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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 ?”
Deal could let Mosaic reopen mine
Star Tribune - by MIKE HUGHLETT,
October 28, 2010
The agreement with groups that opposed expansion of a Florida phosphate mine still needs a judge's approval.
Plymouth-based Mosaic Co. could temporarily reopen an idled Florida phosphate mine under an agreement it has reached with environmental groups that opposed the mine's expansion.
The mine, a key component to Mosaic's phosphate fertilizer production, shut down in early September after a federal judge ruled expansion of the mine would likely violate the federal Clean Water Act.
The Sierra Club and two other environmental groups had sued the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, contesting a wetlands permit it issued for the expansion of Mosaic's mine in Fort Meade, Fla.
The environmental groups asked for the expansion to be halted, and U.S. District Court Judge Henry Lee Adams obliged with a preliminary injunction in August.
Mosaic has said that without the expansion, the company had to idle the mine because its existing reserves are largely played out. But an agreement with the environmental groups this week would allow mining to proceed on 200 acres of the 10,583-acre proposed expansion.
Mining the 200 acres should take about four months, meaning the agreement is a Band-Aid solution. The company would resume mining within 30 days of court approval, which is necessary for the agreement to take effect, Mosaic spokesman Rob Litt said.
Mosaic, 64 percent owned by Cargill Inc., bills itself as the world's largest phosphate producer, and the Fort Meade mine accounts for about 30 percent of its phosphate output.
With the mine out of commission, Mosaic has been forced to buy more phosphate on the open market, a more expensive proposition.
Once the mine starts up again, it still won't operate at full production, Litt said.
Mike Hughlett • 612-673-7003
Everglades report a pitch for money
Sun Sentinel - by William Gibson
October 28, 2010
Everglades restoration is making good progress, but the massive project needs a continuing flow of funds from strapped governments, federal officials reported to Congress this week.
The five-year progress report from Army engineers amounts to a rosy view of success so far and a pitch for more money. It comes with the implicit warning that carving restoration funds out of Tallahassee and Washington will get harder.
“The economic downturn has had a substantial impact on the state of Florida’s funding capabilities,” the report notes. “Advanced construction initiatives by the state plus its bold vision for land acquisition have been hampered by significant revenue declines since 2008.”
“Sustained funding at both the state and federal level . . . are essential to maintaining the benefits and progress documented here,” the report says.”
Environmentalists were pleased.
“We are delighted to see the substantial progress of the past five years captured in one document, including projects that have broken ground,” said Julie Hill-Gabriel of Audubon of Florida. “However, while construction is very important, it is just the beginning of progress. Success over the next five years will be measured by the actual changes in the ecosystem and wildlife habitat.”
The report reviews progress on the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan, a blueprint approved by Congress and the state in 2000. Projected costs since then have risen from $8 billion to $13.5 billion over three decades, with the state and federal governments splitting the tab.
“This report should be used to reinvigorate support for restoration from leaders across the nation,” Hill-Gabriel said.
Look who is weighing in on the numeric nutrient criteria…
Palm Beach Post – Seeing Green Blog by Christine Stapleton
October 28, 2010
Weighing in on the numeric nutrient criteria debate on Wednesday were nine former agency heads and top level water mangers who sent a letter to EPA administrator Lisa Jackson opposing the controversial water standards. Among the “formers” who signed the letter:
Jacob D. Varn, Secretary of the Florida Dept. of Environmental Regulation (precursor to the Dept. of Environmental Protection)
Pete Hubbell, executive director of the Southwest Florida Water Management District
Peter Baljet, executive director of the Florida Dept. of Air and Water Pollution Control
Gary Kuhl, executive director of the Southwest Florida Water Management District
Sonny Vergara, executive director of the St. Johns River Water Management District and Southwest Florida Water Management District
John Shearer, DER Assistant Secretary
Henry Dean, executive director of the St. Johns River Water Management District and South Florida Water Management District
Woody Wodraska, executive director of the South Florida Water Management District
Bill McCartney, executive director of the Northwest Florida Water Management District
The letter writers, who have “collectively over three hundred years of working in water management in Florida” cited three reasons for opposing the standards: The standards should be “based on good science” and peer reviewed; the proposed-standards are too costly “in these very difficult economic times” and a one-size-fits-all nutrient criteria standard won’t work. “Nutrient concentrations that support good water quality in one Florida fresh waterbody might cause poor water quality in another Florida fresh waterbody.”
The proposed standards stem from a lawsuit brought by the Florida Wildlife Federation against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 2008. In August 2009 the Federation and the EPA reached a settlement, called a consent decree which requires the EPA to set numeric nutrient water quality standards for nitrogen and phosphorus in Florida’s lakes, rivers, streams, springs and canals. Nitrogen and phosphorus pollution come from stormwater runoff, municipal wastewater treatment, fertilization of crops and livestock manure.
Recognizing that a one-size-fits-all standard would not work, the EPA proposed divvying up the state into four regions. Streams within each of these regions have have similar geology, nutrient concentrations and nutrient ratios. The EPA proposed setting separate standards based on each region’s unique factors. In July the agency realized that four regions might not be enough and asked for public comment on setting unique standards for five regions.
The Agency used the “best available science and data,” including analysis of over 800,000 nutrient tests, according to its web site. After holding 13 public hearings around the state and receiving over 22,000 public comments, the Agency extended the comment period from Oct. 15 to Nov. 14, 2010.
Tags: EPA, EPA administrator Lisa Jackson, Florida Wildlife Federation, numeric nutrient criteria
Army Corps reports progress in Everglades restoration
Palm Beach Post - by Christine Stapleton, Staff Writer
October 27, 2010
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers portrays a rosy picture of its role in restoring the Everglades, in its 2010 report to Congress.
In the 130-page draft released Wednesday, the Corps concluded that achievements over the last five years "have produced not only much needed momentum, but also greater confidence in restoration efforts." The Corps is required to submit a report to Congress every five years on the status of Everglades restoration.
The estimated cost of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan, CERP, is up to $13.5 billion, from $10.8 billion in the 2005 report, with most of the increase over the last five years due to inflation, according to the Corps' report.
Stimulus money from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act enabled the Corps to initiate programs to control invasive exotic plants and to build an annex near Davie to research bio-friendly alternatives to killing the plants, such as insects, the report said.
The report also noted a project partnership agreement the Corps recently signed with the South Florida Water Management District. The two agencies have been at odds over restoration, blaming each other for delays and failure to meet water quality standards.
On Friday the Corps will break ground on the Site 1 Impoundment of the Fran Reich Preserve Project in southern Palm Beach county, adjacent to the Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge. The project is designed to will capture and store excess surface water and runoff from the Hillsboro watershed, the Refuge and Lake Okeechobee.
EPA's Numeric Nutrient rule has big costs, low benefits
Sun Sentinel - by Paul Steinbrecher
October 27, 2010
The Florida Water Environment Association Utility Council is an association of over 60 wastewater utilities in Florida that own the facilities that treat the wastewater you generate. Our members serve over 8 million Floridians, and are honored to protect the public health and the environment by safely collecting, treating and disposing or beneficially reusing domestic wastewater.
The Utility Council is concerned about EPA's proposed Numeric Nutrient Criteria for Florida because the criteria was not developed in a scientifically sound manner and will cost Floridians billions for little, if any, environmental benefit.
As a matter of fact, EPA's proposed criteria, which are the result of a lawsuit and not scientific need, derails successful state water quality programs that are working now to protect Florida's pristine waters and to restore waters that do have nutrient problems. We are not alone in this concern.
An overwhelming bipartisan majority of our Florida Legislative Delegation has appealed to EPA on several occasions to subject their proposed rule to a meaningful independent scientific review to ensure that the rule brings cost-effective environmental benefits that would not be achieved under the existing rules. So far, EPA has declined to do this for the first part of the rule that is set to become law Nov. 14 of this year.
The Utility Council is also concerned about misleading statements made in a recent Oct. 20 forum in this publication. It suggested that costs to meet these new criteria are "likely to cost a few extra dollars per person per month." This assertion is simply incorrect.
Advanced wastewater treatment, which is already in place at many Florida wastewater facilities, simply cannot meet the nitrogen and phosphorus levels being proposed by the EPA. Similar to an evaluation recently performed by FDEP, our objective engineering analysis indicates that for the majority of utilities in the state, exorbitant treatment levels such as reverse osmosis will be required, with little evidence of environmental benefit in most cases. This independent engineering analysis indicates that for the customers of utilities for which treatment is imposed, the average utility bill will increase by between $500 and $900 per year, depending upon the utility's unique circumstances.
This is a serious issue. Your utilities are doing their best to ensure that any required regulatory changes are cost effective and will have a real environmental benefit. That is why we oppose EPA's litigation-driven nutrient rulemaking.
Paul Steinbrecher is president of the Florida Water Environment Association Utility Council in Tallahassee.
Wood storks rebound, reigniting battle over loosening level of protection
Palm Beach Post - by CHRISTINE STAPLETON
October 27, 2010
The endangered wood stork — the pterodactyl-like bird that faced extinction in the 1980s, has made a comeback. It graces the Everglades in rising numbers, and today often alights along urban ponds and canals.
Whether that return is steady enough to take the stork off the endangered species list and ease development restrictions, however, is pitting builders against conservationists.
“The environmental community would petition to put them on the list, but they never did the flip side and take them off,” said Keith Hetrick, general counsel for the Florida Association of Home Builders. “If it’s scientifically justified then that’s fine. If it’s not, then let’s take it off.”
But conservationists say down-listing the wood stork to “threatened” is merely a developers’ attempt to make it easier to get permits to destroy more natural areas.
“They don’t give a ... about the wood stork or anything else,” said Cynthia Plockelman, the first vice president of the Audubon Society of the Everglades. “It’s totally unprincipled. We have an oversupply of housing, plus foreclosures. They are trying to take advantage in unsettled times.”
The wood stork was put on the endangered species list in 1984, after decades of dramatic decreases in nesting. In the 1930s an estimated 15,000 to 20,000 pairs nested throughout the southeastern United States. By the late 1970s, nesting populations plummeted to a low of 4,500 to 5,700 pairs, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
A recovery plan was drafted and the wood stork could not be reclassified as threatened until the population reached at least 6,000 nesting pairs over a three-year-average. Between 2001 and 2006 the three-year nesting averages were consistently above the threshold of 6,000 pairs, prompting the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to recommend that the wood stork’s status be down-listed.
And the nesting pairs have continued to climb. In 2009, the best nesting year recorded in southern Florida since the Everglades was drained, the wood stork produced approximately 6,452 nests, according to the South Florida Water Management District. Wood storks also nested in record numbers in 2009 at a roost at the Solid Waste Authority on Jog Road, the district reported.
Armed with those numbers and the wildlife service’s recommendation, the builders association petitioned the service to reclassify the wood stork in May 2009. A year passed. In July, the association threatened to sue the service if it did not act.
“The Fish and Wildlife Service was not doing its job,” Hetrick said. “This is in step with forcing Fish and Wildlife to do its job. They need to allow us to do our job.”
In September the service asked for public comment about reclassifying the wood stork — igniting the long-standing battle between developers and environmentalists. The public has until Nov. 22 to comment.
“The wood stork has made something of a comeback, but not perfect in any way, shape or form,” Plockelman said. Because of development in South Florida, the bird has expanded its nesting range as far north as North Carolina.
It will take time to see if the birds continue to nest in these new areas, said Julie Wraithmell, director of Wildlife Conservation at Audubon of Florida.
“What is the long-term sustainability in these areas, in terms of sea level and climate change?” Wraithmell said. “It’s important to make sure that the species really has recovered.”
In a press release, the attorney who filed the petition to reclassify the bird, Steven L. Gieseler of the Pacific Legal Foundation, called the wood stork’s endangered status “an albatross for Florida’s economy.”
“The continued listing of the wood stork under the Endangered Species Act has blocked development and mining projects that could have provided jobs for thousands,” Gieseler wrote in the press release. “That’s an unacceptable — and inhumane — price to pay for protecting a bird that does not need regulation or protection.”
However, the wood stork will still be protected even if it is down-listed to threatened, said Steve Godley, a vertebrate biologist who specializes in endangered and threatened species and is a long-time consultant to the builders. Reclassifying the wood stork will not make it easier for homebuilders to pull permits, Godley said. The only benefit to homebuilders is that it brings the wood stork one step closer to being de-listed altogether, he said.
“There may be a battle among people, but not among the storks. They are doing fine,” Godley said. “If you want the public to have confidence in the Endangered Species Act, the list needs to be accurate. Why have a list at all if it’s not accurate?”
Wood stork facts
The wood stork is the only stork occurring regularly in the United States.
Head-to-tail: 33 to 45 inches.
Wingspan: Up to 5 1/2 feet.
Nesting: Seasonally monogamous. Tends to use the same colony site over many years.
2009 estimated nests in South Florida: 6,452
John Hankinson to Lead Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Task Force
Sunshine News – by Kevin Derby's blog
October 26, 2010
On Monday, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson named a familiar face to Florida as the executive director of the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Task Force -- John Hankinson, who was the regional administrator who oversaw the Sunshine State during the Clinton administration and headed up the Planning and Acquisition Department and the Office of Land Acquisition for the St. Johns River Water Management District. He also was with the Legal Environment Assistance Foundation in Tallahassee and served as a policy analyst in the Office of Planning and Budgeting under Gov. Bob Graham.
“We’re pleased that John has accepted this responsibility and is willing once again to step up and serve the people of the Gulf Coast,” said Jackson. “He will play an instrumental role in fulfilling our commitment to a full and lasting restoration of this area. John’s longtime experience with these issues and this region, along with his proven ability to get things done, will be invaluable assets in what is sure to be a long-term, hard-fought battle to restore the waters of the Gulf. I have every confidence in him.”
“I spent my childhood on the Gulf and I am proud and honored to have the opportunity to carry out the president’s commitment to restoring this vital ecosystem,” said Hankinson. “I look forward to hearing from everyone in the Gulf Coast – from community groups to businesses to scientists – as we go about restoring a national treasure that also happens to be an economic engine for the entire region.”
“I am pleased to see the selection of John H. Hankinson Jr. as the executive director of the task force focused on restoring the Gulf after the oil spill,” said Gov. Charlie Crist. “As a Floridian with many years of experience working on environmental issues, John understands the strong link between Florida’s economy and the Gulf, especially for our tourism and seafood industries. Nothing is more important to Florida’s future than cleaning up any oil that remains in the Gulf of Mexico."
Let's get serious about clean water - Guest column
October 26, 2010
We are destroying what we love about Florida - our rivers, estuaries, lakes and springs.
Florida is rock bottom in the U.S. in terms of protecting its waters from pollution - more than 98 percent of the state's bays and estuaries, and more than 54 percent of its streams, are unsafe for swimming and/or fishing.
Nutrient poisoning is the main cause of Florida's water quality woes. Nitrogen and phosphorus from fertilizer, animal waste, sewage and polluting industries have become the most common water pollution problems in the state.
The nutrients feed toxic algae, kill fish and spur respiratory problems in swimmers and beachgoers. The summer "Green Monster" on the St. Johns is the result of nutrient poisoning.
The good news is that state and federal scientists are ready to impose new limits on nutrient pollution next month. The bad news is that, instead of protecting public health, some politicians have joined with industry groups to try to delay these much-needed pollution standards.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency identified the need for limits on nutrient poisoning back in 1998, and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection agreed in 2009. But both of these agencies failed to follow through on their responsibilities to protect our waterways.
After 12 years of waiting for the state to do something, St. Johns Riverkeeper and four other environmental groups filed a federal lawsuit. The EPA agreed to new limits on nutrient pollution, and the first of those limits - for lakes, rivers and creeks - is to go into effect next month.
People want clean water. The EPA reports that it has received 22,000 public comments on the proposed new nutrient pollution limits, and 20,000 were in support of the standards.
Unfortunately, in the worst sort of political shenanigans, the forces blocking these new public health standards are resorting to false claims about high costs for water treatment.
The truth is that meeting Florida's new limits for nutrients is likely to cost a few dollars extra per person per month phased in over many years.
In Chesapeake Bay, for example, advanced wastewater treatment cut pollution at a cost of only $2.50 per household per month.
This is the price of safe water. As the Gulf oil spill made clear, dirty water (or even the threat of it) is not only a public health threat - it's a job-killer in our tourist-dependent economy.
Local governments will likely get extra dollars from the federal and state governments to make improvements to outdated sewer plants, just like they did in programs to clean up the health threats posed by leaking underground storage tanks and dry cleaning fluid in the groundwater.
Preventing pollution at the source is much cheaper than cleaning it up after-the-fact - just look at the billions of tax dollars going to clean up poisoned ecosystems like the Everglades.
It took years for scientists to realize the damage that nutrient poisoning is doing to our waters.
Now that we know, we need to cease the political grandstanding, stop the bogus scare-tactics and get busy with cleanup.
Everglades Show Signs of Improvement
Discovery News – by Tim Wall
October 25, 2010
The Everglades' alligators, herons and other inhabitants wade in cleaner water than they did in the 1970s, suggests a recent report.
Researchers at the University of Florida and the South Florida Water Management District observed a reduction in contaminants in the water entering Everglades National Park, also known as the "River of Grass," from 1977 to 2005.
Seven sources of water entering the park from the north and east were analyzed. The results were compared to records.
Overall levels of nitrogen and phosphorus had declined since the late 1970s, the researchers found. The improvement in water quality suggests efforts to reduce the impact of agriculture and urbanization around the Everglades are working. The researchers published their findings in the Journal of Environmental Quality.
Ed Hanlon, lead author of the report, explained the historical background:
Until the 1990s, little attention was paid to human impacts on the Everglades. Growth in agriculture and urbanization around the Kissimmee River and Lake Okeechobee increased run-off of waste. Canal and levee construction altered natural water flow. But the economic benefits of development outweighed the environmental costs.
In the 1990s, large-scale efforts began to restore and protect the Everglades. Now, after more than a decade of work, the River of Grass seems to be flowing cleaner.
Economic Analysis Predicts Minimum 4-1 Return on Restoring the Everglades Ecosystem
National Parks Traveler - by Kurt Repanshek
October 24, 2010
Restoring the "river of grass" in Florida is not only an environmentally wise investment, but it also would generate a substantial return to the state's economy, according to a study prepared for the Everglades Foundation.
In the worst-case scenario, spending $11.5 billion on the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan would generate another $46.5 billion in jobs, tourism dollars, and higher home values, according to foundation officials. The best-case scenario outlined in the study performed by Mather Economics boosts that return to $123.9 billion.
"It is clear that Everglades restoration not only produces ecological benefits, but also generates a robust economic boost to our economy. For every dollar spent on Everglades restoration, we are getting four dollars back in the form of higher home values, increased tourism and stronger fishing, boating and tourism industries," said Kirk Fordham, the foundation's chief executive officer. "When we invest in protecting and restoring the Everglades, we are also revving up a powerful job creation engine. Aside from the good paying jobs in construction, engineering and the sciences that come with restoration projects, we are boosting employment in a wide range of industries."
The study shows that for every one dollar spent on Everglades restoration as part of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan, $4.04 would be generated in economic benefits, the foundation said in a release. Projections indicate that there will be an incremental impact on employment of about 442,644 additional jobs over 50 years, it added. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers also estimates there will be 22,966 new short- to mid-term jobs created as a result of actual restoration projects.
To help you understand how the economic return can be so great, the foundation points out that more than 7 million people "live in the Everglades watershed and depend on its natural systems for their livelihood, food and drinking water. Florida’s agriculture, boating, tourism, real estate, recreational and commercial fishing industries all depend on a healthy Everglades ecosystem, which supports tens of thousands of jobs and contributing billions to our economy. Its waters flow through Everglades National Park, Big Cypress National Preserve, Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge, Biscayne National Park and John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park. Together, these parks draw several million visitors each year, contributing hundreds of millions of dollars to Florida’s tourism economy."
“Let’s think about the basic ecosystem services provided by the Everglades as a grocery store featuring ‘products’ ranging from water purification to enhanced tourism," said Bobby McCormick, Ph.D., the principal investigator on the analysis for Mather Economics, which is based in Atlanta. "We created six distinct aisles or divisions and a catch-all section. For each of these categories, we conservatively estimated, using best available data and economic methods, the increase in economic value of a restored Everglades ecosystem. The bottom line, as our analysis strongly suggests, is that the rewards of restoration far outweigh the economic costs.”
In addition, the study shows that Everglades restoration will result in added value to the economy of $5,129 per individual residing in the 16-county South Florida Water Management District.
At the National Park Conservation Association's Sun Coast Regional Office, Dawn Shirreffs, the group's Everglades Restoration program manager, said the benefits actually could even be higher than those portrayed in the report, as it did not take into account the benefits the restoration could have on mitigating climate-change impacts. With sea level rise a serious concern, one that could devastate south Florida's water resources, a healthy Everglades ecosystem could greatly help protect those resources, she said.
“One of the most revealing things in Florida and Everglades National Park specifically is it’s so deeply tied to our water supply," said Ms. Shirreffs. "They didn’t include sea level rise (in the economic analysis), and we’re one of the most vulnerable places.”
The restoration of the Everglades currently is the only project moving forward that could mitigate sea-level rise in Florida, she said.
More than a decade ago the Clinton administration promised to embark on an expansive, and expensive, plan to restore the Everglades. That project was seen as a way to restore, preserve, and protect the South Florida ecosystem while providing for other water-related needs of the region, including water supply and flood protection. With an estimated total cost of $10.7 billion to the federal government and $11.8 billion to the state of Florida, the initiative is the largest hydrologic restoration project in U.S. history.
While the massive restoration project has been moving forward in fits and starts, the Obama administration has promised to keep whittling away at it.
The Omnibus Appropriation Act for fiscal year 2009 provided a total of $241 million for Everglades’ projects, including $118 million from the Department of the Interior and $123 million from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. And last year another $119.2 million was provided through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
At the Everglades Foundation, CEO Fordham said that while the country is wallowing in an economic malaise, that shouldn't derail the massive restoration project.
"Too often, we hear arguments that we can't afford to invest in Everglades restoration during an economic downturn. Instead, smart policymakers recognize that the future of our state's economic growth depends on protecting the Everglades and the water supply it provides to one in three Floridians," he said. "Simply put: we can't grow our economy if we allow the Everglades to collapse."
While it would be nice to think we wouldn't need to make economic justifications to invest in the health of our national parks, Ms. Shirreffs said sometimes that connection has to be made.
"Is there an intrinsic value, a cultural, historic, not to mention environmental, value to restoring our parks? Absolutely," she said. "(But) it doesn’t register as high on priority lists of appropriation folks equally. It's important for those folks to be able to understand that this isn’t just about putting aside money for the intrinsic side of our national parks, that it also has economic value.”
The 173-page report, Measuring the Economic Benefits of America’s Everglades Restoration: An Economic Evaluation of Ecosystem Services Affiliated with the World’s Largest Ecosystem, is available in its entirety in pdf form at this site.
So much for the oil spill's impact
Miami Herald – by FRED GRIMM
October 24, 2010
Not only did that giant horrible plume of oil seem to disperse in the Gulf, it disappeared from politics.
Six months ago, the gusher in the Gulf of Mexico was seen as both the worst natural disaster in American history and the most vexing problem in American politics. ``This is what I wake up to in the morning, and this is what I go to bed at night thinking about,'' President Obama said.
The ruinous effect of 4.1 million barrels of red, gooey crude washing onto the Gulf Coast would surely affect the November elections.
Thanks to the spill, Gov. Charlie Crist, commanding a flotilla of plastic booms off the Florida Panhandle beaches, was able to resurrect his candidacy in the U.S. Senate race. In early summer, Crist was transformed into the environmental governor with lots of media attention and a lead in the polls.
But in the final weeks of the campaign, the spill -- along with Crist's allure -- has receded from public consciousness.
The gusher was capped three months ago. Worried talk of an environmental catastrophe was soon drowned out by an angry harangue from oil-state politicians demanding an end to the moratorium on new deep-water wells. Elected officials formerly concerned for shrimpers, fishermen and the Gulf Coast tourist industry talked incessantly about the loss of drilling jobs.
On Oct. 12, the Obama administration lifted the moratorium. And the worst natural disaster in American history became no more relevant to American voters than those vaguely remembered wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Over in Louisiana, Gov. Bobby Jindal has stubbornly persevered with his $360 million chain of earthen berms 40 miles offshore, despite protests from environmentalists and marine scientists.
So far, his sand barriers have intercepted only about 1,000 barrels of oil. That works out to $36,000 a barrel -- not such a cost effective way to protect the coast. But Jindal's berm project, also known as Jindal's folly, was a political conception, a monument to himself when it was proposed in May, a time political leaders were still obsessed with the Gulf disaster.
Lately, not only has the oil spill faded from the public narrative, so have other environmental concerns -- except as the stuff of derision from tea party insurgents.
The new right-wing activists, poised to chase Democrats out of their majority positions in Congress, regard talk of global warming as biblical heresy. As former House Majority Leader Dick Armey, reincarnated as a tea party intellectual, put it, ``The Lord God Almighty made the heavens and the Earth to his satisfaction. It is quite pretentious of we little weaklings here on earth to think that we are going to destroy God's creation.''
A New York Times/CBS poll this month found only 14 percent of the tea partiers called global warming an imminent problem. More than half doubted that global warming posed a future problem.
After Nov. 2, the new political establishment will ignore all those secular worries about melting polar caps, massive wildfires, dust storms, ocean dead zones and a rising sea that could inundate much of the Florida peninsula.
So much for worries about preventing future deep-water spills. So much for carbon-cutting measures that might slow global warming. If climate scientists are right about rising sea levels, and the tea partiers are wrong, so much for Florida.
Broward seeks to continue ocean sewage dumping
Sun Sentinel – by David Fleshler and Brittany Wallman
October 25, 2010
County says residents' sewage bills would more than double if state mandate is followed.
Broward County wants to escape a state mandate to shut down a pipe that discharges treated sewage into the ocean off Pompano Beach, saying the cost would be huge and the environmental payoff negligible.
The pipe is one of six in Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties ordered closed by a 2008 state law, after a campaign by environmentalists who argued they were polluting coral reefs and wasting fresh water.
The law, which set a deadline of 2025, requires wastewater authorities to improve treatment systems so the water could be used for purposes such as irrigating golf courses, watering lawns and recharging underground water supplies.
The Broward County Commission learned last week that it would cost about $800 million to construct such systems. Sewage bills for the pipe's northern Broward County users would more than double, with the average customer's bill rising from $33.09 to $69.48.
Now the county is aiming for a way around the requirement – either by a change in the law, a waiver, or some other sort of exemption so that it would no longer apply here.
Thomas Hutka, Broward's public works director, said spending hundreds of millions to pump the water into the Floridan aquifer or to lay pipes to spray it on lawns, "is not a cost-effective use of taxpayer funds.''
"The county will continue to work with the state as we have since the year 2007 so that we can continue using the ocean outfall, which we believe to be both cost effective and environmentally sound,' Hutka said.'
Alan Garcia, the county's water and wastewater director, said the water already is 90 percent clean.
"If you take a jar out of our treatment plant it's as clear as can be," he said. "There are no solids in it. It's not yellow or green.''
Ed Tichenor, director of Palm Beach County Reef Rescue, an environmental group that led the campaign to close the pipes, said the environmental community would put up "quite a fight" to prevent Broward from keeping the pipe in service.
"Solids aren't the problem," Tichenor said. "It's the nutrients, it's the pharmaceuticals, it's the pathogens and viruses that survive the initial treatment. And one reason they passed this legislation was a water shortage in southeast Florida, and southeast Florida doesn't recycle water like the rest of the state."
The pipe off Delray Beach shut down last year. Boca Raton expects to be reusing 100 percent of its water by 2015, using the pipeline only for occasional seasonal overflows, said Chris Helfrich, the city's utilities director. Hollywood and Miami-Dade County are exploring options, both saying the change would require a massive investment in new treatment systems.
Installed in the mid-1970s, the Broward-operated pipe discharges 32 to 34 million gallons a day of treated sewage from Parkland, Pompano Beach, Deerfield Beach, Coral Springs, Tamarac, Oakland Park, Lauderhill, North Lauderdale, Coconut Creek, Lauderdale Lakes, part of unincorporated Broward and a small part of Fort Lauderdale.
Environmentalists have blamed this and other pipes for discharging nutrients such as ammonia that fertilize the growth of algae that smothers coral reefs. State legislators said the region couldn't afford to dump that much fresh water at sea at a time when the region is facing permanent water-use restrictions.
Broward County Vice Mayor Sue Gunzburger said "if there's anything we can do to avoid meeting that standard by 2025,'' Broward wants to do it.
"It's a very expensive unfunded mandate that I don't think would make much difference when it comes to the ocean,'' Gunzburger said.
"The most telling fact is that most of the nutrients that go into the sea are not from the wastewater effluent but from storm water discharge.''
Although there have been several swimming advisories in Broward for high bacteria levels over the past year, environmental officials inspected the pipes and plants, finding no malfunctions. Health officials say the more likely sources of contamination were animal waste washed into the water from birds and other wildlife.
Broward County Commissioner Kristin Jacobs, who is known as an environmentalist, said the state mandate was not based on sound science and the alternatives have their own environmental issues.
"It is not the intent of Broward County to slip one past the people,'' said Jacobs, known for her environmental advocacy. "What we're looking for is a science-based solution.''
But she said she doubts the county will be allowed to keep using the outfall.
"There are politicians who used this in their brochure for their next election: 'I shut off the ocean outfall.' They're going to come back and give us some grace to deal with this issue? I'm skeptical.''
David Fleshler can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
No Money Left to Fix Everglades? Why Should That Surprise Anybody?
SunshineNews - Nancy Smith's blog
October 22, 2010
The money's gone. Short of imposing new taxes, there's nothing left to get started on virtually any part of Everglades restoration. Why does that suddenly come as such a surprise?
It certainly shocked Chief U.S. District Judge Federico Moreno on Thursday, because on March 31 he had ordered a $700 million reservoir that had been stopped and destroyed halfway to completion, rebuilt. The South Florida Water Management District had money then.
But after a court-appointed special master advised Moreno to reverse his order, and the SFWMD and the Environmental Protection Agency went along with it, water managers bought into the Gov. Charlie Crist/U.S. Sugar Corp. whittled-down deal.
The original plan involved 187,000 acres and all of U.S. Sugar's assets for $1.75 billion, but it has been repeatedly trimmed as the district wrestles with budgetary shortfalls. The latest revision works out at a cost of $7,400 per acre.
The latest plan encompasses 17,900 citrus acres in Hendry County, which will be leased back to U.S. Sugar at no cost, and 8,900 sugar cane acres in Palm Beach County that carry a $150 per-acre lease rate.
At an Aug. 11 SFWMD meeting to consider the purchase, speaker after speaker warned that there would be only three ways to pay for this bad deal -- go into debt, use reserves or raise taxes. All three options would be unacceptable to taxpayers, SFWMD board members were told. Speakers said the deal will only rescue the fortunes of U.S. Sugar under the guise of Everglades restoration.
But the deal went through anyway. And on Thursday, Water Management District Attorney Kirk Brown admitted the money's gone and paying for any more projects right now -- including the reservoir the judge had ordered rebuilt -- would be "challenging."
Moreno is stymied. How does he rule now? How can any project go forward without money?
The water management district knew it was emptying the piggy bank for U.S. Sugar Corp. The Everglades Foundation knew. The governor knew. The EPA knew. But they all figured Moreno will reverse his decision. And if they have a little land, they can leverage it to get stimulus money, to get a new governor on board with a financing plan that will pay for the rest of the land they need, to raise taxes to restore what they can of a national treasure by -- when? The year 2030?
What a shambles for Florida taxpayers and the Florida Everglades.
Everglades Show Improvement in Water Quality
October 21, 2010
Source: American Society of Agronomy (ASA)
Newswise — Researchers at the University of Florida Research and Education Centers and scientists at the South Florida Water Management District have published a report regarding the trends in water quality feeding into Everglades National Park. The report can be found in the September-October 2010 Journal of Environmental Quality, published by the American Society of Agronomy, the Crop Science Society of America, and the Soil Science Society of America.
The goal of the study was to provide insight regarding the variations in the quality of water from the Water Conservation Areas and the system of Storm Water Treatment Areas. These regions are used to supply water to Everglades National Park, control flooding, and repair the water quality. The report suggests that the overall levels of both nitrogen and phosphorus have declined since the 1970s. This indicates that the water quality is improving as a result of the restoration methods completed in the areas surrounding the park.
Using data from 1977 through 2005, the researchers assessed the levels of nitrogen and phosphorus from seven inflows to the national park.
According to the report’s author, Ed Hanlon, historical changes in the landscape have degraded the condition, distribution and flow of the surface water coming into the park. Expansions in agriculture and urbanization around the Kissimmee River and Lake Okeechobee increased the run-off of waste. Canal and levee construction disrupted natural flow patterns.
While environmental concerns were raised as early as the 1960s, the effects on the ecosystem of the park were over shadowed by the benefits to the economy of the state of Florida. The canals and levees provided drainage of areas too wet for agriculture and urban development. Additionally, the damage to property and the loss of human life from flooding caused by hurricanes and heavy rains was greatly reduced.
However, best management practices and other interventions were implemented regionally in the 1990s in the Everglades Agricultural Area and various urban areas. Designed to regulate and diminish the impact of human presence and activity on the region, best management practices, the Water Conservation Areas, and the Storm Water Treatment Areas were implemented within the same decade.
After 2005, data was analyzed from five sites on the northern boundary of Everglades National Park and two on the eastern border. Despite the fact that the five northern sampling sites were statistically similar to each other, they differed in terms of water quality from the eastern sampling sites. Therefore, new strategies in water monitoring and recuperation programs could be developed to minimize the number of stations used without sacrificing the variability of the samples taken.
The variations in the levels of phosphorus and nitrogen from the samples can be attributed to the amount of precipitation in a given year. In fact, the amount of nitrogen and phosphorus exceeded water quality standards at several sites during the study period given the complex hydrology of the area.
The full article is available for no charge for 30 days following the date of this summary. View the abstract at https://www.agronomy.org/publications/jeq/abstracts/39/5/1724.
The Journal of Environmental Quality is a peer-reviewed, international journal of environmental quality in natural and agricultural ecosystems published six times a year by the American Society of Agronomy (ASA), Crop Science Society of America (CSSA), and the Soil Science Society of America (SSSA). The Journal of Environmental Quality covers various aspects of anthropogenic impacts on the environment, including terrestrial, atmospheric, and aquatic systems.
The American Society of Agronomy (ASA) www.agronomy.org, is a scientific society helping its 8,000+ members advance the disciplines and practices of agronomy by supporting professional growth and science policy initiatives, and by providing quality, research-based publications and a variety of member services.
Farming Water in Florida
Liveshots.blogs - by Orlando Salinas
October 21, 2010
Jimmy Wohl’s been a cattle rancher for most of his life. His family bought the 5,000 acre spread in Sebring, Florida back in the early 1960’s, and it’s still a working cattle ranch today. While we were walking his land, A couple hundred head of beef cattle were looking at me like I was some sort of matador. Kind of like how many American ranchers have looked at any kind of governmental agency that wants to step foot on their land.
But this time, things might be different.
Wohl is one of 8 Florida ranchers who are part of a pilot program that pays ranchers to collect water for the state-- on their private land. And at the end of the legally binding contract, the land owner could sell his property to the highest bidder.
The reason this ‘payment for environmental services- PES’ project makes sense, is because Florida has forever been caught in a drought. Some years have been worse than others, but all have been tight on water.
The PES plan would eventually have enough Florida ranchers join the project, so they can collect about 750 olympic size swimming pools worth of rainwater. That’s about one million gallons of water.
The water would be collected during Florida's torrential rainy season, then released during the dry season. The released water would eventually feed into the Everglades as as well as into south Florida's stingy water supply.
We walked and rode through Jimmy’s land as the sun beat down hard. I saw a couple of large pumps and computers that had been installed by the state. I saw one pump pushing about 9000 gallons of water an hour, from one side of his land to another. Fast. Loud. Hard and unforgiving. The water had already flooded more than 100 acres. Wohl said he was happy with how the program was working so far.
Environmental groups say the ‘water farming’ plan makes sense, and would cut back on building costly reservoirs that dot the Florida landscape. The flip side is that farmers would not be legally bound to keep any of the land for permanent conservation. But that’s a weak argument in the bigger picture. After all, the ranchers are agreeing to use their land to collect water. To store it and then release for the general population when its needed most.
Swiftmud officials fear Old World fern infesting Green Swamp
The Tampa Tribune - by KEITH MORELLI
October 21, 2010
To Burmese pythons slithering around the Everglades and lionfish prowling the reefs of the Keys, add another invasive foreigner to Florida's accommodating ecosystem. This one likes to climb trees and choke them to death.
The Old World climbing fern has been popping up in Central Florida, making its way from South Florida to the woods as far north as Hernando, Lake and Sumter counties.
The fern has been seen in woods both inside and outside the Green Swamp, officials say, and so far, it doesn't seem to have reached an infestation stage.
The fear is that the plant will entrench itself in the 560,000-acre Green Swamp north of Lakeland. The Green Swamp is an important aquifer recharge area and headwaters for four major rivers. Much of the land is watched over by the Southwest Florida Water Management District. An infestation of the swamp would be a huge problem because much of the land is inaccessible.
Biologists are keeping an eye on the fern's movement, hoping to keep it out of the swamp, said district spokeswoman Robyn Felix.
The Old World climbing fern or Lygodium microphyllum is native to Africa, Asia and Australia, Felix said. It was found in South Florida in the late 1950s.
Resembling Japanese climbing ferns, the Old World fern forms dense mats and can cover and eventually kill trees, shrubs and plants, Felix said.
It's also flammable, she said, and poses a fire danger by carrying fire into wetland and swamp areas that normally help contain controlled burns and wildfires. She said that trees covered by the vine can burn up to the treetops in a wildfire and that can kill even the most fire-resistant trees.
"If we allow the Old World climbing fern to become firmly established, it will be very difficult to control due to the size and remote nature of the Green Swamp," said the district's aquatic plant manager Brian Nelson in a news release issued this week.
District biologists routinely conduct ground and aerial surveys of the Green Swamp, looking for infestations. The troublesome vine can be killed with herbicides.
Infestations of Old World climbing fern in the Green Swamp should be reported to the district at 1-800-423-1476 ext. 4537 or The Nature Conservancy at (941) 320-4363 (941) 320-4363.
The Green Swamp is the largest undeveloped tract of land in the region. It covers parts of Hillsborough, Pasco, Hernando, Polk, Sumter and Lake counties.
U.S. judge presses federal, state agencies on Everglades cleanup strategies
Palm Beach Post - by Christine Stapleton, Staff Writer
MIAMI — Chief U.S. District Judge Federico Moreno relentlessly lobbed questions to lawyers involved in a 22-year-old Everglades cleanup lawsuit on Thursday, asking repeatedly whether a reservoir he ordered to be built would, could or should be built.
In March, Moreno ordered the South Florida Water Management District to resume construction on a $700 million reservoir in western Palm Beach County. The district halted construction two years ago in the midst of negotiations with U.S. Sugar Corp. to purchase over 187,000 acres of land for an alternate cleanup effort.
As the economy tanked, the deal dwindled to 26,800 acres. Water managers, who closed on the deal last week, recently admitted that the district does not have enough money to build storm water treatment areas on the new land and resume construction on the reservoir.
Moreno was baffled.
"How can you afford to build all this other stuff?" Moreno asked the District's attorney, Kirk Burns, who admitted that financing the projects is "challenging."
Water managers and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection now agree with the findings of a court-appointed special master, who recently advised the judge to reverse his March order.
"The only reason the reservoir was proposed is because there weren't better remedies," said Charles Delmonico, a private attorney who represents the DEP and the District.
Environmental groups agreed with the District and DEP. Technology had improved since 2006, when construction began on the reservoir and building storm water treatment areas on the new land is the "best water quality bang for the buck," Burns said.
Moreno wondered if the district's alternative plan of building storm water treatment areas isn't a "pipe dream," however.
"This is a tough one, because nothing tangible is going to happen soon," the judge said.
Environmentalists on the Florida governor’s race
October 20, 2010
Floridians who care deeply about the natural wonders of our great state and our quality of life will be paying careful attention to the November gubernatorial race. The two candidates for governor represent sharply contrasting scenarios for the protection of Florida’s uniquely rich environment. We are at a crossroads. On one path, the election of Rick Scott, without any track record and vague statements about red tape associated with environmental and development protections, would severely compromise our collective quality of life. On the other path, Alex Sink recognizes the link between environmental protection and economic vitality that Floridians desire and expect. It is clear to us which path to take.
Florida is defined by its natural resources. It is the Sunshine State, the Diving Capital of the World, the Fishing Capital of the World, and a Birders’ Paradise. Florida is home to the world’s best beaches, the largest seagrass meadows in the world, the greatest concentration of fresh water springs on earth, one of the world’s most unique ecosystems, the Everglades, the nation’s only near shore shallow reefs and the best state park system in the country. Our natural resources frame our history, our heritage, our culture, and our way of life. They are the envy of the world.
Simultaneously, Florida is a “growth state” with almost 19 million residents and 80 million tourists a year. We are able to protect our environments and the economic benefits they provide all Floridians because of a framework of laws, regulations, and state agencies that allow Florida to grow and prosper through a safeguarding screen of environmental protection. These laws provide the balance that allows growth and prosperity, while ensuring the protection of the state’s natural wonders for our children and grandchildren. In order for our state to continue ensuring both prosperity and natural resource protection, Florida must have the right kind of leadership.
Rick Scott is a newcomer to Florida. His campaign mentions the environment briefly, but says nothing about the need to balance growth with environmental protection. He stresses the need to weaken or eliminate regulations that provide the final safeguard for Florida’s environment. We expect he will work to abolish the Department of Community Affairs, the state’s land planning and community development agency. We anticipate that he will also support dismantling or weakening the Department of Environmental Protection.
Alex Sink has lived in Florida for almost 30 years and has very deep convictions about the need to protect Florida’s environment and natural resources – while simultaneously creating jobs and promoting a thriving economy. Throughout her career as Florida’s CFO and on the Florida Cabinet, she has upheld our rich heritage of environmental protections, she has been accessible to both business and environmental leaders, and she has listened to Floridians who cherish our state’s natural resources.
We urge you to learn about these two candidates, their differences, and their policies, regardless of party affiliation. We believe the path toward balancing prosperity with protection of Florida’s natural resources is clear. The governor’s race will speak volumes about who we are as Floridians and set the tone for Florida’s environmental future.
Gary Appelson, Gainesville
Eric Draper, Tallahassee
Charles Pattison, Tallahassee
Manley Fuller, St Marks
Everglades Foundation Releases Economic Study Detailing Financial Return On Investment
Everglades restoration would boost economy, group says
Miami Herald - by DOUGLAS HANKS
Spending $12 billion restoring the Everglades could generate $124 billion in economic gains, according to a study released by a group advocating the tax-funded restoration. The study relased by the Everglades Foundation asserts that the joint state-and-federal restoration effort would create more than 400,000 jobs over 50 years, including 23,000 new positions while work was being conducted. The foundation said the restoration would mean $1 billion for Miami-Dade alone.
Among the gains cited by Mather Economics in writing the report: enhanced tourism, cleaner water, and higher property values.
To read the full study, go to www.evergladesfoundation.org.
Everglades touted as job creator and economic boost
Juice (blog) - William Gibson - October 19, 2010
Florida businesses, groups urge Congress to stall water quality standards
The Florida Independent - by Bianca Fortis
October 20, 2010
According to the Sun Sentinel, 46 Florida businesses and groups are urging Congress to further delay implementing federal water-quality standards for freshwater rivers, lakes and streams. The groups say implementing the rules now could be “economically devastating.”
The Environmental Protection Association already delayed implementing rules for canals, coastal waters and estuaries until August 2012. The agency has already faced pressure from Florida politicians to delay the implementation of the standards.
According to the Sentinel,
some environmental groups are pushing for tougher water standards to remove damaging nitrogen and phosphorus. Improved water quality is considered essential to preserving the Everglades and other waterways.
Among the businesses and groups were Palm Beach County Water Utilities, the Florida Fertilizer & Agrichemical Association and the Association of Florida Community Developers.
This comes on the heels of a study released Monday that says a $12 million investment into the Everglades could result in a more than $46 billion return as well as 400,000 jobs over 50 years. The study was completed by Mather Economics, an Atlanta-based consulting firm, but was commissioned by The Everglades Foundation.
Should pollution rules be imposed in Florida?
South Florida Sun-Sentinel – by William E. Gibson
October 20, 2010
Some 46 Florida businesses and other groups urged Congress on Wednesday to support their efforts to forestall federal water-quality standards that they believe could be economically "devastating."
The EPA already has delayed rules for canals, coastal waters and estuaries until August 2012. The Floridians want to push back rules for freshwater rivers, lakes and streams to allow more time for scientific review and economic analysis.
Under congressional pressure, EPA postponed the freshwater rules for 30 days while considering public comment.
Some environmental groups are pushing for tougher water standards to remove damaging nitrogen and phosphorus. Improved water quality is considered essential to preserving the Everglades and other waterways.
But Florida Senators George LeMieux and Bill Nelson urged delay because of concerns that the rules would be too costly to implement for local communities, growers and businesses during a time of economic distress.
Everglades Groups: There is money in Everglades restoration
Daily Business Review
October 19, 2010
The $11.5 billion needed to restore water flow through the Everglades will pay for itself at least four times over, according to a year-long study released Monday by the Everglades Foundation that says the economic benefit could go much higher.
Hoping to put the massive restoration project back on the fast track in tight financial times, the foundation said its $195,000 study shows that restoring the River of Grass will have tangible economic benefits eclipsing at least $46 billion and resulting in more than 440,000 jobs.
“When we invest in Everglades restoration, we are also revving up the state’s economic engine,” said Kirk Fordham, CEO of the Everglades Foundation.
Mather Economics, an Atlanta based company, conducted the study that researchers said was an attempt to use actual expenses to calculate economic benefit instead of trying to ferret out intrinsic benefits. Dividing potential impacts into categories including groundwater purity, real estate appreciation and improved wildlife habitat and hunting, the research group said it erred on the side of caution when extrapolating figures.
“We are likely significantly underestimating the economic benefits,” said Bobby McCormick, the principal investigator involved in the study. “But that gives me confidence that we have done a credible job.”
Among its major assumptions is that more water means cleaner water. Increasing sheet flows across the Everglades will reduce the salinity of groundwater, which has become increasingly brackish since the mid 1980s. Less salt in groundwater means less energy needed to remove it. Reducing salinity to 1970 levels would save $13 billion by reducing the amount of energy needed to make brackish water drinkable, the Mather study indicated.
Improved water quality would also boost real estate values by $16 billion, as property became more desirable because of improved access to cheaper, cleaner water. Commercial fishing would be enhanced by $2 billion with the recreational fishing economy rising by $500 million following the completion of restoration efforts.
“Boaters want cleaner water,” said Michelle Miller, executive director of the Marine Industries Association of Florida, “That is positive because boating is a $16 billion industry in the state.”
Arguably one of the biggest benefactors of a cleaner Everglades would be tourism, especially in the areas of ecotourism. Improved habitat would translate into a more diverse and abundant array of wildlife, a draw to animal watchers and hunters, who would pump $12 billion into the economy in overnight stays, transportation and other things tourists need.
Everglades project to generate 400,000 jobs
Examiner.com – by David Volz
October 19, 2010
This is number of positions that could be created through Everglades restoration projects. It would mean a $46 billion boost to Florida's economy. The Everglades Foundation has just released a year long study that estimates the economy will recieve a $4 return for every $1 the state and federal governments invest in protecting the Everglades.
The study was completed by Mather Economics, a consulting firm. The study found that there will be many job benefits connected to cleaning and storing stormwater from the Everglades. These include improving South Florida's water supply, increasing tourism by improving water quality and fishing grounds in the Everglades and creating more than 23,000 construction jobs to build reservoirs, stormwater treatment area and other projects.
This study comes after the completion of the South Florida Water Management District's $197 million Everglades restoration land deal with U.S. Sugar Corp. This deal will give the district 26,800 acres to use to help store and treat stormwater for the Everglades.
Kirk Fordham, CEO of the Everglades Foundation said the Florida economy is dependent on the Everglades and the water supply.
Everglades restoration ‘a wise investment’
South Florida Business Journal - by Paul Brinkmann
October 18, 2010
Restoring the Everglades is a wise investment for Florida, resulting in higher home values, increased tourism and a stronger fishing and boating industry, a new study suggests.
The study, commissioned by the nonprofit Everglades Foundation, shows that, for every dollar spent on Everglades’ restoration, $4.04 in economic benefits will be generated.
Projections in the study indicated a possible additional 442,644 jobs over 50 years. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers also estimates there will be 22,966 new short- to mid-term jobs created as a result of actual restoration projects.
Restoration was defined as the federal plan known as the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan, which is estimated at about $11.5 billion, but years behind schedule.
The study projects that restoration will produce an increase in economic benefits of about $46.5 billion, and up to $123.9 billion, based on an investment of $11.5 billion.
“As we look to the future of Florida, jobs in new categories are clearly important to the sustainability of our economy,” said Barry Johnson, president and CEO of the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce, during a morning teleconference.
Michele Miller, executive director of the Marine Industries Association of Florida, indicated her support for study and its results, noting that, despite the economic downturn, boating is still a $16 billion industry in Florida.
The study assumes that cleaner water and environment will result in higher real estate values.
Everglades Foundation CEO Kirk Fordham said the study relied on concrete evidence from real estate professionals who said sales can be killed by algae blooms and warnings against eating fish in contaminated waters.
He said the study was partly aimed at combating viewpoints in Washington, D.C., and Tallahassee that we must choose between Everglades restoration and more direct economic stimulus.
"When we invest in protecting and restoring the Everglades, we are also revving up a powerful job creation engine,” Fordham said. “Aside from the good-paying jobs in construction, engineering and the sciences that come with restoration projects, we are boosting employment in a wide range of industries."
The foundation spent about $195,000 on the study, Fordham said.
It assumed that failing to restore the Everglades would result in increasing groundwater salinity and additional damage to ecosystems.
The study did not anticipate any damage associated with rising sea level, which many climate scientists are predicting. The study also left out any possible money value provided by carbon sequestration, or the trapping of carbon greenhouse gases.
Earlier this month, the state finalized the purchase of 26,790 acres of sugar and citrus farmland for Everglades restoration.
The purchase of croplands and wetlands south of Lake Okeechobee is considered critical for improving water quality and ecosystem restoration in the Everglades.
The study, conducted by Roswell, Ga.-based Mather Economics, can be found on the foundation’s website.
Everglades River of Grass gets help from South Florida Water Management District
Examiner.com – by Valerie J. Amor
October 18th, 2010
The South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) today closed on the purchase of land from the United States Sugar Corporation, providing 26,800 acres of strategically located property south of Lake Okeechobee for Everglades restoration. The $194 million acquisition places 42 square miles of agricultural land into public ownership for the construction of water quality improvement projects that will bring meaningful environmental benefits to the famed River of Grass.
“Hard work and a steadfast commitment to restore the River of Grass has successfully brought to fruition — in an affordable way — an opportunity to further improve water quality in the Everglades and address important federal mandates,” said SFWMD Governing Board Chairman Eric Buermann. “Once considered out of reach, the District now has ready access to thousands of acres of strategically situated property to advance Florida’s steady progress in restoring the Everglades.”
Highlights of the acquisition include:
Acquisition of 17,900 citrus acres in Hendry County to improve water quality in the C-139 Basin, where phosphorus loads have been historically high. This parcel, just west of thousands of acres of existing constructed wetlands, can be used for additional water storage and treatment facilities that would improve the quality of water flowing into the Everglades.
Purchase of 8,900 acres of sugarcane land in Palm Beach County to benefit the Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge by expanding existing Stormwater Treatment Areas (STAs) and increasing water quality treatment for the S-5A Basin, just southeast of Lake Okeechobee.
The agreement contains options to purchase another 153,000 acres for up to 10 years should future economic conditions allow. The options to acquire additional lands, which provide further opportunities to benefit the Everglades, Lake Okeechobee and the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie estuaries, include:
An exclusive 3-year option to purchase either a specifically identified 46,800 acres or the entire 153,000 acres at a fixed price of $7,400 per acre. U.S. Sugar could sell the option property to a third party but must retain the District’s option.
After the exclusive option period, a subsequent 2-year, non-exclusive option to purchase the approximately 46,800 acres at Fair Market Value. U.S. Sugar could sell all or a part of the option property, but subject to a Right of First Refusal by the District.
A subsequent 7-year, non-exclusive option to purchase the remaining acres at Fair Market Value. U.S. Sugar could sell all or a part of the option property, but subject to a Right of First Refusal by the District.
“This acquisition allows access to critical land south of Lake Okeechobee needed for project construction that will bring meaningful water quality and environmental improvements to the Everglades,” said Florida Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Mimi Drew. “We thank the Governing Board members for their thorough deliberation and their commitment to this once-in-a lifetime opportunity.”
In identifying the 26,800 acres for this acquisition, the District evaluated science and engineering factors as well as its existing requirements and mandates, all of which drive the agency’s restoration and water quality improvement efforts. This acquisition, together with additional lands in the Everglades Agricultural Area already in public ownership, gives the District access to more than 40,000 acres of land south of Lake Okeechobee needed for water quality and restoration project construction.
Today’s closing is the culmination of more than two years of work since the District began negotiations with the U.S. Sugar Corporation in June 2008 to acquire land south of Lake Okeechobee for Everglades restoration. This downsized, more affordable acquisition recognizes dramatic changes in economic conditions over the last two years, which have resulted in a decline in District property tax revenues by nearly $150 million, or 30 percent, since 2008.
For additional information, see Just the Facts: Reviving the River of Grass — Land Purchased for Everglades Restoration.
Documents relating to the U.S. Sugar acquisition are posted online at www.sfwmd.gov/riverofgrass.
# # #
About the Everglades:
America’s Everglades once covered almost 11,000 square miles of south Florida. Just a century ago, water flowed down the Kissimmee River into Lake Okeechobee, then south through the Everglades to the Florida Bay—the ultimate destination of the pure sheetflow. Because of efforts to drain the marshland for urban development, agriculture and flood control, the Everglades is today half the size it was a century ago. Dubbed the River of Grass for the sawgrass that flourished throughout the marsh, the Everglades is a mosaic of freshwater ponds, prairies and forested uplands that supports a rich plant and wildlife community. Renowned for its wading birds and wildlife, the Everglades is home to dozens of federally threatened and endangered species, including the Florida panther, American crocodile, snail kite and wood stork. The mix of salt and freshwater makes it the only place on Earth where alligators and crocodiles exist side by side.
About the South Florida Water Management District
The South Florida Water Management District is a regional, governmental agency that oversees the water resources in the southern half of the state — 16 counties from Orlando to the Keys. It is the oldest and largest of the state's five water management districts. The agency mission is to manage and protect water resources of the region by balancing and improving water quality, flood control, natural systems and water supply. A key initiative is cleanup and restoration of the Everglades.
Study projects 400,000 jobs and $46 billion economic boost from Everglades restoration
Sun Sentinel - by Andy Reid
October 18, 2010
Everglades = economy.
That's the message of a new economic study commissioned by environmentalists, which concludes that stepped-up Everglades restoration would result in hundreds of thousands of new jobs and a more than $46 billion boost to Florida's economy.
The Everglades Foundation on Monday released the results of a year-long study that estimates the economy gets a $4 return for every $1 the state and federal governments invest in protecting what remains of Florida's famed River of Grass.
Investing nearly $12 billion to get Everglades restoration back on track would bring more than $46 billion return and create 400,000 jobs over 50 years, according to the study completed by Mather Economics, an Atlanta-based consulting firm.
According to the study, the job-creating benefits from cleaning and storing stormwater needed to replenish the Everglades include: bolstering South Florida's drinking water supply; boosting tourism by improving water quality and fishing grounds in the Everglades and South Florida's coastal estuaries; and creating nearly 23,000 construction jobs to build reservoirs, stormwater treatment areas and other environmental projects.
"Our state's economy is entirely dependent on the Everglades and our water supply," said Kirk Fordham, CEO of the Everglades Foundation. "This is an economic imperative that [we] invest in Everglades restoration."
The results of the study will be used as a sales pitch to the new federal and state leaders that voters choose in the Nov. 2 election. The idea is to give elected officials a dollars-and-sense reason to invest in Everglades restoration at a time when the slumping economy strains spending on environmental projects.
The Everglades Foundation wants to restore the $200 million a year of state money that used to flow to Everglades restoration, before the budget squeeze.
The group also wants to increase the federal funding for Everglades restoration that has picked up under the Obama's administration, after eight years of delays and unkept commitments from Congress and the White House.
The study comes after the completion of the South Florida Water Management District's $197 million Everglades restoration land deal with U.S. Sugar Corp.
The land deal give the district 26,800 acres to use to help store and treat stormwater for the Everglades, but the district still needs the money to pay for construction.
In addition, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in September called for a revised Everglades cleanup effort that the district estimates would include $1.5 billion in costs — money that district officials say they don't have.
Supporters of the U.S. Sugar land deal point to the study as proof that the expense of finding more money to build restoration projects is worth the rewards to the environment and the economy.
But opponents long warned that spending $197 million of taxpayers' money during a lean economy on more land would take away money from already-overdue restoration projects.
Getting those eye-popping 400,000 new jobs over five decades that the study projects would require following through on a host of Everglades projects that remain shelved.
The study estimates the economic benefits of completing the Everglades restoration plan that state and federal officials agreed to in 2000, but that has since been bogged down by funding delays and other hurdles.
One of the benefits of restoring more of the "sheet flow" of stormwater that once naturally drained south from Lake Okeechobee to the Everglades would be to beef up South Florida's drinking water supply, according to the study.
More clean water in the Everglades would boost drinking water supplies. The study estimates that Everglades restoration would bring $13 billion in savings for South Florida communities that would otherwise have to tap into saltier underground water supplies that require more costly treatment to use for drinking water.
Improving water quality throughout the region would improve property values throughout South Florida by about $16 billion, according to the study.
The more than 400,000 jobs projected over 50 years would include more than 270,000 related to construction and real estate, 80,500 tied to improved wildlife habitat and hunting and nearly 37,000 connected to recreational fishing, according to the study.
"The results of this report are encouraging," said Barry Johnson, president and CEO of the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce. "Creating jobs in new categories is very important to the sustainability of our economy."
Andy Reid can be reached at abreid@SunSentinel.com
The Sugar Industry's Assault on the Environment and Florida's Politics
AlterNet.org – by Alan Farago
October 18, 2010
A recent move by Florida Governor Charlie Crist to take land out of sugar production to help save the Everglades is monumental on so many levels.
Put it down, etched in granite: Florida Governor Charlie Crist took land out of sugar production to help save the Everglades. There is one exceptional fact to this achievement, memorialized on Oct. 12. Crist engineered this critical initiative for the environment despite the opposition of Florida Crystals or New Hope Sugar, owned by the Fanjul family. Nothing like that has ever happened before in Florida. Why this political event deserves a monument illuminates the dark politics engulfing the nation.
Sugar is grown on about 700,000 acres around the southern rim of Lake Okeechobee. Originally, it was all Everglades. Any hope of realizing the nation's keystone environmental initiative depends on hugely expensive application of technology and science to vast new cleansing marshes built from lands owned by sugar billionaires. Although there are small sugar farmers who are politically active, it is really the Big Two who provide the energy and funding for the industry in the halls of power: US Sugar and sugar companies owned by the Fanjuls, including Domino Sugar. The Fanjuls are US Sugar's only similarly scaled competitor. That said, the nation's biggest sugar producers are 99 percent of the time on the same side of politics and positions opposed to environmental regulation.
The water supply requirements of sugar production -- flood control in the wet season and supply during the dry -- is out of sync with the natural Everglades. Keeping it that way enhances sugar profits. At the same time, fertilizer runoff and chemicals released by the exposure of wetlands to extensive drying have massively polluted the Everglades. These factors converted the Everglades from a multi-billion dollar economic engine including fisheries, estuaries, and natural habitats valued by the nation into a resiliant if flickering shadow. At the same time, Big Sugar has used its profits to become the main obstacle to restoring America's River of Grass.
Crist's accomplishment was historic, albeit on a much reduced scale from his original plan; 187,000 acres at a cost of $1.75 billion. Crist appointees at the water management district -- mostly Republicans -- saw the moment through, despite the chaos organized by the Fanjuls. For doing the right thing -- Crist's own words, why he conceived the deal -- GOP insiders hounded him from the party. Fanjul interests were early and big contributors to Marco Rubio; the Republican candidate for US Senate. In July, Pepe Fanjul hosted a fundraiser for Rubio, at $42,500 per ticket.
For many decades, the public purpose of converting sugar lands from production in order to remove pollution has been like trench warfare. Fanjul lobbyists, lawyers and experts have been armed to the gills; all pointing in one direction; delay, delay and more delay. Even after selling property to government, they pushed to the final dotted 'i', working behind the scenes to hobble environmental agencies from within, whether threatening funding cuts, cajoling, intimidating and applying pressure at any point of weakness.
Lately, in the case of the US Sugar purchase, regular meetings of the water district governing board have been disrupted by anti-tax zealots, funded by the Fanjuls, dressed as the Tea Party with only the vaguest idea who their talking points benefit. As well documented in radical publications like the Wall Street Journal, the wealth of the sugar billionaires exists as a function of corporate welfare; import quotas, price supports, and other subsidies that occur through a malleable Congress and the Florida legislature. The Fanjuls protect their prerogatives with campaign contributions. For example, in the US Senate race one Fanjul patriarch supports Kendrick Meek and the other, Marco Rubio. Recently, Pepe Fanjul was tagged by national news for employing as executive assistant for thirty five years a woman married to a prominent leader of KKK and of the American Nazi Party.
The Fanjuls say the Crist deal is a collossal waste of taxpayer money. But in the scientific community, there is unanimous agreement that the highest priority for the Everglades is to add vast acres of new treatment marshes. These cleansing areas, funded by the public, will clean sugar's pollution because the Florida legislature will not make the polluters pay. As to waste of taxpayer money, that has the Tea Partier's charging to District meetings with their hair on fire, no one has the guts to explain to them how the Farm Bill is what keeps the billions flowing into the pockets of special interests to commandeer our representative democracy.
For the most part, environmental insiders have been silent on the influence of the Fanjuls because the family owns lands that, hopefully, in the future will join to lands acquired through the US Sugar purchase. In other words, unless the Fanjuls fundamentally change their strategy -- squeezing the last dime from their private property and selling only when the peat soil is too exhausted to produce -- Everglades restoration will be hobbled.
Whether or not it was the best deal -- Charlie Crist did something that no national politician, either Democrat or Republican has ever done. He did the right thing for Florida and for the Everglades. Bill Clinton who is Alfie Fanjul's golfing partner, wouldn't do it. Nor would Bob Graham whose willingness to do the Fanjuls' bidding opened a gaping hole in plans to restore the Everglades. Nor Bill Nelson who sticks to bland Everglades talking points neat as Mitch McConnell's hairstyle. It is still the Fanjuls tinkering with dark science. In the press you will read their spin: how the US Sugar purchase takes away from restoration. The backstory is how the Fanjuls funded, in the early 1990's, Wise Use activists to suppress environmental regulations, tying knots in a line straight to today's Tea Party, how the Fanjuls funded African American churches and leaders to oppose the polluter pay referendums and scared off President Clinton in the mid 1990's, how Governor Jeb Bush connived, at urging of Fanjul funded lobbyists, to change water quality standards for the Everglades in 2003 now judged to be violations of federal law, happily using the occasion to divide Florida's environmental community. These are all chapters along the way to Gov. Charlie Crist's acquisition of US Sugar lands.
EPA plays catchup on costly Florida water pollution
TampaBay.com - by Craig Pittman, Times Staff Writer
October 17, 2010
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which is supposed to enforce the nation's rules on water pollution, has suffered a pair of black eyes from two recent court cases in Florida.
In both cases, the agency has been forced to agree it has done a poor job of stopping pollution in Florida. In both, the EPA has now pledged to impose tougher standards to clean up the mess. In both, industry officials and politicians are strongly objecting to the EPA's crackdown because the fix will cost so much money.
"Had they been doing their job all along, we wouldn't be in this boat," said Paul Schweip, an attorney for Friends of the Everglades, one of the organizations that sued over pollution problems.
Both cases are causing the agency major headaches.
In one, Florida's two U.S. senators have been pushing the EPA to hold off applying its new pollution standards because of the cost to businesses. The agency is delaying the standards for a month.
In the other, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson has been commanded to show up in court to explain how her agency will fix what it fouled up. Meanwhile, the state has told the judge that it cannot afford to do what the EPA says must be done.
EPA officials declined multiple requests to comment specifically about how the agency went wrong. Critics say the EPA's failure is more than just a bureaucratic kerfuffle.
By not enforcing the law, "they are putting the population of Florida at risk and endangering their health," said civic activist Ann Hauck, who has been complaining to Congress about the EPA for years. "The people of Florida should wake up because the government is not working in their best interest. It is working for special interests."
One case involves all of Florida's waterways, the other just the Everglades. Both involve EPA officials deferring to state officials on pollution questions.
In 1998, the EPA ordered all states to set numeric limits on nutrient pollution. Nutrients such as phosphorous and nitrogen flow into waterways from fertilized lawns, golf courses, leaking septic tanks and malfunctioning sewer plants.
In the past 30 years, nutrient pollution has become the most common water pollution problem in the state. It feeds the increase in algae blooms that kill fish and cause respiratory problems and rashes among swimmers and beachgoers.
Florida has vaguely worded limits on nutrients that have failed to prevent some waterways, such as the St. Johns River, from being heavily polluted. One state regulator testified in a pollution case that the state Department of Environmental Protection was supposed to look out for the public interest, but equated that with the interests of a paper company's pulp mill.
The EPA warned the states that if they took no action by 2004, the agency would step in — but it didn't do anything. So last year environmental groups filed a federal lawsuit accusing the EPA of failing for 10 years to force Florida officials to set numeric nutrient pollution limits.
The EPA settled the suit by agreeing to set new limits on how much nutrient pollution is allowed to foul Florida's waterways, a move likely to change everything from how suburban lawns are fertilized to how stormwater runoff and sewage are treated.
Under the 2009 settlement, the EPA had until January to propose the new limit for Florida's lakes, rivers and creeks, and then would finalize those rules by this past Friday. The agency then has until January to propose a limit for the state's coastal and estuarine waters, with a deadline of next October to finalize the rules.
But now business groups, agricultural leaders and politicians galore are complaining about the standards and the high cost of complying. Both Republican Sen. George LeMieux and Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson tried in vain to get Congress to order the EPA to delay the rules until December. The EPA did agree to delay implementation until mid November.
'Glacial' cleanup pace
The whole thing could have been avoided, Nelson said, if the EPA had just done its job instead of waiting to be sued. "They should have been working on it already," Nelson said. "Just like the Everglades situation."
In the Everglades case, U.S. District Judge Alan Gold ruled in 2008 that the EPA had ignored the requirements of Clean Water Act when it allowed the Florida Legislature to extend by 22 years the deadline for cleaning up pollution flowing into the River of Grass — pollution that's killing the Everglades.
"Nothing could justify a schedule so slow and glacial as to defeat the (Clean Water Act's) goals," the judge wrote. "Federal law does not authorize anything like a 22-year compliance schedule."
Gold found that EPA officials in Atlanta not only allowed the state to delay the deadline, but actually coached the state in how to do so in a way that appeared to comply with the Clean Water Act. He told the EPA to force Florida to fix the problem. It did not.
So in April, Gold put out a new order in which, to "express in the strongest possible terms my frustration and disappointment," he did something designed to really get the EPA's attention: He ordered the EPA's Jackson to show up in his court and explain her agency's actions, after "failure to comply with the law for more than two decades."
Last month, EPA officials told Gold the agency would now require the state to expand by 42,000 acres its existing network of reservoirs and pollution treatment marshes. In addition, the EPA ordered the state to amend all existing permits that allow pollution to spill into the Everglades so they would conform to Gold's decision.
But now the state agency facing those requirements, the South Florida Water Management District, is saying it cannot afford to do what the EPA is demanding. Declining property tax revenue has put the agency in too much of a financial bind.
If the EPA had pushed for those requirements prior to 2006, said water district chairman Eric Buehrmann, "we would've had more wherewithal to pay for it."
Craig Pittman can be reached at email@example.com.
The Everglades Restoration Project: Trusting government on the environment ?
Examiner.com – by Karl Dickey
October 17th, 2010
In another move toward the supposed "restoration" of the Everglades, the State of Florida and US Sugar has completed a land acquisition deal at a cost to taxpayers of $197 million. I suppose we should be somewhat relieved as it is far less than the much larger proposed land deal which would have costs taxpayers over $1.5 billion.
This is small fraction of the overall $8 billion of Federal taxpayer money promised in 2002 by then President George W, Bush and then Florida Governor Jeb Bush to, at least partially, restore the natural flow back to the Everglades before the government damaged the flow in the first place.
Trusting the U.S. Government, the largest polluter in the United States, is an absurdity which makes one wonder why so many well meaning environmentalist often turn to the government to help the environment. A better idea may be to put organizations with a positive track record of being good stewards to the environment in charge and not the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
The Everglades has been a trading pawn of both state and federal politicians to boost their coffers with campaign contributions from the mid-1800's and really ramped up in the early-mid 1900's. It was through the Internal Improvement Fund the Florida legislature used public tax dollars to tempt real estate speculators to develop the submerged land of the Everglades which ultimately turned out to be a bad bet for the speculators and taxpayers. Not to be deterred, the Florida legislature brought in Federal taxpayer dollars and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to drain the Everglades to expand Florida government's tax base. Subsequent acts of Congress and the Florida legislature further attempted to keep flooding in mid-southern Florida under control from Lake Okeechobee and to expand sugar-growing operations.
The attempts by the government to "manage" flooding has been boondogle after boondogle resulting in massive amounts of deer, hogs, raccoons and other small animals drowning due to government's incompetence to manage the flooding even after spending billions of taxpayer dollars.
The result of government's involvement in the destruction of the Everglades has been a highly altered landscape, poor water management, taxpayer money going to subsidize corporations and severely harming estuaries. It is a wonder why some environmental organizations continue to praise and trust the government's effort to "fix" what they broke, when the government has continued to show their incompetence to effectively manage the Everglades. Perhaps it is time to hand it over the The Audubon Society and/or the Nature Conservancy who have shown great competence to manage natural areas.
Thumb down: Land purchase does little to stop pollution from Lake O
October 16, 2010
RIVER OF WASTE: The South Florida Water Management District this week finalized its purchase of 26,791 acres from U.S. Sugar as part of the Everglades cleanup program.
While some have hailed the purchase as an important step for the project, the $197 million being spent does little to halt the pollution of the St. Lucie River caused by discharges from Lake Okeechobee and actually could delay improvements needed.
The original deal proposed by Gov. Charlie Crist, which would have involved the purchase of 180,000 acres of U.S. Sugar property for $1.75 billion, was drastically scaled back as a result of economic concerns.
To resolve the ongoing pollution of Treasure Coast waterways, the district needed to take bold steps with a serious timetable for the work. The step taken this week was a baby step, and the money being spent would have been far better spent as part of a more significant project.
Everglades Foundation Releases Major Economic Study Quantifying the Benefits of Everglades Restoration
October 15, 2010
Kirk Fordham, CEO of the Everglades Foundation, along with the economic study’s principal investigator, Robert McCormick from Mather Economics, is joined by Tamara Pigott, Executive Director, Lee County Visitor & Convention Bureau; Barry Johnson, President/CEO, Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce and Michele Miller, Executive Director, Marine Industries Association of Florida; via media conference call to discuss the economic benefits of an $11.5 billion investment in Everglades restoration.
The study, conducted by Mather Economics, projects that for every dollar invested in Everglades restoration, $4 in economic benefits will be generated. In addition, hundreds of thousands of jobs will be created.
Kirk Fordham, CEO, Everglades Foundation
Robert McCormick, Mather Economics
Tamara Pigott, Executive Director, Lee County Visitor and Convention Bureau
Barry Johnson, President/CEO, Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce
Michele Miller, Executive Director, Marine Industries Association of Florida
Measuring the Economic Benefits of America’s Everglades Restoration
11 a.m. Monday, October 18, 2010
Conference call: 1-866-228-9900 1-866-228-9900 Participant pin: 354589
Potential hazard of wetlands contamination by lead ammo fires up Florida debate over hunting
Palm Beach Post - by Christine Stapleton, Staff Writer
October 15, 2010
The hazards of lead in paint, pottery, gasoline and toys have been known for decades, but water managers were told last week that lead shot left behind by hunters on more than 687,000 acres of hunting grounds and wetlands owned by the South Florida Water Management District does not harm wildlife or the environment.
"The bottom line is there is not much shooting going on on district lands," Robb Startzman, chief scientist of the District's Land Stewardship Division, said at a workshop Oct. 13 on the potential impact on hunters and wildlife. "There is no evidence to support adverse effects of lead shot on district lands."
The workshop echoed an international debate on the hazards of lead in ammunition and fishing tackle. From bait and tackle shops in Florida to battlefields of Afghanistan, hunters, anglers, veterinarians, politicians, the military and the National Rifle Association are mobilizing.
Environmentalists see a ban on lead ammo and tackle as a logical extension of similar bans of lead in commonly used products, such as paint. A ban makes sense now because there are now safe, green alternatives, they say.
However, gun enthusiasts say bullet control will lead to gun control. Green ammo costs at least twice as much as lead shot and causes more suffering for the animals because it is not as lethal. Lead shot is already prohibited in hunting waterfowl and there is little research showing the small amounts of lead in ammo and tackle harm humans, wildlife or the environment, they say.
"I've swallowed 8 or 10 sinkers in my life and it didn't kill me," said Don Coyner, a duck hunter, member of the National Rifle Association and biologist with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
"We do have some concerns. We're not hiding our heads in the sand," Coyner said at the workshop. "Seriously, if the science proves we need to make changes, the FWC will be the first to step up to the plate."
Lead is a naturally occurring bluish-gray metal found in small amounts in the earth's crust. Lead can be found in all parts of our environment, but much of it comes from burning fossil fuels, mining, and manufacturing.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, lead poisoning can affect nearly every system in the body. Even in small amounts, lead can damage a child's physical and mental growth. In adults, prolonged lead exposure can cause weakness in fingers, wrists, or ankles and can cause slight increases in blood pressure, particularly in middle-aged and older people and can cause anemia.
Just because there are not as many studies on the possible harmful effects of lead ammo and tackle does not mean there is no harm, said Rosa Durando, a spunky, 84-year-old environmentalist who for months pestered the board to study the lead shot issue.
"Twenty five years ago we heard the same discussion about mercury," said Durando. "You know too little about what happens to heavy metals in Florida."
The controversy over lead shot and tackle came to a head in August, when five environmental groups filed a petition with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, seeking a nationwide ban.
"Such regulations are needed to protect vulnerable wildlife species from the ongoing threat of lead poisoning, as well as to safeguard human health," according to the petition filed Aug. 3 by the American Bird Conservancy, the Association of Avian Veterinarians, Center for Biological Diversity, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility and Project Gutpile.
The groups attached nearly 500 peer-reviewed scientific articles. Among the studies' findings: Estimated densities of 11,000 lead pellets per acre in a field managed for dove hunting in Indiana. The Washington Fish and Wildlife Nontoxic Shot Working Group in 2001 estimated densities of 188,000 to 344,000 pellets per acre at two pheasant release sites in Washington. Over 122,000 pellets per acre in uncultivated fields near duck blinds in Missouri.
The groups said they waited to ask for the ban until non-toxic alternatives came on the market "to clearly indicate that this petition is not an attempt to regulate ammunition or firearms."
"All hunting and fishing gear containing lead could economically be replaced with non-toxic alternatives, thus making a strong argument for EPA-regulatory action," wrote Michael Fry, Director of Conservation Advocacy for the American Bird Conservancy in a letter to the Agency.
After U.S. Sugar deal, next governor will influence Everglades restoration
The Florida Independent - by Luke Johnson
October 14, 2010
On Tuesday, the South Florida Water Management District bought nearly 27,000 acres of Everglades wetlands from U.S. Sugar for $197 million. The deal was much scaled back from an original proposal by Gov. Charlie Crist to buy all of U.S. Sugar’s 180,000 acres for $1.75 billion to be financed with bonds.
All but $3 million was wired to U.S. Sugar, and the South Florida Water Management District has the option of buying back the rest of the land over the next 10 years, and within the next three years at the same price of $7,350 per acre.
Crist supported the U.S. Sugar deal, and the next Florida governor will have influence over future purchases. Governors appoint members to the 16-member governing board of the South Florida Water Management District, which makes decisions on buying back parcels. Kirk Fordham, CEO of the Everglades Foundation, said, “The role the next governor ought to play is to sit down with all of the owners and decide the future of the Everglades.”
The U.S. Sugar deal was a large issue in the Republican gubernatorial primary, as U.S. Sugar endorsed and supported Attorney General Bill McCollum. His opponent who ended up winning the primary, former health care executive Rick Scott, railed against the sugar deal. At a press conference outside SFWMD’s offices in West Palm Beach with members of the tea party at his side, Scott said, “The South Florida Water Management District is voting on whether or not to spend hundreds of millions of taxpayers’ dollars for the sole benefit of one company. The South Florida Water Management District cannot afford to purchase this land.”
He added, “Voting in favor of this sweetheart deal for U.S. Sugar places the interests of one company above those of the 7.5 million people who will end up being taxed to pay for this political favor.”
His campaign website now simply says, “Rick is committed to conserving Florida’s natural resources. Rick is committed to preserving the Everglades.” His campaign did not respond to requests for comment.
Scott’s 527, Let’s Get to Work, has received $100,000 from Florida Crystals, a competitor of U.S. Sugar that opposes the deal. The group also indirectly received money from U.S. Sugar, as U.S. Sugar donated $350,000 to the Florida Liberty Fund on Sept. 15 and 16. Then, on Sept. 16, Florida Liberty Fund transferred $250,000 to Let’s Get to Work. The News Service of Florida also reported that U.S. Sugar gave $2 million to Scott’s campaign.
Florida CFO and Democratic nominee for governor Alex Sink supports Everglades restoration. Her campaign writes, “Because funding at the federal level has been woefully inadequate in past years, Alex will provide the strong leadership that’s needed to expedite federal approval of restoration projects and to ensure more federal funding which was part of the 50/50 state/federal partnership.” Her campaign also did not respond to a request for comment on the U.S. Sugar deal.
Though this particular deal with U.S. Sugar is all but done for the 27,000 acres, the next governor will have influence — as Gov. Crist did — over how much land will be restored.
Luke Johnson reports on Florida for The American Independent.
Everglades land deal celebrated, but restoration hurdles loom large
Sun Sentinel - by Andy Reid
October 14, 2010
Sheet cake and the ceremonial handing off of deeds for 26,800 acres of farmland marked the celebration Thursday of a newly completed Everglades restoration land deal with U.S. Sugar Corp.
The South Florida Water Management District on Tuesday finalized the $197 million deal that was more than two years in the making.
Two days later, the agency’s leaders at their monthly meeting acknowledged both the significance of the land purchase and the hurdles that remain to putting the land to use.
How to pay for the stormwater storage and treatment areas envisioned for the land remains the biggest obstacle to using the land to restore water flows to the Everglades.
“Tomorrow we begin the planning. Taking this property and putting it to work for the Everglades,” district board Chairman Eric Buermann said Thursday.
What started in June 2008 as a $1.75 billion deal for more than 180,000 acres proposed by Gov. Charlie Crist was whittled down by the slumping economy to 26,800 acres for $197 million.
The watered-downed deal still gives the district large swaths of land to use to help clean and store stormwater needed to replenish the Everglades.
The acreage covers 42 square miles, an area larger than Fort Lauderdale.
“These acres are going to be really critical to (addressing) water quality issues,” district land acquisitions director Ruth Clements said. “We did this without raising taxes or incurring debt.”
The deal, paid for by South Florida property taxpayers, gives the district 17,900 acres of citrus land in Hendry County, beside existing stormwater treatment areas, and 8,900 acres of sugar cane land in Palm Beach County, east of Lake Okeechobee.
The deal also provides the district a 10-year option to buy U.S. Sugar’s remaining 153,000 acres.
Before putting the land to use for Everglades restoration, the district has to clean up pollutants left on the land from decades of farming. That is estimated to cost $7 million, with U.S. Sugar contributing $3 million to that expense.
The terms of the land deal don’t allow the district to take possession of the 17,900 acres until June 2012 at the earliest. The district can’t use the 8,900 acres of sugar cane land until May 2013.
Until the district is ready to start construction, U.S. Sugar can keep using the citrus land rent free. U.S. Sugar pays $150 per acre per year to lease the sugar cane property. The company can keep leasing the property for up to 20 years.
On Wednesday, U.S. Sugar paid the district $295,823 for the first two and a half months of rent on the sugar cane land. The annual lease payments are expected to total $1.3 million.
But lease revenue on the land won’t come close to covering the construction costs anticipated for putting the properties to use for Everglades restoration.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in September called for a revised Everglades cleanup effort that the district estimates would include $1.5 billion in costs – money that district officials say they don’t have.
District officials contend they will need more help from the federal government paying for Everglades restoration construction and potentially to buy more U.S. Sugar land.
“This is a really big moment (but) we are not at the end of the road,” district Board Member Shannon Estenoz said. “I consider this step one, but I won’t start that conversation yet.”
Former FL D-E-P Sectretaries: E-P-A Water Reg Delay Not Enough
The Southeast AGnet - by Gary
October 14th, 2010
By KEITH LAING -THE NEWS SERVICE OF FLORIDA
THE CAPITAL, TALLAHASSEE, Oct. 14, 2010……….The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency should extend the period for finalizing numeric limits of pollution in state inland waters beyond the 30 days the federal agency agreed to last month, several former Department of Environmental Protection secretaries said Thursday.
In a letter to the EPA, Virginia Wetherell, Coleen Castille and Jake Varn, who headed the department in the late 1970s when it was known as Environmental Regulation, called for extending the delay for rules for rivers, lakes and streams until August 2012. That is the date to which the EPA pushed back rules for coastal waters and estuaries. The current EPA deadline for inland waters is Nov. 14.
The former DEP leaders said Thursday the controversial inland water rules deserve the same amount of review.
“The 30-day extension recently granted by the EPA does not provide enough time to do a thorough review,” the secretaries wrote.
The EPA has delayed finalizing criteria for Florida’s canals, coastal waters and estuaries until August 2012 to allow the agency’s Science Advisory Board to conduct a peer review of the EPA’s data and methodologies for deriving criteria for these waters.
“We believe the same level of analysis should be given to the EPA’s proposed rivers, lakes and streams rules, specifically including a review of the scientific validity of the EPA’s proposed criteria for these freshwaters,” they concluded. “We believe that the SAB peer review process is important and should be done for all the rules the EPA plans on imposing on Florida.”
Wetherell, who headed DEP under former Gov. Lawton Chiles from 1993-1999, and Castille, who ran the agency under former Gov. Jeb Bush from 2003-2007, first came out against the regulations last year. The duo joined a group called “Don’t Tax Florida,” which consisted of business associations like Associated Industries of Florida and government spending watchdog groups like Florida TaxWatch.
The EPA plan is the result of a lengthy legal fight between the state and environmentalists, who filed a federal lawsuit saying Florida failed to enforce the Clean Water Act.
Current DEP officials have questioned the science behind the EPA proposals, arguing that in some cases, particularly those involving streams, “narrative” standards, which are enforced on a case-by-case basis, would be more appropriate
“DEP remains committed to using the best science and an open public process to establish numeric nutrient criteria appropriate for Florida’s unique ecosystems,” DEP spokeswoman Dee Ann Miller told the News Service Thursday.
In their letter to EPA administrator Lisa Jackson, the former secretaries said they share their successor’s concerns.
“The Florida Department of Environmental Protection has expressed significant concerns regarding the scientific validity of the numeric nutrient criteria the EPA is set to impose on Florida,” they wrote. “We have questioned whether the standards proposed by the EPA are attainable or will even achieve environmental benefits.”
The EPA would not comment to the News Service of Florida Thursday.
In announcing last month the delay for finalizing the rules until Nov. 14, the EPA said it received 22,000 comments on the rule after holding 13 public hearings and having two open periods for submitting written comments.
“These comments represent essential input from many Floridians and a valuable range of information from numerous technical and scientific experts in the State,” the EPA said in a Sept. 29 statement.
EarthJustice attorney David Guest, who filed the lawsuit that lead to the nutrient standards, criticized the former DEP secretaries for opposing cleaning up water pollution he said “happened on these DEP secretaries’ watch.”
“It’s no surprise that now they want to try to save face,” Guest said. “They did such a bad job protecting public health that the federal government has had to intervene to get Florida to clean up water pollution. It’s unconscionable that these former officials are siding with polluters to block water cleanup instead of standing up for the public. It is an insult to ordinary Floridians.”
Guest added that the former DEP secretaries were “drastically at odds” with public opinion, saying that most of the comments sent to the EPA supported the numeric nutrient standards.
“The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reports that it has received 22,000 public comments on the proposed new standards to control nutrient pollution, and 20,000 of those comments were in support of the standards,” he said. “
“Florida is rock bottom in the U.S. in terms of protecting its waters from pollution,” he continued. “If these former secretaries had been doing their jobs, this would not have happened.”
Water managers delay decision about health of Caloosahatchee River
Naples Daily News - by ERIC STAATS
October 14, 2010
NAPLES — Frustration over the pace of plans to improve the health of the Caloosahatchee River was on display Thursday in a West Palm Beach hearing room.
Still, after three hours of debate, the South Florida Water Management District governing board was unable to reach a decision on how to respond to a petition filed last month by the Conservancy of Southwest Florida that seeks to increase the minimum flow in the river.
Without enough freshwater in the river, high salinity levels harm oysters and seagrasses and chase away sensitive marine life like crabs.
Water management district executives recommended denying the petition. They said the district doesn’t have enough science to back up an increase and that it would delay progress toward better fixes for the river, including laying the groundwork for a reservoir in Hendry County to even out flows to the river.
Instead, governing board members said they wanted more information and delayed a decision until their next meeting, set for Nov. 9 and 10 in Fort Myers.
Board members said they wanted to know more about how the district would juggle its other priorities and whether the district risks allocating too much water for irrigation.
Southwest Florida governing board representative Charles Dauray said he was “flummoxed and disappointed” by the Conservancy’s petition.
“It seems we’re all hat and no horse at this point in time,” Dauray said.
Dauray said he wished the district and the Conservancy would have discussed the issue more before the Conservancy filed its petition, which he called unconstructive.
Conservancy attorney Marcy LaHart said the group had no choice but to file the petition.
“Those conversations did take place and we weren’t being heard,” she said.
In 2001, the district set a mean monthly flow for the Caloosahatchee at 300 cubic feet per second.
A peer review cited flaws with the way the district set the flow level, and the district came up with a plan to fill in the gaps.
The minimum flow level has not been increased, though, despite other district studies that have called for increasing the minimum flow to at least 450 cfs.
District executives said the agency would be wiser to establish a different sort of measure, called a water reservation, for the river.
They said a reservation, which sets aside a certain amount of water for the environment, is more protective of the river than a minimum flow.
To hold back enough water for the environment, though, relies on construction of the reservoir, which could be a decade away.
Setting a higher minimum flow amounts to an interim step to avoid further harm to the river, advocates said.
People who live downstream of the river are tired of waiting, Sanibel Island Vice Mayor Mick Denham told the governing board.
“It’s very, very frustrating to me,” he said.
Deal to buy land for Everglades restoration OK’d at cost of $197M
The Detroit News
October 13, 2010
Fort Lauderdale, Fla. — A $197 million deal to buy U.S. Sugar Corp. farmland for Everglades restoration finally went through Tuesday morning after more than two years of economic hurdles and legal fights. Florida property taxpayers are picking up the tab for a 26,800-acre deal that environmental groups hail as chance to acquire strategically located farmland long off limits to efforts to restore water flows to the Everglades. Critics, led by the Miccosukee Tribe and U.S. Sugar competitor Florida Crystals, have called it a boondoggle that costs taxpayers too much, takes money from other overdue Everglades projects and unfairly enriches U.S. Sugar at taxpayer expense.
Everglades Land Deal Closes Important Step to Store and Treat Everglades Water
October 13, 2010
Tallahassee, FL - October 13 - The South Florida Water Management District today closed on the initial River of Grass land acquisition with U.S. Sugar. The deal will set aside nearly 27,000 acres of former Everglades land, now used for agriculture, for restoration and water quality improvements in the Everglades.
The deal originally encompassed more than 180,000 acres but was downsized because of the economic downturn. However, the deal leaves open the possibility of the District acquiring the remaining 153,000 acres in the future.
“No one imagined that Florida could get more Everglades land into public ownership,” said Earthjustice attorney David Guest. “This is just the first step, but it is an important step in securing land that is critically needed to store and treat polluted water going to the Everglades.”
In the current scaled-down U.S. Sugar deal, the South Florida Water Management District will acquire 26,790 acres from U.S. Sugar for $197 million. The deal includes two parcels. The first is comprised of 17,900 acres of citrus located in Hendry County. This parcel will be used for water quality projects in the C-139 basin, which has long suffered from elevated pollution levels. The second parcel, located in Palm Beach County, contains 8,900 acres of sugarcane. This parcel will be used to expand existing water quality treatment for the S-5A basin, and to help protect the Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge.
U.S. Sugar’s primary competitor, Florida Crystals, along with the Miccosukee Tribe, had waged a fierce legal and lobbying war to derail the U.S. Sugar deal. However, the District persevered. At the end of August, court-appointed Special Master John Barkett released a report recommending that a massive planned reservoir project be abandoned in light of the restoration opportunities made possible by the land acquisition. Sierra Club, Florida Wildlife Federation, National Wildlife Federation, Defenders of Wildlife, National Parks Conservation Association, and Audubon Society of the Everglades -- all represented by Earthjustice -- had argued that the reservoir should be reconsidered in light of the new, more natural, and sensible options presented by the land deal.
“This is a historic day for Florida,” Guest said. “I am hopeful that we are on the track to true Everglades restoration.”
Earthjustice is a non-profit public interest law firm dedicated to protecting the magnificent places, natural resources, and wildlife of this earth, and to defending the right of all people to a healthy environment. We bring about far-reaching change by enforcing and strengthening environmental laws on behalf of hundreds of organizations, coalitions and communities.
New reservoir could mean more water for Broward and Palm Beach counties
Sun Sentinel - by Andy Reid
October 13, 2010
Cost, divvying up the water, remain stumbling blocks
A reservoir and water-sharing plan for Broward and Palm Beach counties could get new life thanks to support on Wednesday from South Florida water managers.
Utilities in Broward and Palm Beach counties for the past few years have suggested building a new reservoir west of Royal Palm Beach that could be used to boost water supplies all the way down to Broward County.
But the estimated cost of more than $300 million, scandals from a previous reservoir deal and the political minefield of determining how to divvy up water supplies left the project in limbo.
Now, a task force of Broward County government officials has made the reservoir one of their top priorities in a newly released report.
On Wednesday, South Florida Water Management District officials called for giving the project another look. District officials plan to explore the logistics of how to get it done and start meeting with environmentalists and utilities.
"I have had an attitude of … caution about this project," said district board member Shannon Estenoz, who also led Broward County Water Resources Taskforce. "We need to understand what benefits it has."
The new reservoir would capture some of the stormwater that gets drained out to sea by the C-51 canal, which stretches from western Palm Beach County through West Palm Beach.
That canal dumps an average of 270 million gallons of water a day out to sea, more than the 232 million gallons per day utilities in Palm Beach County are permitted to provide.
The idea is to store some of that wasted stormwater and use it to bolster drinking water supplies for communities as far south as Broward County.
The logistics of sharing the water has been a big stumbling block.
Physically moving water from that reservoir through a series of canals or other structures faces costly roadblocks as well as political hurdles.
Palm Beach County commissioners a year ago said they would consider supporting the new reservoir, but not if it committed them to sending water south to Broward.
Another idea involves Broward utilities helping pay for the new reservoir and in return getting "offsets," or credit from the South Florida Water Management District to use more water from the Everglades than otherwise allowed to boost local supplies.
One potential location for building the reservoir comes with some political baggage.
Pits at the Palm Beach Aggregates mining company west of Royal Palm Beach have already been converted into a reservoir and the company has room — and the right geography, supporters say — for more.
The water management district spent $217 million to turn old Palm Beach Aggregates rock pits into a 15 billion-gallon reservoir that was completed in 2008, with plans to use the water to replenish the Loxahatchee River and help supplement community water supplies.
Yet costly pumps have not been built to get that water to the Loxahatchee River. Some of the water has been used to boost local supplies, but water quality problems from leaving the water stagnant raises concerns about its future usefulness.
In addition, the reservoir deal and Palm Beach Aggregates' past development efforts were linked to corruption scandals that led two Palm Beach County commissioners to resign and go to prison amid a federal corruption investigation. Palm Beach Aggregates owners were not charged.
The idea of exploring a new reservoir project also comes as an Everglades restoration reservoir in western Palm Beach County remains unfinished. Taxpayers have already invested about $280 million in the unfinished reservoir that was shelved due to Everglades restoration plans getting reworked by a newly approved land deal with U.S. Sugar Corp.
Water Management District Executive Director Carol Wehle acknowledged on Wednesday that the agency has "resisted" the new C-51 reservoir idea, but will now bring "all the players to the table" to explore the possibilities.
Longtime Palm Beach County environmental advocate Rosa Durando warned that the Broward County water resources plan was an "oversimplification" of the water supply problems facing the region.
Durando also warned against trying to send "dirty water" from the reservoir south by moving it through the Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge.
Florida finalizes Everglades deal with US Sugar
Businessweek - by MATT SEDENSKY
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - A $197 million attempt to restore the Everglades by turning over a swath of sugar farmland to the state was finalized Tuesday, ending two years of court battles and scaling back of the initial deal.
The South Florida Water Management District transferred all but about $3 million of the funds to U.S. Sugar to complete the agreement for 26,791 acres. The balance was the company's contribution toward cleanup costs.
Though the deal is a fraction of the size initially planned when it was announced with fanfare in 2008 by Gov. Charlie Crist, environmentalists lauded the news.
The Everglades Foundation called it a "significant advancement." The Sierra Club said the move would "give future generations of Floridians a chance to enjoy the Everglades as it was before the 20th Century."
Crist said it puts Florida "one step closer to making our dreams of true restoration for the Everglades a reality."
Critics, including U.S. Sugar competitor Florida Crystals, have derided the deal as a waste of taxpayer money.
The initial land purchase is about one-ninth the size that was originally planned. The state had planned to pay $1.75 billion to buy all of U.S. Sugar's 180,000 acres, but the faltering economy led to repeated scale-backs.
"The economy threw them a wicked curve," said Judy Sanchez, a spokeswoman for U.S. Sugar.
The revised deal still gives the state the option to purchase the remainder of the land over the next decade.
The Everglades have been dying for decades from the intrusion of farms and development, dissected by dikes, dams and canals, effectively draining much of the swamp and polluting it with fertilizers and urban runoff. The state and federal governments' efforts to restore the wetlands have been stymied for years by funding shortfalls, legal challenges and political bickering.
Soft on Polluters
The Columbus Dispatch – by Spencer Hunt
October 12, 2010
Few states are willing to regulate farm operations to reduce runoff that poisons streams, rivers, lakes and bays nationwide.
Politicians love farmers. And fear them. Public officials will take on industrial mills, foundries, factories and sewage-treatment plants that pollute our water, but they shy away from touching farms. It's a fundamental difference in environmental policy that has existed for decades, and it persists with the help of farm-industry groups that persuade lawmakers to limit policy primarily to voluntary programs and cash incentives, say environmental advocates and industry experts. "We implicitly have decided as a society that agriculture has the right to decide how much pollution to emit, and then we ask them voluntarily to cut back," said Catherine Kling, an economist and environmental-policy expert at Iowa State University's Center for Agricultural and Rural Development.
But some changes are in the works. In Ohio, officials are focusing on farms that pollute Grand Lake St. Marys, and a coalition of state and federal agencies in Maryland is working to curb farm runoff that is spoiling Chesapeake Bay.
Some of the results can be seen on Scott Mundie's farm in Warsaw, Va.
There, his cows once used a creek cutting through his pastureas both a watering trough and a toilet. Now, they get their water from plastic basins fed by a well, and an electrified fence keeps them from the creek. On another part of the farm, a wide strip of grass now separates his corn from the nearby Rappahannock River, keeping fertilizers and herbicides from washing into the water. "It all goes to the river," Mundie said. "And, of course, the river runs to the bay."
The Rappahannock is one of more than 150 streams and rivers that flow to the Chesapeake, the nation's largest estuary. The bay is home to more than 2,700 species of plants and 900 fish and animal species, and it provides about 500 million pounds of oysters, blue crabs and other seafood each year.
The bay draws from rainwater that falls on a 64,300-square-mile drainage area across sections of six states and the District of Columbia.
In 1997, an algae called pfiesteria choked the bay on Maryland's lower eastern shore and killed an estimated 50,000 fish. The algae also were blamed for lesions that appeared on fish in the Rappahannock that same summer.
Thousands of farms were blamed for the phosphorus and nitrogen that fueled those blooms, along with pollutants from sewage-treatment plants and businesses. After years of work and reductions, farms remain the No. 1 source of bay pollution.
The government efforts in the bay watershed are a mix of state-imposed mandates and voluntary programs that offer cash incentives to farmers. Federal officials, for example, are spending more than $700 million on programs intended to curb farm pollutants.
Though they have cut farm pollution, the reductions are not enough to significantly improve water quality and wildlife habitat.
Mundie received $5,625 in state and federal funding to help him buy the well equipment, pipes and basins. He said he used his own money to install electrified fences that keep his 25 brood cows out of the creek. He maintains the grass buffer along the banks of the Rappahannock on his own, although there is a government program that would pay him to do that, too.
"It's getting better, but it certainly remains challenging," said Peter Tango, a hydrologist with the U.S. Geological Survey, which runs a network of water-pollution monitors throughout the bay.
Environmental advocates say they expect that more will be done in coming years to push farmers to cut more runoff from their fields.
"The (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency) has begun looking at farms," saidBeth McGee, senior scientist with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation of Annapolis, Md. "They're doing farm inspections and pointing out where they are not in compliance with state laws."
The Chesapeake isn't the only place where government officials want to cut farm pollution. The state of Florida has spent about $2 billion over the past 10 years on projects to keep farm pollution from Lake Okeechobee and the Everglades. The lake and swamp are part of one of the world's largest wetlands and home to several unique species of plants and animals.
This year, Wisconsin officials tightened runoff restrictions for that state's farms.
Environmental advocates want similar limits in Ohio. For the first time, it appears the state is willing to create rules and enforce them, at least for farms that affect Grand Lake St. Marys, where toxic algae have likely sickened visitors and killed tourism.
A common link between Ohio's troubles and those in the Chesapeake and other waterways nationwide is an apparent reluctance by lawmakers to approve and enforce pollution limits for farms. Officials are just as hesitant to even say that farms are the source of pollution.
Advocates blame the political influence of farm-industry groups for helping to keep pollution limits at bay. They say that influence has contributed to laws that have weakened environmental oversight of large livestock farms.
"They wield an enormous amount of influence," said Joe Logan, the Ohio Environmental Council's agriculture-programs director.
For example, Logan said, farm groups persuaded lawmakers in 2002 to transfer most regulation of large livestock farms from the Ohio EPA to the Ohio Department of Agriculture. Of the 75,000 farms in Ohio, many of which contribute polluted runoff, the state regulates only the 173 largest dairies and livestock operations.
Environmentalists fought the transfer of power, saying that state agriculture officials do a better job of promoting farmers than regulating them. Groups that represent farmers argued that the Ohio EPA didn't have the expertise to regulate farms and took too long to approve permits for new and expanding large livestock farms.
Since 2000, Ohio farm groups and farmers have donated more than $1.8 mil lion to candidates for state office, according to the watchdog group Ohio Citizen Action. About $1.2 million ofthose donations came from farm groups' political-action committees. Of those organizations, the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation donated the most - more than $952,000. The groups don't favor either Republicans or Democrats, said Catherine Turcer, director of Ohio Citizen Action's Money in Politics project. "These contributions are like political seeds in that they create a very favorable political climate no matter who is in charge of the House, the Senate or who is the governor."
Nationally, agriculture and related industries have donated $309.2 million to candidates for president and Congress since 2000, according to the Center for Responsive Politics in Washington, D.C.
"You enhance your ability to gain access to powerful politicians when you bankroll them," said Dave Levinthal, a spokesman for the group.
Keith Stimpert, the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation's vice president of public policy, said lawmakers and state agency officials rightly recognize and support agriculture as one of Ohio's most important industries.
One of every seven Ohio jobs is in farming and related industries, he said.
About the donations, Stimpert said: "We need to support and return to office those who consistently vote with us."
Dwight Wise, a retired farmer and former state legislator from Fremont, said he believes that many lawmakers treat the Farm Bureau as a one-stop shop for information on issues affecting farms.
"I think the majority of legislators do rely on theFarm Bureau to set environmental policy," Wise said. "The EPA and the department of soil and water conservation, they ought to be able to sit down with farmers and environmental groups like Sierra Club and decide what's best."
Political arguments aside, some officials in Ohio and other states are moving to limit farm pollution.
At Chesapeake Bay, efforts include requirements in Maryland that every farm regularly tests soils for phosphorus and nitrogen to determine how much manure and/or fertilizer are needed to help grow crops.
If farmers there don't do the tests, or if the state finds that they ignored manure or fertilizer limits, they could be fined by the state, said Mark Dubin, agricultural technical coordinator for the Chesapeake Bay Program.
Virginia offers state funds in addition to federal funds as incentives for farmers such as Mundie to buy equipment to keep cattle out of streams and grow grass buffer strips instead of crops.
The Chesapeake Bay Program, a coalition of state and federal agencies charged with cleaning the bay, estimates that 5,650 tons of phosphorus entered the bay last year compared with an average of 10,400 tons a year from 1990 through 2008.
An estimated 120,000 tons of nitrogen entered the bay in 2009, compared with an annual average of 169,000 tons during those 18 years.
The program estimates that farms have so far cut their pollution runoff by about 50 percent.
"They have made some significant progress, but the states are expecting significantly more," Dubin said.
Despite lower pollution, the bay has reached only 38 percent of the goals to improve water quality, habitat and wildlife. Farms remain the largest polluters, creating 46 percent of the phosphorus and 42 percent of the nitrogen that reach the bay.
In September, the U.S. EPA announced plans to reduce the bay's "diet" of pollution by setting a 93,700-ton annual nitrogen limit. It's part of a new federal initiative that has set deadlines and goals for cleanup.
Advocates say the goals can be met if states more consistently enforce laws already on the books.
Pennsylvania, for example, requires all livestock farmers and others who use manure for fertilizer to test soil for phosphorus and nutrients.
When U.S. EPA officials visited farms in "hot-spot" areas, they found that few, if any, farmers had complied and that Pennsylvania officials lacked the money and manpower to oversee the program.
"We were some of the first people to ever show up on (farmers') steps, to be perfectly honest," said David McGuigan, a U.S. EPA associate director of water permits and enforcement.
Though Maryland requires farmers to test their soil and limit the amount of manure they use, state officials have not stopped an increasing number of large poultry operations from moving into the area.
These new federal rules come with an ultimatum: If states fail to meet a series of deadlines to cut pollution, the U.S. EPA is threatening to step in and enforce its own limits on farmers.
Other states with similar farm-pollution problems have different solutions.
In an attempt to protect and preserve Lake Okeechobee and the Everglades from farm pollution, the South Florida Water Management District has built more than 45,000 acres of "filter marshes," officially called stormwater-treatment areas.
"These plants, the way they survive is by taking a lot of phosphorus from the water," said Randy Smith, an agency spokesman who estimates the marshes have captured more than 3,500 tons of phosphorus since they were planted a decade ago. "It's a relatively simple concept."
It isn't cheap, though. The district has spent nearly $2 billion buying land and building marshes. It plans to buy an additional 100,000 acres or more.
The swamp was once partof a vast wetland system that covered the southern third of Florida. Roughly half of the swamp was drained to create land for development and farming. Phosphorus runoff threatens the lake and swamp, changing the water chemistry of the Everglades and spurring an invasion of algae, duck weed and cattails that threaten to crowd out native marsh grasses and kill animals. In Wisconsin, officials plan to enforce new rules that would limit the amount of phosphorus that can run off farms to 6 pounds per acre each year. Before farmers use manure or fertilizers, they would have to test their soil every five years to determinehow much phosphorus already is in the ground.
"It's a pretty good speed limit," said Russ Rasmussen, director of watershed management at the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.
The rules follow two summer seasons, in 2004 and 2005, in which toxic algaepopped up across the state. Tests that showed high concentrations of algae prompted 33 health-alert warnings for potentially toxic water in 2004 and 42 alerts in 2005.
Faced with toxic algae at Grand Lake St. Marys in Ohio, the state has proposeda regional plan that Natural Resources Director Sean Logan said would maximize his agency's authority to reduce farm pollution.
Under proposed regulations, the agency would be able to declare Grand Lake St. Marys and other farm-polluted lakes "watersheds in distress."
Farmers in distressed areas would have to test soil regularly and come up with plans that limit how much fertilizer and manure they could use to grow crops. They also would not be allowed to spread manure during the winter, to cut down on spills that can occur during sudden thaws.
These would be mandatory regulations that farmers must follow, unlike past programs that were voluntary.
Ohio Farm Bureau Federation officials appear willing to support more-stringent limits for Grand Lake St. Marys.
However, Larry Antosch,the federation's policy director, questioned how many other watersheds should qualify.
"That is one of what I consider the problems with the proposed rules," Antosch said. "It's hard to say if it would be a major impact or a minor impact (for farmers). We can't fully evaluate it."
The Ohio EPA lists seven other stream systems, including Bokes Creek in Union County, as "impaired" by agricultural pollution. Ohio researchers consider farms the main source of pollution feeding harmful algae in the western basin of Lake Erie-."What's happening at Grand Lake St. Marys can easily be replicated in the western basin of Lake Erie," said Josh Knights, the Ohio Nature Conservancy director.
He said the distressed-watershed rule should be used statewide to include other farm-polluted streams.
Logan said legal requirements for declaring a lake or stream in distress should hinge not only on water quality and pollution but also on threats to public health.
He and Robert Boggs, director of the Ohio Department of Agriculture, said the news that people were sickened by Grand Lake water is driving this issue.
"This summer showed that farmers must take more responsibility over their manure and their handling of it," Boggs said. "If they don't, then someone will come in and order them."
Decision Will Help Cleanse Florida's Everglades
October 11, 2010
Earthjustice convinces court to let state abandon reservoir project
Earthjustice won a key victory at summer's end in our long-running fight to restore the Florida Everglades. A court-appointed Special Master recommended that the state be allowed to abandon a $700 million reservoir project in the southern Everglades Agricultural Area.
Why is this good news? The reservoir was once an important part of Everglades restoration, but the giant public works project was mothballed—and rightly so—when Florida negotiated a deal to buy large swaths of Everglades land from the U.S. Sugar Company. The U.S. Sugar land holdings are a better alternative to store and filter polluted runoff as it runs down the peninsula into Everglades National Park and Florida Bay.
Back when the reservoir was first planned, there was no possibility that Florida could get more Everglades land into public ownership. So the plan was to engineer around the vast sugar company holdings. The reservoir project then became, essentially, a giant water supply project for Big Agriculture—and the ag interests weren't ready to let it go.
One of U.S. Sugar's competitors, along with the Miccosukee Tribe, filed a motion earlier this year to keep the reservoir project alive. They waged a fierce legal and lobbying war to derail the U.S. Sugar land deal altogether.
The legal case has had its ups and downs. Initially, U.S. District Court Judge Frederico Moreno granted our opponents' motion to force the South Florida Water Management District to build the $700 million reservoir. Then, he appointed a Special Master to review the case.
Special Master John Barkett came down on our side when he released his report August 30. He recommended that the reservoir project be abandoned now that the state has struck its land deal with U.S. Sugar.
Under the land deal (pared down from its initial scope due to the recession,) the South Florida Water Management District will acquire 26,790 acres from U.S. Sugar for $197 million.
The Special Master's conclusion is a good decision for Florida. Chances are, we'll end up with a better restoration plan in the long run—and maybe one day our grandkids won't have to worry about dirty water from industrial agriculture trashing Everglades National Park—one of the most unique places on the planet.
EPA goes one for two
The Tampa Tribune
October 11, 2010
A reluctant U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is being pushed to act on two key issues affecting Florida. In one case, the EPA's hesitation is justified. In the other controversy, though, the agency needs to move quickly to save a key state resource.
The EPA recently refused to act on a petition from several environmental groups that sought to ban lead ammunition as a "health risk." It was a backdoor attempt at gun control, and the EPA rightly acknowledged that Congress excluded ammunition from legislation that allows EPA to govern toxic material.
Furthermore, there is scant evidence such a restriction is necessary.
Lead is toxic. But researchers have found it does not break down either on the ground or in water. And as The Washington Times points out, a study of hunters by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that eating animals shot by lead ammunition posed no risk.
This unnecessary proposal contrasted markedly with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's 1991 ban on the use of lead-pellet shotgun shells by duck hunters.
That prohibition was based on extensive studies that showed ducks were ingesting spent pellets while feeding on the bottom of waterways frequented by hunters, and ducks were dying.
Researchers estimate the change to steel shot has saved millions of ducks from lead poisoning.
Most waterfowl hunters readily accepted the change because it was based on scientific evidence.
But there is no compelling evidence to necessitate a wider lead-ammunition ban and the dramatic increase in costs it would bring.
EPA was correct to avoid a lead ban proposal that appeared primarily aimed at harassing hunters and gun enthusiasts.
When it comes to the Everglades restoration, however, EPA action is long overdue.
U.S. District Judge Alan Gold was right the other day to demand that EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson appear in his Miami courtroom to explain the "glacial" delays in the federal work on the Everglades.
An appeals court later ruled an EPA aide could testify since Jackson was scheduled to travel to Asia. Gold delayed the hearing, but he made his point.
Washington has committed to partnering with Florida to clean up the Everglades. But the Miccosukee Tribe and the Friends of the Everglades filed suit over the slow progress. Gold has continually faulted state lawmakers, water managers and federal regulators for accepting inadequate and "incomprehensible" water quality rules that still have not been implemented.
The judge clearly has run out of patience.
The Everglades is a unique natural resource that supplies South Florida's drinking water and sustains the health of Florida Bay and even the Florida Keys. A flow of clean water is known to be vital.
Unlike the ammunition proposal, on the Everglades the EPA should get the lead out
Keeping our nests clean
The Tampa Tribune – by Linda Young
October 11, 2010
Many Americans are growing weary of the government telling us how to live our lives and especially how to spend our money.
So it is no wonder that many Florida elected representatives are speaking out against a new law that requires septic tanks to be inspected and/or pumped out every five years. To some people the new law is just one more instance of government intrusion into our lives. In most cases the new law is necessary to make people be responsible for keeping their own nest clean.
Several decades ago the Legislature changed Florida law to allow four septic tanks per acre. A few years ago, Florida changed policies to allow septic tanks in wetlands.
In order to placate developers who demand the right to build in low coastal areas, near the water, our laws have become increasingly nonsensical. We have filled wetlands with houses on septic tanks that drain into our rivers and bays, causing algae to grow in the water, which kills fish and makes the waters unfit for swimming.
Not all septic tanks are causing problems, and not everyone needs a law to make them act responsibly. But Florida has become densely populated, and there is now less room for individual errors.
A septic tank should be pumped out every five years regardless of the law. People who are connected to sewer systems pay monthly for having their sewage moved, treated and disposed of.
If we want to live in a densely populated state, we have to work harder and pay more to protect the things that make Florida a great place to live. Clean rivers, lakes, bays and beaches are the top reason that most of us are here.
Five years from now, after every septic tank has been pumped, our waters will be cleaner, and we will be healthier overall because the waters that we fish and swim in will have less bacteria from our septic systems.
The new law is a good idea - not perfect, but definitely needed. Let's not let perfect be the enemy of good
Linda Young is director of the Clean Water Network of Florida, a not-for-profit organization working to protect Florida waters from pollution.
Where's the EPA ?
The Miami Herald
October 11, 2010
OUR OPINION: EPA director should heed Everglades summons.
EPA director Lisa Jackson has won a reprieve on an order to appear in Miami federal court last week to explain her agency's ``glacial slowness'' in meeting water pollution standards vital to Everglades restoration. A reprieve is not a pass, however.
Ms. Jackson, as head of the Environmental Protection Agency, is a defendant in a clean-up lawsuit filed years ago. Federal Judge Alan S. Gold wants to find out how the EPA and other agencies intend -- at long last -- to start enforcing Everglades water quality requirements. Back in April, he called Ms. Jackson to appear in court in October, but at the last minute she said other priorities would keep her away and appealed the order. The appellate court sided with her -- for now.
Judge Gold has sensibly reset the hearing for next month, and this time we expect Ms. Jackson won't find other priorities or try to send an underling to represent her.
Judge Gold's earlier rulings have made a strong case that the EPA and other agencies have deliberately ignored or refused to enforce laws limiting toxic discharges into the Everglades. EPA action is long overdue, and there is no substitute for having the EPA director come into court to answer questions about ending these delays.
This is particularly critical to the Everglades restoration effort. On Tuesday, the South Florida Water Management District will consummate a long-pending deal to buy 26,800 acres of land as part of the restoration effort. It's smaller than the original plan, but it's certainly a step in the right direction. Now it's up to the EPA to get its act together.
Getting U.S. Sugar land ready for Glades restoration would cost millions
Sun Sentinel – by Andy Reid
October 10, 2010
$197 million deal to close Tuesday
A more than two-year odyssey of legal fights and political battles over buying U.S. Sugar farmland for Everglades restoration may ultimately prove easier than actually putting the land to use.
The South Florida Water Management District on Tuesday is finally set to close the deal with U.S. Sugar for 26,800 acres that will cost South Florida property taxpayers $197 million.
But even after the last page of the deal is signed, significant hurdles remain — and more costs are in store — before the district can start using the land to help restore clean water flows to the Everglades.
Pesticides and other pollutants embedded in the soil after decades of farming must be cleaned up, with the district and South Florida taxpayers picking up more than half of the estimated $7 million tab.
U.S. Sugar rail lines may have to be removed and rebuilt at taxpayers' expense, potentially costing another $2 million.
In addition, American Indians remains and historic sites are suspected to dot the U.S. Sugar land, requiring the district to work with the Miccosukee and Seminole tribes to minimize potential disturbances and document any finds.
Then there are the costs of building the stormwater treatment and storage areas envisioned to get more clean water flowing to what remains of the Everglades.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in September called for a revised Everglades cleanup effort that the district estimates would include construction projects and other costs that could reach $1.5 billion to implement, a price the district now can't afford.
"The real missing element is money, money, money," said Eric Buermann, chairman of the district board. "It's just a question of where you get the money."
Despite the hurdles, Buermann estimates that the district can get the initial stormwater treatment areas built on the U.S. Sugar land within two to five years.
The history of Everglades restoration, however, doesn't necessarily support such an optimistic timeline.
The district during the past two years has broken ground on several restoration projects, but dozens of projects announced in 2000 have yet to be completed. That includes a massive reservoir left unfinished in southwestern Palm Beach County that already cost South Florida taxpayers nearly $280 million.
Progress Toward Restoring the Everglades: The Third Biennial Review--2010
October 10, 2010
Progress Toward Restoring the Everglades: The Third Biennial Review--2010
Source: National Research Council
Although the progress of environmental restoration projects in the Florida Everglades remains slow overall, there have been improvements in the pace of restoration and in the relationship between the federal and state partners over the last two years. However, the importance of several challenges related to water quantity and quality have become clear, highlighting the difficulty in achieving restoration goals for all ecosystem components in all portions of the Everglades.
Progress Toward Restoring the Everglades explores these challenges. The book stresses that rigorous scientific analyses of the tradeoffs between water quality and quantity and between the hydrologic requirements of Everglades features and species are needed to inform future prioritization and funding decisions.
Read for free online or register (free) to download PDF.
Government and politics
National Research Council
Everglades restoration land deal with U.S. Sugar moves forward
Sun Sentinel - by Andy Reid
October 8, 2010
$197 million deal closes Tuesday
South Florida water managers on Friday opted not to use what was likely their last chance to back out of a $197 million Everglades restoration land deal with U.S. Sugar Corp.
After more than two years of legal fights and financial problems, the South Florida Water Management District on Tuesday is set to close on a deal to buy 26,800 acres of farmland to be used to help restore water flows to the Everglades.
The district envisions building stormwater storage and treatment areas to hold, clean and deliver water needed to replenish what remains of the Everglades.
The cost of the deal and disputes about whether to move forward have slowed the land-buying effort first announced by Gov. Charlie Crist in June 2008.
On Friday, the district's Land Acquisition Director Ruth Clements jokingly wore red boxing gloves as she discussed the final details about Tuesday's closing with the agency's board of directors.
"The final round is about to begin," Clements said, with boxing gloves raised. "The bell has rung and the district is prepared."
The land deal initially pushed by Crist first called for spending nearly $2 billion to buy all of U.S. Sugar's more than 180,000 acres, sugar mill and other facilities.
The sinking economy and plummeting property tax revenues led to the deal being downsized three times, resulting in the 26,800-acre version. The deal includes a 10-year option for the district to buy U.S. Sugar's remaining land.
Deal opponents, led by the Miccosukee Tribe and U.S. Sugar competitor Florida Crystals, waged a legal fight against the purchase arguing that it cost taxpayers too much, took money away from other overdue Everglades projects and unfairly enriched U.S. Sugar at taxpayers' expense.
"They don't have any money to do any [Everglades] projects," Florida Crystals Vice President Gaston Cantens said about the district. "This whole thing has been an absolute joke."
Environmental groups largely supported the land deal, even as it shrunk in size. They argued it was a historic opportunity to acquire strategically located land that sugar companies had kept out of the reach of Everglades restoration.
"We are very excited about this deal," said Jane Graham, Everglades policy associate for Audubon of Florida. "It's been a long time coming."
After the sale is complete, U.S. Sugar plans to keep farming much of the land while the district designs the stormwater storage and treatment structures planned for the property, and raises the money to build them.
U.S. Sugar can use the citrus land that is part of the deal — almost 18,000 acres in Hendry County — rent free, while continuing to pay the taxes on the property. The company must pay $150 per acre each year to lease back the sugarcane land in the deal, which includes almost 9,000 acres in northern Palm Beach County.
Barring a last-minute intervention by the courts, the $197 million transaction for the U.S. Sugar deal is set to go through on Tuesday.
After that comes years of planning, permitting and construction to put the restoration in motion. The district may also try to trade some of the U.S. Sugar property for other agricultural land targeted for restoration.
"I really can't overstate how difficult this process was, but well, well worth it," district Board Member Shannon Estenoz said.
Freshwater Flow Into Oceans Steadily Rising
Reuters - by Lisa Song at SolveClimate
Octobert 8, 2010
The amount of water flowing into the oceans has slowly but steadily increased in recent years, signifying a possible speeding up of the water cycle due to climate change.
These results came out of a research paper published on Oct. 4 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. It marks the first time satellites were used to quantify global river flows.
Between 1994 and 2006, the scientists measured an 18% increase in freshwater discharge into the oceans. The source of that water included river runoff and melting ice caps. It averaged out to an additional 540 cubic kilometers of water per year.
Don Chambers, an associate professor of physical oceanography at the University of South Florida and a co-author of the study, calculated that the volume was the equivalent of the Great Lakes losing six feet of water every year.
"The biggest implication [is what this] means for climate," said Jay Famiglietti, a co-author and professor of earth system science at the University of California at Irvine. The results fit the expectation that climate change will accelerate the global water cycle, the process where water is moved around the world through evaporation, precipitation and runoff.
As the planet warms, heat will increase evaporation from the oceans. The water condenses into clouds, and much will fall as precipitation over land. With more rain comes floods and extra river runoff flowing into the ocean—but not everywhere.
"It's not as simple as saying if global total rainfall increases, it will be wetter everywhere. It's likely that wet regions will get even more rain while semi-arid regions become drier," said Matthew Rodell, a hydrologist at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, who was not involved with the study.
Famiglietti said increased evaporation and precipitation could lead to more extreme weather, such as prolonged droughts and more intense floods.
The researchers' data spanned 13 years. "Admittedly, it isn't that long," said Famiglietti. "I want to be clear that this is an emerging trend…there are many ups and downs in the data, [but] if these trends persist, then they will be very much an indication that the water cycle is intensifying."
Famiglietti and his colleagues were limited by the scarcity of on-the-ground data. Most countries lack river flow measurement gauges, either for want of resources or political reasons.
"A lot of nations are unwilling to share their data. They don't want other nations to know what they're doing with their water, especially if that water crosses international boundaries," said Rodell.
Instead, the scientists used satellite and ocean temperature data to measure changes in the ocean's mass over time. Combined with satellite and ground-based datasets on precipitation and evaporation, they could then calculate the global rate of water flow into the oceans.
"[The research] does a pretty nice job of bringing together satellite-based observation datasets [and existing measurements] to look at discharge to the oceans in a new way," said Rodell.
Since high-quality satellite data only became available in 1994, "it's really important to wait for a longer data record," Famiglietti explained, describing how the study might be improved with time.
Famiglietti also wants to break down the data to find out how much of the water flow originated from river runoff versus land-based glaciers or melting ice caps.
Another component is the water that comes from human-induced changes. Under normal circumstances, groundwater is essentially taken out of the water cycle because it's trapped underground for sometimes thousands of years. But when humans mine the water for above-ground consumption, they add extra water to the global water cycle—water that will eventually discharge into rivers as runoff.
Famiglietti sees the study as "an early warning" for one potential consequence of climate change. Further research could pinpoint the exact source of increased water flows and establish longer global trends.
"It's very difficult given the short record we've had…to diagnose a trend," Rodell agreed. "And I think [the authors are] pretty clear about that...you can't say for sure that it's going to continue. Nevertheless, it does seem to fit with other indicators of climate change."
Massive Everglades restoration land buy set for completion Tuesday
Palm Beach Post - by Christine Stapleton, Staff Writer
October 8, 2010
After 2 1/2 years of legal, financial, environmental and political maneuvering, the South Florida Water Management District pledged Friday to forge ahead next week to complete an epic deal to buy thousands of acres of farmland to protect the Everglades.
"The final round is about to begin!" Ruth Clements, the district's director of real estate, said at a final public hearing that brought together an unusual alliance of environmentalists, agriculture and water managers.
Clements donned a pair of red boxing gloves and pumped her fists into the air as she began her brief presentation. "The district is ready," she said.
The closing is scheduled for Tuesday.
For $197 million, the district will get nearly 27,000 acres of U.S. Sugar Corp. land to the south and east of Lake Okeechobee, where it plans to create marshes that filter phosphorus from water coming from the lake. The district hopes to swap land east of the lake for other, better positioned land owned by Florida Crystals, for more storm water treatment.
The deal began in May 2008 when Governor Charlie Crist made a stunning announcement that the state had agreed with U.S. Sugar to purchase 197,000 acres of land for $1.7 billion. As the economy tanked, the deal shrank to $536 million for 73,000 acres and then to $197 million for 26,900 acres.
The current deal gives the district the option to buy 180,000 acres over 10 years. Although the district has admitted it does not have the money to build the treatment areas on the land it will purchase on Tuesday, water managers hope the deal proves to two federal judges that the district is serious about cleaning up the Everglades.
Earlier this year U.S. District Judge Alan Gold accused the Environmental Protection Agency, the Florida Dept. of Environmental Protection and the South Florida Water Management District of failing to enforce clean water standards in the Everglades for more than two decades. Although the district is not a defendant in the lawsuit, it is responsible for issuing water permits and constructing water treatment areas in the Everglades Protection Area.
U.S. Sugar officials have already signed sale documents and the district is scheduled to transfer money to the company on Tuesday to complete the purchase.
Asked if there would be a ceremony to celebrate the deal, district Chairman Eric Buerman assured the staff, environmentalists and public in attendance Friday that there would be cake.
Sugar land deal finally a lock
Miami Herald – by CURTIS MORGAN
October 8, 2010
The governor's Big Sugar land deal is all but completed, though it's not nearly as big as it was when first proposed more than two years ago.
If Charlie Crist were a car salesman, the $1.75 billion buyout of a sprawling sugar empire he pitched as the salvation of the Everglades more than two years ago might be likened to a Ferrari Enzo. Expensive, flashy but ridiculously impractical.
One economic meltdown and three downsizings later, water managers are poised to drive off with what amounts to a Honda Civic of an Everglades restoration land purchase. Not nearly all they wanted but all they can afford.
After a last uneventful review of the controversial deal on Friday, the South Florida Water Management District moved within a single step of buying 26,800 acres of citrus groves and cane fields between the Glades and Lake Okeechobee from the U.S. Sugar Corp.
All that remains for Tuesday's scheduled closing is to electronically transfer $194,234,087.08 of district money into the accounts of the state's largest sugar grower.
For water managers, it's been a long, difficult road.
``Right now, there is nothing on the horizon and there has been no saber rattling we can detect,'' said district governing board chairman Eric Buermann, a Miami attorney.
The deal's critics, led by rival Florida Crystals and the Miccosukee Tribe, finally appear out of options after a bitter battle to kill the deal outright. Gaston Cantens, a Crystals vice president, wouldn't rule out last-minute legal maneuvers but sounded resigned.
``The governor wants to get his little political piñata before the election,'' Cantens said. ``What else can we do?''
The tribe and Crystals have already done a lot, taking a lobbying and legal battle all the way to Florida's Supreme Court. The opposition campaign, combined with plummeting property tax revenues, whittled down a deal that Crist, now fighting an uphill battle for a U.S. Senate seat, hoped would burnish his green image.
The purchase -- 17,900 acres of citrus groves in Hendry County and 8,900 acres of sugar fields in the massive Everglades farming area -- is roughly a seventh of the original 300-square-mile swath. It won't provide enough land to restore an adequate supply of clean water for the Everglades -- but does preserve a 10-year option to acquire the rest.
Still, water managers and many environmental groups call it a critical acquisition for a state under increasing pressure from federal judges and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to reduce the flow of pollution into the Glades from farms, ranches and suburbs.
``It's short of the governor's vision but at least to me the governor's vision is not lost,'' said board member Shannon Estenoz, a longtime environmentalist activist from Plantation. ``We have bitten off the biggest chunk we can bite off right now.''
When and if the district can begin building reservoirs and phosphorus-absorbing marshes envisioned for the land remains a major unanswered question. Clearly, unless state or federal agencies chip in, most of the land won't be used for years.
Carol Ann Wehle, the district's executive director, spelled out the state cash crunch in a Sept. 30 letter to Miami federal Judge Alan Gold, who in an April ruling ripped the ``glacial'' delay in cleanup efforts by the state and the lax federal oversight. In response, the EPA filed a plan calling for a 42,000-acre, $1.5 billion expansion of the state's existing network of reservoirs and pollution treatment marshes by 2020.
Wehle, citing district property tax revenues that have fallen by a third to $400 million since 2008 and state contributions to restoration projects that have fallen by more than three-quarters to $224 million, said the district simply couldn't afford the EPA's proposal.
``The projects and schedules put forward by the EPA are, regrettably, not achievable without our existing revenue streams,'' she wrote.
That acknowledgement echoes what critics have long argued. They've painted the purchase as a sweetheart deal for U.S. Sugar, a major Crist campaign donor, and contended the state has purchased poorly located land at the cost of delaying on-going Everglades restoration projects, perhaps by decades.
``Everything has stalled,' said Barbara Miedema, vice president of the Belle Glade-based Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative, a coalition of smaller growers that have sided with Florida Crystals in fighting a land buy and lease-back deal they contend will give U.S. Sugar a competitive edge.
Environmentalists had sued the EPA over the state cleanup plan in part because it pushed back what had been a 2006 deadline for reducing damaging levels of phosphorus, a fertilizer ingredient that flows off farms and yards, to 2016.
But now, she said, the EPA plan would give the state until 2020 to get the job done. The state would have been ``better off'' to have built a previously planned suite of projects, Miedema said.
Advocates of the deal argue the old plan didn't set aside enough land to solve pollution problems, pointing out that both the EPA document and a report from an advisor to U.S. District Judge Federico Moreno, who is overseeing another Everglades cleanup case, support the U.S. Sugar land buy.
Estenoz said she agreed with the EPA that the cleanup effort needed to be expanded but argued that courts should consider economic and construction realities. Building projects and meeting tough pollution standards is going to take far more time than environmentalists and scientists once believed, she said.
``You can't build a 16,000 acre facility in three years. You can't even get it permitted,'' Estenoz said. ``We're not Harry Potter. We don't just wave a magic wand and make it happen.
The Florida Supreme Court has yet to rule on suits filed by the tribe and rival growers challenging an earlier effort by the district to use bonds to bankroll a previous version of the deal that would have paid $536 million to U.S. Sugar for 73,000 acres.
A CASH DEAL
Because the new deal is for cash, the court's ruling shouldn't affect it, but it could potentially limit the district's options for purchasing more land from U.S. Sugar in the future.
Kirk Fordham, chief executive officer of the Everglades Foundation, said it's clear the state needs to begin pursuing new sources to help pick up the increasingly expensive tab for restoring the Everglades -- namely, growers, ranchers and other polluters.
``The burden continues to fall on the taxpayer,'' he said. ``It's our hope that through this process there will be a shift in attention to those that have been creating the problem.''
University Press Online (FAU) - by Sergio N. Candido, Contributor
October 5, 2010, updated October 7, 2010
Research hub injects life into Davie campus
Several times a week for six months, graduate biology student Bryan Botson wakes up before dawn to get picked up by a Jet Ranger helicopter.
He is then flown to the middle of the Everglades to study small fish that birds feed on - while trying not to fall prey himself to an alligator in the murky, waist-deep waters.
Botson's and other researchers' efforts to assess the wetlands' current state will get a major boost as a new FAU/UF joint-use facility hosts its ribbon-cutting ceremony on Nov. 10, providing a new state-of-the art hub for Everglades research.
"The ability to conduct more research lets professors get grants more effectively. That makes the university more attractive to outside students, and so it's a positive feedback loop," said Dale Gawlik, director of the environmental science program, who's also one of the key scientists involved in the marshlands' projects.
He believes that with the new top-of-the-line labs, the recent hiring of faculty for the new facility, and the partnership with UF, the environmental program is destined to boom.
"We are going to have a lot of students and lots of faculty involved."
Located next to the University of Florida's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences building, right across the street from the other FAU buildings on the Davie campus, it will also allow for the storage of airboats and on-the-field research equipment.
Gary Perry, dean of the Charles E. Schmidt College of Science, has ambitious plans for the growing campus. He wants to mold it into a science-oriented giant.
"As we go forward, really the goal is to try and specify the program on the [Davie] campus, make that campus mission-specific with respect to science and biology," Perry said.
FAU, UF scientists, and the U.S Geological Survey, a government agency that studies the country's landscape, will work together for a common cause: the restoration of the Everglades after 40 years of man-caused destruction.
According to Gawlik, the overall restoration is a set of projects meant to address four major ecological problems: the introduction of foreign species to the region; water pollution from agricultural fertilizer runoff; loss of wetlands from housing developments; and hydrologic changes - changes in the amount and distribution of water in the Everglades.
He is working with students like Bryan Botson to try to find connections in how changes in the water affect the Everglades' wildlife.
Botson, 32, who serves as research coordinator for Gawlik's lab, is currently studying the relationship between wading birds, such as cranes, herons or storks, and their prey (small fish) during the dry season when the water is low.
"[My favorite part] is a combination of being in the field and collecting the data, and then when you really start putting it together, making some connections," Botson said. "This research is very exciting."
He said that these types of birds serve as "indicators" for the environment. If they are nesting and breeding, it means the environment is healthy. If the bird population decreases, it means there's something wrong with the area.
The South Florida Water Management District, a regional governmental agency that oversees water resources in the southeast part of the state, is funding Botson's helicopter and many of the Everglades' projects.
SFWMD uses this type of research to know where they can channel fresh water from while causing the least amount of harm to the wetlands.
The FAU/UF joint-use facility will also house part of the geosciences department to develop maps and graphics to observe how different species move around in the Everglades.
Both undergraduate and graduate biology courses will be offered on its first floor, where one classroom can sit up to 100 students. Gary Perry said that some nursing and psychology classes may also be offered.
Office space for faculty in the College of Arts and Letters will be provided on the top floors.
"[This building] is expanding the campus," Perry said. "And it's really growing our entire presence there in Davie."
The building's green features
The 75,000-square-foot facility was designed to meet the standards of the U.S. Green Building Council, a non-profit organization dedicated to sustainable building design and construction.
The new facility was awarded the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) silver certification.
- Bicycle racks, changing rooms and showers will encourage researchers to use alternative transportation methods to reduce pollution.
-The landscape will comprise local plants that require little irrigation, reducing water consumption by 20 percent.
- The building will have an air-conditioning system that reduces energy consumption by 14 percent.
- Twenty percent of the construction material comes from recycled items.
- Seventy-five percent of all occupied spaces will utilize natural lighting to reduce energy consumption.
So, whose building is it anyway?
Gary W. Perry, dean of the Charles E. Schmidt College of Science, said that several years ago, FAU was already planning to expand its Davie campus - the problem was that it didn't have any land.
A Jan. 23, 2009, press release from FAU said that the 25 acres of land where the new facility sits were "transferred" to FAU from the University of Florida.
But two days later, the Sun-Sentinel wrote that UF "donated" the land to FAU.
Phyllis Bebko, associate vice president of Broward campuses, said that the land was a part of the acreage given to the University of Florida's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences to use for scientific work many years ago.
The story dates back to post-World War II Davie, when the 545 acres that were previously used as an air naval training base were designated by the state for educational purposes. Broward College, Nova Southeastern University and UF got the big pieces of the cake in the ‘60s, with FAU coming last in 1994.
The complex of schools became known as the South Florida Education Center (SFEC), according to SFEC's website.
"The legislature more recently identified a portion of the UF land and assigned it to FAU because of our growth," Bebko said via e-mail.
Bebko said that a part of the agreement called for UF to have some space in the first building to be built on their former land.
"It is an FAU building," Bebko said. "But the second floor is to be occupied by UF scientists, many of whom are colleagues of the FAU scientists who will be in the building."
iPhone tool serves as lizard wizard for scientists seeking scaly invaders
Palm Beach Post - by Christine Stapleton, Staff Writer
October 7, 2010
Having trouble telling the difference between a Burmese python and a Ball python? There's an app for that.
The recently released IveGot1 app is a field identification guide to help identify some of the biggest, nastiest reptiles slithering around South Florida.
"I wouldn't have believed years ago, when I started doing this, that the public would be engaged like this," said Dan Thayer, director of Vegetation and Land Management and invasive species expert at the South Florida Water Management District. "This is an incredibly valuable tool."
The app was created by researchers at the University of Georgia's Center for Invasive Species and Ecosystem Health, working with a team of state and federal environmental agencies, including the South Florida Water Management District and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
For now the app provides information on 15 reptiles in South Florida but the hope is more species will be added and for the list to be regularly updated.
The app is free and available to iPhone 4.0 users. By the end of the year, the app will be compatible with the iPhone 3.0 system and there are plans to add apps for the Droid and Blackberry.
Besides photos, the app includes information about length, body characteristics, pattern, status (native/non-native/invasive), visual identification tips of the head and where the reptile has been spotted in South Florida.
For example, the African Nile Monitor -- a carnivorous lizard that can grow to 6 feet -- is well established in Cape Coral and sightings are becoming more frequent throughout Miami-Dade county. While some of the reptiles in the app are well established, like the monstrous Burmese python found throughout Everglades National Park, others, such as the green and yellow anaconda, have only been sighted a few times and could easily be misidentified without a field guide.
Non-native reptiles in Florida have become an epidemic. Most are released by pet owners who get bored with or cannot keep massive reptiles that once fit nicely in a tabletop terrarium. In the wild, the reptiles wreak havoc on the native animals they feast upon.
Researchers are quick to cite the case of the massive Nile perch, introduced into Lake Victoria in the 1950s, which caused the extinction or near extinction of several hundred species.
"An individual organism can cause a complete ecological collapse," said Larry Perez, science communications officer at the Everglades National Park. Today there are 195 non-native animals in Florida today and hundreds more non-native plants. "Here is South Florida, we haven't had that one catastrophic non-native species. It's more like death by 1,000 cuts."
The app, originally designed to help researchers in the field, will become even more valuable when the public can use it to report sightings from their phones. Because the phones are equipped with GPS and cameras, the exact location and a photo can be transmitted immediately to wildlife officials. That feature is not available now but its designers hope to make it available by next summer. The hope then is that people who work outdoors will use it when they see unwanted reptiles.
"It's about getting the lay person involved," Perez said. "People who deliver mail, work in lawn maintenance or travel a route and see something dead on the road that doesn't belong here."
The few successful eradication programs came about because of early intervention and quick response. Just gathering data that shows the spread of an invasive species "would be incredibly valuable," Thayer said.
"This could be an extremely helpful thing people could do," Thayer said. "Obviously we need more (human) eyes."
The Everglades in Peril
The New York Times – credit to C. Gielen
October 7, 2010
Water levels in the Everglades naturally fluctuate, but as this photo shows, they have been abnormally low in recent years. “Whereas naturally there might have been huge quantities of water flowing through the system,” said Larry Perez, science communications officer for Everglades National Park, “with current management practices, every single year, come April, until those first summer rains, we know that we’re going to be dry down here. It’s almost a given.”
Much of the Everglades is defined by secondary river-delta channels, called sloughs, and slightly raised sections of land, called hammocks. “Hammocks are basically just stands of broad-leafed trees, the majority of tree islands in the park,” Mr. Perez said. “See those heads of green that trail into nothingness? That’s the direction water flows.”
South Florida’s “white zone” is a nutrient-poor area of salinated water in the southeastern Everglades. “When aerial images from the ‘40s and ‘90s were compared, it was evident that that white zone had migrated inland by almost a full mile,” Mr. Perez said. “It’s probably because of multiple stressors: we’ve shunted off fresh water flow from the north. And since 1940, we’ve seen about a 10-centimeter rise in sea level.”
Looking at Mr. Gielen’s photographs, Bruce Babbitt, secretary of the interior for the Clinton administration, said, “The land is crying out for water.” Water that had once flowed into the park in a massive, shallow sheet is now mostly diverted through a 2,000-mile labyrinth of pipes, canals and floodgates, the infrastructure that supports South Florida’s built environment.
Because the park comprises the lower one-fifth of the historic Everglades ecosystem, it will be the last beneficiary of programs to restore sheet flow — the slow movement of water across the marshland—to the north. “A one-mile stretch of Highway 41 is currently being elevated so water can flow south again for the first time in decades,” Mr. Perez said. “And we’re recommending five and a half additional miles of bridging to allow for the return of sheet flow across an even greater area.”
They Unpaved Paradise
The New York Times - by TIM DOODY and CHRISTOPH GIELEN
October 7, 2010
City limits, property lines and state borders appear clear and inviolable on a map. But things are trickier on the ground, and even more so on the water, where such neatly drawn lines are bypassed by flooding rivers or wandering runoff. Water, particularly in ever-shifting wetlands, meanders between civilization and wilderness, reminding us that both are conduits in a larger circulatory system.
In April 2009, at the tail end of a drought, the photographer Christoph Gielen flew in a helicopter over one such ailing system, South Florida. He took shots of sloughs and hammocks, tear-drop islands and estuaries. Though often dozens of miles from the nearest planned community, the effects of sprawl were written all over the terrain: marshes reduced to a fraction of their former size; shrinking river-delta channels, known as sloughs; and the infamous “white zone,” a stagnant, hyper-salinated coastal area that has crept inland from the Atlantic since 1940. All of these are indicators of a dying ecosystem, driven to collapse by overdevelopment.
Yet the resulting images are near-abstractions; at first glance, it’s hard to realize that the photos were taken through a wide-angle lens, aimed from 10,000 feet above Everglades National Park. They are a testament to how mutually entwined the built and natural environments have become. Fortunately, thanks to recent efforts to control and even shrink South Florida’s residential sprawl, they may also document the turning point in the region’s relationship with its natural surroundings.
While it may look happenstance, sprawl throughout Florida (and, indeed, the entire country) was, at least in the beginning, tightly coordinated. In the 1940s and ’50s, the federal government subsidized highways and provided cheap insurance, low-interest loans and tax incentives for residential and commercial developments outside cities. Most legislators had thought this horizontal growth would boost living standards and the economy, since the suburbs offered an escape from faltering and unhealthy cities.
There was another justification as well. As Congress argued in the 1954 Housing Act, the increased space between homes and industries reduced “the vulnerability of congested urban areas to enemy attack.” If it happened in Hiroshima, it could happen here: a mushroom cloud rising above New York or Chicago. Urban concentrations were vulnerable; the suburbs spread out populations. Sprawl was civilian defense in the atomic age. Developers advertised that their subdivisions lay “beyond the radiation zone.”
South Florida’s grid expanded faster than most, propelled not just by federal incentives but also by promises of paradise. Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach merged into a megalopolis, while gated golf communities battled with office parks for Gulf Coast real estate. Nature couldn’t move out of the way quickly enough: alligators strolled strip malls and highway clovers in search of mating grounds they’d never find again.
But it wasn’t just wildlife that was having trouble. Within a few decades, South Floridians were besieged by gridlock, water shortages and, according to a 1995 report by the Governor’s Commission for a Sustainable South Florida, a landscape of “mind numbing homogeneity.” By the 1990s, half the historic Everglades had been paved or drained. Water tables in the region plummeted. Droughts and hurricanes punched harder. Seeking to reverse a half-century of land use policy, the commission argued for “harsh measures” to curtail suburbanization.
By the turn of the millennium a critical mass of South Floridians had begun to realize that if they wanted to keep their sun-kissed shorelines and balmy breezes, they’d have to broaden their understanding of “home,” so that it stretched through the pipes of their ranch houses, villas and condos and into the arteries of their watershed. Every toilet flush, garden hose and frozen margarita depended on the health of the swamps lying just beyond their communities, which in turn depended on water that had once flowed in a shallow, 100-mile long, 40-mile-wide sheet from Lake Okeechobee into Florida Bay.
Few have taken on the task of reimagining South Florida sprawl and its relationship with nature more aggressively than Bruce Babbitt, Bill Clinton’s secretary of the interior. As secretary, he orchestrated an unprecedented government effort to re-stitch the severed arteries of the Everglades together, so that the ecosystem might retain some semblance of its former capacity as a critical aquifer and hotbed of biodiversity. He hoped it could become a model for challenging postwar settlement patterns across the country.
In his 2005 memoir, “Cities in the Wilderness,” Secretary Babbitt sounds not unlike a scholarly Earth First!er when he writes of his motivation for the project: “As a society, we have always assumed that land, once occupied, was ours, forever lost to the natural world, no matter how great the environmental damage.” In the 21st century, that assumption has fallen apart. Now, he writes, longer-term land-use strategies necessitate that the government “would have to organize a retreat from occupied territory.”
And, thanks in part to Mr. Babbitt’s efforts, that’s what has begun to happen in South Florida. Starting in the 1990s, federal and state agencies have bought thousands of undeveloped subdivisions and sugar plantations for wetlands conversion. They drew an urban boundary around the Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach megalopolis to limit its growth and increase its density, which also helped to re-glamorize their downtowns. More recently, with widespread grassroots support, they initiated an $8 billion, 30-year plan to restore 25 percent of the Everglades ecosystem. And just last year, they began raising the Tamiami Trail Highway, which has severed water flow from the national park for decades, onto pylons, allowing water to pass underneath it.
Like water, most planners have simply been following the path of least resistance, channeled in the postwar years by national legislation. Relying on maps, they drew subdivisions and shopping malls that ignored the subtle but powerful laws of nature. How might these development patterns change if, instead, they were designed according to an anti-sprawl model? What new configuration of the built and natural environments would best reflect contemporary understandings of freshwater scarcity, habitat fragmentation and climate change?
Secretary Babbitt has an idea. “I think the United States of the twenty-first century should start to look more like an archipelago of cities in a sea of open landscapes,” he said.
While exhilarating, his vision would require far more imagination and coordination than did the population-dispersal policies of the last century. Still, the postwar legislative models themselves map out the how-tos of epic transformation: by partnering with states, the federal government established criteria and incentives that radically altered centuries-old settlement patterns within a decade. Couldn’t this federal approach be implemented again, but this time to promote open-space programs and infrastructural redevelopment, perhaps, again, in the name of national defense?
Mr. Gielen’s photographs capture the moment when we may be seeing the first benefits of this historic attempt at reconciling ecosystems and development. In 2009, wading birds, the Everglades’ indicator species, returned in numbers not seen since the 1940s. A fluke or a trend? Park scientists have hypotheses, though nothing yet for the record. But keep your fingers crossed. Because if $8 billion, 55 inches of annual rainfall and bipartisan support still can’t harmonize South Florida’s built and natural environments, it doesn’t bode well for the many other regions where similar crises are mounting. Think of South Florida as our nation’s indicator species.
Sink releases environmental plan
The Florida Independent - by Virginia Chamlee
October 6, 2010
Gubernatorial candidate Alex Sink has released her environmental plan, an eight-page political advertisement titled “Preserving Florida’s Natural Assets: Improve our economy while protecting our environment.” The plan mentions several key issues currently affecting Florida’s ecology, including nutrient overload, Everglades restoration and offshore drilling.
In the document, Sink promises to “increase oversight of water management districts,” a much-needed policy in a state that currently relies on these districts to implement standards governing waste in Florida waters. The South Florida Water Management District has recently come under fire from environmental groups for issuing permits to well-known polluters of the Everglades. Sink promises to “coordinate governance among districts” and “appoint highly qualified individuals to water management district governing boards.”
The document also mentions the importance of water conservation, another issue which has recently plagued some parts of the state. Sink says she will work to incentivize conservation by “granting longer duration water permits to water utilities that achieve conservation goals.”
On a more controversial topic, the impairment of Florida waters by excess levels of nutrients, Sink remains vague. Although she promises to “work with the federal government to resolve water quality disputes,” she doesn’t make it clear whether or not she would advocate further delays in implementing nutrient standards:
Under the federal Clean Water Act, each state must establish water quality standards. However, in Florida, a federal lawsuit now requires EPA to develop these standards, even though the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has completed much scientific work to establish standards for streams, lakes and estuaries. Alex will continue working with EPA and the parties to get DEP’s work considered and used as the best science available.
The DEP has recently been under intense pressure from industry and agricultural groups to write nutrient standards in a way that won’t lead to increased costs for big businesses or force them to reevaluate current operating methods. Whether Sink would side with the industries who pressure the DEP to further delay the standards or keep them less stringent remains unclear in her current environmental plan.
One point on which she is less vague is land acquisition. The Florida Forever program has seen money come and go (at one point, it received $300 million in funding; the next year, zero), but Sink makes it clear that she aims to “protect the Florida Forever program from future budget raids.”
Sink also says she is committed to “make progress on Everglades restoration” and will work to end harmful discharges to state estuaries and Lake Okeechobee:
Historically, Lake Okeechobee is managed as a reservoir rather than as part of the natural Everglades. This approach has produced a severely polluted lake that is too full of water during wet times and too parched during dry times. Alex Sink will work with landowners and farmers north of the lake to acquire conservation easements and other rights to incentivize landowners to keep water on their lands longer. This will avoid dumping that water into Lake Okeechobee and help cleanse the water before it flows downstream into rivers and estuaries.
On offshore oil drilling, Sink says she will “veto any legislation to allow near-beach oil drilling” and will “support efforts to let voters decide through a constitutional amendment on oil drilling in state waters.”
EVERGLADES: EPA's treatment plan too expensive for Fla. water district
October 5, 2010
The South Florida Water Management District has told a federal judge that it would not be able to carry out U.S. EPA's proposal to lower phosphorus levels in the Everglades by building more than 40,000 acres of water treatment areas by 2020.
Carol Wehle, the district's executive director, told the judge that the proposal is "regrettably, not achievable within our existing revenue streams" in a letter dated Sept. 30.
U.S. District Judge Alan Gold had ordered EPA in April to create the plan to reduce phosphorus levels, when he accused both EPA and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection of not enforcing water quality standards for more than 20 years.
Phosphorus reaches the Everglades mostly through runoff from farms and developments, both of which are issued permits by the South Florida Water Management District. The judge will decide in four weeks whether to include the district in its lawsuit against EPA and the state environmental department.
Friends of the Everglades criticized EPA's proposal yesterday, saying it "is like a stool with one leg" because "enforceability and financing are entirely absent" (Christine Stapleton, Palm Beach Post, Oct. 4). -- AP
Everglades land deal mired in legal issues
October 5, 2010
TALLAHASSEE, Fla., Oct. 5 (UPI) -- Legal battles in Florida may derail a $197 million Everglades restoration project two years in the making, a water district director said.
South Florida Water Management District Director Carol Wehle, in a letter to U.S District Judge Alan Gold, said pressing for tighter environmental controls, those backed by the Friends of the Everglades group, were "regrettably, not achievable."
The potential $1.5 billion price tag for the controls would be a burden to taxpayers "who alone are expected to carry the heavy financial load to meet the Court's mandates," the letter said, The South Florida Sun-Sentinel reported Tuesday.
The deal, originally proposed by Gov. Charlie Crist, has shrunk considerably from its conception two years ago -- a $1.75 billion offer to buy 180,000 acres from U.S. Sugar for Everglade protection pared down to a $197 million deal for 26,800 acres.
The smaller deal is expected to close Oct. 12, but the water district, which would manage the project, has scheduled a meeting for Friday to discuss walking away from the deal if the legal mandates become too costly.
In addition, Gold has rescheduled a hearing for Nov. 3 on the EPA's clean water goals for the project, which the environmental group says is too lax.
The environmental group's attorney Albert Slap said the EPA's plan was flawed. "It has no enforcement deadlines and no money to back it up,'' he said.
At issue is goals for removing phosphorus from storm water that seeps into the Everglades from nearby farmland, the newspaper said.
Legal Fight Slows Everglades Restoration
Newsmax.com - by: Lisa Arthur
October 5, 2010
A legal fight between an environmental group and the EPA over a revamped water quality enforcement plan has slowed down the already slow-moving Everglades restoration. The future of a land deal with U.S. Sugar Corp. is in question. And so is the $197 million tab for South Florida taxpayers, according to miamiherald.com.
At issue is the Environmental Protection Agency’s enforcement of the Clean Water Act when it comes to polluted stormwater discharges to the Everglades. Friends of the Everglades has filed a measure in federal court to have the EPA’s revamped plan rejected. The new EPA plan announced in September to start enforcing already overdue standards for the levels of polluting phosphorus allowed in storm water headed to the Everglades needs tighter deadlines and punishments, Friends of the Everglades said.
Meanwhile, the South Florida Water Management District is getting ready to close Oct. 12 on a $197 million land deal to use U.S. Sugar farmland to store and treat more storm water bound for the Everglades. The lingering legal issues could still scrap the deal. While critics say the EPA's new plan doesn't go far enough, the water management district warns that the actions called for in the plan by Friends of the Everglades come with a potential $1.5 billion price tag that would make other glades efforts unaffordable. And taxpayers would get dinged, the water district contends.
That cost would be ``regrettably, not achievable,'' according to a Sept. 30 letter from District Executive Director Carol Wehle to Gold. The district wants Gold and other courts reviewing the U.S. Sugar deal to allow the land purchase to move forward. ``It is South Florida's taxpayers who alone are expected to carry the heavy financial load to meet the Court's mandates,'' Wehle wrote in a letter to the judge hearing the case.
Environmental group: EPA remedies for phosphorous in the Everglades a ‘one-legged stool’
Florida Independent - by Virginia Chamlee
October 4, 2010
The Florida-based environmental group Friends of the Everglades today filed a legal response against the EPA, enjoining the agency to replace its proposed phosphorus standards with “a truly ‘enforceable’ and ‘mandatory’ ‘framework’ to achieve … Water Quality Standards in the Everglades Protection Area as quickly as possible.”
Phosphorus, a key ingredient in fertilizer, has long been regarded as one of the most dangerous nutrients in the Everglades and, even with the implementation of almost 40,000 acres of storm-water treatment areas, persists in the area. Coupled with heat and other nutrients (like nitrogen), phosphorus can cause widespread algal blooms that inhibit oxygen production and lead to fish kills. Environmental lawyer Albert Slap says that even in small doses, the nutrient can be lethal: “A little bit of phosphorus is like being a little bit pregnant — it eventually gets worse and takes over.”
Friends of the Everglades acted as the lead plaintiff in a 2003 suit that claimed the EPA was violating the Clean Water Act by permitting continued pollution of the Everglades. Judge Alan S. Gold ruled in the favor of Friends and co-plaintiff The Miccosukee Tribe in 2008, requiring the EPA to detail a set of remedies for phosphorus pollution in the Everglades. According to a press release issued by Friends, the EPA’s response is “solid on technical merits,” but provides no real methods of enforcement or funding:
There are serious issues with protecting water quality during the phase of expanding storage treatment areas. Judge Gold was clear in his instructions to the EPA, and Friends asks the court to; 1) Reject EPA’s Amended Determination, 2) Order EPA to file a civil enforcement action in federal court against the [South Florida Water Management District], the permittee, to stop poisoning the Everglades with phosphorus pollution, 3) Order EPA to develop interim limits that will control the discharge of pollution to the Everglades during expansion of treatment marshes, 4) Require EPA to provide adequate funding to meet its remedies and enforceable structure, and 5) Order EPA to develop a multi-agency, federal-state financing plan and solid commitments to fund all projects that have been promised to protect and restore the Everglades.
In a Monday morning press conference, Friends’ Vice President Alan Farago and environmental lawyer Slap made it clear that the South Florida Water Management District needs to be held accountable.
“The SFWMD is the permitee and, as such, is the one being regulated by the EPA,” said Slap. ”They control the water and the big treatment centers that discharge into it. They are the biggest source of funding and the judge already threatened to bring them in. There is a hearing scheduled for Nov. 3 on whether or not they’ll be a party in this case. They’ll always be peripherally involved.”
Farago calls the EPA’s response an “aspirational document” and says that, though its technical merits are a step forward, the fact that it lacks enforcability makes it a “one-legged stool.”
Slap says that, even set against the backdrop of the recent economic crisis, funding is imperative to help restore the Everglades:
What Friends is saying [in this filing] is that the SFWMD has funding capabilities through taxes. [EPA administrator] Lisa Jackson could marshall resources of the federal government and this could gain traction. I understand that business are scared of being shut down and people are scared of losing work, but you can’t pollute the water. If a business has to shut down and regroup, they have to shut down. There’s no exemption under the Clean Water Act. The Department of Environmental Protection [has the authority to] tell businesses to figure out a way to treat their own pollution. The Water District has said they can’t afford the funding, but they aren’t even at their maximum millage rate. If they were … they could generate enough revenue to fix these problems. From a federal standpoint, The Corps of Engineers, the Department of Interior … they aren’t being de-funded. Money will end up somewhere; either to save the Everglades or build a bridge to nowhere.
Environmental group seeks tougher pollution protections for Everglades restoration
Sun Sentinel - by Andy Reid
October 4, 2010
Legal fights linger as closing of U.S. Sugar land deal approaches
On Monday, the environmental group Friends of the Everglades, filed a measure calling for Gold to reject the EPA's newly revamped plan to start enforcing water quality requirements.
The group also called for the judge to bring the South Florida Water Management District into the legal fight. Friends of the Everglades called for the EPA to take action against the water management district "to stop poisoning the Everglades."
This additional legal wrangling over restoration comes as the water management district gets ready on Oct. 12 to close on a $197 million land deal to use U.S. Sugar farmland to store and treat more storm water bound for the Everglades. Lingering legal cases could still scrap the deal
With one legal showdown delayed, another is brewing in the fight over slow-moving Everglades restoration and the future of a land deal with U.S. Sugar Corp. that would cost South Florida taxpayers $197 million.
On Friday, U.S. District Judge Alan Gold delayed a Thursday hearing where he had called for U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson to answer for her agency's enforcement of the Clean Water Act when it comes to polluted storm water discharges to the Everglades.
Everglades Relisted as Endangered
October 04, 2010
Agreeing with a request by the Obama administration, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) returned the Everglades National Park to the List of World Heritage in Danger. According to Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar, the action symbolizes the United States commitment to restoration of the Everglades ecosystem and the administration’s efforts to restore the role of sound science in the decision-making process.
The List of World Heritage in Danger is designed to inform the international community of conditions that threaten the very characteristics for which a property was inscribed on the World Heritage List and to encourage corrective action.
The park was first listed by UNESCO’s 21-nation World Heritage Committee as a world heritage site in 1979. It was added to the List of World Heritage in Danger after Hurricane Andrew struck in 1993. The park was removed from the danger list in 2007 at the request of the Bush administration.
EPA chief averts order to testify on Everglades
Miami Herald - by CURTIS MORGAN
October 1, 2010
Under an appellate ruling, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson won't have to appear in federal court on Everglades issues despite a Miami judge's order.
It appears a Miami federal judge won't get a chance to grill a top federal environmental chief on expanding pollution problems in the Everglades.
An appeals court in Atlanta on Thursday granted a request from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to allow the agency to send an aide to testify instead of forcing administrator Lisa Jackson to appear in person before U.S. District County Judge Alan Gold next week.
A three-judge panel of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals issued a brief decision letting Jackson off the hook, citing the time crunch before the Oct. 7 hearing but retaining jurisdiction to rule on the judge's authority to compel a high-ranking federal executive to appear in court.
Gold had demanded that the EPA chief and the secretary of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection both show up in his courtroom to explain in person how they are going to end the ``glacial delay'' in cleaning up the Everglades.
The ruling followed up a 48-page order that found 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.
But last month, EPA attorneys asked to instead send an assistant who worked on Everglades water quality issues, arguing that schedule demands, including travel to Asia as part of an official government delegation beginning Oct. 8, would create a hardship for Jackson to prepare for and attend the hearing.
The judge rejected the request, a decision the EPA appealed.
The judicial panel gave the parties that originally sued the agencies, the Friends of the Everglades and Miccosukee Tribe, until Monday to respond to the decision. It also invited Gold to respond.
Paul Schwiep, an attorney for the environmental group, said he would file a response supporting the judge's authority to get answers directly from Jackson, ``given the EPA's history of failing to enforce the Clean Water Act.''
Earlier this month, the EPA filed a report requested by Gold calling for a 42,000-acre expansion of the state's existing network of reservoirs and pollution treatment marshes -- projects that could cost taxpayers billions of dollars -- and endorsing Gov. Charlie Crist's controversial land deal with the U.S. Sugar Corp. 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.
EPA chief who was ordered to appear in Everglades case wins a stay
Palm Beach Post - by Christine Stapleton, Staff Writer
October 1, 2010
The top U.S. environmental official won't be forced into a Miami courtroom to answer for Everglades pollution. Not yet, anyway.
A federal judge on Friday called-off an Oct. 7 hearing that would have stymied the Oct. 8 trip to China of EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson. But Jackson could still face a grilling on pollution problems in the Everglades at a re-scheduled hearing.
Jackson learned in April that she was required to appear in the Miami courtroom of U.S. District Judge Alan Gold on Oct. 7 to explain why the agency had failed to protect the Everglades. In a scathing, 48-page ruling, Gold accused the EPA, Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the South Florida Water Management District of deliberately ignoring and refusing to enforce for more than two decades the laws limiting the amount of phosphorus discharged into the Everglades.
The order stemmed from a lawsuit by the Miccosukee Tribe and the Friends of the Everglades, who accused environmental officials of failing to enforce the Clean Water Act in the Everglades and deliberately delaying the clean-up. Gold judge stopped short of finding the EPA and the DEP in contempt, but ordered the heads of both agencies to "personally appear" in his courtroom Oct. 7 to explain how the agencies would enforce the Clean Water Act in the future.
Although the water district is not named in the lawsuit, Gold also "invited" the district's chief to appear at the hearing.
On Sept. 8 -- just one month before the hearing -- Jackson's attorneys informed Gold of Jackson's trip and asked that another top-ranking administrator appear in her place. The judge -- irked that Jackson waited five months to tell him she was leading a delegation of environmental officials to China on Oct. 8 -- denied the request and a subsequent motion to put off the hearing while the agency appealed.
On Thursday the appellate court stayed the case while it reviews the agency's appeal. On Friday, Gold also issued a stay, but vowed to reset the hearing after the appeals court rules.
Two views on Everglades cleanup: EPA oversteps rights, making Floridians pay
Orlando Sentinel – by Tom Feeney, Guest Columnist
October 1, 2010
The primary author of the U.S. Constitution, James Madison, described the wonders of our brilliant federalist system as follows: "The powers delegated by the … Constitution are few and defined," while "[t]hose which remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite."
Last month, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued a regulation to the state of Florida, imposing billions of dollars in unfunded federal mandates and greatly overstepping the powers delegated to the EPA by Congress. The EPA also ordered the Florida Legislature to rewrite existing state law to conform it to the EPA's determination, trampling on the rights of the state and the separation of powers embodied in the U.S. Constitution.
With no legislative basis — federal or state — the EPA ordered the state to acquire tens of thousands of acres of land and build up to $6 billion in infrastructure under the guise of water-quality compliance. Even if the state were able to pay this incredible price tag, the plan is technically unachievable and will leave the state out of compliance on day 1 and subject to daily federal fines and continuing litigation.
The EPA order was issued in response to a federal court order by Judge Alan Gold that is being appealed in the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, where the state has argued that Judge Gold reached beyond his power under federal law. Not waiting for a decision from the higher courts, the EPA used Gold's order to reconfigure and heighten its role in environmental restoration in general, and Everglades restoration in particular.
In the context of a routine review of changes to state regulations under the Clean Water Act, which allows the EPA only to review and approve or reject regulatory changes, the agency went far beyond its powers and trampled on the constitutional principles of federalism. The EPA also violated its partnership with the state in Everglades-restoration efforts and mandated spending state tax money, going so far as to dictate specific projects, over which it has no authority, with no concern for how the projects would be funded.
Under this new edict, the EPA will micromanage the state's issuance of permits, the state's acquisition of land and its construction of projects, all at the expense of Florida taxpayers. The EPA's order mandates the state construct more than 42,000 acres of projects costing between $2 billion and $6 billion; complete a controversial purchase of land from U.S. Sugar Corp., costing another $200 million; and acquire an additional 7,500 to 16,000 acres of land, at a cost of hundreds of millions of dollars more.
The order violates the EPA's existing court-approved requirements and replaces them with draconian regulatory requirements that will mean billions, if not tens of billions, of additional dollars of Florida taxpayer expense. This is above and beyond the $2 billion to $6 billion in direct costs from the EPA's mandated projects.
The EPA order not only violates the existing state-federal Everglades restoration agreement, but destroys the constitutional balance between the roles of the state and federal governments. Unaccountable EPA bureaucrats, with the support of a federal judge, have engaged in a hostile takeover of state permitting, dictated project construction, required the taking of private land and ordered the Legislature to make changes to state statutes.
This attack on the state's role will punish all Florida taxpayers and opens the door for the federal government to micromanage every drop of water in our state. For instance, the EPA hopes to impose nutrient standards unique to Florida, which would require hundreds of thousands of homeowners to replace existing septic tanks. Additional requirements on Florida's small businesses would limit economic growth and decrease job opportunities.
Federal bureaucrats, with no responsibility for the cost or the economic and social impacts of their decisions, have effectively directed the state to use its taxing power on actions in which the federal government shares no portion of the cost, all with no supporting federal law or constitutional authority.
Tom Feeney, formerly speaker of the Florida House and a U.S. congressman, is the manager of Liberty Team LLC, a consulting firm that represents Florida Crystals.
Two Views on Everglades cleanup: Foot-dragging over, EPA finally does its job
October 1, 2010
At last, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has taken the necessary steps to save the Everglades. In a clear and direct response to a federal judge's order, EPA has ended decades of foot-dragging.
It is instructive that decisive action to save the Everglades has come about only as a result of two decades of litigation. Not one, but two federal judges' rulings have been necessary to obtain life-saving action for the ecosystem.
The state of Florida was sued in 1988 by the Department of Interior. That lawsuit resulted because the sugar industry's lobbyists prevented the state's pollution-control agency from stopping sugar-cane growers' dumping highly polluted water into canals leading to Everglades National Park and the Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge. The thick soup of agricultural runoff was causing marshland within the park and refuge to choke with dense growths of cattails and abnormal algae.
Florida Gov. Lawton Chiles wisely responded to the rulings of U.S. District Judge William Hoeveler, and settled the first lawsuit. The 1994 Legislature passed the Everglades Forever Act, which put the terms of the settlement agreement in state law. It directed the construction of tens of thousands of acres of stormwater-treatment areas to clean runoff water. It required that the Florida Department of Environmental Protection set a numerical phosphorus standard for the Everglades by 2003, with enforcement by 2006.
But just as the new phosphorus standard was about to go into effect, Big Sugar struck again. In 2003, more than 40 sugar-industry lobbyists descended on Tallahassee, and euchred the Florida Legislature into devastating amendments to Florida's water-quality law. The date for enforcing the phosphorus standard in the Everglades was effectively put off for 20 years. And, when the phosphorus standard did finally take effect, the law that sugar lobbyists wrote diluted it with moderating provisions, allowing pollution to continue.
While the EPA is required by the federal Clean Water Act to veto such changes to state water-quality standards, the EPA was cowed by the same mob of sugar-industry lobbyists and took a pass, declining to do its job.
Enter federal judge No. 2. A lawsuit brought by the Miccosukee Tribe of Indians and environmental groups challenged the EPA's inaction. U.S. District Judge Alan Gold ruled that the 2003 legislative maneuver constituted an egregious violation of the most basic requirements of the federal Clean Water Act. He ordered that the Environmental Protection Agency redo its evaluation of the shenanigans sugar lobbyists had managed to pull off through their legislative gamesmanship.
In response to Judge Gold, the EPA's "amended determination" issued on Sept. 3 provides clear guidelines and milestones to assure Florida will save the Everglades.
EPA has clarified the need for construction of treatment areas necessary to meet the standard — an additional 42,000 acres — and has identified the most easily utilized lands for these facilities: property the state already owns, or has already committed to buy. Also, EPA has wisely offered Florida the opportunity to submit an alternative plan in which the state could reduce the number of acres of treatment area that would have to be constructed at public expense — by ordering the polluting sugar industry to spend its own money to clean up phosphorus on its own land.
However, the fight for the life of the Everglades is not over. The same gang of Big Sugar lobbyists and their cronies are about to jump into action again. Look for them to howl about "mandates from Washington" and how it will cost Florida taxpayers too much to comply.
But the truth is that the harmful "mandates" Florida has followed for far too long are those issued in the form of demands from sugar-industry lobbyists.
Florida should just stop listening to the sugar lobbyists, and enforce the law. If Florida's political leaders had done that two decades ago, the Everglades would be cleaned up today, and the costs, much lower.
Charles Lee is director of advocacy for Audubon of Florida.
Rooney Urges Delay of Costly EPA Rule for Florida
Florida Reps. Ask Sen. Nelson to Support Request for Further Study
PoliticalNews.me - Oct 01,2010 - Washington, D.C. – U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney (FL-16) and eight fellow Florida Republicans wrote Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) urging him to support a request by Senator George LeMieux (R-FL) that would delay implementation of new EPA regulations on Florida’s water bodies.
“The EPA’s proposed rule only hits Florida, and it hits us hard. This proposal would cost Florida families and businesses billions of dollars,” Rooney said. “The average household would see their water bill nearly double to $1400 annually. The billion dollar blow to industry would cost our state 14,500 jobs. How can we afford to punish Florida’s families, industry and farmers when unemployment is already above 11 percent?
“The EPA needs to complete a full, independent review of this proposal and the science behind it, so we can make sure we know every cost and consequence before EPA moves forward.”
Senator LeMieux’s request, which is pending before the Senate today, would block funding for the implementation of the rule until at least December 3rd allowing more time for the agency to consider comments and input regarding the proposal. The rule, which would set stringent new regulations for numeric nutrients in Florida’s water bodies, is scheduled to go into effect on October 15 unless Congress can force a delay.
EPA delays new Florida water pollution rules after opposition by Nelson, LeMieux
TampaBay.com – St. Petersburg Times - by Craig Pittman, Times Staff Writer
Florida's two U.S. senators may be in different parties, but they have found something they agree on. They both oppose strict new water pollution standards that the Environmental Protection Agency was supposed to impose on Florida starting in two weeks.
In fact, Republican Sen. George LeMieux and Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson are so opposed to the pollution cleanup that on Wednesday night they tried to cut the EPA's funding for enforcing the new rules. A procedural move by another senator blocked them.
"This is a lawsuit-driven mandate without a sound scientific basis, and the result will be unnecessarily catastrophic for Florida," LeMieux said afterward. "The EPA's actions threaten Florida's economy and is unlikely to provide little, if any biological benefit compared to its estimated cost."
In the face of such opposition, EPA officials announced Wednesday that they would push back the effective date of the new pollution rules by a month, to Nov. 14.
To delay even that much, the agency had to get the agreement of the environmental groups that had sued the EPA to force a cleanup of nutrient pollution that they say should have begun a decade ago.
Nutrients such as phosphorous and nitrogen flow into waterways from fertilized lawns, golf courses, leaking septic tanks, cattle pastures and malfunctioning sewer plants. They feed the increase in toxic algae blooms that kill fish and cause respiratory problems and infections among swimmers, boaters and beachgoers.
Yet the state's rules for how much nitrogen and phosphorous are allowed in Florida's waterways are only vague guidelines that are easily bypassed, environmental activists contend. The EPA told all states in 1998 to set limits on nutrient pollution, and warned it would do it for them if no action was taken by 2004 — but then 2004 passed with no action.
So a coalition of groups that included the Sierra Club and the Conservancy of Southwest Florida sued the EPA, arguing it had failed to enforce the Clean Water Act. Last year the agency settled.
Under the settlement, the EPA had until Jan. 14 to propose the new pollution limit for Florida's lakes, rivers and creeks and then this month to finalize those rules. The agency then has until January 2011 to propose a limit for the state's coastal and estuarine waters, with a deadline of October 2011 to finalize those rules.
The proposed regulations drew 22,000 comments, including reactions from such industries as agriculture, pulp and paper manufacturers and sewer plant operators, all of whom contend it will cost too much to comply. The list of opponents includes such politically powerful groups as Associated Industries of Florida, as well as 21 of the state's 25 congressional representatives.
"These rules will impact a lot of Florida's businesses — not just the black hats," Nelson's press secretary, Dan McLaughlin, said. If the EPA pushes ahead anyway, he said, Nelson fears that "everybody will just end up back in court in a knife fight that'll drag on endlessly."
That's why Nelson backed LeMieux's attempt to prevent the EPA from spending any money on the rules through December, he said. But one of the environmental activists who sued the EPA saw it a different way.
"This is just another pork barrel earmark meant to bail out polluters," said Andrew McElwaine of the Conservancy of Southwest Florida. "We shouldn't be weakening water standards after the BP disaster."
The legislation LeMieux and Nelson co-sponsored was an amendment to a resolution to keep the government running through December. It promised to "prohibit the use of funds to finalize, promulgate, implement, administer, or enforce any final rule or requirement based on the proposed rule entitled 'Water Quality Standards for the State of Florida's Lakes and Flowing Waters.' "
However, the amendment could be added only with unanimous consent, and Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, objected, killing the measure.
EPA officials said they will use the additional month looking through the 22,000 comments "to review and confirm that all comments have been fully considered."
EPA postpones decision on Florida water nutrient rules
September 30, 2010
9:34 A.M. — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has postponed a decision on its proposed Florida Inland Water numeric nutrients rule from Oct. 15 to Nov. 14.
Nutrients are part of the aquatic environment, but excess nutrients cause massive algal blooms, which can smother aquatic vegetation and deplete the water of oxygen.
Some algae are toxic and can be harmful to wildlife and humans.
EPA's numeric standards define specific concentrations of nutrients that would be allowed to flow into a water body.
The proposed rule is a response to a lawsuit filed by the Sierra Club, Florida Wildlife Federation and other environmental groups.
The agricultural industry is opposed to the rule because it would reduce the use of fertilizers, which would limit production.
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