres of land from U.S. Sugar for up to 10 years.
Included in the deal is an exclusive 3-year option to purchase either a specifically identified 46,800 acres or the entire 153,000 acres at a fixed price of $7,400 per acre the same price agreed to two years ago, even though the land has dropped in value and the appraisals being relied on are tied to sales from 2006. After criticisms at the board meeting that the district should have gotten new appraisals, district governing board chair Eric Buermann quipped, "Can you tell us if Thomas Jefferson got an updated appraisal in 1803 for [the Louisiana] purchase?"
Still, there are some who feel the deal is nothing more than a bailout of U.S. Sugar Corporation, including the Tea Party in Action and Florida Crystals, U.S. Sugar's competitor. But Jennifer Hecker, natural resources policy manager for the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, told the governing board, "As we see it, the only thing getting a bailout is the Everglades."
"The new terms allow the district to move forward with this opportunity to restore the River of Grass in a way that both better fits Florida's current economic climate and also addresses important federal mandates related to the Everglades," Buermann said in the district's news release. The pared-down deal avoids new debt for the district. "This is what we can afford to bite off," Buermann said.
Highlights of the amended acquisition, as reported in the district's news release, include:
● Acquisition of 17,900 citrus acres in Hendry County to improve water quality in the C-139 basin, where phosphorus loads have been historically high. This parcel, just west of thousands of acres of existing constructed wetlands, can be used for water storage and treatment facilities that would improve the quality of water flowing into the Everglades.
● Purchase of 8,900 acres of sugarcane land in Palm Beach County to benefit the Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge by expanding existing storm water treatment areas and increasing water quality treatment for the S-5A basin, just east of Lake Okeechobee.
● An exclusive 3-year option to purchase either a specifically identified 46,800 acres or the entire 153,000 acres at a fixed price of $7,400 per acre. U.S. Sugar could sell the option property to a third party but must retain the district's option.
● After the exclusive option period, a subsequent 2-year, non-exclusive option to purchase the approximately 46,800 acres at fair market value. U.S. Sugar could sell all or part of the option property, but subject to a right of first refusal by the district.
● A subsequent 7-year, non-exclusive option to purchase the remaining acres at fair market value. U.S. Sugar could sell all or a part of the option property, but subject to a right of first refusal by the district.
Under the revised contracts, closing on the 26,800 acres would take place in October 2010.
COMING TOGETHER FOR CLEAN WATER:
EPA’s STRATEGY FOR ACHIEVING CLEAN WATER
EPA Release: Public Discussion Draft
On April 15, 2010, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Lisa P. Jackson brought together a diverse group of individuals to discuss and explore opportunities for reinvigorating EPA’s approaches to achieving clean water in America. At this forum, The Coming Together for Clean Water, Administrator Jackson stated her desire “to see a huge leap forward in water quality as we saw in the 1970s after the passage of the Clean Water Act.” The forum was one of many drivers for this strategy which charts EPA’s path to achieve that leap forward in our nation’s water quality and outlines a sustainable approach to meet our economic needs and improve the quality of the nation’s water for generations to come.
EPA’s approach focuses around our two thematic lines: 1) healthy watersheds, and 2) sustainable communities – both critical Administration and EPA priorities. It relies on the concepts and ideas generated at the Coming Together for Clean Water forum and also incorporates the bold new approaches identified from the October 2009 Clean Water Action Plan, which initiated efforts to revamp the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) compliance and enforcement program.
For full text go to;
Without clean water, no part of a community—its ecology, its economy, its health—can thrive. It is at the core of our communities and is crucial to the vitality of our rural areas. Realizing this imperative for clean water in every waterbody in our nation will require the balanced, organized, and thoughtful effort and collaboration of all levels of government. We will make the most of all of the resources, authorities and programs available to us.
The only way to bring the Clean Water Act’s vision into reality is for EPA to strengthen and expand the national conversation on protecting and maintaining our waters. Growing our partnerships will be vital in solving these challenging problems. The call to action has never been more urgent especially in light of national trends in water quality and recent environmental disasters. EPA invites all tribes, all states, all communities, all Americans to come together for clean water and re-commit to our national quest to achieve the promise of the CWA. Together, we can build sustainable communities and restore and protect the quality of our nation’s streams, rivers, lakes, bays, oceans and aquifers.
Tea Party willing to sacrifice $10 million of taxpayer money to sink Crist's U.S. Sugar land deal
SunSentinel.com – by Andy Reid
August 19, 2010
Tea Party activists who preach fiscal responsibility are willing to sacrifice $10 million of South Florida taxpayers’ money to try to scrap a $197 million Everglades restoration land deal.
Tea Party protests failed to stop the South Florida Water Management District from last week approving the contract to buy 26,800 acres of U.S. Sugar Corp. farmland for Everglades restoration.
The district and U.S. Sugar plan to close on the $197 million land deal Oct. 11.
On Thursday, Tea Party supporters continued their email campaign against the land deal – this time calling for the district to pay a $10 million termination fee to get out of moving ahead with the purchase.
“If we back out, we lose $10 million … but we save our reserves and stop a tax increase,” the cookie-cutter email messages said.
District officials, who lead Everglades restoration, have maintained that the U.S. Sugar land deal would not require a property tax increase or drain the reserves in the district’s $1 billion budget.
Gov. Charlie Crist in June 2008 first proposed buying U.S. Sugar land for restoration efforts that include building a system of reservoirs and treatment areas to restore stormwater flows between Lake Okeechobee and the Everglades.
The economic downturn and corresponding drop in property tax revenue led to the deal being downsized three times.
What started as the district potentially borrowing $1.75 billion deal to buy all of U.S. Sugar’s more than 180,000 acres now calls for using $197 million of district reserves to buy two pieces of U.S. Sugar land totaling 26,800 acres.
Environmentalists still hail the deal as an opportunity to acquire strategically located farmland land once off limits to Everglades restoration.
Opponents, led by the Miccosukee Tribe and U.S. Sugar rival Florida Crystals, argue that the deal still costs taxpayers too much and takes money away from other long-planned Everglades restoration projects.
The newest version of the land deal still must survive legal challenges filed by the Miccosukee and Florida Crystals.
Everglades purchase at this time is fiscally irresponsible
TCPalm.com – Letter
August 18, 2010
The most recent scaled-back version of the Everglades purchase reduces the immediate public investment by 60 percent or $800 million. That certainly sounds better doesn’t it?
But how does it sound to you when you hear that we are going to pay $7,342 per acre ? Does that make any sense at all ? Doesn’t that price seem ridiculously high when we are broke and land is selling for one half that amount ?
Isn’t this an inappropriate time for the governor to recommend buying anything, much less land that is terribly overpriced ?
Most people are not opposed to the Everglades restoration and most understand that it comes with a price.
Are we supposed to suspend the rules of fiscal responsibility ?
We are all past due on living within our means.
Michael E. Jackson – Stuart, FL
Still a good, if much smaller, U.S. Sugar deal
Miami Herald – Editorial
August 15, 2010
OUR OPINION: U.S. Sugar land purchase will help Glades.
What a roller coaster ride the U.S. Sugar land deal has taken. The South Florida Water Management District's board approved a much smaller purchase Aug. 12. While the pared-down deal remains controversial, it is still better to have the land in the public's ``bank'' for future Everglades restoration projects than leave it in private hands.
Gov. Charlie Crist dropped a bombshell in 2008 when he announced that the state, via the district, had agreed to purchase the giant sugar company's property -- 180,000-plus acres -- for $1.75 billion for conversion into reservoirs and pollution treatment marshes.
This drew strong protests and legal challenges from Florida Crystals and the Miccosukee Indian Tribe and equally strong praise from environmental groups. Critics called it a bailout for the financially strapped sugar giant.
Supporters hailed it as a stroke of genius by Mr. Crist that would dramatically improve the Everglades massive restoration plan.
Less than dazzling
Then the economy went sour. The deal got reduced in size and cost to $536 million. But court rulings and a worsening economy further dimmed the once-dazzling deal.
So what the district board ended up agreeing to last week is a $197 million cash purchase of 26,790 acres of citrus groves and cane fields.
The district won't raise taxes for this deal -- even if some politicians like Rick Scott keep harping that it will. And it has options to buy more land at $7,400 an acre over the next three years or at market price over the next decade -- if the economy greatly improves or the federal government decides to pony up.
Pollution `hot spots'
The two parcels -- 17,900 acres of groves in Hendry County and 8,900 acres of fields in the huge Everglades farming area -- will be used, eventually, to help clean up two ``hot spots'' of pollution: in the C-139 basin, where phosphorus loads have been historically high, and in the Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge, which will comply with a recent court order to improve water quality.
Unfortunately, the truncated land purchase won't do much to improve water quality in Lake Okeechobee or the two estuaries the lake drains into.
In the short term, U.S. Sugar will lease back some of the land, paying the district $1 million annually as well as property taxes and other assessments. That may seem unfair to taxpayers, but it isn't. It will take years for cleanup projects to be designed for the two parcels -- not to mention accumulating the money to pay for them. Meantime, the district gets $1 million in annual revenue.
Mr. Crist's dazzler of a deal was perhaps way too ambitious for it ever to succeed. But we still think he deserves much credit for having the vision and chutzpah to try to pull it off. It was bold. Likewise, the district's board deserves credit for refusing to back away from the ever-diminishing goal despite bruising legal losses and criticism.
The land will one day help clean up the phosphorus that flowed from it during its days as farmland -- a win-win for Florida's River of Grass.
Miccosukee seek halt to Everglades/US Sugar deal
West Palm Beach, Florida (AP)
The Miccosukee Indians are seeking to stop the state from purchasing agricultural land in the Everglades, arguing the deal will stall other key restoration projects.
The tribe during August filed an emergency motion in federal court in Miami. They want a judge to stop the South Florida Water Management District from purchasing 26,791 acres for about $197.4 million from U.S. Sugar.
The state says the land will be used to help restore the Everglades, suffering from years of dikes and diversions to make way for homes and farms.
The initial deal announced in 2008 was to pay $1.75 billion to buy all of U.S. Sugar’s 180,000 acres, but it has been scaled back, in part, because of the economy.
Land Deal To Help Save Everglades Moving Forward, But Scaled Back
National Parks Traveler - by Kurt Repanshek
August 15, 2010
A $197 million land purchase aimed at improving water flows through the Everglades has been approved by the South Florida Water Management District, but it falls far short of the original proposal. Still, groups are applauding it as a step in the right direction.
The purchase from U.S. Sugar Corporation involves just 26,800 acres, a far cry from the initial 187,000 acres Florida Gov. Charlie Crist envisioned back in 2008.
Still, proponents hope it will contribute to straightening out a kink in the natural plumbing of the region. Developments such as the sugar plantation have disrupted natural water flows from the lake into the park. Without them, the so-called "River of Grass" can't survive.
According to the South Florida Wildlands Association, "(D)rained of its water and filled with pollution (the Everglades has lost 90 percent of its wading birds and no fish caught within it are considered truly safe to eat), the ecosystem today is on life support."
South Florida Wildlands, along with other environmental organizations in south Florida, believe this deal will help improve water filtration in the ecosystem and provide needed lands for wildlife.
"Aside from allowing for ‘filter marshes’ capable of extracting huge quantities of runoff and other pollutants from Everglades water (which also happens to be the public water supply for most of south Florida), removing agricultural production is the best and possibly only hope for bringing the Everglades back from the brink," a release from the group said last week. "Part of the current purchase would also provide connectivity between Florida panther habitat in the southwest corner of Palm Beach County (in state Wildlife Management Areas well utilized by one of the most endangered species on the planet) and federal, state, and tribal lands (e.g. Big Cypress National Preserve, Big Cypress Seminole Reservation, and the Okaloacoochee Slough State Forest) to the south and west."
At the National Parks Conservation Association, Dawn Shirreffs said the land purchase approved by the water district is "a prudent investment in water quality that will make restoration possible."
“The River of Grass deal will acquire 26,800 acres of agricultural land essential to increase storage, improve water quality, and relieve damaging water releases to the Caloosahatchee and St Lucie Rivers," said Ms. Shirreffs. "Acquiring this land, from a willing seller, will secure key tracts of land at the lowest possible cost.
“We applaud the South Florida Water Management District’s efforts to overcome a shifting financial climate to protect the natural environment vital to South Florida’s economic growth. This cash acquisition eliminates risks associated with financing while preserving the future option to acquire additional lands from U.S. Sugar in the Everglades Agricultural Area," she added.
How much will this purchase help Florida's fabled River of Grass? That's a good question. More than a decade ago the Clinton administration promised to embark on an expansive, and expensive, plan to restore the Everglades. That project was seen as a way to restore, preserve, and protect the South Florida ecosystem while providing for other water-related needs of the region, including water supply and flood protection. With an estimated total cost of $10.7 billion to the federal government and $11.8 billion to the state of Florida, the initiative is the largest hydrologic restoration project in U.S. history.
While the massive restoration project has been moving forward in fits and starts, the Obama administration has promised to keep whittling away at it.
The Omnibus Appropriation Act for fiscal year 2009 provided a total of $241 million for Everglades’ projects, including $118 million from the Department of the Interior and $123 million from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. And last year another $119.2 million was provided through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
A significant step forward came late last year when funding was provided for a mile-long section of bridge along the Tamiami Trail to help improve water flows through the Everglades.
The Tamiami Trail was constructed in the 1920s with the intention of linking Tampa and Miami, hence its name. The latest bridge project, which is expected to be completed in May 2013, is located in Miami-Dade County, adjacent to the northern boundary of Everglades National Park.
The process to reach agreement on the bridge was at times complex and time-consuming, involving many stakeholders and subject to rigorous environmental review. In November, the Army Corps of Engineers awarded an $81 million contract that includes constructing the bridge, and raising and reinforcing an additional 9.7 miles of the trail.
As a major component of the Modified Water Deliveries Project – also known as Mod Waters – the bridge will specifically restore more natural water flow to Northeast Shark River Slough, a portion of Everglades National Park that Congress added in 1989. Once completed, Mod Waters will provide a foundation for other restoration projects that will be implemented in the future to increase the quantity, quality, timing and distribution of fresh water to the Everglades.
Lost Hope for the Everglades ?
Sunshine News - by Nancy Smith
August 13, 2010
U.S. Sugar deal diverts money from concrete solutions.
More land to no purpose, more government waste in Florida. Thursday’s South Florida Water Management District vote was all that and so much more.
The unanimous vote of the governing board turned the ailing Florida Everglades – a natural masterpiece without equal – into little more than a gold chip in a game of greed and ambition.
And frankly, it made me sick.
Back on April 1, when I wrote about Judge Federico Moreno ordering construction to resume on the 16,700-acre A-1 reservoir, I believed – just as former Gov. Jeb Bush, former executive director of the Water Management District Henry Dean, and many others – that the Everglades had a chance again.
Finally, I thought, we’re going to build restoration projects, just as we were doing before we got sidetracked on Gov. Charlie Crist’s U.S. Sugar deal.
But I should have known better.
It took a newspaper from New York City to show Floridians that U.S. Sugar was taking them for a ride. And even then, they wouldn’t believe it. Land is the thing. Gotta have land. And so, with the governor’s encouragement, the U.S. Sugar deal continued through two downsizings.
Well, I spent a lot of years as an editor and columnist in Stuart writing about the folly of land purchased for something that turned into nothing – the millions of dollars spent on the Inlet State Park that never became one, the property for a public golf course that lapsed into a preserve, the rights of way purchased for roundabouts that were engineered and then canceled on a commission’s whim.
But I’ve never seen anything to match the sheer dimwitted absurdity of handing over $197 million, the sum total of all your cash – as the Water Management District did Thursday – to a seller holding a gun to your head.
On Aug. 4 the seller, U.S. Sugar, gave the district one day to agree to the deal, and a week to get the board to Thursday’s “decision meeting.” It’s that or nothing, U.S. Sugar said. And if you agree to the $197 million for 26,800 acres but have to back out of the deal later, you owe us $10 million – no excuses, no “out” clause. (The district says, yes, there is an “out” if the deal is blocked in court; attorneys say, no, there is no exception.)
And for $197 million, you get to let U.S. Sugar use 17,900 acres of dead citrus land for free, for as long as 20 years; and 8,900 acres of the sugar land for $150 an acre. Bottom line, you empty your pockets, U.S. Sugar fills theirs, you come to a dead stop, they keep on truckin’.
You’ve created one happy seller because now you can’t afford to develop any part of the Everglades restoration project. You’re broke, they’re flush, and unless you raise some taxes -- with, say, the help of a supportive, friendly governor – then you aren’t going to phase in too much restoration.
Interestingly, most defenders of the U.S. Sugar deal Thursday were establishment people – government workers and members of A-list environmental organizations.
My personal favorite speaker was Drew Martin from the Sierra Club. He somehow found a way to compare the Sugar deal with the Louisiana Purchase of 1803. I guess in Martin’s mind, board Chairman Eric Buermann is Thomas Jefferson and U.S. Sugar is France.
Before Thursday’s vote was taken, the smart folks asked the Water Management District to wait. Wait to see if the three Indian burial mounds on the property can be moved. Wait to see what’s involved in cleaning up the two polluted parcels. Wait to see if the federal judge is going to grant the Miccosukee Tribe’s request to halt the sale. The Miccosukees have a point, after all. If the sale goes through, where’s the money going to come from to build a reservoir ?
Here’s where I came unglued:
Kirk Fordham, CEO of the Everglades Foundation said, “We can’t afford to wait any longer. You can’t build [restoration] projects without land.”
Really ? The Water Management District has land all over the place. Even if we ignore the 233,000 acres the district owns for Everglades restoration already, what about the property mostly north of the lake, bought-and-paid-for, to help clean the polluted water now flowing into the lake and save the St. Lucie River and estuary ?
This is something I know about. In 2002 Martin County paid $2,500 an acre for 13,000 acres of Allapattah Ranch. In 2007 – when real estate was at its peak – Martin shelled out $12,800 an acre for the last 7,000-plus acres of the ranch. We all cheered both purchases. Anything to help the Everglades and our sick river.
We bought the need for those land buy-backs then, just as the supporters of the U.S. Sugar deal did Thursday. But check it out. Allapattah is now in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ hands for God-knows-what federal purpose.
Tom Kenny, a former Martin County commissioner, told me Thursday night, “Martin has about $43 million so far in land buys it made for the Everglades.”
Allapattah isn’t the only property bought as part of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Project (CERP). In all, there are some 130,000 must-have-but-no-rush acres, including the Everglades Agricultural Area (31,600 acres), and Indian River Lagoon parcel (26,800 acres).
I asked Sen. Paula Dockery, R-Lakeland, what she thought of Thursday’s unanimous vote. “I’m disappointed but not surprised,” she said. “I’m a great supporter of Everglades restoration, somebody who sponsored Everglades Forever. But this is the wrong land, wrong time, wrong price.
“We should never have switched from building projects, from a reservoir that was nearly built, that we had already put $300 million into, to buying land that brings us to a halt.”
Asked if there’s anything that can be done to get Everglades restoration back on track, Dockery said, “It’s up to the governor. The governor can make it or break it.
“But let’s be honest, U.S. Sugar handed $680,000 over to Bill McCollum for his campaign. And that’s just the money we know about.
“I think, when this deal closes, U.S. Sugar and Bill McCollum will owe 18 million Floridians a gigantic ‘thank you.”
There you have it. That gold chip of greed and ambition – a sugar giant and a gubernatorial candidate playing for some very high stakes. They want it all and, apparently, they don’t think it matters how transparent their motives are.
Meanwhile, the Everglades. What chance for the River of Grass ?
For the Everglades, a Dream Loses Much of Its Grandeur
New York Times - by DAMIEN CAVE
August 12, 2010
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — In the end, Gov. Charlie Crist’s effort to buy huge swaths of sugar company land for the Everglades restoration was just too much: too much money, too much land to handle, and too much of a fight with critics and the courts.
A vote on Thursday by the South Florida Water Management District — to scale back the deal for a third time — is expected to finally end negotiations, but it also amounted to an admission of overreaching. What began two years ago as a stunning $1.75 billion purchase of the United States Sugar Corporation and all its assets, including 187,000 acres of land, is now set to close in October at a fraction of its original size, with 26,790 acres being sold for $197 million.
Eric Buermann, chairman of the advisory board at the water district, which will buy and manage the land, said the end result was simply a product of economics. “This is what we can afford to bite off,” he said.
But to some degree, the deal has also been defined by shortsightedness. Internal records and interviews show that the governor and the district repeatedly underestimated the purchase’s financial and environmental complications, leading to the costly suspension of projects with more immediate benefits, and to the alienation of potential partners.
Ultimately, they left the Everglades with delays in exchange for majestic dreams, now unlikely to be realized.
It all got started with the desire for a single act that would save one of the world’s most treasured wetlands, along with its endangered plant and animal species. When Mr. Crist, standing at the edge of a man-made wetland in June 2008, announced the proposed deal, he called it “the holy grail” of restoration. And indeed, there was a lot of potential. Scientists have long maintained that there is nothing the Everglades — hurt by more than a century of dredging and development — needs more than space to store and clean water.
Never before had so much land north of Everglades National Park been made available, and the ecosystem was desperate: an $8 billion plan to save the Everglades, approved by President Bill Clinton in 2000, had been faltering for years.
But over time, it became clear that other motivations were also in play. Putting United States Sugar out of business appealed to environmentalists who had been feuding with the company, as well as to the governor, a moderate, who was eager for publicity in his quest to become Senator John McCain’s vice-presidential running mate.
In the fizzy moment of negotiations, little thought seemed to have been given to affordability, or to long-term plans. What would the state do with all the company’s farm equipment that was among the assets? What about the thousands of rural Floridians who would eventually be put out of work when farming stopped on United States Sugar’s 187,000 acres?
Mr. Crist was immediately inundated with complaints from the counties that would be affected. Farmers and local officials lined up at public meetings during the next year to demand an economic plan. “Please don’t let us down,” said Mali Chamness, the mayor of Clewiston, the small town where United States Sugar has been based since 1931.
The next deal, unveiled on Nov. 11, 2008, was smaller: a $1.34 billion purchase of just over 180,000 acres. The assets were no longer included and Mr. Crist called the new deal “miraculous.” But to truly restore the north-to-south “river of grass” from Lake Okeechobee to Florida Bay, land swaps with a competing company, Florida Crystals, would be necessary. The swaps fell through before negotiations were able to get off the ground, in part, interviews show, because United States Sugar did not want a competitor involved; the governor went along.
When dwindling tax revenues led to a third deal — a proposed $536 million purchase of 72,800 acres announced in April 2009 — Mr. Crist made it clear that he wanted the deal approved when he replaced two of the district’s board members, including a vocal critic. Yet once again, he had misjudged the road ahead: the district’s financial advisers said the purchase threatened vital water supply operations, and this year judges in two federal lawsuits demanded that state and federal officials do more to improve the Everglades’ water quality.
The smaller deal, according to the district, is in part an effort to address those lawsuits. “It’s a very strong signal that we’re heading in the right direction,” said Shannon Estenoz, a board member.
Governor Crist, in a statement praising the vote, quoted the philosopher Lao Tzu: “The longest journey begins with a single step.”
For many, the smaller acquisition — with an option to buy more land later — brings a sense of relief. With the larger deals, “there was a concern that we were going to spend a lot of time trying to figure out how to make things work,” said Eric Draper, executive director of Audubon of Florida. He called the deal approved Thursday a success because the district can afford it, and the land can be used for restoration relatively quickly.
Yet for critics (including some new arrivals from the Tea Party), it is still too much, too late. Dexter Lehtinen, a lawyer who has been involved in several lawsuits pushing for Everglades restoration since the 1980s, said the district was “taking money that could be spent on projects and spending it on land acquisition.”
Rosa Durando, a longtime environmentalist who has been demanding specific solutions since the first deal was announced, said she was still not satisfied. “I see a lot of pie in the sky,” Ms. Durando said, “but I don’t see how it would work on the ground.”
Florida Everglades Restoration Plan Shrinks as Economy Thwarts Bond Sale
Bloomberg.com - by Simone Baribeau
August 12, 2010
Florida’s two-year-old plan to buy private property for Everglades restoration is on the verge of approval at one-seventh its original size after a flagging economy and lawsuits thwarted the project’s bond financing.
The South Florida Water Management District votes today on a $197.4 million cash purchase of 26,800 acres (10,846 hectares) from closely held U.S. Sugar Corp. After an initial leaseback to the company, it plans to return the farmland to nature to restore water flow from Lake Okeechobee in the state’s center south through the Everglades, a 100-mile-long (161 kilometer) wetland known as the River of Grass.
The purchase was hailed by Governor Charlie Crist as one of the largest-ever U.S. environmental deals when he announced plans to buy 180,000 acres for $1.75 billion in June 2008. It was scaled back twice as the longest economic slump since the 1930s cut Florida property values and the real-estate-tax revenue intended to back debt financing the acquisition.
“Going out for bonds, given our forecast and revenue situation, is just not feasible at this time,” Paul Dumars, the district’s chief financial officer, said in a telephone interview yesterday.
The district, one of five in the state that manage flood control and water quality, will use available cash for the purchase, according to a fact sheet on the board’s website. It had planned to sell as much as $2.2 billion of bonds for the original acquisition, which was renegotiated in November 2008 to $1.34 billion. It was cut again in May 2009 to $536 million for about 73,000 acres.
Obstacles to Completion
One obstacle to the financing is a projection for a decline in the district’s share of property-tax revenue in the 16 counties it manages. That source of funding will fall 23 percent in the year through September 2011 compared with last fiscal year, according to the district’s proposed budget.
Property values in Florida, the fourth-most populous state, fell 22 percent from the second quarter of 2008, when Crist first proposed the land purchase, to the first quarter of 2010, according to the Federal Housing Finance Agency.
Another setback was lawsuits opposing a debt-financed purchase from the Miccosukee Tribe of American Indians and Florida Crystals Corp., a West Palm Beach-based rival to U.S. Sugar. They say the project won’t serve a public purpose because the district can’t afford the reservoirs and drainage areas needed to restore the land after purchase. The case is now before the Florida Supreme Court.
“We can’t issue bonds until we know exactly what the ruling is going be there,” Dumars said.
The cash purchase will leave the district with about $90 million in its capital reserve fund, Dumars said. That would dry up funds that might have been used to comply with a U.S. court order to finish building a reservoir in the area.
The district is appealing that order and doesn’t have a plan to build the reservoir, Eric Buermann, chairman of the district, said in an interview last week.
“What you’re seeing today is the culmination of a process, not the beginning of it,” Buermann said at today’s hearing.
The water district sold $546 million of revenue bonds in 2006 for Everglades restoration, its first long-term sale, Dumars said. Securities from the largest part of that issue, $153.5 million of 5 percent bonds due in 2036, were sold at 104.27 to yield 4.46 percent. They traded yesterday at par, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
Crist, a first-term Republican governor now running for a U.S. Senate seat as an independent, called the land purchase a “critical missing link” in Florida’s plan to restore the Everglades. The scaled-down acquisition is a “win-win” for him, said Kevin Wagner, who teaches politics at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton.
“Since it’s smaller, he gets to show he’s financially responsible,” Wagner said. “And he’s still demonstrating his environmental bona fides.”
Scaled-down version of Crist's Everglades land deal with U.S. Sugar approved
Sun Sentinel - by Andy Reid,
August 12, 2010
South Florida water managers on Thursday approved a downsized version of Gov. Charlie Crist's proposed Everglades restoration land deal with U.S. Sugar Corp.
The latest version of the deal, two years in the making, calls for paying U.S. Sugar $197 million for 26,800 acres. That's down from an already-scaled-back proposal to spend $536 million for 73,000 acres.
The land would be used as part of South Florida Water Management District efforts to build reservoirs and treatment areas to restore stormwater flows from Lake Okeechobee to the Everglades.
"We do not have the resources to solve all of the problems at once," district Board Member Shannon Estenoz said about the scaled-down deal. "It's absolutely critical that we act and we act now."
The deal still faces legal challenges from the Miccosukee Tribe and U.S. Sugar competitor Florida Crystals, which argue that the deal costs taxpayers too much, unfairly enriches U.S. Sugar and takes money away from other long-planned Everglades restoration projects.
The Miccosukee on Tuesday asked a federal judge to stop the latest version of the deal, arguing that the district would be using money needed to restart an Everglades restoration reservoir project that ended up getting shelved by the U.S. Sugar deal.
The injunction sought by the Miccosukee, and a pending Florida Supreme Court ruling on a challenge to the land buy, still could scrap the deal.
"Like its predecessor deals, this latest one would divert resources from true restoration — the construction of projects — to land acquisition completely divorced from any realistic intention to implement restoration on that land," Florida Crystals attorney Joseph Klock Jr. said in a letter to the district.
This is the third time the economic downturn led to the watering down of a deal that Crist in June 2008 first proposed as a $1.75 billion, more than 180,000 acre total buyout of U.S. Sugar's land and facilities.
Audubon of Florida, the Everglades Foundation and the Sierra Club are among the environmental groups that have supported the land deal, calling it a historic opportunity to acquire farmland once considered off-limits to restoration efforts.
The scaled-down version of the U.S. Sugar land deal would still give the district a 10-year option to purchase the company's remaining 153,200 acres.
"This provides us a framework for acquiring the rest of the land," said Jonathan Ullman of the Sierra Club. "It gets the ball rolling."
The 26,800-acre deal includes 17,900 acres of citrus land in Hendry County, beside a stormwater treatment area, and 8,900 acres of sugar cane land in Palm Beach County, east of Lake Okeechobee.
Getting more land to store and clean stormwater water to replenish the Everglades also boosts South Florida's drinking water supply, according to supporters of the U.S. Sugar deal.
"We can't afford to wait any longer," said Kirk Fordham, CEO of the Everglades Foundation. "You can't build [restoration] projects without land."
As in earlier versions, the deal allows U.S. Sugar to lease back much of the land it would sell to the district for as long as 20 years as the district phases in restoration efforts. U.S. Sugar would pay $150 per acre for sugar cane land it leases back from the district, but would not have to pay for using the citrus land.
The new plan calls for closing on the transaction by Oct. 11.
The deal comes with a $10 million "termination fee" if the district backs out before closing. That fee would not apply if the deal is blocked in court, according to the district.
Reducing the size of the deal allows the district to use a reserve planned for land buying and other restoration efforts to acquire the 26,800 acres. The old plan called for borrowing $536 million and relying on South Florida property tax revenue to pay off the long-term debt.
The South Florida Water Management District already owns more than 1 million acres — about 233,000 acres specifically for Everglades restoration.
With or without the U.S. Sugar land, the district needs to place a greater focus on getting more reservoirs and treatment areas built, former district board member Michael Collins warned.
"Buying land accomplishes nothing," said Collins, who opposed the U.S. Sugar deal. "We have got to build projects. We have got to store water."
Andy Reid can be reached at abreid@SunSentinel.com or 561-228-5504.
Scott once called Everglades deal "great," cautioned against cost
August 12, 2010
UPDATED: Rick Scott blasted the state's deal with U.S. Sugar to buy land to help preserve the Everglades earlier today. He sees it as an opportunity to link GOP rival Bill McCollum to what he calls a “secret sugar deal, which will end up a secret sugar tax.’’
Here is what Scott told Political Connections in July about the Everglades deal: "I don't know all the details, but here's my impression: It's great. It would be great if we had more land the state can control. Can we afford it? Will it raise our taxes and are we spending dollars to do that, to not do other restoration projects? That's my concern."
The squishy stance and talk of taxes might let him wiggle away from a flip-flop accusation but he still called it "great." Expect McCollum's camp to seize on this anyway -- especially after Scott seized on McCollum's immigration flip-flop.
Scott's spokeswoman Jennifer Baker said the quote from July is consistent with how Scott feels now. In fact, he said nearly the same thing today but cautioned that it costs too much. She also disputed the idea that Scott didn't answer questions at the sugar meeting in West Palm Beach -- he did a full gaggle with reporters.
Water managers OK spending $197 million to buy U.S. Sugar land for Everglades
Palm Beach Post - by Christine Stapleton, Staff Writer
August 12, 2010
WEST PALM BEACH — The South Florida Water Management District board this afternoon unanimously approved spending $197 million to buy 28,000 acres form U.S. Sugar to help restore the Everglades.
The vote came in the face of opposition from the Tea Party members, GOP gubernatorial candidate Rick Scott and the Miccosukee Tribe.
Heckling by chairman of the South Florida Tea Party cut short Scott's appearance outside the South Florida Water Management District board meeting this morning.
Although Everett Wilkinson, chairman of the South Florida Tea Party, said the Tea Party opposes the revised Everglades land deal — as does Scott — Wilkinson blasted Scott for not making public a deposition from a lawsuit filed in April against a Solantic, a chain of health care clinics owned by Rick Scott.
"What is in the deposition that he can't release to taxpayers?" asked Wilkinson, who is personally supporting Scott's opponent, Bill McCollum, in the GOP governor primary, though he says his endorsement has nothing to do with the South Florida Tea Party.
Confronted by Wilkinson, Scott took his message inside the lobby of the district's headquarters, where he explained that he, too, opposed the district's plan to buy the land.
Meanwhile, an attorney for the South Florida Water Management District wrote in court papers filed Wednesday afternoon that there is no emergency that would stop the district board from voting on the deal today. The district's filing was in response to an emergency request from the Miccosukee Tribe Tuesday asking that the vote be stopped.
The water managers say the vote will help restore the Everglades and they hope it will appease a federal judge who has ordered state and federal water managers to comply with clean water standards.
The tribe asked Chief U.S. District Judge Federico Moreno to issue an emergency injunction on Tuesday, claiming that if the sale goes through, the district will not have enough money to complete other court-ordered restoration projects. The district is under another court order to comply with federal water standards or face contempt of court.
Among other concerns are human remains found on the largest parcel of land in the sale. According to the board's chairman, Eric Buermann, a single tooth had been found on a 17,000 parcel of land in the proposed sale. However, former district board chairman Mike Collins said he had been told that the remains of three bodies had been discovered on the land and protecting the remains could affect the use of up to 6,000 acres of the property.
Miccosukee, Tea Party, even ex-Gov. Kirk weigh in at water district
Palm Beach Post - by Christine Stapleton, Staff Writer
August 11, 2010
WEST PALM BEACH — The Miccosukee Tribe has asked a judge to stop the South Florida Water Management District from voting today on a plan to pay U.S. Sugar $197 million for about 28,000 acres of land that the district hopes will convince an angry federal judge that it is serious about restoring the Everglades and enforcing clean water laws.
Earlier this year the tribe won a court order from Chief U.S. District Judge Federico Moreno, ordering the district to resume construction of an $800 million, city-size reservoir in the cane fields south of Lake Okeechobee. The district had cancelled the project to free up money to purchase land for the Everglades restoration.
In the meantime, another federal judge issued a scathing, 48-page order demanding that state and federal water managers reduce phosphorus levels or face contempt. To appease that judge, the district unveiled the new land deal on August 3.
In asking for the emergency injunction on Tuesday afternoon, the tribe cited recent comments from the district's board chairman Eric Buermann, that the district does not have enough money to comply with both judges' orders. Buermann also said that he did not believe that Judge Moreno "really expected us to proceed with the reservoir." There had been no ruling on the emergency injunction as of Wednesday evening.
On Wednesday afternoon the district began hearing comments from the public about the land deal. Outside district headquarters members of The Tea Party in Action played voice mail messages of opponents to the deal.
"I think we need to slow down," said Marianne Moran, executive director of the group, calling the deal a corporate bailout for U.S. Sugar, which owns the land in the proposed deal. "This is not a used car sale."
Another player intends to tug on the district's purse strings today. Former Florida Gov. Claude Kirk, who arrived at Wednesday's meeting too late to address the board, showed little interest or concern in the district's dilemma. However, the 84-year-old former governor said he would sue the district if it did not spend $60 million to improve the East Coast Protective Levee, which runs from southern Palm Beach County to Miami-Dade County and holds back the water of the Everglades — especially during a hurricane.
"This is an emergency. These people are living in danger," Kirk said about the condition of the levee. "This is a legitimate $60 million project. Whatever they (the board) wants to do with the rest of the money is their business. They can use it to buy Charlie (Gov. Crist) a new television. I don't care."
The hearing on the land deal continues at 11 am today.
Statement by the Rivers Coalition Defense Fund
August 11, 2010
Statement by the Rivers Coalition Defense Fund on the proposed U.S. Sugar Corp. land to be considered Thursday by the South Florida Water Management District Board of Governors:
The Rivers Coalition is greatly disappointed that the state’s newly reduced plan to purchase two small properties in the Everglades Agricultural Area will not provide a place for a critically needed flowway to relieve destructive discharges to the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries.
The new mini-purchase totally fails to follow the governor’s original plan to buy out some 180,000 acres of U.S. Sugar lands to establish a “missing link” that would move water from Lake Okeechobee south into the Everglades.
Instead, the latest downsize would be one-sixth of the beginning plan and would not move forward at all toward connecting the Glades and lake.
The Rivers Coalition calls on the South Florida Water Management District to drop the mini-plan and work at full speed toward a meaningful program to help the estuaries as well as the overall Everglades. A firm timetable for real progress must be set.
We may now expect to face massive additional degradations as our political system fails once again to consider the public good over private profits for a relative few.
The latest purchase plan does include options for possible additional acquisitions and projected small reductions of phosphorous pollution, but these factors are woefully inadequate.
River advocates maintain that a flowway south from Lake Okeechobee instead of releases east and west is the only practical remedy to stop the estuary destruction as well as provide for restoration of the natural river of grass.
Meanwhile, the Rivers Coalition Defense Fund’s federal lawsuit contesting the “alien” discharges continues with the filing of final briefs before a three-judge panel in Washington. The suit maintains that the discharges constitute a “taking” of riparian rights from property owners.
Leon Abood, Karl Wickstrom, Kevin Henderson, Mark Perry, Ted Guy
Gulf Oil Spill: NSF Funds Research on Impacts to Florida Everglades
August 10, 2010
Extensive seagrass beds, mangrove forests to be studied
With its vast 1.5 million acres of mangrove swamps, sawgrass prairies and subtropical jungles, could the Florida Everglades--the famous river of grass--be affected by the Gulf oil spill?
While current estimates are that little if any oil entered the Loop Current or reached the Everglades, this area is a significant national natural resource, and to study the effects of the spill on seagrasses and mangrove forests in and near the Everglades, the National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded a rapid response grant to scientists affiliated with NSF's Florida Coastal Everglades Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER) site.
The area is one of 26 such NSF LTER sites around the world.
"The Florida Coastal Everglades LTER site is located within the boundaries of Everglades National Park, an important natural resource," says Todd Crowl, LTER program director in NSF's Division of Environmental Biology, which co-funded the research with NSF's Division of Ocean Sciences.
"This research will document the extent of the spill's impact on the Everglades ecosystem as a whole."
In south Florida, open water, seagrass, and mangrove habitats could receive large amounts of oil and dispersants from the spill, says James Fourqurean of Florida International University (FIU), who was awarded the grant along with Evelyn Gaiser of FIU.
"Oil and dispersants are toxic to marine plants like seagrasses," says Fourqurean, "and mangroves may be smothered and die if oil slicks wash ashore."
The animals that live in these highly productive, diverse ecosystems are also sensitive to toxic compounds in oil and dispersants.
"Significant oil reaching the Everglades could drastically alter marine animal and plant distributions, the structure of the food web, and the cycling of organic matter for years or decades after the spill," says Fourqurean.
In their NSF-funded study, Fourqurean and Gaiser will measure hydrocarbon concentrations and food web structure at sites that may be directly impacted by the oil spill, and assess how these factors change with the arrival of oil.
"This research will discover whether oil spills shorten food chain length in coastal ecosystems, and if food web structure will be affected differently in seagrass beds compared with mangrove forests," says David Garrison, program director for biological oceanography in NSF's Division of Ocean Sciences.
The work will help design future oil spill clean-up efforts, says Gaiser, by defining the fate of oil-derived compounds in seagrass and mangrove ecosystems.
"Ecosystem disturbances due to the oil and dispersants would be difficult to definitively discern," she says, "without an understanding of long-term variability in the system uniquely provided by the LTER program."
The research will also help determine how these compounds influence the food webs that support the economic and cultural infrastructure of the south Florida region, says Fourqurean.
This NSF grant is one of many Gulf oil spill-related rapid response awards made by the federal agency. NSF's response involves active research in social sciences, geosciences, computer simulation, engineering, biology, and other fields. So far, the Foundation has made more than 60 awards totaling nearly $7 million.
For more on the RAPID program, please see the RAPID guidelines. See also a regularly updated list of RAPIDs targeting the Gulf oil spill response. Because RAPID grants are being awarded continuously, media can also contact Josh Chamot (email@example.com) in the Office of Legislative and Public Affairs for the latest information on granted awards.
Source: National Science Foundation
SFWMD, U.S. Army Corps to build “Bug Nursery” to control invasive plants
TCPalm – SFWMD
August 9, 2010
WEST PALM BEACH — Babies in this nursery may not be cute and cuddly, but they will grow up to be among South Florida’s important environmental defenders.
The South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers recently signed a Project Partnership Agreement to build a science facility to raise insects for use as biological controls. These insects and other biological controls are used to manage the spread of invasive exotic plant species such as melaleuca, "Lygodium" and Brazilian pepper.
“While invasive snakes may receive headline attention, exotic plant species are also extremely damaging and continue to invade South Florida’s ecosystems,” said Ken Ammon, P.E., SFWMD Deputy Executive Director - Everglades Restoration and Capital Projects. “Developing and deploying thoroughly researched biological controls are among our best and most environmentally friendly defenses. The work conducted at this facility will significantly help in our efforts to protect and restore the Everglades.”
A Bugged Nursery
The project consists of a 2,700-square-foot annex to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service (USDA-ARS) Invasive Plant Research Laboratory in Davie. Insects and other biological controls raised there will already have completed an exhaustive quarantine testing program — administered by the ARS — to demonstrate they only target specific exotic plants.
A host of biological control agents will be raised at the facility, including:
• Several types of midges and weevils to fight melaleuca
• Moths, mites and stem borers that target Lygodium, also known as Old World climbing fern
• Sawflies, thrips and weevils for control of Brazilian pepper
For at least the next 24 years, the annex is expected to raise colonies of these biological controls that can help protect South Florida’s ecosystems and the Everglades. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), in cooperation with the District, USDA and the University of Florida, has facilitated the agreements necessary to ensure that the project on state-owned land can proceed as scheduled.
“The success of the facility to rear ecologically safe biological controls will enhance our ability to manage invasive plants in the Everglades and throughout South Florida,” said Florida Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Mike Sole. “It is these types of cooperative, science-based projects that will allow us to continue to make significant progress in restoring America’s Everglades.”
Construction of the facility is scheduled to be completed by the U.S. Army Corps in early 2012 using an investment of $1.75 million in federal stimulus funding under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. The SFWMD and the Corps will provide operations and maintenance funding. Researchers at the USDA will strategically release and monitor the biological controls where they will be most effective as part of an integrated pest management strategy.
“I am tremendously encouraged that our agencies have signed a Project Partnership Agreement to build the annex to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Invasive Plant Research Laboratory,” said Col. Al Pantano, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Jacksonville District Commander. “This facility will enable researchers to exponentially increase the production of biological control agents to combat invasive exotic plant species in South Florida and the Everglades. Control of exotic plants is vital to successfully restoring the Everglades. The project is a federal stimulus success story made possible by funding through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.”
Background: The Invaders
Non-native plants stress the natural environment by crowding out native vegetation, which a diverse array of wildlife depend on for food and habitat. Invasive plants can also clog flood control canals and structures, impede waterway navigation and impact recreation and other facets of the Florida economy.
Since first making its way to Florida in the late 1960s, Old World climbing fern (Lygodium microphyllum) and Japanese climbing fern (L. japonicum) have become two of the most invasive exotic plants in the state. These climbing ferns grow quickly in South Florida without the natural pests and regulatory factors that keep the ferns in check in their native areas of Australia and Asia. The ferns cover and shade out native plants, eventually killing them.
Brazilian pepper (Schinus terebinthifolius) is a South American shrub first introduced into Florida as an ornamental plant in the 19th century. Today, it is considered one of the most noxious, widespread weeds in the state, infesting almost 1 million acres in South Florida alone. The peppers readily invade everything from fallow farmland to hardwood hammocks and mangrove forests.
SFWMD Invests in Biocontrols and Science
The new rearing facility is the latest investment in biological controls by the SFWMD. The District has devoted approximately $20 million in each of the past five years to remove the most threatening invasive species, such as melaleuca, Old World climbing fern, Brazilian pepper and water hyacinth. In Fiscal Year 2009 alone, the District treated approximately 94,000 acres to combat melaleuca, torpedo grass, the climbing fern and other offenders.
One of the most visual efforts to control exotic plants inched through Jonathan Dickinson State Park in Martin County. The SFWMD, in partnership with the USDA Agricultural Research Service, released a thousand Neomusotima conspurcatalis moths at the park in 2008. The moths lay eggs that morph into caterpillars that chew through dense stands of the invasive Old World climbing fern without harming native Florida ferns.
Melaleuca remains an example of the District’s success in managing exotics.
Once covering hundreds of thousands of acres, this species now is only occasionally spotted on District-managed lands. What seemed to be an insurmountable invasive species now is being successfully managed through sustained interagency commitment. Biological controls are an important part of this success. The combined effect of three established insect species is putting significant pressure on melaleuca’s ability to dominate Florida’s native plant communities.
The District-led melaleuca management program is nearly two decades old, and resource management agencies estimate this program has cost approximately $40 million to date. Florida’s melaleuca management program is a model for invasive species management nationally.
The SFWMD supports continued applied scientific research that improves management efforts. To further facilitate that effort, the District participates in key partnerships with agencies including: the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC); the Florida Department of Environmental Protection; the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service; the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Department of the Interior.
Residents also play an important role in the protection of South Florida’s environment. One of the primary ways invasive species, both plant and animal, end up in the natural environment is by being thrown out or released by people who no longer want them. For example, emptying a tropical aquarium full of live but non-native aquatic plants can have serious consequences for the environment.
For more information on invasive plants, visit http://www.sfwmd.gov.
This story is contributed by a member of the Treasure Coast community and is neither endorsed nor affiliated with TCPalm.com
Read more: http://www.winknews.com/Local-Florida/2010-08-09/Stinky-situation-on-Golden-Gate-canal#ixzz0wFJM2EGe
Stinky situation in Golden Gate canal
August 9, 2010
GOLDEN GATE ESTATES, Fla. - Hundreds of rotting fish in a Golden Gate Estates canal have neighbors worried about what's in the water. The fish are fouling a canal near Everglades Boulevard.
"It's bad, it's bad. When you walk out here to get the paper you can smell it way over at my house," Saxon Cole says of the stench coming from the canal running along his house on 20th Avenue SE.
His father, Dan, questions if the fish kill is due to South Florida Water Management recently spraying the embankments for weeds.
The agency tells WINK News they only use approved chemicals that won't kill anything living in the water. They believe heat and heavy rain, along with other weather patterns this time of year caused the fish to die.
However, some wonder if the water could be hurting them as well.
"We all have wells too. My well point is right there. Am I drinking that water?" Dan Cole asks.
Water management says no. They will go out to the canal and investigate, but don't have a timetable set up yet.
County Wanted to Drill for Oil in Everglades to Pay for New Terminals
NBCmiami.com - by JANIE CAMPBELL
August 8, 2010
Up next for the bloated airport project? Paying for it. This'll be fun.
The new terminals at Miami International Airport are shiny, modern, amenified, and "oozing tropical chic," but the most Miami thing about them is how delayed, mired in political corruption, and mismanaged the project had become by the time they were completed.
The $3.9-billion project now bears a price tag of $6.9 billion, according to the Miami Herald, along with an out-of-warranty skytrain that doesn't connect to the other two terminals, an aged and ragged central core, a baggage handling system still unready, and 21 million fewer travelers than envisioned when the whole project began in the mid-1990s.
Just about the only thing that could top the mess is if county commissioners wanted to drill for oil in the Everglades to pay for it all.
Oh, wait. They did:
To dig out from its construction tab, which won't be paid off until 2041, county officials are devising schemes to gin up new sources of cash.
One idea raised -- but ultimately shelved -- last year: oil drilling in the Everglades.
Another: installing slot machines in terminals.
Still alive are plans to rock mine on county-owned land in the northwestern fringes of Miami-Dade.
Yeesh. If you thought the Gulf spill looked bad, imagine what we might have seen with Miami-Dade County in charge of drilling oil in one of our most precious, delicate, and dying wetlands.
Fortunately, reason won. But It does appears the county will have to do something to pay for the bloated project, which will double operations and debt costs for the airport to $1 billion annually and threatens to price low-cost airlines out of the area.
Along with the rock mine, officials are exploring the possibility of a public-private partnership to turn the former Pan Am land at the airport into a complex featuring hotels and shops.
One would think the airport would need those missing additional 21 million travelers to be successful with such a venture, which probably means they'll get started on it soon and start the cycle all over again.
In November, remember Everglades is being destroyed
August 8, 2010
I'd like to remind our state of what the party in charge of Florida has done to destroy our most needed resource. The Floirda Everglades, which is not only a beautiful nature preserve but a filter for our water supply.
Before the previous administration took office industries that were polluting our environment were required to contribute to a super fund to clean up their polluting. They were required to put 1 percent of their gross into the fund for that effort. They stopped this contribution before President Bush even got into office, leaving many sites unfinished. Several sites througout Florida have shown the benefits of this effort, but one site has displayed the negative effect of the stoppage. The Everglades would have long been cleaned by now and our water supply made safe, but now the polluters are trying to sell parts of it back to the state so they won't need to take action.
Gov. Jeb Bush even tried to pass a billion-dollar bond to continue the cleanup. Now, they want a billion dollars to buy back the polluted land. The Seminole tribes once were our watchdogs for the Everglades but seem to be silenced by other activities now.
The answer is to restart the superfund and return our state to sanity. Ask the people in Apopka about the benefits of this fund. Remember who got us here and what politicians were in office in Florida who allowed this to happen. Let's take back our state from them and require the polluters to cover the costs of their work.
I still remember that TV commercial with the Indian who had a tear streaming down his cheek because of the pollution. Remember in November.
William G. Campbell , Leesburg, FL
Florida Weighs Swapping Cash for Debt in Scaled Back Everglades Purchase
Bloomberg.com - by Simone Baribeau
August 5, 2010
Florida may scale back a plan to restore the Everglades marshland and pay cash to buy land from U.S. Sugar Corp. after a proposed $536 million purchase using debt spurred legal challenges and tax revenue fell.
The revised plan, to buy 26,800 acres (10,846 hectares) for $197.4 million in cash for restoration of the 100-mile-long (161 kilometer) wetland at the state’s southern end, will be considered by the South Florida Water Management District on Aug. 12, according to documents on the group’s website.
The reduced acquisition compares with an earlier plan to buy 180,000 acres from the closely held sugar producer, based in Clewiston, Florida. That proposal was approved last year by the district, which oversees efforts to reclaim farmland and restore water flow to 1.4 million acres of wetlands. The new arrangement carries a 10-year option to buy another 153,200 acres.
“To fight the bad economy and the decline in our tax revenues, we decided to purchase what acreage we could afford and leave the rest in the option,” Eric Buermann, chairman of the district’s governing board, said yesterday by telephone. “Our ability to do bond financing became really problematic with the economy.”
When he announced the original purchase plan in June 2008, Governor Charlie Crist called it the “critical missing link” in restoring and protecting coastal estuaries in Florida. The proposal included buying about 300 square miles of land, 200 miles of railroad and manufacturing plants for $1.75 billion.
The new proposal comes after a ruling that compels the district to build a reservoir to prevent polluted water from entering the Everglades’ protected areas. In March, a federal district court in Miami ordered the authority to resume construction on the project, which had been stalled “in view of the land acquisition deal,” according to court documents.
Buermann said the district, which is appealing the ruling, doesn’t expect to both buy the land and resume construction on the reservoir.
“I don’t think that the judge in that case really expected us to proceed with that reservoir,” he said.
If the court determines the district has to continue the reservoir project, Buermann said officials might have to raise property taxes to build it.
“We’re disappointed that there’s not more land involved” in the latest plan, said Thom Rumberger, chairman of the Everglades Trust, an environmental-preservation group. Still, he applauded the proposal in a telephone interview yesterday. “This is certainly a step in the right direction and for that, we’re very excited.”
Opponents, including the Miccosukee Tribe and Florida Crystals Corp., a West Palm Beach-based U.S. Sugar competitor, sued to prevent the use of debt for the purchase. The tribe cited plans to lease some of the land back to U.S. Sugar, which it claimed would undermine the proposal’s environmental goals and make the debt issue illegal.
About a third of the 26,800 acres, or the 8,900 acres used to grow sugar cane, would be leased back to U.S. Sugar for seven years or swapped or sold to another producer, Buermann said. The lease may generate $1 million a year, district documents say.
The scaled-down cash proposal vindicates the opponents’ claims, said Gaston Cantens, a Florida Crystals spokesman.
“All we’ve done is point out every step of the way that they couldn’t afford it,” Cantens said by telephone. “We were right. They couldn’t afford it.”
More Everglades momentum: Don't let partisan fight in Congress slow it.
The Palm Beach Post
August 5, 2010
Efforts to restore the Everglades by capturing and cleansing water south of Lake Okeechobee will be strengthened by a recently announced $89 million federal plan to restore agricultural land north of the lake.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Wetlands Reserve Program is buying easements to restore wetlands along Fisheating Creek in Highlands County. The easements would cover 26,000 acres owned by four families, including about 10,000 acres of the Blue Head Ranch, owned by the family of state Sen. J.D. Alexander, R-Lake Wales. Development plans for the sprawling ranchland, covering 65,000 acres, would not be affected, a spokeswoman told Highlands Today. We can hope that dreams of the Heartland Parkway toll road, however, would die with the land deal.
Restoring land near the creek will turn the drained land into a floodplain, to capture water during rainy season and release it slowly into the lake. Pollutants that endanger the lake - and eventually the Everglades - will be removed as the water meanders. The project also will restore habitat of the Florida black bear and Florida panther.
By purchasing easements instead of title to the land, the government is supposed to be paying less, and ranchers will continue to have some use of their land. Final figures and appraisals, however, have not been released. The Nature Conservancy and the South Florida Water Management District are assisting with the acquisitions and wetland restoration. "This effort," said water district Chairman Eric Buermann, "vividly demonstrates that public, private and advocacy organizations together can achieve what some think impossible: environmental protection and productive agriculture coexisting side by side."
Momentum on Everglades restoration picked up with the appointment by the Obama administration of new players in key places. Money from Congress finally is coming, though Audubon of Florida notes that a partisan fight over earmarks threatens three key restoration projects. The Everglades always has had bipartisan support in Florida. Even in an election year, that should continue. Also this month, after urging by U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., the United Nations returned the Everglades to its list of imperiled sites.
Saving the Everglades means repairing the water system north and south of Lake Okeechobee. The Fisheating Creek proposal comes at the right time.
- Joel Engelhardt, for The Palm Beach Post Editorial Board
Scaled-down Everglades plan would secure 27K acres
Associated Press - by MATT SEDENSKY
August 5, 2010
MIAMI — A historic effort to restore the dying Florida Everglades was scaled back yet again Wednesday, meaning the amount of land that will be purchased for protection is now about one-ninth the size originally planned.
The modified contract between the state and U.S. Sugar Corp. made public calls for an initial land purchase of 26,791 acres for about $197.4 million, a fraction of the deal announced by Gov. Charlie Crist in 2008.
The state had planned to pay $1.75 billion to buy all of U.S. Sugar's 180,000 acres. Under the revised deal, it would still maintain the option to purchase the remainder of the plan.
"The intent on both sides is still to complete the total 180,000 acres of land," said Judy Sanchez, a spokeswoman for U.S. Sugar. "You have to take the first step. You can't get to the end game without several steps along the way."
Though severely scaled back, the deal still garnered praise from some environmentalists.
"I like this deal because it's doable," said Eric Draper, executive director of Audubon of Florida. "It's more important that we do something now than spending another year arguing about how big and how much."
The South Florida Water Management District is scheduled to vote on the new contract Aug. 12. It would then need to be approved by U.S. Sugar's board.
The Everglades have been dying for decades from the intrusion of farms and development, dissected by dikes, dams and canals, effectively draining much of the swamp and polluting it with fertilizers and urban runoff. The state and federal governments' efforts to restore the wetlands have been stymied for years by funding shortfalls, legal challenges and political bickering.
BP: Static Kill Is Working On Gulf Oil Spill, 'It's A Milestone'
August 4, 2010
ON THE GULF OF MEXICO (Associated Press) - Mud that was forced down a blown-out well was holding down the flow of oil at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico, BP said Wednesday.
In a significant step toward stopping the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history, BP PLC said workers stopped pumping mud in after about eight hours of their "static kill" procedure and were monitoring the well to ensure it remained stable.
"It's a milestone," BP spokeswoman Sheila Williams said. "It's a step toward the killing of the well."
The next step would be deciding whether to cement the well, Williams said.
The pressure in the well dropped quickly in the first 90 minutes of the static kill procedure Tuesday, a sign that everything was going as planned, wellsite leader Bobby Bolton told AP. Bolton said Tuesday night that the procedure was going well. "Pressure is down and appears to be stabilizing," he told the AP then.
But the mud that was forced down the broken wellhead to permanently plug the gusher is only half the story. To call the mission a success, crews working on a flotilla of vessels on a desolate patch of water need to seal off the well from two directions.
The static kill -- also known as bullheading -- involved slowly pumping the mud from a ship down lines running to the top of the ruptured well a mile below. BP has said that may be enough by itself to seal the well.
Still, an 18,000-foot relief well that BP has been drilling for the past three months will be used later this month to execute a "bottom kill," in which mud and cement will be injected into the bedrock 2 1/2 miles below the sea floor to finish the job, retired Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen said.
"There should be no ambiguity about that," Allen said. "I'm the national incident commander, and this is how this will be handled."
A 75-ton cap placed on the well in July has been keeping the oil bottled up inside over the past three weeks, but that is considered only a temporary measure. BP and the Coast Guard want to plug up the hole with a column of heavy drilling mud and cement to seal it off more securely.
Before the cap was lowered onto the well, 172 million gallons of crude flowed into the sea, unleashed by the April 20 explosion aboard the drilling rig Deepwater Horizon that killed 11 workers. A previous, similar effort failed in May when the mud couldn't overcome the unstemmed flow of oil.
BP won't know for certain whether the static kill has succeeded until engineers can use the soon-to-be-completed relief well to check their work.
The task is becoming more urgent because peak hurricane season is just around the corner, Allen said. Tropical Storm Colin formed then dissipated far out in the Atlantic on Tuesday, but early forecasts say it will travel toward the East Coast rather than the Gulf.
Commissioner's Pet Project Expected To Go Ahead Despite Guilty Plea
August 4, 2010
South Cove Natural Area Aims To Restore Long-Lost Ecosystems
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Supporters of Palm Beach County's South Cove Natural Area expect the project to go forward despite County Commissioner Jeff Koons' guilty plea.
Koons, a major supporter of the environmental project, pleaded guilty Wednesday to charges surrounding the project.
The South Cove Natural Area is expected to create two acres of mangrove and spartina habitat, improving filtration and water quality.
Opponents to the project, that is being built on state-owned submerged lands, feel it would be bring traffic congestion to the area and provide a residence for the homeless.
Supporters, like Tom Twyford of the West Palm Beach Fishing Club, said the habitat will be a boom to the environment. He said the boardwalk to the island, which some property owners object to, will bring an important public education component to the project.
Everglades endangered once again
August 4, 2010
Florida’s Everglades have been reinstated to the United Nations Treasured & Endgandered list three years after being removed. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization announced last week the Everglades will be back on the list among 910 other sites. While the UN treasured list provides endangered sites universal recognition, it does not guarentee funding for preservation. Florida Senator Bill Nelson says the Everglades should have never been taken off the list in the first place. After a two year battle to get the Everglades back on the list, Nelson is grateful the Everglades are back on it. University of Florida Wildlife Ecology and Conservation Research Professor Peter Frederick says the international recognization could assist on conservation efforts. Frederick says since 1990 the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan has had its up and downs, but overall is efficient. The major goals of the conservation efforts are to restore some of the functions the Everglades used to have.
More proof of oil spill hype
Orlando Sentinel — by Mike Thomas blog
August 4, 2010
On Tuesday I wrote this column about hype on the Gulf oil spill. Naturally, I was labled a tool of BP by my many critics.
But now comes this federal report, as reported by the New York Times, that says 75 percent of the oil has either been collected, evaporated, dissipated and otherwise removed from the Gulf. The rest is being rapidly disposed of and it unlikely to cause any major problems.
As I’ve said, the Gulf has long ago adapted to oil because of natural seepage from the ocean floor. We have very efficient and very hungry oil-eating microorganisms. That’s the belching sound you hear from Pensacola.
I got my start in this business as an environmental reporter and it’s a subject that remains dear to me. I am not pro-oil. I am pro-accurracy. Hyping environmental doom, as was done here, chisels away at the credibility of environmental issues. It’s the Cry Wolf syndrome. It also diverts attention from real issues, like the nutrients dumped into the Gulf from the Everglades and Mississippi River. The threat of oil pales compared to this.
Mike, I normally agree with you, but on this one, I still remain suspect of the toxicity of the dispersants used. I heard a marine biologist on NPR who claims that the dispersants used to hide the oil actually are a bigger problem to fishing and reef-based pharmaculture than the oil is.
Reply Posted by: acorlando | Wednesday, August 4, 2010 at 11:27 AM
It’s still way too early to judge the impact of this spill. While it is now apparent that the surface damage won’t be near the scale of the more dire predictions, the long term effects of the dispersants are largely unknown (Oil Spill Dispersants Shifting Ecosystem Impacts in Gulf, Scientists Warn) and no one really knows what the effect on the dead zone will be (Oil spill’s effect on dead zone unknown).
Reply Posted by: Shawn | Wednesday, August 4, 2010 at 11:30 AM
I think alot of the public is completely ignorant of what an oil dispersant is. The dispersant used in the Gulf is the EXACT same thing most households use when washing their dishes by hand. Dawn dish soap is an oil dispersant made up of Corexit. This was what BP was using. It is labeled by the EPA as falling within the range of \practically non-toxic to slightly toxic\.
So, if you are so worried about the dispersants used, I would suggest you stop using Dawn dish soap while washing your dishes.
Here’s a good article from the LA Times on the oil disperants used:
Reply Posted by: Tom | Wednesday, August 4, 2010 at 11:51 AM
I don’t understand how everything could be cleaned up so quickly. The Exxon Valdez was in 1989 and there are still effects up there from that spill. How could this be?
Reply Posted by: Robin | Wednesday, August 4, 2010 at 11:51 AM
I agree that the fear mongers were out big time on this event. Disaster? sure, mega disaster? unknown, but as long as we have people with vested interests the scientists from both sides will be researching this for answers which hopefully will not be spun but reported accurately. Hopefully, the agencies that regulate the drilling will learn something from this as will the public in general. Much as the weather man goes into hyper drive whenever we have a large storm that will come withon a continent of Florida, the fear mongers and environmental activists went into overdrive and used tv to try to sell america on returning to the middle ages. If anything comes out of this I hope it is a drive to have America return to leading the way on alternative energy. A way, that sadly, we have lost, if we here in Florida would put solar panels on every available roof top (granted that most of us would need financial help to afford that) the need for fossil fuel powered generation (and nuclear) would decrease tremendously.
Reply Posted by: Jim A. | Wednesday, August 4, 2010 at 11:58 AM
Robin- Mike gives a simplified explanation in the column he wrote on Tuesday (the one he references and links to in the first sentence of this post):
“The spill was compared to the Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska, even though they are not comparable.
The Exxon spill in Prince William Sound involved much thicker crude that poured out much closer to the shoreline in a more enclosed, cold-water environment. Cleanup crews botched the job by pressure-washing the oil off shoreline rocks, where it would degrade, back into the water where it would not.
The Gulf spill involved lighter crude far from shore in a very warm, open-water environment. Much of it simply evaporated on the surface — 40 percent, according to an expert quoted by The New York Times.”
Reply Posted by: Shawn | Wednesday, August 4, 2010 at 11:59 AM
I think it’s hard to ever know if you’re getting the straight story from anyone on an issue like this one, where most of us aren’t informed. Everyone involved has an agenda – BP, environmentalists, reporters, commercial fishermen, and the resort/vacation industry.
The only ones I can truly dismiss out of hand are those who use the phrase “fragile environment.” The environment on Earth is anything but fragile and has always recovered from manmade catastrophes. Take a look at the forest recovering the land in the Chernobyl accident for an excellent example. We were told life was unlikely to return there, but instead we see it’s flourishing.
The oil spill is damaging and images of dead birds and dolphins naturally tug at our sympathies. The environment, however, will adapt and recover.
Reply Posted by: William Beem | Wednesday, August 4, 2010 at 12:02 PM
I have worked in Environmental fields for over 35 years. Often what more radical environmental groups want is not the best for the environment. They are often used by other interest as a front. The nuclear industry new construction was shut down years ago by environmental groups.Who funded those groups? Who benefited by the nuclear industry stopped from building?The average citizen was hurt. We could of slowed down the use of coal and oil and with the use of some electric cars not have to import oil. Nuclear is the cleanest source of electricity we have.It is also plentiful in the US. All sources of power pollute but nuclear is the cleanest.Mike is right that oil seeps constantly in the Gulf and life not only adapted to that but some organisms benefit from oil and use it as a food source. We have plentiful sources of natural gas in this country. But special interest are trying to impend that too. This country’s economy too often is not a free market or socialism but corporate capitalism.That is private ownership with government control which is controlled by the special interest for the benefit of a few privileged owners to the determent of the rest of us. I am a fiscal conservative but won’t join the Tea Party movement because I will not allow myself to be manipulated.
The Crime of the Century: What BP and the US Government Don't Want You to Know, Part I
Hufington Post – by Jerry Cope and Charles Hambleton
August 4, 2010
The unprecedented disaster caused by the BP oil spill at the Deepwater Horizon Mississippi Canyon 252 site continues to expand even as National Incident Commander Thad Allen and BP assert that the situation is improving, the blown-out source capped and holding steady, the situation well in hand and cleanup operations are being scaled back. The New York Times declared on the front page this past week that the oil was disolving more rapidly than anticipated. Time magazine reported that environmental anti-advocate Rush Limbaugh had a point when he said the spill was a "leak". Thad Allen pointed out in a press conference that boats are still skimming on the surface, a futile gesture when the dispersant Corexit is being used to break down oil on the surface. As the oil is broken down, it mixes with the dispersant and flows under or over any booming operations.
To judge from most media coverage, the beaches are open, the fishing restrictions being lifted and the Gulf resorts open for business in a healthy, safe environment. We, along with Pierre LeBlanc, spent the last few weeks along the Gulf coast from Louisiana to Florida, and the reality is distinctly different. The coastal communities of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida have been inundated by the oil and toxic dispersant Corexit 9500, and the entire region is contaminated. The once pristine white beaches that have been subject to intense cleaning operations now contain the oil/dispersant contamination to an unknown depth. The economic impacts potentially exceed even the devastation of a major hurricane like Katrina, the adverse impacts on health and welfare of human populations are increasing every minute of every day and the long-term effects are potentially life threatening.
Over the Gulf from the Source (official term for the Deepwater Horizon spill site) in to shore there is virtually no sign of life anywhere in the vast areas covered by the dispersed oil and Corexit. This in a region previously abundant with life above and below the ocean's surface in all its diversity. For months now, scientists and environmental organizations have been asking where all the animals are. The reported numbers of marine animals lost from BP fall far short of the observed loss. The water has a heavy appearance and the slightly iridescent greenish yellow color that extends as far as the eye can see.
In May, Mother Nature Network blogger Karl Burkart received a tip from an anonymous fisherman-turned-BP contractor in the form of a distressed text message, describing a near-apocalyptic sight near the location of the sunken Deepwater Horizon -- fish, dolphins, rays, squid, whales, and thousands of birds -- "as far as the eye can see," dead and dying. According to his statement, which was later confirmed by another report from an individual working in the Gulf, whale carcasses were being shipped to a highly guarded location where they were processed for disposal.
CitizenGlobal Gulf News Desk received photos that matched the report and are being published on Karl's blog today. Local fisherman in Alabama report sighting tremendous numbers of dolphins, sharks, and fish moving in towards shore as the initial waves of oil and dispersant approached in June. Many third- and fourth-generation fisherman declared emphatically that they had never seen or heard of any similar event in the past. Scores of animals were fleeing the leading edge of toxic dispersant mixed with oil. Those not either caught in the toxic mixture and killed out at sea, or fortunate enough to be out in safe water beyond the Source, died as the water closed in, and they were left no safe harbor. The numbers of birds, fish, turtles, and mammals killed by the use of Corexit will never be known as the evidence strongly suggests that BP worked with the Coast Guard, the Department of Homeland Security, the FAA, private security contractors, and local law enforcement, all of which cooperated to conceal the operations disposing of the animals from the media and the public.
The majority of the disposal operations were carried out under cover of darkness. The areas along the beaches and coastal Islands where the dead animals were collected were closed off by the U.S. Coast Guard. On shore, private contractors and local law enforcement officials kept off limits the areas where the remains of the dead animals were dumped, mainly at the Magnolia Springs landfill by Waste Management where armed guards controlled access. The nearby weigh station where the Waste Management trucks passed through with their cargoes was also restricted by at least one Sheriff's deputies in a patrol car, 24/7.
Robyn Hill, who was Beach Ambassador for the City of Gulf Shores until she became so ill she collapsed on the job one morning, was at a residential condominium property adjacent to the Gulf Shores beach when she smelled an overwhelming stench. She went to see where the odor was coming from and witnessed two contract workers dumping plastic bags full of dead birds and fish in a residential Waste Management dumpster, which was then protected by a security guard. Within five minutes, a Waste Management collection truck emptied the contents and the guard departed.
The oceans are empty, the skies tinged yellow by evaporating oil and toxic dispersant devoid of birds, dogs mysteriously have no fleas, and in an area usually besieged by mosquitoes, there is little need for repellent, and the usual trucks spraying are nowhere to be seen.
Dauphin Island was one of the sites where carcasses of sperm whales were destroyed. The operational end of the island was closed to unauthorized personnel and the airspace closed. The U.S. Coast Guard closed off all access from the Gulf. This picture shows the area as it was prepped to receive the whale carcasses for disposal.
The reason BP has gone to such great lengths to hide the devastation caused by the irresponsible drilling operations and blow out at Mississippi Canyon 252 is financial. Every death that results from the oil spill has a cash value, whether animal or human. Images of dead animals are difficult to spin in the media, and they resonate across all demographics. BP also has a strong interest in maintaining a business-as-usual model for the beach resort communities along the Gulf Coast that have been economically devastated and lost the majority of their annual revenue during the summer season of 2010. The only sharks circling the Gulf waters now are based on land.
Coming Soon; Part II. Corexit and Human Health.
U.S. Says 74 Percent of BP Oil Gone From Gulf Waters
Bloomberg Businessweek – by Allison Bennett and Jim Efstathiou Jr.
August 04, 2010
Updates with comment from Obama in sixth paragraph.)
Aug. 4 (Bloomberg) -- About 74 percent of the oil that leaked from BP Plc’s damaged well in the Gulf of Mexico is no longer in the water, according to a U.S. government report.
The remaining oil may be in the water or on shore, buried beneath sand and sediment, or was collected from beaches, according to the report released today by a team led by the Interior Department and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
An estimated 4.9 million barrels of oil leaked from BP’s Macondo well between April 20 and July 15, according to government scientists. BP was able to capture about 800,000 barrels of crude from the well before it entered the Gulf. The leak began after the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig exploded off the coast of Louisiana, killing 11 workers.
“Less oil on the surface does not mean that there isn’t oil still in the water column or that our beaches and marshes aren’t still at risk,” Jane Lubchenco, administrator of NOAA, said in a press release. “Knowing generally what happened to the oil helps us better understand areas of risk and likely impacts.”
The report on oil in the Gulf comes as London-based BP reported a “significant milestone” today toward plugging the well permanently. Engineers carried out the “static kill” to inject drilling mud over a period of eight hours yesterday to control the well’s pressure.
“The long battle to stop the leak and contain the oil is close to coming to an end,” President Barack Obama said in remarks today to the executive council of the AFL-CIO labor union.
Obama said the U.S. will hold the company accountable for paying for the damage caused by the leaking well, the biggest maritime oil spill.
A quarter of the oil from the spill evaporated or dissolved naturally into the water, according to the report. BP captured 17 percent of the oil using equipment at the wellhead and skimming accounted for 3 percent of the oil.
Chemicals were used to break up 8 percent of the oil and 16 percent was naturally dispersed, or broken down into small droplets that can be biodegraded.
The findings come from daily operational reports, previous scientific analyses, best available information and a broad range of scientific expertise, according to the report.
“I find it very hard to believe, impossible actually, that they have three-quarters of the oil accounted for,” Samantha Joye, a professor of marine sciences at the University of Georgia in Athens, said today in an e-mail.
Joye was among scientists who discovered plumes of oil under the Gulf’s surface and has been continuing to survey and analyze the results of water samples.
“When they say that there’s 25 percent of the oil remaining, that is almost five times the Exxon Valdez,” which spilled crude into Alaska’s Prince William Sound in 1989, said Ian MacDonald, a professor of oceanography at Florida State University in Tallahassee.
Though there may be no oil washing onto beaches, tar balls can be found six to 10 inches (15 to 25 centimeters) below the surface, he said.
“An enormous amount of the oil is now buried and we know from previous spills that this buried material can persist for decades,” MacDonald said. “And that oil does have an effect on the behavior and health of the animals.”
BP rose 6 pence, or 1.4 percent, to 421.65 pence at 4:35 p.m. in London trading. The cost of insuring BP’s debt for a year with credit-default swaps dropped below five-year premiums today for the first time in two months on speculation the bid to close the well will succeed.
BP said it will consult with National Incident Commander Thad Allen on whether to pump more mud and whether to attempt to plug the well from the top with cement as part of its static kill effort.
White House energy adviser Carol Browner said completion of a relief well, begun May 2 and now within about 100 feet (30.5 meters) of intercepting the damaged bore, is necessary to permanently plug the well.
The relief well will be done in 10 to 14 days, she said.
--With assistance from Roger Runningen in Washington and Jim Polson in New York. Editors: Tina Davis, Kim Jordan
To contact the reporters on this story: Allison Bennett in New York at firstname.lastname@example.org; Jim Efstathiou Jr. in New York at email@example.com
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Susan Warren at firstname.lastname@example.org
Florida DEP chief to step down
TampaBay.com - by Craig Pittman, Times Staff Writer
August 3, 2010
Capping a tumultuous four years in office, Florida's point man on dealing with the Deepwater Horizon disaster, Mike Sole, handed in his resignation Monday as secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection.
His last day will be Sept. 10. Gov. Charlie Crist has named Mimi Drew, the agency's deputy secretary of regulatory programs, as an interim replacement to oversee the department, which is responsible for everything from the state park system to the water supply.
A spokeswoman said Sole has no other job lined up yet. His predecessor, Colleen Castille, suggested Sole is quitting now because state law "prohibits you from discussing employment opportunities with those you regulate or have contracts with while you are in office."
He may also need a break. Sole, 46, "had more work to do in a shorter period of time than any previous DEP secretary," quipped Eric Draper of Audubon of Florida.
After Gov. Charlie Crist tapped Sole as DEP chief in 2006, he put him in charge of carrying out a raft of state programs designed to combat climate change. Although those programs were initially hailed by environmental groups, they repeatedly ran into trouble with the Legislature.
Then Sole became Crist's top negotiator for working out a deal to buy U.S. Sugar's property and use it for Everglades restoration. The purchase, initially hailed by environmental groups, ran into trouble with financing and political opposition, requiring it to be drastically scaled back.
"There were problems with execution on each one," said Frank Jackalone of the Sierra Club.
For the past three months, Sole said he has been laboring from 6:45 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. each day overseeing Florida's response to the oil washing ashore from the Deepwater Horizon spill. He spent much of that time at the center of a bureaucratic tug-of-war, trying to balance the needs of local officials with the resources available from the Coast Guard and BP.
Sole, in his resignation letter, tied his departure from his $123,000-a-year job to the recent good news about the spill — although he has previously predicted that oil will continue washing ashore for at least two more months.
"Now that the Deepwater Horizon well has been capped, and Florida is on the road to recovery, it is necessary for me to announce my departure," he wrote.
In an e-mail sent to the agency's 3,500 employees, Sole said that during his time at the DEP he learned that government agencies have customers who need help, "whether it be the developer seeking a permit, a visitor to our parks, a concerned citizen reporting a potential violation, or someone reading about our progress (or lack thereof) in the local newspaper."
Sole counts himself as a Fort Pierce native. He is the son of a Marine officer who made sure the family spent every summer visiting family in Florida no matter where he was stationed.
Growing up around the water led him to earn a bachelor's degree in marine biology at the Florida Institute of Technology, where he studied the population and migration of manatees. He still enjoys scuba diving and snorkeling in Florida's waters with his wife, Jeannie, and daughter, Samantha.
He achieved the rank of captain in the Marine Corps and served during the Persian Gulf War, but otherwise has worked only for the DEP or its predecessor agency for the past 19 years, rising through the ranks.
Barney Bishop of the probusiness Associated Industries of Florida, which battled Sole and Crist over climate change issues, hailed Sole as "an extraordinarily great secretary of the DEP." Environmental leaders offered a less enthusiastic perspective.
Jerry Phillips of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, for instance, noted that the state's own figures show "there was a continual decline in civil enforcement penalties" against polluters while Sole was in charge.
And Linda Young of the Clean Water Network pointed out that Sole strongly opposed tough new water pollution standards that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency plans to impose on Florida's waterways — a position he shared with, among others, paper mill and sewer plant operators.
"He really did surrender Florida's water policy to polluters," she said. "He gave them everything they had been asking for."
Now that he's leaving the agency where he's worked for so long, Castille predicted Sole will find "there is great life after public service. It is well deserved. Family appreciates having you home more as well."
Times staff researchers Caryn Baird and Natalie Watson contributed to this report. Craig Pittman can be reached at email@example.com.
Palm Beach County Commissioner Resigns After Arrest
August 3, 2010
Court Documents Reveal Koons Threatened Opponents Of Project He Supported
A Palm Beach County commissioner has resigned, just hours after being arrested on charges of extortion, perjury and violating public open meeting laws.
Jeff Koons was arrested early Tuesday morning and released on bond later that day.
His attorney, David Roth, announced at a news conference that Koons was resigning from public office and "pledges to learn from his transgressions."
"Jeff intends to plead guilty to the charges and address his unfortunate loss of control and resultant disastrous decisions which he acknowledges fully were morally and legally indefensible," Roth added.
According to court documents, Koons made repeated extortionate threats to the family of Richard Johnson, who opposed the South Cove project -- three mangrove islands connected by a boardwalk in West Palm Beach.
The Johnson family and other Trump Tower residents have opposed the project, saying it will ruin their view and cause traffic.
Court documents show that Koons made a telephone call in May threatening Johnson's agent.
"I'm going to work as hard as I've ever worked in 20 years of public service to take the Johnsons through the wringer on this if they don't support the city of West Palm Beach," Koons was quoted as saying. "I'll have kids picketing at the building and I'm going to say they want a marina instead of an island."
A month later, Koons told West Palm Beach Commissioner Kimberly Mitchell that he intended to use photographs of the storm drain system and dead trees to embarrass his opponents if they appeared at a special committee meeting on the project, documents reveal.
During an interview with state prosecutors, Koons initially denied threatening to punish or embarrass opponents of the project, but admitted that he "crossed the line" after being confronted with recordings of the extortionate threats, documents stated.
"Jeff Koons is a fine public servant," Commissioner Karen Marcus told WPBF 25 News upon learning of his arrest and resignation. "Nobody worked harder for people who had less, and here he had wealth. We have a homeless center because of Jeff Koons. We have so many projects because of his hard work and things that he's done for this community. After a 20 year career, it's unfortunate about this. But he's a wonderful, great public servant, and this county will reap the rewards of all the hard work he's done for years to come."
Commissioner Steve Abrams said in a statement that Koons' arrest is "unfortunate on so many levels."
"For me it's disappointing because the county was turning the corner on the ethics issues," Abrams added. "Now we take a step backwards, and it's so unfortunate."
Koons' arrest is the latest in a long line of Palm Beach County commissioners who have been tied to wrongdoing while serving public office. Former commissioners Tony Masilotti, Warren Newell and Mary McCarty have all previously been convicted.
"It seems people don't learn from the mistakes of others," Commissioner Jess Santamaria said in a statement.
Koons, who signed an ethics pledge last year, represented central Palm Beach County, which includes Greenacres, Haverhill, Palm Springs and the area around Palm Beach International Airport.
Rock mining temporarily banned in Everglades
The Florida Independent - by Virginia Chamlee
August 2, 2010
Late last month, the Palm Beach County Commission unanimously voted to impose a temporary moratorium on new rock mines in part of the the Florida Everglades. The decision to formalize the one-year ban will be made on August 26. Any mines currently operating or already in development will not be shut down due to the temporary ban.
Rock mining, which involves blasting through chunks of limestone to produce rock to be used in various construction projects, is a sore subject for environmental groups, who argue that mining pollutes water supplies and hinders restoration of the largest subtropical wilderness in the United States.The commission has allowed mining to spread to more than 20,000 acres of the Everglades Agricultural Area since 2006. This past April, the commission voted to temporarily ban rock mining gave Palm Beach Aggregates permission to team up with Florida Crystals, a sugar giant that owns large swaths land abutting the Everglades, to expand their mines over an additional 2,400 acres.
Late last week, the Everglades Aquatic Ecosystem was added to UNESCO’s List of World Heritage in Danger. The area was originally placed on the list in 1993, but removed in 2007 after restoration and conservation efforts showed improvement in the area. UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee again added the Everglades to the list during a meeting last week in Brazil, citing “serious and continuing degradation of its aquatic ecosystem.”
According to UNESCO, the Everglades “contains the largest mangrove ecosystem in the western hemisphere, the largest continuous stand of sawgrass prairie and the most significant breeding ground for wading birds in North America.
Madagascar rain forests, Florida's Everglades listed as endangered
CNN - by Karen Smith
August 1, 2010
Degradation of the Everglades leads to its addition to the list
This is the second time the Everglades has been added to the list
Madagascar forests make list after illegal logging and hunting
(CNN) -- Florida's Everglades National Park and rain forests in Madagascar have been added to a list of world heritage sites in danger.
The World Heritage Committee of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) announced the decision at its 34th annual meeting in Brasilia, Brazil.
Degradation of the Everglades has caused its addition to the list this year, with UNESCO reporting that water inflows have reduced up to 60 percent and high pollution levels are currently killing marine life.
The Everglades is the largest subtropical wilderness in the United States, with more than 1.5 million acres of estuaries, prairies, and shady stretches of pine. This is the second time the Everglades has been included on the list, the first time was between 1993 and 1997 because of damages caused by Hurricane Andrew.
The rain forests of Atsinanana in Madagascar make the list this year after illegal logging and hunting of endangered lemurs on the site. Due to the illegal exporting of logged timber, many rare species found in the rainforest are threatened, especially lemurs found only in Madagascar.
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