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Ken Salazar Picks Shannon Estenoz to Lead Federal Everglades Restoration Efforts
SunshineNews.com - Kevin Derby's blog
November 30, 2010
On Tuesday, U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar named Shannon Estenoz of the South Florida Water Management District to be director of Everglades Restoration Initiatives, replacing Terrence “Rock” Salt, who was promoted to principal deputy assistant secretary of the Army handling civil works issues.
“Shannon brings to this position more than a decade of experience, leadership and passion for Everglades restoration,” said Salazar. “With her vast knowledge of Everglades issues and long involvement in South Florida water management issues, she is the right person to keep the federal and state partnership moving ahead to achieve our restoration goals.”
“I am pleased that Shannon is joining our team,” said assistant secretary of the interior for Fish, Wildlife and Parks, Tom Strickland, whom Estenoz will report to. “Her experience on the South Florida Water Management District governing board gives her a unique perspective to understand the challenges facing the state and federal partners as we move forward to restore the Everglades. Shannon’s pragmatic approach to problem-solving will be invaluable as we fashion win-win solutions to benefit the environment and economy of South Florida.”
Obama administration taps Shannon Estenoz to help shape Glades policy
Miami Herald – by CURTIS MORGAN
November 30, 2010
The South Florida Water Management District lost one of its strongest Everglades advocates on Tuesday -- but it could actually bode well for restoration efforts.
The Obama administration tapped Shannon Estenoz, a district governing-board member and veteran environmentalist from Plantation, to be its point person on Everglades policy.
``Shannon brings to this position more than a decade of experience, leadership and passion for Everglades restoration,'' U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said in a statement. ``She is the right person to keep the federal and state partnership moving ahead.''
Estenoz, who was appointed to the water board in 2007 by Gov. Charlie Crist, applied for the post as director of Everglades restoration initiatives when it opened in August.
``It's a rare kind of opportunity for a person like me,'' said Estenoz, who resigned from the water board. ``There is no way I could pass up trying to compete for it.''
Estenoz will help shape Everglades decisions and coordinate restoration efforts of three federal agencies -- the National Park Service, Fish and Wildlife Service, and U.S. Geological Survey. She'll also work with the South Florida Ecosystem Restoration Task Force, which is comprised of federal, state, tribal and local governments often at odds over issues.
Tom Strickland, an assistant Interior secretary who chairs the task force, said experience on the state board gave Estenoz a ``unique perspective'' and that her ``pragmatic approach to problem solving will be invaluable.''
Estenoz, a native of Key West, spent more than a decade in the Everglades trenches with a number of environmental organizations before Crist named her to the board, including the World Wildlife Fund and the National Parks Conservation Association. She also was a director of the Everglades Foundation and has worked on board and commissions under three governors -- Lawton Chiles, Jeb Bush and Crist.
Kirk Fordham, chief executive officer of the Everglades Foundation, hailed the move, saying, ``the Everglades will have one of the shrewdest strategists and most articulate voices working on its behalf.''
Estenoz was among a handful of Crist appointees who shifted the district's focus more strongly toward restoration and supported his controversial land deal with the U.S. Sugar Corp.
Estenoz, who also holds degrees in civil engineering and international affairs, said the job was not a political appointment. It opened when Terrence ``Rock'' Salt was named principal deputy assistant secretary of the Army. Other candidates also applied for the post, advertised with a starting salary of $119,000 that is significant boost from her unpaid water board post.
Estenoz's ability to navigate shifting Glades politics will be put to the test quickly. Though state-federal relations improved during the Obama administration -- thanks in large part to a surge of federal dollars -- a rift has developed over the slow pace of cleaning up pollution flowing into the Everglades. Water managers have rejected a federal plan to dramatically expand treatment systems as too expensive. Crist is also leaving office to be replaced by Rick Scott, whose environmental views are largely unknown.
``One of the biggest things I bring to the table is the commitment to the partnership,'' Estenoz said. ``Bringing the federal government to the table, bringing the state government to the table is the only way to get this done.''
Florida Power and Light Company, St. Lucie Plant, Units 1 and 2; Environmental Assessment and Finding of No Significant Impact
Nov 29, 2010 (FIND, Inc. via COMTEX) --
The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC or the Commission) is considering issuance of an exemption from Title 10 of the Code of Federal Regulations (10 CFR) Part 26, Section 26.9, for Facility Operating License Nos. DPR-67 and NPF-16, issued to Florida Power and Light Company, et al. (the licensee), for operation of St. Lucie Plant, Units 1 and 2, located on Hutchinson Island in St. Lucie County, Florida. Therefore, as required by 10 CFR 51.21, the NRC performed an environmental assessment. Based on the results of the environmental assessment, the NRC is issuing a finding of no significant impact.
Identification of the Proposed Action
The proposed action would consider approval of an exemption for St. Lucie Plant, Units 1 and 2, from certain requirements of 10 CFR Part 26, "Fitness- for-Duty Rule." Specifically, the licensee requests approval of an exemption from the requirements of 10 CFR 26.205(c), "Work hours scheduling," and (d), "Work hour controls."
The licensee states that during severe weather conditions, for example, tropical storms or hurricane force winds, adherence to all work hour controls requirements could impede the licensee's ability to use whatever staff resources may be necessary to prepare the site for a pending severe weather event and ensure that the plant reaches and maintains a safe and secure status.
The exemption would only apply to severe weather conditions where tropical storm or hurricane force winds are predicted onsite requiring severe weather preparations, and activation and sequestering of the St. Lucie storm crew.
The proposed exemption will allow the licensee to not meet the requirements of 10 CFR 26.205(c) and (d), from the time severe weather site preparation begins until exit conditions are satisfied. The exemption would only apply to individuals on the storm crew who perform duties identified in 10 CFR 26.4(a)(1) through (a)(5). When storm crew sequestering exit conditions are met, full compliance with 10 CFR 26.205(c) and (d) will be required.
The proposed action does not involve any physical changes to the reactor, fuel, plant, structures, support structures, water, or land at the St. Lucie Plant, Units 1 and 2, site.
The proposed action is in accordance with the licensee's application dated October 16, 2009.
The Need for the Proposed Action
Proposed action is needed because the licensee is unable to meet the requirements of 10 CFR 26.205(c) and (d) during declarations of severe weather conditions that could result due to prevailing tropical storm or hurricane force winds impacting the facility.
Compliance with work hour control requirements could impede the licensee's ability to use whatever staff resources may be necessary to respond to a plant emergency and ensure that the plant reaches and maintains a safe and secure status.
Environmental Impacts of the Proposed Action
The NRC staff has completed its environmental assessment of the proposed exemption. The NRC staff has concluded that the proposed exemption from the implementation of the requirements of 10 CFR 26.205(c) and (d) during declaration of severe weather conditions, would not significantly affect plant safety and would not have a significant adverse affect on the probability of occurrence of an accident.
The proposed action would not result in any increased radiological hazards beyond those previously evaluated by the NRC staff in the Safety Evaluation Reports, dated November 8 and November 7, 1974, related to operation of St. Lucie Plant, Units 1 and 2, respectively. No changes are being made in the types of effluents that may be released offsite. There is no significant increase in the amount of any effluent released offsite. There is no significant increase in occupational or public radiation exposure. Therefore, there are no significant radiological environmental impacts associated with the proposed action.
The proposed action does not result in changes to land use or water use, or result in changes to the quality or quantity of non-radiological effluents. No changes to the National Pollution Discharge Elimination System permit are needed. No effects on the aquatic or terrestrial habitat in the vicinity or the plant, or to threatened, endangered, or protected species under the Endangered Species Act, or impacts to essential fish habitat covered by the Magnuson-Stevens Act are expected. There are no impacts to the air or ambient air quality. There are no impacts to historical and cultural resources. There would be no noticeable effect on socioeconomic conditions in the region. Therefore, no changes or different types of non-radiological environmental impacts are expected as a result of the proposed action. Accordingly, the NRC concludes that there are no significant environmental impacts associated with the proposed action.
The licensee currently maintains a Hurricane Plan that provides directions for activation of the storm crew. The storm crew is activated upon the direction of the Emergency Coordinator, typically the site Plant General Manager or designee. This individual is qualified as an Emergency Coordinator during a
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declared emergency. The Plan provides specific entry conditions for the start of the emergency and specific conditions that will terminate the emergency. The licensee states that the impact on personnel manning for implementation of the site hurricane staffing and severe weather preparations is similar to entering the Emergency Plan. Although the proposed exemption would allow the licensee not to meet work hour controls during storm crew activation, sufficient numbers of management and supervision will be available during storm crew manning and activation to ensure that public health and safety is adequately protected.
The details of the staff's safety evaluation will be provided in the exemption that will be issued as part of the letter to the licensee approving the exemption to the regulation, if granted.
Environmental Impacts of the Alternatives to the Proposed Action
As an alternative to the proposed action, the staff considered denial of the proposed action (i.e., the "no-action" alternative). Denial of the exemption request would result in no change in current environmental impacts. If the proposed action were denied, the licensee would have to comply with the fatigue rules in 10 CFR 26.205(c) and (d). This would cause unnecessary burden on the licensee, without a significant benefit in environmental impacts. The environmental impacts of the proposed exemption and the "no action" alternative are similar.
Alternative Use of Resources
The action does not involve the use of any different resources than those considered in the Final Environmental Statement related to the St. Lucie Plant, Unit 1, dated June 1973; the Final Environmental Statement related to the operation of St. Lucie Plant, Unit 2 (NUREG-0842), dated April 1982; and, the plant-specific Supplement 11 to NUREG-1437, "Generic Environmental Impact Statement for License Renewal of Nuclear Power Plants" (GEIS). Supplement 11 of the GEIS, issued on May 16, 2003, addresses the renewal of operating licenses DPR-67 and NPF-16 for St. Lucie Plant, Units 1 and 2, for an additional 20 years of operation.
Agencies and Persons Consulted
In accordance with its stated policy, on September 7, 2010, the NRC staff consulted with the Florida State official, William A Passetti of the Bureau of Radiation Control, regarding the environmental impact of the proposed action. The State official had no comments.
Finding of No Significant Impact
On the basis of the environmental assessment, the NRC concludes that the proposed action will not have a significant effect on the quality of the human environment. Accordingly, the NRC has determined not to prepare an environmental impact statement for the proposed action.
For further details with respect to the proposed action, see the licensee's letter dated October 16, 2009 (Agencywide Documents Access and Management System (ADAMS) Accession No. ML092990394). Documents may be examined, and/or copied for a fee, at the NRC's Public Document Room (PDR), located at One White Flint North, Public File Area O1-F21, 11555 Rockville Pike (first floor), Rockville, Maryland. Publicly available records will be accessible electronically from the ADAMS Public Electronic Reading Room on the Internet at the NRC Web site, http://www.nrc.gov/reading-rm/adams.html. Persons who do not have access to ADAMS or who encounter problems in accessing the documents located in ADAMS should contact the NRC PDR Reference staff by telephone at 800-397-4209 or 301-415-4737, or send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lake Kissimmee is Large and Largely Unspoiled
Size: 34,948 acres
Rank: Third-largest Florida lake
Record high level: 56.6 feet (1953)
Record low level: 44.2 feet (1962)
Regulated level: 49 to 52.5 feet (54 feet after 2013)
Location: Eastern boundary of Polk County at headwaters of Kissimmee River
Water quality: Fair to poor
Fisheries: Popular destination for bass fishermen
Wildlife: Includes bald eagle, crested caracara, snail kite, wild turkey, alligator, white-tailed deer, wild hogs and fox squirrels
The 34,948-acre water body, the third-largest natural lake in Florida, lies at the headwaters of Florida's Everglades.
Because of a combination of efforts to purchase more conservation land in the Florida's remaining natural areas, to raise the lake to aid the Kissimmee River restoration and the ranching heritage in this part of Florida that stretches back more than a century, the land around the lake is sparsely developed.
As a result, much of Lake Kissimmee's 40-mile lake shore looks pretty much the same today as it did a century ago.
This natural setting teems with wildlife and attracts outdoor recreation enthusiasts: anglers, boaters, birdwatchers, wildlife photographers.
On a quiet day, you can sit in a boat in the lake and watch giant cumulus clouds balloon on the horizon as you wait for a bass to bite or watch for a rare snail kite or more common white ibis or great egret to fly by.
In the marshes surrounding the lake, you can hear the high-pitched calls of common moorhens or the more guttural sounds of bitterns and rails.
Sometimes a bald eagle will fly by so closely you can hear its wing beats.
Kevin Chandley, whose family has owned Grape Hammock Fish Camp since 1950, says these conditions make Lake Kissimmee unique.
"Most lakes have had development, but Lake Kissimmee has stayed the same,'' he said. "It's all native Florida.''
LAKE LEVEL RISING
Although Lake Kissimmee's surroundings remain largely natural, its water levels are part of the artificial plumbing system created by a succession of flood control districts and water management districts that have been in charge of keeping and discharging water in Central and South Florida for the past half century or so.
Until 1965, Lake Kissimmee's level rose and fell with the vagaries of the weather.
Hurricane Hazel in 1953 swelled its banks to 56.6 feet above sea level. A drought in 1962 dropped the level to 44.2 feet.
Over the past 30 years, water managers tried to keep the lake level between 48.5 feet and 52.5 feet.
But those levels are in the process of being adjusted in connection with work to restore more natural flow in the Kissimmee River, which was ditched in the 1960s by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in what was later considered an environmental disaster that is costing hundreds of millions of dollars to undo.
The new regulation plan required the outright purchase of land or flow easements on 35,165 acres of private between State Road 60 and the northern end of Lake Hatchineha, including 7,266 acres on Lake Kissimmee.
That will allow water managers to raise the lake as high as 54 feet above sea level.
BASS, EAGLES, KITES
Regardless of what kind of outdoor activities you pursue, Lake Kissimmee has something to offer.
It is known nationwide as a prime spot for bass fishing.
Grape Hammock's Chandley said there are many good areas for fishing around the lake with good native grasses.
But there's more wildlife out there than fish.
The land around Lake Kissimmee has one of the highest concentrations of bald eagles in Florida. Chuck Geanangel, a longtime local birdwatcher, organized a yearlong bird count at Lake Kissimmee State Park in the late 1970s and found as many as 25 bald eagles a day circling somewhere overhead. This part of Florida is known for having one of the highest concentrations of bald eagles in the lower 48 states. The area around the lake is also a good place to spot rarer bird species such as snail kites and crested caracaras.
Snail kites, which had been absent from the area for decades, reappeared in the early 1980s during a severe drought in the Everglades, the main population center for these birds of prey at the time. Chandley, who takes tourists on airboat tours of the lake, said there's always plenty to see.
"It's beautiful; it changes all through the year,'' he said.
Brahma Island, a 1,063-acre privately owned island near the lake's southwestern shore, is perhaps one of the most obvious geographic features in the lake.
It has been owned by the Lightsey family since 1948.
In 2004 state officials agreed to pay the Lightseys $3 million to guarantee the island will never be developed.
Brahma Island is one of few upland islands of any size on freshwater bodies in Florida, which makes it valuable real estate that could have eventually attracted a resort developer.
NEW PARK OPENING
Since most of the traditional fishing camps on Lake Kissimmee were demolished to accommodate the new, higher lake level, access to Lake Kissimmee became more limited.
That problem should improve by the end of the year with the opening of Coleman Landing on the lake's southwestern shore.
The 136-acre park is being developed by the South Florida Water Management District. After it's completed late this year, it will be owned and managed by Polk County.
The park is named in honor of the late Richard Coleman of Winter Haven, an environmental activist and avid outdoorsman who was involved for years in pushing for the restoration of the Kissimmee River. Coleman was killed in an airboat accident in 2003.
In a 1990 interview, Coleman described Lake Kissimmee as "relatively clean" lake that has "wildlife you rarely see elsewhere.''
Coleman Landing is the latest addition to a network of public parks and recreation areas around the lake.
To the north is Lake Kissimmee State Park, which opened in 1977. The 16,026-acre park, combined with adjacent Catfish Creek State Preserve, now stretches from Lake Kissimmee to the shores of Tiger Lake, Lake Rosalie and Lake Pierce.
On the other side of the lake is 52,900-acre Three Lakes Wildlife Management Area, which was purchased by state officials in 1974.
Tom Palmer can be reached at email@example.com or 863-802-7535
Targeted Environmental Justice Enforcement Needed in EPA Region 4
DissidentVoice.org - by Robert D. Bullard
November 29, 2010
It has been little over two weeks since environmental justice leaders in the South delivered an eleven-point “Call to Action” plan for reform of EPA Region 4— eight states in the southern United States (Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee). Leaders from all across the region called for targeted enforcement to address environmental racism and pollution “hot spots” that pose disproportionate environmental health threats to low-income communities and communities of color.
Clearly, healthy places and healthy people are highly correlated, with the poorest of the poor within the region having the worst health and the most degraded environments. Race and class map closely with vulnerability. One of the best indicators of an individual’s health is one’s street address, Zip Code, or neighborhood. More than 100 studies now link racism to worse health. More than 200 environmental studies have shown race and class disparities. It is no accident that six of Forbes’ “Top 10 Unhealthiest States” in 2009 were found in Region 4. Mississippi was ranked the 50th unhealthiest state in 2009. Above Mississippi were Oklahoma (49th), Alabama (48th), Louisiana (47th), and South Carolina (46th), Nevada (45th), Tennessee (44th), Georgia (43rd), West Virginia (42nd), and Kentucky (41st).
A 2005 Associated Press investigative study found that people of color and poor people live with more pollution than the rest of the nation. African Americans are 79 percent more likely than whites to live in neighborhoods where industrial pollution is suspected of posing the greatest health danger. African Americans in 19 states are more than twice as likely as whites to live in neighborhoods with high pollution, and a similar pattern was discovered for Hispanics in 12 states and Asians in 7 states.
A 2008 study, “Race, Income, and Environmental Inequality in the United States” found that blacks experience such high pollution burden that black households with incomes between $50,000 and $60,000 live in neighborhoods that are, on average, more polluted than the average neighborhood in which white households with incomes below $10,000 live.
Americans are paying a high price for air pollution. Air pollution accounts for over three-quarters of the total pollution-related public health costs and could be as high as $182 billion annually. Asthma alone costs Americans nearly $18 billion each year. Asthma hospitalization rate for African Americans and Latinos is 3 to 4 times the rate for whites. According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, 13 cities in the top 25 of this year’s rankings of “Asthma Capitals” are located in the south. Five of the top 10 asthma capitals are located in Region 4: Richmond, VA (1st), St. Louis, MO (2nd), Chattanooga, TN (3rd), Knoxville, TN (4th), Milwaukee, WI (5th), Memphis, TN (6th), Tulsa, OK (7th), Philadelphia, PA (8th), Augusta, GA (9th), and Atlanta, GA (10th).
Nearly four decades of EPA Region 4 harmful and discriminatory decisions have turned too many low-income and people of color communities into the dumping grounds for the most dangerous toxic chemicals, lowering nearby residents’ property values, stealing their wealth, and exposing them to unnecessary environmental health risks. Landfill sitings have turned vulnerable low-income communities and communities of color into Sacrifice Zones and toxic wastelands.
As early as 1983, the U.S. General Accounting Office (GAO) report, “Siting of Hazardous Waste Landfills and Their Correlation with Race and Economic Status of Surrounding Communities”, documented the disparate hazardous waste siting pattern in EPA Region 4. The GAO found that three-fourths of the hazardous waste facilities in the region are located in majority African American communities even though African Americans made up only one-fifth of the region’s population.
The GAO report was requested by District of Columbia Congressman, Walter E. Fauntroy, after 1982 protests and arrests over the siting of a PCB landfill in predominately black and poor Warren County, North Carolina. The events set in motion the national environmental justice movement and put environmental racism on the map. In 1982, more than 60,000 tons of soil contaminated with PCBs were cleaned up along 210 miles of North Carolina roadside shoulders and later disposed in a state-owned landfill in Warren County.
In 1987, the United Church of Christ (UCC) Commission for Racial Justice published “Toxic Wastes and Race in the United States” and the 1994 updated “Toxic Wastes and Race Revisited” report found race was the most potent factor in predicting the location of commercial hazardous waste facilities — more powerful than poverty, land and property values, and home ownership. The 1994 report found that people of color were 47 percent more likely to live near a hazardous waste facility than white Americans.
In 1990, “Dumping in Dixie”, the first environmental justice book, graphically illustrated that all communities in the South are not created equal. The book clearly illustrated that to be poor, working-class, or a person of color in the United States often means bearing a disproportionate share of the country’s environmental problems. It also chronicled the efforts of five African American communities, empowered by the civil rights movement, to link environmentalism with issues of social justice.
The 2007 United Church of Christ “Toxic Wastes and Race at Twenty” report found race continues to be the most important independent predictor of the location of commercial hazardous waste facility locations when socio-economic and other non-racial factors are taken into account. People of color make up the majority (56%) of those living in neighborhoods within two miles of the nation’s commercial hazardous waste facilities, nearly double the percentage in areas beyond two miles (30%). People of color make up a much larger (over two-thirds) majority (69%) in neighborhoods with clustered facilities. People of color in 2007 are more concentrated in areas with commercial hazardous sites than in 1987.
The 2007 UCC report also found that commercial hazardous waste facilities in EPA Region 4 states have been disproportionately located within two miles or less of communities of color: Alabama (66.3%), Florida (52.7%), Georgia (55.6%), Kentucky (51.5%), Mississippi (50.6%), North Carolina (55.9%), South Carolina (43.9%), and Tennessee (53.8%). People of color comprise 28.5 percent of EPA Region 4 population.
African Americans are also more likely than whites to live near dirty coal fired power plants. The Clean Air Task 2002 “Air of Injustice: African Americans and Power Plant Pollution” report found more than 68 percent of African Americans live within 30 miles of a dirty coal-fired power plant compared with just 56 percent of whites. In 2007, the Environmental Integrity Project identified the “Dirty Dozen”, twelve states with the heaviest concentrations of the dirtiest power plants—in terms of total tons of carbon dioxide emitted. They include: Texas (five, including two of the top 10 dirtiest plants); Pennsylvania (four); Indiana (four, including two of the top 10 dirtiest plants); Alabama (three); Georgia (three, including two of the top three dirtiest plants); North Carolina (three); Ohio (three); West Virginia (three); Wyoming (two); Florida (two); Kentucky (two); and New Mexico (two). Five of the “Dirty Dozen” are located in Region 4.
While movement to clean and renewable energy sources is viewed as the preferred energy strategy and is touted as the wave of our nation’s green energy future, Georgia appears to moving in the opposite direction. For example, three coal-fired power plants are seeking permits in Georgia. All three of these coal-fired power plants are proposed in environmental justice communities. The plants include: Greenleaf Coal Power Plant in Early County, GA (50.2 % black); Fitzgerald Power Plant in Ben Hill County (32.6 % black) near Fitzgerald, GA (49.5% black in 2000); and the Washington County Plant (53.2% black).
Recent proposals to jump-start the nuclear power industry have sparked debate and environmental justice concerns among African Americans. Georgia’s mostly African American and poor communities are also being targeted for risky nuclear power plants. For example, the first nuclear power plants to be built in decades are being proposed in Region 4 with an $8.3 billion federal loan guarantee. The loan guarantee will help the Atlanta-based Southern Company build two more nuclear reactors in the mostly African American Shell Bluff community in Burke County, GA. The county is 51.1 percent black. The two new reactors would each produce 1,000 megawatts, and would work with two existing reactors at a site near Waynesboro, GA (62.5% black). The next three nuclear power plants in the queue are projects in southern Maryland, San Antonio, and Fairfield County, South Carolina.
Two recent high profile manmade disasters raise environmental justice concern and call into question EPA’s semi-autonomous region decision-making apparatus. For examples, the 2008 Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) toxic coal ash spill waste disposal and the 2010 British Petroleum (BP) oil spill waste disposal sent toxic wastes to environmental justice communities.
On December 22, 2008, a wall holding back 80 acres of sludge from the TVA Kingston Fossil Fuel power plant broke, spilling more than 525 million gallons of toxic coal ash over a dozen homes and up to 400 acres of the surrounding landscape, endangering aquatic life and the water supply for more than 25,000 residents. EPA Region 4 approved the TVA decision to ship 5.4 million cubic yards of toxic coal ash sludge 300 miles south by rail car from the mostly white east Tennessee Roane County to a landfill located in Perry County (69 percent African-American with more than 32 percent of its residents living in poverty).
The mostly African American residents of Uniontown questioned TVA and EPA officials why spilled coal ash was too toxic to stay in East Tennessee but was approved for dumping in their Alabama “Black Belt” community. EPA is currently considering regulating coal ash as hazardous material. Alabama is one of the states with no regulations for coal ash. The state also has a poor track record in enforcing clean water standards.
This legacy of neglect and lax enforcement prompted a coalition of fourteen Alabama environmental groups in January 2010 to petition the EPA to withdraw the state’s authority over Alabama’s water pollution permitting program because it does not meet the minimum requirements of the Clean Water Act. The coalition contends that the water pollution permitting program administered by the Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM) is fundamentally broken and does not meet minimum federal standards and the failures of the current system leave the citizens and environment of Alabama unprotected. EPA has threatened to take over enforcing part of the Clean Water Act if ADEM doesn’t force cities to comply with higher standards for keeping waterways clean. EPA intervention is long overdue.
A September 2010 report from Physicians for Social Responsibility and Earthjustice, “Coal Ash: The Toxic Threat to Our Health and Environment”, found coal ash “linked to cancer and other maladies.” This report follows a study issued in August 2010 by Earthjustice and other environmental groups, “In Harms Way: Lack of Federal Coal Ash Regulations Endangers Americans and Their Environment“, that revealed 39 contaminated coal ash sites in 21 states where toxic coal waste has contaminated ground water or surface water with toxic metals and other contaminants. Currently, more than 137 cases of coal ash contamination have been found in 34 states. This total is a threefold increase in the number of damage cases EPA identified in its 2000 Regulatory Determination on the Wastes from the Combustion of Fossil Fuels.
Damage cases are disproportionately located in environmental justice communities. Several environmental agencies in Alabama, Mississippi, and Tennessee in Region 4 require no monitoring of waters near toxic coal ash sites. The report found that nearly 70 percent of the toxic coal ash generated nationwide is dumped in states that don’t require monitoring to see if toxic contamination is leaking from coal ash sites.
A 2009 EPA report, “Regulatory Impact Analysis for EPA’s Proposed RCRA Regulation of Coal Combustion Residues Generated by the Electric Utility Industry”, found that throughout EPA Region 4, coal-fired utility plants are sited in areas with disproportionately high poverty and minority populations, particularly when compared to national averages, but also when compared to state averages. Vulnerable populations are therefore unfairly impacted by the production and storage of toxic coal ash.
This environmental justice trend for coal ash presents itself nationally to some degree, but is magnified in Region 4. For example, Mississippi and Alabama are the two states in the nation with the worst disproportionate impact for populations living below the poverty line and Tennessee is among the top 5 with the worst disproportionate impact to minorities.
The greatest disparity in Region 4 as compared to the nation as a whole is in regards to minority populations. Nationally, at 21.7 percent the minority population surrounding coal-fired utility plants is 13 percent lower than the national average percent minority population of 24.9 percent. In EPA Region 4, the minority population near coal plants, 30.0 percent, is 21 percent higher than the national average. The minority populations near coal plants in Region 4 also cumulatively exceed their respective state averages by 19 percent. In a few particular states, this metric soars far higher than 19 percent. In Alabama, the minority population near coal plants is 46 percent higher than in the state as a whole; in Mississippi it is 34 percent higher; and in Tennessee there is nearly twice as high a share of non-white individuals living near coal plants as would be expected given the state average (an 89% exceedance).
The burden of coal ash storage and, ultimately, the threat of contamination, is also borne unequally by poverty populations nationwide, with a more dramatic disproportionate impact in Region 4. The national average percent poverty population is 11.9 percent. Near coal plants nationwide, the poverty rate is 12.9 percent, or 8 percent higher than the national average.
In Region 4, the poverty rate near coal plants is 14.9 percent, a figure which exceeds the national average by 25 percent. As with the minority population, the poverty population is particularly concentrated near coal plants in Alabama, Mississippi, and Tennessee. In Alabama and Mississippi, the poverty rate near coal plants is more than twice the national average. At 24.5 percent near coal plants in Alabama, the poverty rate is 106 percent higher than the national average; at 26.5 percent in Mississippi, it is 115% higher than the national average. The poverty rate near coal plants in Tennessee exceeds the national average by 41 percent. Federal regulation of coal ash is necessary in part because, under the path-work of current state regulations, minority and low-income populations face unfair exposure to the risks of coal ash.
The April 20, 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill disaster killed eleven workers and leaked more than 200 million gallons of crude into the Gulf of Mexico over 87 days — making it the worst offshore oil disaster in U.S. history. While much media attention was devoted to covering the BP oil gusher and attempts to halt the oil flow, not much attention has been given to which communities were selected as the final resting place for BP’s oil-spill garbage. It was not until communities of color raised the charge of environmental racism and environmental injustice that government officials began to pay attention to BP’s Recovered Oil/Waste Management Plan and it equity implications.
Although people of color make up 26 percent of the coastal counties in AL, FL, LA, and MS, six of the nine (80 percent) EPA approved landfills are located in areas where the percentage of people of color is larger than the people of color percent in the corresponding county. At the end of August, 55.4 percent of the BP oil spill waste was disposed in landfills located in people of color communities. More than 80 percent of the oil waste was disposed in communities where the percent people of color exceeded the percent in the county.
As of August 29, 2010, more than 55,319 million tons of BP oil spill solid waste had been disposed in nine Subtitle D landfills in Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, and Mississippi. Of this total, more than 20,760 tons of BP wastes (38%) went to one lone landfill — the Spring Hill Regional Landfill in Campbellton, FL (Jackson County). More than 76 percent of the residents who live within a one-mile radius of the Spring Hill Landfill are people of color. People of color make up 29.8 percent of Jackson County.
As of November 7, 2010, the approved landfills had received a total of 82,589 tons of waste from the BP oil spill. Landfills in areas where people of color make up a majority of the population received 33,259 tons or 40.3 percent of the waste from the BP spill. Landfills in areas where the percent people of color was larger than the county’s people of color population received 62,017 tons or 75.1 percent of the waste from the BP oil disaster.
It appears that community leaders’ raising the environmental justice red flag is paying off. The proportion of BP oil spill waste disposed in environmental justice communities declined from a high of 55.4 percent in August to 40.3 percent in November. Nevertheless, people of color continue to be over-represented in communities receiving BP oil waste. More than 75 percent of the waste went to environmental justice communities in November, down from 80 percent in August. Tracking BP oil waste disposal has now become a long-term environmental justice partnership project between impacted communities, academics, and civil rights leaders.
In tracking pollution from individual companies to specific communities, researchers at the University of Massachusetts developed the Toxic 100 Air Polluters index. The index relies heavily on EPA toxic release inventory (TRI) the Risk Screening Environmental Indicators (RSEI) data which assesses the chronic human health risk from industrial toxic releases. The 2010 “Top 100” index included Environmental Justice Report Cards — information on the disproportionate risk burden from industrial air toxics for people of color and low-income communities. The Environmental Justice Report Cards reveal that the most polluted places tend to have significantly higher-than-average percentages of people of color. Of the “Top 10” companies on the “Toxic 100” list, people of color bear more than half of the human health impacts from the companies’ toxic air releases.
A year earlier, a 2009 UMass report, “Justice in the Air: Tracking Pollution from America’s Industries and Companies to Our States, Cities, and Neighborhoods”, found that pollution from Fortune 500 and other industrial companies are not equal opportunity polluters and that people of color and poor people generally live on the “wrong side of the environmental tracks.” Pollution is unevenly distributed within states, as well as between states. Some of the most dramatic differences between the share of people of color in the total human health risk from industrial air toxics and their share in the state’s population are found in the South. Tennessee, for example, has the highest disparities in exposure where the people of color share of the health risk is 43 percent, while the people of color share of the state’s population is 21 percent. Other Region 4 states with larger than average disparities included Alabama and South Carolina.
Large discrepancies exist between the share of people of color in the health risk from industrial pollution and their share in the population in U.S. metropolitan areas. For example, Birmingham, Alabama tops the list of the Top Ten Metropolitan Areas with the greatest disproportionate impact on people of color. People color in the Birmingham metro area account for 65 percent of the health risk as compared to 34 percent of the population, a discrepancy of 31 percentage points. Other metropolitan areas in Region 4 states that made the Top Ten list include Memphis, Tennessee (people of color account for 70 percent of the health risks as compared to 48.1 percent of the population, a discrepancy of 22.5 percentage points) and Louisville, Kentucky (people of color account for 36.5 percent of the health risk as compared to 18.0 percent of the population, a discrepancy of 18.8 percentage points).
Finally, as detailed in the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law 2010 report, “Now is the Time: Environmental Injustice in the U.S. and Recommendation for Eliminating Disparities”, current circumstances amount to a slow-moving disaster and necessitate immediate attention to environmental health threats to low-income and people of color communities. The report was presented to the Obama Administration and its various agencies, including the EPA and the Department of Justice and outlines recommendations on how the Administration can effectively utilize existing law to eliminate disparities in environmental protection and the agencies can fulfill their responsibilities under Executive Order 12898, “Federal Actions To Address Environmental Justice In Minority Populations and Low-Income Populations,” signed some 16 years ago.
In January 2010, EPA administrator, Lisa P. Jackson, released a memorandum announcing “working for environmental justice” as one of the “Seven Priorities for EPA’s Future.” Nine months later, in September 2010, administrator Jackson and White House Council on Environmental Quality Chair, Nancy Sutley, reconvened the Interagency Working Group on Environmental Justice (EJ-IWG) in a historic meeting, the first such gathering in more than a decade, held at the White House. The meeting, attended by five cabinet members, highlight the federal government’s dedication to ensuring all Americans have strong federal protection from environmental and health hazards.
The EJ-IWG agreed to hold monthly EJ-IWG meetings, including assigning senior officials from each Agency to coordinate EJ activities; organize regional listening sessions in early 2011; hold follow-up EJ-IWG Principals Meetings in April and September 2011; each Agency will be tasked to develop or update their EJ strategy by September 2011; and plan a White House forum for EJ leaders and stakeholders on Environmental Justice.
The White House EJ Forum is set for December 15, 2010 at 10:00 am until 4:00 pm in the South Court Auditorium of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building. The event will bring together environmental justice community leaders, state, local and tribal government officials, Cabinet members, and other senior Federal officials for a discussion on creating a healthy and sustainable environment for all Americans. The Forum also will offer an opportunity for the environmental justice community to speak with officials from Federal departments and agencies who are engaged in this effort. While these federal EJ initiatives emanate from Washington, it is unclear how they will be implemented in EPA Region 4 and the other nine EPA regions.
Robert D. Bullard is director of the Environmental Justice Resource Center (EJRC) at Clark Atlanta University and author of Race, Place, and Environmental Justice After Hurricane Katrina: Struggles to Reclaim, Rebuild, and Revitalize New Orleans and the Gulf Coast (Westview 2009). He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Read other articles by Robert D., or visit Robert D.'s website.
Federal agency may launch in-depth review of Lee-Collier rock mining
NaplesNews.com - by Eric Staats
November 28, 2010
GOLDEN GATE ESTATES — A dozen rock mines in the federal permitting pipeline in Southwest Florida could be getting a closer look by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
“We’re taking a hard look at it, which is what’s required under the law,” said Tunis McElwain, chief of the corps regulatory section in Fort Myers.
Called an Environmental Impact Statement, or EIS, the review would be more in-depth and involve more public input than standard federal reviews and could take up to three years, he said.
McElwain is preparing a recommendation to the corps Jacksonville District commander, Col. Al Pantano, who has the final say on whether to embark on an EIS.
The first step is to determine whether the projects individually or as a group meet a so-called “significance threshold” for its “impacts to the human environment,” McElwain said.
This fall, the corps kicked off another EIS for phosphate mines in Central Florida.
McElwain said a rock mining EIS would cover Collier, Lee, Charlotte, Hendry and Glades counties.
A dozen projects are under corps review in that area, covering 19,000 acres, of which 5,000 acres have been determined to be under the corps jurisdiction or are being reviewed for potential jurisdiction. Among those are wetlands — 1,200 acres are proposed to be affected by the mines, McElwain said.
McElwain said an EIS wouldn’t be aimed at stopping mining but at being sure all the projects’ effects are reviewed so the right decision can be made about allowing them to move forward.
Southwest Florida doesn’t need another study of development impacts without action behind it, Florida Wildlife Federation field representative Nancy Payton said.
“It’s avoiding the issue, kicking the can down the road,” she said.
“It’s avoiding the issue, kicking the can down the road,” Florida Wildlife Federation field representative Nancy Payton said.
The corps has had a spotty history with rock mining projects all over South Florida.
In 2006, a federal judge ruled that a dozen mining permits issued by the corps for a Florida Rock mine in the rock-rich Lake Belt region in Miami-Dade County had been improperly issued.
In Southwest Florida, environmental concerns have focused on underground water supplies, water quality and wildlife habitat, particularly the endangered Florida panther.
A focal point of the debate has been thousands of acres of potential mines along Corkscrew Road in southern Lee County.
In 2004, a federal judge threw out a permit for a 6,000-acre mine in eastern Lee County, citing a flawed federal permitting system that rubber-stamped development in panther habitat. The Florida Rock mine eventually was allowed to go forward after the company redrew the site plans.
In May, Lee County commissioners rejected a mining company’s plans to dig up $200 million worth of materials from 1,365 acres east of the intersection of Corkscrew and Alico Road. Commissioners, who tightened up mining rules in 2008, said the project risked harming the county’s underground drinking water supplies.
Collier County, on the other hand, has been talking about making it easier to mine.
In 2006, Collier County officials expressed concern that currently permitted rock mines were running out of rock, putting a crunch on county road-building plans and development. A county study concluded that there is plenty of rock still to be mined, but it’s in areas where mining is prohibited by county growth plans.
Ground zero for the mining debate in Collier County has been North Belle Meade, a region north of Interstate 75 and east of Collier Boulevard.
In 2006, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency warned that a 1,400-acre Florida Rock mine in North Belle Meade might have “substantial and unacceptable adverse impacts” on wetlands.
Nearby, landowner Francis D. Hussey Jr. has challenged the growth plan, hoping to win approval to mine rock on 350 acres.
Lennar Corp. has filed plans for a Section 20 mine in North Belle Meade, drawing letters of opposition from Golden Gate Estates residents.
Landowners also have proposed rock or sand mines around Immokalee.
Connect with Eric Staats at www.naplesnews.com/staff/eric_staatsRelated Stories
Guest commentary: Estates rock mine permit process just beginning
Lee County denies mine application on Corkscrew Road
Hearing resumes on controversial rock mine in south Lee
Panel rejects proposal to mine rock in Golden Gate Estates
See a special “Rock Mining” EvergladesHUB.com web-page – CLICK HERE
What defines you ?
Marconews.com – by Dennis Vasey
November 28, 2010
Biodiversity, the variety of life, is the visible and invisible basis for human existence. Large segments of the increasingly urban human population are unaware of the benefits from a multitude of resources and processes that are supplied by natural ecosystems that include food, fiber, building materials and medicines. Alternatively, biodiversity is vital in regulating air and water quality and climate, in protecting us from natural hazards, erosion, and diseases, in recycling waste and in pollinating crops.
Our belief systems are inextricably linked to the natural world, clearly linking cultural and biological diversity, which, like natural resources, are not invulnerable and infinitely available. The environmental impacts of anthropogenic actions, which are processes or materials derived from human activities, are becoming more apparent in Collier County where our water bodies are impaired and our water quality is increasingly compromised.
Watershed monitoring started in 1996 and Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) uses an Integrated Water Resource Monitoring Network Program, a multi-level or “tiered” monitoring system designed to answer questions about Florida’s water quality. The program is supported by several DEP water quality monitoring groups in Tallahassee and in regional (district) offices. In general, Tier I addresses statewide and regional (within Florida) questions, Tier II focuses on basin-specific to stream-segment-specific questions, while Tier III answers site-specific questions that form the basis for residential permit issuance in the functional watershed.
Loss of natural function, where it can’t be avoided, should be mitigated as close to the loss area as possible to insure that the integrity of the natural system is maintained. Collier County will impact 2.53 acres along Davis Boulevard/State Road 84 between Santa Barbara Boulevard and Radio Road (FPID number for this project is 195416-4) within the Big Cypress Watershed. Mitigation will take place in the Big Cypress Mitigation Bank which is outside the county leaving Big Cypress Basin residents with a water quality issue and very little opportunity to compensate for the losses.
Collier County is planning for a build-out population in excess of 320,000 in the area east of Collier Boulevard (CR 951). Most of that building will occur in the Rural Lands Stewardship Area where property owners, who have large plans, want all of the safeguards dropped so they can develop their property with a simple majority (3:1) vote on County Commission rezoning’s, rather than the super majority (4:1) vote that protects the public interest.
This dramatic conversion of Collier County’s working and natural lands provides an unacceptable and unsustainable picture of how we should accommodate the expected population growth.
The time is now to issue a clarion call for change. It is imperative that citizens and our leaders seek holistic, interconnected solutions that can protect natural, rural and working lands within Big Cypress Basin.
Nine-year, $20-million effort to restore Lake Trafford hits milestone
Naples News.com - by ERIC STAATS
November 27, 2010
IMMOKALEE — After years of fits and starts, a project to remove tons of lake-choking muck from the bottom of Lake Trafford in Immokalee is wrapping up.
Crews finished dredging the lake in mid-November and now have only to tidy up the banks of the lake and the muck disposal site before declaring the job done.
Over-budget bids, redone engineering, permitting delays, hurricanes and a drought dealt the $20 million project setback after setback since 2001.
Lake Trafford Marina owner Ski Olesky, who has had a shoreline seat to the slow-motion restoration, said he can see the early signs of the lake returning to its former glory.
“It’s been a struggle, but it’s worth it,” he said.
The South Florida Water Management District is planning a celebration for February to mark the end of the dredging.
The layer of nutrient-laden muck, the product of decades of polluted runoff into the lake, triggered algae blooms that would later die and suck oxygen out of the 1,500-acre lake.
“It’s been a struggle, but it’s worth it,” Lake Trafford Marina owner Ski Olesky said.
In 1996, a devastating fish kill at Lake Trafford ignited a grassroots push, led by Olesky’s late wife, Ann, to restore the renowned bass, crappie and bluegill hot spot.
Another fish kill in 2004 dealt the knock-out blow to the lake’s bass population, which had been declining for a decade as muck covered up bass nesting spots.
By that time, the project that had been in the talking stages for years had yet to get started.
Lake boosters held a ground-breaking ceremony for the project in November 2001.
Instead of getting started as planned in 2002, bids came back over budget. Engineers reworked the project to bring down the cost.
The water management district awarded the bid for the new job in 2004, but then the unexpected discovery of gopher tortoise burrows held up construction of the muck disposal reservoir.
A second kickoff ceremony was set for May 2005, only to be dashed by delays in getting the dredge to the lake from a retooling site in Texas.
An Iowa-based dredger was hired to provide the equipment, but parts of the dredge were in Louisiana when Hurricane Katrina stormed ashore.
Dozens of tractor trailers delivered other parts of the dredge from Missouri.
After getting started in November 2005, a first phase of the project removed 3.5 million cubic yards of muck.
A second phase was only 25 percent completed when a drought kept the dredge from getting close enough to the edge of the lake.
The muck shifted back into open water, and dredging started again in the summer of 2009 to remove 2.6 million cubic yards. The estimated completion date was March 2011, but the job finished early.
“To have it completed is great,” said Clarence Tears, director of the Big Cypress Basin, the local arm of the water management district.
As it dries out, the 627-acre muck disposal site will be reworked into an ATV park, Tears said.
Collier County officials have sued the water management district over its unfulfilled pledge to find a place for ATV riders. The promise was part of a 2003 deal by which the county turned over roads in Southern Golden Gate Estates for a restoration project there.
Tears said a plan is being devised to address arsenic contamination in the soil that will be left behind when the muck dries up.
Back at the lake, Olesky said the water is clear enough again to see the sandy bottom, where eelgrass and lily pads are making a comeback.
Scientists are giving the lake’s rebound a jump-start, planting native grasses and stocking the lake with tens of thousands of baby bass.
Anglers have to throw back any bass they catch smaller than 18 inches while the fish population struggles back.
That could take another two or three years, but Olesky has no doubt his patience will be rewarded.
“The lake will be back,” he said. “I know it will.”
Connect with Eric Staats at www.naplesnews.com/staff/eric_staats
Tribe upset over removal of bones from burial site
Native American Times
HOLLYWOOD, Fla. (AP) – The Florida Seminole tribe is upset over the removal of remains from an ancient Native American burial ground to make way for the Everglades restoration project.
Both the Seminole and Miccosukee tribes agreed to have archeologists remove and carefully re-inter the bones. But it wasn't until two years later that they learned how many were at the site.
The partial remains of 56 men, women and children were removed from the burial ground – an amount significant enough to make it eligible for listing on the National Registry of Historic Places.
The Seminole tribe is upset and wants all 901 bones and 245 teeth returned to the original site.
Archeologists say they don't know exactly where the remains were reburied.
Construction near the burial sites has been stopped.
Lake Okeechobee water releases raise concerns about South Florida water supply
Sun Sentinel - by Andy Reid
November 26, 2010
Sending more Lake Okeechobee water west for environmental needs is raising concerns for South Florida growers planning to rely on lake water for irrigation during the dry months to come.
And as the big lake drops, the chances increase for tougher watering restrictions in South Florida. That would likely start with growers in farming country just south of the lake, but could spread to homes and businesses throughout the Southeast Coast.
The continual Lake Okeechobee water supply balancing act grows more precarious now that the summer and fall rainy season has given way to the typically drier winter and spring.
The Army Corps of Engineers on Friday was scheduled to start another round of lake water releases intended to boost freshwater levels and improve the environmental health of the Caloosahatchee River which runs from the lake to the Gulf of Mexico.
The corps plans another week of releasing about 291 million gallons of water a day into the river, enough to fill more than 400 Olympic-size swimming pools a day.
During a drier than usual fall, South Florida growers have been calling for the corps and the South Florida Water Management District to dial back Lake Okeechobee water releases. They want to hold onto more lake water for future irrigation and other water supply needs.
On Friday, the lake was 13.08 feet above sea level, which was about 6 inches lower than this time last year and almost 2 feet below average.
"It's a big concern," Charles Shinn, of the Florida Farm Bureau, said about another round of lake water releases. "What's going to happen in March or April of next year when we are really in a drought? I don't see that we have the water to spare."
But environmentalists and West Coast community leaders contend that the low-level releases from Lake Okeechobee are needed during dry weather to help water quality and protect seagrasses that provide vital marine habitat and fishing grounds.
Big Sugar and other South Florida growers for too long have "had their way" when it comes to Lake Okeechobee water supply decisions, said Drew Martin, of the Sierra Club.
"The environment has sacrificed much more than the agricultural interests," Martin said. "It's important to maintain the health of the Caloosahatchee River."
Water from Lake Okeechobee once naturally overlapped the lake's southern banks, creating water flows that replenished the Everglades.
But as agricultural and development claimed more Everglades land, a dike was wrapped around the lake for flood control — essentially turning the lake into South Florida's largest retention pond.
Now to protect the dike during rainy times, lake water gets dumped out to sea by draining it west through the Caloosahatchee River and east through the St. Lucie River. The lake also gets used for irrigation and to boost South Florida water supplies.
Those larger flood-control lake discharges can have environmentally harmful effects on the delicate coastal estuaries, leading to fish kills and damaging marine-life-giving sea grass and water-filtering oyster beds.
During dry weather, however, the Caloosahatchee in particular can benefit from low-level lake releases that help balance the mix of fresh and salt water in the estuary.
The manmade manipulations of lake levels can also have damaging environmental effects on the lake, where water quality, fish populations and habitat suffer when levels rise too high or stay too low for too long.
Safety concerns about the lake's more than 70-year-old, earthen dike has the corps keeping the lake about a foot lower than usual year round. The corps plans to stick to that lower-than-usual lake "schedule" as work continues on a decades-long construction effort to strengthen the dike.
A rainy start to 2010 prompted the corps from January through March to dump about 22 billion gallons of lake water out to sea. Discharges continued off and on into the summer in anticipation of a busy tropical storm season.
But those storms mostly steered clear of South Florida this year.
With lake levels continuing to drop, the South Florida Water Management District is readying to install temporary pumps that could keep water flowing south if the lake drops too low for gravity to carry the water into drainage canals tapped for irrigation.
The Army Corps' lake releases in anticipation of hurricane season were "overly aggressive" and now additional releases to the Caloosahatchee River are adding to water supply concerns, said Barbara Miedema, vice president of the Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative of Florida.
"All indications are that we will be faced with water restrictions this spring," Miedema said. "If you are conservative with [lake] releases at the front end, you have more water longer."
Continuing the current level of water releases to the Caloosahatchee River for a month would only lower the lake about .7 inches, said Paul Gray, scientist for Audubon of Florida, which supports the releases.
That compares to the lake losing about 4.5 inches a month to evaporation and about 2.5 inches for irrigation and other water supply needs, according to Gray.
"Of all the things contributing to low [lake] levels, the Caloosahatchee releases are relatively minor," Gray said. "Of course, these numbers are greatly influenced by how much rain we get, or don't."
Hold water polluters to account
TampaBay.com - Letters
November 25, 2010
Florida water standards
Thank you for recent reports on Mosaic and other industry giants' resistance to abiding by the decades-old Clean Water Act, as well as your editorials supporting the role of the Environmental Protection Agency in finally enforcing the act in Florida. A Times editorial has also addressed Polk County's desire to become a part of Tampa Bay Water, which occurs just as Mosaic breaks ground at a reclaimed mine for a luxury resort with two 18-hole golf courses. It is important that we connect the dots of these events and hold the right people accountable.
The role of regulation and the courts is to take a long-term view on the safety of our air, water and soil for our grandchildren's grandchildren.
But we should not be so sanguine to believe that the 15-month delay in implementation of the nutrient standards will be used by industry to "prepare" for the inevitable change, as suggested in one report. As they have all along, these big businesses will use the time to launch a disingenuous campaign that will blame the EPA for lost jobs and increasing the cost of water and stormwater treatment.
I hope the Times Truth-O-Meter will be working overtime to put their claims in perspective. For example, these polluters (and their shareholders) should pay the entire cost of enforcing the Clean Water Act in Florida since they made bundles for decades by not having to be more careful with our natural resources. They should not be allowed to pass these delayed expenses to consumers.
Instead of using the economy to justify the delay, we need to replace 19th century industry with 21st century clean and green jobs close to home. Florida could be a leader in organic farming. Let's press our political leaders to work with the EPA to enforce regulations and make the polluters pay. Citizens have already paid dearly in the degradation of our land and water.
Tribes angry, Everglades projects halt after workers dig up major burial ground but don't tell
Palm Beach Post - by Christine Stapleton, Staff Writer
November 25, 2010
In May 2008, archaeologists began the tedious task of exhuming the remains of Native Americans at a remote site south of Lake Okeechobee and reburying them at another remote site, to make way for a man-made wetland needed to restore the Everglades.
The Miccosukee and Seminole tribes signed off on the project after being told that the archaeologists would carefully and respectfully re-inter the miscellaneous collection of bones and teeth that had been found.
But the more the archaeologists dug, the more they found. After nearly two years, the tribes learned that what they'd been told were some teeth and bones turned out to be partial remains of 56 men, women and children moved from an ancient burial ground so significant that it would have been eligible for listing on the National Registry of Historic Places.
The Seminoles are angry. They believe they should have been notified immediately when archeologists realized they were dealing with more than isolated bones and teeth. Now the Seminoles want all 901 bones and 245 teeth returned to their original resting place.
"We're not OK with relocating a burial ground," said Tina Osceola, the Seminole Tribe of Florida's Historic Resources Officer. "You're talking about too many individuals and that disturbs the balance between our ancestors and those who are walking today. We want them put back."
The controversy has created a nightmare for the South Florida Water Management District, the agency responsible for the Everglades Restoration. Construction near the four burial sites has stopped, delaying the vital project at a time when two angry federal judges are demanding the district speed up the cleanup.
Archeologists hired by the district to move the remains have said they may not be able to return them to their original burial sites because they don't know exactly where they reburied them. Even if they can be located, many of the remains could be damaged if moved again.
Returning the remains would mean engineers would have to redraft Everglades restoration plans, to avoid the burial sites or build structures such as berms, to protect the sites from flooding. That means permits must be modified or new permits issued, a process that can take months.
The controversy has further strained relations and eroded trust between the tribe and the agencies involved in restoring the Everglades. The timing could not be worse for the district, as more construction projects are starting in remote areas where more remains and artifacts likely will be discovered and the tribe's cooperation will be needed.
"As far as our confidence level is concerned, I can't say it's been shaken," Osceola said. "I can't say as a tribe we had any confidence in the government to begin with."
The Miccosukee Tribe, which raised the most concern when the project began, has said little about the controversy. The Miccosukee Tribe's lawyer did not return a call for comment.
For now the Seminoles are more concerned with the fate of the remains than assessing blame. They want the remains returned and they want their rules followed:
Flat shovels must be used to scrape the soil until the white sand covering each burial site is exposed. Then, a hand-trowel must be used. To ensure the remains are not mixed, only one burial site at a time can be worked on. The bones should be reburied within two days and the orientation must match the original position. For example, some of the bodies were lying face up, others face down and some on their sides. Most were buried with the head facing east.
"To native people, culture is our religion and spirituality," Osceola said. "We have tribal members who are angry, scared and very deeply, deeply concerned with this issue. So much so that during every tribal meeting I am asked to give an update on this."
As for blame, there may be none, at least legally. Janus Research, the archeological firm hired by the district, has complied with the permit it obtained in May 2008 to move the remains. The three agencies involved - the district, Army Corps of Engineers and State Historic Preservation Officers - have said they followed the conditions set forth in a memorandum of agreement signed in December 2008.
During the excavation, weekly conference calls were held between the three agencies and the archeologists about what they had found and the status of the reburials. The tribes were not included, according to notes from the district. However, in January the archeologists asked for guidance: There were so many remains found at one of the sites that they were faced with the ethical dilemma of whether to preserve the site or continue with removing and reburying the remains.
Army Corps awards $79M contract to restore Picayune Strand
Naples Daily News - by ERIC STAATS
November 24, 2010
NAPLES — The bulldozers are set to crank up in early 2011 for the next phase of the restoration of Picayune Strand State Forest in Collier County.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has awarded a $79 million contract to build the largest of the three pumps — all about the size of a chain drug store and four stories tall — that will harness water flowing down canals through Golden Gate Estates north of Interstate 75 and into the Picayune.
The project, part of the larger Everglades restoration plan, calls for tearing out more than 200 miles of roads, plugging canals and returning natural water flows to some 55,000 acres south of Interstate 75 once planned for a huge subdivision.
The new contract puts more momentum behind a project that has survived fits and starts for four decades and still has its critics.
“It’s huge that we’re moving forward with construction and already seeing progress being made,” said Capt. Erica Lager, the Picayune project manager.
Work began earlier this year on a $53 million project to build the Merritt Canal pump station, which will have a capacity of 800 cubic feet per second.
The new contract will pay for work on the Faka Union Canal pump station, which will have a capacity of 2,630 cubic feet per second. A groundbreaking is set for late February.
The Merritt Canal station is expected to take until 2012 to complete, and the Faka Union project is scheduled to take until 2014.
A third pump is planned for the Miller Canal, but it has yet to be funded.
The entire Picayune Strand project won’t be finished until 2018, according to current timetables.
The money for the Merritt Canal represented the first infusion of federal money for a 2000 state-federal plan to restore the Everglades.
As the Picayune project languished, the South Florida Water Management District moved ahead on its own to plug seven miles of the Prairie Canal on the project’s eastern edge and remove 200 miles of roads. That work was completed in 2006.
In the 1980s, the state of Florida began a buyout of thousands of lots sold around the world by the original developer.
It took decades to complete and eventually cost $250 million, including money from the federal government.
Environmental groups applaud the restoration, but others say it is misguided.
Opponents distrust claims of the restoration’s benefits and object to a loss of public access.
Connect with Eric Staats at www.naplesnews.com/staff/eric_staats
New governor could use Palm Beach County seat to shake up South Florida Water Management District
Sun Sentinel - by Andy Reid
November 24, 2010
Gov.-elect Rick Scott’s first opportunity to potentially change the direction of the South Florida Water Management District comes from filling the Palm Beach County vacancy on the agency’s nine-member board.
The governor appoints the members of the board that oversees the water management district, which guards against flooding, protects water supplies and leads Everglades restoration.
The board seat representing Palm Beach County has been empty since June, when Patrick Rooney Jr. stepped down to focus on his run for the Florida House of Representatives. Rooney was elected to the Florida Legislature in November.
Scott opposed the district’s recently approved $197 million deal with U.S. Sugar Corp. to buy 26,800 acres to be used for Everglades restoration. Scott in August spoke at a Tea Party protest outside the district’s West Palm Beach headquarters, siding with critics who contend the deal costs taxpayers too much money without doing enough good for the Everglades.
District officials and most environmental groups supported the U.S. Sugar land deal, pushed by Gov. Charlie Crist, as an opportunity to buy strategically located land, long out of reach to restoration efforts, that could be used to build reservoirs and stormwater treatment areas needed to deliver water to replenish the Everglades.
District board members serve staggered four-year terms. Scott decides whether to re-appoint the current members or chose new ones. The appointments must be confirmed by the Florida Senate.
The next potential vacancy comes when Board Chairman Eric Buermann’s term ends in March.
Buermann, who represents Miami-Dade County, championed the U.S. Sugar deal and has said he hopes Scott will change his mind about the value of buying U.S. Sugar land. The district’s deal with U.S. Sugar includes a 10-year option to buy some or all of the company’s remaining 153,000 acres.
The district, with a $1 billion budget, covers a 16-county area that stretches from Orlando to the Keys.
RAN names Coal MTR CEO Blankenship to its Board of Directors
Infoshop News - by: Isaac Rosenblatt
November 24 2010, Views: 339
Rainforest Action Network Names Coal Kingpin Don "Donny B" Blankenship to its Board of Directors; A "Welcome, Consistent Addition to Our Team," He Joins Fellow Mining Magnate Michael Klein, a former RAN chairman and co-owner of Palm Beach Aggregates, an aggregate rock mining company with operations in the Everglades in South Florida, where rock mining, like MTR coal mining in Appalachia, pollutes the local water supply.
For Immediate Release
Rainforest Action Network - Environmentalism with chloride and mercury-stained teeth
Rainforest Action Network (RAN) announced this morning that it had named Don "Donny B" Blankenship to its Board of Directors. Blankenship, CEO of Massey Energy, a coal mining company responsible for much of the mountaintop removal (MTR) coal mining in Central Appalachia, said that he was "Honored that a group of communist atheists would seek out and are interested in my opinion, feelings, and input." Added Blankenship, "And my and Massey's money, too."
Mountaintop removal, a form of surface mining in which the tops of mountains are blown off to expose the coal underneath and the overburden is deposited in valleys and streams, has devastated communities across Appalachia. RAN had been opposed to MTR and had launched the global finance campaign pressuring banks that finance MTR companies to cut funding to these companies.
The move was widely expected in both the mining and environmental nonprofit-industrial communities, as RAN's board already includes another mining magnate, Michael Klein, a former RAN chairman and co-owner of Palm Beach Aggregates, an aggregate rock mining company with operations in the Everglades in South Florida, where rock mining, like MTR coal mining in Appalachia, pollutes the local water supply. Limestone rock mining is another form of surface mining in which quarries are blasted, which affects the local wildlife and leaves behind toxic chemicals. The blasting opens up the aquifers to contamination and creates deep pits of contaminated water, polluting and threatening the local water supply, such as by contributing to the high chloride levels in local drinking water sources. The practice also threatens the ongoing restoration of the Everglades, whose water flows have been disrupted by decades of canalization.
Greg Boyd, chairman of the board of the National Mining Association and chairman and CEO of Peabody Energy, which is also involved in MTR, stated in an interview, "Klein has been a great liasion between our industry and the environmentalists. He's so good at what he does, I never know whether he's co-opting us or the tree-huggers. Usually, it's the tree-huggers."
Rebecca Tarbotton, executive director of RAN, said that "Don is a welcome, consistent addition to our team." Tarbotton, wearing a green babydoll dress, smoking a cigarette, sporting disheveled hair, and laying next to Blankenship in his bed at his lair overlooking beautiful Williamson, West Virginia, added, "We continue to campaign fearlessly against corporate greed to keep fossil fuels in the ground, keep forests standing and to stop climate change." "Except when that corporate greed is perpetrated by Palm Beach Aggregates, when those forests are located in the Everglades, and when those fossil fuels are Appalachian coal. By the way, we're open to expanding our exceptions. But as we say at the office, you gotta 'Pay to Play'. We're talking to you, Richard (George), Bob (Dudley), Charlie (Charles Koch). Y'all got my number in case y'all change your minds." George, the CEO of SUNCOR, a company involved in tar sands mining, which also causes deforestation and pollutes water sources, said in an interview, "Please tell Becca that the restraining orders against her are still active." Dudley, CEO of BP plc, rolled his eyes and said "Not again...", and Koch, CEO and Chairman of Koch Industries, the private energy conglomerate, told me "tell Becca I already finance RAN, I just do it through third-party independent groups that do not disclose donors' identities."
Margaret Swink, RAN's Communications Manager and laying on the other side of Blankenship, also added, "Rainforest Action Network unreservedly supports the protection of the Everglades."
"Considering that Michael Klein, a profiteer of the Everglades' destruction through Palm Beach Aggregates and a major RAN funder, serves on our Board of Directors, we thought it only appropriate that the destroyer of another bioregion and the representative of another dirty industry should be at the table, too."
"This will compliment our coal campaign very well," Tarbotton concluded.
Michael Klein, the Palm Beach Aggregates rock mining magnate and laying next to Tarbotton while wearing only his pair of green briefs, said "Don and I have a lot in common. Both of us are involved in the poisoning of water sources, both of us are destroying ecosystems, both of us are devastating communities. And both of us love Bette Midler, gelato, and long walks on the beach." Blankenship nodded, as he poured us another round of Cognac.
"As our slogan says, RAN represents 'environmentalism with teeth.' Just not Florida Gator or Appalachian teeth. Chloride and mercury-stained teeth."
An editorial in the Wall Street Journal published shortly afterward sharply criticized the announcement. "If anybody's going to have a deep conflict of interest with polluters, that's going to be us," fumed the editorial.
Steven Leer, CEO of Arch Coal, which also practices mountaintop removal in Appalachia, stated in an interview, "That's really hypocritical on the part of RAN. If you're going to have people like Donny and Mike on your board, both of which are great friends of mine, don't pretend that you're saving the environment. That's why I'm not on the board of any environmental organizations. I just mail my checks to the Energy Action Coalition."
Timetable for stopping pollution of St. Lucie River unacceptable - Editorial
November 24, 2010
Waiting decades for an end to pollution from Lake O is not acceptable timetable.
Progress is being made on the Everglades restoration project, but it's going to take a lot more time and money, say officials of the South Florida Water Management District.
How long has the Treasure Coast been hearing that as discharges from Lake Okeechobee continue to damage the St. Lucie River?
And district representatives speaking with the Scripps Treasure Coast Newspapers Editorial Board recently offered little optimism that the project will be completed anytime soon, probably not within the next 20 years.
"If we had unlimited funds and if the design and construction process was managed at the regional level, I'd have no problem saying 15 to 20 years. But, that's a lot of ifs, with money being the big driver," said Kenneth G. Ammon, the district's deputy executive director for Everglades restoration and capital projects.
Added Kevin Powers of Stuart, the Treasure Coast representative on the district's board of governors, "In reality, there's so much ... work to be done south of the lake, north of the lake and around the estuaries. It's all going to be expensive, and it's all going to take a long time.
Is that a situation the Treasure Coast should simply accept? Are we supposed to sit on our hands and do nothing?
As taxpayers, we have been helping to fund Everglades projects to restore the natural flow, reduce pollution of the waterways and provide for water storage for those who depend on that water source. In mid-October alone, the state paid $197 million to buy 26,800 acres of U.S. Sugar farmland as a step toward reducing the pollution of the St. Lucie estuary from nutrients leaving Lake Okeechobee. But that expenditure was relatively small compared with the $2 billion initially proposed for land purchase.
Treasure Coast environmentalists say the purchase approved does little to stop the pollution and merely delays significant actions into the distant future.
The Treasure Coast too long has been the dumping ground for problems created with development of the Everglades area, led in large part by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Now, the corps and other federal agencies are crying they just don't have the money to correct the problems they caused.
Florida lawmakers at the state and federal levels must stop allowing excuses for delaying or even halting the work that must be done. No, the construction projects needed will not be accomplished in the next few years even if attitudes change. But there needs to be a greater commitment to getting more parts of the project started faster and with sufficient funding than has been the pattern in recent years.
The Everglades restoration project is one of the largest engineering and construction projects ever to be undertaken. It should be a model, showing what American know-how, willingness and determination can accomplish. Instead, it looks more like bungling and bureaucratic foot dragging.
We've heard all the excuses. Funding was an issue even before the economic downturn. Now, it's the primary reason being cited for the unconscionable delays.
Federal agencies from the Army Corps of Engineers to the departments of Interior and Agriculture need to step up and show some vision and leadership in getting the work done much sooner rather than so much later.
Everglades cleanup serves a public good
November 23, 2010
OUR OPINION: cf,gtm Florida Supreme Court made right call on bonds
The latest twist in the U.S. Sugar land deal comes too late to matter much right now. A Nov. 18 Florida Supreme Court ruling says the South Florida Water Management District can finance the land deal using bonds because it would serve a public purpose -- Everglades restoration. But the district has already bought the land, albeit a lot less of it than originally intended, using all of its cash reserves.
What a saga this has been. Gov. Charlie Crist surprised everyone in 2008 by announcing plans to buy U.S. Sugar land, more than 180,000 acres, for $1.75 billion. The purpose was to use the land to help the ambitious and costly joint state-federal restoration agreement.
The Miccosukee Indian Tribe, Florida Crystals and the Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative of Florida sued to stop the deal. They said the proposed purchase took funding away from restoration projects already on the books. The plan was seen by many critics as a bailout for U.S. Sugar.
But it was hard to argue against taking so much land out of cultivation -- even though that wouldn't have happened immediately. Under the terms of the Crist deal, the district would have bought the land and leased it back to U.S. Sugar until it had the money to convert it to water storage areas and cleanup projects.
Then, the economy tanked.
That forced the district to downsize the deal three times. Ultimately, it ended up paying $197 million for about 27,000 acres in October. The land -- 17,900 acres of groves in Hendry County and 8,900 acres in the Everglades farming area -- will eventually be used to help clean up two polluted ``hot spots'' -- the C-139 basin, where phosphorus loads are high, and in the Loxahatchee National Wildlife refuge to comply with a court order to improve water quality there.
But the opponents' lawsuit lived on. It specifically challenged the method created to raise revenue for the deal. The district wanted to use certificates of participation, a type of bond usually used to fund construction, for the purchase. The Florida high court upheld a lower court's ruling that the district could use the certificates for a public purpose.
Both sides agree that this is now a moot point -- but it could be relevant in the future if the district's finances improve. It could then use the bonds to buy more U.S. Sugar land.
The court rightly overturned part of the lower court's ruling that would have allowed the district to use the bonding method to pay a $50 million fee that U.S. Sugar demanded for allowing the district a three-year option to buy more land. Not a public purpose, said the justices -- and they're correct.
Both sides declared partial victory and seem ready to move on. Good. Costly litigation surrounds every aspect of the Everglades restoration plan, sucking away taxpayer money that should fund the many projects that cleanup requires.
The real winner in this convoluted tale is the Everglades and the wildlife that depends on it. The more land that can be restored, the better for Florida's future.
Which side is all wet in water dispute ?
Orlando Business Journal - by Bill Orben
November 23, 2010,
Florida industry and government leaders appear headed for a showdown with environmental groups over plans to begin imposing stricter regulations for surface waters.
Each side is armed with its own set of costs tied to the actions taken by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and each is courting public opinion. Read the Orlando Business Journal story on the dispute here.
Facing off against the proposed stricter limits on phosphorous and nitrogen — two chemicals known to accelerate plant life and cause pollution — in surface waters is the recently elected governor and cabinet and the state House and Senate leadership. Joining the cause are municipal utilities, trade associations, agricultural groups and business organizations.
Industry and government leaders contend the EPA guidelines will cost $1.3 billion, or about $700 for every household in Florida. Agricultural interests say they will lose up to $1.6 billion annually in lost revenue and 15,000 part- and full-time farm jobs if the new rules are imposed.
Environment groups, such as the Florida Wildlife Federation and the Sierra Club, counter that the cost to upgrade every sewage treatment plant would be $55 million a year, or about $12 for a family of four. They add that not every sewage treatment plant needs to be upgraded and the costs are more like $18 million a year.
It was the Florida Wildlife Federation that filed suit against the state in 2008 for failing to do something to improve surface water quality.
Besides courting public opinion, industry and agriculture groups also have targeted Florida’s congressional delegation. Former water managers also argued against the new rules in a letter to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson.
Environmental groups are quick to point out that many of the state’s newspapers have criticized the effort by political leaders and business groups to fight the proposed new EPA water rules. However, Gov.-elect Rick Scott refused to sit in on newspaper editorial board interviews, and that didn’t prove to a deciding factor in that race.
Ultimately, it appears that the issue will likely end up before a federal judge.
The state will challenge the new EPA water rules, and business and municipal utilities will contend they are too costly. Environmental groups will counter that Florida will pay too high of a price in terms of a fall-off in the tourism and development industries because no one will want to live in or visit the state.
The court of public opinion may be divided on who has the right numbers, but a federal judge may rule on whether they are based on fact or fantasy.
Who do you think will prevail ?
Read more: Which side is all wet in water dispute? | Orlando Business Journal
3 Lessons The Everglades Can Teach Everyone About the Environment
Treehugger.com - by Collin Dunn, Portland, OR
Ed. note: 24 of the top teachers in the U.S. have been chosen to go to the Galapagos Islands, with a stop in the FloridaEverglades, with the Toyota International Teacher Program. The program is designed to engage a variety of conservation and education issues that the teachers can then give back to their students and communities. I'm traveling along to report on the trip's experiences and lessons. First up: A stop in Florida's Everglades.
Everglades National Park is the largest subtropical wilderness in the United States. At 1.4 million acres, it's a big, big place, and there's an awful lot going on, from the myriad wildlife (and invasive species that threaten it) who make the park home, to measurable (and immeasurable) human impacts, to tremendously complicated water issues, to ongoing efforts to restore it. Here are a quick top three lessons that everyone can learn from what's going on here.
1. It's all about the water.
From India to Mexico and Australia to the southeastern U.S., there are fewer and fewer places in the world immune from water worries, and that's true in the Everglades. Even in a place that typically receives between 55 and 65 inches of precipitation a year, water is a huge problem here.
It has less to do with not enough falling from the sky and more to do with what has been done to alter the landscape and ecosystem in and around the park. Lake Okeechobee, known locally as "The Big O," is the seventh-largest freshwater lake in the U.S. -- big enough that you can't see from one side to the other. Once upon a time, it used to collect much of the falling rainwater, and, when it filled up, would unleash a low, slow flood a whopping 50 miles across. That flood fed the Everglades all the way down to the mangrove forests where the freshwater met with the salty Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico. The slow moving flood would take three months to get from the lake to the southernmost point in the park, feeding it along the way.
That doesn't happen any more. The easternmost point of the floodplain is now occupied by Miami International Airport (where regular flooding is not a good thing). Much of the area directly south of the lake has been converted to agriculture. A good bit of the floodplain has been drained (and is actively managed to keep it that way) for residential use. A series of channels, dykes, and canals keep the lake within it's borders; when there's too much rainfall, it's often sent "to tide" -- out to sea -- and the modern efficiency of the channels sees that a process that once took three months now takes 12 hours.
There are 6 million people who live within 50 miles of the park, and they want to live (for the most part) in a modern world; they all want clean water to drink and use in their homes, to water their crops, to recreate in, and they want it not to flood their homes when it rains. That adds up to the park getting the short end of the stick, so to speak, when it comes to all that water that used to feed it.
It's not all bad news. There's a huge restoration project underway -- the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan -- that's the biggest, most expensive restoration project on the planet. Part of the plan includes some new canal buffer zones that help keep more of the water in the park, and they work pretty well; the Everglades get to "keep" more of the moisture it needs so desperately to continue to thrive. In order to keep the canal buffers working, without leaking too much through the system of dykes and canals, an electricity-driven pump system must be in place and operating at all times, for as long as the system will be operating, from now until....
2. Most everything is more connected (and bigger) than you think.
One of the reasons that we visited the Everglades was to see a hugely diverse ecosystem that's under a variety of threats, human-caused and otherwise. While many of the plants and animals found in the Everglades are not in abundance many other places, it can still function as a reasonable microcosm, a living metaphor, for the rest of the planet. It's a huge living lab, and the story of water and the park above is just one example of watching a cause-and-effect relationship cascade down through the different levels of the ecosystem.
But zooming out a bit further, past the water management of Lake Okeechobee and within the boundaries of the park, there's much more to learn. Perhaps the most prescient lesson is twofold: It's all connected, and you have to look really close at a really big picture to get that.
What does this mean when it comes to the Everglades? An awful lot of things, but here's one good example: The Everglades' watershed doesn't stop at the park boundary (which, for the most part, is a political designation only -- no big dam surrounding it or anything). It goes 220 miles to the north, to Orlando, where, among other things, you can meet Mickey Mouse and visit the Magic Kingdom. How many people think about that when they flush the toilet after riding Space Mountain?
3. Combating and reversing little steps is what it takes to make a big difference.
Lastly, here's another look at the big picture of a relatively small space. The Everglades was cut apart, reapportioned, canaled, dyked, drained, and squared off a little at a time. It was established in 1947, and has been slowly changing ever since. No one particular event, person, or development is singularly responsible for it's degradation. Those little events have added up to big changes.
Reversing (or otherwise solving) the problems created by those little steps will require the same -- lots of little steps. Simply allowing Lake Okeechobee to flood again would wipe out thousands of acres of agriculture, many homes, and a good bit of Miami International Airport. While the reclamation of some of that development might sound like a good thing for park advocates on the surface, doing so in one fell swoop would likely have an effect on the scale of a natural disaster. How many times have you heard it before: There ain't no silver bullet. That's part of what makes this -- and other large-scale environmental problems -- such a challenge. Will the Everglades restoration succeed? Time will tell, a little bit at a time.
More on the Everglades:
The Everglades Added to UNESCO Endangered Sites List
Obama Invests Millions to Save the Everglades
VIDEO: Focus Earth 2: Restoring The Everglades
Everglades finance plan a victory for some, setback for others
The Florida Independent - by Virginia Chamlee
November 22, 2010
The Florida Supreme Court last Thursday unanimously approved a financing plan that will allow the South Florida Water Management District to purchase a chunk of Everglades land from U.S. Sugar. The “Sugar Deal,” as it has come to be known, has been scaled back considerably since its inception. The original proposal would have allowed the district to buy 73,000 acres with $536 million in bonds. Last month, the agency bought only 27,000 acres with $194 million in cash.
Thursday’s ruling will allow for the use of bonds to buy more than 46,000 acres of land to restore the Everglades. The Miccosukee Tribe of Indians had argued that the deal would not serve a public purpose, a claim that Justice Peggy Quince shot down in her court ruling: “The district has authority to acquire land to further the objective of conserving and protecting water and water-related resources. This objective has been deemed a ‘public purpose’ by the Legislature.”
Florida Crystals Corp. and the Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative of Florida also argued against the ruling, saying it would only divert resources from Everglades restoration. In a statment to Sunshine State News, Gaston Cantens, a senior executive at Florida Crystals Corp., expressed his displeasure with outgoing Gov. Charlie Crist’s hand in the ruling: “We have over 11 percent unemployment. Instead of building projects and creating jobs, the governor is going out and spending money on land he doesn’t even know what we’re going to do with.”
In a statement, Crist spoke of his approval of the high court’s ruling:
I am pleased that the Florida Supreme Court today upheld the South Florida Water Management District’s authority to issue Certificates of Participation for the purchase of 73,000 acres from U.S. Sugar. Florida continues its steadfast commitment to the restoration of America’s Everglades and the entire South Florida ecosystem. The Supreme Court’s decision allows for the potential acquisition of additional lands, as provided for in its order, beyond the 26,800 acres purchased in October, needed to restore this complex natural system, provide long-term benefits for our environment and maintain a high quality of life for millions of Floridians.
EPA water rules for Florida long overdue
SunSentinel - Editorial
November 21, 2010
THE ISSUE: Critics blast EPA water rules.
Florida has only itself to blame for the federal intervention, in the form of clean water rules that take effect in 15 months. After all, the rules came about after environmental groups filed a lawsuit demanding that the Environmental Protection Agency enforce the federal Clean Water Act.
Florida will have to limit the amount of phosphorus and nitrogen that gets into waterways from sewage plants, industry and other sources. It's up to the state to determine how it'll meet the new standards, but meet them it must. First for its rivers, lakes and springs, and later, likely beginning in 2012, its estuaries and saltwater bodies.
Opponents of the heightened standards, who include Gov.-elect Rick Scott, U.S. Sen. George LeMieux, House Speaker Dean Cannon and representatives of utility and local-government trade groups, decried the timing of the federal rules, which come when Florida's economy is limping along.
Opponents act like the EPA rule blindsided them. But the EPA received about 22,000 comments from supporters of the rule — and its critics.
Some critics claim the EPA mandate could cost Florida up to $1.6 billion annually. And that the cost will be passed on to Florida's struggling families.
But the EPA, using data from the state and other sources, pegs the annual cost to comply with the standards at between $135 million and $206 million, or about $3 to $6 per household per month. A new Florida TaxWatch poll shows about 70 percent of Floridians wouldn't mind paying a little more for clean, renewable energy.
What makes state policymakers think Floridians wouldn't pay a bit more for clean water ? And what makes those opposing the EPA rule think their strategies for maintaining Florida's waterways have benefitted the state ?
That said, the cost of implementing the rules needs to be watched, and carefully. Fortunately, the EPA doesn't look to be unreasonable. It will allow businesses and communities to propose alternative standards — if they can demonstrate those alternatives would effectively protect the water. And it will allow local governments to skirt the standards if they can prove that higher nutrient levels in a particular river or lake won't harm it.
The standards aren't cast in stone. But you don't hear that from those wanting to sink them.
BOTTOM LINE: Water rules are long overdue.
Everglades restoration approved - Peltier column
Naples Daily News - by MICHAEL PELTIER
November 21, 2010
In what may have a more significant impact on future actions, the Florida Supreme Court last week approved the financing plan needed to purchase 27,000 acres of land in the Everglades from U.S. Sugar.
In a unanimous ruling, the state’s highest court upheld the South Florida Water Management District’s ability to use $536 million in certificates of participation, bond-like financing tools paid by district landowners, to buy 73,000 acres of land from the sugar company that at one time was trying to unload more than 180,000 to the state.
The Miccosukee Tribe of Florida filed suit against the sale, arguing that the water management district could not use the financing vehicles because the project served no public purpose.
In a partial victory, however, the court ruled that the state could not use the certificates to pay for a $50 million option agreement on another 107,000 acres, saying the three-year agreement did not produce an immediate benefit to taxpayers or the state.
“Because no public purpose has been proven as to the land that is the subject of the option, no public purpose has been shown for the option either,” Justice Peggy Quince wrote for the majority.
The court’s decision has been rendered somewhat moot, at least for now. In August, the water district’s board of governors approved a smaller purchase in the name of Everglades restoration.
Citing the economic downturn and state fiscal woes, the board voted to move forward with the $197 million purchase of a 27,000-acre tract from the sugar grower, about a third of the size of the 78,000-acre parcel previously sought by Gov. Charlie Crist, who has touted the proposal as a way to boost the re-plumbing effort in the Everglades.
“We are pursuing the acquisition with the fiscal responsibility expected of Florida’s leaders and stewards of the environment,” Crist said in a statement. “This acreage will provide important opportunities for water storage and treatment and better revive, restore and preserve one of America’s greatest natural treasures - the Everglades.”
The Miccosukee and a group of U.S. Sugar competitors have opposed the purchase, saying the deal would harm the restoration efforts. Officials haven’t released the ultimate plan for the land, and instead plan to lease it back to U.S. Sugar for now.
The competitors _ including companies affiliated with Florida Crystals, the Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative of Florida, and Roth Farms _ also say currently planned projects will suffer because of the money that must go to the purchase.
Environmental groups Thursday applauded the court’s ruling, saying it provides the state with the means necessary to buy future tracks as they become available.
“This will have a significant impact going forward because the court has ruled that this type of financing can be used in the future for restoration efforts,” said Thom Rumberger, attorney for the Everglades Trust, which supported the purchase.
E-mail Michael Peltier at email@example.com
Critics of FPL's Turkey Point expansion plan voice concerns
Miami Herald - by CURTIS MORGAN
November 20, 2010
Opponents of FPL's plan to add two more nuclear reactors at its Turkey Point site voiced a litany of concerns at a federal hearing in Homestead.
Federal regulators got an earful on Friday from activists fighting Florida Power & Light's plans to add two more nuclear reactors to its Turkey Point plant.
Topping the long list of concerns: that construction and new roads and transmission lines would destroy hundreds of acres of wetlands, hurt wildlife and harm businesses along U.S. 1 in South Miami-Dade; that cooling reactors with 90 million gallons a day of treated wastewater would affect public health, Biscayne Bay, the Everglades and drinking water supplies, and that evacuation plans in the event of a worst-case meltdown were “woefully inadequate.''
Barry White, an organizer for Miami-based Citizens Allied for Safe Energy, said it could take two to 10 hours to evacuate some 200,000 people in imminent danger from a large accidental radiation release.
The prospects for all but the swiftest would be poor, he told three members of the Atomic Safety Licensing Board, a quasi-judicial arm of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
``In the vernacular,'' White said, ``they would be toast.''
Attorneys with FPL and the NRC's staff counsels dismissed most concerns as ``vague generalities'' unsupported by expert opinion and inadmissible under the complex, arcane rules of the NRC licensing process.
Though activists had wide-ranging worries, the hearing in Homestead had limited purpose and scope. It was intended to allow the atomic safety board to hear from groups that filed formal petitions to ``intervene' in the agency's review -- CASE, the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy and the National Parks Conservation Association, along with the village of Pinecrest.
The groups have a long shot at earning that status. Of 21 ``contentions'' raised, the NRC's legal staff review flagged only one comparably minor one that might qualify for elevation to a licensing board hearing.
That was on whether FPL needs to plan for long-term storage of so-called ``low level'' radioactive waste, which could be anything from spilled cooling water to contaminated clothing -- potentially dangerous but not nearly as lethal as the four decades' worth of spent fuel rods already stored on the site east of Homestead.
John O'Neill Jr., a Washington attorney representing FPL during the hearing in Homestead, said the utility already was contracting with a company that would process and store the ``low-level'' waste off site.
The material, he said, had been safely handled for decades by the nuclear power industry and ``has zero safety significance in the real world. It's a nonissue.''
Matias Travieso Diaz, another Washington attorney representing FPL, also defended the utility's adherence to NRC regulations. He said federal emergency managers had endorsed the utility's evacuation plans and he urged the board to reject concerns he summed up as ``fatally flawed contentions raised by laymen but not admissible.''
Activists acknowledged that the formal interventions, even if approved, would likely have limited impact. Under the NRC process, the utility has the option of adjusting its plans.
But the activists still hope to sway public opinion and eventually derail a proposed $20 billion expansion not expected to go online for at least a decade.
At a brief media conference during a break in the hearing, South Miami Mayor Philip Stoddard, a CASE director whose opposition to a proposed power line corridor along U.S. 1 helped get him elected, called the expansion plan a potentially catastrophic hazard and an economic boondoggle.
FPL customers already are paying 33 cents per 1,000-kilowatt hours to help the utility pay for new nuclear projects, and Stoddard believes rates could rise by 70 percent over time to pay for reactors. It would be much cheaper, he said, simply to improve efficiency.
Dan Kipnis, a long-time charter fishing captain in Miami Beach, said he wasn't opposed to nuclear power but warned that climate change could drown the Turkey Point site in coming years. ``I would like to know how FPL can build a $20 billion-plus project on land that is going to be under water,'' he said.
Mayco Villafaña, an FPL spokesman who listened to the activists' presentations, called the concerns off-base. Two existing reactors on the site have operated safely for some 40 years, he said. FPL also estimated the planned reactors would actually save customers some $83 billion over a 40-year licensing period -- a savings he said was calculated by comparing what it would cost to power fossil-fuel plants over the same period.
The licensing board is expected to decide by January whether the groups met the standards for a “contention'' hearing.
Fla. Supreme Court approves Everglades land deal
BusinessWeek - by BILL KACZOR
November 19, 2010
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Florida's high court on Thursday approved using bonds to buy 46,200 acres of farmland to help restore the Everglades, one of outgoing Gov. Charlie Crist's top priorities.
The seven Supreme Court justices unanimously affirmed a lower court decision that the South Florida Water Management District can use a form of bond financing known as certificates of participation to buy the land from U.S. Sugar Corp.
They rejected arguments by the Miccosukee Tribe of Indians and U.S. Sugar competitors that the deal will not serve a public purpose, noting the district has provided detailed information on how it plans to use the property.
"The district has authority to acquire land to further the objective of conserving and protecting water and water-related resources," Justice Peggy Quince wrote for the court. "This objective has been deemed a 'public purpose' by the Legislature."
The district originally proposed $536 million in bonding to buy 73,000 acres, but it last month bought 26,800 acres with $194 million in cash.
It said in a statement that the cash deal was an affordable alternative to borrowing while the Supreme Court ruling will provide financing flexibility to obtain the rest of the land later.
The amount of land and spending is much less than a plan Crist announced in 2008 to pay $1.75 billion for about 180,000 acres and the company's assets. Crist issued a statement saying he was pleased with the decision because it will "provide long-term benefits for our environment."
Miami lawyer Dexter Lehtinen, a former state lawmaker and ex-U.S. attorney, argued the case for the Miccosukees. He no longer represents the tribe but also challenged the validation as a private citizen.
Lehtinen said opponents "won by delaying" the bond validation and he hopes Gov.-elect Rick Scott will quash the deal when he takes over from Crist in January.
Lehtinen said more delays are ahead because the case will have to return to Circuit Court as the justices also rejected a $50 million option to buy another 107,000 acres in the future. They ruled the option doesn't serve a public purpose because the district failed to detail how the additional lands would be used.
U.S. Sugar spokeswoman Judy Sanchez said the district is free to seek the option again be validated by explaining to the court what it plans to do with that land.
Two companies affiliated with Florida Crystals, U.S. Sugar's major competitor in South Florida, also challenged the validation.
"Hopefully, Florida Crystals now will refocus their resources on partnering in restoring the Everglades and abandon their offensive legal and political wrangling," Sanchez said.
Florida Crystals Vice President Gaston Cantens, also a former state legislator, replied that his company has been "focused on restoring the Everglades from day one." He said it opposed the bonding because restoring the U.S. Sugar property isn't financially feasible and will waste money that could be use for projects that do work.
The Supreme Court, though, said it has no authority to consider financial feasibility in deciding bond issues.
A woman who answered the telephone in the Miccosukee media relations office said the tribe would have no comment. She declined to identify herself.
The justices also said the district cannot substitute other lands for those specified in the bond validation.
Justice R. Fred Lewis concurred with the decision's result but disagreed with his colleagues' reasoning. Lewis argued in a concurring opinion that the bonds need approval from voters in the 16-county district.
The other justices, though, stuck to a long-standing precedent that referendums are not required for certificates of participation that are issued for no more than 12 months at a time.
Lewis called this a "shell-game" that should no longer be sanctioned.
"As I have predicted before, like the hapless protagonist in 'Groundhog Day,' this court will be forced to continuously relive this controversy until we 'get it right,'" Lewis wrote.
Growing Opposition to FPL’s Proposed Nuke Reactors
Growing Opposition to FPL’s Proposed New Turkey Point Nuclear Reactors
Local groups and concerned citizens challenge federal licensing of utility plan that
threatens public health, the environment and economy
Homestead, Fla.–At a press conference today, concerned citizens and organizations expressed their concerns about the serious economic, environmental and public health impacts that Florida Power & Light’s (FPL) costly proposal to build two additional nuclear reactors will mean for the region. The additional nuclear expansion is proposed for the existing Turkey Point facility, which threatens Biscayne Bay and Biscayne National Park. The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s (NRC) three-judge panel, the Atomic Safety Licensing Board, will hear arguments today at Homestead City Hall from those challenging FPL’s request for a federal license.
“The surrounding communities are at great risk from FPL’s proposal including the Miami area and the Florida Keys. Turkey Point has already harmed this area in terms of public health, the environment and our economy. Building more reactors does nothing but make an already unacceptable situation worse,” said South Miami Mayor Phillip Stoddard, a director with Citizens Allied for Safe Energy, one of the petitioners. “Of utmost concern to me is that there are serious deficiencies with the current evacuation plan should there be an accident. Families, children, our friends and neighbors could be stuck in a snarl of traffic as they are exposed to radiation. Profit is being put ahead of people. This is unjust and cannot be tolerated any further.”
The purpose of today’s administrative hearing is for the Board to determine whether the organizations sufficiently raised legitimate concerns, warranting an evidentiary hearing in the future. The groups believe that regulators ultimately should reject FPL’s proposal to build two new reactors due to the further harm it would cause to public health, safety of communities located near the plant, and further harm the region’s limited water resources and sensitive environmental ecosystems. A decision is expected in January 2011.
The organizations involved have challenged FPL’s proposed plans to use radial collector wells beneath Biscayne Bay that would use 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 hundred acres of wetlands to accommodate miles of new transmission lines, lack of planning for future potential sea level rise that would adversely impact the operations of the facility, FPL’s cursory treatment of the potential cumulative impacts of the proposed project, lack of adequate safety and evacuation plans and methods for managing radioactive waste, among other important issues of concern.
“We wouldn’t stand for a nuclear power plant to be built next to the Statue of Liberty or the Lincoln Memorial; both are national park units, so why would we allow a nuclear power plant to double its size next to Biscayne National Park,” said Kahlil Kettering, Biscayne Restoration Program Analyst for the National Parks Conservation Association and intervenor. “Biscayne is the largest marine national park in the country and is a treasure for all Americans that should be protected for our children and grandchildren to enjoy. Turkey Point’s nuclear operations have negatively impacted Biscayne Bay’s water salinity and the habitat that is vital for the ecological productivity of the Bay and nuclear expansion is in direct conflict with the goals of Everglades Restoration and the health of our National Parks.”
“Water is in limited supply in South Florida and depending on an energy source that requires water is a huge mistake. The Turkey Point proposal alone may use up to 124 MGD (Million Gallons a Day), by comparison Monroe County uses about 17 MGD. Removing this much water on a daily basis will not only alter the salinity of Biscayne Bay but it will accelerate saltwater intrusion that has already contaminated well fields that Miami-Dade and Monroe depend on. Allowing a private utility to profit without consideration of the competing interests with Everglades Restoration and our drinking water supply will severely and adversely impact our economy,” said Laura Reynolds, Executive Director of the Tropical Audubon Society.
Though FPL and Progress Energy of Florida are proposing to build a total of four new reactors at combined costs of more than $40 billion, citizens and organizations at today’s hearing believe future energy demand should instead be met by aggressive energy efficiency, conservation, and renewable energy measures. Such methods pose less risk to local communities, water resources and the sensitive South Florida environment, while playing an important role in reducing global warming pollution.
“FPL customers are paying in advance for certain costs associated with the estimated $20 billion proposed new Turkey Point reactors and that reality, that people’s bills are going up which isn’t helping Florida’s economy, unfortunately isn’t part of today’s discussions or this licensing process,” said Sara Barczak, high risk energy choices program director with Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, an intervenor. “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 that won’t harm South Florida communities in terms of their pocketbooks and their health and safety.”
“FPL and the NRC have failed to address how Turkey Point will deal with climate change and sea level rise,” said Captain Dan Kipnis, resident of Miami and intervenor. “Just a few more inches of ocean height will affect Turkey Point, damage coastal communities and decrease our fresh water supplies. This is an unbelievably bad idea and bad location to build more nuclear reactors.”
“FPL will cycle large amounts of partially treated sewage through Turkey Point’s cooling towers. The public can’t know what diseases or endocrine disruptors or cancer agents will come out of these towers and drift into our communities. I believe the Nuclear Regulatory Commission must accept all medical and financial responsibilities for approving this license,” said Mark Oncavage, resident of Miami and intervenor.
Three intervenors appeared before the Board at today’s hearing: 1) the National Parks Conservation Association, Southern Alliance for Clean Energy and local citizens from the Miami area represented by the Everglades Law Center and Emory University School of Law’s Turner Environmental Law Clinic; 2) CASE/Citizens Allied for Safe Energy and 3) the Village of Pinecrest.
In addition, citizens and local organizations gathered outside of the hearing to voice their opposition to the proposed new reactors including Tropical Audubon Society, 1Sky Florida, Save it Now, Glades!, Sierra Club Miami Group, South Florida Wildlands Association, and many others.
Courtney Darrow, Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, 865.235.1448 firstname.lastname@example.org
Alison Zemanski, National Parks Conservation Association, 202.454.3332 email@example.com
Kahlil Kettering, National Parks Conservation Association, 954.401.4592
Sara Barczak, Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, 912.201.0354
Richard Grosso, Everglades Law Center, 954.770.9237
& Jason Totoiu, 561.568.6740
Larry Sanders, Emory University School of Law’s Turner Environmental Law Clinic, 404.712.8008
Laura Reynolds, Tropical Audubon Society, 305.666.2842
Mark Oncavage, Sierra Club Miami Group, 305.251.5273
Barry White, CASE/Citizens Allied for Safe Energy, Inc., 305.505.9011
Rhonda Roff, Save it Now, Glades!, 954.347.2335
Matthew Schwartz, South Florida Wildlands Association, 954.634.7173
Andrea Cuccaro, 1 Sky Florida, 786.925.1151
FPL submitted their licensing application to the NRC for a combined construction and 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 Turkey Point licensing process, visit the NRC .
For more information on the organizations that have petitioned to intervene, including their contact information and the arguments they raised, click here .
For more information on proposed new nuclear reactors in Florida, visit Southern Alliance for Clean Energy
Florida High Court Allows State to Buy Everglades Land
November 18, 2010
TALLAHASSEE, Fla.—The Florida Supreme Court has approved financing for the state's purchase of 46,200 acres from U.S. Sugar Corp. for Everglades restoration.
The justices Thursday ruled that the South Florida Water Management District can use a form of bond financing known as certificates of participation. They rejected arguments by the Miccosukee Tribe of Indians that the land deal won't serve a public purpose.
The financing was originally proposed for 73,000, acres but the district since then has bought 26,800 acres with cash.
The high court, though, ruled an option to buy additional land in the future doesn't serve a public purpose and, therefore, certificates of participation can't be used for those expenses.
The Supreme Court also said the district can't substitute other lands for those specified in the deal.
Florida Supreme Court ruling supports Everglades land deal, water district says
The Palm Beach Post - by Ana M. Valdes, Staff Writer
November 18, 2010
A Florida Supreme Court ruling Thursday affirmed the public purpose of a historic purchase of sugar land for Everglades restoration, and approved the South Florida Water Management District's use of bonds to finance much of it.
Water management officials said Thursday the ruling had no immediate impact on their plans or the progress of Everglades restoration -- they already paid cash for 26,800 acres south of Lake Okeechobee from U.S. Sugar last month and optioned an additional 153,000. In that regard, they said it was a victory over Miccosukee Tribe of Indians and Florida Crystals Corp. efforts to kill the project.
But it will come into play as the district tries to completed phased purchases of the full 180,000 acres it optioned, and any land beyond that, Eric Buermann, chairman of the district's board, said Thursday. "Going forward it lays out some of the rules and clarifies," he said.
Among the clarifications, the ruling said the certificates of participation, similar to bonds, could be sold to pay for land, but not for an option on land.
The deal, announced by Gov. Charlie Crist in 2008 was originally to be a $1.7 billion purchase of nearly 200,000 acres. But with the state economy on the downswing, it was negotiated downward a number of times.
Paying out of pocket for a portion of the land last month may affect the district's ability to move forward with the "Reviving the River of Grass" project, according to Florida Crystals officials, who oppose the land deal.
"They kind of tied their hands, I think, by going through with the cash deal," said Gaston Cantens, vice president of corporate communications. "They don't have any money to do anything. That's what we have been telling them for 2 1/2 years."
U.S. Sugar, in a statement issued Thursday, said they were pleased the court rejected the arguments made by the Miccosukee Tribe and Florida Crystals, saying their arguments "have bottled up the courts, wasted tax dollars and delayed restoration for more than two years."
"Hopefully, Florida Crystals now will re-focus their resources on partnering in restoring the Everglades and abandon their offensive legal and political wrangling," said Judy Sanchez, U.S. Sugar's director of corporate communications.
Environmental groups, including the Everglades Foundation said the ruling only gets Florida one step closer to restoring the Everglades.
"As the economy continues to recover, this funding option provides the South Florida Water Management District with flexibility to acquire additional land and construct projects that can be used to sustain our water supply and deliver significant environmental benefits to the River of Grass," said Kirk Fordham, chief executive officer of the Everglades Foundation.
EPA tackles Florida water pollution, cost a concern
Reuters – by Pascal Fletcher
November 16, 2010
(Reuters) - The Environmental Protection Agency tightened water pollution controls in recession-hit Florida on Monday, but the state's citrus growers expressed concern the rules would cost business too much.
The final EPA standards set specific numerical limits on nutrient pollution levels allowed in lakes, rivers, streams and springs in a state which relies heavily on tourists who enjoy its waterways and the world-famous Everglades National Park.
This pollution is caused by phosphorous and nitrogen contamination from excess fertilizer, stormwater and wastewater that flows off land into waterways. The EPA estimates nearly 2,000 miles of Florida's rivers and streams, as well as numerous lakes and estuaries, are affected.
Months of debate in public hearings preceded the finalization of the standards, with critics like Florida's $9 billion citrus industry saying their implementation could cost the sector billions of dollars it could not afford.
The EPA estimated the cost of bringing in the new rules would be in the range of $130 million to $200 million.
Announcing the finalized measures, EPA Regional Administrator Gwen Keyes-Fleming said the agency had sought to reconcile competing interests, but there was strong public support for cleaning up Florida's water and waterways.
"What we heard over and over in these public hearings is that the people of Florida know that clean, safe waters are essential to their health and Florida's economic growth," she said in a conference call with reporters.
The new anti-pollution standards will not take effect for 15 months and during that time the EPA would work closely with the state and interested parties on implementation strategies.
Explaining the rules would be flexible, "common sense" and site-specific, Keyes-Fleming said they would help protect hotels and tourist attractions that faced lost revenue through pollution making waterways too foul for swimming or fishing.
Florida's $60 billion-a-year tourism industry is its economic lifeblood and largest industry, with more than 80 million visitors a year bringing in 21 percent of all state sales taxes and employing nearly 1 million Floridians.
Keyes-Fleming added the anti-pollution measures would also help preserve home property values, an important consideration in a state where many own waterside homes and the home foreclosure rate is the second-highest in the United States.
"EXAGGERATED DOOMSDAY CLAIMS"
While stating the EPA had considered concerns over implementation costs, she rejected what she called "exaggerated Doomsday claims from certain interests."
"EPA believes that those that have estimated the cost to be in the billions are substantially overstating both the number of pollution sources that may be affected, as well as the types of treatment that are going to be required," she said.
Florida Citrus Mutual, the state's main citrus growers' association, said it was still evaluating the new EPA rules, but reiterated its worries over the impact on business.
"There is some concern this could have an adverse economic impact on all industries in Florida at a time when the economy is slumping," Michael W. Sparks, the group's executive Vice President and CEO, told Reuters in a statement.
He said while citrus growers understood healthy water was essential for the future of agriculture, "regulators must realize there is a balance that must be attained."
In 2008, the Florida Wildlife Federation filed a lawsuit against the EPA. This resulted is a settlement that required the agency to introduce specific nutrient pollution standards for Florida by November 2010.
Disputed cost estimates once again cited as reason to delay water quality standards
The Florida Independent - by Virginia Chamlee
November 15, 2010
In a letter written to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, Gov.-elect Rick Scott, Attorney General-elect Pam Bondi and Agricultural Commissioner-elect Adam Putnam requested more time and better science in drafting new water quality standards for Florida’s estuaries and coastal waters. The letter, which was signed by five other newly elected officials, came just two days before the Nov. 14 deadline to finalize the nutrient criteria affecting freshwater.
Though perhaps not surprising (Scott and Putnam have both been staunch in their opposition to the criteria in the past), the letter reveals yet another striking difference in opinion between politicians and environmentalists, who argue that the criteria are not only effective, but will be economically beneficial to the state in the long run.
The letter brings up the estimated cost of what the signees deem an “onerous regulation,” and says that the price of implementing the criteria “could impede our state’s economic recovery and increase the price of utilities, food and other necessities for Floridians.”
Many politicians and industry figures have tossed around cost estimations when defending their position against the criteria, but a recent examination of internal Florida Department of Environmental Protection emails suggests that cost estimation vary widely —even within the department itself.
One study, done by the Florida Water Environment Association, projected costs to be upward of $24 billion, while the EPA projects costs to be around $130 million. A look at the board of the FWEA shows that many of its members may have ulterior motives. The board features two employees of the utilities giant JEA, which would likely be faced with compliance costs, and representatives from the Department of Environmental Protection, an organization many accuse of siding with industry.
In their letter, the eight newly elected officials write, “According to a study done by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, the EPA mandates set to be finalized this November 14th will impose capital costs of over $4 billion on municipal wastewater treatment utilities and over $17 billion on municipal storm water utilities.” But according to the Department of Environmental Protection, any and all cost estimates are based on hypotheticals and involve several assumptions, making it difficult to know the true cost of implementation until drafts are finalized.
EPA delays Florida water rule; projects lower cost
Sun Sentinel - by William Gibson
November 15, 2010
EPA completed long-dreaded freshwater quality standards for Florida on Sunday but delayed implementation for 15 months and projected a cost far less than feared.
Officials on Monday estimated a cost of $130 million to $200 million to meet the standards -- not $21 billion, as some growers and municipalities had warned. EPA estimated an average cost of 11 to 20 cents per Florida household per day.
The rule is flexible, EPA officials said, and the 15-month delay will allow federal, state and local officials to agree on the best way to curb nutrient pollution for each site along rivers, streams and lakes.
The rule is designed to reduce water pollution in freshwater areas. A separate rule affecting estuaries and saltwater bodies is expected in August 2012.
Local officials throughout the state feared they would be saddled with huge expenses, mostly for upgrading wastewater plants. Incoming Governor Rick Scott and some members of Congress had urged EPA to delay implementation, saying the rule would impede the state’s fragile economic recovery.
While dismissing “doomsday claims,” EPA regional administrator Gwen Keyes Fleming told reporters on Monday that local communities had reasonable concerns about the cost during a time of economic distress.
She said, however, that the “green slime” and algae blooms produced by water pollution can stifle Florida’s economy.
“Businesses, hotels and tourist attractions (located near polluted waters) run the risk of losing revenue when the water is too foul for swimming or fishing,” she said.
FPL Crystal River Unit 3 Nuclear Generating Plant Environmental Assessment
November 15, 2010
The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is considering issuance of an exemption, pursuant to Title 10 of the Code of Federal Regulations (10 CFR) Section 73.5, "Specific exemptions," from the implementation date for certain new requirements of 10 CFR part 73, "Physical protection of plants and materials," for Facility Operating License No. DPR 72 issued to Florida Power Corporation (the licensee), for operation of the Crystal River Unit 3 Nuclear Generating Plant (CR-3), located in Citrus County, Florida. In accordance with 10 CFR 51.21, the NRC prepared an environmental assessment documenting its finding. The NRC concluded that the proposed actions will have no significant environmental impact.
Identification of the Proposed Action
The proposed action would exempt the licensee from the required implementation date of March 31, 2010, for four new requirements of 10 CFR part 73. Specifically, CR-3 would be granted a second exemption, further extending the date for full compliance with four new requirements contained in 10 CFR 73.55, from November 15 and December 15 (the dates specified in a prior exemption granted by NRC on March 25, 2010), until December 15, 2011 and March 15, 2012, respectively. The licensee has proposed an alternate full compliance implementation date of March 15, 2012, which is approximately 2 years beyond the compliance date required by 10 CFR part 73. The proposed action, an extension of the schedule for completion of certain actions required by the revised 10 CFR part 73, does not involve any physical changes to the reactor, fuel, plant structures, support structures, water, or land at the CR-3 site.
The proposed action is in accordance with the licensee's application dated September 8, 2010.
The Need for the Proposed Action
The proposed second scheduler exemption is needed to provide the licensee with additional time, beyond the previously approved by the NRC letter dated March 25, 2010, to implement four specific elements of the new requirements that involve significant physical upgrades to the CR-3 security system. The schedules used in the original scheduler exemption were based on the conceptual design information available to the licensee at the time of the submittal. At this time, the licensee has fully developed the design and has completed the discovery phase. Therefore, due to the unforeseen need for design changes necessary to achieve full compliance with the Final Rule, additional time is needed to complete the complex revised design and construction and associated analysis.
Environmental Impacts of the Proposed Action
The NRC has completed its environmental assessment of the proposed exemption. The NRC staff has concluded that the proposed action to further extend the implementation deadline for two items would not significantly affect plant safety and would not have a significant adverse effect on the probability of an accident occurring.
The proposed action would not result in an increased radiological hazard beyond those hazards previously analyzed in the environmental assessment and finding of no significant impact made by the Commission in promulgating its revisions to 10 CFR part 73 as discussed in a Federal Register notice dated March 27, 2009; 74 FR 13926. There will be no change to radioactive effluents that affect radiation exposures to plant workers and members of the public. Therefore, no changes or different types of radiological impacts are expected as a result of the proposed exemption.
The proposed action does not result in changes to land use or water use, or result in changes to the quality or quantity of nonradiological effluents. No changes to the National Pollution Discharge Elimination System permit are needed. No effects on the aquatic or terrestrial habitat in the vicinity of the plant, or to threatened, endangered, or protected species under the Endangered Species Act, or impacts to essential fish habitat covered by the Magnuson-Stevens Act are expected. There are no impacts to the air or ambient air quality.
There are no impacts to historical and cultural resources. There would be no impact to socioeconomic resources. Therefore, no changes to or different types of nonradiological environmental impacts are expected as a result of the proposed exemption.
Accordingly, the NRC concludes that there are no significant environmental impacts associated with the proposed action. In addition, in promulgating its revisions to 10 CFR part 73, the Commission prepared an environmental assessment and published a finding of no significant impact [Part 73, Power Reactor Security Requirements, March 27, 2009; 74 FR 13926].
With its request to extend the implementation deadline, the licensee currently maintains a security system acceptable to the NRC and that will continue to provide acceptable physical
[Page Number 69711]
protection of CR-3 in lieu of the new requirements in 10 CFR part 73. Therefore, the extension of the implementation date for four elements of the new requirements of 10 CFR part 73 to December 15, 2011, and March 15, 2012, would not have any significant environmental impacts.
The NRC staff's safety evaluation will be provided in the exemption that will be issued as part of the letter to the licensee approving the exemption to the regulation, if granted.
Environmental Impacts of the Alternatives to the Proposed Action
As an alternative to the proposed actions, the NRC staff considered denial of the proposed action (i.e., the "no-action" alternative). Denial of the exemption request would result in no change in current environmental impacts. If the proposed action was denied, the licensee would have to comply with the existing implementation deadline for those specific items of November 15, and December 15, 2010, as extended by the exemption granted on March 25, 2010. The environmental impacts of the proposed exemption and the "no-action" alternative are similar.
Alternative Use of Resources
The action does not involve the use of any different resources than those previously considered in the Final Environmental Statement for CR-3, dated May 1973.
Agencies and Persons Consulted
In accordance with its stated policy, on November 4, 2010, the NRC staff consulted with the Florida State official, Mr. William A. Passeti of the Florida Department of Health, Bureau of Radiation Control regarding the environmental impact of the proposed action. The State official had no comments.
Finding of No Significant Impact
On the basis of the environmental assessment, the NRC concludes that the proposed action will not have a significant effect on the quality of the human environment. Accordingly, the NRC has determined not to prepare an environmental impact statement for the proposed action.
For further details with respect to the proposed action, see the licensee's letter dated September 8, 2010. Portions of the September 8, 2010, submittal contains security-related information and, accordingly, a redacted version of this letter is available for public review in the Agencywide Documents Access and Management System (ADAMS), Accession No. ML102530129. This document may be examined, and/or copied for a fee, at the NRC's Public Document Room (PDR), located at One White Flint North, Public File Area O-1F21, 11555 Rockville Pike (first floor), Rockville, Maryland 20852. Publicly available records will be accessible electronically from the ADAMS Public Electronic Reading Room on the Internet at the NRC Web site: http://www.nrc.gov/reading-rm/adams.html. Persons who do not have access to ADAMS or who encounter problems in accessing the documents located in ADAMS should contact the NRC PDR Reference staff by telephone at 1-800-397-4209 or 301-415-4737, or send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dated at Rockville, Maryland, on November 5, 2010.
For the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
Senior Project Manager, Plant Licensing Branch II-2, Division of Operating Reactor Licensing, Office of Nuclear Reactor Regulation.
[FR Doc. 2010-28633 Filed 11-12-10; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 7590-01-P
Vol. 75, No. 219
[Docket No. 50-302; NRC-2010-0105]
For full details on (FLPWP) FLPWP. (FLPWP) has Short Term PowerRatings at TradingMarkets. Details on (FLPWP) Short Term PowerRatings is available at This Link
River loses again; fight continues: Editorial
November 15, 2010
"Paralysis by analysis" is one way to describe the South Florida Water Management District's preference for more study as opposed to action on minimum freshwater flows for the Caloosahatchee River.
We realize the district has lots of users to consider in its 16-county jurisdiction. A fair balance is difficult to find.
But the trickle of water currently allowed to the Caloosahatchee from Lake Okeechobee is clearly too low to prevent significant damage to the river in dry conditions. Meanwhile, too little is asked of other users.
The Caloosahatchee is a sewer for polluted runoff when there's too much water, and gets virtually shut off when the resources is scarce. It's been this way for decades, with devastating effects on a river and estuary that are the watery heart of our nature-based economy.
Last week, the district governing board came within a hair of helping out, but failed to accept a petition for more water which enjoyed wide support from citizen organizations and local government.
In 2001, the district set a minimum flow of 300 cubic feet per second, but subsequent staff reports have recommended flows of at least 450 cfs. The petitioners - Cape Coral attorney Ralf Brookes and the Conservancy of Southwest Florida - wanted to start the process of revising the minimum to 450 cfs, still far from optimum, but just enough to prevent further degradation. The vote to approve the petition failed 4-4. The issue will be taken up yet again next month. The petitioners have the option of going to court, which is where this may be headed.
The governing board considered and passed over one alternative Wednesday that would have set a new minimum by 2015. Otherwise, the revision process will take until at least 2018.
Let the governing board know that you think the Calooshatchee has taken the back seat for far too long.
After years of "paralysis by analysis," we need action on a minimum dry-season flow to protect our river and our economy.
Environmentalists, developers and others wonder what's in store from new governor Rick Scott
Palm Beach Post - by Christine Stapleton, Staff Writer
November 14, 2010
Of all the issues Gov.-elect Rick Scott addressed during his campaign - abortion, immigration, health care, taxes, offshore drilling, school vouchers, gay marriage, limits on lawsuits, and the $1.7 billion in Medicare fraud fines paid by his former company, the environment received almost no play.
Candidate Scott's website offered only a few vague, non-committal sentences on the environment, including, "Rick is committed to conserving Florida's natural resources" and "Rick is committed to preserving the Everglades."
With so little known about Scott's environmental agenda, conservationists, environmentalists, developers, farmers, water managers, two tribes of Native Americans and a legion of lobbyists and lawyers are asking: "Now what?"
"I don't think we know what we're going to have," said Scott supporter Colleen Castille, an environmental consultant in Tallahassee and former head of the state's Department of Environmental Protection under Gov. Jeb Bush. "No one knows."
Since Scott financed most of his own campaign - $60 million of $67 million total - he is not visibly beholden to any person or company. And of the $17.4 million raised by his political action committee, Let's Get to Work, nearly $13 million came from his wife's trust.
"There is no question that this is the first time in Florida, at least modern history, we have a governor who is not largely beholden to the special interests that have traditionally financed gubernatorial campaigns," said Kirk Fordham, CEO of the Everglades Foundation. "My sense is he doesn't feel a whole lot of obligation to return favors that may have been promised by other candidates."
Florida Crystals, a major stakeholder in the state's environmental battles, was among Scott's largest corporate givers, with a $100,000 contribution to Scott's political action committee, which has no contribution limits. Rival U.S. Sugar backed Scott's opponent in the GOP primary, Bill McCollum, with more than
$1 million in contributions.
Scott accused McCollum of being "bought and paid for" by U.S. Sugar and then cried corporate "bailout" when McCollum supported the South Florida Water Management District's deal to pay $197 million to U.S. Sugar for 27,000 acres of land to help restore the Everglades.
But those wounds have healed and "proper mea culpas have been made," Castille said, leaving environmentalists to wonder where Scott stands on purchasing more land for restoring the River of Grass.
"He will know, having been a successful businessman, that when you buy land, you buy it cheap," said David Guest, a Tallahassee attorney at Earthjustice, a firm that represents environmental groups in several ongoing suits. "If ever there was a time to buy land for conservation, it would be now."
What is known about Scott: He has vowed to run the state like a business, not a political fiefdom rife with payback. While environmentalists and business have rarely been allies in Florida politics, both say an impartial business approach to the state's seemingly endless environmental woes might be good.
"Our top-line message is that our environment and our economy are too tied together to ignore the environment," said Manley Fuller, president of the Florida Wildlife Federation, the group that filed lawsuits alleging government failure to enforce the Clean Water Act. "I think we're going to need to couch our efforts in economic language."
Scott's first test of a partnership will come quickly, when he responds to pollution limits, also known as numeric nutrient criteria, imposed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today . The criteria set limits on the amount of nutrients, including phosphorus and nitrogen, in Florida's rivers, lakes, streams, estuaries and canals.
Developers, growers and water utilities are bitterly opposed to the stricter criteria, saying it will cost taxpayers as much as $200 billion to clean water and upgrade water treatment facilities to meet the limits. Environmentalists say opponents are fear-mongering with inflated cost estimates.
The biggest unknown - permitting and regulatory enforcement - could cause the biggest problems. Permitting needs to be streamlined and regulations relaxed to bring new industry - especially green industry - to Florida, business leaders say. Environmentalists agree that it is time to review rules and regulations but worry that politics will contaminate the process.
"The temptation is that all those skinny, bouffant-haired lobbyists in $800 suits are going to be slithering into regulatory agencies trying to get favors and it is going to be a big challenge for the governor to fend off the lobbyists and get good and better government," said Guest.
Scott's media contact did not return calls. However, insiders say Scott intends to put together an environmental transition team to guide policy. Meanwhile, the suspense builds.
"Why should the environmental community or the business community fear him?" asked Frank Matthews, a Tallahassee attorney whose clients are among the biggest names in utilities, mining, developers and sugar cane growers. "It's nice to have someone with no predispositions. It's beholden upon us to bring him the ideas."
Scientists at Picayune Strand State Forest study bats for Everglades project
Miami Herald – by SUSAN COCKING, scocking@MiamiHerald.com
November 14, 2010
A group of scientists studying bats are hoping the information collected will better gauge the health of the Everglades.
NAPLES -- The structure looks like a cross between a volleyball net and a spider web -- 30 feet high, strung between six aluminum poles and secured with guy lines across a bridge in the Picayune Strand State Forest.
The temporary `tent' is actually a mist net -- an effective tool for capturing wild bats, set up by Kathleen Smith, a wildlife biologist with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission in Naples, and her colleagues.
Smith is leader of a program designed to monitor the activities of these flying mammals at the site of a major Everglades restoration project, aimed at reinstating the natural sheet flow of water across 85 square miles in western Collier County to the Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge.
The study began in August 2009. By the time it concludes next spring, scientists hope to have a good idea of how many and what kinds of bats inhabit the 78,615-acre Picayune Strand State Forest -- and how they use it. The data is key because bats are considered an indicator of an ecosystem's health.
In this region, the half-dozen bat species roost in trees -- there are no caves -- and eat mostly insects. Their populations can be decimated by practices such as indiscriminate land clearing, careless use of pesticides, and loss of a water supply.
``Bats, like many other wildlife species, have lost a great deal of natural habitat to development,'' Smith said.
And without them, insects such as disease-carrying mosquitoes, would buzz unchecked.
The plan this night is for Smith and three colleagues to erect the net and wait until after dark for bats to fly into it. Each bat will be untangled, weighed and measured, and have its sex and maturity determined. The data will be recorded and the bat released.
The scientists have set up acoustical monitoring devices to record bat calls, many of which are inaudible to humans.
Picayune Strand, located south of I-75 near Naples, now is going native after being carved up, channelized and crisscrossed with roads to build a huge residential development that failed in the 1960s. Restoration plans call for removing more than 80 miles of canal plugs and 220 miles of roads and installing three pump stations and spreader swales to allow water to creep naturally overland to the Ten Thousand Islands and Rookery Bay National Estuarine Reserve.
POINT OF REFERENCE
Over the past few decades, the bats have pretty much been left alone here. With humans set to manipulate the ecosystem once again, researchers want to establish a baseline number before the pumps are turned on. ``If we don't know what's here, it's difficult to manage for habitat,'' Smith said.
In the past 15 months, Smith and a cadre of volunteers -- private citizens as well as off-duty researchers for state and federal agencies -- have trapped about 350 bats. They range from the common evening bat to the endangered bonneted bat -- the state's largest with a wingspan of 19 to 21 inches. The bonneted gets its name from large, broad ears that slant forward over its eyes.
Most of the research is conducted in fall and spring to avoid extreme cold and drenching rains. But this night, temperatures have dropped to 59 degrees, with wind gusts out of the northwest. About an hour after dark, the mercury showed 55. Smith recorded a few passing bats on the acoustics monitor, but none flew into the mist net.
``We have to abort,'' she told her colleagues.
Smith explained South Florida bats -- like thin-blooded human Floridians -- don't move around much when temperatures fall to the mid-50s.
SW Fla. marine life suffers as water quality drops: George Howell
News-Press.com - Guest Opinion
November 14, 2010
New residents and businesses thrive on the economy which is driven by warm sunny weather, tropical flora, wildlife, and vast waterways.
Our tropical waters are a prime resource for relaxation and many forms of recreation which are paramount in bringing critical tourism dollars to our area. However, over the last several years a rapid decrease in our water quality has left a black eye on Lee County in particular.
Economic trends throughout the country have not been good over the last couple of years. However, our area also suffers from large fish kills and manatee deaths associated with red tides, as well as excessive algae blooms responsible for removing life-supporting oxygen from the water. These factors have not only endangered wildlife in areas, they have made canals, rivers and beaches much less appealing to those in search of a beautiful tropical environment.
The main factor contributing to problems with water quality in Lee County is rainwater runoff that is saturated with fertilizers containing nitrogen and phosphorus. With the increase in population and growth in our area also comes an increase in fertilizer used for landscaping.
Red tide blooms are likely the product of excessive fertilizer runoff rich in phosphorus. They result in large fish kills, dead manatees, and aggravate breathing in humans, especially those with asthma or similar conditions. In addition to harming wildlife, not many visitors want to return to our area after spending the week at a beach covered in dead fish.
Further algae blooms and infestations by plants such as spatterdock, southern naiad, cobamba, musk grass and hydrilla are extremely harmful to canal systems. Fertilizer runoff promotes growth of these plants and algae, and as they die, the decomposition process removes oxygen from the water. As oxygen levels drop, fish and wildlife die or disappear altogether. In addition, the dead and decomposed plants leave further nutrients in the system, which continue to fuel the problem.
In May of 2008, Lee County passed an ordinance to prohibit the use of fertilizers containing nitrogen and phosphorus during the summer rain season. It also prohibits applying fertilizers within 10 feet of any waterline year round, and states that professional landscaping companies must have a Best Management Practice (BMP) trained landscaper on site when fertilizer is applied. Cape Coral however, the largest city in Southwest Florida, has not passed legislation supporting such an ordinance. With more navigable waters than any city in the world, it is imperative that Cape Coral protect the resource that brings people to live there. Almost all of the city's waterways are canals, over 400 miles. These canals run between the backyards of homes, and fertilizers used there are very likely to run off lawns directly into them.
Canal systems, especially long ones such as those in Cape Coral, are much slower to drain into larger bodies of water than faster flowing areas like rivers. This means fertilizers, pollutants, and algae blooms linger in concentrated amounts for long periods of time.
The farther back you go into the canals, the worse the problem gets. Large areas of the canal system there have become infested with floating and submerged plants.
What can we do?
The Cape Coral City Council has been aware of this problem for some time now (and is getting ready to pass an ordinance similar to the county's).
If the council waits to act on this issue, it will likely cost taxpayers millions of dollars to clean up the waterways in the future.
Submitted by Capt. George Howell for Southwest Florida Naturally.
You can contact him at 541-1735 or e-mail George@swflnaturally.com
Scott asks EPA to delay Florida water pollution rules
Naples Daily News
November 12, 2010
Gov.-elect Rick Scott and other newly elected state and federal officials are making a last-ditch call to delay tighter federal water quality rules for Florida.
The rules, set to be finalized by Sunday, limit the amount of nitrogen and phosphorus, such as in wastewater and fertilizer, that trigger algae blooms that poison water supplies and set off an ecosystem chain reaction that kills marine life.
In a letter to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson today, the officials echo opponents' repeated claims that the new limits will be too costly and are scientifically flawed. Supporters say the claims are overblown.
Joining Scott on the letter are Attorney General-elect Pam Bondi, Agriculture Commissioner-elect Adam Putnam and five newly elected congressmen, including David Rivera, who represents eastern Collier County.
The federal limits to be finalized by Sunday would apply to Florida's rivers, streams and lakes and have been delayed once already. New limits for downstream estuaries and canals have been delayed until August 2012.
The proposal is the result of a settlement of a lawsuit against EPA by environmental groups, including the Conservancy of Southwest Florida.
EPA water pollution compliance costs may have been overblown
TheLedger .com - by Tom Palmer
November 10th, 2010
If you’ve been skeptical about the scare stories about the cost of complying with the proposed EPA water pollution rules, you weren’t alone.
The Florida Independent reports that internal Florida Department of Environmental Protection e-mails show some senior staff had questioned the source of some of these numbers too, despite the fact that the official agency line has appeared to side more with the critics of the EPA rule than with their federal colleagues or environmentalists who went to court to make EPA and DEP do their jobs.
In simple terms, the issue is whether the pollution standard for lakes, rivers and estuaries will be designed to prevent pollution levels that “cause an imbalance in natural populations of aquatic flora or fauna,” whatever that means or whether it will say once you dump x amount of pollutants into the water, you can’t dump anymore and if you’re already dumping too much, you have to figure out how to dump less.
The former is what we have now. The latter is what EPA is proposing.
I have also heard that even so-called “pristine” streams would be affected by this rule, but I keep thinking that perhaps they aren’t as clean as you think they are because of stormwater runoff highways, pastures and other sources.
Glades' Fisheating Creek Dredging Found Illegal
SWFlorida Online - blog
November 10, 2010
Illegal Dredging At Fisheating Creek
MOORE HAVEN, FL. -- According the the Audubon of Florida, a contractor for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission was caught last year illegally dredging a channel through part of Fisheating Creek in Glades County. In a news release Audubon said:
"Last summer, Audubon of Florida Executive Director Eric Draper learned from the South Florida Water Management District that a Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission contractor had dredged a channel through a section of Fisheating Creek known as Cowbone Marsh.
Fearing that the dredging would disturb the largest migratory stopover of Swallow-tailed Kites in North America, and concerned by reports that a massive amount of water was draining out of the marsh, Draper wrote to FWC objecting to the project. A copy of the letter was sent to federal agencies, which subsequently issued a cease and desist order and then a restoration order.
Audubon supports a settlement agreement negotiated by the state many years ago providing for navigation of Fisheating Creek by canoes and small boats. However, no one ever imagined that navigation would become a 20-foot-wide dredged channel to allow two large motorboats to pass.
In fact, the settlement agreement specifically prohibited dredging. Dredging any wetland or creek without a permit is illegal.
Audubon is also working to restore the Everglades and Lake Okeechobee. One of the ways to do this is to slow the flow of polluting water from upstream sources to Lake Okeechobee. The 20-foot-wide dredged channel does the opposite, by increasing rapid flow to the lake, and bypassing the filtration and natural nutrient uptake potential of Cowbone Marsh, increasing the potential phosphorus loading of Lake Okeechobee.
A local group that has long pushed for navigation on Fisheating Creek has criticized Draper and Audubon and claims that dredging did not take place, only removal of vegetation. However, state and federal agencies determined that the activity was dredging, required a permit and was not legal.
Audubon respects local advocates for Fisheating Creek and has allowed staff scientist Dr. Paul Gray to sit on the Fisheating Creek Advisory Committee. However, we will blow the whistle on activities that harm the environment regardless of who is behind them."
Rising sea levels may drain millions of dollars from Fla. taxpayers
Sun Sentinel, TCPalm -by ANDY REID
November 10, 2010
For millions of Floridians, life on a peninsula means melting icecaps in Greenland aren’t just something for polar bears to worry about.
Southern Florida’s coastal flood-control structures, counted on to protect low-lying communities from getting swamped, already are at risk from sea level rise due to climate change, according to scientists for the South Florida Water Management District.
In the coming months, the district’s governing board will be asked to endorse more scientific studies and potentially costly flood-control construction projects aimed at preparing for the rising sea levels expected to come. The tax-supported entity includes Martin, St. Lucie, Okeechobee and Palm Beach counties, as well as others.
A district proposal outlined Tuesday calls for the agency over the next five years to buy more land for flood control, design improvements for 50-year-old drainage structures and start building pumps that could keep discharging stormwater out to the ocean even as sea levels continue to rise.
While politicians and world leaders debate the causes of climate change and how to respond, district scientists are adopting a “no-regrets strategy” to get ready, even if the worst-case scenarios don’t come to pass.
“This is an issue of global importance that will have regional impacts,” said Jayantha Obeysekera, who is leading the district’s response to climate change and sea level rise. He briefed the district board Tuesday. “All aspects of water management would be impacted.”
An increase in carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the Earth’s atmosphere are trapping more of the sun’s heat, leading to climate change — blamed for higher temperatures that are projected to increase the rate of sea level rise.
Manmade pollution produces more of those heat-trapping greenhouse gases.
Sea ice, glaciers and snow cover around the world all are shrinking as temperatures rise, Obeysekera said.
The district is anticipating sea levels to climb 5 to 20 inches during the next 50 years.
High water levels at times already are creating problems for some of the floodgates, spillways and drainage canals that protect southern Florida from flooding.
The region now has periods of extreme high tides, when water levels rise higher than the point where stormwater from coastal drainage canals normally gets dumped into the sea.
When that happens, floodgates stay closed, increasing the flood risk if those drainage canals overflow. That would worsen if sea levels rise.
Overwhelmed coastal drainage canals would have a “domino effect” on the rest of southern Florida’s drainage system, according to Carol Wehle, water district executive director.
If there’s insufficient room for water in drainage canals, then there’s not enough room for water coming in from community drainage systems. Those community systems help keep inland neighborhoods dry.
“The capacity ... of the system is going to be negatively impacted by sea level rise,” Wehle said.
The district has so far identified 28 flood-control structures along the southeast coast and six along the west coast most at risk to rising sea levels.
The first three are the S27, S28 and S29 facilities in northern Miami-Dade County.
New pumps are proposed to push stormwater into the ocean while keeping floodgates closed to hold back the elevated seas.
Cost remains a hurdle to getting that done. The current proposal would begin work by 2015. Each one cost “tens of millions of dollars,” Obeysekera said.
Another threat from rising sea levels is more saltwater seeping in underground and contaminating drinking water supplies. Southern Florida has coastal well fields that through the years have had to shut down or reduce pumping due to saltwater intrusion.
Water utilities in Lake Worth, Hallandale Beach and Lantana have been among the most at risk of saltwater intrusion.
If that continues, it means increased costs to find new drinking water supplies or to switch to more costly water treatment processes — both of which would mean higher water bills for residents.
In addition, the Everglades can expect to suffer from an influx of saltwater.
Sea level rise is expected to affect the southern end of the Everglades by increasing coastal erosion, reducing mangrove forests, pushing migrating wading birds northward, increasing peat collapse and raising salinity levels in freshwater marshes that could result in fish kills and loss of wildlife habitat.
Wellington preserve to open to public on Friday
Palm Beach Post - by Mitra Malek, Staff Writer
November 10, 2010
WELLINGTON — A meandering waterway of grasses at the village's western edge will clean water runoff from thousands of acres, bolstering the health of the Everglades and offering visitors a glimpse of Florida's old habitat.
The village teamed up with the South Florida Water Management District to create the Wellington Environmental Preserve, which will open to the public on Friday.
The 365-acre preserve also serves as a storage area for storm water runoff.
"Nobody wants to flood," said John Bonde, Wellington's deputy manager.
The preserve mimics the Everglades in its original state, with uplands and wetlands.
"It's like Florida was like before the people came," Bonde said.
Wading birds, ducks and alligators have parked themselves on the preserve.
"They're looking for habitats, and we are building it for them," Bonde said. "People will get to see all this."
Visitors can tread 2.5 miles of pedestrian trails, and riders can follow 3 miles of horse trails. A 6-story observation tower looms over the preserve. It has cameras that stream to monitors in the parking lot so disabled visitors can enjoy the views as well.
The village plans to set up educational kiosks throughout the preserve to inform people of the plants and animals they are seeing.
The water management district paid for the $16 million project, which Wellington managed. Wellington's Acme Improvement District plans to budget $500,000 a year to maintain the preserve.
The project started to take shape after the 1994 Everglades Forever Act, which requires phosphorus to be removed from water flowing into the Everglades.
Phosphorus is a problem because it promotes rampant plant growth.
"That's the last thing you want to do, is put phosphorus in a wetland area," said Cynthia Plockelman, the first vice president of the Audubon Society of the Everglades. "It's going to choke everything so you don't get water movement."
Half of Wellington's runoff - rife with phosphorus - used to flow directly into the Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge, which feeds the Everglades.
"Now we catch it before it goes there," said Randy Smith, a spokesperson for the water management district.
Wellington built or renovated seven of its storm water pumps and widened and redirected canals to reroute water to the preserve. Two miles of wetland, littoral shelves and deep-water sediment traps in the preserve clean the water before discharging it to the refuge and on to the Everglades.
"Now it comes out cleaner than when it went in," Bonde said.
The public is invited to the preserve's grand opening, scheduled for 10 a.m. Friday, 3499 Flying Cow Road.
Extravagant cost estimates for water quality standards written by industry, and disputed by state
The Florida Independent
November 9, 2010
Dozens of politicians, lobbyists and industry heads have written to both the EPA and Congress to argue against new water quality standards that would force many big utilities and agricultural companies to reduce the amount of waste they dump in Florida’s waterbodies. Their argument? The rules would be far too costly to follow for industries in a state already grappling with record high unemployment.
But according to internal Department of Environmental Protection emails obtained by The Florida Independent, the extravagant cost estimates regularly cited by Florida leaders were crafted by an industry-dominated organization, and were routinely disputed within the department.
Florida waterways have been suffering from ineffective pollution standards in recent months. In addition to drastic reductions in wetlands, many estuaries and lakes have been inundated with blue-green algal blooms that release toxins and use up large amounts of oxygen — leading to fish deaths, bird deaths and possibly even mammal deaths. Scientists recently labeled a rash of dolphin deaths in the St. Johns River a “marine mammal unusual mortality event,” one of only 50 such events to occur nationwide in the past 20 years.
Currently, Florida relies on a narrative water quality standard, the wording of which (.pdf) has been criticized as too vague to be effective. The rule reads, ”In no case shall nutrient concentrations of a body of water be altered so as to cause an imbalance in natural populations of aquatic flora or fauna.”
The new proposed criteria would be more site-specific, more strict and, according to industry representatives, extremely costly. But where exactly are these cost projections coming from? And are they accurate?
The EPA has estimated the cost of implementing the criteria at around $130 million, but representatives for the Florida Department of Environmental Protection — the agency in charge of drafting the criteria — have argued otherwise.
During a September River Summit held in Jacksonville, the department’s Darryl Joyner fired back at the EPA. “The EPA has significantly underestimated costs,” he said. “We think the cost will be somewhere between $5 and $8 billion. … In fact, I’ve seen some models that suggest the cost to be closer to $50 billion.”
Rod Reardon, an engineer with Carollo Engineers, mentioned his company’s projected costs in an August hearing on the nutrient standards, held in Tallahassee. Kurt Spitzer, executive director of the Florida Stormwater Association, told Sunshine State News that he thought costs would be closer to $200 billion.
One model that projects costs to be upwards of $8 billion was completed by Carollo Engineers for the Florida Water Environment Association, a nonprofit corporation that describes itself as “committed to the preservation and enhancement of the global water environment.”
According to its website, the FWEA’s Utility Board is comprised of a host of industry names, and includes representatives of some of Florida’s most notorious polluters.
JEA, well known for being the St. Johns River’s no. 1 point-source polluter, is represented on the board by both Scott Kelley and Paul Steinbrecher. Steinbrecher, who acts as the Utility Board’s president, has been outspoken in his opposition to the nutrient criteria, and has been quoted several times saying that water bills could skyrocket once the criteria are implemented.
Other members of the board include Jessica Weatherby of Jones Edmunds, a consulting firm specializing in waste water treatment plants, and Elizabeth Perez of the environmental consulting firm Brown and Caldwell. Noted polluter Georgia-Pacific engaged (.pdf) Brown and Caldwell to conduct a study of its plant, which found that a pipeline to reroute effluent directly into the St. Johns River was its only viable option.
The Department of Environmental Protection itself — which has been accused of pandering to industry lobbyists rather than protecting the environment — is also represented, by Fred Rapach.
In a Jan. 26, 2010 email obtained by The Florida Independent through a public records request, department representatives discussed the differences between EPA estimates and those completed by the FWEA. According to the emails, the EPA estimated the annual costs to municipal wastewater treatment facilities to be around $52.9 million, while FWEA estimates ran from $24 to $50 billion in capital costs.
The email, which was written by the department’s Phil Coram and sent to fellow department employees, suggests that the source of the FWEA cost estimate was not clear, and that the estimate was based on all wastewater treatment plants, “regardless of where they discharge” — meaning it included costs from plants that would not be affected by new standards:
As you can see, we believe that the FWEA significantly overestimates the costs for several reasons:
* They overestimate the number of facilities that will be affected, at least on their high range estimates.
* They do not consider that facilities might switch from surface discharge to other more cost effective forms of wastewater management and disposal, such as reuse or deep wells, and therefore not incur the costs to upgrade to AWT, reverse osmosis, and the use of brine concentrators.
* Some of their math is wrong.
The Department of Environmental Protection did not return calls requesting more information on the FWEA’s estimate.
Jennifer Hecker, a policy manager for the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, calls industry cost projections “substantially overblown.” Hecker says that the Department of Environmental Protection has shifted its focus from doing the right thing for the environment to doing the right thing for polluting industries, and the cost projections reflect that.
“People think that these are all independent entities creating these cost-projection reports, but it’s actually the industries being affected by this,” Hecker says. “Obviously, industry isn’t going to embrace anything that could potentially drive its costs up. To put nutrients into a waterbody is very cheap. To remove them is expensive.”
Hecker says that the issue is a confusing one for most Floridians, who simply don’t understand the complex science behind it. Recent reports of big jumps in utility prices have surely turned many off, but are they even legitimate?
According to Hecker, utility leaders toss around big numbers, but leave out important information when making their claims. Many of the projections make assumptions that all treatment plants will have to start using reverse osmosis, but Hecker says this isn’t so. “There is flexibility in the system that people don’t understand,” she says.
Hecker also points out that polluters will have 15 years to achieve compliance. “It’s not like anyone is going to be blindsided,” she says. “The costs are literally spread over decades.”
The underlying issue, according to environmentalists like Hecker, is that Florida thrives on its ecology, specifically its water. The gulf oil spill revealed just how inextricably linked the state’s environment and economy really are.
“This problem grew out of control because current standards are ineffective,” says Hecker, “and if it keeps spiraling out of control, taxpayers will have to shoulder the costs. … If we do nothing, we are degrading the very thing that draws people to Florida. It’s not just sunshine that Florida has to offer, it’s water. It’s in our economic interests to make progress on this. Why hasn’t anyone done a cost projection on what happens if we don’t implement the standards?”
Florida Must Restore Everglades
November 09, 2010
EPA recently directed the state of Florida to take specific measures to restore water quality to levels that protect the Everglades. An April 14, 2010, district court decision directed EPA to give clear and comprehensive instructions to Florida by September 3, 2010.
As required by the court’s decision, EPA has notified Florida that clean water standards for phosphorus are not being achieved in all parts of the Everglades and that further reductions of phosphorus pollution are needed in the area south of Lake Okeechobee. Excess phosphorus is being released into the Everglades as runoff primarily from farms to the north.
EPA has identified a comprehensive set of actions and milestones needed to meet clean water standards in the Everglades, including a significant expansion of marsh treatment areas that decrease phosphorus levels in the runoff water before it is released to the Everglades.
An important short-term action is to amend existing permits for the discharges to the Everglades so they conform to the court’s decision and incorporate new discharge limits. Longer term actions include conducting environmental assessments, preparing engineering designs, and constructing new marsh treatment areas.
INFO: Contact EPA’s Dawn Harris-Young, 404-562-8327
Global warming update from Water Management District
WPTV.com -by Mike Trim
November 9, 2010
FORT MEYERS, Fla. - Planning for the affects of global warming on our coastline.
That's what the South Florida Water Management district mapped out Tuesday afternoon.
According to experts, our state is very vulnerable to the affects of climate change.
You won't see any structures built any time soon in reaction to global warming, but it's on the radar.
Water managers heard a presentation Tuesday afternoon in Fort Meyers on the potential impact of global warming and what needs to be done to protect South Florida if water levels rise.
Those projections go out, 20, 30, and even 50 years from now.
One potential threat discussed: Ocean water leaking into ground water.
Florida Atlantic University climate change initiative director Dr. Leonard Berry says now is the time to plan.
"Yeah, there's a long term but there's also an immediate and short term," said Dr. Berry.
Dr, Berry says the ocean has risen 6 inches in the last 25 years around Florida.
Dr. Berry says the water will likely rise higher and there's nothing we can do to stop it.
Creating a plan to fend off the affects of global warming is a good plan says Dr. Berry.
"In my opinion they have no option. I think 5 years ago, 6 years ago that would have been a good question to ask. I think now the general consensus is we have to begin to act."
No specific construction plans were revealed at Tuesday’s presentation.
Healthy Caloosahatchee River, aided by sugar cane ?
News-Press.com - by AMY BENNETT WILLIAMS
November 9, 2010
Expanded coverage: Learn about the Caloosahatchee’s water quality with an interactive graphic and map, explore databases, see videos and photos.
Study could yield a way for farms to lend a hand.
Plant sugar cane, save the Caloosahatchee ?
That’s not as far-fetched as it might sound.
With funding from the USDA and the University of Florida, scientists at two South Florida research stations are testing strains of cane that can tolerate more water at certain periods of growth.
“More water” doesn’t mean rice paddy-like ponds — but some sugar cane varieties thrive with a higher water table and brief intervals of actual submersion.
That could allow the farmers who grow Florida’s $450 million cane crop to keep more rainy-season water in their fields rather than pumping it into canals, and the Caloosahatchee River.
The 75-mile-long river is Southwest Florida’s liquid lifeline, running from Lake Okeechobee past farmlands and pastures, adjacent to downtown Fort Myers and Cape Coral and into the Gulf of Mexico. It’s also a key component of Lee County’s $2.6 billion tourism industry.
Yet the river is under assault on a number of fronts. Contaminants and nutrients come from septic fields and overfertilized lawns, from street sewers flushing directly into the river, from sewage plants piping in treated waste and from water leaving the roughly 700,000 agricultural acres near its source, Lake Okeechobee.
The people who farm those acres have long been accused of environmental villainy and greed. On its website, the nonprofit Friends of the Everglades describes the region’s farmers as “enormously wealthy and accordingly influential with elected officials.”
It’s not surprising there’s what Gail Hollander, a professor at Florida International University and author of “Raising Cane in the ’Glades: the Global Sugar Trade and the Transformation of Florida,” calls an us-against-the-world sense of community in what’s “arguably the most maligned agricultural zone in the world.”
“No one thing is going to solve all our water problems; we need to pursue a combination of solutions,” says LaBelle environmental engineer John Capece, a founder of the Caloosahatchee River Citizens Association, a nonprofit river advocacy group.
But for a watershed in crisis, “any practical means of achieving (water) storage should be sought,” says South Florida Water Management District governing board member Charles Dauray, “including innovative farming methods and crops that are enhanced by wet roots and soil.” With power to permit and regulate water use from Disney World to the Keys, the water management district is the agency with the greatest influence on the river.
Money will make it work
Farmers aren’t yet commercially planting what scientists call flood-tolerant cane, but at two Everglades-area research stations, it’s growing strong.
Bristling up from pots and plastic-lined tanks called lysimeters, the young cane looks like a bamboo/cattail cross.
Research agronomist Barry Glaz has demonstrated some kinds of cane (there are hundreds) can live in high water for about two weeks with no ill effects. The trick is finding which varieties do best; as part of his master’s degree work, grad student Stephen Jennewein will conduct a series of experiments on different cane varieties to see how they respond to flooding.
Glaz has learned the cane that tolerates more water has an internal hollow — a straw- or snorkel-like structure called an aerenchyma, which allows it to “breathe” in wet conditions.
The problem is that more open space in each stalk means less yield, says Les Baucum, the Hendry County extension agent in charge of sugar cane, and less yield means less money for farmers.
And if there’s one thing people from all sides agree on, it’s that it all comes down to money. How much more would it cost to plant these varieties ? That’s an open question.
“We need some ‘truthing’ of this work,” Glaz says. “I’m the first to admit it. I’m hoping down the road that a lot of this stuff can be tested in the field and we can get some real field numbers — it’s critical.
“In the end it’s economics that drives the whole thing. If there’s money in it, it can work.”
Farm vs. green
There are other hurdles as well.
As often happens at the intersection of agriculture and the environment, there’s long-simmering conflict between farmers and environmentalists.
Glades County Commissioner Russell Echols, who’s been growing and managing sugar cane farms for 30 years, is skeptical about water-tolerant cane, but he’s willing to hear the scientists out.
What he doesn’t want, though, is to be dictated to by coastal environmental groups who, he says, don’t care about their way of life.
“There is just so much more that goes into holding huge amounts of water on a farm than planting a few high water tolerant sugar cane varieties,” Baucum says. Although the black muck around Lake Okeechobee holds water well, “most of the sugar cane land in Hendry and Glades is sand soils,” Baucum says. “These sandy soils do not hold water very efficiently, so there would also need to be some type of infrastructure to keep the water pumped back onto the farm.”
It might be tough to persuade farmers to invest in expensive new gear they’d only need in extremely wet years. FIU professor Hollander suggests that even if the water-tolerant cane is more expensive to produce or brings less at market, that loss might be offset by its appeal as environmentally sustainable “green” sugar.
That would dovetail with two of longtime sugar cane farmer Echols’ goals: “We’re searching every day for ways to be better stewards of the land,” Echols says, “and to do things in a way that’s economically feasible.”
In the end, Capece says, “We need to do the research and development work to create realistic technical options so we can collectively discuss and make our choices.”
If these cane varieties make it possible to store more water on agricultural land — maybe even clean it — then maybe the government won’t have to buy as much land for restoration, Capece says. Maybe it’s possible to keep farm jobs while cleaning up the environment — and the river.
“We won’t know,” Capece says, “until we do the research and development work.”
Restoring Everglades investment in our future - Letter
TCPalm - Letter by Mark_D-_Perry
November 8, 2010
Regarding Eve Samples’ column, “Why aren’t more candidates talking about environment?”
As voters, we often look for “immediate” gratification, but savvy investors will advise you to invest long-term in order to get the highest return. That’s exactly the investment we must make in the Everglades restoration and in getting the water quality right.
Investment in restoring natural ecosystems to manage water in South Florida will yield the best return over the long term.
Costs are now ranging from $11.5 billion to $13.5 billion for the total 50-year Everglades Restoration project. As Samples mentioned, the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan would create a $46.5 billion boost to Florida’s economy, a 4-1 return. Some studies even suggest a 6-1 return on the investment.
Making a long-term commitment of this magnitude is difficult, despite the fact that we know it is an imperative investment for future generations.
Looking at the current annual return, water-related benefits to Martin and St. Lucie counties alone account for $840 million each year, including 27,100 jobs, which all depend on keeping our waterways clean.
We should take into account the “loss” in the economy (including jobs) if we continue to allow pollution and put off restoring the greater Everglades ecosystem.
How much more can the economy take if we don’t invest to fix the situation? We must restore the water flows and hydrology to the Everglades and stop wasting valuable freshwater through discharges to the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico, killing our coastal estuaries on the way.
The economic and environmental losses of doing nothing must be taken into consideration. An investment in our future is needed now and makes good economic sense.
Mark D. Perry, Stuart - executive director of the Florida Oceanographic Society.
Lake Okeechobee cleanup: Plants to the rescue
Palm Beach Post – by Christine Stapleton, Staff Writer
November 7, 2010
Scientists turn to natural solutions to reduce Everglades pollution
On a recent Thursday morning, three scientists who work for the South Florida Water Management District boarded a helicopter to check on their slice of the Everglades restoration: plants.
Mike Bodle, Amy Peters and Chuck Hanlon, all with doctorates in plant biology, lifted off just after sunrise and headed west. Their task: digitally mapping the plants in 100,000 acres of wetlands, on 45,000 2.5-acre plots along the southwest corner of phosphorus-laden Lake Okeechobee.
The lake acts as the stomach of the restoration project, receiving and discharging a noxious porridge of water polluted with nutrients from fertilizers, dairies, ranches and runoff from yards.
There are many pollutants in the water, but the phosphorus overload has caused much of the damage, a chain reaction of devastation. Phosphorus stimulates plant growth, which prevents sunlight from reaching plants in the water, which reduces the oxygen in the water and destroys the food supply for insects and crustaceans. That leaves the fish and birds without enough to eat, so they leave or die.
Lowering phosphorus levels has been a monumental task. Never before has anyone tried to remove so much phosphorus from so much water. There are no manuals or blueprints to follow. The scientists are on their own.
They considered using chemicals to treat the water, but it is costly and environmentally risky and leaves behind pesky byproducts.
They had more luck with biological solutions.
“We found, after years of tinkering and planting different species and evaluating their capabilities, that one plant, cattails, does a really good job of removing nutrients,” said Lou Toth, the district’s chief scientist and ecologist, who has spent years experimenting with different plants. “The use of plants and bio-filtration is just as effective (as chemicals) and has the added benefit of providing habitat for wading birds and waterfowl.”
The map the scientists are creating will enable them to evaluate how well cattails and other phosphorus-loving plants respond to environmental changes, such as drought, storms, discharges, high and low water levels, turbidity and varying amounts of phosphorus.
Why is that important? Because billions of dollars have been and will be spent on building man-made wetlands, called stormwater treatment areas. The water in these marshes must be just right: not too shallow or deep, with just the right flow and concentration of nutrients for the cattails and submerged plants to remove the most phosphorus possible.
Hanlon, who spent months creating the digital map, sat in the front seat of the helicopter. Peters, an expert at computer mapping, sat behind Hanlon with a laptop. Bodle, a senior scientist with a penchant for Hawaiian shirts, was along to check on invasive, non-native plants, such as torpedo grass and melaleuca trees, which he is determined to kill with a specially formulated cocktail of herbicides.
Bodle, a renowned expert in plant identification, calls himself an “environmental janitor” because he kills the plants that are killing the Everglades. He can identify a single stem of an invasive intruder while the helicopter hovers above cypress trees. He is delighted to see that the herbicide cocktail he has prescribed to kill torpedo grass is working and not killing nearby native plants.
And the American lotus has made a big comeback, he said. There was a time when plant poachers snatched so many lotus pods, valued for plant arrangements, that few lotuses remained, Bodle said.
The helicopter slowly made its way over swaths of wetlands.
“That’s duckweed,” Bodle said as the helicopter hovered about 50 feet above the water. “It’s the smallest flowering plant.”
Hanlon reeled off the names of the plants below. “Sagittaria. ... Torpedo grass. Bulrush.”
Peters, who created a computer program to identify the longitude and latitude in real time, took dictation, recording the specific plants growing in specific cells as the helicopter slowly made its way around the lake. The project should be completed within six months.
Much Of US South Experiencing Extreme Drought - Let The Water Wars Begin
Treehugger.com - by John Laumer, Philadelphia
November 7, 2010
Large swaths of US southern states are experiencing severe drought impacts, concentrated in the Lower Mississippi River watershed, and extending east through parts of Florida. Portions of Texas, as pictured, also continue to be adversely impacted. Production of tobacco, peanuts, soy, and wheat have fallen in roughly a dozen states; and, cattle producers are being forced to purchase hay instead of letting animals graze freely. If this keeps up, as it is predicted to by NOAA, cattle may be sold off. The typical pattern would be meat prices will go down, then rebound upward and stay that way for long time.
Secondary drought impacts on the US Congress of 2011 will be interesting to watch, given the emerging consensus view that Congress should reduce, not expand, the Federal deficit.
'Let's shrink the government...yeah !'
In light of the strident anti-government, anti-tax tone which just carried a new wave of conservative victors, I wonder how many Southern governors (see map below) will be contacting their Federal congressional delegations next year to solicit support for emergency aid for farmers and/or Federal water projects? Pipeline to the Great Lakes anyone?
By February of 2011, I'm betting, the US Army Corps of Engineers will have received its first new requests to build or upgrade water supplies across the south. We've been there and done this so many times before, it's guaranteed that this pig will oink.
Water Wars II
Sometimes an oink can lead to squeals. Anyone remember how Jimmy Carter (native Georgian) got in so much political trouble when he pushed to have USAE water projects cut, affecting mainly Southern States? There's a book out on it called "Jimmy Carter and the Water Wars."
This time there will be a Tea Party constituency arguing for cutting expenditures instead of adding projects. So, as I say in the headline: let the Water Wars begin.
Projections are not good.
Per the US Seasonal Drought Outlook graphic presented below, which is current through January of 2011, there could be bad times ahead for many farmers - also for populated areas which rely on consistent rainfall to replenish water supplies (in old reservoirs). More than just hitting agriculture, significant adverse impacts may be expected on drinking water supplies; golf course revenues, boating (as pictured); hydroelectric power generation; and power plants: nuclear and coal-fired.
Water standards pit environmentalists against the business community
November 7, 2010
Water is not a sexy subject.
Politics gets attention. Jackson Lab raises hackles. Financial fraud makes our blood boil. But water gets little notice.
It should. A ferocious debate is underway between the environmentalists and the business community over water purity. The outcome will determine how standards are set and implemented for Florida's waters.
Some say we are facing a $500-1,000 annual increase in our utility bills if current EPA regulations are approved. Others say the business lobby is just spreading fear. They claim the standards are not onerous and, in any event, won't be implemented for at least 15 years.
Here's the deal. Florida's waters have numeric limits for dissolved metals, bacteria, certain organics and oxygen demand. But there are no numeric limits for nutrients -- dissolved nitrogen and phosphorus. An excess of these nutrients causes algal bloom, reduction of dissolved oxygen and loss of marine life. The current nutrient regulations are qualitative; no numbers are involved.
Environmental groups have been pushing for numbers -- numeric limits -- for 11 years. In frustration, a coalition of these groups sued the U.S. EPA for failing to enforce the Clean Water Act. The lawsuit was settled in 2009, leading to EPA standards based on the cleanest Florida lakes and streams.
These regulations, to be finalized on November 14, will apply only to fresh water -- rivers, springs and lakes. Comparable, but likely different, regulations will be developed for coastal waters and estuaries, but not until August 2012.
It's important to note that the nutrients in question come largely from fertilizer run-off, mining wastes and construction sites. As such, their regulation will impact farmers and developers, mainstays of Florida business.
These groups and others who oppose the new standards say they will require massive reverse osmosis (RO) units to be added to treatment plants throughout Florida. Capital costs, they say, will run into the billions, and increases in operating costs will be passed on to the consumers in the form of higher utility bills.
A study by Carollo Engineers puts the capital requirement at $50.7 billion and the increase in operating costs at $1.3 billion annually. Consumers would see their water bills go up by an average of $700 a year.
Both of our U.S. Senators have spoken out against the new regs.
Sen. George LeMieux (R-FL) and Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) tried without success to get the EPA to delay setting the standards.
Sen. LeMieux told a Naples gathering the new regs would be "an economic catastrophe" for Florida. Sen. Nelson said the EPA was imposing "standards that came out of a court order," not science.
Thirty-six CEO's of Florida companies wrote last September, "Experts question not only the scientific basis for these standards, but whether they are even attainable with existing technology."
The Florida DEP agrees. Spokesperson Dee Ann Miller said, "We are concerned about the scientific validity of these criteria."
Duke Vasey of the Collier Soil and Water Conservation District said the one-size-fits-all standards proposed by the EPA are scientifically flawed and would be "a crushing economic burden."
A common complaint is that Florida has been singled out. No other state is getting this kind of EPA scrutiny. Only Floridians will be burdened with higher water costs.
Environmentalists tell an altogether different story.
David Guest of EarthJustice wrote, "Florida is the worst in the U.S. in protecting its waters from pollution." Linda Young of the Clean Water Network added, "We're going to kill every living creature in Florida if we don't stop what we're doing." Jennifer Hecker of the Conservancy of Southwest Florida said, "We've got to stop using our waterways as trash cans."
Hecker told me the EPA standards are, in fact, based on science. She said the EPA used over 80,000 water samples in setting the nutrient limits. Further, she said, the limits are attainable. She pointed out that over two-thirds of Florida's lakes and rivers already meet the standards. And, she added, where clean-up was needed, filtration rather than costly reverse osmosis would do the job in most cases.
Hecker bridled at the notion that "one size fits all." She pointed out that the EPA established regulations for six different waterbody types in five different areas of Florida. Dissolved nitrogen limits range from 0.50-2.25 mg/L and dissolved phosphorus from 0.01-0.36 mg/L.
Further, Hecker said, the standards are only guidelines for screening, which take into account contributions from naturally occurring sources of nutrients. And, where limits are exceeded, local government has 15-20 years to do the clean-up. No bump in utility bills for quite some time.
Hecker also disputed the claim that Florida was being singled out. She said 13 other states have numeric limits for lakes, and 9 other states have limits for rivers.
Two camps. Two very different stories.
The issue appears to be not whether Florida's waters should be clean, but whether the standards make sense and whether they can be achieved without economic hardship.
A lot is at stake.
In tough economic times, any added cost is going to be opposed. On the other hand, Florida counts on clean water, not only for tourism, but for basic quality of life.
We've not heard the last of this by any means. But people are starting to pay attention, even if water is not a sexy subject.
When Gov. Scott gets to work
November 7, 2010
Like nearly half of Florida's voters, we have misgivings about Gov.-elect Rick Scott, who has never held elected office and has a disturbing business record. He wasn't our choice for the job, but he prevailed in the election and now we hope he can lead Florida to better times.
Scott will come to the office with some advantages. The health care executive largely self-financed his campaign and should not be beholden to any particular group. As a political novice, he won't have a vested interest in any particular policy and may be able to take an objective view of government practices – though during the campaign it often sounded as if he were listening solely to developers and other special interests.
But we hope Scott surprises and genuinely seeks, as he promises, to represent all Floridians, not just those who can afford to employ a herd of lobbyists. He might spare himself some missteps by attending the successes of some other Florida Republican governors.
Former Gov. Bob Martinez, for instance, found the prison system in near chaos when he took over. A prison shortage required the state to release prisoners early.
Martinez, who had been mayor of Tampa, appointed a task force of experts, gave it a deadline and soon was executing a plan to double prison construction and curtail early release.
Martinez used a similar approach when he developed his historic environmental land-buying program, Preservation 2000, which later became Florida Forever. Environmentalists, developers, farmers and other interests served on a panel that considered how to preserve Florida's natural beauty without compromising property rights.
The popular conservation program has saved close to 700,000 acres. Developers, landowners and environmentalists all agree on its effectiveness. Florida Forever never would have been such a success had Martinez not insisted all viewpoints be represented when the details were being worked out.
A similar willingness to seek disparate views could help Scott achieve his goal of eliminating unnecessary regulations – but without undermining growth management rules or environmental protections.
Gov. Charlie Crist may not be popular with Republicans now, but he provides another example of thoughtful leadership. After his election, he asked Democrat Bob Butterworth, the highly respected former attorney general, to take over the Department of Children & Families, whose woeful performance had frustrated virtually every governor.
Butterworth instituted a series of reforms and accountability measures that greatly improved the agency's performance and reputation. Another Democrat, George Sheldon, continued the progress after Butterworth's departure.
Crist, to his enduring credit, valued results – and the safety of children – more than partisan politics. Such an open-minded attitude could help Scott better achieve his goals and win the trust of the many Democrats who view him suspiciously.
No Republican Florida governor has had the impact of Jeb Bush. He showed how to quickly achieve dramatic change.
Bush fearlessly challenged the education establishment to implement ambitious school reforms. He cut state government, without regard for the status quo or bureaucratic opposition. Bush was always willing to throw the government furniture in the air, and it often paid off for him.
But Scott should be judicious in adopting such a damn-the-torpedoes approach. Bush came to office after a landslide victory. Scott, who eked out the closest gubernatorial win in state history, cannot claim such a mandate.
And the governor-elect should also recognize that when Bush acted too hastily, without considering other views, he sometimes sabotaged his goals. He nearly wrecked the state university system by eliminating its governing board, which voters restored by constitutional amendment. Some of Bush's privatization efforts were counterproductive, because he was in such a rush to eliminate public jobs.
Scott also might reflect on how his predecessors focused on Florida's long-term welfare. Martinez's efforts to protect Florida's water supply and its natural beauty still benefit Floridians. The difficult education reforms initiated by Bush continue to improve schools. Children are better protected from abuse and neglect today because of Crist's decisions.
If Scott shows he is more concerned with building a better Florida for future generations – rather than quickly appeasing noisy special interests – he will leave office far more popular than he is entering it.
Martin County Taxpayers Association: Funds needed to solve South Florida's water problems being wasted on litigation
TCPalm – by Richard Geisinger Jr.
November 6, 2010
The South Florida Water Management District continues to be the target of numerous lawsuits, and is at the mercy of the actions of other governments, agencies, landowners and even the weather. These lawsuits cost taxpayers money.
The issue here is the South Florida hydrological system, water supply, drainage and irrigation demands and an ecosystem that has been subjected to more than 100 years of “draining the swamp.” The water management district is the agency responsible for solving these problems, but we, the taxpayers, pay for the solutions.
The taxpayers association has many reasons for being interested in these issues because taxpayers’ dollars are being used to resolve these “problems.” In theory, this is not the way it is supposed to work. A large part of the problem is that the federal government has not fulfilled its commitments to fund the works construction. As such, the state, through the water district has had to go it alone in trying to restore the Everglades and protect our estuaries.
Like all lawsuits, the cost of all this litigation filed on both sides of the issues makes it very difficult for the district to calculate and plan for these costs. For more than 10 years, the district estimates that as much as $500 million to $1 billion has been spent, including the cost of missed opportunities and delays. The district employs 30 full-time staff attorneys and outsources additional legal counsel. That money should have been used to solve the problems outlined above and not to postpone and delay the solution.
Two major lawsuits are of particular interest to the taxpayers association. The first is the United States of America v. The State of Florida. The issue is water quality going into federal land within the Everglades. The district is a defendant.
The second lawsuit, filed in the District Court by the Miccosukee Indians against the Environmental Protection Agency, charges water quality violations under the Clean Water Act. While the water district is not a direct party to this suit, it will be held responsible by the court for fixing the problem. Our concern is that the county and state will be placed in a position by additional court orders that will require the use of all of its resources south of the lake, leaving nothing available for improvements north of the lake.
With limited tax dollars, the multiplicity of issues appears to have no simple solution. We believe a large part of the solution is the northern Everglades. We must address what is being done to clean up the water before it gets to the lake and how to send clean water south. What we don’t need is unattainable water quality standards that prevent the water from flowing south, and more lawsuits.
Many in Martin County have become increasingly impatient with the lack of respect for our waterways and our ecosystems. The water district is not without its defects, not beyond questioning and not possessive of divine knowledge, but it genuinely is trying to meet multiple and often competing water needs of the region. While we cannot solve every problem, we need a plan — along with priorities — for fixing as many problems as we can afford. Right now, we see no easy solutions and a way to stop the draining of taxpayer dollars in continuing litigation. Let’s hope that a rule of reason prevails soon, and we can stop the bleeding of our scarce tax dollars.
For a more detailed explanation of this issue, please go to the MCTA website www.mctaxpayers.org.
Editorial: Public works create jobs, help economy
November 6, 2010
Voters Tuesday supposedly indicated their disgust with both high public spending and high unemployment, but what if that spending creates jobs and other economic benefits?
That was part of what President Barack Obama tried to persuade the electorate was true. He didn't do too well, but that doesn't mean public works projects don't put people to work and stimulate the economy. They do.
Which is why we were encouraged by two recent stories: the planned $230 million expansion of Lee Memorial Health System's children's hospital and a recent study claiming that the estimated $11.5 billion restoration of the Everglades will pay off in up to four times that much in economic benefits.
The expansion of the Children's Hospital of Southwest Florida is a clear winner, if hard to finance. The Lee Memorial system is not tax-supported but is a public system with an elected board, so the expansion is a public project but not a typical government one. The system will try to raise a significant amount of the money through private donations, though a bond issue or some other borrowing will surely be necessary.
But this expansion is needed. The existing children's hospital is at capacity, forcing families to take their children out of the region. Health care services are among the few bright spots in the local and national economy. Here is where we can and should grow.
Regarding the Everglades, we're always skeptical about claims of how much public projects benefit the economy, whether it's sports stadiums or replumbing the environment. The study in question was conducted for the Everglades Foundation, an eager proponent of restoration. It projects the benefits over 50 years and includes among the benefits such indirect and ambiguous effects as increased real estate values.
But even if this projection is only half right or even less, the investment will pay off directly in billions in construction jobs and contracts, increased environmental tourism, healthier recreational and commercial fishing industries and cleaner and cheaper water for cities and farms.
A healthy environment is essential to Lee County's economy, which the study says would benefit to the tune of $4.3 billion.
"As to dollar values, there are lots of ways to skin a cat," says Tamara Pigott, county tourism director. "But the obvious economic driver is our ecosystem."
EVERGLADES: Fla. officials slam EPA cleanup plan
November 5, 2010
Florida water officials strongly criticized a court-ordered plan to clean up pollution in the Everglades, calling it unrealistic and unreasonable.
The plan crafted by U.S. EPA calls for almost doubling the vast expanse of marshes used to filter out phosphorus, a fertilizer ingredient that degrades water quality, from water draining into the Everglades by 2020. South Florida Water Management District executives said this deadline is unrealistic, and it is unfair to mandate a $1.5 billion plan without any federal assistance.
"The time frames are an impossibility with our current funding stream, and even with some order or direction from the court to increase our funding stream," said Ken Ammon, the district's deputy executive director for Everglades restoration, referring to a property tax increase mandated by a federal judge.
The district wrote a letter detailing their concerns to EPA and held a press conference to highlight the latest and strongest pushback in the lengthy legal battle. In April, U.S. District Judge Alan Gold ordered EPA to draw up the plan, bringing to a close a five-year lawsuit. Environmentalists had argued that the water district's cleanup efforts were insufficient and had been repeatedly delayed, and that EPA had approved the watered-down proposals.
Responding to Gold's order, EPA released an action plan in September, but not even environmentalists were happy with it, because deadlines to reduce pollution were still pushed out 10 years.
Davina Marraccini, an EPA spokeswoman in Atlanta, said in a statement that the plan is a "thoughtful, science-based blueprint for water quality improvement in the Everglades"
(Curtis Morgan, Miami Herald, Nov. 5). -- LP
Former US Attorney and Florida Legislator Dexter Lehtinen Joins Tew Cardenas
November 05, 2010
MIAMI--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Prominent Miami attorney Dexter Lehtinen, a former United States Attorney for the Southern of District Florida and Florida Representative and State Senator, has joined the law firm of Tew Cardenas LLP as a partner focusing on commercial and environmental litigation and white-collar criminal defense.
“Dexter’s political experience and law enforcement work as a federal prosecutor and United States Attorney for South Florida make him an invaluable resource for our clients”
Lehtinen was most recently the founding and managing partner of the law firm of Lehtinen Riedi Brooks Moncarz, P.A. in Miami through which he served as the general counsel for the Miccosukee Tribe. He has extensive and diverse litigation experience. Lehtinen has argued cases before the U.S. Supreme Court and Florida Supreme Court, as well as scores of civil cases in both state and federal trial and appellate courts. He also has a great deal of experience in administrative/regulatory, environmental and federal Indian law matters. Earlier in his career, he tried cases as a federal prosecutor in Los Angeles and Miami.
Lehtinen’s former partner, Claudio Riedi is also moving to Tew Cardenas. Riedi, a dual citizen of the U.S. and Switzerland, concentrates his practice in the areas of complex civil litigation, international business transactions, corporate transactions, cross-border mergers and acquisitions, and environmental law. Lehtinen and Riedi join the firm’s well established practice in a wide range of complex business litigation and financial civil and criminal defense matters.
Lehtinen joins partners Thomas Tew, Jeffrey Tew and Joseph DeMaria in representing individuals and corporations in local, state and federal civil and criminal investigations with an emphasis on financial, accounting and tax fraud. This includes criminal investigations arising out of corporate and bank failures, securities, and RICO and customs violations.
“Dexter’s political experience and law enforcement work as a federal prosecutor and United States Attorney for South Florida make him an invaluable resource for our clients,” said Thomas Tew, the founding partner of Tew Cardenas. “His years of work in investigating and prosecuting financial and banking industry fraud cases as well as serving as the general counsel for the Miccosukee Tribe of Florida Indians also make him uniquely qualified to counsel and represent many of our clients with significant legal matters and business enterprises.”
Lehtinen’s professional, civic and community commitments include the Federal Judicial Bar and Community Liaison Committee. He has previously served on the Federal Judicial Nomination Commission for the Southern District of Florida; Florida Commission on Money Laundering; South Florida Ecosystem Restoration Task Force; Governor’s Commission on the Everglades; and the Governor’s Commission on a Sustainable South Florida. A decorated war veteran, Lehtinen received a purple heart in 1971 for his service in the Vietnam War.
Lehtinen received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Miami and earned a Master’s and an MBA from Columbia University. He received his Juris Doctorate from Stanford Law School, finishing first in his class. A long-time adjunct professor at the University of Miami School of Law, Lehtinen will teach Florida Constitutional Law for the 2011 spring semester and is currently teaching “The Vietnam War in the Cold War” to undergraduates at Florida International University.
He is married for more than 26 years to Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and they have two children together. Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen, the Ranking Member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee is currently the most senior Republican representative in the U.S. Congress having served in the U.S. House of Representatives since 1989.
Aquifers of Florida
Overdraft, Saltwater Intrusion Strain the Floridan Aquifer
November 5, 2010
Excessive withdrawals are forcing communities from South Carolina to Florida to look elsewhere for water.
The Hilton Head Public Service District, which provides water and sewer service to a South Carolina island resort community, announced last week that it was shutting down one of its wells because saltwater had soured the supply. It became the sixth of the district’s dozen wells to be sealed in the last decade due to saltwater displacing fresh groundwater, signaling a potentially dangerous new trend for the water supply of millions of people in the Southeast.
“This is just the start of it,” the district’s general manager Richard Cyr told Circle of Blue. Cyr expects another two wells to be spoiled in the next year and all the wells to close by 2020, as salt water plumes move inland. “We are the canary in the coal mine for the coastal area. This is a regional issue. Anyone using the Floridan Aquifer is subject to these threats.”
To replace the lost supplies, Hilton Head PSD built a pipeline to the mainland in 1999 to bring water from the Beaufort-Jasper Water and Sewer Authority and last year opened a desalination plant to treat brackish water.
The scope of the threat from saltwater intrusion is still being studied, according to Bruce Campbell, a groundwater specialist with the U.S. Geological Survey. But that water from the aquifer is being withdrawn faster than it is replenished is undeniable.
“Hilton Head was a groundwater discharge point until 30 years ago,” Campbell said. “Now, it’s just the opposite. Seawater is moving laterally inland through the aquifer.”
For the millions who rely on the highly-productive Floridan aquifer, a new water future is now being drawn up by water districts and state natural resource departments, as they struggle to rein in use of a resource that was, until recently, largely unmanaged. It is a future of pumping restrictions, desalination plants, recycled water and more expensive surface supply options.
The Floridan Aquifer underlies all of Florida, as well as parts of Georgia, South Carolina and Alabama. A semi-permeable layer divides the porous limestone aquifer into an upper and lower section, each of which contains multiple water-bearing zones. Most of the more than 3 billion gallons withdrawn daily are taken from the upper section. That water is used by thousands of small towns and large cities such as Orlando, Jacksonville, St. Petersburg and Tallahassee in Florida, and Brunswick and Savannah in Georgia.
Coastal areas, like Hilton Head, S.C., are concerned about saltwater intrusion. Georgia, for example, established a groundwater permitting plan in 2006 for counties on its coastal plain. According to the document, red zone counties have to reduce their pumping by 5 million gallons per day compared to 2004 levels. Yellow zone counties can increase pumping only by 5 million gallons per day.
Those limits, however, cannot stop the sea’s inland flow. Last May, Georgia’s Environmental Protection Division released a study according to which groundwater withdrawals would need to be cut by 90 percent in the Savannah-Hilton Head area to stop further saltwater penetration.
Economics also plays a role, since the water taken from the Floridan is much cheaper than other supplies. Thunderbolt, a town near Savannah, pumps groundwater at 49 cents per 1,000 gallons. In comparison, using water from the city’s surface diversion would cost $1.61 per 1,000 gallons, according to the Savannah Morning News. Tampa Bay Water, a regional wholesaler in Florida, blends water from three sources: groundwater, at $1 per 1,000 gallons; surface water, at $2 per 1,000 gallons; and desalinated water, at $3.50 per 1,000 gallons.
Cheap groundwater, if not managed, creates a tragedy of the commons situation in which municipalities use low-cost water over surface supplies to the detriment of their neighbors. Excessive pumping from the Floridan has created a cone of depression around Savannah, exacerbating the flow of saltwater into the aquifer near Hilton Head.
As a remedy, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources suggested a regional pricing scheme in which all water suppliers pay the same price, but the idea has yet to be studied seriously.
Georgia and South Carolina have coastal issues, but Florida’s problems are broader. The state has more people served by groundwater than any other in the nation. Eighty percent of the state drinks from the Floridan.
But evidence shows that this is changing. In 1998, Tampa Bay Water sold solely groundwater; by 2012 less than half of its supply will come from the aquifer. The rest is provided by surface water and the nation’s largest desalination plant.
Desalination is also an option for Florida’s northeast Atlantic coast. According to demand projections, the area will run short of water by 2020. A partnership comprising the St. John’s River Water Management District, the Flagler, Marion and St. John’s counties, and seven cities is considering the Coquina Coast desalination project. A proposed plant similar in size to Tampa Bay’s would produce water for $4.50 per 1,000 gallons. Transmission lines and infrastructure would add $1.16 per 1,000 gallons.
DeLand – one of the cities in the partnership – currently pays $1.83 dollars per 1,000 gallons for the first 10,000 gallons used each month.
Three water management districts – South Florida, Southwest Florida and St. John’s River – have set up the Central Florida Coordination Area to manage the shared aquifer. Groundwater allocations in the CFCA will be capped at the demonstrated 2013 demand. Any new water supplies will have to come from surface water, wastewater re-use or desalination.
Continued pumping would cause lake levels to fall, springs to stop flowing and chloride concentrations to rise from saltwater intrusion.
“Our traditional water source is not going to sustain us in some areas past 2025 or 2030,” said Teresa Monson, communications specialist at St. John’s River. “The cheap, easy water is not unlimited. We have to make hard choices and look at alternative, more expensive water supplies.”
Political hot air breezes right past importance of Everglades restoration - Letter
TCPalm.com – Letters
November 5, 2010
Eve Samples’ Oct. 31 column hit the nail on the head. Of all the candidates’ political rhetoric, mudslinging and badgering phone calls, none apparently could see the value during their campaigns in addressing the environment.
Spending $11.5 billion on the Everglades restoration project, granted, is an awful lot of money. But as Samples pointed out, the value to Florida’s job market, economy and return on the investment is enormous.
The politicians can’t see past their name calling to understand what “getting to work” on the restoration project would mean to Florida. It’s really sad.
Charles Simony, Jensen Beach, FL
Water managers blast federal Everglades cleanup plan
Miami Herald - by CURTIS MORGAN, cmorgan@MiamiHerald.com
November 5, 2010
Water district officials objected to a federal call to nearly double the vast expanse of marshes used to battle pollution in the Everglades.
Water managers on Thursday roundly criticized a court-ordered federal plan to speed up and expand the sluggish, repeatedly delayed effort to stem the flow of pollution into the Everglades.
In letters to the U.S. Environment Protection Agency and during a news conference, South Florida Water Management District executives ran down a broad list of objections to a federal call to nearly double the vast expanse of marshes used to absorb the troubling nutrient phosphorous.
They said the plan unjustly infringed on state rights to set water quality law, set an unrealistically ambitious time frame for massive construction projects (nine years), and would unreasonably saddle South Florida taxpayers with the bill (at least $1.5 billion).
They also said the plan was drafted on a tight deadline without public or state review of data, and would bust a district budget declining along with the economy and property tax revenues. Tax revenues for 2011 are projected to be down 12 percent, or $61 million.
``The time frames are an impossibility with our current funding stream, and even with some order or direction from the court to increase our funding stream,'' Ken Ammon, the district's deputy executive director for Everglades restoration, said, raising the specter of a property tax hike mandated by a federal judge.
The response from the Water Management District was the latest, and strongest, salvo in a legal battle over Everglades cleanup.
The EPA plan was written under orders from U.S. District Judge Alan Gold.
In April, in a federal lawsuit filed in 2005 by the Miccosukee Tribe and Friends of the Everglades, the Miami judge delivered a blistering 48-page order finding that state lawmakers and water managers had crafted ``incomprehensible'' rules and loopholes pushing back a 2006 cleanup deadline by a decade, and that the EPA had erred in approving watered-down standards.
In September, responding to Gold's demand, the EPA laid out a detailed blueprint for how Florida can finally live up to its repeatedly postponed pledge. It calls for massive expansion of the state's existing network of reservoirs and pollution treatment marshes and endorsed Gov. Charlie Crist's controversial land deal with the U.S. Sugar Corp., which the district completed last month.
But the proposal also would again push back deadlines to achieve reduced levels of phosphorus, a fertilizer ingredient that flows from farms, ranches and yards and can poison native marsh plants. The long-expired 2006 state deadline for supplying the Glades the pristine water it needs would lag -- pushed back to as long as a decade from now.
Environmentalists and the Miccosukee Tribe have already filed objections to the EPA plan, saying it needs tighter deadlines and tougher enforcement to avoid future delays.
The district, in its letter to the EPA, declined to offer its own alternative plan.
Davina Marraccini, an EPA spokeswoman in Atlanta, released a statement defending the plan as a ``thoughtful, science-based blueprint for water quality improvement in the Everglades.''
The water district letters to the EPA expanded on one that Carol Wehle, the district's executive director, sent to Gold on Sept. 30, saying the $1.5 billion cost and 2020 deadline were ``regrettably, not achievable within our existing revenue streams.'' Ammon said water managers also object to a federal agency imposing tough standards on the state without picking up any of the tab.
The district has unsuccessfully pressed for increased federal funding and flexibility.
Kirk Burns, a water district attorney, said the agency was also troubled by Gold ``interfering'' in water quality negotiations between state and federal agencies.
Water managers acknowledged that the cleanup effort had fallen short but pointed to a $1.2 billion state investment in projects and rules that have reduced phosphorus loads flowing from the vast Everglades sugars farms southeast of Lake Okeechobee by 75 percent.
``We're not rejecting the idea of building more, eventually,'' said Burns.
Water managers criticize federal Everglades cleanup plan Water World
Water managers balk at EPA's Everglades cleanup plan Palm Beach Post
EPA Administrator Can Send Assistant to Hearing Courthouse News Service
Residents fight plant overgrowth in canal
Nevember 4, 2010
The residents of Plantation Isles and Harbor Isles have been fighting with Mother Nature since the middle of the summer.
Seeming to come from nowhere, hydrilla plants sprouted from the bottom of the canal and eelgrass came in clumps, almost forming a bridge across. At one point, there was so much plant material in the water, a resident told the City Council that he saw two ducks walk across the canal.
"When you look at it, it's sickening, isn't it?" Ann Ebbert said, pointing to photos of the eelgrass.
According to the University of Florida's Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants, hydrilla is an invasive aquatic plant that can grow an inch a day up to 25 feet. Millions of dollars a year are spent in Florida on herbicides to maintain hydrilla growth.
The commodore of the South Plantation Homeowners Association and Yacht Club, Ebbert took charge of the matter and has been taking photos of the canals since July. She and her husband, Larry, have lived in Plantation for 32 years and have never seen anything like it.
"A lot of people are very angry," Ebbert said.
While some people are upset over how the canal looks, for others it is cutting into their pocket books. Lori Jenkins moved to Plantation Harbors almost five years ago solely for the purpose of having water access for her 50-foot cruiser. She bought the home in 2006 at the height of the market and "paid good money only so we could have our boat here."
However, since the plant life has come into the canals, it has taken a toll on her cruiser. With the plants growing around her boat, it has clogged the pumps. She has had to have a mechanic look at it more than once.
"It's supposed to filter clean water and it's not; it's water with this stuff in it," Jenkins said. "I'm concerned about permanent damage, that it may really hurt the motor and the pump…I've been warned by the mechanic."
Looking for help, the Ebberts and their neighbors brought the photo book and research to the Plantation City Council at a meeting in late August. One resident even brought a jar filled with the murky water and plants.
"We have to find out where the problem is coming from because obviously something has changed," Councilwoman Sharon Moody Uria said at the meeting.
The community has noticed that things don't look as bad after the rain, but then the plants come right back. Residents met with the mayor recently to try and figure out what can be done.
"I'm fearful it's going to get worse," Larry said.
The Ebberts have a file filled with business cards, notes and phone numbers from researching the hydrilla plants and the eel grass. The couple has contacted South Florida Water Management District, the Old Plantation Water District, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the Broward Environmental Protection Department and the Army Corps of Engineers. Many residents think that the problem started when construction began on I-595 over the summer, and an environmentalist from that agency was contacted as well.
"Everybody has said the same thing: not our problem," Ebbert said.
Some neighbors are scared children might fall into the water and get tangled in the plants. Ebbert said she sees children jump off the bridge into the water near Seminole Middle School. Larry said he contacted the Lake Doctors to find out the cost of spraying the canals, and the community was quoted $4,000.
"We didn't recommend that it was the city's responsibility, but we felt that the city could act as an agent to help us," Larry said.
River advocates needed at water board meeting: Rae Ann Wessel
News-Press.com – special by Rae Ann Wessel
November 4, 2010
On Wednesday, Nov. 10, the South Florida Water Management District Governing Board will hold its monthly meeting in Fort Myers at FGCU. One of the issues on their agenda, minimum flow and levels, or MFL, directly affects the health of the Caloosahatchee and our region's $3 billion economy.
The MFL is designed to assure that minimum flows of freshwater are provided to the river and estuary during the annual dry season and droughts to prevent significant harm to the aquatic ecosystem.
Significant harm is caused by lack of, or insufficient, freshwater flow to balance the salinity of the water to protect seagrass, tapegrass and oyster habitats. These habitats are critical to the survival of our native species of fish, shrimp and crabs.
The Caloosahatchee has already experienced losses. Lack of flow during the drought of 2001 resulted in the loss of over 300 acres of tapegrass habitat. In the drought of 2008 the SFWMD cut off all flow to the Caloosahatchee, causing a toxic algae bloom upstream of the W.P. Franklin Lock that resulted in the shutdown of the Olga Water Treatment Plant. What we know is that insufficient freshwater flow has caused algae blooms every year the river has been cut off or when insufficient water has been provided. In addition, by allocating too little water to the natural system, the district can allocate more water to other users at the expense of the natural system.
Next week the Governing Board will discuss and vote on whether to proceed with a five-year update of the minimum flow and level — as required by their own rule — to help prevent recurring algal blooms and devastating impacts to tapegrass habitat.
Unfortunately, district staff has recommended against updating the standard, even though their own studies recognize the current flow standard of 300 cubic feet per second is too low. In fact, numerous district publications use a revised higher flow standard of 450 cfs.
The timing of this decision is significant.
A La Nina weather condition has the upcoming dry season forecast as the driest in 50 years, which will challenge water supply planning and increase competition for water allocation.
The Caloosahatchee needs its fair share of water to support our critical resources.
Now is the time for Caloosahatchee citizens to come to the aid of their river!
The meeting begins at 9 a.m. in the FGCU Student Union Ballroom. The MFL issue will be heard at 1 p.m. and public comment will be taken at the meeting.
We hope to see you there.
Rae Ann Wessel is natural resource policy director for the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation
Water rates will rise if EPA rules go through
The Palm Beach Post - Letters to the Editor
November 4, 2010
On Oct. 5, the Palm Beach County Commission agreed to warn our customers about potential rate increases ("Water bill warnings disputed") should the Environmental Protection Agency implement new water quality criteria on lakes, canals and other water bodies in Florida in a well-intended effort to improve the environment. The county's concern is that the new criteria are excessively stringent, even exceeding the federal limits required for treated drinking water.
These excessive criteria threaten the county's $250 million investment in its reclaimed water system, which irrigates golf courses and green spaces and conserves nearly 25 million gallons per day of fresh water. The nitrogen and phosphorus in the reclaimed water far exceed amounts allowed in the new rule. Lakes which store reclaimed water or which contribute to downstream runoff will not be in compliance with the rule and will require additional treatment.
The only treatment technology available to meet these new criteria is extremely expensive and energy-intensive reverse osmosis. Any water treatment expert will confirm that less costly technologies will not remove nutrients to the levels required. While the new criteria provide 18 months to be in compliance, planning and implementing large new treatment plants takes approximately five years. But the county would need to expend funds immediately, requiring us to raise rates. Furthermore the EPA and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection have not even determined how to implement and enforce the new rule.
We believe the EPA should delay the rule until the agency knows how implementation and enforcement would occur and how to resolve the unintended consequences. The county is not alone. Its own Science Advisory Board concluded that the methods used to determine the new limits were not scientifically defensible. Both of Florida's U.S. senators, 23 members of the state's congressional delegation, three former secretaries of the Florida DEP, the Florida Association of Counties, Florida municipalities and homeowner associations, and scientific associations and organizations have petitioned the EPA to delay .
We believe our utility customers have the right to be informed of significant cost implications associated with the EPA's Numeric Nutrient Rule as written.
BEVIN A. BEAUDET, Director of the Palm Beach County Water Utilities Department
What do the midterm elections mean for Florida’s environment?
The Florida Independent - by Virginia Chamlee
November 4, 2010
In the wake of a historic election cycle, Floridians are left wondering what will change in coming weeks, months and years for a state besieged by high unemployment and other, perhaps less publicized problems facing the state, like degrading wetlands and heavily polluted waters. What can we expect in the way of environmental policy from an all-GOP cabinet and legislature?
Newly elected Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam has been outspoken about his view that proposed EPA standards for how much waste can be dumped into Florida waters would be too costly to implement.
Governer-elect Rick Scott has also spoken out against the criteria. In a meeting with the Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association, Scott told the board of directors that he would “not advocate anything that would keep [them] from doing business.”
From the association’s newsletter, The Harvester:
On EPA’s proposed numeric nutrient criteria for Florida waters, Scott said the federal government should not be dictating water quality standards. … Putnam referred to the unfairness of EPA’s proposed numeric nutrient criteria for Florida waterways, saying that they are not based on science and put North and Central Florida at a disadvantage with the rest of the country and with South Florida, where the standards will be delayed for a year. The EPA has since delayed implementation of the standards for 30 days.
Lately, pressure from industry heads and politicians has been somewhat effective; both the freshwater and saltwater criteria have been delayed already. But, according to Florida Department of Environmental Protection Press Officer Dee Ann Miller, Florida government officials can only go so far in their fight against the criteria.
“This is a federal rulemaking set pursuant to procedures by the Environmental Protection Agency,” she says. “Ultimately, the regulations are set by the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. As such, state government entities are not part of the official decision making process on the regulations. State government officials and organizations can comment (and have commented) on the regulation as part of EPA’s procedures.”
Environmental heads have already begun to make their stance on the midterm elections known. Kyle Ash, senior legislative representative for Greenpeace USA, issued a statement on the congressional elections:
Industry dollars have made a mockery of democracy in America, polluting not only our air, water and communities, but nearly every political campaign. Dirty energy magnates like the Koch brothers spent more of their fortunes, earned on the backs of American communities, to elect congressional candidates who will support their destructive profit motives. …
Although many Senators- and Representatives-elect have professed horrifying positions on the protection of endangered species, our national parks, and even basic rights of Americans to live in a clean environment, they have also maintained a commitment to fiscal responsibility. If these positions are genuine, the newly elected should slash the billions of taxpayer dollars wasted every year in subsidies for wealthy coal and oil companies like BP.
Ash also said that House Speaker-to-be John Boehner should be held accountable for implementing harsher standards on pollution, and that newly elected politicians in general need to practice what they preach:
In this election, we have repeatedly heard damaging rhetoric about fundamental environmental protections. Now is not the time for knee-jerk reactions on matters of such import and urgency to the health of our nation. No matter where it comes from, we need leadership to defend our environment from what are sure to be vicious industry attacks in the coming years.
Marco Rubio, Florida's new U.S. senator
St. Ptersburg Times - by John Bartosek, Lukas Pleva, Aaron Sharockman, Amy Sherman, Cristina Silva
November 3rd, 2010
After leading in the polls for months, Republican Marco Rubio handily won election Nov. 2, 2010, to become Florida's next U.S. senator. Here's a look back through our fact-checking eyes at what he said, and what others said about him.
Rubio's two years as state House speaker were critical both in his claims and the criticism that came his way in the campaign against Democrat Kendrick Meek and no-party Gov. Charlie Crist.
• He claimed, for example, that when he was speaker, the House proposed leaner budgets than Crist. We examined the 2007 and 2008 budgets to see who could stake the better claim to being a fiscal conservative. In 2007, Rubio was right by just a hair: The House budget was about $500 million less than the governor's proposal, out of a $70 billion total. The difference was much more noticeable in 2008, about $5 billion lower. We gave Rubio a Mostly True for that one.
• We looked at a pair of earmark complaints that Crist leveled, that Rubio supported putting aside $800,000 to add AstroTurf on a field in Miami where he played flag football, and that he included $1.5 million in the budget for a "rowing institute." We said Half True on the AstroTurf question. The dollar figure is correct and Rubio did vote for it. But he wasn't the main sponsor, nor is it clear he knew the details of the artificial turf.
The rowing institute, we found, involved a ramp and boathouse along a Water Management District canal in Central Florida. We ruled it Pants on Fire because Rubio wasn't the sponsor, didn't push it and gained no clear benefit from it. Nor did he sneak it into the budget; it was clearly labeled as money to "facilitate use as a rowing training center.”
• Speaking of money, we looked at another Crist claim that Rubio's personal income soared when he joined the state House. In fact, that was the governor's first attack ad of the Senate campaign back in March 2010. We said True. Rubio was elected to the House in 2001 and reported income that year of just under $90,000. When he ended his term as speaker in 2008, his reported income was $414,000.
• Another Crist attack late in the campaign, that Rubio changed his position about an auto insurance proposal after selling his home to a chiropractor who was lobbying him, rated a Barely True. The sale was actually to the chiropractor's mother, a retiree who wanted to live near her son. And Rubio did not alter his position immediately. He stood his ground and the proposal failed in the regular legislative session. It wasn't until months later, after changes were made in the bill, that Rubio agreed and it passed.
• Turning to national issues, Rubio was attacked for putting changes to Social Security on the table. He said he did so responsibly, proposing that current retirees and those within 10 years of retirement would not be affected. We gave Crist a Half True on that one.
• Rubio received a Mostly True for his claim that ending federal earmarks could save U.S. taxpayers $15 billion to $20 billion a year. Different groups come up with slightly different numbers, but he was close enough.
• When Rubio engaged in an amusing series of videos with MSNBC's Rachel Maddow about tax cuts and the deficit, we gave her a Mostly True for saying Rubio's economic proposals would add $3.5 billion to the deficit.
• Rubio got a solid True for recognizing that "forty cents of every dollar spent" by the U.S. government comes from borrowed money.
• We looked at other financial issues too, because so many voters are concerned with the economy. The AFL-CIO accused Rubio of opposing the extension of unemployment benefits. We said Half True. He said he was opposed to them, but with a caveat: He wanted to see other cuts to pay for them, which was the main Republican argument in Congress. When Crist accused Rubio of saying he would have accepted stimulus money, we found thatMostly True. Rubio did say in a TV interview that he "would have accepted those portions of the money that would not have put Florida in a worse position off in the future than it is right now."
• Immigration was also a significant issue this election, and Rubio brings a personal viewpoint to the topic as the son of Cuban-born parents. In January 2010, discussing immigration on the radio with Glenn Beck, Rubio said that nearly half the people who were in the United States illegally had entered legally but overstayed their visas. Several respectable studies back up that percentage, and we gave Rubio a Mostly True. In May, during the heat of the controversy over Arizona's hard-line immigration law, we tested Rubio's consistency in his comments on the law with the Flip-O-Meter. Arizona's law was amended, and Rubio said he would have voted against the first version and for the second version. We gave him a Half Flip for that.
We had much more on Rubio during this long campaign, including 11 True or Mostly True, eight Half or Barely True, and five False or Pants on Fire rulings. We will be following him as he assumes his Senate seat as well.
Putnam looks forward to new role
TBO.com - by JENNIFER LEIGH
November 3, 2010
BARTOW - Anyone who's followed Adam Putnam's political career knows he's a guy who seems sincerely enthusiastic about public service.
That's why talking to the five-term U.S. Congressman turned newly elected state agriculture commissioner is like getting a lesson in leadership.
"The commissioner is a member of Florida's Cabinet, serving alongside the attorney general, the chief financial officer and the governor," Putnam explained at his campaign headquarters in Bartow.
The father of four, who turned 36 in July, traded in his top ranking leadership role in Congress to make the run for commissioner of agriculture, and he's pretty pumped at what his win now means.
"It's exciting to think about being able to lead an agency and be held accountable and be responsible for whether we're moving forward or whether we're not moving forward and not having to worry about taking six months to get enough co-sponsors to pass a Mother's Day resolution which is pretty much where Congress is today," Putnam said.
Most people probably already know the commissioner of agriculture helps regulate and promote Florida's multi-billion dollar farming industry, but Putnam said the responsibilities span so much more than that.
He said his new department oversees "surveyors and mappers, charitable regulation, sellers of travel, deceptive trade practices, price gouging after a hurricane, auto dealers, auto repairs, (vehicle) lemon law" just to name a few.
Putnam is already planning his top priorities.
"First and foremost is water policy. I really believe long term water policy is the biggest issue facing Florida." Putnam also believes creating jobs using land-based industries will prove critical to Florida's future, "and agriculture is really on the forefront of this," he said.
Putnam will be sworn in as commissioner of agriculture on Jan. 4. His salary will be $128,972 a year.
Rick Scott, state's next governor, calls for Floridians to unite
Orlando Sentinel - by Aaron Deslatte and Jason Garcia, Orlando Sentinel, and Peter Franceschina
November 3, 2010
Republican Gov.-elect Rick Scott secured a razor-thin victory in his costly campaign for governor Wednesday, after Democrat Alex Sink ended an overnight drama that saw both candidates waiting for results to trickle in from South Florida.
" Florida is open for business," Scott said at the Hilton Fort Lauderdale Marina, where he took to the podium shortly after noon flanked by his wife and two daughters. "There were plenty of pundits and insiders who said this victory was impossible, but the people of Florida knew exactly what they wanted."
Scott, who used an overwhelming money advantage, a promise to create 700,000 jobs and a slogan of "Let's get to work" to edge Sink, said his rival "ran quite a race." And he declared it was now time for him and his lieutenant governor, former state Rep. Jennifer Carroll of Jacksonville, to put political divisions aside.
"Jennifer and I are eager to start bringing people together to solve our problems," Scott said. In a reference to the $73 million of his personal fortune he spent on the campaign, he added, "My daughters are the reason I decided to run for governor. They might have lost a little inheritance. I knew I owed them to live the same chance to live the American dream that Ann and I have."
About an hour earlier, Sink had succumbed to mathematical inevitability. "There is no path to victory for us," she told a few dozen reporters gathered in a ballroom at the Tampa Marriott Waterside.
Sink said she urged Scott, in her concession call, to focus on uniting a narrowly divided electorate. "I hope Rick Scott remembers there are 2.5 million Floridians who did not vote for him, and that his highest priority has to be to bring our state together," Sink said.
Sink had refused to concede Tuesday night, pinning her hopes on Democratic-friendly precincts in South Florida and Tampa that had yet to be counted. But they weren't enough.
With virtually all the votes counted, Scott led by 68,277 – out of 5.3 million cast -- the closest race in Florida since 1876 and the first time in more than 100 years that a Florida governor was elected with less than 50 percent of the vote, state officials said.
Sink attributed her defeat to a Republican wave – the GOP beat four of the state's incumbent congressional Democrats, won all three Cabinet seats and took two-thirds majorities in both chambers of the Legislature – and the ability of Scott, a controversial healthcare executive, to self-finance his campaign.
"We lost because of forces beyond our control, because of the money and the mood of the country," Sink said. Asked if she would have done anything differently, she replied, "Absolutely not."
"I think what we saw, by and large, is Democrats were fighting uphill," said Steve Schale, the strategist who ran President Obama's Florida campaign in 2008 and advised Sink. "I think a lot of folks [Republicans who won in Florida] were the beneficiaries of politics being about timing and opportunity."
But it wasn't just Republican energy that overwhelmed Sink.
Scott had a superior voter-contact operation that his team had honed in his bitter primary against Attorney General Bill McCollum. It enabled him to overcome a barrage of negative ads about the record $1.7-billion in fines his Columbia/HCA hospital chain paid for Medicare fraud after Scott was ousted Scott as CEO in 1997, and his refusal to answer questions about a deposition he gave earlier this year in a lawsuit against his current healthcare company, Solantic.
When Scott shocked GOP circles by entering the race in April, his campaign team couldn't even hire a Florida field director – so they turned to a 24-year-old wunderkind named Matt Parker who had worked for Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal. While McCollum's campaign was contacting 10,000 voters a week with phone calls before the Aug. 24 primary, Scott was reaching 50,000 a day.
Heading into this week's election, the campaign boasted that workers had called a staggering 5 million registered voters, to identify how they were leaning and their likelihood to vote. One result: Republicans bested Democrats in early voting for the first time ever, and built a 271,000-vote edge heading into Election Day.
In total, Scott and the GOP spent a combined $96 million on ads, mailers, consultants and an army of staff, compared to $36 million by Sink and the Democrats. The totals smashed previous records.
The scope of Scott's operation wowed even political veterans. "I think it was as good as any presidential campaign I've seen, and as intense as any presidential campaign," said state GOP Chairman John Thrasher, who had backed McCollum.
Still, Sink's campaign outperformed the last Democratic candidate for governor in 2006 – former Tampa congressman Jim Davis – by carrying 15 of Florida's 67 counties, compared to Davis' 8.
Unlike Davis, she won the three most-populous counties along the Interstate-4 corridor – Hillsborough, Pinellas and Orange – but Scott still netted 5,200 votes from the corridor thanks to wins in Brevard, Lake, Pasco, Polk and Volusia counties.
Sink won slightly more votes than Davis did in South Florida, but that was offset by Scott's wins in Jacksonville, southwest Florida, the state's rural inland counties and the Panhandle, where Sink had hoped to hold her own.
From Columbia County westward, she did win six counties, mostly those surrounding the state's capital in Leon County. But overall, Scott racked up a 72,700-vote margin in the Panhandle.
Sink ran "about as good a campaign as any Democrat could in 2010," said former GOP Chairman Al Cardenas, a Miami lobbyist. The agitated mood of voters, he said, was an insurmountable obstacle.
Major Cities Could Be Hit With Water Shortages, Report Warns
ConsumerAffairs.com – by Fred Yager
November 2, 2010
Ten major cities could experience a water shortage within the next few years
When you think of problems with water, you probably think about dry desert regions of Africa or the Middle East. Even, parts of the American West have had their issues. But what about the big cities like Los Angeles, or San Francisco. How about Atlanta and Orlando?
Believe it or not, the water problem is worse than most people realize, particularly in several large cities which are occasionally low on water already but will face definite shortfalls in the next few years.
A report issued in October on water risk by environmental research and sustainability group Ceres and another study from the Natural Resources Defense Council were analyzed by 24/7 Wall Street which identified ten major cities at high risk of a water shortage.
Now when they talk about severe water shortages they're not just talking about drought conditions that require us to not water our lawns or take shorter showers. These are the kinds of severe shortages that could make life in some of America's largest cities nearly unbearable.
For example, besides the competition over available drinking water, a number of industries rely on regular access to water. Without it, some people would be out of work if the industries had to shut down. Another problem is not so direct. Very low water supplies creates issues for cities that have sold bonds based on their needs for infrastructure to move, clean and supply water. Extreme disruptions of the water supply of any city would have severe financial and human consequences.
The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) report says the risk to water sustainability is based on the following criteria: (1) projected water demand as a share of available precipitation; (2) groundwater use as a share of projected available precipitation; (3) susceptibility to drought; (4) projected increase in freshwater withdrawals; and (5) projected increase in summer water deficit.
There are ten cities with the greatest exposure to problems that could cause large imbalances of water supply and demand. There are also a number of other metropolitan areas that could face similar problems but their risks are not quite as high.
Water shortage in U.S. cities is one of the major issues facing urban areas over the next ten years and most of us aren't even aware of it.
Here, according to 24/7 Wall Street are the ten largest cities by population that have the greatest chance of running out of water.
North-central Florida, especially Orange County where Orlando is located, has experienced frequent droughts in the last decade. As a consequence, the area has implemented extreme conservation measures, including aggressive water-rationing policies and lawn-watering bans. After the drought and resulting wildfires subsided, however, Orlando faced another problem. As of 2013, Orlando will no longer be able to increase the rate at which it uses water from the city's main source of fresh water supply. This presents a major problem for city officials: how does the limited water supply continue to meet demand for one of the fastest-growing regions in the state? Orlando Utilities Commission water usage trends show Orlando water demand exceeding the supply by approximately 2014 if no action is taken. There are plans in the works to tap the St. John's River for irrigation, and eventually drinking water. Many, however, are skeptical that even this will be enough to meet Orlando's growing demand.
Between 2007 and 2008, the Southeast experienced a major drought, which depleted the region's major water supplies. No city in the south suffered more than Atlanta, the second-fastest-growing metropolitan area in the last eight years. The crisis began when the Army Corps of Engineers released more than 20 billion gallons of water from Lake Lanier, the city's primary source of water. Continued poor rainfall brought the lake to its lowest recorded levels. At one point, city officials reported there was only three months left of stored fresh water to supply Atlanta. The drought eventually subsided and consistent rain returned the lake to less dangerous levels. However, Atlanta may continue to be at risk, as the lake is the site of an ongoing legal conflict between Georgia, Alabama and Florida, all of which rely on the reservoir for fresh water. Last year, a federal judge declared Atlanta's withdrawals from the lake illegal, and if the ruling stands, the city will lose roughly 40% of its water supply by 2012.
The NRDC study rates Pima County, Ariz., where Tuscon is located, as an area with extreme risk of water shortage. The city is in the Sonora Desert, an extremely arid region that receives less than 12 inches of rainfall each year. Currently, the Tucson region uses about 350,000 acre-feet of water per year. At this rate, Tucson's groundwater supply, which now provides the majority of the city's water, has a very limited life span. In addition to this, the city is currently bringing in 314,000 acre-feet per year from the Colorado River under the Central Arizona Project. However, Tuscon is growing rapidly. This, combined with the political uncertainty of the Central Arizona Project allocation, places Tucson at extreme risk for future water shortages.
In the middle of the Mojave Desert, with an annual precipitation rate of only 10 cm, Las Vegas must rely on distant sources for its fresh water. The city's main source is Lake Mead, which supplies 85% of the water used in the Las Vegas Valley. Unfortunately, the lake is 59% empty and is approaching its first water shortage ever. In addition to Las Vegas, it would affect other areas of Nevada and Arizona. Moreover, it could potentially stop the Hoover Dam from producing electricity -- as soon as 2013. This would affect many big California cities that receive hydroelectric power through the dam.
Fort Worth, Texas
As Fort Worth continues to grow, the amount of water demand has continued to exceed the amount of water available through local supply. As a result, the city, which is in Tarrant County, must rely on storage water, making the system much more exposed to the worst effects of prolonged drought. To remedy this problem, the Tarrant Regional Water District is trying to bring in more water from Oklahoma's Red River. Oklahoma, wishing to preserve its water sources, limits interstate water sales. Fort Worth has countered with a lawsuit, which is pending in the U.S. Court of Appeals.
San Francisco Bay Area
Much like the Southeast in the early 2000's, California has experienced intermittent droughts that have brought the area's water supply to the brink of disaster. After several years of drought between 2005 and 2007, the Bay Area, which represents more than 3.7 million people, was forced to adopt aggressive water usage restrictions. Legal battles ensued between San Fransisco area legislators and those in the Sacramento delta who believed they deserved Bay Area water from major sources, like Lake Hetch Hetchy. According to the NRDC and Ceres studies, the San Fransisco Bay Area, including adjacent cities San Jose and Oakland, are "very likely" to experience a severe crisis as a result of water shortage sometime within the next 50 years.
San Antonio, Texas
Bexar County, Texas, where San Antonio is located, possesses the highest rating given by the Natural Resources Defense Council with regards to water sustainability. This means that the area is at extremely high risk for water demand exceeding supply by 2050 if no major systematic changes are made. As most surface water from lakes and rivers in Texas have already been claimed by varying districts across Texas, most counties are now looking at groundwater to meet future demand. San Antonio has attempted to secure water from a number of Texas groundwater conservation districts. Due to legal obstacles, this has proven to be difficult. Today, many experts, including members of the Texas Water Development Board, recommend undertaking a major project to ensure future sustainability, such as a desalination plant on the Gulf Coast.
Like many of the other western cities on this list, Phoenix is extremely dependent on water imported from the Colorado River. This is because nearly half of the water the city's residents use comes from this significant source. As the Colorado River Basin enters the eleventh year of its drought, the city's reliance on the river may soon become a serious problem. If the drought continues, water deliveries to Arizona could potentially be cut back. To keep up a sufficient water supply, Phoenix is adopting an aggressive campaign to recycle water, replenish groundwater and try to dissuade over-consumption. Time will tell if it these measures will be enough.
Throughout most of its history, the city of Houston primarily drew water from the Jasper Aquifer, located along the southeastern coast of Texas. Over the last 30 years, the city began to suffer from dramatic rises in sea level of nearly an inch a year. Geologists eventually realized that the cause was Houston's withdrawal of fresh water from the aquifer located under the city. This discovery forced city officials to use nearby Lake Houston and Lake Conroe for municipal water instead of the aquifer. Since 2000, Houston has been the fifth fastest-growing city in the country, and its presence in an area with high drought likelihood makes it an immediate risk for serious water shortages.
In the 1980's, Los Angeles suffered a major crisis when the city was forced to stop using 40% of its drinking water due to industrial runoff contamination. Like Las Vegas, the city now relies on importing water from the Colorado River via hundreds of miles of aqueducts. The Colorado may only be a temporary solution, however, as the city continues to increase its demand at an unsustainable rate. In its utility risk rating, Ceres gave the Los Angeles Department of Water & Power the highest likelihood of risk among the cities it assessed. That list included Atlanta and the Forth Worth area. On top of this, the Hoover Dam, which is the main source of electricity for L.A. and much of the greater Southwest, is also producing at a lower rate than it has historically. Some scientists suspect this drop-off will continue to a point where its electricity production is too small to sustain the dam economically. Los Angeles, even if the dam doesn't cease production in 2013, as some predict, still faces serious water shortages.
Everglades fix a boon for economy
News-Press.com - by Kevin Lollar
November 1, 2010
Florida would reap billions, study says
1:10 A.M. — While Everglades restoration is aimed at helping South Florida's wildlife, a recent study shows that fixing the ecosystem will also have huge economic benefits for South Florida's humans.
According to the study, conducted for the Everglades Foundation by Mather Economics of Atlanta, the economic benefits in South Florida of the estimated $11.5 billion restoration would be between $46.5 billion and $123.9 billion over the next 50 years - a benefit-cost ratio of at least 4-to-1.
"I'm an outdoorsy person, but the truth is, if what you're doing is only good for the alligators, it's not necessarily a good idea," said Bobby McCormick, the study's principal investigator. "What we wanted to do was provide a business-like approach about public decisions on Everglades restoration.
"If restoration is a business decision, would you do it? What do you get out of spending $11 billion? Is it worth spending the money ? Our answer is unequivocally yes."
For Lee County, the economic benefit would be $4.3 billion, including $1 billion in increased real estate values.
Everglades restoration is all about improving South Florida's water quality, and better water quality is what will drive South Florida's economic benefits.
A major economic impact will be money not spent on water purification: Restoration will produce less saline groundwater, so less money will be spent to desalinate water for human use.
Over 50 years, South Florida will save $13 billion on groundwater purification.
When water quality improves, real property will become more valuable. Over the next 50 years, real estate values will increase by $16.1 billion and 273,601 residential construction and real estate-related jobs will be created.
A restored Everglades will attract more tourists to South Florida, and the tourist industry will increase by $1.9 billion.
"What's special about Lee County and Southwest Florida is our beautiful ecosystem," said Tamara Pigott, executive director of Lee County's Visitor & Convention Bureau. "Water quality equals a good environment, and that's what draws people here.
"As to dollar values, there are a lot of ways to skin a cat: One economist will say one thing, and another will say something else. But the obvious economic driver is our ecosystem, and having a healthy Everglades and Lake Okeechobee is critical to us."
Value of fishing
Better water quality translates into healthier marine life, and the study predicts the dockside value of commercial fishing in South Florida will increase by $524 million over the next 50 years.
Over the same time, the study estimates a $2.04 billion increase in value of recreational fishing.
"That makes sense," said Ted Forsgren, executive director of the Coastal Conservation Association. "It's not only about the fish but the anglers who go after them. It's the money they spend going after them, money for bait, for lodging, for restaurants. It's worth an awful lot in terms of economics to have good, strong recreational fishing, and cleaner water means better habitat and better fishing."
An important part of Everglades restoration is the reduction of nutrients that frequently cause micro- and macroalgal blooms and fish kills in South Florida waterways.
Although the economic study addresses nutrients, it doesn't say what the economic impact of preventing algal blooms would be.
"We could have put a monetary value on it," McCormick said. "We said, 'Yes, we believe there will be fewer blooms and healthier fishing,' but we didn't know what that would mean monetarily, and we were uncomfortable giving what would be to us a bald-faced guess."
Kurt Harclerode, operations manager with Lee's Division of Natural Resources, said fewer algal blooms will mean a definite economic benefit.
"Intuitively you'd say if water quality improves, there would be a less likelihood of harmful algal blooms," he said. "There is a connection between algal blooms and tourism in Lee County. If an algal bloom causes fish kills, or we have to close beaches, that certainly has a negative effect on our economy."
Restoring the Everglades will cost billions of dollars, but the Mather study states the economic benefit is well worth the expense.
Charles Dauray, a South Florida Water Management District governing board member representing Lee, Collier, Hendry and Charlotte counties, agreed.
"Everglades restoration is not just an outlay of money: It's also an investment in our economic future," he said. "We have to pay for the privilege of changing the course of nature. According to the report, every dollar we invest in Everglades restoration will come back four-fold, but for every dollar we don't invest in restoring and sustaining nature, we lose that much more of nature."
Merrick Providing Topographic Surveying Services to US Army Corps of Engineers, Jacksonville District
The American Surveyor - by Merrick & Company
November 1, 2010
Aurora, CO – Nov. 1, 2010 – Merrick & Company is providing topographic surveying services to the US Army Corps of Engineers, Jacksonville District, for the Kissimmee River, located in south central Florida. The data will be used to develop a model for flow dynamics along the river, which forms the headwaters of Lake Okeechobee and the Everglades. The area to be surveyed crosses through Highlands, Okeechobee, Osceola, and Polk Counties and includes 48 miles of road, four miles of levee road, 59 culvert and bridge structures, and 72 miles of cross sectional data at 194 cross section locations.
Merrick & Company, an $100 million geospatial, engineering, architecture, design-build, and surveying firm, serves domestic and international clients by providing geospatial technologies, products, and services for the infrastructure, energy, and security markets. The firm’s most recent work includes providing terrestrial scanning for an electrical substation for Xcel Energy and acquiring light detection and ranging (LiDAR) data for F.E. Warren Air Force Base and for a wind farm located in Kansas. Merrick maintains eight offices in the U.S. as well as two offices in Mexico and an office in Canada.
More information about Merrick’s GeoSpatial & Surveying Solutions business unit is located at Merrick GeoSpatial Solutions.
Python problem can be solved by serving up snakes
NewsChief.com - by STEWART B. PRINCE, Local columnist
October 31, 2010
The Everglades, according to experts who get paid $53.50 per hour to know stuff the rest of us take for granted, are slithering with 43,000 escaped or released Burmese Pythons. We citizens know that Burma isn't Burma any more but Myanmar. Those herpetologists are too busy trying to attach generous dental and medical coverage benefits to their compensation packages to know the current name of the source of the pythons now eating our native alligators. Our alligators eat French poodles, Yorkshire terriers and Belgian tourists foolish enough to get out of their cars. The pythons eat the alligators, thus completing the circle of life and lunch as depicted in "The Lion King" movie.
However, we taxpayers could be asked to pay for tidying up this problem, just as we pay for those free lunches, of which there are none. Since I don't have a few billion dollars idle in my MegaBank retirement account, I've figured out a way for all entrepreneurial parties to earn gobs of money while getting rid of the 51,000 escaped or released pythons.
First, we develop fabulous recipes for baked, fried, sauteed, steamed, shish-kebabed, chilled, sushi-ed, stuffed, burrito-ed, taco-ed, meat-loafed, standing rib and everything else for python. I'm certain this could be done in about 15 minutes, since "everything tastes like chicken," and we have page upon page of chicken recipes that could be adapted. Obviously, we won't serve Buffalo python wings. We will not serve python drumsticks. Nor python thighs. However, we will have meter upon meter of yummy python rib roasts.
A few people might whine, "I don't have an oven long enough to roast even a two-meter python. And how will it look with the apple in its mouth under those beady eyes and deadly poisonous fangs?"
I say, "Nonsense, you simply coil your python into a conventional roaster pan, then lay apple slices all along it. And pythons don't have poisonous fangs."
Second, we taxpayers will see a significant increase in gate collections at the entrance to Everglades National Park as people armed with machetes, axes, shotguns, mortars, asbestos tiles, or pistols, hike out into the saw-grass looking for exotic digestible entrees instead of rindy plastic food stamps. People will become more aware of the delicate and essential nature of the Everglades when it replaces their butcher store. Rather than authorizing some developers dream of selling "smooshy swamp" for a billion dollars per acre then moving himself and his fortune to Aruba, citizens will eagerly spend money to protect the park and its 62,000 escaped or released pythons filled environment.
Third, dozens of hunting, killing, butchering, dressing out, packaging, freezing and distribution businesses will form up to handle demand, reducing unemployment to pre-sub-prime loan levels as the foreclosed-upon once again earn generous salaries and move indoors.
Fourth, restaurants will expand, or perhaps even new restaurants will open. Serving not the usual chicken, pizza, burgers, tacos, barbecue pork, my Miami Fried Python franchise will open in restaurants in hundreds of cities all across America, aiding the construction industry's revival. More people will drive to dine out, thusly reviving Detroit's sales figures.
If you would like to invest directly with me in this venture, please send a few zillion dollars along with your name and mailing address to the News Chief. I dismissed asking for capitol funds from bankers. Instead, I'm intending to use bankers as bait for the 78,000 released or escaped pythons.
Stewart B. Prince lives in Auburndale. His "Oatmeal" column appears each Sunday in the Accent section of the News Chief.
Florida braces for tougher water-pollution rules
Orlando Sentinel - by Kevin Spear
October 30, 2010|,
Florida is bracing for the federal government to impose tough new pollution limits on its rivers and lakes. Depending on the point of view, the new rules will clobber an already weak economy — or bring a welcome end to fish kills, algae blooms and contaminated water supplies.
The rules, which could be released any day, have triggered rancorous debate, pitting, for example, a U.S. senator against a confrontational environmentalist who specializes in lawsuits.
The first-of-their kind regulations, drafted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, will set "numeric" pollution limits for streams and lakes based on their type and location — not necessarily on each body of water's individual characteristics.
The state of Florida, in contrast, has long relied on customized limits derived from lake-by-lake and river-by-river analyses — an approach criticized by environmentalists as far too slow and cumbersome.
The pollution targeted by these limits consists of various nitrogen and phosphorus compounds that act as liquid fertilizer in nature. Such compounds are found in treated sewage, stormwater runoff, farm discharges and many manufacturers' wastewater.
The EPA has irritated state officials and many others in Florida by revealing little about how it developed the pending rules.
"This is all somewhat of a mystery," said Mimi Drew, secretary of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, "because we've been sending a lot of comments to EPA, and we've been working closely with them, but we don't know exactly what they are going to come out with."
U.S. Sen. George LeMieux, R-Fla., is among those leading the charge to block the rules. "This is lawsuit-driven regulation without a sound scientific basis, and the result will be unnecessarily catastrophic," LeMieux said.
Leading the defense of the EPA rules is David Guest, managing attorney in Tallahassee for Earthjustice, the nonprofit environmental-law firm that sued on behalf of several environmental groups to force the federal agency into coming up with new pollution rules for the state.
He said the campaign mounted by opponents defies the reality of Florida's degraded waters and relies on scare tactics on behalf of industries whose profits could be hurt by the rules.
Linda Young, director of the Clean Water Network of Florida, said the growing turmoil has done much to undermine the pending water-pollution limits, in part because the EPA now appears intent on including many exceptions and loopholes.
"We need to stop telling people it's going to run them out of business or it's going to cost billions of dollars," Young said. "And we need to stop telling people it's going to solve our toxic-algae bloom and fish-kill problem. Because I don't think it's going to do either one of those."
The St. Johns Riverkeeper is one of several environmental groups that sued the EPA to force the development of "numeric" pollution limits for streams and lakes. The St. Johns River near Jacksonville, the Riverkeeper's home, has been hit hard by algae blooms linked to water pollution. "If we don't get numeric standards, then the water resources of this state are doomed," said the group's leader, Neil Armingeon. "We need to establish at least some hope that we have a chance to restore what we have."
Nutrient pollution in treated sewage, stormwater and other discharges doesn't kill fish directly. The nutrients act as liquid fertilizer, accelerating unnatural growth of algae, which can wipe out beneficial aquatic plants. As algae dominate a lake or stream, they can reduce the water's dissolved oxygen to such low levels that fish die in large numbers.
The Iron Bridge Water Pollution Control Facility was upgraded in the mid-1980s after the city of Orlando and state regulators agreed to a treatment process that would filter out much of the phosphorus and nitrogen compounds in sewage. As a result, the Iron Bridge effluent that flows through Orlando Wetlands Park and into the St. Johns River is cleaner than the river — and, unlike effluent from most other plants, probably clean enough to meet the pending EPA standards.
Supporters of the EPA pollution rules say the limits would not apply directly to agriculture, despite an outcry from farmers and ranchers. But Rich Budell, director of the water-policy office for the Florida Department of Agriculture, said state regulators would ultimately have no choice but to enforce the EPA rules for farms and ranches. Budell and other opponents think Florida pollution laws should be left to the state to develop. "I don't think EPA has a clue," he said.
Nutrients released by fertilizers and sewage seep deep underground to taint the flow of Wekiwa Springs in concentrations far greater than nature intended — and more than the springs' ecosystem can tolerate. The St. Johns River Water Management District spent two years and $1 million to figure that out with precision. Though the agency thinks the EPA rules are overly protective of some rivers and not protective enough of others, the federal limits appear to be on target for springs systems such as Wekiwa.
Kevin Spear can be reached at email@example.com
Why aren't more candidates talking about the environment?
TCPalm.com - by Eve Samples
October 30, 2010
We’ve heard a lot of talk about the economy this election season.
About “getting back to work.”
About “job-killing taxes.”
About who will or won’t jump-start the recovery we’re all waiting on.
Markedly absent from the conversation: any serious consideration of the environment.
But in a peninsula-state built on swampland, we can’t separate the two issues.
The environment is our economy in Florida.
So why aren’t more of our political candidates talking about it?
A study released this month by the nonprofit Everglades Foundation found that every dollar spent on Everglades restoration will yield a four-dollar payoff for Floridians.
Spending $11.5 billion to complete the projects envisioned by the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan would add 442,000 jobs over 50 years and create a $46.5 billion boost to Florida’s economy, according to the study.
That’s because groundwater would be more pure.
Real estate would be more valuable.
Fishing, wildlife habitat and hunting would be more plentiful.
Parks and open spaces would be more enticing to visitors.
In Martin County alone, the study reveals a big boost from Everglades restoration over 50 years:
$1.9 billion in value from groundwater purification and aquifer recharge;
$333 million in increased real estate values due to improved water quality;
$7.2 million in increased revenues from recreation and park visits;
$1 billion in avoided costs linked to removing salt from groundwater.
The Everglades Foundation commissioned the study in an attempt to shed some light on the economic stakes for the 16 counties covered by the South Florida Water Management District.
“Right now, we tend to talk too much about birds and gators and water quality in a very esoteric sense — instead of talking to taxpayers and homeowners that have a real interest in improving their property values and have a real benefit in these restoration issues,” said Kirk Fordham, chief executive of the foundation.
He pointed out that home builders, for example, have a huge stake.
“If we want to attract people to Florida, if we want to lure new businesses to our state, we have to guarantee a supply of fresh and clean water to sustain that population,” Fordham said. “Literally one out of every three Floridians depend on the Everglades for their water supply.”
With so many parties standing to gain so much from Everglades restoration, why aren’t more people lining up behind it?
Why are pro-business candidates and pro-environment candidates so often viewed as adversaries?
Why have Everglades restoration plans been so frequently shifted, postponed and diminished — most recently with the South Florida Water Management District’s scaled-back purchase of 26,800 acres of U.S. Sugar’s land south of Lake Okeechobee?
For one, the payoff is not always equal.
“The benefits don’t necessary flow back one-to-one to the people making the payments,” said Bobby McCormick, the lead investigator on the study.
And, for those that do see benefits, it could take decades.
Politicians and (let’s admit it) voters don’t like to think long term.
We all want results within an election cycle.
But no politician’s catchy plan for jobs and lower taxes will matter if Florida’s water supply is threatened, if its wildlife suffers.
At some point, the long term will become the short term.
How much will Everglades restoration cost us all then?
Eve Samples is a columnist for Scripps Treasure Coast Newspapers. This column reflects her opinion. For more on Martin County topics, follow her blog at TCPalm.com/samples.
Appeals court blocks questioning of EPA official
Miami Herald - by CURTIS MORGAN
October 29, 2010
An appeals court said a Miami federal judge could not force the personal grilling of an environmental official on Everglades pollution.
In a divided decision, an appeals court in Atlanta on Thursday rejected a Miami federal judge's request to personally grill a top federal environmental chief on persistent pollution problems in the Everglades.
Two members of a three-judge panel of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that U.S. District Court Alan Gold exceeded his authority in attempting to compel U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson to answer why the agency has engaged in ``glacial delay'' in cleaning up the Everglades.
The agency's offer of a substitute, a high-ranking aide who had personally worked on Everglades and Clean Water Act issues, would have fulfilled the judge's order without ``clearly encroaching on the discretion vested in the executive branch,'' the majority found in a 33-page opinion.
``We are mindful that the ecology of the Everglades is a national priority, but it cannot be said that the Everglades is the only matter of national importance demanding the administrator's attention,'' wrote appeals Judges Ed Carnes and William Pryor.
Earlier this month, the same panel had issued a temporary stay getting Jackson out of an Oct. 7 hearing while it fully considered Gold's order.
The appellate ruling did not cite the EPA's official reason why Jackson couldn't show, filed five months after Gold had issued his demand for her to show up and a month before the Oct. 7 hearing. The EPA had said Jackson's schedule was too demanding, including a trip set to leave the next day for Asia as part of a government delegation.
In April, in a federal lawsuit first filed in 2005 by the Miccosukee Tribe and the Friends of the Everglades, Gold delivered a blistering 48-page order finding state lawmakers and water managers had crafted ``incomprehensible'' rules and loopholes pushing back a 2006 cleanup deadline by a decade, and that the EPA erred in approving watered-down standards. It was his second blasting of the federal agency's cleanup oversight in the Everglades, echoing a previous decision in 2008.
This time, however, the frustrated judge threatened to fine the EPA and state Department of Environmental Protection if they didn't work out an enforceable plan and ordered the chiefs of both agencies to appear in his court. In September, the EPA asked to send a substitute for Jackson, a request Gold rejected and the agencies appealed.
In a dissent, appeals Judge Beverly Martin argued that the EPA's blatant disregard of Gold's initial 2008 order and its slow and inadequate response to pollution problems supported the judge calling an agency chief on the carpet.
``In any other case, we would impose nothing short of the harshest sanctions against a private party that behaved in a manner analogous to the EPA,'' she wrote. ``Indeed, I would be shocked if the only intermediate consequence to befall a corporation that so brazenly disobeyed a federal court order was that its CEO was directed to testify about future compliance efforts.''
Gold has scheduled a hearing next week on an EPA report calling for a 42,000-acre expansion of the state's network of reservoirs and treatment marshes -- projects that could cost taxpayers billions of dollars.
The proposal would again push back deadlines to meet the standard for levels of phosphorus, a fertilizer ingredient that flows from farms, ranches and yards and can poison native marsh plants.
Everglades restoration is taking another step forward !
CERP (US-ACE and the SFWMD - Press Release, Oct.19/10)
October 29, 2010
Groundbreaking ceremony Oct. 29 for Site 1 Impoundment
Everglades restoration is taking another step forward!
A groundbreaking ceremony for the Site 1 Impoundment / Fran Reich Preserve Project will be held Oct. 29 at 10 a.m. The project is located in southern Palm Beach County adjacent to the Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Jacksonville District is constructing the project in partnership with the South Florida Water Management District, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. It is funded primarily through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.
The Site 1 Impoundment project will increase much needed water storage capacity and water management flexibility adjacent to Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge.
“This project is all about getting the water right,” said Jacksonville District Commander, Col. Al Pantano. “This is the third major federal contract awarded this past year, moving forward the Corps’ commitment to restore America’s Everglades. Ecosystem restoration is our primary goal here, but this project will also augment drinking water supplies, and it will put Floridians to work,” he added.
The $44,125,000 project is located along the Hillsboro Canal approximately 20 miles west of Boca Raton in Palm Beach County. The project site is a 1,800-acre triangle of land located south and east of the Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge.
The Site 1 Impoundment will capture and store excess water currently discharged to the Hillsboro Canal. The stored water will be available for use when water availability is low in the dry season. It will also reduce wasteful discharges to the Intracoastal Waterway, as well as water supply demands on Lake Okeechobee and the Loxahatchee Refuge. The impounded water will decrease the loss of water from the Refuge caused by naturally occurring seepage. Other potential benefits include flood mitigation, water quality improvements and reduced saltwater intrusion.
“We’re excited about getting started on this project,” said Corps Project Manager Jason Harrah. “Our partner, the South Florida Water Management District, has made an investment in this project, without which we wouldn’t be starting construction. The District acquired the land, which was once slated to be a landfill. The project is a 50/50 partnership. The SFWMD has provided the land and the Corps will do the construction.”
Phase One of the Site 1 Impoundment project includes modifications to approximately 15,000 linear feet of the existing Levee 40. Construction activities include demolition, installation of a temporary access bridge, vegetation clearing and grubbing, dewatering operations, borrow and disposal area operations, excavation and fill placement, construction of an armored spillway, placement of erosion control measures that include soil cement and reinforced grass, installation of embankment instrumentation, and construction of an approximately six-acre wildlife wetland area. Once built, the Corps will turn operations and management of the site over to the SFWMD. The Corps awarded Lodge Construction, Inc. of Fort Myers, Fla. the contract to build Phase One of the project
Phase One of the Site 1 Impoundment project includes modifications to approximately 15,000 linear feet of the existing Levee 40. Construction activities include demolition, installation of a temporary access bridge, vegetation clearing and grubbing, dewatering operations, borrow and disposal area operations, excavation and fill placement, construction of an armored spillway, placement of erosion control measures that include soil cement and reinforced grass, installation of embankment instrumentation, and construction of an approximately six-acre wildlife wetland area. Once built, the Corps will turn operations and management of the site over to the SFWMD. The Corps awarded Lodge Construction, Inc. of Fort Myers, Fla. the contract to build Phase One of the project.
The groundbreaking ceremony will take place at the project site on Loxahatchee Road. Please RSVP on or before Monday, Oct. 25 to attend the ceremony. For directions and more information, please view the invitation or call 561-472-8885
Groundbreaking Everglades Project Creates Unprecedented Restoration Progress and Benefits to Local Economy
October 29, 2010
WASHINGTON - October 29 - “Americans can today celebrate another monumental groundbreaking for Everglades restoration. Authorized through the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, construction of the Site One Impoundment/Fran Reich Preserve Project marks the fifth project to begin in just over nine months as part of a larger Everglades restoration plan. Completion of this project will provide many benefits to southern Palm Beach County by capturing and storing excess surface water to increase water available for the natural ecosystem, recharge drinking water supplies in the aquifer, and protect against saltwater intrusion.
“We have seen unprecedented progress for Everglades restoration over the last twelve months, which has created thousands of South Florida jobs vital to our local economies.
“Now that construction has begun on a number of restoration projects, continued federal support for Everglades restoration is crucial to maximize our investment in one of America’s most treasured places—Everglades National Park.”
“We applaud Congress’s efforts to achieve full Everglades restoration, which will ultimately revitalize South Florida’s economic growth. Every time we turn dirt on an Everglades restoration project, we are fulfilling a promise to protect our national parks, wildlife, and family memories for our children and grandchildren to enjoy.”
NPCA is a non-profit, private organization dedicated to protecting, preserving, and enhancing the U.S. National Park System.
Rick Scott has given little thought to "My Beautiful Florida"
West Pal Beach Blogs - by John Hopkins
October 29, 2010
My beautiful Florida has a fragile environment. Essentially, our state is a sandbar floating out in the Gulf and the Atlantic. We are precariously attached to the “northern states”, but we are very nearly an island.
When I drive through my Florida, I never tire of the beautiful greens of the palms, the azure blue of our oceans, the nearly cloudless skies, and the constant presence of critters of all kinds. Florida is truly a paradise – a fragile one to be sure—but a paradise all the same.
The environment here has been ignored and abused alternatively during the years and managing our delicate environment is something that those of us who actually love this state take very seriously. So, I expect anyone running for government office would be sensitive and have plans to protect Florida’s environment. This is especially true after Florida, along with the other Gulf States, were exposed to and threatened by the BP Gulf oil disaster.
The other practical side of Florida’s environmental protection is that one of our largest industries is tourism. People from all over the world visit our state to experience the unique ocean environment, one of the world’s largest natural filters in the Everglades, and to enjoy our white sand beaches.
These are all things well appreciated by anyone who has lived in Florida for any period of time and who truly loves her.
I was disappointed, but frankly not surprised to compare the environmental plans of Alex Sink and Rick Scott; and to find that someone who has lived in Florida for over 25 years has a very extensive, well thought plan, whereas someone who has lived in Florida barely (7) years has given little thought to Florida’s environmental plans.
From what I could find on his website and in comments he has made, Rick Scott’s entire plan for protecting Florida’s environment is:
“We must be good stewards of our natural resources. Florida’s natural treasures are the corner stone of the tourism industry that drives our state’s economy, and our beaches, rivers, lakes and parks are what make Florida a great place to live and raise a family.” – Rick Scott
· Rick is committed to conserving Florida’s natural resources.
· Rick is committed to preserving the Everglades.
Oh, he also sees no problem with unchecked oil or natural gas drilling in our Gulf.
Alex Sink’s plan for protecting and improving Florida’s environment is too extensive for me to repeat in this article. I invite you to read some of her ideas on her website, but some of the high points will hit home with Floridians:
Protecting oceans and coastlines. Our coastal waters are the backbone of our state -- and our economy…
Preserving land. Alex supports all of the land conservation programs that make up Florida Forever and will work with the Florida Legislature to restore its funding…
Promoting smart growth management. Alex supports retaining a strong Growth Management Act, and will work to maintain the state oversight currently within that law…
Restoring the Everglades. The health of the Everglades has been declining for many years. A plan to restore the Everglades and to ensure adequate water for the urban, agricultural and environmental areas was written almost 10 years ago…
Protecting our water. Water is one of Florida’s most critical environmental issues. Without adequate clean and safe water, this state will suffer economically and environmentally…
Alex Sink has given serious thought to a framework for plans to deal with Florida’s delicate ecosystem and environment. She calls for protecting our oceans and coastlines from drilling in Florida waters, and “developing a comprehensive ocean management plan to preserve and protect our oceans, coastal habitats and marine ecosystems.” Sink lays out a plan for the restoration of the Everglades, how to protect our waters and improve water quality, and increase water supplies.
Rick Scott has barely given a moment’s thought and not more than (8) lines to Florida’s environment. According to the St Petersburg Times, “When the Sierra Club sent both candidates a questionnaire, Sink responded, but Scott did not, said Cecilia Height, the club’s political chairwoman in Florida. “She said she could not remember the last time a candidate did not even bother to try appealing to the club’s 28,000 Florida members.”
Unfortunately for Florida’s environment, Rick Scott’s plan lacks vision and details. Sink on the other hand sees it as an opportunity to create jobs and preserve and restore our environment. Sink says:
“The environment and the economy are so intertwined in Florida that you can’t promote one by promoting the other.”
“It’s about jobs,” Sink said. “We have a lot of fallow pasture lands that could be converted into producers of biofuels, creating jobs.”
Clearly, Alex Sink gets it and understands how important this is to those of us who truly love this wonderful state.
In this dead heat race for the next Florida governor, we need to take a close look at how both candidates will deal with all of Florida’s challenges, not just the economy.
Remember why you live in Florida and how much we enjoy, and maybe take for granted, all of our beautiful natural resources and waters. Then ask yourself, is Rick Scott really the right governor for Florida's precious environment and for our future?
As for Rick Scott’s plan for the environment, “So, Rick, where is the beef ?”
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