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110131-a



110131-a
Design A Logo For the Everglades Foundation And Pocket $15,000
National Parks Traveler – by Kurt Repanshek
January 31, 2011
Who couldn't use an extra $15,000? You could pocket that much, or come away with a new laptop, if you design a winning logo for the Everglades Foundation.
The foundation, which since 1993 has led "efforts to restore and protect the greater Everglades ecosystem," through February 28 is taking entries for a logo to help drive its upcoming Everglades Nation campaign.
Everglades Nation is a campaign created to build grassroots support for Everglades restoration, The campaign will mobilize supporters while it informs a wide range of people about the Everglades restoration events, activities, programs and progress.
Your logo submission should communicate enthusiasm for environmental preservation and for restoring Florida's fragile Everglades ecosystem in particular. It should resonate with audiences of all ages and types: students, outdoor recreation enthusiasts, corporate decision-makers and other stakeholders who share environmental concerns and a passion for restoring the Everglades.
The logo must contain the words Everglades Nation and no other text. It will be used online, in print, on merchandise and on social media, so it must be resizable and work in color as well as black and white. While it needs to look good in small sizes, it will not be shrunk as a Favicon. No photography or similarity to any copyrighted material is allowed.
To learn more about the contest and how to submit your entry, visit this page.

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110131-
Diversity is the Rivers Coalition's strength and weakness
TCPalm – by Eve Samples
January 31, 2011
The last Thursday morning of every month, an eclectic group files into Stuart City Hall.
Anglers show up in brimmed hats, carrying cups of Dunkin' Donuts coffee.
Business types wear polo shirts. Retirees roll in wearing whatever they like.
They sit elbow-to-elbow with home-builders and biologists and engineers.
Diversity has always been the biggest strength of the Rivers Coalition, a nonprofit that has advocated for the beleaguered St. Lucie River Estuary since 1998.
The group represents such a wide cross-section that it's impossible to ignore. It has the ear of local politicians, state regulators and at least one member of Congress (U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney, whose local rep frequents the meetings).
Its legal fund-raising arm has collected about $800,000 to pay for a 2006 lawsuit demanding that the Army Corps of Engineers stop releasing polluted freshwater from Lake Okeechobee into the St. Lucie River.
Now, though, the Rivers Coalition's diversity is also a source of strife.
At last Thursday's meeting, real estate agent Leon Abood, the group's founding chairman, stood up and gave his version of a State of the Union address.
He explained that some business-oriented members of the group have concerns.
They worry that the Rivers Coalition has been "hijacked" by some of the more "abrasive" members. They think it has become too combative and adversarial.
"I'm the first one to admit I've been part of this," Abood said.
He was one of the voices criticizing a scaled-back Everglades restoration deal that the South Florida Water Management District approved last year (disappointing advocates of the St. Lucie River).
"We have not done a good enough job of letting them know when they are doing something good for the estuary," Abood said.
He vowed to fix that.
If anyone can usher in more diplomacy, it's him. He's like the peace-keeping patriarch of a big, dysfunctional family.
"That's the reason why I'm still chairman," Abood told me Monday. "Nobody wants the job."
In Martin County, where business interests and environmentalists often are at odds, Abood and the rest of the Rivers Coalition have worked hard to present a unified front.
To lose that unity would be to lose its power.
John O'Brien, a coalition member from the Stuart/Martin County Chamber of Commerce, said Thursday he wants to see more cooperation with groups including the South Florida Water Management District.
He doesn't want to drive wedges between the Rivers Coalition and other agencies.
"I don't think it gets anything done," O'Brien said.
Yet there's also a danger in remaining too neutral: You tend to get ignored.
The St. Lucie River can't afford that.
The water quality is good now — but only because dry weather has recently spared the river from Lake O releases. When heavy rain returns and the lake level rises, the flood gates will open again, sending nutrient-laden fresh water our way.
It kills oysters and fish and contributes to toxic algae blooms. And it's been going on for decades.
"It's very frustrating. And one of the frustrating parts about it is we don't see progress," said Mark Perry, a Rivers Coalition member and executive director of Florida Oceanographic Society.
That's why the "combative" members of the Rivers Coalition get fed up.
"When I get angry, and when I yell and so on, it's because I sense what I think is an emergency," said Karl Wickstrom, a Rivers Coalition member and founder of Florida Sportsman Magazine.
"I'm going to soften up a lot and see the good in everything," he said at Thursday's meeting, eliciting a chuckle from the crowd.
The Rivers Coalition may be a dysfunctional family — but it's also a family that's incredibly loyal to the St. Lucie River Estuary.
It's worth keeping the family together for that."The usual suspects have changed, but the balancing act and trying to keep everyone focused is something that's always happened," Abood said.
He's confident the group will remain a powerful voice for the river.
Eve Samples is a columnist for ScrippsTreasureCoast Newspapers. This column reflects her opinion.  For more on MartinCounty topics, follow her blog at TCPalm.com/samples. Contact her at 772-221-4217 or eve.samples@scripps.com.

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110131-c
Gaetz is wrong to target the DCA and DEP
nwfdailynews.com – Guest Column - by ALAN OSBORNE
January 31, 2011 9:05 AM
State Sen. Don Gaetz of Niceville has publicly said he’d like to see the state Department of Community Affairs and the state Department of Environmental Protection shut down. Really? Let’s discuss these agencies and their functions from another perspective. Allow me to explain how they protect the common citizen.
The DCA has been around since 1969 and is over such boards as the Florida Building Commission, the Florida Communities Trust Governing Board and the Commission for a Sustainable Florida. They manage the Florida Building Code, post-disaster redevelopment planning and areas of critical state concern. These areas include Apalachicola, the Florida Keys and Big Cypress Swamp.
The DCA’s community development block grant program has brought in more than $540 million in federal funds for neighborhood stabilization, and during the 2005 hurricane season it obtained $82 million in federal funding for disaster relief. In the past five years, the CDBG program has created 3,500 permanent Florida jobs.
The agency is the sole enforcement authority over Developments of Regional Impact, or DRIs, such as airports, hospitals, industrial facilities, attractions like Walt Disney World, hotel and motel complexes, residential developments and multi-use developments. These are defined by Florida Statute 380.06 as “any development which, because of its character, magnitude or location, would have a substantial effect upon the health, safety or welfare of citizens of more than one county.”
Since 1973, the agency has approved 1,173 DRIs throughout Florida!
The DEP protects, conserves and manages Florida’s natural resources and enforces the state’s environmental laws. It oversees and manages Florida’s award-winning state parks and trails system. Since 1990, through land-acquisition programs called Preservation 2000 and Florida Forever, more than 2 million acres have been preserved, protecting habitats for 190 native and endangered animals and plants.
The DEP’s regulatory priorities include administering Florida’s air-pollution control programs to best protect human health; protecting and restoring water quality; managing hazardous waste and cleanups; overseeing beach restoration; and reviewing applications for power plants, transmission lines and natural gas pipelines. Together with the South Florida Water Management District, the DEP is implementing a 30-year, $10.9 billion Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan covering 18,000 square miles.
With all these facts, I ask: Is this kind of government “destructive,” as Sen. Gaetz implies?
I say not! I also say that with the DCA having approved more than 1,000 major developments each affecting more than one county, any type of major growth these agencies stopped was growth Florida doesn’t need or want!
Before these agencies existed, we had such things as “swampland developments,” and the big business of sugar cane and agriculture abuse was on track to ruin Florida’s image and lead to the demise of the Everglades.
These agencies are nonpartisan and should not be the target of any party, Republican or Democratic. These agencies provide the peace of mind that citizens who borrow money to move to Florida and invest in the “Florida Dream” need, deserve and pay taxes for.
When county officials look the other way, the DCA and the DEP are the only agencies that stand between a citizen and big development. Without these agencies, profits may soar with no oversight in place. But it will backfire. Future generations will bear the burden of our hasty decision to put no checks and balances on infrastructure.
I beg Sen. Gaetz to figure out how much it would take from every state agency equally to cut Florida’s budget by $3.6 billion. He should lead the charge to implement such cuts across the board, statewide. Match the federal initiative and freeze the pay of all state workers and elected officials, including their staffers, for two years until we catch up.
Simply approach it from a business standpoint. Leave politics out of the decision to balance the state budget.
If there were no cops, speeders would rule and crime would indeed pay. Eliminate the DCA and the DEP, Sen. Gaetz, and my children, my grandchildren and the environment will pay the price. These public agencies are important to all of us!
Alan Osborne is a resident of Santa RosaBeach.

110130-



110130-
Finding amusement at a trio of national parks in Florida
Chicago Sun-Times - by Penny Musco
Jan 30, 2011 09:21AM
Outside the theme parks and beaches, there’s a Florida that many tourists never see but shouldn’t miss.
The southern part of the peninsula is home to a trio of national parks that offer adventures that Disney and the like can’t begin to match. It’s possible to hit the highlights in one memorable week for less than you’d spend with Mickey.
Everglades: Day 1
Everglades National Park abuts Miami-Dade County on the west. The drive from the urban area to the eastern park entrance quickly moves from metropolitan to rural, with lush vegetable and palm tree farms lining the roads.
A stop at the quirkily named “Robert Is Here” on the way in is a must. Pick up fresh fruit and goodies for lunch and try the Key lime milkshake.
Inside the park, Coe Visitor Center is the place to get a map, find out the day’s schedule of events, and sign up for free or low-cost ranger talks, hikes and bike rides, as well as canoe and kayak trips (including a tour of an old Nike missile base, available during the winter). It’s also the starting point for the only road within the park, a 38-mile meander off of which are several short, level hiking trails.
The Anhinga Trail, just beyond the visitor center, is a popular place for the bird it’s named after, as well as other birds, alligators and turtles. The nearby Gumbo-Limbo Trail is entirely different: a shady walk through trees with reddish, slightly waxy bark that peels away like the skin of an onion. They’re nicknamed tourist trees, an allusion to sunburned visitors.
Further down the road is the Pa-hay-okee Overlook, a quarter-mile boardwalk leading to an observation tower with a panoramic view of the “River of Grass,” the name given to the undulating landscape of saw grass and marsh.
As the park road winds southwest, the slight change in elevation — just a few inches — radically transforms the environment. The hardwood hammock (habitat of the elusive Florida panther) gives way to cypress groves dotted with small ponds favored by wood storks, ibises and vultures.
At the lowest point at the end of the park road is Flamingo Visitor Center, where the park’s fresh water mingles with salt water from Florida Bay. It’s the only spot in the world where alligators and crocodiles co-exist. An estimated 500 American crocs remain, as opposed to around 1 million gators.
The Flamingo region used to employ nearly 200 people to staff its restaurant, lodge, cottages and houseboats, but the one-two punch of hurricanes Katrina and Wilma in 2005 ravaged the area. Most structures, save the docks and a marina store, have been torn down. But Flamingo remains a lovely place to rent a kayak or canoe, watch seagulls, ospreys and pelicans, and try to spot a crocodile or the occasional manatee.
Everglades is along the migratory bird route. More than 350 bird species have been documented in the park, and many spend the winter here or use it as a stopover on their way south.
Everglades: Day 2
It’s hard to imagine that alligators were once endangered after a stop at Shark Valley off Highway 41/Tamiami Trail on the park’s northeastern border, about 50 miles from the Coe Visitor Center.
A 15-mile loop path cutting through the fresh water slough (pronounced “slew”) allows walkers and bicyclists to get up close to the numerous gators. (A narrated tram tour is available for those who prefer a little more distance.)
About 40 miles further along the highway is the park’s westernmost edge. Two guided boat tours leave out of the Gulf Coast Visitor Center in Everglades City. They travel through the Ten Thousand Islands out to the Gulf of Mexico, where dolphins frolic, and into the spooky mangrove swamps hugging the coast.
Biscayne: Day 3
Biscayne National Park is less than a half-hour east from Everglades, closer to Miami. Since the park is 95 percent water, activities are focused on clear Biscayne Bay, a dolphin habitat.
A walk along a short mangrove trail outside the Dante Fascell Visitor Center can be followed by a boat trip to living coral reefs for snorkeling or scuba diving. You also can take guided canoe and kayak trips, as well as a three-hour excursion to historic Boca Chita Key and its charming (but fake) lighthouse.
Dry Tortugas: Days 4-6
Three hours from Miami, at the southernmost point of the United States, sits Key West. Seventy miles further west are seven small, coral-strewn islands (called keys) which, along with the surrounding waters, make up Dry Tortugas National Park.
First discovered by Ponce de Leon in 1513, the keys provided the explorer and his crews with fresh meat from the area’s green, loggerhead, leatherback and hawksbill turtles (called “tortugas” in Spanish). Soon the mariners’ charts added “dry” to the name, as a warning that fresh water was non-existent.
Dry Tortugas is accessible only by seaplane, private boat or ferry from Key West, which makes it the most expensive and time-consuming of the three parks to visit. But its fascinating history and amazing bird life make it worth the trouble and expense.
Fort Jefferson, on the largest isle of Garden Key, is a hexagonal granite structure still unfinished some 150-plus years after construction started.
During the Civil War, the fort enforced the blockade of vital southern ports and served as a military lock up for Union deserters. It was the jail that housed Dr. Samuel Mudd, convicted in President Lincoln’s assassination. The death of the prison’s physician during a yellow fever outbreak led Dr. Mudd to assume his duties. As a thank you, 300 soldiers petitioned President Andrew Johnson to pardon the doctor, which he did.
The massive fort isn’t the only thing worth seeing. The keys lie across a principal flyway between the United States and Cuba. Frigate birds, brown boobies, roseate terns, brown pelicans and double-breasted cormorants are among the 300,000 birds that pass through the Tortugas annually on their way to and from South America. Snorkeling in the warm, clear, shallow waters surrounding the keys reveals myriad brightly colored fish and coral, and scuba divers can check out a few shipwrecks among the shoals.
One final, intriguing feature of Dry Tortugas National Park is the refugee boats. America’s “wet foot, dry foot” policy — which essentially says that anyone fleeing Cuba will be turned back if caught at sea, but those who make it to U.S. soil get a chance to stay — means that many Cubans aim for Tortugas.
On display at Fort Jefferson is a small metal and wooden vessel that brought 16 Cubans ages 16 to 60 to Garden Key. Additional crafts jury-rigged for the open water voyage land here frequently, and the park service usually leaves them on display for a while.
No matter what your take on immigration, the enduring human instinct for freedom and exploration — the same passion that led Ponce de Leon to the island — is something to be admired.
It’s that same spirit that continues to lure modern day travelers to the national parks.
Penny Musco is a New Jersey-based free-lancer.

110129-a



110129-a
Lawmaker questions panther protections
Herald-Tribune - Capital Comment
January 29, 2011
As lawmakers look to make deep cuts in state spending this year, no programs will escape a little extra scrutiny -- even those seeking to protect an endangered species.
That was clear this week, when a House budget panel turned its attention to the state's effort to help the dwindling Florida panther population.
Rep. Trudi Williams, R-Fort Myers, who heads the House committee that oversees spending for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, questioned why the agency was one of four involved in habitat protection for the panther.
The others include the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Big Cypress National Preserve and Everglades National Park.
"I just think that's totally overkill," she said.
She asked wildlife officials to return in a few weeks with a detailed explanation of the state program.
And Williams voiced skepticism about the unique nature of the Florida panther, noting residents in her areas have complained about livestock kills by the animals after they were bred with Texas cougars.
Conservationists had crossbred the animals in effort to revive the small population of Florida panthers, whose limited numbers were experiencing genetic problems including low fertility and heart defects.
"That's a real problem in Southwest Florida," Williams said about the livestock attacks. "If they are crossbred with Texas cougars, who are not an endangered species, why are they now an endangered species?"
Williams also noted state officials have not been able to provide an accurate count of the remaining panthers.
Eric Draper, a lobbyist for Florida Audubon, put the panther count at between 100 and 160 animals, saying the state and federal efforts to help the panthers were critical.
"That's not enough to sustain a population for very long," Draper said of their small number. "So we need to work hard to protect that habitat and then to create areas for them to live in."
Draper said his group is supporting efforts to expand the Florida Panther National Wildlife Preserve to help the animals.
He said the Texas cougars, since removed from Florida, were introduced to help create "a stronger genetic stock" for the native panthers.
"It appears that's working," Draper said. "They've started to rebound."

110129-b



110129-b
Turning ranches into one big refuge
Palm Beach Post - by Ana M. Valdes, Staff Writer
January 29, 2011
A 150,000-acre expanse of cattle ranches and grasslands just north of Lake Okeechobee will soon become a national wildlife refuge where the public can hunt, fish and bird-watch.
But the proposed Everglades Headwaters National Wildlife Refuge and Conservation Area will also help decades-long efforts to restore water in the Everglades, by filtering polluted runoff before it flows into Lake Okeechobee.
Because the refuge will eventually provide plenty of opportunities for outdoor recreational activities for Florida residents and visitors, officials involved in its planning want to hear from the public. In February, local ranchers, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and other federal and state agencies will host public meetings in cities close to the refuge.
"Anytime the federal government gets involved, there is always a concern about a government takeover and why we are spending federal tax dollars," said Charlie Pelizza, refuge manager for the Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge Complex near Sebastian. "We are a land management agency that does have a deep connection with the land, and we are trying to make sure the public has an opportunity to appreciate and utilize the land."
The refuge furthers President Obama's efforts to get Americans out of the house and into the country's national parks, Pelizza said.
"Part of America's Great Outdoors Initiative is looking at these large, working landscapes and engaging the local communities and the public to get back outside and reconnect with wildlife," Pelizza said. "This is the perfect opportunity for us to do that."
About 50,000 acres of the proposed refuge would be purchased by the federal government. The remaining 100,000 would be protected through conservation easements on private land.
Plans to create the refuge were announced by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar at an environmental conference this month. Pelizza said it was still unclear how much the refuge would cost.
A final plan for the refuge is expected after the public meetings, by the end of the summer.
Public meetings:
Feb. 4: Sebring Civic Center, 355 West Center Ave., Sebring
Feb. 9: Okeechobee High School, 2800 State Road 441 N, Okeechobee
Feb. 10: Vero Beach High School, Main Campus Cafeteria, 1707 16th St., Vero Beach

110129-c

110129-c
U.S. Fish & Wildlife plans new refuge
TBO.com - Highlands Today - by GARY PINNELL
January 29, 2011
150,000-acre preserve includes bombing range, Fisheating Creek
SEBRING - The federal government is scheduling a "landscape-scale land protection effort" in south-central Florida. The program was announced Jan. 7 by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar.
"A partnership that allows valuable agricultural land to stay in production while creating a National Wildlife Refuge and Conservation Area is a strong concept and should be a model for others nationwide," said Congressman Tom Rooney, R-Tequesta. "It will protect Florida's unique wildlife while allowing our agriculture industry to continue to flourish."
"The Greater Everglades Partnership Initiative… will help conserve the land, water and wildlife resources," according to a January 2011 U.S. Fish and Wildlife brochure.
The three study areas for the 4.5 million project include the Everglades Headwaters area, Fisheating Creek and the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge and the Caloosahatchee River.
"Specifically, this initiative had a vision for:
"Working cooperatively with ranchers and other landowners to protect wildlife, habitat and a rural working agricultural landscape;
"Planning for a proposed new 150,000-acre refuge, the Everglades Headwaters National Wildlife Refuge and Conservation Area…
"Applying … conservation easements, leases and landowner assistance grants and agreements, as well as fee title acquisition and wetland, conservation, and mitigation banks;
"Connecting to existing conservations lands…"
A memo from Paul Gray of the Audubon Society said USFW intends to acquire 50,000 acres fee title and 100,000 acres in less than fee title.
"If you leave it natural, you don't have to restore it," said Highlands County Lakes Manager Clell Ford.
Both Ford and Gary Ritter thought the USFW's information thus far has been vague, and they're anxious to learn more.
"The devil is in the details," said Gary Ritter, director of SFWMD's Okeechobee Service Center, who distributed USFW materials Thursday in Glades County.
"The Initiative would converge, build and complement multiple public and private conservation activities within this landscape to protect habitat for imperiled species," the brochure said, "restore water quality and filtration functions, groundwater recharge and hydrological systems; provide a new model for working with large family ranches…"
Ritter noted USFW picked 10 partners, including the U.S. Air Force Bombing Range, and 13 potential partners, including the Seminole and Miccosukee tribes.
History
In July 2010, the federal government agreed to pay $89 million for 26,000 acres of pastures and woodlands on the northern reaches of the Everglades. The goal is to protect Fisheating Creek watershed, which runs into Lake Okeechobee.
The land belongs to four prominent ranching families, including state Sen. J.D. Alexander.
Then-U.S. Rep. Adam Putnam told The Associated Press: "You can't repair the lower Everglades without repairing the northern Everglades."
The landowners would be allowed to use their tracts for ranching, but they could develop it and had to comply with special safeguards to protect the watershed.
In August, the South Florida Water Management District approved to pay $197 million for 26,800 acres of U.S. Sugar land, and the agency took an option to buy another 153,000 acres for $1.13 billion when economic conditions improve.
Schedule
"Given the widespread interest and involvement in this landscape, this project is on an accelerated schedule, with a draft document anticipated for public review and comment this summer and with a final document anticipated for this fall," a USFW document said.
One meeting was held on Wednesday in Kissimmee. Others are scheduled in Okeechobee and Vero Beach. The Sebring meeting is to be held from 6 to 9 p.m. Friday, Feb. 4, at Sebring Civic Center, 355 W. Center Ave.

110128-a



110128-a
Bowing to polluters instead of holding them accountable
TBO.com -by DAVID GUEST, Special Correspondent
January 28, 2011
Your Jan. 23 story about Pinellas County opting to sue the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency — rather than clean up public waterways — is another sad example of government bowing to politically powerful polluters instead of protecting the public ("Pinellas questions new EPA water rule," Metro).
Water poisoned by poorly treated sewage, animal waste and excess fertilizer is a public health threat. All contain the harmful "nutrients" phosphorus and nitrogen, which spur noxious algae outbreaks. Outbreaks of green slime and red tide have made people sick, shut down Florida drinking water plants, closed beaches and wrecked too many waterways for fishing, boating and swimming.
Why do we have to watch our favorite waterways go from clear sandy-bottomed wonders to cloudy, weed-choked messes over and over again? Polluters profit, and we're stuck with the mess. As last summer's gulf oil spill showed, even the threat of dirty water is a Florida job-killer.
In a brazen campaign to weaken EPA's modest new clean-water standards for Florida, polluters and their high-paid public relations spinners are making things up, and local governments like Pinellas are drinking the Kool-Aid. They falsely claim that all Florida sewer plants would have to treat water by reverse osmosis — the pricey method Saudi Arabia uses to convert seawater to fresh water. It's not true: No plants in Florida would be required to use reverse osmosis to meet the new standards on fertilizer, sewage, and animal waste pollution. Most would need only add-ons that use chemical treatment or biological uptake systems.
Meeting new standards to control water pollution is likely to cost Floridians only a few dollars per person a month — pennies per day, phased in over several years. That is not a lot to pay for clean water. Plus, there will likely be state and federal money to help local governments clean up, just like there has been for public-health threats like leaking underground storage tanks and dry-cleaning fluid in groundwater.
The claim that Pinellas would have to spend $500,000 on a study of Lake Seminole boggles the mind and makes us wonder what kind of grandiose effort the government is planning. It simply should not cost anywhere near that much. The EPA's numbers have been reviewed over many years by Florida and federal officials. The rules are straightforward and crafted to consider the unique needs of different types of waterways.
It took years for scientists to realize the damage that nutrient poisoning poses, and now it is time to act to stop this ongoing public health threat. We know that preventing pollution is cheaper than cleaning it later — witness the billions of tax dollars going to clean up poisoned Florida rivers, bays, springs and whole ecosystems like the Everglades.
It is ridiculous for Pinellas County to spend your tax dollars on lawsuits when it should be spending them to clean up poisoned waters. The EPA reports that it got 22,000 public comments on the new water cleanup rules, and 20,000 of those were in support of the rules.
Hear it loud and clear, politicians: The public wants cleanup, not more foot-dragging.
David Guest is an attorney for Earthjustice in Tallahassee. Earthjustice is a nonprofit organization dedicated to enforcing and strengthening environmental laws (earthjustice.org).

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110128-b
Corps of Engineers starts Lake Okeechobee releases to benefit Caloosahatchee Estuary
Sanibel-Captiva Islander
January 28, 2011
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Jacksonville District will start water releases from Lake Okeechobee to the Caloosahatchee Estuary today, Jan. 28, to help improve the condition of critical tape grasses and protect freshwater organisms. Today, the lake stage is 12.5 feet (NGVD).
The target flow of this release is an average of 300 cubic feet per second (cfs) over the seven-day period to the Caloosahatchee Estuary, measured at W.P. Franklin Lock and Dam (S-79). The Corps anticipates the total pulse release effect on the lake level to be about a sixth-of-an-inch off the lake.
The Corps discontinued water releases from the lake to the Caloosahatchee Estuary Dec. 17 in preparation for forecasted dry conditions. On Dec. 17, the lake stage was 12.64 feet (NGVD).
Though the lake remains at approximately the same level today, west coast estuarine scientists say minimum freshwater releases to the Caloosahatchee Estuary are critical to maintaining the estuary's health, which has been declining. Freshwater tape grass, which provides nursery habitat for a multitude of organisms, is an indicator of healthy conditions in the upper estuary of the Caloosahatchee.
"We expect this release to support the natural system by helping to recharge the root-base of the tape grasses. Establishing a salinity gradient is vital to the health, productivity and function of the estuary," said Lt. Col. Michael Kinard, Deputy District Commander, South Florida.
The South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) made their recommendation to the Corps today, requesting the seven-day release in accordance with their Adaptive Protocols.
The Corps strives to maintain the lake between 12.5 and 15.5 feet (NGVD) while balancing all competing demands. Lake Okeechobee now stands at 12.50 feet (NGVD) and is in the 2008 Lake Okeechobee Regulation Schedule's Beneficial Use Sub-Band, which varies seasonally between elevation 10.5 feet and 13 feet.
Within this sub-band, unless releases are required for navigation purposes, the Corps generally defers to the South Florida Water Management District's recommendation for water allocation to various users. Fish and wildlife enhancement and/or water supply deliveries for environmental needs may involve conducting an environmental release from Lake Okeechobee through the SFWMD Adaptive Protocols or other SFWMD authorities.
The Corps and partner agencies will continue to closely monitor and assess system conditions. For more information on water level and flows data for Lake Okeechobee and the Central and Southern Florida Project, visit the Corps' water management page at www.saj.usace.army.mil/Divisions/Engineering/Branches/WaterResources/WaterMgt/index.htm.
Subscribe to Island Reporter, Captiva Current, Sanibel-Captiva Islander

110127-a



110127-a
Everglades Headwaters Refuge a 21st century approach to conservation
Sun Sentinel – by Ken Salazar
January 27, 2011
In a state that regularly welcomes new residents to its abundant sunshine and pristine beaches, Cary and Layne Lightsey are links to Florida's history, the latest of six generations of Lightseys who have operated cattle ranches near the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes. They are also guardians of Florida's future.
Twenty years ago, the Lightseys recognized that their rural way of life was at risk as fast-paced development turned acres of grasslands, flat woods and marsh into buildings and asphalt. In addition, they worried that the state's great natural wonder, the Everglades, was slowly dying from altered water flows, excessive nutrients and other pollution.
"We could see what was happening to our state," Cary Lightsey said. "We were running out of green space and we were at risk of losing our heritage."
So the Lightsey family participated in an innovative conservation movement, granting what are called "conservation easements" for much of their land. In essence, they set aside 14,000 acres of their land for continued ranching and permanent protection from development.
Today, the Lightseys join other ranchers, conservationists, and federal, tribal, state and local agencies in supporting the proposed new Everglades Headwaters National Wildlife Refuge and Conservation Area. The initiative would conserve approximately 150,000 acres of vital habitat in Central Florida and ensure that rural working landscapes remain a vital part of Florida's economy.
When completed, the new refuge and conservation area will preserve the area's ranching heritage while conserving the headwaters of the Everglades by protecting and improving water quality north of Lake Okeechobee, restoring wetlands, and connecting existing conservation lands and important wildlife corridors.
It will also protect and restore the habitat of imperiled species such as the Florida panther, Florida black bear, whooping crane, Everglades snail kite and the Eastern indigo snake.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and its federal and state and non-governmental partners will work with willing landowners to establish the refuge and conservation area, using a variety of methods, including fee simple purchases, conservation easements, leases, conservation and mitigation banks, lands set aside through habitat conservation plans, and/or cooperative agreements with landowners.
The proposal is a prime example of a 21st century approach to conservation envisioned by President Obama when he unveiled his America's Great Outdoors initiative last year. It is science-based, engages local communities and private landowners, and is organized around an entire, working landscape.
The proposal remains in the early stages of development and more than a dozen partners are working together through the Greater Everglades Partnership Initiative to make the refuge and conservation area a reality. There is no doubt the community must remain an important part of the ongoing dialogue, and I encourage members of the public to take part in the workshops and forums on the proposal occurring this spring.
Florida's economy relies on healthy ecosystems and reliable supplies of clean fresh water. Our refuge proposal, therefore, is an important part of the work that has been underway for more than two decades. The Obama administration is working closely with the State to implement many projects throughout South Florida, such as the Tamiami Trail bridge, the Picayune Strand habitat restoration, the C-111 Spreader Canal, the Biscayne Bay Coastal wetlands project, and the Site-1 Impoundment to increase water supplies and more natural water flow. We are fighting back invasive species which threaten the Everglades' unique flora and fauna. And we are working with ranchers in the Fisheating Creek Basin to improve Lake Okeechobee's water quality.
As we look to a future with a restored and healthier Everglades, the new refuge will reflect Floridians' love for their land and their desire to hand down their lifestyle to future generations.
Just ask Cary Lightsey.
Ken Salazar is the U.S. Secretary of the Interior. He wrote this piece for the Sun Sentinel.

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110127-b
FL Anti-Regulation Wave Engulfs Water Debate
Southeast AGnet.com - by Randall
January 27, 2011
THE CAPITAL, TALLAHASSEE, Jan. 27, 2011……….Hoping to capitalize on the flood of anti-regulation rhetoric in Tallahassee since the inauguration of Gov. Rick Scott, utilities and business groups pushed lawmakers Thursday to loosen the rules in the age-old debate about water management and economic growth.
“It’s a good time to sit back and re-look at some of those regulations,” Patrick Lehman, executive director of the Peace River Manasota Regional Water Supply Authority, told the House Select Committee on Water Policy during a workshop on the issue. “We’re not saying gut the regulations, but I’m saying they can be streamlined: Are they obstructing the economic growth? Do they protect the public health? Do they protect the environment?”
Representing the environmental lobby on a panel convened by chair Rep. Trudi Williams, R-Fort Myers, Audubon of Florida Executive Director Eric Draper took a different tack, defending what has clearly become a favorite whipping post of ruling Republicans in Tallahassee: Government oversight.
“We have a very unusual form of governance in the state of Florida with water management districts, but let’s look at some of the benefits we get from those districts before we take them on too far,” he said. “(They are) very unusual, but they do a fairly good job of managing our water supply, and making sure all these needs are balances, which is what our law actually calls for.”
Draper said he was not just defending the status quo for water regulation, but pressing lawmakers to do more. He argued that even with restrictions from the water districts, Floridians use more water per day, about 150 gallons, than residents in most other states.
“We don’t really have a water supply problem in the state of Florida,” he said. “What we’ve got is a water demand problem, Draper said.
The discussion comes amid recent comments from Agricultural Commissioner Adam Putnam that redirecting water from northern and rural parts of the state to cities for drinking would create a “civil war” in Florida.
“If we have anybody here from that region, they probably already have one hand on their pistol,” said Putnam, who like Draper argues more conservation is needed.
Putnam said he favors novel ways to save water, including locating desalinization plants near newly permitted nuclear facilities and paying private property owners to store surface water on their land to be released when needed.
Likewise, at least one member of the House panel seemed inclined to tinker around the edges, not make wholesale changes. Rep. Ray Pilon, R-Sarasota, said the current system appears to be working.
“It’s my opinion that we have one of the best and greatest water policy availability tools in the entire country,” he said. “We’re envied by everybody. I think we have the tools in place to meet the needs for the future for the environment, for industry, for agriculture, for public use.”

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110127-c
Florida's top freshwater fishing destinations for 2011
Chipleypaper.com – by Bob Wattendorf, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission
January 27, 2011 9:51 AM
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) freshwater fisheries biologists from across the state recently weighed in to suggest fishing sites that novice to expert anglers might want to try out in 2011 for a variety of species.
Florida is the “Fishing Capital of the World” due to great resources and responsible management. Those great resources include a wide variety of fishing opportunities throughout the state. Every winter, biologists select some of the larger water bodies they recommend anglers try out.
To make their recommendations biologists use information such as creel count (data from actual anglers’ on-the-water success for the previous year); electrofishing data (a sampling method that uses electric currents to stun fish so they can be netted, examined and released); tournament data; Big Catch results (the FWC’s popular angler-recognition program); state records; interviews with local guides and bait-and-tackle shop owners; and their own fishing experiences.
All of the sites selected are large enough and have adequate public access facilities to accommodate additional fishing pressure and still provide great fishing opportunities. We also try to take into account recent or anticipated weather or vegetation trends that might impact angling success throughout the year.
The results are posted on MyFWC.com/Fishing (see “Fishing Sites and Forecasts”) each January. In addition, that site also provides quarterly fishing forecasts for major water bodies in each region of the state, along with fishing tips and information about all of Florida’s recreational freshwater fishes.
Of course, one of these lists features largemouth bass, the most popular sport fish in North America, and one which has been a jewel in Florida’s crown since the first angler cast a hook alongside a lily pad. Long before that, it was a gem for native fishermen casting a fish spear or a gorge (the predecessor of fish hooks) – typically a bone with an off-center hole attached to a line. When a fish swallowed it and the fishermen pulled on the line, the gorge stuck in the fish’s throat.
Another piece of good news is that Lake Okeechobee, the “Big Waters” in the midst of the renowned River of Grass, is back on the list. Following a series of environmental calamities, including prolonged high water and hurricanes, the lake’s resiliency and management efforts have generated a bass resurgence. Other featured black bass waters include perennial favorites, such as the Everglades Conservation Areas; lakes George, Istokpoga, Kissimmee, Monroe, Seminole, Talquin, Tarpon, Toho and Walk-in-Water; Mosaic and Tenoroc fish management areas; Orange Lake; Rodman Reservoir; and the Suwannee River.
Who knows? You might land a trophy fish by trying out these hotspots. A yellow bullhead caught in the Crystal River on Dec. 17 became the new state record for that species. Tom Flynn of Homosassa was fishing with minnows he caught at a boat ramp when he hooked the catfish. The new state record yellow bullhead weighed 5 pounds, .75 ounces and was 20 inches in length.
Please check out MyFWC.com/Fishing, under “Fishing Sites and Forecasts,” to learn more about these destinations and how your fishing license dollars help ensure the future of quality freshwater fishing throughout Florida, so people can keep catching various bass species; crappie, bream or bluegill; shellcrackers or stumpknockers; redbreast sunfish; and catfish or bullheads.
We hope you will try your luck fishing for a new species or testing some of these outstanding fishing holes this year to expand your enjoyment, and we encourage you to take a kid fishing. It’s likely a tossup between bluegill and catfish for having generated most of those awesome “first fish” smiles for millions of young and not-so-young anglers in Florida. Regardless, for a kid, fishing is inexpensive, fun, healthy and a great way to spend quality time with someone you care about away from the stresses of daily life.
Instant licenses are available at MyFWC.com/License or by calling 888-FISH-FLORIDA (347-4356). Report violators by calling *FWC or #FWC on your cell, or 888-404-3922. Visit MyFWC.com/Fishing/Updates for more Fish Busters’ columns.
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Preserving the Everglades as good for our economy as it is for our ecology
Sun Sentinel – by Kirk Fordham
January 27, 2011
Having won a sweeping victory, Florida's incoming Republican leaders have the opportunity to remake our state into an economic powerhouse. For too long, our state has too often relied on an intoxicating combination of population growth and home construction to fuel its economic engine.
As a result, speculative overbuilding has left our cities and suburbs scarred with abandoned homes, unfinished developments and devalued properties. Decent jobs are scarce. Our water supply is stretched and our environment has been seriously harmed. Taxpayers are being forced to pay for the mistakes of policymakers who turned a blind eye while development built on a virtual house of cards collapsed, leaving our economy in a shambles.
This time around, we simply must rebuild our economy in a way that is both economically sustainable as well as protects the Everglades and the spectacular array of lakes, forests, wetlands, waterways, beaches and parks that make Florida a place worth living.
For too long, some lawmakers have argued that we must choose between economic growth and the conservation of natural resources. In fact, as Gov. Rick Scott surely knows, we can simultaneously create jobs while still preserving the environmental assets that enhance our quality of life and increase the value of our homes.
While new residents will continue to come to our low-tax, sun-drenched communities, our prosperity depends on a number of critical factors if Florida is to build a sustainable and resilient future:
Economic Restructuring: Florida sorely needs to expand industry sectors to create the jobs of the future. In emerging growth centers around our state, biotech, clean energy, life sciences, financial services and health care companies are creating high-wage jobs and attracting better-educated workers.
Gov. Scott should make it a priority to focus his economic development efforts on incentivizing these industries.
Protect our Water Supply: Nearly 80 percent of Floridians support restoring the Everglades. Why? Aside from the fact that this spectacular natural wonder is home to a wide range of rare and endangered wildlife like the Florida panther and the Southern bald eagle, our citizens have an acute understanding of the economic importance of the Everglades to our state.
Smart business leaders know it is an economic imperative that we protect our most valuable natural resource: water. One in three Floridians depend directly on the Everglades for their daily supply of fresh water (including virtually everyone in Broward, Palm Beach and Miami-Dade counties).
We are already forced to institute tough restrictions on irrigation and other water uses. How will we ever meet future demands ?  If our state intends to attract new business and provide water to our growing population, our only real choice is to complete the bipartisan Everglades restoration plan.
Yet, state appropriations for Everglades restoration have taken one of the biggest hits during the recession —slashed 75 percent from $200 million in 2007 to $50 million this year. House Speaker Dean Cannon and Senate President Mike Haridopolos quickly need to restore Florida's investment in Everglades projects if we are to meet our water needs and save this fragile ecosystem.
The good news: We need not create even a single new government job to build these Everglades projects. All around our state, private sector contractors are putting people back to work in construction, engineering and other good-paying jobs building Everglades restoration projects from the Kissimmee River basin to Collier County. Even better news: Since the beginning of the economic downturn, contracts for these Everglades construction projects are being awarded by as much as 50 percent below their projected budgets.
A recent economic study conducted by Mather Economics (sponsored by the Everglades Foundation) indicated that, even under the most conservative estimates, we generate $4 in economic activity for every $1 invested in Everglades restoration. In a significant boost to our employment picture, 22,000 short- to mid-term jobs and more than 442,000 jobs will be created over the next several decades in the tourism, real estate, commercial and recreational fishing industries.
Reform our Growth Management Laws: The governor's transition team drafted an ambitious set of regulatory reform recommendations designed to spur economic activity. Now it will be up to the Legislature to reform our growth management laws responsibly to help reduce costs to business while still protecting our water supply and environment.
Taxpayers have made it clear they are fiercely opposed to footing the bill for "bad" development in places it doesn't belong. Simply rubber-stamping building permits in a more expedited fashion won't create a market for homes that currently doesn't exist.
Instead, developers should be incentivized to build affordable, walkable communities in urban and suburban infill areas and along existing road networks that tie into mass transportation systems that are better integrated to our population centers.
When new large-scale communities, or even more modest housing developments are proposed in far-flung areas disconnected from existing roads, schools and services, we should not be taxed to pay for this new infrastructure.
Protect What's Left: Florida enjoys world-renowned coral reefs, top-rated beaches and one-of-a-kind wildlife refuges. Everglades restoration will allow us to protect these environmental assets and the recreational opportunities they provide for the millions of Floridians (and visitors) who love to boat, fish, hunt, snorkel and hike their way through our parks and waterways.
But protecting the natural assets that make this a destination for both tourists and our next generation of residents means charting a new direction for our state.
Protecting our environment and making Florida more competitive economically do not have to be competing goals. Thoughtful leadership and modest investment can simultaneously accomplish both.
Kirk Fordham, formerly a chief of staff to three Republican Members of Congress, now serves as CEO of the Everglades Foundation.  Learn more at http://www.evergladesfoundation.org

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110127-e
Rep. Tom Rooney Introduces Bill to Protect Everglades, Communities from Dangerous Imported Snakes
The State Column
January 27, 2011
The following is a statement from Rep. Tom Rooney:
Washington, D.C. – U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney (FL-16) today introduced legislation to protect the Everglades and surrounding communities from dangerous, imported snakes like African rock pythons and boa constrictors. Rooney’s bill would restrict the importation of specific breeds of snakes, which continue to cause extensive damage to the Everglades, into the United States.
“Banning the importation of these dangerous snakes is critical to the survival of the Everglades and the surrounding ecosystems,” said Rooney. “These invasive predators are causing severe damage to our native wildlife, and they need to be eradicated.
“People buy these snakes as pets, but as they grow larger and more threatening, many owners soon realize that they cannot care for them safely, and they release them into the wild. Unfortunately, our ecosystems cannot accommodate these massive predators, and our native wildlife suffers.”
Over the last decade, tens of thousands of Burmese Pythons were imported into the United States. To date, approximately 1,000 Burmese Pythons have been removed from the Everglades. Recently, Vero Beach Police Animal Control Officers captured a seven-foot-long boa constrictor in a resident’s back yard.
Rooney’s bill would add the following species of snakes to the “Lacey Act,” effectively banning them from importation into the United States: Burmese python, northern African python, southern African python, reticulated python, green anaconda, yellow anaconda, Beni or Bolivian python, DeSchauensee’s anaconda, and boa constrictor.

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110126-a
Broward County Natural Resources Program Helps Golf Courses Conserve Water
Water World - Targeted News Service
January 26, 2011
Broward County has issued the following news release:
Broward County and the South Florida Water Management District are working with local golf courses to help preserve water resources and protect water quality through best practices in golf course design and construction, irrigation, fertilization and waste handling. "The program is voluntary," said Asif Ali, natural resources specialist with Natural Resources Planning and Management Division.
Broward County has nearly 100 lush, beautiful and high quality golf courses - a reason many people come to South Florida. "It would be equally as impressive if our agency could work with these beautiful facilities to employ industry Best Management Practices (BMPs) that improve water quality for the region and enhance the Everglades."
As an example, Ali cites Parkland Golf & Country Club, which was recently recognized for excellence in implementing industry BMPs developed by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.
Golf course evaluators were impressed with the design of the Parkland course, which preserves a natural vegetative setting and features three distinct zones of planting that mimic the area's natural habitats - cypress swamp, low hammock and pine flatland.
"As impressive as the facility's layout is, it was the attention to the environmental BMPs that truly made a lasting impression, including the wide expanses of vegetation that reduce erosion and improve water quality, and the crushed shell cart paths that reduce impervious surfaces and runoff from the site," Ali said.
In 2006, the Broward County Commission awarded Parkland Golf & Country Club a NatureScape Emerald Award for their Audubon Certified Sales Center.
As a result of the most recent award to Parkland Golf & County Club, other golf course superintendents are now considering having their facility evaluated under the program. "We are pleased to recognize such environmental leadership and look to the near future when we can celebrate similar environmental achievements within the community," Ali said. For more information, call Asif Ali, Broward County Natural Resource Specialist, at 954-519-1222.

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110126-b
Water distribution blatantly inequitable
Sanibel-Captiva Islander - To the editor
January 26, 2011
Ray Judah wrote a commentary recently in the Fort Myers News-Press, “Water managers continue to cheat Caloosahatchee, environment,” that I urge everyone to read.
The PURRE Water Coalition (People United to Restore our Rivers and Estuaries) is in complete agreement with Commissioner Judah and the Board of Lee County Commissioners (BOCC). We wholeheartedly support Commissioner Judah’s efforts to persuade the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) to change its policies and impose “shared adversity” when it comes to water distribution from Lake Okeechobee.
The Caloosahatchee and coastal estuaries, as Commissioner Judah and the BOCC realize, are critical to our environment and economy, and to the lifestyle we enjoy. Yet the SFWMD, with the exception of Chairman Eric Buermann and our area’s representative Charles Dauray, don’t seem to mind destroying it all by sending us too much water during the wet season, and too little or no water during the dry season which causes dangerously high salinity levels.
No one is suffering adversity in this situation but us; the water distribution is blatantly inequitable, as Commissioner Judah points out. It’s time for this to stop and PURRE applauds Commissioner Judah and the BOCC for speaking out and working to try to change this untenable situation. While we are getting none of the vital fresh water so necessary to the estuary, agriculture is getting a 100 percent allocation, there are no water restrictions or conservation limits imposed on agriculture, and landscape irrigation is barely restricted at all.
We sincerely hope Gov. Rick Scott takes note of the two SFWMD governing board members who care about the river, the estuaries and the coasts.
Michael J. Valiquette, Chairman, PURRE Water Coalition

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110125-a
Carol Browner steps down as U.S. energy czar
Los Angeles Times - by Neela Banerjee, Washington Bureau
January 25, 2011
Climate and energy czar Carol Browner had drawn criticism from business leaders and environmentalists alike. It is not clear whether she will be replaced.
WASHINGTON — President Obama's controversial climate and energy czar, Carol Browner, will step down, White House officials said Tuesday.
Browner has been a lightning rod for the right and the left. Business considered her unfriendly, while environmentalists criticized her harshly for backing expanded offshore drilling before the Deepwater Horizon disaster and her office's rosy takes on its effects.
A White House official declined to say whether Browner would be replaced, stating only that reorganization on various fronts is occurring within the administration.
An invigorated Republican majority in the House of Representatives as well as business and environmentalists will be watching closely to see if Browner's departure indicates any softening in the administration's environmental agenda. Her signature effort, a climate bill disliked by many businesses and members of Congress, is dead. The question now is if anyone replaces her and what kind of power that person might have over the environmental agenda.
Some environmentalists have worried aloud — and many businesses, lobbyists and members of Congress have cheered — over recent remarks and small steps by the administration to review environmental priorities. Most notably, President Obama signed an executive order last week and published an editorial in the Wall Street Journal that seemed to echo business leaders' language about burdensome regulation, with an Environmental Protection Agency rule cited in the op-ed as emblematic of poor regulation.
A White House official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he wasn't allowed to discuss the issue publicly, insisted that Browner's departure did not signal a lessening of the administration's commitment to the environment, and he said the president would make announcements during his State of the Union speech Tuesday evening that would, in fact, underscore it.
The official said, "The president's commitment to these issues will of course continue, but any transition of the office will be announced soon."

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FSU Coastal & Marine Lab to Present Lecture on Restoration of Wading Bird Populations in the Everglades
www.wakulla.com
January 25, 2011
The Florida State University Coastal & Marine Lab Conservation Lecture Series presents "Fire, Floods and Heavy Metal:  Restoration of Wading Bird Populations in the Everglades", by Dr. Peter Frederick, University of Florida, Department of Wildlife Ecology and Conservation.
The event will be held on Thursday, February 10, 2011 at 7:00 p.m. at the FSU Coastal & Marine Lab Auditorium in St. Teresa.  All lectures in the Conservation Lecture Series are free and open to the public.
The Everglades is one of only a handful of wetlands worldwide that characteristically hosted huge breeding populations of herons, egrets, ibises, storks and spoonbills, sometimes numbering in the hundreds of thousands.  More importantly, there exists over a century of historical nesting records that allow scientists a rare chance to understand ecological relationships of the birds in its unaltered state, and therefore, to understand how the natural functions of the ecosystem can be restored.
The emerging picture suggests (1) drainage and impoundment of water have led to major declines in the ability of this nutrient-poor system to produce food for birds, (2) the birds have been most strongly affected by altered freshwater flows to the estuary, (3) disturbances like fires, droughts, floods and hurricanes are key to producing the immense pulses of food that large populations of birds depend on, and (4) sublethal contamination of birds by mercury can have strong effects on reproduction and mate choice.  Many of these conclusions are also applicable to other wetlands and estuaries in the southeastern United States.  
The scientific basis for restoring the ecological patterns that once supported large wading bird populations in the Everglades now seems quite strong, and the restoration process is now poised to move into a very active and crucial stage.
Please join us for light refreshments after the talk to chat with Dr. Frederick.

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110125-c
Tampa Bay Seagrasses Show Record Increase
The Bradenton Times - by Tampa Bay Estuary Program
January 25, 2011
TAMPA – Tampa Bay gained 3,250 acres of seagrass between 2008 and 2010 – an 11% increase that is the largest 2-year expansion of seagrasses since scientists began regular surveys of this critical underwater habitat.
The bay now supports 32,897 acres of seagrasses – more than at any time measured since the 1950s, according to data presented this week to the Tampa Bay Estuary Program (TBEP) and other members of the Southwest Florida Seagrass Working Group.
The data was collected by scientists with the Southwest Florida Water Management District’s Surface Water Improvement and Management (SWIM) Program. They assess seagrass coverage in the bay approximately every two years, using a combination of maps produced from aerial photographs followed by ground-truthing to verify accuracy. The aerial photographs are taken in winter months when the water is clearer. Results of this comprehensive effort have been used to track trends in seagrass extent in estuaries throughout Southwest Florida since 1988.
All major bay segments showed seagrass gains, according to the SWIM data, including the troubled Old Tampa Bay segment in the northern part of the bay, which has been plagued by algae blooms and an expanding layer of thick, soupy muck near Safety Harbor in recent years. Seagrasses in Old Tampa Bay expanded by 858 acres over 2008 levels, or nearly 15%. Seagrasses in Middle Tampa Bay increased by 1,549 acres, or 23.3%.
The increases could be a result of improving water quality overall. In fact, preliminary results from 2010 monitoring indicates that all bay segments met TBEP’s adopted water clarity goals. Recent low-rainfall years, with less runoff entering the bay, may have contributed to the improvements. And some gains also may be a function of constantly improving seagrass mapping techniques.
Seagrasses are an important barometer of the bay’s health because they require relatively clean water to flourish. They also provide vital habitat for sportfish such as sea trout, snook, and redfish. Despite the impressive gains, the bay is still 5,103 acres short of the target goal of 38,000 acres of seagrass set by the Tampa Bay Estuary Program and its local government partners.
Reaching that goal will require a continued commitment by the region to reducing excess nitrogen that remains the bay’s primary pollutant of concern, said Holly Greening, Executive Director of the Estuary Program. Too much nitrogen fuels algae growth that turns the water cloudy and depletes oxygen.
“The seagrass increases are great news, especially as we mark the 20-year anniversary of the Estuary Program partnership this year,” Greening said. “But we still need to manage nitrogen loadings, and to assess and address problem areas in the bay.”

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Pinellas questions new EPA water rule
TBO.com – by Stephen Thompson
January 23,2011
CLEARWATER - The list of those pursuing legal action against the federal Environmental Protection Agency over water quality standards in Florida continues to grow — and one of the latest additions is Pinellas County.
The Pinellas County Commission earlier this month gave its attorneys the go-ahead to pursue legal action against the EPA, though no suit has yet been filed, said David McCrea, the assistant county attorney handling the matter.
The county's legal stand is the latest in a string of challenges to the new water rules.
On Jan. 10, the Florida League of Cities and the Florida Stormwater Association filed suit against the EPA in U.S. District Court in Pensacola.
And the month before, then-state Agricultural Commissioner Charles Bronson filed a lawsuit against the federal agency in the same court. The lawsuit was supported by outgoing Attorney General Bill McCollum, incoming Attorney General Pam Bondi and incoming Agricultural Commissioner Adam Putnam.
At issue is the amount of nitrogen and phosphorous in the state's rivers and streams.
Too much nitrogen and phosphorous pollution — called nutrient pollution — can cause harmful algal blooms and low-oxygen dead zones in water bodies and hurts wildlife and wildlife habitat, according to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.
The EPA is setting a limit for the presence of those elements in Florida waterways.
But in the various legal actions, critics question the agency's scientific methods and point out the EPA ignored its own advisory board's recommendations on the issue.
In a 46-page report, the EPA's Science Advisory Board said the agency's statistical method was flawed and that it needs to do a better job of showing that excess nutrients are to blame for the unhealthy condition of a particular body of water.
In Pinellas, for instance, the agency does not take into account the fact that the soil in the area contains lots of phosphorous naturally.
Lake Seminole in Pinellas has a phosphate bed — a combination of phosphorous and oxygen — underneath it, according to county documents, so the phosphorous levels in waterways such as Lake Seminole will be higher than the EPA wants, county officials say.
"There's a very good chance that numerous rivers and … lakes, which could be found to be in a biologically healthy state, may nevertheless be classified as impaired," McCrea wrote in one document supporting legal action.
"We want the right standards for the right body of water," said Kelli Hammer Levy, the division director of Pinellas County's watershed management division.
"You can't get that if you draw a line in the sand," she said. "If above it, fix it. If below, you're fine."
If the county wants to be exempt from the nutrient pollution thresholds handed down by the EPA, it would have to follow a specific procedure that requires a scientific study to back up the county's claims, Hammer Levy said. The study could cost more than $500,000, she said.
She said the county already is working to improve water quality, spending $10.5 million for a system to reduce pollutants in stormwater being poured into Lake Seminole. The county also might spend an additional $16 million to dredge the lake, which also would make it healthier.

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Caloosahatchee minimum flows must be maintained
Coral Daily Breeze – Guest Opinion
January 22, 2011
At their Jan. 13 meeting, the South Florida Water Management District Governing Board, with the exception of Chairman Eric Buermann and West Coast representative, Charles Dauray, rejected reconsideration of water releases from Lake Okeechobee to the Caloosahatchee River. The lake water level is generally managed between 12.5 and 15.5 feet but is at 12.43 feet.
The SFWMD's decision to effectively shut off environmental releases to the Caloosahatchee while continuing to provide 100 percent allocation of water to agriculture in the Everglades Agricultural Area south of the lake and to utilities on the east coast, reflects blatant inequity of water distribution to natural systems.
The SFWMD uses the term "shared adversity" to justify excessive or no releases to the Caloosahatchee and coastal estuaries. However, it is apparent that only Lee County shares the adversity and devastation to our environment.
While the SFWMD is quick to cut off flow to the Caloosahatchee, there are no water restrictions or conservation limits imposed on agriculture and the SFWMD continues to allow east coast counties, such as Palm Beach, to irrigate landscape three days a week while Lee County residents comply with year-round irrigation restrictions of two days a week under a local ordinance since 2005.
Coastal residents understand that excessive releases of water laden with phosphorous and nitrogen from Lake Okeechobee during the wet season results in harmful algae blooms, fish kill and increased frequency of red tide.
Less understood is that a minimum flow of freshwater during the dry season is critical to maintaining salinity levels for the health, productivity and function of the Caloosahatchee and coastal estuaries. Minimum flow is needed to sustain optimum salinity levels for submerged aquatic vegetation, prevent toxic algae blooms, and reduce risk of high chloride concentration resulting in costly operations or closure of the Olga Water Treatment Plant.
Freshwater tape grass is an important indicator of healthy conditions in the upper estuary of the Caloosahatchee. Tape grass provides critical nursery habitat for snook, redfish, shrimp and the larvae of stone and blue crabs. Manatees feed on the grass blades but, in the absence of the plants, are forced to migrate 20 miles downriver to find food. This travel distance requires the manatee to expend precious energy during cold winter months and increases risk of manatee/boat collisions.
Recent scientific assessment of conditions in the Caloosahatchee by the Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation indicate that the current salinity level is between 14 and 16 parts per thousand. Tape grass becomes stressed and dies back above 10 ppt. Hundreds of acres of tape grass in the upper estuary have been lost due to disruptive rate and volume of freshwater flow from Lake Okeechobee to the Caloosahatchee. Minimum flows are necessary to ensure tape grass recovery when conditions improve. Without these flows, the Caloosahatchee will again experience the buildup of blue green algae that is a public health threat and lethal to fish and wildlife.
In 2009, during a prolonged dry season, Lee County government appealed to the United States Army Corp of Engineers to overrule the SFWMD decision to stop fresh water releases from Lake Okeechobee to the Caloosahatchee. The SFWMD argued that releases to the Caloosahatchee would be detrimental to agriculture. Fortunately, the USACOE exercised their authority to support freshwater releases on three separate occasions. These freshwater releases totaled 1.02 inches from Lake Okeechobee. The sugar cane industry, with the primary crop in the Everglades Agricultural Area, enjoyed one of their most productive years on record. Such findings proved that the survival of our river and estuaries is measured in inches.
The Caloosahatchee and coastal estuaries are critical to our environment and economy. Tragically, the cycle of destruction to our quality of life will continue as the sugar industry, the largest abuser and user of Lake Okeechobee water supply, and with greatest political influence, will continue to squeeze the lifeblood from our community.
Lake Okeechobee is a public resource but continues to be managed for private interests.
- Ray Judah is the Lee County Commissioner for District 3

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Simmering water issue
NewsHerald.com - Editorial
January 20, 2011
The proposal by Bay County and the Northwest Florida Water Management District to drill 10 wells near the Washington County border as a backup water supply has encountered intense opposition from residents and landowners in that area who fear damage to their water resources.
Opponents contend Bay County and NWFWMD have not been upfront about the plan and have filed suit to stop it. The acrimony is just starting.
One thing that could unite them, though, is any attempt to repeal the state’s “local sources first” water policy. 
The chairman of the Florida House’s Select Committee on Water Policy recently said that her panel this year will review the policy, which should send a shiver down the Panhandle’s collective spine.
 “Local sources first,” instituted in 1998, requires the Department of Environmental Protection and the state’s five water management districts to evaluate local water supply plans with an emphasis on developing more expensive local water supplies rather than building pipelines.
It was set up to protect water-rich North Florida from water-starved South Florida.
Northerners feared that Southerners would build pipelines to transfer northern water southward. The situation is similar to, although not yet as severe as, the one involving Atlanta.
Massive growth in Georgia’s largest metropolitan area over the last 30 years has created excessive demand for water, particularly from Lake Lanier and the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint river basin. The drawdown on those resources has had negative consequences for the ecosystems they support in neighboring Alabama and Florida. For two decades the three states have been locked in a battle over who should have access to that water.
Three-fourths of Florida’s population lives in the southern part, a region that receives less than half of the state’s rainfall. Like Atlanta, the demand for water is straining the supply. Lake Okeechobee’s levels have been declining precipitously. The South Florida Water Management District projects that by the end of this month the lake could drop low enough to trigger tougher watering restrictions.
So when Rep. Trudi Williams, R-Fort Myers, chairman of the House water committee, says she wants to take a look at “local sources first,” it’s time to start paying attention. Everyone north of Interstate 4 should be concerned about South Florida hungrily eyeing their water.
It’s not the first time the policy has been under assault. In 2003, the Florida Council of 100, a powerful business lobbying group, recommended creating a statewide water authority and allowing transfers of surface water from north to south — basically gutting “local sources first.” Public response in the North was explosive. Then-Senate President Jim King, R-Jacksonville, said that “this is as close as North vs. South you’re going to get since the Civil War.”
The council backed down and the issue went dormant. But South Florida’s water demands remain, and it appears “local sources first” might be back on the table.
Rep. Williams told the Florida Tribune that she doesn’t think a review of the policy should touch off fears about water pipelines. Nevertheless, we expect Reps. Jimmy Patronis and Marti Coley and Sen. Don Gaetz to keep a close eye on the situation and to fight to protect the Panhandle’s water interests.

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Interior secretary shows he's an eco-friend to Florida
NewsChief.com
January 19, 2011
The Miami Herald on the Interior Department's South Florida ecological plan:
When Interior Secretary Ken Salazar came to South Florida for the annual Everglades Coalition Conference, he brought a terrific gift along: A plan for a large national wildlife refuge north of Lake Okeechobee to preserve the ecologically diverse Florida prairie and livelihoods of the area's ranchers.
The refuge would extend through the Kissimmee River Valley down to Lake Okeechobee in parts of Polk, Osceola, Indian River, Okeechobee and Highlands counties. It would expand the scope and approach of Everglades restoration by protecting the Glades' original headwaters from Orlando's encroaching suburbs.
It's a bold plan that has vision -- but no money or congressional support yet. And that will be the biggest challenge, Salazar acknowledged. But he told the Everglades gathering that he's optimistic because, "The Everglades are probably one of the most important ecosystems we have in the United States."
The vast ecosystem is also the major drinking-water source for urban South Florida, so additional efforts -- like the refuge plan -- to enhance the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan, a joint state-federal project of ambitious proportions, are welcome.
What's different in the refuge plan is that the federal government, in addition to purchasing about 50,000 acres from willing sellers, will work with Florida ranchers to buy their development rights -- usually in the form of easements -- on another 100,000 acres. The ranchers stay in business, but by owning the development rights the federal government will prevent future sprawl oozing toward the Everglades. Florida's new agricultural commissioner, Adam Putnam, praised the plan during the conference.
The other big challenge besides getting Congress to fund the refuge is the bedeviling issue of reducing the amount of phosphorous flowing into Lake Okeechobee and the Everglades from the north -- from the farming industry and the Orlando area. Florida has spent more than $1.6 billion on pollution treatment marshes, but nutrient levels remain unsatisfactorily high. ...
Happily, Florida's unique ecosystems have found a good friend in Salazar.

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Public Scoping Meetings Proposed Everglades Headwaters Refuge
WCTV.tv
January 19, 2011
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) and a variety of public and private partners are advancing a collaborative approach to address landscape-scale land protection efforts to conserve wildlife and habitat in the greater Everglades landscape.
Reporter: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Press Release
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) and a variety of public and private partners are advancing a collaborative approach to address landscape-scale land protection efforts to conserve wildlife and habitat in the greater Everglades landscape. This partnership is the Greater Everglades Partnership Initiative (Initiative).
“This initiative is aimed at preserving a rural working ranch landscape to protect and restore one of the great grassland and savanna landscapes of eastern North America. The partnerships being formed would protect and improve water quality north of Lake Okeechobee, restore wetlands, and connect existing conservation lands and important wildlife corridors to support the Everglades restoration effort." - U.S. Department of Interior Secretary Ken Salazar
This partnership initiative would help conserve a rural working ranch landscape; protect and restore habitat; protect, improve, and restore water quality and wetlands benefiting residents and visitors in South Florida; and connect a matrix of existing conservation lands and important wildlife corridors, supporting Everglades restoration efforts. Three study areas have been defined within the greater Everglades landscape: (1) the Everglades headwaters area, (2) the Fisheating Creek area, and (3) the area around Florida Panther NWR and the Caloosahatchee River. The Service is currently focused on the first study area.
Proposed Everglades Headwaters National Wildlife Refuge and Conservation Area
The proposed Everglades Headwaters National Wildlife Refuge and Conservation Area (NWRCA) is a proposed land conservation partnership between federal, Tribal, State, and local governments; ranchers and other landowners; non-governmental conservation organizations; area residents; and other stakeholders to protect, restore, and conserve approximately 150,000+ acres of environmentally important natural habitat and associated wildlife in portions of Polk, Osceola, Indian River, Okeechobee, and Highlands counties in Central Florida, within a larger 4.5 million-acre landscape that extends from the southern outskirts of the Orlando metro area south through the Kissimmee River Valley to Lake Okeechobee, and southwest to Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge and Big Cypress Preserve.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and partners would work with willing landowners to establish the proposed 150,000-acre Everglades Headwaters National Wildlife Refuge and Conservation Area through several methods, including already-established conservation lands, fee simple purchases, conservation easements, leases, conservation and mitigation banks, lands set aside through habitat conservation plans, and/or cooperative agreements with landowners. The planning target is to work with partners and willing landowners to conserve approximately 50,000 acres in fee title acquisitions and 100,000 acres in less than fee title. The Service’s policy is to work with willing landowners.
Four Public Scoping Meetings Scheduled
Four public scoping meetings have been scheduled in the area of the proposal to provide the public the opportunity to hear a presentation about the proposal and to ask questions and submit comments, ideas, and concerns. We invite all interested individuals, organizations, businesses, and agencies to join us at one or more of these meetings. Comments may also be submitted by email, mail, or fax (see the How to Submit Comments section below).
Date Meeting Location Address
1.26.2011
Wednesday
6:00-9:00 pm Kissimmee Civic Center 201 East Dakin Ave
Kissimmee, FL 34741
2.4.2011
Friday
6:00-9:00 pm Sebring Civic Center 355 West Center Ave
Sebring, FL 33870
2.9.2011
Wednesday
6:00-9:00 pm Okeechobee High School 2800 Hwy 441 N
Okeechobee, FL 34972
2.10.2011
Thursday
6:00-9:00 pm Vero Beach High School Main Campus Cafeteria 1707 16th St
Vero Beach, FL 32960
What is the Schedule for the Proposal?
We are in the early stages of the project and are requesting input from the public. After this public scoping phase, we will use the comments gathered to help us develop a Land Protection Plan and associated National Environmental Policy (NEPA) document. We will then return to the public to request comments on the document and the more detailed proposal. Four main planning phases are outlined for this proposal, as listed.
Planning Phase Estimated Dates
Conduct Public Scoping Meetings January-February 2011
Develop Draft Land Protection Plan and NEPA Document March-May 2011
Request Public Review and Comment on Proposal June 2011
Develop Final Plan August-September 2011
How to Get More Information?
For more information on this proposal and to view a map of the study area, please visit: http://www.fws.gov/southeast/greatereverglades/.
For more information on the Greater Everglades Partnership Initiative and to view a map of all three study areas, please see the Fact Sheet at: http://www.fws.gov/southeast/greatereverglades/pdf/GreaterEvergladesFactsheet.pdf.
To view the recent press release from earlier this month, please visit: http://www.doi.gov/news/pressreleases/Salazar-Announces-Initiative-to-Conserve-Working-Lands-and-Wildlife-Habitat-in-the-Everglades-Headwaters.cfm.
To get on the mailing list for the proposed Everglades Headwaters NWRCA, please fill out and scan/email back or mail in this form: http://www.fws.gov/southeast/greatereverglades/pdf/MailingListRequest.pdf.
How to Submit Comments?
To comment on the proposal,
• please send email to: EvergladesHeadwatersProposal@fws.gov;
• please send mail to: Everglades Headwaters Proposal, PO Box 2683, Titusville, FL 32781-2683;
• please fax to: 321.861.1276; and/or
• please attend one of the public scoping meetings.
We request that scoping comments be received by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service by February 28, 2011 to ensure their consideration in the development of the Land Protection Plan and NEPA document that will outline the detailed proposal.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting and enhancing fish, wildlife and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. For more information, please visit http://www.fws.gov/southeast/

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Everglades Headwaters National Wildlife Refuge could benefit Southwest Florida
News-Press.com - by Kevin Lollar (Sunday exclusive)
January 18, 2011
A proposed national wildlife refuge north of Lake Okeechobee would have a positive impact on Southwest Florida.
The idea is still in its infancy — a preliminary proposal has been written — but if everything works out, about 100,000 acres in the Kissimmee River Valley will become the Everglades Headwaters National Wildlife Refuge.
Although the refuge would be closer to Orlando than to Fort Myers, the benefits of preserving the area would trickle down into Southwest Florida, said Cheri Ehrhardt, a natural resource manager for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
After all, water from the Kissimmee River Valley flows into Lake Okeechobee, and water from the lake empties into the Caloosahatchee River and the Everglades.
 “It’s all interrelated,” Ehrhardt said. “If you think of nothing other than water quality — for people, for wildlife, or just to have good water quality — this area is important for all of South Florida.
“Whether you’re in Lee County or Collier County, having these areas protected is a way to ensure you don’t have high runoff and negative impacts like heavy metals.”
A variety of habitats would make up the refuge: wet and dry prairie, scrub, sandhills, flatwoods, rivers and lakes.
Wildlife species known to use the area include Florida panthers, black bears, crested caracaras, scrub jays, Florida grasshopper sparrows, snail kites and migratory waterfowl.
The Everglades Headwaters refuge would be the 554th national wildlife refuge and the 29th in Florida.
With the preliminary proposal written, the wildlife service will hold a series of public workshops in late January and February — the workshops haven’t been scheduled.
Next would be the development of a land protection plan and National Environmental Policy Act document, then more public comment and, by September, a final plan.
If the wildlife service approves the plan, the process of buying land and easements could begin. According to the preliminary proposal, land acquisition could cost as much as $700 million.
As to when the refuge would be designated: It depends.
“I don’t know if there’s any money, or how much, or how much the land will cost,” Ehrhardt said. “If there’s lots of money, and landowners are interested in participating, it could happen quickly. If there’s no money, and landowners aren’t interested, it could be 10 years.”
Refuge philosophy
Because the national wildlife refuge and national park systems are managed under the U.S. Department of Interior, many people don’t distinguish between national parks and national wildlife refuges, Ehrhardt said.
But the two systems have different histories and philosophies, said Kevin Godsea, manager of the Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge and Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge in Collier County.
 “National parks are created to preserve a space and special place for people to come and view the scenery or wildlife,” he said. “National wildlife refuges are created for wildlife: We have a wildlife-first philosophy.”
Many wildlife refuges were established along migratory bird flyways; others were established to provide wildlife with corridors from one green space to another; still others were established specifically to protect endangered or threatened species.
And some refuges are off limits to people.
“We allow certain public uses where it’s appropriate and compatible,” Ehrhardt said. “But we only allow uses that don’t have a negative impact on wildlife.”
Lee County refuges
Southwest Florida got into the refuge system early: In 1903, President Theodore Roosevelt designated the first national wildlife refuge — Pelican Island refuge near Sebastian; five years later, he designated the Island Bay, Pine Island and Matlacha Pass refuges in Lee and Charlotte counties.
Along with the Caloosahatchee refuge, established in 1920, those refuges consist of more than 40 islands and are managed as satellites under the more famous J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel Island.
 “These islands are vitally important, though they’re not well recognized because they’re not open to the public,” Ding Darling manager Paul Tritaik said. “They’re rookery islands: The very birds you see foraging at ‘Ding’ Darling are the same ones that nest on the satellite islands.”
With its 41⁄2-mile Wildlife Drive through tidal foraging areas, “Ding” Darling is an internationally known birding destination.
 “Most people think of Ding Darling as a haven for migratory birds, particularly this time of year,” Tritaik said. “The variety of birds and the ability to see them up close is a unique aspect of this refuge. That’s why we see so many bird watchers and wildlife photographers from all over the world.”
Collier County refuges
Two wildlife refuges in Collier County are relatively recent additions.
Like Lee County’s refuges, the Ten Thousand Islands refuge, established in 1996, is mainly for birds such as red knots, sandpipers and plovers.
 “They use the islands as stop-over spots before flying to the Caribbean,” Godsea said.
The best way to see wildlife at the refuge is by boat, though there is a 1-mile trail off U.S. 41.
 “We want people to come out and see the wildlife,” Godsea said. “But we’re not putting new infrastructure such as trails through the habitat. It’s a good thing to have places that are remote still.”
Established in 1989, the Florida Panther refuge was created as panther habitat, and a 1⁄3-mile and a 11⁄3-mile trail are the only visitor access points.
“Panthers are very sensitive to human encroachment, so we try to limit visitor use there,” Godsea said. “Panthers come in and out of the refuge at will, using the refuge as part of their range. At any given time, we’ll have five, six, eight panthers in the refuge.
 “We’re mainly managing the deer population: Deer is the panther’s primary food source. Good deer habitat is good panther habitat.”

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Water District considers selling its airplane
Sun Sentinel - by Andy Reid
January 18, 2011
South Florida Water Management District will explore selling the airplane used to ferry its officials across the state — an expense that through the years drew scrutiny from government auditors, state lawmakers and the Sun Sentinel.
The move to explore selling the district's nearly 30-year-old twin-turboprop plane was prompted by Gov. Rick Scott's plan to sell off two state airplanes.
Scott proposes selling off the state airplanes as a budget-cutting move, following criticism of how state officials used them before Scott took office.
If the state's chief executive thinks state planes are unnecessary, then the district should try to do without as well, according to district board member Jerry Montgomery.
"I think it's time for us to move on our plane. I don't think it's material to our mission," Montgomery said last week.
District board chairman Eric Buermann on Thursday cast the only vote against starting the process to look into selling the plane. The plane was important to district operations and "not a luxury item," he said.
Buermann cautioned fellow board members against making this decision amid a "highly political" climate.
The governor appoints the members of the nine-member board that oversees the South Florida Water Management District. All current board members were appointed by former Gov. Charlie Crist.
"I know there's a temptation to want to please Tallahassee," Buermann said. "Keep Tallahassee politics out of our decision making."
The district's air fleet includes the airplane and three helicopters.
The helicopters primarily are used to check on flood-control facilities, conduct environmental testing and help district officials tackle other duties in its 16-county region that stretches from Orlando to the Keys.
Long before the new governor took office, the district's use of the plane and helicopters to transport top officials faced scrutiny.
The Sun Sentinel in 2008 reported that top water management district officials frequently used district aircraft to fly to meetings, including costly solo trips and short hops from West Palm Beach to cities as close as Boca Raton, Fort Lauderdale and Miami.
From October 2004 to September 2007, district board members flew nearly 600 times, costing more than $800,000 in fuel, insurance, hangar space, maintenance and other expenses, according to the Sun Sentinel's examination of flight logs, budgets and other records.
Buermann said Thursday that district officials are more hesitant to use the aircraft to travel due to media scrutiny.
"It scared a lot of people off from using the aircraft," said Buermann, a pilot who often flies his own helicopter to district board meetings.
Part of the final decision on what to do with the district plane will be based on how much the agency can get for the 1981 Beechcraft King Air Model B200.
The district paid $942,000 for the plane in 1986. The district projects its current value at $600,000 to $1.2 million.
And what would the district do with its proceeds from selling the airplane? On Thursday district officials suggested buying another helicopter.
Andy Reid can be reached at abreid@SunSentinel.com or 561-228-5504

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Winter programs in full swing at Everglades National Park
The Palm Beach Post Blog - by Willie Howard
Guided walks, bike tours, boat tours and canoe tours are going on now at Everglades National Park.
For those who like to wade into the Everglades, there are slough slogs. The two-hour slogs take visitors age 12 and older into gator holes and other parts of the River of Grass.
Star gazers can get away from ambient light to view the constellations at Mahogany Hammock, about a 25-minute drive from the main park entrance near Homestead. The next New Moon Star Party is set for Feb. 5.
Among the most popular tours for park visitors is the guided Anhinga Amble, a walk along the Anhinga Trail near the main park entrance. This boardwalk over the marsh is where park visitors witnessed a non-native Burmese python fighting with an alligator. It’s also a great place to photograph wading birds and alligators, especially when water levels drop.
Guided bicycle rides, or Bike Hikes, for ages 12 and older are available through the Ernest Coe Visitor Center near the main park entrance.
Boat tours are available at Flamingo and the Gulf Coast Visitor Center in Everglades City.
Ranger-guided canoe tours, also at Flamingo and Everglades City, are great for those who want to learn more about different parts of the sprawling national park. It’s amazing how clear the water is after it has been filtered by the saw grass marsh just before it flows into Florida Bay.
Special this year is the Vintage Everglades Celebration, set for 11 a.m. on Feb. 5 at the Ernest Coe Visitor Center near the main park entrance. The living history event will include an ice cream social with actors portraying John J. Audubon, Ernest Coe and Marjory Stoneman Douglas.
Even if you don’t take a guided tour, just driving through the park from the Coe Visitor Center to Flamingo, pausing along the way at various overlooks, makes for a great day. Once you’re in Flamingo, you can take a boat tour or take a short hike and return to Palm Beach County, all in a day. Don’t forget binoculars and a camera.
I also enjoy riding a bike through Shark Valley, a section of the park located off U.S. 41.
Winter programs at the park continue through March 31.
The main park entrance fee is $10 per car. Annual passes cost $25.
For more information, including virtual tours of the park, go to the EvergladesNational Park website.
To reach EvergladesNational Park by telephone, call the main park number at (305) 242-7700. To reach the FlamingoVisitorCenter, call (239) 695-3101. To reach the GulfCoastVisitorCenter in EvergladesCity, call (239) 695-2591.

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New Government Approach to Land Conservation Initiated
The Epoch Times - by Paul Darin, Staff
January 17, 2011
U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar recently announced plans for both government and private conservation organizations to come together to develop new environmental conservation areas in Florida’s Everglades.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will be partnered with state and local agencies as well as private landowners, tribal agencies, and other conservation groups. They will be spearheading a new national wildlife program that will serve as a refuge and conservation of local wildlife. Additionally, this broad program will help to conserve Florida’s ranching heritage, local wildlife, as well as the natural water system including fish life.
Some of the additional partners on this project include the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Florida Division of State Lands, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, and others.
 “The Everglades rural working ranch landscapes are an important piece of our nation’s history and economy, and this initiative would work to ensure that they remain vital for our future," stated Secretary Salazar in a Department of the Interior press release earlier this month.
Salazar added that the partnerships being formed are intended to protect and improve water quality, restore wetlands, and connect the existing conservation lands and wildlife that are part of the larger restoration work for the Everglades.
Currently, the partnership of conservation organizations is conducting a preliminary study and survey. This study seeks to establish a new national wildlife refuge and conservation area in the Kissimmee River Valley just south of Orlando, Fla. The conservation area would be approximately 150,000 acres in size and would consist of important landscapes both natural and cultural. Fifty thousand acres would still need to be purchased while the other 100,000 acres of land would be kept in private ownerships with cooperative agreements to ensure the land is protected.
As a way of keeping the public involved, Salazar announced that the public will be invited to join in a series of workshops on the plans and proposal, which will be in January and February.
Some of the species that will be protected in this program include the Florida panther, the Florida black bear, the whooping crane, the Everglade snail kite, the eastern indigo, as well as 88 other federal and state listed species. The program also aims to protect and improve water quality as well as linking to around 690,000 additional acres of conservation land giving wildlife nearly a million acres of space to live and be free

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Prospects for new 'Glades plan far from certain
Herald-Tribune - by Kate Spinner
January 17, 2011
As another grand plan to restore the Everglades fades to obscurity, a new one is emerging. But like others before in the nation's most expensive environmental restoration project, it, too, has questionable prospects for success.
Instead of trying to reconnect key segments of the historic Everglades system, the latest strategy resembles the piecemeal approach that has made only incremental progress over the last decade.
With renewed fanfare, federal officials this month announced a plan to preserve 150,000 acres in the Kissimmee River basin, north of Lake Okeechobee.
The news came months after Florida agencies acquired the fragments left from a huge land purchase plan that fell apart, largely because of the economy.
The plan to buy out one of the Everglades' biggest polluters had been touted only two years ago as the long-awaited answer for finally restoring the famous River of Grass.
Former Gov. Charlie Crist had proposed buying out U.S. Sugar's entire 187,000-acre empire in the heart of the historic Everglades ecosystem, which once stretched from near Orlando to Florida's southern tip.
But last fall, the state settled for buying just 26,800 acres.
Now, instead of reconnecting the severed link allowing water to flow between Lake Okeechobee and the rest of the Everglades farther south, officials will merely enlarge big water treatment marshes near Everglades National Park.
The shift northward to cleaning up ranch lands that flow into the lake is another in a long line of fits and starts in the protracted, $11.5 billion effort to repair a natural system considered one of the world's rare environmental gems.
Yet it fails to address two critical issues: the lake water is already far too dirty for the Everglades to handle and too much of it goes to agriculture and cities. While environmental groups view the 26,800-acre purchase and the plan to focus north as important incremental steps, they say still more needs to be done, especially with the sugar farms to the south.
"The area is being managed in complete opposition to the forces of nature," said Eric Draper, policy director for Audubon of Florida. "In the process, the rest of the Everglades is harmed against that backdrop."
The latest idea, pitched by Interior Department Secretary Ken Salazar at a recent conference on the Everglades, marks the next chapter in the Glades restoration story. It is a return to the slow work of negotiating with landowners and encouraging them to voluntarily participate in conservation. With that philosophy driving restoration for years, progress has been made, but far less than envisioned when the first comprehensive restoration plan was passed by Congress in 2000. That plan was targeted for completion by the year 2030.
The goal is to put about 50,000 acres north of Lake Okeechobee in federal ownership and negotiate conservation easements to keep another 100,000 acres in ranchland or natural areas. No estimates on cost or location have been made, but plans are expected by the end of the year.
Land north of the lake is important for the preservation of endangered species, such as snail kites and Florida panthers. It also is needed to improve the quality of water flowing into Lake Okeechobee.
Limited sweep
In contrast to today's restoration efforts, Crist's plan to buy U.S. Sugar and retool the land to mimic what existed naturally was lauded as the long-sought missing link in Everglades restoration.
Instead, with the scaled-back land buy completed last October, the sugarcane industry maintains its hold over the most important chunk of land that lies between Lake Okeechobee and Everglades National Park.
Sugar's presence there has long been viewed at the ultimate barrier to restoration. The farms block the natural flow from the lake to the park and add pollutants to the already dirty water.
Before dredges arrived in South Florida in the early 1900s, Lake Okeechobee filled in summer, overflowing in a wide sheet of shallow, slow-moving water.
Sawgrass grew in the sediments that spilled from the lake, creating a soggy prairie that filtered the water before it reached Florida Bay.
Now, water flows from the lake into canals, feeding farmland and east coast cities. Some of that water goes to the Everglades, often too much in the rainy season and too little in the dry season. The water is laden with nitrogen and phosphorus from agricultural and urban runoff, and historic backwards pumping of flood waters from sugar farms south of the lake. The dirty water promotes habitat-choking cattails and algae blooms.
While environmental groups still applaud the state's scaled-back land buy, the hype that surrounded the initial $1.75 billion agreement with U.S. Sugar has vanished. Environmentalists again are pointing to the sugar industry as a major culprit for the Everglades' woes.
U.S. Sugar and its rival, Florida Crystals, farm a vast expanse of former Everglades, called the Everglades Agricultural Area, or EAA. For decades, federal, state and regional officials with the South Florida Water Management District have been trying to reverse that pollution and natural flow disruption, with little progress.
In 1994, Florida passed the Everglades Forever Act, setting water quality standards as part of a settlement agreement with the federal government over pollution in Everglades National Park. By 2001, the water reaching the park was supposed to contain no more than 10 parts per billion of phosphorus. Two extensions pushed the deadline forward to 2006.
Still, the state is only about halfway toward the mark and is now under a federal court order to achieve it.
The state also is under a mandate to clean up water flowing into Lake Okeechobee by 2015 under the Lake Okeechobee Protection Program passed by the state Legislature in 2004. The new federal plan could help the state meet those goals.
Crist's vision called for the sugar farms south of the lake to become a vast network of water treatment marshes and wide, slow-flowing canals to deliver clean water gradually to the remaining Everglades year-round.
But it coincided with the biggest economic downturn in decades and was plagued by budget worries, vague plans for the use of the land and lawsuits instigated by Florida Crystals, U.S. Sugar's biggest rival.
Critics say the sugar industry should be taking more responsibility for cleaning up the water that comes off their land, not taxpayers.
But Judy Sanchez, a spokeswoman for U.S. Sugar, said the industry has already made major improvements in cleaning up the water that flows to and from its land. Phosphorus pollution has declined by 54 percent since 1996, she said, while the target was just 25 percent.
"Our goal is to release the water as clean as possible," Sanchez said.
But water quality is just one part of the puzzle.
The Everglades also need the right quantity of water, and that will be impossible without more land, said Tom Van Lent, senior scientist with the Everglades Foundation.
"This new plan just cleans up the water that's currently going onto the Everglades," he said. "It doesn't get us toward a strategy to restoring the hydrology in the Everglades."
The state also is under a mandate to clean up water flowing into Lake Okeechobee by 2015 under the Lake Okeechobee Protection Program passed by the state Legislature in 2004. The new federal plan could help the state meet those goals.
Crist's vision called for the sugar farms south of the lake to become a vast network of water treatment marshes and wide, slow-flowing canals to deliver clean water gradually to the remaining Everglades year-round.
But it coincided with the biggest economic downturn in decades and was plagued by budget worries, vague plans for the use of the land and lawsuits instigated by Florida Crystals, U.S. Sugar's biggest rival.
Critics say the sugar industry should be taking more responsibility for cleaning up the water that comes off their land, not taxpayers.
But Judy Sanchez, a spokeswoman for U.S. Sugar, said the industry has already made major improvements in cleaning up the water that flows to and from its land. Phosphorus pollution has declined by 54 percent since 1996, she said, while the target was just 25 percent.
"Our goal is to release the water as clean as possible," Sanchez said.
But water quality is just one part of the puzzle.
The Everglades also need the right quantity of water, and that will be impossible without more land, said Tom Van Lent, senior scientist with the Everglades Foundation.
"This new plan just cleans up the water that's currently going onto the Everglades," he said. "It doesn't get us toward a strategy to restoring the hydrology in the Everglades."

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Wastewater Discharge Rules Evolving to Protect Watersheds
WaterWorld.com - by Dave Clark
January 17, 2011
Wastewater managers face an increasing array of regulatory requirements stemming from the Clean Water Act. Increased emphasis on compliance accountability and enforcement has escalated scrutiny of monitoring, operations, and facility performance. Regulatory requirements for wastewater treatment continue to evolve with increasing emphasis on nutrient control, potentially more restrictive federal ammonia criteria, and calls for development of water quality criteria for endocrine disrupting chemicals.
Excessive nitrogen and phosphorus loadings to watersheds impact water quality by stimulating the growth of algae which may result in depletion of dissolved oxygen, shifts in pH, degradation of habitat, impairment of drinking water sources, and in some cases harmful algal blooms. According to the EPA, nearly every state has nutrient related pollution with impacts in over 80 estuaries/bays, and thousands of rivers, streams, and lakes. The national discussion of nutrient impacts on water quality continues to evolve with high visibility water bodies such as the Chesapeake Bay, Long Island Sound, Gulf of Mexico, and Puget Sound receiving attention.
Development of nutrient standards is underway in several key states. Bridging the gap between what may be required by in-stream nutrient criteria and the capabilities of wastewater treatment technology is an issue arising in the standards development process. A variety of approaches are being considered, including compliance schedules, site specific criteria, water quality variances, and a new approach introduced by EPA in Florida called restoration standards.
Florida
On January 26, 2010, EPA proposed water quality criteria for lakes and flowing waters in the state of Florida. The proposed nutrient standards became final on Nov. 14, 2010, for four water body types: lakes, streams, springs and clear streams, and canals in south Florida. Implementation of numeric nutrient criteria for lakes and flowing waters will not take effect for 15 months to allow EPA, the state and stakeholders to prepare for implementation.
EPA's proposed Florida nutrient criteria included a section called "Alternative Regulatory Approaches and Implementation Mechanisms" that presents a discussion of several tools for implementing nutrient control requirements. A procedure for deriving federal site-specific alternative criteria (SSACs) was included to account for where site-specific data suggests the need for refinements to the federal criteria. EPA also introduced a new tool called Restoration Standards, which appears similar in some characteristics to a water quality variance in that full compliance can be extended by phasing for eventual attainment of water quality standards. EPA has framed Restoration Standards to consider a broad range of watershed management issues, including nonpoint source controls, and innovative and flexible approaches.
EPA's original proposal included nutrient criteria for both in-stream protection values, as well as downstream protection values for lakes and estuaries. Downstream protection values were deferred to allow for review by EPA's Science Advisory Board. EPA plans to publish proposed nutrient criteria for estuaries and coastal waters by November 2011 and finalize the criteria by August 2012.
Comparison of EPA's Draft 2009 Ammonia Criteria vs 1999

Ammonia Nitrogen
EPA has recently published revised federal ammonia criteria for public comment that may result in more restrictive effluent limits for many wastewater dischargers if implemented by states as standards. The comment period for EPA's "Draft 2009 Update Aquatic Life Ambient Water Quality Criteria for Ammonia - Freshwater" ended on April 1, 2010. The revised criteria are significant because they reflect the greater sensitivity of freshwater mussels to potential toxic effects of ammonia than other aquatic organisms and may result in more restrictive effluent discharge limits. EPA is not revising water quality criteria for ammonia in saltwater.
The acute and chronic ammonia criteria vary with temperature and pH and Table 1 presents a summary comparison of the Draft 2009 criteria with the current 1999 criteria at a pH 8 and temperature of 25 degrees C. The Draft 2009 acute criteria are lower than the current criteria when freshwater mussels are present. For the chronic criteria, which is the controlling condition for many discharge permits, the Draft 2009 criteria are much lower than existing when mussels are present.
States must adopt water quality criteria that protect designated uses that may be based on EPA's recommended water quality criteria or other scientifically defensible methods. Wastewater dischargers can review the potential impact of the Draft 2009 ammonia criteria on their future effluent discharge limits by repeating the reasonable potential calculations in their last discharge permit using EPA's newly proposed criteria. The key determination is whether or not mussels are present. This may be a difficult question to answer given current information.
According to EPA, many states have freshwater mussels in at least some of their waters. Further, approximately one-quarter of freshwater unionid mussel species are Federally listed as endangered, threatened, or are of special concern. However, there is no readily available resource to identify the presence of freshwater mussels or their habitat.
EPA had hoped to publish final ammonia criteria in late 2010, along with a draft of implementation guidance to clarify how the criteria are to be interpreted.
Priority Pollutants
Beyond current requirements to reduce nutrient loadings and control potential ammonia toxicity, wastewater utilities face increasing scrutiny of surface water discharges for compounds that are not commonly the basis for municipal treatment process design. Interesting efforts are underway to monitor persistent priority pollutants and there are calls for water quality criteria to be developed for endocrine disrupting chemicals.
EDCs are widespread environmental contaminants that have several classes and those EDCs that imitate estrogen are of specific concern. EDCs affect reproduction, fertility, and gonad morphological changes. EDCs may include pesticides, polychlorinated biphenyl (PCBs), solvents, metals, and pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PCPPs). Potential EDC sources are widespread and include agricultural and urban runoff, treated wastewater effluent discharges, legacy contamination, and other sources.
Oregon DEQ List of Priority Persistent Pollutants
Research Program Examines Nutrient Challenges
The Water Environment Research Foundation Nutrient Challenge is a multi-year collaborative research initiative established in 2007 to develop and provide current information about wastewater treatment nutrients (specifically nitrogen and phosphorus in wastewater), their characteristics, and bioavailability in aquatic environments to help regulators make informed decisions. Researchers also hope to develop data on nutrient removal performance to help treatment facility operators select sustainable, cost-effective methods and technologies to meet permit limits.
To meet these goals, the researchers have teamed with a wide array of utilities, agencies, consultants, universities and other researchers and practitioners to collaborate on projects that advance these goals. Using a strategic approach to leverage resources (financial and intellectual) on research projects, the nutrient challenge initiative is targeting existing projects and research that correspond with its goals and funding those aspects that are identified as a priority.
The nutrient challenge program is both presenting important new information and soliciting new partnerships through workshops, webinars, a web portal and online compendium, published papers, and conference lectures.
Challenge research is focused on five key areas, each interlinked and building upon the others:
Regulatory issues
Nitrogen research
Phosphorus research
Design and Modeling
O&M
Current research efforts and key findings such as the Nutrient Management Compendium, an online resource that summarizes key regulatory and technological issues, are available at www.werf.org/nutrients.
One of the key WERF Nutrient Challenge studies currently underway is titled "Finding the Balance Between Wastewater Treatment Nutrient Removal and Sustainability, Considering Capital and Operating Costs, Energy, Air and Water Quality." This investigation will determine the cost and sustainability impacts at various levels of treatment. An important objective is to determine if there is a point of "diminishing returns" where the sustainability impacts of increased levels of nutrient removal outweigh the benefits of better water quality.
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Florida's history filled with dreams, mistakes
Orlando Sentinel
January 16, 2011
At his recent inaugural address, Gov. Rick Scott spoke of the urgent need to make Florida a welcoming place for business.
"Let's tell the world," he said, "If you can dream it, it's easy to make it happen in Florida. Why not?
"After all, we have always been the destination for dreamers. The place where someone with a big new idea could give it a try."
Truer words have seldom been spoken, and they usually are spoken by people who don't appreciate just how easy it's been to dream in Florida.
Hamilton Disston's dream in the late 19th century was to drain the Kissimmee River flood plain, channel water out of Lake Okeechobee and ultimately dry up the Florida Everglades. Drain the Everglades and -- voila! -- millions of new acres to farm and homestead.
Disston ultimately failed, but he laid the groundwork for dreamers like Henry Flagler and Napoleon Broward, who were similarly determined to conquer Florida's hostile environment.
Florida's history explodes with other dreamers who grew sugar and built houses. Dreamers like the Mackle brothers, whose massive residential developments -- notably, Deltona -- often became planning messes that government was forced to untangle, at considerable taxpayer expense.
In Florida's largely unregulated business environment, dreamers turned lakes into dead zones. Forests into moonscapes. Sand dunes into concrete walls. And they got very rich doing it because it was easy to make it happen in Florida.
Government at times could be as guilty as the private sector. A line of Democratic presidents dreaming of economic prosperity tried to build a ditch bisecting the state -- the Cross Florida Barge Canal -- until a Republican president, Richard Nixon, finally was persuaded to put a halt to it in 1971.
The passage of time should temper our distaste for Disston, Flagler and the Mackles. They were men of their age, people who couldn't foresee or understand the long-term consequences of their actions. Maybe they wouldn't have cared even if they had known, so long as there was money to be made.
Florida started waking up, passing laws and regulations to protect its resources, its people and its quality of life.
In 1985, the Legislature approved a flawed but groundbreaking growth-management law that put new planning oversight into the hands of the state Department of Community Affairs. The same DCA that's now the poster-child for regulatory abuse, and may not survive in its current form.
This is, of course, the DCA that was around when Florida was adding a million or more units to its housing inventory each decade since 1980, according to the U.S. Census. The DCA also was in charge of growth planning while Florida's population rose by 3 million people in the 1980s, 3 million in the 1990s and 3 million in the 2000s.
It's as if every man, woman and child in the state of New Jersey had packed up and moved to Florida since 1980, all under DCA's watch and under what's now viewed as a punitive regulatory environment.
Rick Scott has the wind at his back, having chased off Florida's top growth planner at DCA, Tom Pelham. Pelham noted before leaving that his agency had approved plans for another 1 million homes around the state and another 3 billion square feet of commercial construction.
He was replaced by Panhandle development company executive Billy Buzzett, who, Scott announced, was hired to focus "on helping me make government smaller, less intrusive and consistent with efforts to increase investments in Florida and spur job creation."
These are good goals. It's naïve to think that DCA and other government agencies can't get too big for their britches. That's different from abandoning the idea of a robust state role in managing growth, which a contributor to these pages recently likened to "Soviet-style regulation."
Scott's a relative newcomer to Florida, having lived here only a few years before deciding to run for governor. It's possible he hasn't had the opportunity to bone up on Florida history. I'd recommend he start with "The Swamp," a terrific book by former Washington Post reporter Michael Grunwald that recounts the environmental, business and political history of the Everglades.
It's an excellent primer on how dreams can become nightmares if no one's paying attention.
Mike Lafferty can be reached at 407-420-5406 or mlafferty@orlandosentinel.com.

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Biofuel crops proposed for South Florida land targeted for water storage, environmental restoration
Sun Sentinel - by Andy Reid
January 15, 2011
Instead of planting more sugar cane and citrus, biofuel farming could spread to South Florida land set aside for future water management and environmental restoration.
The South Florida Water Management District has more than 200,000 acres purchased for Everglades restoration projects. Much of that taxpayer-owned land gets leased to agricultural operations until work begins on reservoirs, stormwater treatment areas and other restoration projects.
With many Everglades-restoration projects long behind schedule, leasing out the land enables the district to pass along maintenance costs and generate revenue. Active farming of the property also helps avoid exotic plants from spreading to property targeted for future water management or environmental enhancements.
Wednesday, district officials agreed to explore allowing biofuel farming on some of its land as a way to use the agency's property to grow drought-tolerant crops that help fuel alternative energies.
The proposal calls for starting with 4,000 acres of diseased citrus groves in St. Lucie and Martin counties. If successful, that could spread to other parts of the district's vast land inventory.
"We would have a green industry [using] little or no fertilizer," said Ruth Clements, district real estate director.
Environmental groups supported the concept of encouraging crops less dependent on water and polluting fertilizers than what normally gets planted in South Florida. But they also warned against allowing the biofuel operations to grow into something that may not fit in with environmental restoration.
For example, representatives from Audubon of Florida and the Sierra Club this month both opposed a biofuel processing plant proposed to serve a farm growing biofuel crops near neighborhoods west of Delray Beach.
Whether it's biofuel or more traditional agriculture on district land, the agency needs to limit the use of pesticides and fertilizer, as well as processing activities, according to Audubon and the Sierra Club.
"We would hate for this to become another pollution source on district land [that] would have to be cleaned up in the future," said Jane Graham, of Audubon of Florida.
The district proposal calls for growing plants that get crushed and turned into oil or burned as "biomass" to produce energy.
The plants could include "feedstock" such as camelina, crushed to produce oil; and kenaf, a woody plant that can be used to produce fuel burned at energy plants.
Federal grants, intended to encourage alternative energies, could help pay for the biofuel farming proposed on district land. The federal government is exploring camelina as a more environmentally-friendly source of jet fuel
The "cover crops" suggested for district land don't require phosphorus-based fertilizers and need little if any irrigation, according to the district.
"This is farming," said Bill Vasden Jr., whose farming company, USCJO, proposed allowing the biofuel crops on district lands. "It's exciting stuff with a big future."
District officials Wednesday agreed to explore allowing biofuel crops on agency land. The first step would be soliciting bids from biofuel companies, as well as other agricultural operations, interested in leasing the 4,000 acres suggested for biofuel crops.
The work would include clearing diseased citrus trees from the district lands and then planting the biofuel crops. The district estimates it would cost about $900,000 to clear the trees and remove irrigation lines on the 4,000 acres.
District board member Jerry Montgomery said he liked the idea of the water management district being "advocates for renewable energies."
"Try something that is in the infancy stage," Montgomery said.
Palm Beach County commissioners this month rejected a biofuel plant that residents worried would bring truck traffic, fumes and other industrial activities too close to their neighborhoods.
Ag-Oil LLC proposed building the biofuel facility, which the company contends would have converted jatropha plants into a cleaner-burning alternative to diesel fuel.
Ag-Oil for two years has been growing the small jatropha trees on a 70-acre farm in Palm Beach County's Agricultural Reserve, 21,000 acres of prime farmland west of Delray Beach.
The process for turning jatropha into the fuel involves crushing and squeezing the seeds from jatropha plants to produce a yellowish oil — similar to vegetable oil. Plans for the biofuel plant called for generating 15 million gallons of jatropha-based oil a year.
Environmentalists opposed the jatropha plant, saying the processing facility didn't fit in with agricultural operations envisioned for county land set aside for farming.
While a biofuel crop on district land "could be a very good thing," the agency needs to make sure that kind of use doesn't lead to the processing and other proposed activities that raised concerns in Palm Beach County, said Rosa Durando, a long-time environmental advocate and South Florida water watchdog.
"That is what is critical, how you handle what you grow," Durando told district officials.
Andy Reid can be reached at abreid@SunSentinel.com or 561-228-5504.

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Everglades Boosters: Environmental Restoration Can Spur Economy, Bipartisanship
Politics Daily – by Amy Green
January 15, 2011
WESTON, Fla. -- During the worst recession in a generation, we can't afford to engage in environmental restoration. Or can we ?
Tying environmental restoration to economic recovery is the emerging strategy for environmentalists as political turnover transforms government away from Democratic control, big spending and earmarks. That was the theme recently at the annual conference of the Everglades Coalition, an alliance of 53 national and local organizations involved in the largest environmental restoration effort in the history of the planet.
The conference draws policy-makers from all levels of government, along with scientists, educators, students, journalists and the general public, all focused on the Everglades. Keynote speakers this year included Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and Florida's Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson. They and other speakers described the political shift from blue to red as like nothing in recent memory. They also talked about a new study by Mather Economics, which found that a $13 billion restoration plan authorized by President Clinton in 2000 will generate more than $46 billion in benefits for 16 South Florida counties over 50 years, and create more than 443,000 jobs.
The study, commissioned by the Everglades Foundation, cited benefits such as water supply protection, enhanced real estate values and better tourism and recreation. The Everglades, an 11,000-square-mile region stretching from Central Florida to the state's southern tip, supports dozens of federally threatened and endangered species, includes at least 1,400 square miles of farmland, and generates some 200 million gallons of drinking water daily.
"It's also about the long-term economic health of South Florida and the jobs that come along" with restoration, Salazar told conference attendees. "As we move forward with the Everglades and restoration efforts and other conservation efforts all around this country, let's always remind those who care about our mission that it is inextricably linked to the economic health of our nation."
The other emphasis at the conference was bipartisan collaboration, which will be important as Republicans now have control of the House and the Florida governorship, cabinet and legislature. Former Gov. Charlie Crist, a moderate Republican-turned-independent, considers a $197 million deal purchasing 27,000 critical acres from U.S. Sugar Corp. among his administration's greatest achievements. But his successor, Republican Rick Scott, has shown less support for such acquisitions. Scott, sworn in last week, missed the conference, the first governor to do so since 1987. Florida, like many states, faces a budget shortfall.
"You ought to be duly concerned with this new era of politics that we're in," Sen. Nelson, a fifth-generation Floridian who has shown strong support for environmental issues, told conference attendees. "It's true some earmarks have been abused. But I can tell you that although I will eschew most earmarks, I will not deny myself the constitutional responsibility to represent my country and my state to the best of my ability, and when that means recommending and requiring appropriation for major projects like Everglades restoration, I will continue to do so."
Salazar also acknowledged the political turnover but exuberantly announced an Obama administration plan for a new national wildlife refuge and conservation area south of Orlando in the Kissimmee River Valley, near the Everglades' headwaters. Still in its infancy, the plan would set aside some 50,000 acres through government purchase, and another 100,000 acres through conservation easements and cooperative agreements, keeping the land in private hands.
The plan expands restoration in central Florida, where cattle ranchers, farmers and sprawling Orlando (with its theme parks) have been problematic. A century ago the Kissimmee River carried water from Orlando to Lake Okeechobee, which dispersed the water through the Everglades to Florida Bay. Since then the historic river of grass has shrunk by half, drained for agriculture and development. Salazar reminded conference attendees that Everglades restoration is a model for wetlands restoration worldwide.
Attendees said they were not bothered by the new governor's absence -- he'd been on the job only a few days, they said. Instead they were enthused about a speech by Adam Putnam, the new Republican commissioner of Florida's Department of Agriculture and Consumer Affairs. Putnam promised to bridge any gap between environmentalists and agricultural interests, two groups that have feuded in the past.
Malia Hale, a lobbyist in Washington for the National Wildlife Federation, said the political turnover will require education for members of Congress unfamiliar with the Everglades and the region's complex history. Citing the "new ideology with a lot of these tea party members," she said the NWF needs "to help educate them so they don't think of the Everglades . . . as just more money being spent."

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Reclaimed water use a concern
News-Press.com – by Stephen Brown
January 15, 2011
I have not been able to obtain a detailed answer on whether it is safe to irrigate vegetable gardens with city of Cape Coral reuse water. I have found various differing information on the subject. (1) Reuse should never be used for edible plants; (2) reuse should only be used if applied directly to the soil; (3) reuse should only be used on vegetables that will be cooked; (4) reuse should not be used for leafy vegetables where the part of the plant being irrigated will be consumed raw; (5) reuse is fine for vegetables. Any information you might have would be very much appreciated.
- Roger, Cape Coral
Reuse or reclaimed water is a vital part of Florida's water conservation efforts. Its uses enable us to recycle and reuse water for non-potable purposes.
A concern of reuse water is its effect on the health of humans. Compared to drinking water, reuse water sometimes has higher levels of salts, nutrients, pathogens and organic contaminants. However, the EPA has stringent guidelines for biological, physical and chemical particles that could possibly be found in reuse water and that could impede human health.
Municipalities using reuse water have the highest standard of safety, but there are some precautions. According to EPA guidelines for reclaimed water use for agricultural crops, direct irrigation contact with reclaimed water of edible crops that will not be peeled, skinned, cooked or thermally processed before consumption is not allowed.
Indirect application methods that preclude direct contact with the reclaimed water can be used for irrigation of any edible crop. However, be sure that all crops are thoroughly washed before consumption.
Ironically, the item of most concern in reuse water is related to the health of ornamental plants and not humans. High concentrations of total soluble salts in irrigation water can harm plants. I do not know of a case where this has been found true of reuse municipal water in Lee County.
Contact me again in about three months. At that time I believe there will be several new fact sheets from the University of Florida IFAS on the subject.
We are full-time residents for the past 18 years outside of LaBelle and seek your advice as to what we can plant that will survive LaBelle's winters. We would prefer bloomers if possible, having seen our bougainvillea, hibiscus and similar plants not survive the many winter kills in these 18 years.
- Neville, Labelle
The climate and winter temperatures in LaBelle and most inland areas of south Florida are significantly different from coastal south Florida. Consequently, the inland areas often require different plants for those locations.
However, plant availability, like clothing, follows a fashion that may discard plants perfectly suitable for particular localities. The current trend in plant sales seems to prefer plants more suited for warmer coastal areas and not for inland climes. Here are a few flowering plants worth considering for your area.
Again, availability may be the deciding factor.
Try African iris; azalea; cape (not crape) jasmine; confederate jasmine; coral vine; Crinum asiaticum; Dombeya "Seminole;" dwarf poinciana; gardenia; loropetalum; Mexican sage; necklace pod; oleander; purple crinum; spider lily.
Some of the recommended plants are shrubs, others are bulbs or vines.
Attached are photos of damage to the base of a key lime that was planted one year ago. Any thoughts on what caused the damage? While it is still young, would you suggest replacing the tree before we have much more invested in time?
- Ira, Sanibel
The problem is Phytophthora foot rot. The opportunistic fungus probably entered the tree from a mechanical wound perhaps caused by a weed whacker.
The Phytophthora lesion has healed, but the tree has already lost half of its bark. Its life is most likely compromised and it may not have long for this world. Further, its performance won't be good. If the tree has yellow vein chlorosis, it is better to remove it.
Additionally, the tree should have been planted deeper. There should be no exposed roots of the type shown. They can be covered with soil.
- Stephen Brown is a horticulture agent with the LeeCounty Extension Service. Submit questions by calling the horticulture desk at 533-7504 between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. or by e-mailing brownsh@leegov.com. Visit his Web page at http://lee.ifas.ufl.edu/hort/GardenHome.shtml.

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Snake breeders bitten by new laws
NY Times - The Sydney Morning Herald – by Leslie Kaufman
January 15, 2011
NEW YORK: Until recently, Jeremy Stone lived happily in Lindon, Utah, with his wife and four children, and an annexe full of baby ball pythons and boa constrictors.
The Stone family shares a passion for slithering pets. Mr Stone's son Zach got his first boa, a specially bred variety that glows yellowish orange, at the age of six as a reward for doing his summer chores.
But like many snake lovers, Mr Stone has been seething at the US government since early last year, when it sought to ban the importation and interstate transportation of nine species of foreign snakes. The federal Fish and Wildlife Service said the animals, if freed, posed a serious risk to native ecosystems across the southern United States.
"It is a joke," Mr Stone said of the science behind the government's decision.
Mr Stone makes his living breeding snakes with genetic mutations, such as albinism, that make them attractive to buyers. His animals, raised in captivity, pose no threat, he said. They would be picked off in an instant in the wild and would have no idea how to fend for themselves. And if they escaped from their warm annexe in Lindon, he added, they would die from the cold.
When the Fish and Wildlife Service moved to ban trade in the snakes, which include boas and species of anacondas and pythons, it argued that they met the legal criteria for being both injurious and invasive. Invasive species are a serious environmental concern, one that is often not dealt with until a species has become established. The Fish and Wildlife Service argues that in the case of the snakes, it is trying to get ahead of the problem.
But it is the first time the government has tried to list animals so widely held as pets. About 1 million Americans are believed to own snakes of the types listed by the Interior Department, according to the United States Association of Reptile Keepers. Trade in these species is big business: more than $US100 million annually. Those with rare colours can fetch more than $US75,000 each.
"This has implications for every animal interest out there, right down to family pets," said Andrew Wyatt, the president of the association, adding that by such standards, "all amphibians are injurious and cats and dogs can't be far behind".
The battle goes back to 2006, when the South Florida Water Management District petitioned the Fish and Wildlife Service to list the snakes under the Lacey Act, which would make it a crime to transport them into the United States or across state borders.
Burmese pythons - some thought to be dumped by pet owners and some that escaped - were establishing themselves across the Everglades, where they were swallowing up everything from endangered Key Largo wood rats to alligators.
Independent studies of snakes captured in the Everglades and taken north to Gainesville, Florida, and South Carolina found that most of the animals died when left outside in winter. The studies have fired up the snake industry, which sees them as proof that the government is pursuing a hostile agenda.
But Thomas Strickland, assistant secretary for fish and wildlife and parks, said that the government was not going to back down. The science was solid, Mr Strickland said.
Like other invasive species, snakes were a real and growing problem, he said. "You are not dealing with hamsters here. I was down in the Everglades, and it took four people to hold a 19-foot [5.8-metre] Burmese python. These things wreak havoc."

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Feds make splash on Everglades restoration
The Orlando Sentinel
January 14, 2011
The Obama administration’s looking to improve on the federal government’s awful record restoring the Everglades, proposing a $700 million program to protect 150,000 acres north of Lake Okeechobee, now producing runoff that flows south to the River of Grass.
The federal government would buy 50,000 acres for a refuge roughly in the Kissimmee River Valley. Another 100,000 acres there, much of it ranch land, would be conserved but remain in private hands, possibly with some Florida funding.
It’s refreshing to see the feds make a splash: Despite an agreement in 2000 to split the restoration costs with Florida, the state’s contribution has far outpaced Washington’s.
Still, it’s premature to fully embrace or to get too excited about the administration’s effort. Its impact on the Everglades isn’t clear, partly because the land buys’ exact locations aren’t known. And the Rick Scott administration in Tallahassee, and the cash-poor Legislature, might not help fund it.
The proposal’s intriguing, however. And, as its details become known, it deserves the full consideration of Florida’s policy makers.

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Florida Fertilizer Agrichemical Association ponders joining suit to block EPA water quality rules
The Florida Independent - by Virginia Chamlee
January 14, 2011
Add the Florida Fertilizer and Agrichemical Association to the growing list of groups attacking the EPA’s implementation of a strict set of standards that would govern pollution in Florida waterways.
During the association’s winter meeting in St. Petersburg this week, President Mary Hartney expressed interest in filing suit against the EPA over the nutrient standards: ”For us, it’s all about water quality. … We have a recommendation coming forward to our Board of Directors today to join in to the lawsuit against EPA on its’ implementation of numeric nutrient criteria in Florida. So it’s water, water, water.”
Saying that the  issue was “absolutely” one that crosses the board, Hartney said that her group was grateful to the state of Florida, Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam and Attorney General Pam Bondi for acting as “leaders in the effort” to fight water quality rules. Putnam and Bondi took part in filing suit over the standards in early December.
Others filing similar suits include city municipalities and utility companies, all of which argue they would be hit with high costs in adhering to guidelines that are much stricter than the current rules — but, many would argue, much more effective.
“I wish it was over with today,” said Hartney, when asked about her ideal timeline in filing suit against the EPA. “It was an activist lawsuit that got us into this mess, unfortunately. It’s a lawsuit that’ll, hopefully, get us out of it.”
Hartney also mentioned that her group was supportive of a bill concerning numeric nutrient criteria, currently being written by state Rep. Trudi Williams, R-Fort Myers.

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Massive Spraying Of Lake Kissimmee Harms Lake, Wildlife, People
The Ledger.com – a Letter
January 14, 2011
Shortly after moving to the south end of Lake Kissimmee around the Grape Hammock area, I and other family members developed flu like symptoms that lasted a week or more. After our second visit to the doctor's office we were told that we had allergies. I had never been allergic to anything.
I finally realized that almost every time the south end of Lake Kissimmee was sprayed either by aerial (the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission) or broadcast spraying by airboats (the South Florida Water Management District), the same flu like symptoms occurred. Other residents in the area experience the same symptoms.
The same spraying is killing Lake Kissimmee. After either agency sprays the lake, the dead vegetation settles to the bottom and, after some time, it will surface as a mud bog. Then it germinates into a floating island, which is impassable to any boat traffic, even air boats.
When these aerial-spraying and broadcast-spraying methods are used, all the wildlife is also sprayed. This includes rails, coots, snail eggs, egrets, herons, limpkins, purple gallinules, bitterns, and all fish and reptiles, some of which are protected.
The south end of Lake Kissimmee is now about one-third covered with floating islands in the lily pad areas. Anyone can view this area from the State Road 60 bridge that goes over the Kissimmee River. When these floating islands are moved by wind or wave action, it will create a sterile area to both fish and bird life.
In 1995 and 1996 the Florida taxpayer paid millions for the drawdown and cleanup of Lake Kissimmee. The lake was clean and kept free of the remaining floating islands. The spraying programs never stopped, and now the lake is again covered with the effects of the aerial and broadcast spraying.
Looking for something to cut out of the Florida budget? No more spraying -- stop killing Lake Kissimmee.

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Big Sugar land dispute raises questions about lease deal
Sun Sentinel - by Andy Reid
January 13, 2011
Florida Crystals gets lease rate lower than competitor U.S. Sugar to farm restoration land
The price of a lease deal allowing sugar giant Florida Crystals to keep farming taxpayer land pegged for Everglades restoration drew criticism from environmentalists and state officials alike Thursday.
The lease extension that the South Florida Water Management District approved allows Florida Crystals to pay about $61 an acre to keep raising sugar cane on a total of 1,713 acres in western Palm Beach County.
But that's less than half the $150-per-acre lease rate for sugar cane land that the district in October approved in a separate land deal with Florida Crystals' competitor U.S. Sugar Corp.
Florida Crystals waged a two-year legal battle trying to stop U.S. Sugar's land deal with the district, arguing among other things that the proposed $150-per-acre lease rate for the sugar cane land was too low.
Then on Thursday, the district approved a $61-per-acre deal for Florida Crystals to use taxpayer-owned sugar cane land.
"I'm embarrassed," district board member Jerry Montgomery said about the lease deal approved Thursday. "We as an agency look foolish."
U.S. Sugar took a jab at its sugar-producing rival saying it would have paid more to lease the 1,713 acres west of U.S. 27.
"Why are they getting a sweetheart deal ?"  U.S. Sugar Senior Vice President Robert Coker asked, emphasizing the "sweetheart" reference that opponents of U.S. Sugar's deal used. "In these economic times, I would think the water management district would want to get the highest possible value for those acres."
Audubon of Florida called for the district to try to get competing offers.
"The district really should be vigilant to be sure it's getting a fair [deal] for leases like this," said Jane Graham of Audubon.
Florida Crystals defended its lease rate as a continuation of a deal that has long been in place for land not as valuable as the property U.S. Sugar will be leasing.
Part of the reason the lease costs less is because the land produces less sugar cane than the U.S. Sugar land, Florida Crystals Vice President Gaston Cantens said.
Cantens pointed out that U.S. Sugar and other growers used to pay the same rate to farm other nearby district land.
"The whole thing is an absolute joke," Cantens said about U.S. Sugar's opposition to the lease deal approved Thursday. "They are trying to sling mud at us."
The Big Sugar lease dispute comes after the district in October sealed a $197 million deal, two years in the making, to buy 26,800 acres from U.S. Sugar for Everglades restoration.

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Former Ag. Commissioner Bronson: EPA water standards a ‘bureaucratic nightmare’
The Florida Independent - by Virginia Chamlee
January 13, 2011
Former Commissioner of Agriculture Charles Bronson labeled new EPA rules that limit the amount of waste allowed to be dumped in Florida’s waterways a “bureaucratic nightmare” during a conference held at the American Farm Bureau Federation’s annual meeting.
Bronson was joined by Bryan Shaw, chairman of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, to speak on what the Farm Bureau labeled a “power grab” by the EPA. According to a press release detailing the conference, Shaw said that the EPA is “trying to be very creative, making their own rules.” Bronson spoke specifically about the EPA’s numeric nutrient criteria, which would govern state waterways currently inundated with problems brought on by pollution from excessive waste.
From the press release:
According to Bronson, the new package of regulations has never been peer reviewed. More importantly, the regulations will inflict a massive burden upon the state’s citizens. “Even a clear underground stream will not meet the standard(s),” he said. “We believe that it will cost agriculture $4 billion to $10 billion a year to meet the standards.”
The Farm Bureau’s criticism of the EPA is not its first foray into a controversial issue. On Jan. 7, a group of more than 40 scientists requested a meeting with the group’s president, Bob Stallman, to discuss his stance on climate change.
The bureau has long maintained that there is “no generally agreed upon scientific assessment on … carbon emissions from human activities, their impact on past decades of warming, or how they will affect future climate changes.” In a letter to Stallman, several scientists voiced their concerns about climate change, writing that “human activities are the primary driver” and “contrary assertions are inconsistent with an objective assessment of the vast body of peer-reviewed science.”
The EPA’s nutrient criteria, meanwhile, have been lauded by environmentalists and challenged in court. Bronson joined current Agricultural Commissioner Adam Putnam, along with former Attorney General Bill McCollum and his replacement, Pam Bondi, in filing suit against the EPA in early December. Several similar complaints have followed. On Wednesday, representatives from Pinellas County announced that they would soon be filing suit against the EPA, also in an effort to soften the standards.

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Saving the river of grass
bhamweekly.com
January 13, 2011
At their 26th annual conference, “Renewal of Life for the Everglades: Moving Forward Together,” the Everglades Coalition announced their goals for continued conservation efforts in 2011. The coalition will continue to focus on receiving adequate state and federal funding to maintain the Everglades restoration project, acquire new land to connect wildlife habitats and ensure that water standards are implemented in a timely and correct manner, a Coalition news release states. According to Julie Hill-Gabriel of the Coalition, “Over the past year, we saw unprecedented progress on Everglades restoration and the creation of hundreds of construction jobs in Florida.” Unfortunately, the continued threat of global climate change makes conservation efforts increasingly urgent. According to Malia Hale of the National Wildlife Federation, “Increased stress from climate change adds urgency to Everglades restoration. To sustain the impacts of climate change—rising sea levels, increased storm intensity, saltwater inundation, to name just a few—we must restore the ecosystem’s natural resiliency.” Fortunately, real progress has been made in the Everglades, now more protected and appreciated for the efforts of people like those in the Everglades coalition. According to Manley Fuller of the Florida Wildlife Federation, “Everglades restoration benefits people through enhancing Florida’s resource-based economy and providing places to enjoy nature.” The Everglades Coalition Conference is the largest annual forum for Everglades conservation and restoration, bringing together the Coalition’s 53 allied organizations with local, state and federal agencies. For information, visit www.evergladescoalition.org/ conference.htm.

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St. Johns River in the state spotlight, Waterways ready to assist St. Johns River Caucus
JAX Daily Record - by Joe Wilhelm Jr., Staff Writer
January 13, 2011
Those hoping to see the St. Johns River receive the same level of attention as the Florida Everglades were encouraged when State Sen. John Thrasher convened the St. Johns River Caucus Tuesday.
The Jacksonville Waterways Commission, which met Wednesday, is ready to help at the local level.
 “It’s a great step for the St. Johns River,” said John Crescimbeni, chair of the commission. “I commend Senator Thrasher for latching onto the St. Johns River and making it an issue.”
The commission was formed in 1984 to study and make recommendations to the City Council with respect to the improvement, development and protection of the St. Johns River and all tidal waters in Duval County.
Thrasher pledged to gather politicians who represented areas along the St. Johns River for a St. Johns River Caucus to discuss ways to find funding for research and cleanup and also develop a vision for the preservation of one of 14 American Heritage Rivers in the United States.
Mark Middlebrook, executive director of the St. Johns River Alliance, reported to the commission that the first meeting of the caucus was organizational, but significant for the St. Johns River.
“Senator Thrasher has stepped up in an effort to put the St. Johns River on the same plane as the Everglades,” said Middlebrook.
 “About 52 potential members, who were a mixture of senators and representatives, from areas along the main stem of the river attended the meeting. (Tuesday) was a significant day for the St. Johns River,” he said.
St. Johns Riverkeeper Neil Armingeon was pleased with what he witnessed in Tallahassee.
 “Any time you get a group of people talking about the river, it’s a good thing,” said Armingeon. “He (Thrasher) is interested and wants to set up a forum to talk about solutions for the problems facing the river.”
The progress report was well received, but the commission wanted to know how it could contribute to the effort.
The simple answer was to look for opportunities to support the members of the caucus.
 “Senator (Evelyn) Lynn mentioned that she has a bill pending in the Senate that would put a surcharge on a bottle of water and one of the things she suggested was that the surcharge could be put into a fund to do something for the St. Johns River,” said Middlebrook.
 “I would encourage the waterways commission, if that bill goes forward, to encourage her and that piece of legislation,” he said.
SB 78 is titled “Environmental Surcharge on Bottled Water” and it proposes to establish “a surcharge on bottled water sold at retail in this state. Requires that moneys collected from the surcharge be deposited into the Ecosystem Management and Restoration Trust Fund.”

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Water district rents land to Florida Crystals; rival says deal shortchanges taxpayers
Palm Beach Post - by Ana M. Valdes, Staff Writer
January 13, 2011
Florida Crystals Corp. will be able to lease about 1,700 acres of sugar cane land in the Everglades for $61 per acre, two years after it blasted one of its rivals in the sugar industry for trying to lease land at a similar rate.
Board members of the South Florida Water Management District, which owns the land, approved the lease renewal at its meeting today in Clewiston, although several members questioned whether the rate was too low.
Florida Crystals two years ago criticized its rival, Clewiston-based U.S. Sugar, when it attempted to lease land from the district for $50 an acre. Eventually, the rate was raised to $150 per acre for 9,000 acres, a rate which U.S. Sugar currently pays to rent district for land for cultivation. By paying $61 per acre, Florida Crystals is depriving taxpayers of more than $1.2 million over the term of the lease, Judy Sanchez, spokeswoman for U.S. Sugar, said.
Florida Crystals rejected that assessment.
"It's so disingenuous of (U.S. Sugar) to take a shot at these leases when they had the exact same lease," said Gaston Cantens, spokesperson for Florida Crystals, referring to an agreement between the district and sugar companies in 1999 that allowed the companies to lease land. "They need to focus on running their business and producing sugar, and quit taking shots at people," Cantens said.
U.S. Sugar sold nearly 27,000 acres south and east of Lake Okeechobee to the water management district for $197 million in October, as part of a project to filter water for Everglades restoration. The company has leased back some of that land for now, at the $150 rate, until the restoration project takes shape.
"It is clear that Florida Crystals' political theatrics were only intended to thwart the River of Grass transaction, and their renewal of these leases today at one-third of fair market value demonstrates their lack of commitment to partnering with the state and South Florida Water Management District in furthering restoration," Sanchez said.
Sanchez said U.S. Sugar became aware of Florida Crystal's lease renewal on Wednesday and issued a statement saying it was willing to pay $150 per acre for two separate cane land leases with the district.
A couple of U.S. Sugar representatives spoke to a few board members and staff at the water management district about the $150-per-acre offer, but the company was not able to send representatives to the meeting or provide a written offer, Sanchez added.

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Arthur R. Marshall Foundation's sixth annual 'River of Grass Gala'
Sun Sentinel
January 12, 2011
Nancy Marshall, president of the Arthur R. Marshall Foundation, which champions the restoration and preservation of the greater Everglades ecosystem, recently welcomed more than 200 community leaders and eco-fans at the nonprofit organization's sixth annual "River of Grass Gala."
The highlight of the evening was the presentation of the third annual Champion of the Everglades Awards to U.S. Senator Bill Nelson, community and environmental activist Bobbi Horwich, and the Community Foundation for Palm Beach and Martin Counties.
"The Marshall Foundation is proud to spotlight individuals and organizations that have made an outstanding contribution toward Everglades restoration over many years," said Nancy Marshall. "Individually, each of our three Champions of the Everglades continue to inspire us for their extraordinary efforts on behalf of the 'river of grass.' But collectively, they have been instrumental in forging both popular and governmental support for reviving, restoring and preserving one of America's greatest natural treasures."
Senator Nelson's award was presented to him by John Marshall, board chairman of the Marshall Foundation, while the nonprofit organization's executive director Josette Kaufman presented the award for an organization to Leslie Lilly, CEO of the Community Foundation for Palm Beach and Martin Counties. Nancy Marshall and Palm Beach County Commissioner Jess Santamaria, the recipient of the award last year, gave the Champion of the Everglades Award for an individual to Bobbi Horwich.
Held at the Ritz-Carlton, Palm Beach, the gala was chaired by longtime Marshall Foundation supporter Roberta Drey with Palm Beachers Jane Cummings, Joyce McLendon and Sydelle Meyer serving as honorary chairs. Entertainment was provided by the Palm Beach Public Orchestral Strings under the direction of Andrew Matzkow, plus Jimmy Falzone & the Meercats.
For more information about the Marshall Foundation call 561-805-8733 or visit http://www.artmarshall.com. •

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Cost, deadline create hurdles for fixing levee that protects South Florida from Everglades flooding
Sun Sentinel - by Andy Reid
January 12, 2011
Broward portion of levee fails to meet federal standards.
Fixing the levee that keeps the Everglades from flooding South Florida communities could cost more and take longer than expected, the South Florida Water Management District revealed Wednesday.
The Broward County section of the East Coast Protective Levee fails to meet certification standards for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, according to an engineering assessment issued late last year.
In addition to raising safety concerns, failing to meet those federal standards could lead to inflated flood insurance costs in Weston, Coral Springs, Sunrise, Pembroke Pines and Broward's other western communities.
While district officials once speculated that improvement costs may not exceed $10 million, on Wednesday they learned costs for South Florida taxpayers could grow and that the repair work could take longer than the two-year window FEMA allows.
"There are some uncertainties that are going to affect cost and schedule," said Tommy Strowd, deputy district executive director. "It's going to be a challenge to get it done in two years."
In addition, the Army Corps of Engineers is conducting a separate review of the entire 100-mile levee that starts near West Palm Beach in Palm Beach County, stretches through Broward and extends to southern Miami-Dade County.
The Army Corps nearly two years ago raised concerns about the Palm Beach County portion of the 60-year-old earthen structure, calling that portion "minimally acceptable" — the middle rung of the Army Corps' new levee rating system.
The failure of levees in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina led to stepped-up federal regulations for levees across the country.
Even after making levee improvements to meet the FEMA standards, the Army Corps' review and the findings of a national levee safety commission could end up requiring more work on additional portions of the South Florida levee that separates western communities in the three counties from the Everglades water-conservation areas.
District officials insist that the levee is safe and has successfully protected South Florida communities through six decades. There is "no imminent threat of structural failure," according to the district.
Yet, unless improvements are made to meet the FEMA standards, western Broward residents could face flood insurance increases that would be a "draconian calamity," district board Chairman Eric Buermann said.
"We have to do what we have to do," Buermann said about the pending repairs.
A levee that doesn't meet FEMA's standards results in expanding areas considered at a high risk of flooding. That could make flood insurance a requirement for more potential homebuyers in the at-risk areas and make it more expensive to obtain for residents already living in those areas.
The average flood insurance policy from the National Flood Insurance Program costs less than $570 a year. Insurance in areas considered at high-risk of flooding can cost more than $2,000 a year, depending on the amount of coverage.
The East Coast Protective Levee — built in the 1950s with limestone, shell and soil dug from the edge of the Everglades — once bordered farmland but now guards against the flooding of homes and businesses that spread west through the decades.
The structure is part of 600 miles of levees south of Lake Okeechobee that protect against flooding of former Everglades land and other wetlands drained to make way for agriculture and development.
Tropical Storm Fay's historic soaking of South Florida in 2008 exposed vulnerable sections of the East Coast Protective Levee along the Sawgrass Expressway in Broward County, where increased amounts of water seeped through and raised concerns about erosion that could lead to a breach.
Some repairs were made, but a newly completed six-month engineering review of the Broward section of the levee shows that more fixes are needed throughout the county.
After months of drilling, surveying and reviewing maintenance records, engineers found that:
* A 1,000-foot stretch of the levee in northern Broward County, between Plantation and Coral Springs, needs to be raised about two feet to meet federal standards aimed at avoiding floodwaters "overtopping" levees.
* A berm planned along the outside base of the levee needs to be added to more portions to help stop erosion that can come from water seeping through the earthen structure. Erosion threatens the stability of the levee.
* Portions of the levee are too steep and need to be flattened out to improve stability.
* More testing and other analysis is needed to help design repairs.
The district's repair plan includes building a 25-foot berm of crushed limestone along the outside base of portions of the levee to reduce water seepage and potential erosion. In addition the district is increasing inspections and adding monitoring equipment to signal when too much water is seeping through and raising erosion concerns.
The next step calls for completing engineering designs for proposed fixes to come up with cost estimates and time tables for making repairs.
FEMA officials have said the Broward section of the levee qualifies for a "provisional accreditation" that allows a two-year window where flood insurance rates would not be affected while the district makes levee improvements.

"It's going to consume a lot of our financial resources," district board member Kevin Powers said of the levee repairs. "It's just one more thing that is going to consume us for years to come."
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Florida League of Cities, Stormwater Association sue to block EPA water-pollution rules
watertechonline.com
January 12, 2011
TALLAHASSEE, FLA. — The Florida League of Cities and Florida Stormwater Association have filed a federal lawsuit against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) over new water-pollution rules, which they claim will harm the state’s economy, the Orlando Sentinel reported.
The lawsuit asks the federal court to force the EPA to review its nutrient-standards for lakes, rivers and other water bodies, the article stated.
According to the lawsuit, the new rules could cost city and county wastewater and stormwater treatment systems at least $1 billion and up to $3 billion per year.
“We all want clean water. However, the EPA’s mandates seem like they will do more to harm Florida’s local government taxpayers than provide real results,” said Rebecca O’Hara, director of Legislative Affairs for The Florida League of Cities, Inc.
Read Original below:
League of Cities sues to block EPA water-pollution rules
January, 11 2011
TALLAHASSEE — The Florida League of Cities and Florida Stormwater Association have filed their own federal lawsuit challenging the Environmental Protection Agency’s nutrient-standards for lakes, rivers and other water bodies, joining the legion of businesses and politicians who have cried economic ruin if the standards are allowed to kick in next year.
The suit was filed Monday in Pensacola’s U.S. District courthouse. Here’s the press release:
The Florida League of Cities, Inc. (FLC) and Florida Stormwater Association, Inc. (FSA) have filed a federal lawsuit against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) over new numeric nutrient criteria regulations for Florida’s waters.  The lawsuit is asking the federal court to force the EPA to abandon its unprecedented action against Florida and to take another look and conduct proceedings consistent with federal law. 
“We all want clean water. However, the EPA’s mandates seem like they will do more to harm Florida’s local government taxpayers than provide real results,” said Rebecca O’Hara, Director of Legislative Affairs, The Florida League of Cities, Inc. 
The lawsuit alleges the EPA’s rules:
• Are not based on valid scientific methods;
• Use faulty assumptions;
• Contain criteria that are generally impossible for stormwater and wastewater systems to attain, given current technologies; and
• Fail to follow the provisions of the Regulatory Flexibility Act, which requires agencies to specifically consider the impacts of proposed regulations on small local governments and businesses.
Based on information taken from an independent study prepared by Cardno ENTRIX for the Florida Water Quality Coalition in November of 2010, costs are projected to increase for city and county wastewater and stormwater treatment systems by at least $1 billion and up to $3 billion per year.  
“We agree that all persons and all Florida governments have a responsibility for improving water quality in Florida.  But we need to be very certain of the validity of the underlying science and methodologies used to prepare the rule before we are asked to spend billions of taxpayer dollars, “ said Kurt Spitzer, Executive Director of the Florida Stormwater Association. “Rules of this importance must be based on valid scientific methodologies, especially since stormwater and wastewater systems do not have the technology to meet the new requirements at the present time.” 
The complaint was filed January 10, 2011 in the Pensacola Division of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida.  Other lawsuits challenging the rules have been filed in both the Pensacola and Tallahassee divisions of the Northern District, and more complaints are expected to be filed over the next few weeks.

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SCCF Forum On Caloosahatchee And Everglades Connection
Islandsunnews.com
January 12, 2011
Why does Everglades restoration matter and how does it affect the residents of Lee County and the barrier islands? What impact will it have on the Caloosahatchee, San Carlos Bay and Pine Island Sound?
Is it really possible to achieve meaningful restoration and what does it look like? What economic impact will the restoration of the Greater Everglades have? Bring your questions and join the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation (SCCF) and Everglades Foundation to learn the answers and participate in an interactive discussion of these questions on Tuesday, January 25. The program, entitled Sugar and Salt: Our Beaches, Estuary and the Everglades Connection, will delve into the importance and timing of restoration efforts and how they will affect our communities, natural resources and economy. The free program will begin at 7 p.m. at The Community House, 2173 Periwinkle Way, Sanibel. For information, call SCCF at 472-2329. The program will include opening remarks by South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) Governing Board member Charles Dauray, presentations by Thomas Van Lent, PhD, senior scientist for the Everglades Foundation and Rae Ann Wessel, SCCF natural resource policy director. An interactive public participation discussion and question-and-answer session will follow moderated by Kirk Fordham, CEO, Everglades Foundation. Following the program, the public is invited to continue the discussion at a reception with refreshments. Dauray was appointed by Governor Charlie Crist to the SFWMD Governing Board where he has served as the chairman of the audit and finance committee, chairman of the Big Cypress Basin Board and vice chairman of the Lake Okeechobee WRAC subcommittee.
He is president of The College of Life Foundation, Inc., dedicated to the preservation of Koreshan history located in Estero. He also serves on the executive committee, CREW Land & Water Trust and as the Florida division president of the Izaak Walton League of America, Inc. He received his bachelor's degree in political science from Providence College, Rhode Island. Dauray has resided in Collier County since 1970, and Estero since January 1999. Van Lent is currently the senior scientist at the Everglades Foundation where he works on providing scientific and technical support to non-governmental environmental organizations supported by the foundation. His responsibilities include presenting expert analysis of hydrologic, engineering and ecological information to assist in development of Everglades restoration alternatives and meeting Everglades restoration and protection objectives. Van Lent has a distinguished career as a scientist and engineer. He graduated from South Dakota State University before attending the University of Minnesota and Stanford University where he received master's and doctorate's degrees respectively. He has also worked at the South Florida Water Management District, Everglades National Park and as an assistant professor at South Dakota State University. Van Lent is a resident of the Florida Keys. Wessel, SCCF natural resource policy director, is a limnologist and marine scientist with 26 years of experience working in the environmental field in South Florida. For 19 years, she managed her own environmental consulting firm, Ecosystem Specialists, working both in the field and with regulations at the local, regional, state and federal levels. In 1994, Wessel assisted with coordination of a News- Press-sponsored community forum on issues related to the Caloosahatchee. The forum resulted in the creation of the non-profit Caloosahatchee River Citizens Association. Since that time, she has been involved with identifying critical Caloosahatchee issues and building support for sustainable solutions. In addition, she is involved in oxbow research, historical documentation, natural resource policy issues and education projects on the Caloosahatchee and its estuary. Wessel has developed and guides educational river cruises about the history, folklore, ecology and current issues related to this historic river. Fordham is a veteran political operative, having worked on numerous House and Senate campaigns. He currently serves as chief executive officer of the Everglades Foundation, the only national organization dedicated solely to protecting and restoring one of the world’s most unique natural ecosystems. Previously, Fordham worked as head of Rock Creek Strategies, his own public affairs and government relations firm. For 14 years, he served as a chief of staff and senior legislative staffer on Capitol Hill for three members of Congress. In 2004, he was the architect of the successful fundraising effort for then-HUD Secretary Mel Martinez’s winning Senate campaign. A graduate of the University of Maryland-College Park, Fordham is a native of Rochester, New York, and now lives in Miami.

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U.S. Sugar lambastes rival Florida Crystals over low proposed lease rate
Palm Beach Post - by Ana M. Valdes, Staff Writer
January 12, 2011
After blasting U.S. Sugar Corp. for trying to lease sugar cane land from the South Florida Water Management District for just $50 an acre two years ago, rival Florida Crystals Corp. might now be close to landing a similar deal for itself.
The district's governing board is scheduled to vote today on the proposed Florida Crystals lease for about 1,700 acres. The company would pay $61 per acre.
Meanwhile, Clewiston-based U.S. Sugar announced Wednesday that it is willing to pay $150 per acre, the amount it now pays for 9,000 acres of land the company recently sold to the state, for two separate cane land leases with the district.
"Florida Crystals is shortchanging the taxpayers by more than $1.2 million over the life of these leases," said Judy Sanchez, director of corporate communications for U.S. Sugar. "That's fairly hypocritical from the folks who spent nearly two years complaining that U.S. Sugar was getting a 'sweetheart deal' if we paid similar lease rates."
Representatives from Florida Crystals could not be reached Wednesday. But company representatives, as well as other critics of the U.S. Sugar deal, called the original $50-per-acre rate well below market norms.
"Evidently, our competitors have had a dramatic change of heart as to what constitutes 'fair-market' lease rates," Sanchez said. "After they complained in every public forum, were quoted in numerous newspapers and claimed in multiple state and federal courtrooms that U.S. Sugar would be paying 'below-market lease rates' and getting 'corporate welfare,' they are now happily grabbing below-market lease rates for themselves."
"I guess it's only a sweetheart deal if somebody else gets it," Sanchez added.
U.S. Sugar sold nearly 27,000 acres south and east of Lake Okeechobee to the water management district for $197 million in October, as part of a project to filter water for Everglades restoration. The sugar company has leased back about 9,000 acres of that land, at least until the project gets under way.

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Conservation groups release growth suggestions
Daytona Beach News Journal - by DINAH VOYLES PULVER, Environment Writer
January 11, 2011
Nervous about proposals being discussed in Tallahassee to revamp Florida's growth management laws and possibly dismantle the state's chief planning agency, a group of conservation organizations released its own recommendations Monday.
State legislators are considering changes to growth rules and one of Gov. Rick Scott's transition teams has offered its own set of recommendations.
The conservation coalition, which includes the Florida Wildlife Federation, the Everglades Foundation and Sierra Club, agreed during a teleconference Monday that change is needed, especially given economic conditions. However, the group said that shouldn't come at the expense of environmental protection.
"There is a strong and direct relationship between Florida's environment and its economy," said Charles Pattison, president of 1000 Friends of Florida. "We strongly believe the foundation for Florida's recovery is in the protection of its environment."
The group said it was encouraged by statements the governor has made regarding environmental protection.
"Gov. Scott has said he understands the need to protect the Everglades and Florida's natural resources," Pattison said. "It's good for business and the economy to protect the natural areas. We think there is a way to accomplish that."
The group's three-page document offers a list of questions for the state to consider and makes three broad recommendations, which are: protect significant statewide interests, save taxpayer dollars and streamline the state planning process. It suggests lessening growth restriction in urban areas, while still maintaining state oversight in undeveloped and rural areas.
Locally, many land use attorneys and conservation advocates are watching the growth management debate unfold.
After reading the conservation group's recommendations Monday, attorney Clay Henderson of New Smyrna Beach, a former president of Audubon of Florida, said he agreed the process needs to be changed.
State planning has been "too heavily focused on process" for the past four years, Henderson said. "The criticism has been that it ought to be about using good planning to get to quality outcomes."
Charles Lee with Audubon said most agree growth management could use improvement.
The group is not opposed to some of the transition team's suggestions and several members said Monday they were contacted by the team in December to solicit ideas. That team suggested merging the departments of community affairs, environmental protection and transportation.
There have been previous calls for better coordination between those departments, Lee said.
Group members said they share the governor's desire to look for efficiencies, but recommended maintaining an "independent state land planning agency" and sharpening its focus on "things most important to the state as a whole."
Sen. John Thrasher, R-Jacksonville, said Monday evening he had not yet read the recommendations, but he agreed the state needs to balance the environment with the "regulatory scheme."
Thrasher also said while he's interested in making things more efficient, he isn't so sure combining the agencies is "a good thing."
"The governor is laser-focused on creating jobs," said Thrasher, who represents parts of Flagler and Volusia counties. "I don't think he's going to do it at the expense of the environment, but I do think there are some things worthy of looking at."
Thrasher said he plans to wait for the recommendations of the governor's newly appointed secretary of community affairs, Billy Buzzett, a former executive for St. Joe, a development company.

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Everglades restoration: Last big piece is big lake
Palm Beach Post - Editorial
January 11, 2011
Restoring the Everglades depends on cleaning up Lake Okeechobee. Last week, the federal government dealt itself into that game in a big way.
As the annual Everglades Coalition meeting began on Friday, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced that the Obama administration will create a roughly 240-square-mile preserve north of the big lake. The government will buy about one-third of the land outright and buy easements from landowners to cover the rest. The goal is to filter water before it reaches Lake Okeechobee, which for decades was a drainage pond for dairy farms and subdivisions.
Since the Everglades is at the end of the water system that begins where the government intends to establish the preserve, a successful plan would mean cleaner water for the Everglades. Saving what remains of the "River of Grass" depends on reducing pollution to levels that don't harm wildlife and delivering more water at key times. Draining and taming the Everglades disrupted that water flow.
Audubon of Florida's Julie Hill-Gabriel, national co-chairwoman of the Everglades Coalition, said in an interview that this preserve may be the first of three on the lake's north and northwest sides. All would be designed to store and treat water and to connect wildlife habitat, which the coalition listed as a priority for 2011. "There's really a bigger vision here," Ms. Gabriel-Hill said. If the cooperation among federal agencies continues, she added, "We could be on our way."
Under the original Everglades restoration plan, the state had to pay for all land purchases. Under President Bush, though, federal money didn't come, so under Gov. Jeb Bush the South Florida Water Management District bought some land. So this trade-off is fair. Though the effort is federal, Gov. Scott can be helpful. The governor didn't get to the coalition meeting, but state Rep. Trudi Williams, R-Fort Myers, spoke. She was on the Scott transition team, and is a former water district board member.
As the Everglades Foundation has argued, with research to back up the claim, restoring the Everglades is an investment, not a cost. Florida can preserve a World Heritage site and help the state's economy. For that, everyone needs to think as big as possible.
- Randy Schultz, for The Palm Beach Post Editorial Board

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Groundbreaking celebration for Picayune Strand project
(BLACK PR WIRE) JACKSONVILLE, FLA. – The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Jacksonville
January 11, 2011
District and its partner, the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD), will hold a groundbreaking celebration for the Picayune Strand Restoration Project on Feb. 18 at 10 a.m. at the project site in eastern Collier County. The public is invited to attend and commemorate this important environmental restoration project, which benefits Collier County and many other areas of southwest Florida.
The Corps is celebrating the project’s second federal construction contract. This past November, the Corps awarded Harry Pepper and Associates of Jacksonville a $79 million contract for the Faka Union Canal Pump Station. Components include constructing the pump station, continuing to fill in the canal, and removing 100 miles of roadway. Work will begin in February and will last about three years. In 2009, the Corps awarded Pepper a similar contract for $59 million for the Merritt Canal Pump Station. This contract is well under way.
The Picayune Strand Restoration Project will transform a failed housing development into pristine habitat for the endangered Florida panther and other native animals and plants. It will restore the overland hydrology, reducing invasion of non-native plants and opening up room for more native species. The project will also improve downstream coastal estuaries and aquifer recharge, among its many benefits.
This region is considered an environmental jewel. The project area is nearly surrounded by public lands including the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge, Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park, Everglades National Park, Big Cypress National Preserve, Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge, Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, Collier-Seminole State Park and the Picayune Strand State Forest.
The celebration will take place from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. and will feature a number of federal, state and local speakers. A one-hour bus tour of the project site will take place shortly after the ceremony. The tour is limited to the first 60 people who RSVP online or by phone.
An RSVP is required for both the celebration and optional tour by 5 p.m. Monday, Feb. 7. To RSVP, call 561-472-8885 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting            561-472-8885      end_of_the_skype_highlighting or visit www.evergladesrestoration.net/faka_union_evite/index.php. Directions to the site are also available on this web page.
The Picayune Strand Restoration Project is part of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan. For more information, visit www.evergladesplan.org, click “Projects & Studies” on the upper right, and scroll down to the Picayune Strand project page.
For more information about the ceremony and tour, call 561-472-8885

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Salazar Makes Third Visit to South Florida as Interior Secretary, Tours Everglades and Florida Keys
GardenNews.com
January 11, 2011
BIG PINE KEY, Fl. – Interior Secretary Ken Salazar toured the Florida Keys by air, boat and on foot on Saturday, focusing on the four national wildlife refuges and 30 federally endangered and threatened species managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
The refuges are on the front line of conservation, where encroaching development, exotic species and the future challenges of sea level rise in the island ecosystem present threats to wildlife and habitats found nowhere else in the world.
“As the department responsible for managing world-class national wildlife refuges as well as the Dry Tortugas National Park in the Florida Keys, we view the conservation and restoration of the unique ecosystems and wildlife of South Florida among our highest priorities,” Salazar said. “It is important for me to see these areas personally and meet with the dedicated professionals with the Fish and Wildlife Service and National Park Service who do such an outstanding job of managing them.”
The tour was part of Salazar’s third trip to the Everglades as Interior secretary. He also spoke at the annual conference of the Everglades Coalition, the largest annual forum for Everglades’s conservation and restoration.
In his remarks, he underscored the Obama administration’s commitment to restoring the great River of Grass. In two years, for example, the administration has increased federal construction funding for Everglades Restoration by more than $660 million.
In addition, Salazar met with the Greater Everglades Partnership Initiative and announced a partner-driven effort to work with private landowners, conservation groups and federal, tribal, state and local agencies develop a new 150,000-acre national wildlife refuge and conservation area, the Everglades National Wildlife Refuge and Conservation Area.
As part of his tour, Salazar toured National Key Deer Refuge on Big Pine Key. The federally endangered Key deer, a smaller cousin of the white-tailed deer, has rebounded from a population of just 50 in 1950 to more than 500 today.
In the past two years, the refuge began integrating on-the-ground research to improve the prescribed burning program. This benefits the Key deer and other wildlife and their fire-dependent habitats, while protecting lives and properties from the threat of wildfire.
Salazar also toured the EcoDiscovery Center in Key West. The center, which promotes resource conservation and stewardship across the Keys, is sponsored and operated by NOAA’s Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary in partnership with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service and South Florida Water Management district.
“Working with our many federal, state, local and non-profit partners, we continue to make great progress in conserving these unique island ecosystems, where the Caribbean meets North America,” he said.
To view photos from the Secretary’s trip, click here.
To read a copy of Secretary Salazar’s remarks at the Annual Everglades Coalition Conference click here.

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Everglades Foundation director educates Stuart's Garden Club on restoration projects
TCPalm - by Kim Hughes
January 10, 2011
STUART — Many equate the Everglades with airboats and alligators, but representatives from the Everglades Foundation showed a different side to members of The Garden Club of Stuart Monday.
Vivian Miller, director of education and outreach, and Susan Ervin, vice president of development, discussed changes that have occurred throughout the Everglades through the years and restoration projects currently in place that can positively impact both the Everglades and Florida's economy.
The Everglades are an interrelated series of wetlands, beginning just south of Orlando, whose freshwater flows to Lake Okeechobee. It reaches widths of 50 miles and a length of 120 miles, where it eventually reaches the Keys, Florida Bay and the Gulf of Mexico.
Over the years, man-made projects to control the flow of water and pollution have devastated the ecosystem and impacted plants, fish, birds and wildlife. The Everglades Foundation, a public non-profit organization, was created in 1993 to stop the damage and help the public oversee its restoration.
Despite the current conditions, Miller said the news is good.
"We can fix it. We created this problem and we can fix it," she said.
Several projects are currently under way to restore areas previously developed. The Picayune Strand State Forest, which at one time was being developed as Golden Gate Estates, is now being allowed to revert back to its natural state.
The government bought back the land in 2006 and results have been seen in just a few short years.
"The plants are coming back. The birds are coming back," Miller said. "The solution is there and we can fix it."
Another project, elevating the Tamiami Trail, will not only create water flow, but jobs essential to the state's economy.
Ervin pointed out that a study commissioned by the Everglades Foundation board shows that for every $1 invested in restoration, the result is a $4 return. The study also showed that projects dedicated to restoring the Everglades can create 400,000 jobs statewide over the next five years.
By using "smart solutions," Ervin said that jobs and restoration can go "hand in hand."
She pointed out that the Everglades are "an important part of our livelihood and our life here."
For example, the local economic impact of recreation, lodging and food from the Indian River Lagoon/St. Lucie River alone is $2.96 billion.
For more information on the Everglades Foundation and ways to get involved, go to www.evergladesfoundation.org

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Interior Moves to Protect 150,000 Acres of Everglades Headwaters
SustainableBusines.com
January 10, 2011
Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar on Friday announced that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with private landowners, conservation groups and federal, tribal, state and local agencies to develop a new national wildlife refuge and conservation area to conserve the headwaters and fish and wildlife of the Everglades.
The Service, along with its partners, is conducting a preliminary study to establish a new National Wildlife Refuge and Conservation Area of approximately 150,000 acres of important environmental and cultural landscapes in the Kissimmee River Valley south of Orlando. The proposed area includes 50,000 acres for potential purchase, and an additional 100,000 acres that could be protected through conservation easements and cooperative agreements, keeping the land in private ownership.
“The Everglades rural working ranch landscapes are an important piece of our nation’s history and economy, and this initiative would work to ensure that they remain vital for our future,” Secretary Salazar said. “The partnerships being formed would protect and improve water quality north of Lake Okeechobee, restore wetlands, and connect existing conservation lands and important wildlife corridors to support the greater Everglades restoration effort.”
In addition to improving water quality, the proposed conservation area and refuge would protect important habitat for 88 federal and state listed species, including the Florida panther, Florida black bear, whooping crane, Everglade snail kite and the Eastern indigo snake. It will also link to approximately 690,000 acres of partner-conserved lands.
"This is an important first step aimed at preserving and protecting thousands of acres vital to the Everglades," said U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, who joined Secretary Salazar in today’s announcement. "Projects like this will ensure future generations will be able to benefit from and enjoy the River of Grass."
Salazar also announced that, as part of the ongoing community dialogue, the public will be invited to participate in a series of workshops on the proposal in January and February.
More than a dozen partners are working together through the Greater Everglades Partnership Initiative on the proposed refuge and conservation area including the following organizations: Florida Department of Agricultural and Consumer Services; Florida Department of Environmental Protection; Florida Division of State Lands; Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission; Osceola County Parks Division; South Florida Water Management District; National Wildlife Refuge Association; The Nature Conservancy; U.S. Air Force - Avon Park Air Force Range; and the U.S. Department of Agriculture - Natural Resource Conservation Service.
A final plan for the Everglades Headwaters proposal is expected by the end of this year. Additional information is available at the link below:
Website: www.fws.gov/southeast/greatereverglades

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Lake Okeechobee's declining water level strains South Florida's water supply
Sun Sentinel –by Andy Reid
January 10, 2011
Lake's recent environmental rebound could suffer as water users vie for more water
Declining Lake Okeechobee water levels once again threaten to generate water-supply ripple effects that spread throughout South Florida, leaving less water for thirsty crops and lawns as well as an ecosystem trying to rebound from years of abuse.
The big lake is South Florida's backup water supply, relied on to replenish drinking water supplies for some communities and tapped for irrigation by sugar cane growers and other farmers.
During droughts, the lake also is a barometer for water conditions across the region. Low lake levels are one of the big factors that can result in emergency watering restrictions, which could further cut back on the watering days allowed for homes and businesses across South Florida.
The South Florida Water Management District projects that by the end of this month the lake could drop low enough to trigger tougher watering restrictions. Those emergency restrictions would start with farms and towns immediately south of Lake Okeechobee and, if drought conditions worsen, spread to the rest of South Florida.
"Hold on tight. This summer is not going to be pretty," said Carol Wehle, executive director of the South Florida Water Management District. "We are just going to have a horrible drought unless something changes."
While competing water users vie for more lake water, the health of the lake suffers from decades of draining, dumping and other manipulation to make way for agriculture and development.
Just as the health of the lake has begun to rebound following years of up-and-down water levels, the looming drought and growing South Florida water demands threaten to drain away signs of life.
"The human influence just makes all these things swing much more dramatically," Audubon of Florida scientist Paul Gray said. "We have this lake and water-level system that isn't working for anybody."
DECLINING LAKE OKEECHOBEE WATER LEVELS
On Monday, Lake Okeechobee measured 12.46 feet below sea level. That was about a foot below this time last year and more than two feet below average.
That's about 4 inches away from triggering an initial round of watering restrictions for agriculture south of the lake, as well as lakeside communities. If the lake's decline continues, those restrictions could spread to more of South Florida.
Recent rains helped slow the pace of the lake's decline.
"It's all kind of fuzzy, depending on what kind of rain we get," Tommy Strowd, district deputy executive director, said about the outlook on how far the lake could drop this year. The lake, he said, "becomes kind of the large regional indicator we look at of where we are."
South Florida remains in the midst of its winter and spring dry season. The last three months turned out to be the driest October-to-December span in nearly 80 years, with an average of 2.97 inches of rainfall from Orlando to the Keys.
Ideally, officials want the lake to remain between 12.5 and 15.5 feet.
LOW LAKE LEVEL EFFECTS ON AGRICULTURE
If the lake drops below 10.5 feet, it's too low for gravity to fill the drainage canals that send lake water south to supplement irrigation for hundreds of thousands of acres of sugar cane, vegetables and other crops in the Everglades Agricultural Area.
That would prompt the South Florida Water Management District to use temporary pumps to keep lake water flowing south.
But those pumps aren't capable of delivering the usual allotment of lake water relied on to boost crops.
Growers already are expecting temporary watering restrictions that could start this month if lake levels keep dropping.
The first phase of emergency restrictions would require agricultural operations immediately south of Lake Okeechobee to cut back on water use at least 15 percent.
Aside from sugar cane, irrigation cutbacks hurt farmers growing rice, corn and vegetables, said Charles Shinn, who monitors water issues for the Florida Farm Bureau.
Emergency watering restrictions that start with agriculture can be expected to extend to South Florida homes and businesses if drought conditions worsen, Shinn said.
"It's going to happen," Shinn said. "I don't see anything that turns the [lake] direction around."
LOW LAKE LEVEL EFFECTS ON SOUTH FLORIDA RESIDENTS
In addition to the lake, water levels in local well fields and the Everglades water conservation areas drive decisions about watering restrictions.
Back in 2007, when the lake hit its all-time low, the district imposed its toughest watering restrictions ever by only allowing only once-a-week watering in much of South Florida.
Last year the district for the first time imposed year-round landscape-watering restrictions to try to increase conservation. The idea was to stretch existing supplies and make it easier to conserve during droughts.
While the new year-round rules allow three-day-per week watering for most of Southeast Florida, Broward and Miami-Dade counties opted to go with tougher twice-a-week watering limits. Palm Beach County allows watering three days per week.
If conditions worsen, one of the first moves to increase conservation could be to switch Palm Beach County and others to twice-a-week watering.
"We still have arrows in our quiver, depending on how low water levels go," said Pete Kwiatkowski, the district's water-shortage team leader..
LOW LAKE LEVEL EFFECTS ON ENVIRONMENT
Scientists say Lake Okeechobee is as healthy as it has been in years, after recovering from previous droughts and getting bypassed by hurricanes that bring an influx of water and stir up polluted lake sediment.
Improved water clarity allowed submerged grasses such as eel grass and pond weed to return. That helped bass and other fish populations. Noisy moore hens along with grey blue herons, coots and sandhill cranes stalk the marshes looking for prey.
But when the lake drops below 11 feet, the risk grows for more environmental damage in an ecosystem already punished from decades of pollution and manipulated water levels.
Hitting the 10-foot-range for too long means water receding past the marshes rimming the lake and drying up life-giving habitat home to young fish, wading birds and other wildlife.
That includes some of the last remaining habitat of the endangered snail kite — a medium-sized bird of prey that feeds primarily on the apple snails that live in Lake Okeechobee's marshes and the Everglades.
Snail kite populations nosedived from 3,000 a decade ago to just 700 today, according to Audubon. That follows years of yo-yoing water levels in Lake Okeechobee that hampered apple snail populations.
Three months of dried out lake marshes starts killing off apple snails and taking away the finicky snail kite's main food source.
A new drought could threaten a hoped-for snail kite recovery. Audubon considers the snail kite a barometer for the overall health of the lake.
"The problem is the long-lasting effects," Gray, of Audubon, said about the potential for a prolonged drought. "Every time it happens, it takes a long time to recover."
The real concern would be this year turning into the first of a multi-year drought, Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission biologist Don Fox said.
"We'll have to see how bad the drought goes," said Fox, who has been working on Lake Okeechobee for decades. "I don't see the doom and gloom, but let's see where we are in June.
Andy Reid can be reached at abreid@SunSentinel.com
Read more also in the LA Times : http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-okeechobee-20110116,0,3570088.story

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Water quality conference being held in cooperation with industry-led group opposed to EPA rules
American Independent - by Virginia Chamlee
January 10, 2011
In the wake of resounding opposition to the EPA’s water quality standards, the Water Environment Federation and the International Water Association are holding a “Nutrient Recovery and Management Conference,” which is currently taking place in downtown Miami.
According to a press release, the conference will also be held in cooperation with the Florida Water Environment Association, a group that touted “high costs” as an impetus for disputing the nutrient criteria. The association’s Utility Board is made up of individuals representing some of Florida’s most notorious polluters, a fact that raised eyebrows when the group released  a study that projected costs to be upwards of $8 billion.
This year’s nutrient conference is scheduled to “bring together environmental professionals from around the world to discuss and debate the current state of nutrient recovery” and will include several workshops regarding the recently released nutrient standards, which are currently the subject of several lawsuits.
The workshops are each geared specifically toward utility companies, and seem to be created on the premise that the EPA’s proposed standards are much too costly. One workshop that took place on Jan. 9 was described in detail on the Water Environment Federation’s website:
A Balancing Act between Future Nutrient Regulations, Process Performance, and Reliability and Sustainability
Sunday, January 9, 2011
Proposed nutrient regulations across the country, especially in Florida are challenging engineers and operators to find ways to reduce effluent from wastewater treatment plants to ultra low nitrogen and phosphorus levels. These proposed regulations, often derived from complex scientific analyses commonly unknown to engineers, will change the way the industry does conventional enhanced nutrient removal; adding complexity and cost to an already difficult issue. This workshop will entail ABC on the development of nutrient criteria for engineers and operators; Florida’s proposed numeric nutrient criteria; perspective of nutrient requirements across the country; limits of technology from conventional [Everglades Nutrient Removal] facilities; reliability and O&M [operation & maintenance] costs ultra low [Nitrogen] and [Phosphorus] technologies; natural system performance on N and P removal; and ultra low nutrient requirements and sustainability.

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Interior chief announces Glades headwaters refuge
South Florida Times - by CURT ANDERSON
January 9, 2011
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) - A new 150,000-acre wildlife refuge would be established in the Everglades headwaters south of Orlando under a plan announced by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar.
Salazar said Friday the refuge would protect wildlife in the Kissimmee River valley and the area's ranching heritage. It would also improve Lake Okeechobee water quality.
Preliminary plans call for the government to buy about 50,000 acres. The remaining 100,000 acres would protected under agreements with private landowners.
Salazar recently announced plans to replace an additional 5.5 miles of the cross-Florida Tamiami Trail with bridges to improve water flowing into Everglades National Park.
The proposals are among those to restore the Everglades.

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Water covers 75 percent of the Earth, just not most of Florida
Newssun.com
January 9, 2011
There's nothing more refreshing than diving into a swimming pool on a hot day; or more relaxing than fishing Lake June-in-Winter; or more civilizing than a long hot shower.
Water is such an important, pleasant part of our lives we often take it for granted, which can be a problem, because water is more than important. It was and still is, essential for life.
To drive that point home, here are a few water facts as outlined in a report by the Institute of Science and Public Affairs at Florida State University, published in 2002. Its lead author is Elizabeth D. Purdum.
All over the world, water is continuously circulating between the sky, land and sea.
It is the only substance that exists in nature as a liquid, a solid and a gas.
Unlike most liquids, however, water expands rather than shrinks when cooled, which is why water is lighter when frozen and floats.
Plants and animals are between 50 and 97 percent water -- the human body is 70 percent water.
The vast majority of the water on Earth, however, is salt water. Only 3 percent is fresh water, and only 1 percent of that is available for use.
Here in Florida we depend entirely on local rainfall to meet our fresh water needs.
The state has a hydrologic divide that runs roughly from Gainesville to Daytona Beach. Only 44 percent of the state's rain falls south of this divide, yet the area is home to 78 percent of the state's permanent population and accounts for 75 percent of the state's water use.
Rain water flows through the state's canals, rivers and lakes -- from which many communities pump their irrigation. Rain also drains slowly into the aquifer, where it is pumped out for human consumption.
With a state population of more than 15 million people, our heavy water use has contributed to the shrinkage of lakes, creation of sink holes and saltwater intrusion.
But changing weather patterns have significant impact as well.
Take the most recent information from the South Florida Water Management District .
October, November and December of 2010 were the three driest months since record keeping began in 1932. Rain fall averaged less than three inches throughout SFWMD's 16 counties, which is roughly 35 percent of the normal. And that drought came on top of a year that was already drier than normal; and 2010 came after several years of below-average rain fall.
All of this means we need to remain water conscious and continue to do our best conserving water.
Oh, we know -- who wants to hear, yet again, how important it is to turn off the faucet while brushing our teeth, and who wants to shift from automatically controlling an irrigation system to getting out and doing it by hand. It's all such a nuisance.
Sadly, we can kick and scream as much as we like, fume with the perceived unfairness, blame our politicians, utility heads and scientists -- or simply ignore the situation.
But, nature is what it is. We would do best sticking to reality.
An inconvenience, while annoying, is nothing compared to dying of thirst.

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FL Ag Commish Putnam Delivers Keynote at Everglades Conference
SouthEast AGnet.com - by Gary
January 8, 2011
Putnam Stresses Importance of Partnerships to Restore Environment
Weston, Florida (FDACS) — Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam delivered today’s keynote speech at the 26th Annual Everglades Coalition
Conference. Putnam is the first Commissioner of Agriculture to participate in this annual event. “Restoring the Northern Everglades is a tremendous opportunity for partnership between the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and organizations here today,” said Commissioner Putnam.
Commissioner Putnam shared his plans to create a working group that will include the agriculture industry and environmental organizations and will work to identify additional federal funding opportunities to support the state’s restoration efforts.
Commissioner Putnam highlighted new and innovative ways for government agencies and organizations to work together to balance restoration goals with economic stability, including the Wetland Reserve Program, Wildlife Best Management Practices Development and the Northern Everglades Pay for Environmental Services Program.
The Commissioner also emphasized one of his top priorities, improving the quality and quantity of the state’s water. “The greatest long term issue facing our state is water,” said Commissioner Putnam. “Whether you are a citrus grower, rancher or environmental advocate, our biggest issue is Florida’s water policy.”
This year’s conference theme, Renewal of Life for the Everglades: Moving Forward Together, recognizes both the importance of restoring the abundance of life that makes the Everglades an international natural treasure and the need to work cooperatively to advance our common goals of Everglades restoration.
The four-day event, which kicked-off Thursday, also featured U.S. Department of Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, U.S. Senator Bill Nelson, U.S. Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works Jo-Ellen Darcy, Deputy Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture Ann Mills and Former Senator Bob Graham.
While in South Florida, Commissioner Putnam also met with Carole Wehle, Executive Director of South Florida Water Management District, and Representative Trudi Williams, Chair of the House Select Committee on Water Policy and the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee, among others, to discuss water and natural resource policy for the state of Florida. Additionally, the Commissioner met with Gwendolyn Keyes Fleming, Regional Administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), to discuss nutrient numeric criteria.
For more information about Commissioner Putnam and the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, visit http://www.FreshFromFlorida.com.

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Obstacles ahead for Everglades ? Graham sees political hurdles to restoration
Palm Beach Post -  by Ana M. Valdes, Staff Writer
January 8, 2011
WESTON — Former Sen. Bob Graham told a group of environmentalists at an Everglades Coalition conference Saturday that recent efforts to secure funds and create awareness for restoration of Florida's River of Grass were commendable.
But challenges in the near future are expected, with a new administration in Tallahassee and changes on Capitol Hill, Graham said.
"We are going to have a challenging time in terms of getting adequate resources for the Everglades, and we are going to have a collective responsibility to develop a strategy to get those new leaders educated about the Everglades," Graham said.
Graham said Florida's primary economic issue was saving the Everglades, which supplies water for a large percentage of the state's residents and provides hundreds of jobs through some restoration projects already in place.
Funding from the federal government is key, he said, cautioning environmentalists to correct anyone who labels Everglades funding as an earmark.
"If anybody says Everglades and earmark in the same sentence, it is our responsibility to tell them, 'You don't know what the hell you are talking about,' " Graham added.
At the conference, an event he helped create in 1986, Graham also talked about his work with the commission created by President Obama to study the BP oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.
He said changes in energy policy were needed to create a sustainable economy.
Graham added that he was meeting with Florida Gov. Rick Scott Friday to discuss the spill.
"I wouldn't be surprised if we had an opportunity to talk about some broader issues," he told the crowd.

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South Florida Growers Brace for Water Restrictions
Southeast AGnet.com
January 8, 2011
Water restrictions will be a certainty by late January or early February without ample rainfall in the District. The South Florida Water Management District Governing Board will meet in Clewiston next week and the amount of available water in South Florida through May will be a hot topic on the agenda. Models at NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center are pointing toward very dry conditions for March – May. The summer rains typically start by the second week of June.
The water restrictions will be one more blow to an already difficult season due to several freezes in December that have resulted in damaged crops. Fields of corn, squash and beans as far south as Homestead had to be replanted after cold temperatures and heavy frost damaged crops beyond recovery. Sugarcane and citrus were damaged and efforts are currently underway to harvest as much of the damaged crop as possible.
Adequate water is vital to the proper growth and development of agricultural crops. Decreased water stunts growth, reduces production and in severe cases results in total crop failure.
Water Shortage Grower Meeting in Belle Glade on January 14
At a special meeting for growers in the Lake Okeechobee Service Area, SFWMD district staff will brief attendees on actions the District is planning to take to address the impending water shortage issues. The meeting will be held at the Everglades Research and Education Center in Belle Glade on Friday, January 14 at 10 a.m. This will be an important opportunity to remind District leadership that adequate water supply is essential to the livelihood of agriculture and south Florida’s economy.
Governor Scott Needs to Appoint Governing Board Members
South Florida Water Management District currently has two vacant Governing Board seats and two additional seats will expire on March 1st. Scott’s appointments will undoubtedly direct the future path of the agency.
Newly elected State Representative Pat Rooney vacated the Palm Beach seat last summer to focus on his campaign. Shannon Estenoz stepped off the board in December to accept a position with the U.S. Department of the Interior leaving a vacant Broward seat.
Board Chairman Eric Buermann (Miami-Dade County) and board member Charles Dauray (Lee, Collier, Hendry and Charlotte counties) both have terms that will expire on March 1st. Mr. Dauray has announced that he will see reappointment by Governor Scott.
Florida Farm Bureau Federation looks forward to a balanced approach by the Governor to make sure that all interests are represented equitably on the Governing Board.
Upper East Coast Water Supply Plan Supports Ag Comeback
Recent years have been extremely difficult for the Indian River citrus industry due to several exotic diseases. Acreage that was once abundant in grapefruit and oranges is now fallow in Martin, St. Lucie, Palm Beach and Okeechobee Counties. Farmers are hopeful for a cure so they can replant and this is being reflected in the current planning efforts for the Upper East Coast Water Supply Plan.
The water supply plans are required by Florida Statute to provide a 20-year planning period to assist water resource and supply development. The plans also address minimum flows and levels for particular water bodies and provide recovery and prevention strategies.
The planning horizon under development is 2010 – 2030. Two previous plans were developed for the Upper East Coast in 1998 and 2004. The goal is to update the plans every five years.
As resistant rootstocks are developed for citrus to combat the disease pressure, replanting will take place. It is imperative that planning is in place to provide water to the future crop of citrus. A concern to agriculturalists is the vast growth being planned in public water supply. The water volume is tied to growth projections developed several years ago which need to be updated to reflect the current economic climate.
Over 90% of the growers in this region have developed Best Management Practices (BMPs) which focus on efficient use and management of water resources. They see the need to be conservative with water and deserve the opportunity to make a positive economic impact to the region in the future.
Monthly Reports Available on Florida Farm Bureau Federation’s Website
This report is also available on Florida Farm Bureau Federation’s website (http://www.floridafarmbureau.org/). Click on ‘Issues and Public Policy’ on the left side of the home page, then click on the ‘Water and Natural Resources’ subheading.

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Interior chief announces Glades headwaters refuge
Associated Press/Miami Herald - by CURT ANDERSON
January 7, 2011
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- A wildlife refuge and ranching conservation area would be carved out of 150,000 acres in the Everglades headwaters north of Lake Okeechobee under a proposal unveiled Friday by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar.
The proposal, still under study by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, envisions government purchase from willing sellers of about 50,000 acres along the Kissimmee River valley. Another 100,000 acres would be preserved under conservation easements and other agreements with private landowners that restrict development and other uses.
Salazar told reporters the goal is to protect threatened wildlife and habitat, improve water quality flowing into Lake Okeechobee and preserve the region's "rural working landscapes."
"The Everglades are unique," Salazar said. "They are probably one of the most important ecosystems we have in the United States."
The plan is the second involving Everglades restoration from Salazar in as many months. In December, the secretary proposed raising an additional 5.5 miles of the cross-South Florida Tamiami Trail highway to improve water flow into Everglades National Park - which represents about one-fifth of the original Everglades. A one-mile bridge span is under construction now.
For more than two decades, state and federal officials have wrestled with how to restore the natural balance of the Everglades, which has been decimated by farm runoff and urban pollution and by water diverted away through hundreds of manmade canals. A shallow sheet of water once flowed unimpeded from the Kissimmee River south to Florida Bay.
Current restoration plans include construction of huge reservoirs to filter water flowing into the wetlands and the purchase of some agricultural land from sugar companies to return to its natural state.
The headwaters proposal announced Friday would add to the federal purchase last year of about 26,000 acres in the region. Several key Florida officials have endorsed the new plan, along with environmental groups such as the Nature Conservancy.
"The entire state and visitors from around the world will benefit from the foresight to keep these rare Florida habitats natural," said Jeff Danter, the Nature Conservancy's Florida director.
Cary Lightsey, whose Lightsey Cattle Co. is working with Interior officials on the plan, said he has had conservation easements on his land since 1990.
"They have all been win-win situations and we have never looked back," he said. "It makes us feel good that we are providing green space and wildlife habitat for future generations."
The project would depend on continued funding from Congress, something U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., said he would make a priority.
"When I see this desperate need, I will request the appropriations to fill that need," said Nelson, who appeared at the news conference with Salazar.
Salazar said the goal is to finalize the plan by the end of 2011, including setting boundaries for the refuge. Public workshops will be held later this month and February.

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Obama administration proposes protection for Everglades headwaters
Sun Sentinel
January 7, 2011
New wildlife refuge would be created north of Lake Okeechobee.
FORT LAUDERDALE — The Obama administration on Friday proposed protecting a vast mosaic of wilderness, streams, lakes and ranchlands north of Lake Okeechobee, in an initiative to guard the upstream water sources of the Everglades and prevent development in a landscape that recalls a Florida before Disney, condominiums and interstate highways.
The $700 million proposal — which lacks specifics on funding and the exact locations of land to be protected — calls for buying about 50,000 acres for a new national wildlife refuge and protecting another 100,000 acres through agreements with landowners and other means.
The proposal describes the areas as "one of the great grassland and savannah landscapes of eastern North America," providing habitat for the Florida panther, black bear, Florida scrub-jay, Everglades snail kite, red-cockaded woodpecker and many other species.
The region also serves as the headwaters for the Florida Everglades, gathering water that flows slowly south through the Everglades to the coast. Among the Everglades' knottiest problems is the pollution washing off farms and cities from fertilizers, particularly phosphorus
"The Everglades' rural working ranch landscapes are an important piece of our nation's history and economy, and this initiative would work to ensure that they remain vital for our future," Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said in a written statement. "The partnerships being formed would protect and improve water quality north of Lake Okeechobee, restore wetlands and connect existing conservation lands and important wildlife corridors to support the greater Everglades restoration effort."
The plan is highly preliminary. Exact locations of these areas are yet to be determined, but they would be located roughly in the Kissimmee River Valley in parts of Osceola, Polk, Okeechobee, Highland and Indian River counties. Also undetermined is how to pay for the acquisitions.
Environmentalists said the conservation proposal unveiled Friday compliments efforts south of Lake Okeechobee to clean and store water needed to replenish the Everglades.
"Everglades restoration isn't complete without fixing the northern end of the system," said Kirk Fordham, CEO of the Everglades Foundation. "We see this as interlocking with what's happening below the lake."
The proposal states that multiple funding sources "may be available" from programs in the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture and state of Florida.
The proposal's timetable calls for public hearings and comment periods over the next few months, with a final plan developed by August or September.
There is no word yet of reaction from Gov. Rick Scott. The proposal would remove the possibility of development from an enormous slice of state-owned land, and the new Republican governor has been sharply critical of government actions that discourage economic growth.
Staff writer Andy Reid contributed to this report.
David Fleshler can be reached at dfleshler@sunsentinel.com or 954-356-4535.

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Wildlife service works with landowners to keep Florida land
Reuters
January 7, 2011
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has begun a preliminary study to create a new national wildlife refuge and conservation area that would span 150,000 acres of the Kissimmee River Valley in central Florida, the Interior Department said on Friday.
The proposed area, part of an initiative to preserve the Everglades ranching heritage as well as its headwaters, fish and wildlife, includes 50,000 acres for potential purchase while working with landowners to conserve the remaining 100,000 acres, an Interior Department statement said.
"The Everglades rural working ranch landscapes are an important piece of our nation's history and economy, and this initiative would work to ensure that they remain vital for our future," the statement quoted Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar as saying.
"The partnerships being formed would protect and improve water quality north of Lake Okeechobee, restore wetlands, and connect existing conservation lands and important wildlife corridors."
The area could be used to protect 88 federal and state-listed species and would connect to around 690,000 acres of conserved land.
The finalized proposal for the Everglades Headwaters is expected by the end of the year.

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Everglades restoration boosted by $7 million in ARRA funds
Examiner.com – by Amy Lou Jenkins
January 5, 2011
The Department of the Interior annouced today that the National Park Service has been awarded $7 million dollars of American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA) funds to implement the Cape Sable dam project, a restoration effort that will replace the dams, saving precious habitat by keeping more water in the living sponge like reservoir system that is the Everglades. The park has been dying of thirst in the environmental chaos resulting from many attempts to drain the wetland.  High salianation concentrations and assualted ecosystems have endangered all life dependent upon this formerly rich wetand complex. 
Dams on man-made canals in the southern portion of the park adjacent to the open sea waters of Florida Bay have failed and threaten the ecological health of many park habitats and species. The Cape Sable Dam will be completed by the end of March with all traces of construction and man gone in time for the nesting season of the endangered Crocodile. 
Everglades National Park, the largest subtropical wilderness in the United States, hoasts rare and endangered species and has been designated a World Heritage Site, International Biosphere Reserve, and Wetland of International Importance, significant to all people of the world.

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Rick Scott takes office, asserts himself as state's chief job creator
Times/Herald Tallahassee Bureau - by Michael C. Bender and Mary Ellen Klas
January 5, 2011
TALLAHASSEE — Taking office as Florida's 45th governor, Rick Scott asserted himself Tuesday as the state's chief job creator, drawing on a childhood shaped by poverty and the pains of a state ravaged by unemployment to help validate his pro-business agenda.
But if he offered hope to out-of-work Floridians in his inaugural address, Scott also cast the government he takes over as parasitic.
"A lean and limited government has a role to play in providing a safety net," said Scott, 58. "But … the only path to better days is paved with new private sector jobs."
Scott, who has hired just five of the dozens of agency heads and division directors he needs to manage his administration, signed four executive orders after being sworn in, including one that halts new business regulations and creates a new government office to review future rules.
On a comfortable, 50-degree, overcast day, Scott took the oath of office at 11:56 a.m., surrounded by family members outside the Old Capitol. Scott's wife, mother, two daughters and their husbands were his only entourage during most of the campaign season while the state's political establishment lined up to defeat him.
"We did it," Scott whispered to his wife, Ann, in a moment picked up by a wireless microphone clipped to his dark blue suit jacket.
Afterward, Scott hosted a luncheon for many of the state's political elite and watched with Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll as 26 marching bands and three circus elephants passed by in the inaugural parade along Monroe Street, renamed Rick Scott Way for the day.
Also watching the parade was Billy Spain, a Pensacola chiropractor who has attended nearly every inauguration since Claude Kirk's in 1967. Spain said Scott should be trusted despite a record $1.7 billion in Medicare fraud fines paid by the hospital company Scott created.
"He wants to give back to Florida," Spain said. "He's on a mission to redo his name and leave a legacy."
The Scotts hosted an afternoon open house at the Governor's Mansion, where several hundred people lined up to meet the Republican governor and the first lady. The pair then celebrated into the night during an inaugural ball that punctuated four days of events.
Nearly 4,000 people applauded earlier as Scott was introduced at the inauguration by John Willyard, a Nashville-based voice-for-hire who emceed and has done narration for the Country Music Association Awards, CNN and Toyota.
Sharing the stage
Scott seemed to put aside any hard feelings, too. Senate President Mike Haridopolos and House Speaker Dean Cannon, who backed Scott's primary opponent, shared the stage.
Lobbyists and corporate executives, who largely paid for the $3 million festivities, received prime seats in the first three rows.
But there was at least one dissenter.
During the speech, a heckler yelled to Scott: "Criminal! You are not Christian! You're a heathen!" Someone in the crowd yelled back: "Get a job!"
Scott paused but didn't engage the heckler as the crowd booed. The man, who declined an interview request, strolled away as several law enforcement officers walked toward him.
The ceremony started at 11 a.m. and included the swearing in for the Cabinet and Carroll, the first black woman to serve as lieutenant governor.
But the program moved too quickly, forcing the Florida National Guard Army Band and country singer Lee Greenwood to take turns playing patriotic music for more than 20 minutes while officials waited until just before noon when Scott could officially take office.
Hampered by a hoarse voice and problems with his teleprompters, Scott was tongue-tied through much of his 21-minute speech, written by Sue Rankin, a Nashville-based speechwriter who also worked on the campaign.
Scott, who earned millions as a hospital executive before launching his first attempt at public office last year, incorporated many campaign themes into his speech. He jabbed President Barack Obama for the "magical thinking" that government spending could blunt the recession and closed with his trademark, "Let's get to work."
But most of the speech focused on Scott's goal of creating new jobs and deflating the state's 11.9 percent unemployment rate. He mentioned the word "job" or "jobs" 25 times, but did not refer to his oft-repeated campaign pledge of 700,000 new jobs in seven years.
Scott empathized with Florida's out-of-work construction workers and unemployed parents by recalling his childhood in Missouri where his father was often laid off and his mother ironed clothes for income.
"I have a clear memory of their fear and uncertainty as they struggled to provide for five kids," Scott said. "So, for me, job creation is an absolute mission."
Absent from his speech was any reference to the hundreds of specifics offered up by his transition teams, which have asked him to consolidate state agencies, reform the state pension and use tax money to send Florida students to private school.
Scott repeated his vows to eliminate the corporate income tax and reduce property taxes, coining the phrase "axis of unemployment" to describe taxation, regulation and litigation.
"Left unchecked they choke off productive activity," he said.
House Democratic leader Ron Saunders noted that Republicans have controlled state government for 12 years and created many of the regulations Scott criticized.
"This axis of unemployment he talked about was either put there or kept there by other Republican legislators," said Saunders, D-Key West. "He needs to talk to his fellow Republicans and ask them why."
Executive orders
Scott's first official act was to make good on three of his campaign promises by signing four executive orders. The orders:
• Freeze new regulations, require state agencies to review every contract over $1 million and create a state Office of Fiscal Accountability and Regulatory Reform to approve any new rules.
• Impose new ethics rules and require his general counsel, Hayden Dempsey, to review the recent grand jury report on government corruption and recommend immediate changes.
• Require state agencies to verify the citizenship of all new hires and anyone employed by a state contractor.
• Continue the state's prohibition on discrimination in hiring and contracting.
Scott promised to "weed out" unnecessary regulation and named Jerry McDaniel, budget chief to former Gov. Charlie Crist, to head his new fiscal accountability office.
Early criticism
The freeze on regulation drew immediate scorn from environmentalists who warned that it may have unintended consequences.
A rule scheduled for a hearing this week, for example, would have set limits on the amount of mercury allowed in Florida waters. Two other rules would have streamlined regulations intended to clean polluted water.
"Gov. Scott is shutting down our environmental rules,'' said Eric Draper of the Florida Audubon Society. "Most of Florida's water bodies have contamination problems and we need rules to help clean them up. This stops the cleanup in its tracks.''
Scott promised an education system focused on "individual student learning'' and not dictated by special interests.
He trumpeted health care reform that would let patients choose their own doctors and protect doctors from being "trampled" by federal mandates.
"I want to make a real and lasting improvement to the lives of our citizens,'' Scott said.
He urged the public to hold him and other elected officials accountable and promised to be "resolute in seeking bold change."
"Probably more bold than some people like," Scott said. "But bold, positive change."
Times/Herald staff writers Steve Bousquet, Janet Zink, Marc Caputo and Katie Sanders contributed to this report. Michael C. Bender can be reached at mbender@sptimes.com.

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Scott a no-show at Glades meeting in Weston
Miami Herald – by CRAIG PITTMAN, St. Petersburg Times
January 5, 2011
Unlike previous governors, Florida's new chief executive declined to attend a conference of environmentalists dedicated to preserving the Everglades.
Bob Martinez started the tradition. Lawton Chiles continued it. Jeb Bush and Charlie Crist kept it going.
Since 1987, every time Florida has sworn in a new governor, one of his first public appearances has been to deliver a speech at the annual Everglades Coalition conference -- usually on the topic of how important it is to restore the Everglades.
But when the four-day Everglades Coalition conference convenes in Weston on Thursday, Gov. Rick Scott won't be speaking.
“We invited Scott, and his office called and said they had to decline the invitation for a scheduling conflict,'' said Julie Hill-Gabriel of Audubon of Florida, one of the conference's co-chairs. A spokeswoman for Scott said Tuesday that she did not know what the conflict was, and with the inauguration going on, “everyone's pretty busy.''
Not having Scott show up “is a disappointment,'' said Richard Grosso, a coalition board member. “Obviously we need this governor to continue the tradition of continuing to recognize the importance of the Everglades to the state.”
The coalition, a consortium of more than 50 environmental and civic groups concerned about the future of the River of Grass, has been holding annual conferences since 1986 to discuss how to push forward with restoration. It has been a place for activists to network and politicians to tout their environmental credentials.
The biggest name among the speakers at the first conference was Bob Graham, winding up his second term as a Democratic governor and laying the groundwork for a successful run for the U.S. Senate.
The next year Martinez, the newly sworn-in Republican governor, seized the opportunity to address the coalition crowd, telling them, ``I want to work with you.'' His appearance launched the tradition of having each newly elected governor speak to the conference.
In 1991, Democrat Chiles used his first appearance as governor to announce his intention to work out a settlement of a federal suit over pollution flowing into the Glades.
In his 1999 speech to the coalition, Bush, a Republican, made a personal commitment to shepherd the newly approved Everglades restoration plan through to completion.
Crist, also a Republican, nearly broke the tradition after he was sworn in as governor in 2007. Because the Legislature was holding a special session on insurance reform, he was unable to attend in person. But he used a remote hookup to deliver a speech to attendees.
Scott has criticized Crist's biggest Everglades initiative: spending $197 million to buy 26,800 acres of U.S. Sugar land for the restoration effort. Scott has blasted it as a ``secret sugar deal, which will end up a secret sugar tax.''
Craig Pittman can be reached at craig@ sptimes.com.

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Defining clean water: EDITORIAL
NewsHerald.com
January 4, 2011
New federal environmental rules have yet to produce cleaner lakes, rivers and bays in Florida, but they already have muddied the state’s legal waters.
The Environmental Protection Agency last year announced new criteria for acceptable levels of nutrients, such as phosphorus and nitrogen, in freshwater bodies, which likely will apply to stormwater runoff systems and municipal wastewater treatment facilities. They are designed to reduce the levels of sewage, fertilizer and manure in the waters. Those pollutants can create harmful algae that make waters unfriendly to tourism and agriculture.
The standards originally were to go into effect Oct. 15, 2010, but the agency later pushed the implementation back 15 months. Nevertheless, Panama City has joined other Panhandle governmental and utility interests in one lawsuit to stop the regulations, and the state of Florida has filed its own legal challenge. Bay County officials also oppose the new standards, but declined to join a lawsuit, preferring to let the state take the lead in the legal fight.
The litigants argue that the standards are too strict and would be prohibitively costly to comply with. For instance, Ron Morgan, Panama City’s utilities director, says that in order to meet the new standards, the city would have to upgrade its two wastewater treatment plants. Price tag: $42 million. The costs would be borne by customers, whose rates would increase 47 percent (or more than $200 a year for the average bill of $36.30 per month).
State officials also have questioned the EPA’s methodology used to set the new standards, and whether they are set too high for some bodies of water.
Perhaps the most aggravating aspect, though, is that Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection was in the process of developing its own stricter nutrient standards when the EPA stepped in and imposed its version of water regulations.
Clearly, it is in Florida’s economic interest to maintain clean water. People come here in part because of the beaches, bays, bayous and estuaries. It also is no secret that the Sunshine State’s building boom of the last decade increased pressure on nutrient management — all those new condos and houses created more wastewater and more fertilizer that threatened to contaminate watersheds.
If Florida stood back and did nothing, fouled water eventually would kill the golden goose. Spending money to keep the water clean should pay for itself in the long run by ensuring a steady stream of visitors and new residents who pump fresh money into the economy.
The unresolved issue, though, is how clean is clean? There’s 100 percent clean, and there’s 95 percent clean, and sometimes it is costliest to achieve that last 5 percent.
Do the EPA standards go further than is necessary? Do the costs of going an additional "X" percent in lowering nutrient levels exceed the benefits? Do they apply a one-size-fits-all approach to all water?
The EPA has estimated that statewide compliance with the new standards would cost only between $135 million and $206 million; state officials have pegged it at $20 billion.
In testimony before the EPA, Barney Bishop, president of the pro-business lobbying group Associated Industries of Florida, offered to write a check for $130 million if the agency would agree to pay for any compliance costs above that. So far, no deal.
The lawsuits should force the EPA to justify its heavy-handed usurpation of state regulatory authority.
EPA Gets Tough with Polluters E/The Environmental Magazine
all 29 news articles 

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Rick Scott names Herschel Vinyard (who?) to run the Department of Environmental Protection
CreativeLoafing.com – by Mitch Perry
January 3, 2011
UPDATE: Moments after Governor-Elect Rick Scott named Herschel Vinyard to be his new Secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection, a press release issued saluting the choice came from ..no, not an environmental group, but the Florida Chamber of Commerce.  What, you expected the Sierra Club?
The Chair of the Chamber, former House Speaker Allan Bense, was all in, saying:
“As a veteran environmental lawyer, strong business leader, and Florida Chamber member, Herschel is a solid choice and brings impressive skills that will allow him the ability to balance our state’s natural resources with job creation.  His knowledge and appreciation for Florida’s environment, coupled with experience as a leader in Florida’s business community make Herschel Vinyard the right pick to lead the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.”
Also Mark Wilson with the Chamber gave praise: “With Governor-elect Rick Scott’s jobs agenda and Herschel’s background of balancing natural resources and free enterprise, this choice is a big win for the citizens of Florida, and it will help move our state forward toward a new economy.”
So what does the Sierra Club think?  Well, according to Frank Jackalone with the group, the Club did not send out an immediate release because they weren’t really familiar with him, and are trying to learn more before they officially comment.
Currently, Vinyard serves as director of business operations at BAE Systems Southeast Shipyards where he is responsible for strategic planning, business development and regulatory and government affairs.  He’s also serving on the boards of the Jacksonville Regional Chamber of Commerce, the Manufacturers Association of Florida, and the Jacksonville Port Authority.
The Scott administration says that Vinyard represented “numerous clients in a myriad of complex environmental matters.”
UPDATE: The Everglades Foundation weighed in at 5:45 p.m. on Monday.  Kirk Fordham, CEO of the group, said in a press release:
“We applaud Governor Scott’s selection of Herschel Vinyard as Secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection.  Vinyard recognizes both the ecological and environmental value of Florida’s remarkable natural resources.  He has demonstrated a commitment in both the private sector and on a personal level, to implementing sound, innovative practices and policies to conserve our waterways, lakes, estuaries and all of the environmental treasures of this state.
At the same time, Vinyard understands the tremendous significance of protecting and restoring America’s Everglades.  He recognizes that one in three Floridians rely on the Everglades for their water supply and knows this vast ecosystem provides abundant recreational opportunities for millions of individuals and families–enhancing our quality of life and making it an international tourist destination
We look forward to working with Mr. Vinyard to maintain the solid state-federal partnership that is necessary to advance the world’s largest ecosystem restoration initiative–one that is putting hundreds of Floridians to work in private sector jobs in the construction, engineering and science sectors.
We are optimistic that Governor-elect Scott will play a strong leadership role in ensuring that the protection and restoration of the Everglades remains a top priority of his administration.  We are confident Scott will work on a bi-partisan basis with federal policymakers to advance key Everglades priorities, just as past Republican leaders like Governors Jeb Bush and Charlie Crist and Senators Connie Mack, Mel Martinez and George LeMieux have done.”

Scott names shipyard executive to head Fla. DEP MiamiHerald.com
Scott names defense contractor to head environmental protection Orlando Sentinel (blog)
Jacksonville Port Authority member tapped by Scott to run Florida ... Florida Times-Union
all 48 news articles »

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Our economy benefits from restoring the Everglades
Sun Sentinel
January 2, 2011
Recent articles have announced more federal support for restoring the Everglades, specifically adding 5.5 miles to the raising of Tamiami Trail by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar.
Restoring the flow of water into the Everglades is critical to wildlife such as wood storks and the Roseate Spoonbills, but it is also critical to recharging the drinking water resources of South Florida and holding back the tide of climate change.
Our economy will also benefit immediately, creating engineering and construction jobs, and long-term with recent studies showing a minimum 4-to-1 return on investment.
Secretary Salazar and 300-plus participants will gather for the 2011 Everglades Coalition Conference, January 6-9 at the Hyatt Regency in Weston. Large plenary and smaller breakout sessions will focus on all topics Everglades.
Mark D. Perry, state co-chair, Everglades Coalition. Stuart

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Pole-and-troll takes effect
KeysNet.com - by KEVIN WADLOW
January 2, 2011
Snake Bight, a water body near Flamingo in Everglades National Park, becomes a pole-or-troll zone Jan. 1.
The area where use of combustion boat engines will be banned covers about 8,500 acres. However, boaters can still enter Snake Bight, east of Flamingo, by using paddles, push poles or electric trolling motors.
"This new protective zone was created to provide enhanced protection of Snake Bight's sensitive aquatic vegetation and wilderness resources, improve the quality of flats fishing, enhance paddling and wildlife viewing opportunities, and expand education on proper shallow water boating techniques," Everglades Superintendent Dan Kimball said.
Snake Bight could serve as a prototype for other sensitive areas of shallow water in Florida Bay within the park's boundaries.
As part of a process to amend Everglades National Park's management plan, federal staff suggested options including more protection for shallow seagrass areas prone to damage by boat propellers.
Anglers and boaters from the Florida Keys and South Florida urged park managers to begin with a test area before expanding the concept of pole-or-troll zones to other flats that generally have a low-tide depth below 2 feet.
Park staff narrowed a list of possible sites for a prototype area to Snake Bight, a popular spot for anglers to seek flats fish like tarpon, snook and trout.
At a November 2009 hearing on the Snake Bight plan, backcountry guides and boaters strongly endorsed its creation. Some even suggested banning high-power trolling motors.
No one among the four dozen people at the Key Largo session opposed the Snake Bight plan that takes effect today.
Enactment of the pole-or-troll zone was slightly delayed by late delivery of signs to mark the new area.
As of Jan. 1, boats with combustion engines can enter the area on plane in Tin Can Channel and Snake Bight Channel, or at no-wake speed in the Jimmy's Lake area. Once past these areas, boats must move by paddle, pole or trolling motors.
"You absolutely can have combustion engines on your boat," said park biologist Dave Hallac. "You just can't use them."
The zone is similar to no-motor zones in state water near Lignum Vitae Channel off Lower Matecumbe Key, and near Tavernier Key in the Atlantic Ocean.
Park staff said implementation of the Snake Bight zone will include educational information such as signs and waterproof brochures printed in English and Spanish. Rangers will also talk with recreational anglers and park fishing guides about the new zone to ensure park users understand the new regulations.
"This protective management measure should help prevent new seagrass scars in that area of the bay that take several years to recover and negatively impact the ecology of the bay," Kimball said.
Park staff will monitor the area to assess effectiveness in protecting seagrass, enhancing fishing and improving the recreational experience.

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Headlines

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What 1970s reveal about Florida's future
TBO.com – Editorial
January 2, 2010
Gov. Rick Scott's "Regulatory Reform Transition Team" has proudly unveiled an ambitious plan to make the state business-friendly.
The group apparently believes gutting environmental protections and any regulation that slows a development's process will be good for business.
Floridians have been down this road — with disastrous results.
The perspective of the developer-dominated advisory team was evident in a PowerPoint presentation, where a slide claimed the state Department of Environmental Protection had gone from a mission of "protection" in the 1970s to one of "suppression" in the 2000s.
Anyone who views the 1970s as the "good old days" either was not living here then or has conveniently forgotten about how indifference to the environment made a mess of the state.
During the 2000s — when Republican appointees ran the DEP — the state enjoyed enormous growth. And when the recession hit, overbuilding caused Florida to take a harder fall than most states. Indeed, the New Yorker magazine, Wall Street Journal and other national publications highlighted how Florida's feckless dependence on growth amounted to little more than an unsustainable Ponzi scheme.
The recession's hard lessons apparently were lost on Scott's advisers, who not only want to curtail state regulations but would strip local governments of their own ability to protect valuable resources.
Builders may view the 1970s as a golden era, but Gov.-elect Scott could learn a lot about what happened to the state during that time by reviewing another magazine article that generated national attention — in 1981.
Along with the expected photographs of beautiful models on Florida beaches, Sports Illustrated's "swimsuit issue" that year offered a surprisingly hard-hitting investigative piece that sent shock waves through Tallahassee.
"Trouble in Paradise" by Robert H. Boyle and Rose Mary Mechem bluntly observed, "The sad fact is that Florida is going down the tube. Indeed, in no state is the environment being wrecked faster and on a larger scale."
It harshly summarized Florida's self-destruction:
"The key is water. For the last century, but particularly since World War II, federal and state agencies and a host of Floridians have been enthusiastically administering ecological enemas to marshes, swamps, wetlands and floodplains. Such areas cleanse water naturally, but now many have been drained to make way for cities, towns, housing developments, farms, industrial parks and shopping malls. This not only depletes the water storage capacity of the limestone aquifers below but also degrades the surface water. In many locations Floridians have, in essence, run a hose from their toilet to the kitchen faucet."
The article recounted a litany of squandered assets, including the pollution of Tampa Bay and other estuaries, the destruction of the Everglades, the contamination of Lake Apopka and other Central Florida Lakes and the threat to the underground water supply by more than 100 poorly designed hazardous waste sites. The authors pointed out the folly of encouraging people to live in mass on barrier islands, where there is no buffer from hurricanes.
The article, and other damaging revelations about Florida's widespread despoliation, so embarrassed former Gov. Bob Graham and state leaders that soon a series of thoughtful initiatives were launched to, among other things, save the Everglades, clean up estuaries, safeguard groundwater and curtail pollution of surface water. No longer are sand dunes cavalierly bulldozed to make way for a condo.
The success of environmental regulations has not been absolute. Water pollution is diminished but continues to foul many water bodies. Wetland destruction continues, albeit with a bit more caution. Florida has lost more wetlands — 9.3 million acres — than any other state and permits for their destruction are rarely denied.
Still, there is no question enormous progress has been made in preserving Florida's natural treasures. Regulations, among other things, have cleaned up the once filthy Tampa Bay, revived the outlook for the Everglades, and protected water sources from leaking gas tanks and other contaminants. Florida Forever, the land-acquisition plan started by former Gov. Bob Martinez, has preserved pristine beaches and woods for future generations.
And while these ecological advancements were being made, the state was growing like gangbusters. So this nostalgia for the anything-goes days of the 1970s reveals an indifference to Florida's history that should alarm citizens — and Scott.
Prosperity won't come by haphazardly sacrificing invaluable resources for transitory construction jobs. It will come by diversifying the economy while ensuring that Florida retains the natural beauty that makes it such a wonderful place to live and work.
Florida has come a long way since the Sports Illustrated article warned, "On the environmental front, the basic integrity of the state's lands and waters is at stake." But if it is Scott's intent to undo that progress, then prospects for Florida economy and environment will be very grim.

 

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