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110430-
State turns back clock on development
Miami Herald - by FRED GRIMM
April 30 2011
They’re undoing the legacy of Jack and Leonard Rosen.
As much as anyone, the notorious Rosen brothers, hair-lotion salesmen turned Florida land scammers, inspired the 1985 Comprehensive Planning and Land Development Regulation Act.
Their audacious incursions into southwest Florida could hardly be ignored, ripping through wetlands, digging canals and cutting giant subdivisions out of the Everglades, not bothering with niceties such as utilities or schools or parks or paved roads, using outlandish sales tactics to peddle thousands of lots, some of them under water. By the 1985 session of the Florida Legislature, the Rosens and their ilk had made land-use regulation seem downright urgent.
In 2011, nobody in Tallahassee cares to remember what the Rosens wrought. The scandals and frauds and environmental horrors of the 1960s and ’70s associated with swamp-land sub-dividers like the Rosens’ Gulf American Land Corporation — well that’s just so much moldy history. Florida embraces an official policy of determined obliviousness, as if as George Santayana’s warning, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it,” were the state motto.
Amid this latest, depressing dip in our perpetual boom-bust cycle, the Florida Legislature and governor have decided to emasculate the 1985 land-use law and any environmental regulation they think might hinder the next big housing boom. (Anti-growth-management measures were attached to both the House and Senate budget bills on Friday.) Leonard and Jack Rosen may be dead, Gulf American gone bankrupt, but their old swamp-land business ethic has been revived in Tallahassee.
The brothers came to Florida in the 1950s, adopting Leonard’s ethic as a TV pitchman to the art of real estate. (He once hawked a baldness cure made from sheep lanolin: “Have you ever seen a bald sheep?”)
The Rosens, headquartered in downtown Miami, bought 100 square miles of scrub land outside Fort Myers in 1957 for $678,000, bulldozed roads, dug 400 miles of canals and sold 17,000 lots for $801 million with a nationwide sales campaign that made the term “Florida swamp land” synonymous with “fraud.”
At least, Cape Coral survived, albeit as the ill-planned, soulless, sprawling epicenter of the Florida foreclosure crisis. (“All our lies,” Leonard Rosen once quipped, “turned out to be true.”) Three quarters of the lots in their next project, the 85-square-mile Golden Gate Estates subdivision, south of Cape Coral, were never occupied. The brothers peddled lots without mentioning that the Golden Gate sites lacked any supporting infrastructure for the 400,000 residents they envisioned. Eventually, the state bought up most of the land for a preserve. A faint grid of the subdivision’s unpaved roads remain visible in satellite photographs.
Those weren’t the Rosens only outrages. And they were hardly alone in getting rich by ravaging the environment and misleading mostly out-of-state buyers. The 1970s brought an orgy of nefarious development schemes and bankruptcies and indictments and crusades for reform. Much of it was chronicled in Miami Beach writer John Rothchild’s Up For Grabs, A Trip Through Time and Space in the Sunshine Space, published in 1985, same year the Comprehensive Land Use Act passed, though Rothchild could fiddle with the dates and make his history fit nicely with more recent outrages.
When the New Yorker dispatched its famous war correspondent George Packer to write “ The Ponzi State, Florida’s Foreclosure Disaster” in 2009, Packer based his reporting in Cape Coral. The Rosens may have died, but they never quite went away.
Gary Mormino, the University of South Florida professor of Florida history, told me by e-mail that we’re indeed addicted to an economic model that has made Florida into “a giant Ponzi state in that everything seemed to work as long as a thousand new residents arrived every day.
“Those newcomers helped pay taxes and pay the salaries of yesterday’s newly arrived air conditioner repairmen, nursery workers, and realtors. Rarely did anyone dare ask what would happen if a thousand retired autoworkers and New York school teachers stopped coming,” Mormino said. “It happened.”
He said, “The 2011 Florida Legislature is determined to put the growth genie back into the magical lantern. ‘We told you what would happen when a thousand people stopped coming every day!’ legislators seem to be saying. Consequently, they are determined to abolish any and all restraints that protect the environment and regulate growth.”
Rothchild is a bit more optimistic, albeit for slightly pessimistic reasons. He thinks a million or so unsold houses will do more than the state’s tepid regulatory agencies to restrain overzealous developers. Besides, he ventured, despite “a zillion agencies” supposed to tamp down Florida’s irrational exuberance, the result hasn’t been much better than back in the wild old days. “Maybe we need scoundrels to keep track of the scoundrels.”
Well, lately, Tallahassee has more scoundrels than the Rosens had swamp land. And Florida’s still up for grabs.

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110429-a
Environment: Last stand for the Florida panther ?
Summit County Voice – by Bob Berwyn
April 29, 2011
With only about 100 panthers remaining in the wild, conservation groups push for critical habitat designation in court after 23 panthers were killed in 2010
SUMMIT COUNTY — Florida panthers are close to making their last stand in the swampy grasslands and forests of the Everglades. At least 23 panthers were killed last year and 11 have died in 2011. With only about 100 of the cats remaining in the wild, their survival may depend on the designation of critical habitat, a step the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has this refused to take. Read further information on Florida Panther mortality rates
But that may change. A coalition of environmental groups has filed an appeal in federal court, seeking to force the agency to protect what is left of the panthers rapidly dwindling habitat in the midst of sprawling development in South Florida. The animals only remain in about 5 percent of their historic range.
“We have a very limited population due to inbreeding depression,” said Michael Robinson, a conservation advocate with the Center of Biological Diversity. Robinson said the population was boosted by a temporary introduction of nine West Texas pumas that were subsequently removed from Florida after they reproduced.
The federal recovery plan calls for protecting a primary core zone and a secondary dispersal zone north of the Caloosahatchee River — but nothing is a muscular as a critical habitat designation, Robinson said. Click here to visit the USFWS Florida panther web page.
The panthers have been on the endangered species list since 1967 and the federal government has not come close to fulfilling its legal and moral obligation to recover the species — mainly due to the political influence of deep-pocketed special interests, according to Robinson. Efforts on behalf of the panther by conservation groups are detailed at the Center for Biological Diversity website.
While a critical habitat designation isn’t technically required under the Endangered Species Act in all cases, the law does require federal agencies to take all necessary measures toward recovery. And that hasn’t happened in Florida, Robinson said.
“At this rate, any possibility that the panther will recover will soon be lost forever unless our legal effort is successful,” said Eric E. Huber, a seniror staff attorney with the Sierra Club and lead counsel for the groups.
The appeal is in response to a recent ruling that dismissed an earlier legal challenge to force the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to designate critical habitat for the Florida Panther.
The original case was filed in February, 2010 by the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, Sierra Club, Center for Biological Diversity, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility PEER) and the Council of Civic Associations, challenging the Service’s denial of their petitions to designate critical habitat which would give the panther the greatest protection available under the federal Endangered Species Act and enable its recovery from the brink of extinction.
“In effect, the judge said we can’t force the Service to protect the last vestiges of panther habitat because the panther has been endangered for too long. We trust the 11th Circuit will reverse,” said Andrew McElwaine, president of the Conservancy of Southwest Florida.
In dismissing the lawsuit in early April, the federal district judge recognized the panther’s gravely imperiled status, calling it “one of the rarest large mammals in the United States” and “one of the most endangered large mammals in the world.”  Nevertheless, he ruled that since the panther was listed as endangered before critical habitat provisions were added to the law the Service’s decision was entirely discretionary and thus not subject to judicial review.
The coalition of conservation groups claims the agency only has limited discretion for species listed before the habitat provisions were added in 1978.
“You can’t protect endangered species without protecting the places they live and that’s what needs to happen to give the Florida panther any shot at survival,”Robinson said. “We’re confident that the appellate court will recognize that the Interior Department has the authority and the urgent responsibility to protect critical habitat for the panther, which is disappearing as gated subdivisions and strip malls replace forests and wetlands in South Florida.”
“The Service has not issued a single jeopardy biological opinion for the entire Southeastern United States since 1993, even as unchecked development has caused increasing panther deaths,” said Ann Hauck, of the Council of Civic Associations. “The Florida panther is going to disappear forever unless the federal government undertakes protective measures that work.”
“Unfortunately, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service has an extinction strategy rather than a recovery strategy for the Florida panther,” said Jeff Ruch director of the watchdog Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility.

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110429-b
Environmentalists win latest round on water quality
Naples News - The Residents' Corner by Dave Trecker
April 29, 2011
The battle over Florida water rages on.
The latest salvo came from a federal judge, who ordered the U.S. EPA to enforce anti-pollution rules in the Everglades.
This comes hard on the heels of the Florida House passing a bill (HB 239) that would put the Florida DEP, not the EPA, in charge of regulating water purity.
Sponsor Trudi Williams (R-Ft. Myers) was quoted as saying, "This legislation sends a powerful message to the federal government that we in Florida know what's best for our own water quality."
The long-running fight has pitted conservation groups against the Florida business community and the state against the feds.
At issue is control of groundwater nutrients -- dissolved nitrogen and phosphorus that come largely from fertilizer runoff. Restrictions would impact farmers, particularly sugar cane producers, as well as developers and the mining industry. Cleanup costs would be passed on to consumers.
Business interests say the EPA regs are arbitrary and costly and would slow economic recovery.
Environmentalists disagree. They say the rules, which would go into effect next year, are long overdue and would force cleanup of discharges that are choking our rivers and lakes. They claim costs would be minimal and would have little impact on utility bills.
The recent court ruling tips the scales in favor of the environmentalists, at least for the moment. The federal judge effectively approved the EPA plan.
But it's not over. An appeal is in the works, and further litigation is certain. (The Florida Cattlemen's Association just sued the EPA.)
The outcome is important.
The issue is not whether Florida's waters should be clean -- everyone agrees they should be -- but whether the nutrient standards make sense and whether they can be achieved without economic hardship.
Stay tuned.

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110429-c
Florida needs energy policy that promotes solar water heaters in all houses
TCPalm – Letter by Herbert V. Whittall, Vero Beach
Florida needs energy policy that promotes solar water heaters in all houses
I was dismayed to read April 28 a story about the company Vero Beach is talking about linking up with. FPL apparently has spent millions in influencing our Florida Legislature to give it exclusive rights and incentives to pursue "alternative or renewable energy" to the exclusion of all other kinds.
What Florida needs is a renewable energy policy that would give incentives to homeowners and contractors to install solar hot water on all houses in Florida. Here we are the Sunshine State, and one of the few states without such incentives. Of course, FPL would be against such a policy as it would reduce electric consumption in its territory.
However, such a policy would create hundreds of jobs in Florida and save homeowners money in the long run. I have solar hot water in my house and it works very well and lowers my electric bill considerably.
Herbert V. Whittall is a member of the Vero Beach Utility Commission.

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110429-d
US Sugar's cane, Clewiston's lifeblood, is still going strong after 80 years
Palm Beach Post - by Susan Salisbury
April 29, 2011
CLEWISTON — U.S. Sugar Corp. celebrates its 80th anniversary today, and the company could very well be around for another 80 years, said CEO and President Bob Buker.
"Fortunately, we produce a product that is still as popular today as it was 80 years ago," Buker said.
This season it produced 620,000 tons of raw sugar. Once refined, 75 percent is sold in bulk, while 25 percent is packaged for retail distribution.
Three years ago, it appeared that the company's holdings, including 187,000 acres in Palm Beach, Hendry and Glades counties, its headquarters and state-of-the art mill and refinery in Clewiston, all would be acquired by the state.
People in Clewiston, which bills itself as "America's Sweetest Town," worried their town would not survive. Now they're relieved the company that employs 1,700 is sticking around, especially since Hendry County has the state's highest unemployment rate.
Hendry County Commission Chairman Darrell Harris said, "It is a plus. The state has always wanted to buy everything they could in Hendry County. The state owns close to 40 percent of the county."
In June 2008 then-Gov. Charlie Crist announced a proposed $1.75 billion buyout of U.S. Sugar Corp. for Everglades restoration. After much turmoil, the deal was pared down to 27,000 acres. In August 2010 the South Florida Water Management District voted to pay the company $197 million and has the option to buy more.
For now it's business as usual for U.S. Sugar, having a banner year driven by high sugar prices. The price of raw sugar averaged 39 cents a pound for the first quarter, up from 20 cents two years ago, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The company won't reveal its revenues, but a 2008 University of Florida report placed its income from sugar, orange juice, molasses and rail freight at more than $650 million, when sugar prices were much lower.
"We are investing for the future and expanding the refinery by 10 percent," Buker said. Buker, 61, has been with the company for 25 years, starting as its in-house counsel.
The $6 million project increased the refinery's capacity to 850,000 tons a year. An additional $5 million is being invested at its mill to improve the sugar extraction process.
"We took the roof off of the refinery this year, put in new equipment and put the roof back on. It's a food factory. It's a whole lot of stainless steel," Buker said.
In addition to refining raw sugar from its own fields and from other local growers, the refinery expects to process about 80,000 tons of foreign sugar imported from Mexico and other countries.
The company came into being in 1931 during the Great Depression when automotive pioneer, industrialist and philanthropist Charles Stewart Mott acquired the bankrupt Southern Sugar Co., its lands, sugar mill and other assets. Mott revived the company, which overcame drainage problems and developed suitable varieties of sugar cane for Florida.
"Back in the 1920s, government policy was to drain the Everglades," Buker said.
Sugar cane harvesting is completely mechanized at U.S. Sugar. Starting in 1941, as many as 2,500 workers from the Caribbean worked at U.S. Sugar, cutting cane by hand using machetes.
Colin Ricketts, now 64, was among those. A farmer in Jamaica, he first came to the U.S. in 1969 to cut cane in U.S. Sugar's fields. Since then, he has moved through a series of promotions and become part of the management team. Ricketts is now in charge of quality control over 150,000 acres of the company's cane fields, overseeing planting, harvesting and other agricultural operations.
"I cut cane for four seasons. It was exciting for me. It is physical work," Ricketts said.
U.S. Sugar spokeswoman Judy Sanchez said, "Colin probably has more knowledge about growing cane on these muck soils than anybody else out here."
By the time hand-cutting ended in 1993, Ricketts had become a foreman, then a field chemist who analyzed cane to determine when it's ready to harvest.
But employment at the company has dropped in the past 10 years, decreasing from a peak of more than 3,000 a decade ago to 1,700, mostly due to automation and consolidation. In 2007 its Bryant Mill near Pahokee closed.
The company's future depends on the economy, Buker said, adding that it is not a stretch to say the state would complete the purchase if it had the money .
"Probably we will be farming here for the next 80 years," Buker said.
That's what people in Clewiston want to hear.


U.S. Sugar celebrates its 80th anniversary today
Charles Stewart Mott, an automotive pioneer, industrialist and philanthropist, founded U.S. Sugar in 1931 when he acquired the bankrupt Southern Sugar Co., its lands, sugar mill and other assets.
Employees and former employees own 38 percent of the privately held company.
The C.S. Mott Foundation and the Mott Children's Health Center own 20 percent each.
The remainder is owned by Mott heirs and other Mott charitable foundations.
The company farms 187,000 acres, and owns about 155,000 of that. It owns about 90,000 acres in Palm Beach County, with the rest primarily in Hendry County and a small amount in Glades County.
Its subsidiaries include Southern Gardens Citrus, which produces orange juice, and the South Central Florida Express, a railroad.
U.S. Sugar is one of Florida's three sugar producers, and sugar is Palm Beach County's top crop. During the 2010-2011 season just completed, U.S. Sugar, Florida Crystals Corp., of West Palm Beach, and the Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative of Florida, of Belle Glade, produced 1.44 million tons of raw sugar.
First crop, 1931-1932
292,228 tons of cane
1.83 tons of sugar per acre
47,248 pounds of sugar
1,819 gallons of molasses
Net raw sugar selling price, $2.58 per 100 pounds
80 years of U.S. Sugar production
500 billion pounds of sugar cane
51.3 billion pounds of raw cane sugar
12.6 billion pounds of refined, granulated (since refinery opened in 1998)
1.32 billion gallons molasses
3 million megawatt hours of energy
Source: U.S. Sugar Corp.

110428-a



110428-a
County Commissioners Discuss Mining Deregulation Bill
The Island Sand Paper – by Keri Hendry
April 28, 2011
A new Senate bill that has the potential to derail local efforts to harness mining was the topic of discussion at the county commission meeting on Tuesday, as was another, seemingly contradictory bill that makes the county responsible for growth management.
Senate Bill 1122 rewrites all growth management statutes in Florida, making individual counties responsible for what was previously the state's job, but at the same time it reduces the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and slashes the Florida Department of Community Affairs – two agencies that the county would rely on if they had to take over growth management.
"This amendment was rushed through,” said Commission Chairman Frank Mann. "No one has had a chance to look at it.”
House Bill 991 has even scarier implications. By taking away the county's rights to control mines, it threatens the control the county has on protecting local resources. For instance, a mine that is scheduled to be built south of Corkscrew Road in Collier County could threaten the Corkscrew Regional Ecosystem as well as the Audubon Corkscrew Swamp – both vital to the area's supply of drinkable water.
"This has a lot to do with surface water management and aquifers,” Mann said.
"So they want us to put on our big boy pants and control growth management, but want to preempt our ability (to cite and control mines)?” quipped Commissioner John Manning.
Commissioner Judah pointed out that there is enough rock aggregate in the Alico corridor for 30 years and that Lee County officials aren't against mining, they just want to have a say where it occurs.
"The state is trying to preempt (home rule) and allow for the raping and scraping of land,” he said, "Wherever and whenever.”
The commissioners agreed to review a letter drafted by Judah's office in regards to SB 1122 and plan to reach out to local legislative delegates about HB 991.
The next meeting of the Board of County Commissioners will be at 9:30am on Tuesday, April 3, at the Old Lee County Courthouse in downtown Ft. Myers. For a complete agenda and transcript, go to http://www.lee-county.com/gov/bocc.
Keri Hendry

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110428-b
Mosquito control comes with environmental costs
TampaBay.com – by Dan DeWitt, St. Petersburg Times Columnist
Apr 28, 2011
In Everglades National Park, where spraying pesticides is banned, one unprotected human can be a walking blood-meal buffet for as many as 500 mosquitoes per minute.
And how many bites does it take to ruin a poolside barbecue, or at least generate the average complaint to a mosquito control department? Precisely 1.3 per minute, said University of Florida entomologist Jonathan Day.
So you can see how tough it would be to market the state as a sunny paradise — or even as inhabitable — without mosquito control.
"It's pretty well established that the things that allowed for the development of Florida are air conditioning, interstate highways and mosquito control," Day said.
And though comfort and property values are mainly what these spraying programs are all about — and have been since the first one was established in Indian River County in 1924 — there are also West Nile virus, dengue and several other mosquito-borne illnesses to consider.
"If one or two people get sick from the disease that these carry, we'll be in a world of hurt," County Commission Chairman John Druzbick said at Tuesday's meeting.
He was responding to a report from county environmental services director Joe Stapf, who explained how the county responded to the 850 complaints from residents about the early start to mosquito season in Hernando County.
We got a few rainy days in late March, millions of adult mosquitoes emerged from the larval stage into the adult, biting stage, and by the end of last week the county had responded by spraying 225 gallons of pesticides from Ridge Manor to Hernando Beach.
The extra weeks of spraying are expected to require the return of almost all of the $102,000 removed from mosquito control's budget last year. So, it costs us, this expectation that we should be bug-free even in Florida.
This slight note of sarcasm is not to suggest, of course, that we should do away with mosquito control. It just seems like a good time to point out that every human convenience and comfort comes with an environmental cost. And, if you think about it, the ultimate — and unattainable — goal of mosquito control is pretty extreme: wiping out the bottom link of the food chain.
For example, mosquito larvae are one of the main food sources for hatchlings in our estuaries.
Less larvae mean fewer of these small fish, fewer of the medium fish that feed on them and ultimately fewer tarpon and snook.
Then there's permethrin and other pesticides from the same family that are the main chemicals the county sprays. These neurotoxins are generally less effective as body temperatures climb.
That means they have very little impact on most mammals (other than, for some reason, cats), which makes them a big improvement on malathion, which the county used until a few years ago. But that also means that they can be highly toxic to frogs, fish and other cold-blooded aquatic life, although Guangye Hu, the county's mosquito control supervisor, said he has never received a report of fish or amphibian die-offs from spraying.
And, being insecticides, obviously, permethrin is hard on honeybees, fireflies and butterflies.
If you think you see fewer fireflies than you did when you could collect a jar full, no problem, on a summer evening as a kid, well, that's a fact. They are in decline worldwide. Light pollution is probably the main culprit; it's hard for the female to be excited by a male's blinking abdomen when it's competing with a 7-Eleven sign. But agricultural and residential spraying certainly doesn't help, said Jerry Hayes, the state's chief of apiary inspection.
"Any insect that comes in contact with (permethrin) is going to be impacted," he said.
Maybe you've seen a hive of honeybees in a crawl space recently and been reassured that, despite what you've heard, the species is doing fine. Not so, Hayes said. The bees in your yard are almost certainly the hardier, more aggressive Africanized varieties.
Feral populations of the benign European bees have been almost wiped out in Florida, and insecticides have definitely played a part, he said.
The situation with butterflies is more complicated, said Mark Minno, who has written several books on the subject. Exotic ants and wasps appear to be the main culprit in the statewide decline, and in some isolated cases spraying for mosquitoes appears to have helped imperiled butterfly populations; it tends to kill these predators.
Still, there are fewer butterflies in Florida than there once were, and insecticides are one reason why.
If we can't stop spraying, then what can we do?
Well, the more you learn about mosquito control, the more you are likely to be impressed.
That 225 gallons is not much, considering the miles the spraying trucks cover, Stapf said. That's because their drivers release tiny amounts for each mile covered.
Mosquito control workers also have a lot of ways to kill larvae, most of them nontoxic and highly targeted. These include introducing gambusia (mosquitofish) to infested water, injecting the water with bacteria that feed only on mosquito larvae, and suffocating these populations with natural oils that cover the surface.
And then there's the low-tech practice of just dumping out the many isolated pools of water — in tires, children's toys, neglected bird baths — where the larvae are unlikely to boost the food chain and very likely to make our lives miserable.
So, that's one suggestion before you call mosquito control: That brown water languishing somewhere in a corner of your yard? Just dump it out.

110428-c



110428-c
Scott must appoint South Florida Water Management District director who will be more accountable to taxpayers
TCPalm – by Charles de Garmo
April 28, 2011
Charles de Garmo, a boat captain, lives in Sewall's Point.
Wehle's retirement gives Scott opportunity to hire someone who will be accountable to taxpayers
In my last column, I wrote about the failures of the South Florida Water Management District. It's been unsuccessful at getting storm-water treatment areas built and running and has squandered more than $575 million of taxpayer money on failed projects.
Here's a continued exposure of wasteful practices of the aircraft carrier of a bureaucracy that is so good at ground breakings but so poor at ribbon cuttings.
One of the key issues to discuss is that I hope Gov. Rick Scott appoints a new district executive director — to replace Carol Wehle, who recently quit — who will change the direction of this money-wasting sinkhole of a bureaucracy in a positive way. Let his new director mark the beginning of the taxpayer getting what he thinks he's paying for, and not failed water projects, wasteful spending and catering to special interests.
With that thought in mind, let there be no more $250,000 studies by consultants of a SAP computer program that the consultants recommended not buying and the district bought anyway. This is a bottomless pit of a program that we have to continue paying for because it's useless without SAP support. Costs this year alone are $8.8 million for the program, $16.5 million for Internet technology, $4.5 million for facility management and $8.9 million for administration. For $38.7 million a year I would expect the SAP program could pick the winning Powerball number at least once a year to pay for itself.
Let there be no more apple snail rejuvenation programs (entitlements for birds) that spent $3.80 per snail on costly studies before and after releasing snails to feed the snail kite population. No more outreach programs that paid one ex-district employee $2 million or $7,290 per student to teach minorities construction site safety and bulldozer operation.
Or the wasted $2.4 million to two schools to teach the same thing only to have the students fail drug tests. No one was hired after either program. No more Nubbin Slough storm-water treatment areas so overdesigned that it can't even get full during the rainy season. Let better planning end debacles like the A-1 Everglades Agriculture Area reservoir that the district spent $300 million on before walking away and leaving another failure.
No more deals like the 2007 purchase of $1.5 million in pumps from the politically connected Morrison Pump Co. When the pumps failed, the district requested they be fixed under the five-year warranty, but the company refused, saying the pumps were misused. I can only guess that some apple snails clogged up the pumps to void the warranty.
What troubles me when I see deals like this one with Morrison Pump is that the district threatened to sue and remove Morrison Pump from its bidder list, yet Morrison still mentions in its website that it is still part of the "technical team" in Everglades restoration. As of today the district hasn't sued or removed Morrison from the bid list and paid $1.85 million to a new vendor to replace 15 pumps. You have to wonder how many engineering and construction firms who have worked on failed projects still get to bid on new work? No one ever seems to be held responsible at the water district and its success rate is unacceptable so please, Gov. Scott, change this scenario.
The mission statement of the water management district is: To manage and protect water resources of the region by balancing and improving water quality, flood control, natural systems and water supply. The good employees at the district know it by heart while upper management seems to be clueless about what the statement means and how to implement it.
If a new director doesn't turn things around, dial 911, because you're being robbed.

110427-a






Judge GOLD Judge A.S. GOLD
US District SoFL

110427-a
EPA to Take the Lead on Florida Water Quality
Courthouse News Service - by Sonya Angelica Diehn
April 27, 2011
(CN) - A federal judge in Florida ruled that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency should take over water quality permitting from the state. U.S. District Judge Alan Gold's decision expressed urgency for the conservation of the Everglades, and attempts to end 23 years of litigation over water quality in Florida.
The United States sued the Florida environmental department in 1988 for failing to enforce water quality standards. The Miccosukee Tribe and Friends of the Everglades filed suit in 2004 to compel compliance with the Clean Water Act. 
Push and pull on the issue by both federal and state agencies shows "a lack of cooperation among the participants responsible for administering restoration and conservation efforts," but the "time to act is now," Gold wrote (emphasis in original).
The judge added that the EPA seems committed to complying with a 2010 court order in which he directed the agency to establish specific milestones for Clean Water Act compliance. 
Since a January deadline for the state to correct permit deficiencies has elapsed, the EPA should now step in and take the reins on water quality regulation, Gold wrote.
In the interest of putting enforceable permits into place quickly, Gold denied a motion to void the pending permits. He instead declared them submitted, which triggers a federal-review process that directs the EPA to conform the permits to the act, Gold wrote.
The permits should be issued without individual compliance schedules, he added.
Gold set a July 1 deadline for the parties to submit a description of progress made.
Water quality in Florida continues to be a contested issue. Several parties last year challenged a 2009 agreement replacing narrative water quality regulations in Florida with stricter numeric standards. 
The 11th Circuit recently issued a few important rulings relating to the Everglades. In one ruling, the appellate court upheld a "water transfer rule," allowing a water district to pump agricultural runoff into Lake Okeechobee without a permit. In another, it allowed phosphate mining to continue at a strip mine southeast of Tampa.

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110427-b
Florida Ruling a Victory for Everglades and Water Quality Trading
Ecosystem Marketplace
April 27, 2011
Related Links
US Judge Says EPA, not Fla., Must Lead Glades fix
Dual Lawsuits Threaten Innovative Water Quality Programs Across the US
Water Trading: the Basics
A US federal judge in Florida has ruled in favor of the federal EPA’s plan to impose limits on the amount of phosphorus and nitrogen running into the Everglades.  It's not only a victory for the Everglades, but could open the door to innovative water-quality trading mechanisms down the road.
27 April 2011 | In a 76-page ruling issued Tuesday, US District Judge Alan Gold said that Florida state agencies "have not been true stewards of protecting the Everglades in recent years," and that the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) had the right to impose its 2010 Final Rule, which sets quantitative nutrient limits on the entire state’s lakes, rivers, streams, and springs.
Such quantitative limits could form the cornerstone of a water-quality trading regime that aims to reduce discharges in the most efficient way possible.
Currently, nutrient criteria are simply ‘narrative,’ requiring that “in no case shall nutrient concentrations of a body of water be altered so as to cause an imbalance in natural populations of aquatic flora or fauna.” Numeric limits are only introduced on a site-specific basis.
The new statewide numeric ruling, which takes effect in 2012, is the product of a consent decree the EPA signed to settle a lawsuit filed by environmental groups in 2008.
Among the parties that sued to block the numeric standards: the State of Florida, the Florida Agricultural Commissioner, the Florida League of Cities, the Florida Stormwater Association, and numerous municipal and county groups, as well as members of the fertilizer and mining industries.
The complaints sharded a similar argument – and one that echoed debates up in the Chesapeake Bay. The Final Rule, they said, was a “federal mandate” and an intrusion into state regulatory affairs, which had received EPA’s approval until the environmental group lawsuit.  Most also questioned the scientific basis of the EPA numbers and argued that implementing numeric nutrient limits for the entire state would inflict high costs on businesses, citizens, and the public sector.

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Florida neglects Everglades funding at its economic peril
Naples Daily News - Guest editorial by Brandon Nichols Naples Board member, Collier County Audubon Society
April 27, 2011
I am keenly aware of Florida’s financial crisis and consequent difficulty the Florida Legislature faces in balancing this year’s state budget. This hardship extends to many Floridians who are still out of work and many business owners struggling to stay afloat. Given these issues, I want to underscore the importance of our continued support for Everglades restoration and how it can help address the vital need to restore work for Floridians.
First and foremost, it is significant to note that Floridians have always enjoyed a quality of life that is inextricably linked to the health of our natural environment. Tourists and residents alike enjoy pristine beaches, exceptional state parks and great fishing and wildlife-watching. Given this, I am very concerned that the Legislature which aspires to boost Florida’s economy and job growth would consider spending next to nothing on Everglades restoration.
The Florida Everglades, once a vibrant, free-flowing river of grass that provided clean water from Lake Okeechobee to Florida Bay, is in peril. The Florida Senate proposes only $2.1 million for restoration and wants to cut 30 percent of the South Florida Water Management District’s budget, eliminating its ability to build planned Everglades restoration projects. These water-resource projects, along with dozens of federal restoration projects, are fundamentally important to the over 6 million people of South Florida, not to mention its myriad species of wildlife.
I hasten to praise Rep. Trudi Williams, R-Fort Myers, who personally assured that $26 million towards Everglades restoration would be in the House budget just passed.
As bad as the outcome of no state Everglades funding would be, my greater fear is that the U.S. Congress, where another budget battle rages, will view any reluctance by Florida to fund the restoration of its own Everglades with a quick resolve to do likewise. Florida cannot afford to take a break from Everglades restoration. It took many years to finally achieve the momentum required to move from planning projects to making them a reality. This is an issue of jobs, water and habitat.
Everglades restoration is a 50-50 partnership between the state and federal governments. A 2010 study by Mather Economics revealed that investment in Everglades restoration provides a four-to-one economic benefit for every dollar invested in restoration projects. Total benefits are many, including:
n Ensuring drinking water supply for a third of all Floridians.
n Saving and creating jobs in the tourism, boating and fishing industries.
n Reducing the levels of toxic pollutants like methyl mercury found in Florida fish.
n Protecting imperiled wildlife like the Florida panther and Everglades snail kite.
Over the past three years, Everglades restoration projects have directly generated 10,500 jobs in construction, engineering and science fields. Over the next several decades of scheduled restoration work, more than 442,000 jobs will be created in tourism, real estate, commercial and recreational fishing industries.
The largest among those federal projects actually under way is the 55,000-acre Picayune Strand in Collier County. Between 2010 and 2012, that project will create 2,168 jobs. When complete, it will have revitalized fish productivity in the downstream Ten Thousand Islands estuaries, plus restored essential habitat for the Florida panther, bald eagle, Florida black bear and many other iconic Florida wildlife species.
One especially important Southwest Florida project is the C-43 West Reservoir on the Caloosahatchee River. It will store over 65 billion gallons in a 10,000-acre reservoir to be used in the dry season to keep oysters and fish habitat in the estuary alive. All the land has been bought, the plans are complete, the permits approved — all it lacks is authorization and funding from Congress, for which it’s been waiting since last year. Florida’s proposed failure to fund Everglades restoration threatens this vital project which hangs in the Washington political balance on budget talks.
The message is clear: Florida must continue its commitment to restoring the Everglades or risk losing not only this year of state work, but jeopardize congressional funding and support for some time to come. With that loss goes opportunity and jobs. That would set Florida’s economic and ecological recovery back years. Florida cannot afford to be penny wise and pound foolish.
Make your voice heard: Contact your state senators and representatives today and urge them to continue their support for funding of Everglades restoration.

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First phase of Tamiami bridge on track
South Florida Business Journal – by Paul Brinkmann, Reporter
April 26, 2011I had the chance to see construction of the new bridges along Tamiami Trail on Saturday, and the work is impressive.
As part of one of the nation’s largest environmental construction projects, contractors have driven hundreds of piers into the muck of the Everglades west of Miami.
The first phase of the bridge is well under way, on schedule for completion in May 2013, said Dan Kimball, superintendent of Everglades National Park.
Kimball and representatives of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers provided a tour for limited media, arranged by the Everglades Foundation.
The bridges are designed to let more water flow into Everglades National Park. Historically, Tamiami Trail was a great road across the Everglades, but it also serves as a giant dam, blocking the natural water flow from north to south.
If it works as planned, the bridges could really improve wildlife, fishing and the general ecology in the park. The bridges will also provide a unique, elevated view of the Everglades like never before – about 20 feet high.
The first phase of the project is 1 mile long, but there are already plans for 5.5 more miles. The eventual total could be 11 miles.
The $406 million project is the largest such project ever undertaken by the National Park Service.
The project has been controversial. The Miccosukee Tribe of Indians of Florida sued the government to block the bridge. The tribe was concerned about flooding and the taking of parkland for the project. Kimball said the Miccosukees raised a valid point about greater flooding, or “seepage” concerns south of Tamiami Trail when more water starts flowing.
But the project has multiple steps. Changes are also being designed for the dike and canal that runs along the north side of the highway.
Sunrise-based Kiewet Southern Co. is the general contractor for the first phase. The 1-mile project was expected to employ between 65 and 75 people, and take at least three years to finish.

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Three Reappointed to Southwest Florida Water Management District Governing Board
Sunshine News – by Nancy Smith's blog
April 26, 2011
Gov. Rick Scott today announced the reappointments of Albert Joerger, H. Paul Senft, and Doug Tharp to the governing board of Southwest Florida Water Management District.
Joerger, 43, of Sarasota, is the founder and president of The Conservation Foundation of the Gulf Coast. He is reappointed for a term beginning April 26, 2011, and ending March 1, 2015.
Senft, 71, of Haines City, is a self-employed business and insurance consultant. He is reappointed for a term beginning April 26, 2011, and ending March 1, 2015.
Tharp, 76, of The Villages, is a retired industrial engineer. He is reappointed for a term beginning April 26, 2011, and ending March 1, 2015.
The reappointments are subject to confirmation by the Florida Senate.
Five seats remain to be filled at South Florida Water Management District, the state's largest WMD.

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U.S. district judge says state regulatory agencies ‘not true stewards’ of the Everglades
Florida Independent - by Virginia Chamlee
April 26, 2011
A U.S. district judge ruled today that that the state of Florida has failed in its requirement to protect the water quality of Everglades marshes. According to Judge Alan Gold, the state is “unwilling or unable to issue permits in compliance with the” Clean Water Act. #
In the judgment released today, Gold acknowledged that nutrient contamination in the Everglades was an enormous problem that had been ignored even by regulatory agencies. In his judgment, Gold wrote that Florida has failed to meet even federal minimums of water quality standards under the Clean Water Act. #
“What … is clear is that the State of Florida and the South Florida Water Management District (‘SFWMD’), notwithstanding protests to the contrary, have not been true stewards of protecting the Everglades in recent years,” reads Gold’s ruling. #
In a press release, the environmental group Friends of the Everglades said that this failure is a direct result of state environmental agencies siding with industry instead of looking out for the environment they are charged with protecting: #
This has been called the “race to the bottom” where State’s compete with each other to have the worst water quality thereby making it make it cheaper for polluters to do business in the state. This was why Congress passed these national environmental laws in the first place. To stop the race to the bottom. #
Florida political officials, including Governor Rick Scott, appear blinded to the fact that the State itself is substantially to blame for the decades of accumulated costs, for failure to require the polluter to pay. Friends agrees that EPA, rejuvenated under President Obama, can step in decisively. We deplore the efforts by polluters to hobble the only federal agency with the authority and mandate to fix what is wrong with the Everglades. #
Gold’s ruling, though stern, is a wake-up call to agencies that have not done enough to protect such an important environmental resource. #
“I could not have said it clearer in my April 14, 2010 Order that I enjoined FDEP from certain conduct and required the EPA to direct FDEP to undertake certain processes to achieve compliance with the water quality standards under the Clean Water Act,” wrote Gold. “I unequivocally ordered the EPA to direct the State to take specific action. The State’s response was to assert that it cannot take the action as required and thus, to fail to fully comply with my prior Orders. Accordingly, now I must further use the equitable inherent powers as described infra and in my prior orders to put into the EPA’s hands the steps to move forward.” #
Gold went on to say that, should the agencies fail to enforce water quality standards, the Everglades could eventually cease to exist: #
The roots of the ongoing and enduring Everglades litigation originate from a period of over one quarter century ago. This represents a serious need for the parties in this action—as well as non-parties with substantial interests in the future of the Everglades—to stop delaying. It is now, and has been for a while, time to take concrete and substantial progress toward preserving the Everglades before this national treasure is permanently destroyed to the extent of irreparable destruction. #
Gold’s ruling states that both the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the EPA are to submit a “Joint Notice of Compliance specifically detailing the steps that have been taken in accordance with the instant Order, the Amended Determination, and the Court’s prior orders” no later than July 1, 2011. #
The case may now move to an Atlanta federal appeals court, which would determine if Gold’s ruling could stand.

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US judge says EPA, not Fla., must lead Glades fix
Associated Press
April 26, 2011
MIAMI (AP) — The state of Florida has failed to protect the threatened Everglades and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency must step in to enforce anti-pollution rules, a federal judge ruled Tuesday.
U.S. District Judge Alan Gold's decision gives the EPA greater authority over water permits affecting discharges from sugar growers, farms and businesses, which are largely responsible for phosphorous-laden fertilizer runoff that is choking the vast wetlands. The EPA last year proposed a new cleanup plan largely opposed by the state.
But Gold, who noted that Everglades restoration has been the subject of court battles for 25 years, said that protecting the area is too important to be derailed by complaints that cleanup is too costly or politically unfeasible.
"There is no possibility of reversing the damage that has been done to the Everglades, and there is only the chance to preserve what remains in its current state," he wrote in a 76-page ruling.
The decision was harshly critical of the state's handling of the Everglades' problems, including Republican Gov. Rick Scott's recent request that EPA drop numeric limits for nutrients such as phosphorous in Florida waterways. In addition, state lawmakers several years ago made changes to the Everglades Forever Act that pushed back deadlines for reductions in phosphorous discharge.
State agencies and water managers, Gold wrote, "have not been true stewards of protecting the Everglades in recent years." His ruling effectively endorsed much of the EPA's plan unveiled last fall.
Gold set a July 1 deadline for EPA and others involved in the case to show what steps are being taken to comply with the ruling and the pollution reduction goals under the federal Clean Water Act.
An EPA spokeswoman said the agency was reviewing the ruling but had no immediate comment, while the state Department of Environmental Protection did not respond an email seeking comment. But environmental groups praised Gold.
"Judge Alan Gold's ruling shows that he is determined to see through the most complex environmental litigation in U.S. history," said Alan Farago, conservation chair at Friends of the Everglades.
"Judge Gold's bold and decisive decision is a stark reminder that we cannot squander the opportunity to protect America's fragile Everglades and our water supply," said Kirk Fordham, CEO of the Everglades Foundation.

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Water management districts left out of budget deal
Sun Sentinel - by Aaron Deslatte
April 26, 2011
TALLAHASSEE -- The budget deal hatched Tuesday by House Speaker Dean Cannon and Senate President Mike Haridopolos leaves out the Senate's vision for scooping up the budgets of Florida's five water-management districts.
The decision appears to sink for now the only component of Gov. Rick Scott's property tax cut plan that had gained traction in the Legislature: a $210 million reduction in property taxes imposed by four of the five water districts.
The South Florida Water Management District would have had to absorb the largest slice of that property tax cut -- some $120 million. Although the water-management issue was omitted from the agreement, Cannon spokeswoman Katie Betta said "we will pursue additional oversight" of the districts.
The Senate also voted earlier this month to fold the 105-mile tollway system operated by the Orlando-Orange County Expressway Authority into the state Florida Turnpike Enterprise — along with the $250 million in tolls annually paid by Central Florida motorists.
Sen. Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, had said the move to fold the Central Florida, Tampa and a Panhandle regional toll authorities into the Turnpike Enterprise would allow for the construction of more toll roads throughout the state and save $24 million in services duplicated by the agencies.
But the House didn't bite, and now the issue is moot for the year. The Senate did get a win by keeping the budgets of county court clerks in the state's spending document. The House had wanted them removed.

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Tommy STROWD
Tommy STROWD
Interim Executive Director, SFWMD


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South Florida Water Management District picks new interim leader, braces for deep spending cuts
Sun Sentinel - by Andy Reid
April 25, 2011
South Florida Water Management District veteran Tommy Strowd on Monday was named interim executive director of the agency that faces a budget crunch along with a leadership shakeup.
Executive Director Carol Wehle steps down Friday, less than three weeks after abruptly announcing her retirement from the far-reaching agency charged with protecting South Florida’s water supply, guarding against flooding and leading Everglades restoration.
Strowd, a nearly 20 year district employee, faces the daunting challenge of leading the district through steep spending cuts while also dealing with a lingering drought and preparing for another hurricane season. He said he doesn’t plan to seek the full-time post.
"The title 'interim' is particularly appealing to me," said Strowd, 57. "I want to do whatever I can to help this agency."
District board members chose Strowd over other internal agency executives to lead the district while they begin working with state leaders to find a full-time replacement.
Strowd had been deputy executive director of operations and maintenance, charged with overseeing the vast flood control system that keeps South Florida dry. Prior to taking on that post in June 2010, Strowd’s duties included managing the district’s Everglades restoration projects.
Strowd has more than 30 years of experience in environmental and water resources engineering, according to his district bio.
Strowd is "perfectly suited to guide the agency through this transition period," which includes creating "what will likely be the most austere budget in the agency’s recent history," District Board Chairman Joe Collins wrote in an e-mail about Strowd’s selection.
District management shakeups had been a looming possibility since Gov. Rick Scott took office.
The district has been under pressure from Scott and the Florida Legislature to make deep cuts to the agency’s $1 billion budget.
Meeting the governor’s push to cut at least $100 million in costs could put already-overdue Everglades restoration projects on hold and lead to district layoffs.
Past district spending under Wehle at times put the agency at odds with legislative leaders as well as the new governor, who gets to appoint the district’s nine-member board.
In addition to the search for a new executive director, the district is waiting for Scott to fill three vacancies on the district board and to decide whether to reappoint two more board members whose terms have expired.
The South Florida Water Management District touches 16 counties from Orlando to the Keys. Based in West Palm Beach, the agency has about 1,700 employees and is the largest of the state’s five water management districts

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Growth management
Florida Today – Our opinion
April 23, 2011
Do we want to recreate the problems of the past ?
In its effort to reduce government regulation of business, attract jobs and boost Florida's stumbling economy, the Legislature might be moving too quickly and too aggressively in reinventing the state's growth management policy.
The Legislature passed Florida's first significant growth management laws in 1985 for good reasons: Florida's population had more than doubled from 1950 to 1970, and in the 1970s and '80s nearly unchecked development was destroying valuable wetlands and shorelines, jamming roads and schools, and threatening water shortages.
And who was picking up the tab to fix this? The taxpayer.
It became obvious that local governments, in making their case-by-case zoning decisions, were incapable of taking into account issues that mattered to multicounty regions or to the state was a whole.
That 1985 Growth Management Act was significant in that it required cities and counties to adopt comprehensive plans for growth and development. The law also required local governments to include a "concurrency" provision, meaning that roads, schools and other services that taxpayers would pay for had to be considered among the impacts of development.
It was, and still is, a balancing act. When growth management works, regional treasures such as the Everglades or our own Wakulla Springs are protected.
Yet some counties are ill equipped to deal with the complexity of their own comp plans, and developers have been known to tear their hair out as proposed projects have crept through local agencies, the state's Department of Community Affairs and the courts.
This year, our legislators are taking on the Growth Management Act with SB 1122 and the similar HB 7129 — substantial revisions that have environmental groups in a panic.
SB 1122 was introduced by Sen. Mike Bennett, R-Bradenton, and chairman of the Senate Committee on Community Affairs, who said he was pleased to have the support of most environmental groups. That's not quite the way 1,000 Friends of Florida would put it, nor Audubon of Florida, Clean Water Action, Defenders of Wildlife, the Florida Wildlife Federation, Sierra Club Florida, the Nature Conservancy and others who last week came out saying the bills go way too far.
Proponents see state regulations as unneeded duplication of what local governments can do better.
Rep. Ritch Workman, R-Melbourne, co-sponsor of the House version — which passed Thursday on a party-line 86-31 vote — wrote in Florida Today that, after years of dealing with their comp plans, "Now, more than ever, local governments are experienced and well prepared to manage growth within their communities without extensive state oversight."
But a big question is whether all local governments are prepared to resist lobbying for development, especially development that affects areas beyond one county. There's also concern over the weakening of concurrency rules. Without that safeguard, all county taxpayers will again be paying the bill for new schools and transportation needs surrounding, say, a far-flung new housing development they could never afford to live in.
Rep. Workman said counties still could turn to the Department of Community Affairs for guidance. Yet there are separate proposals from the governor and in the Legislature to eliminate DCA entirely as part of overall government reorganization of departments, trust funds and responsibilities.
But really, what problem are we trying to solve?
A recent report from the Census Bureau that 18 percent of Florida homes are sitting vacant only confirmed what our eyes already tell us: There is a huge oversupply of housing.
Development will bounce back when the state's economy does, but it's unlikely that loosening growth regulations now will bring a rush of development and lead the state out of the doldrums.
Looking ahead to when development does get cranked up again, do we want to be recreating the problems of yesteryear ?
It's always worthwhile to review laws, to look for obsolete rules and eliminate unnecessary obstacles. That's why 1000 Friends of Florida initially was on board with some of the proposed changes in growth management.
But we don't want to be throwing the baby out with the bath water. Or, as Charles Lee, a lobbyist for Audubon of Florida, put it, "literally ripping the bathtub out of the floor and throwing that out the window, too."
Over 25 years, Florida's growth management laws have worked to protect the state while allowing robust growth. Caution, not gusto, should be the guiding word in this endeavor.

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Just Like That, SFWMD Finds Way to Cut Its Budget by 40 Percent
Sunshine News – by Nancy Smith's blog
April 23, 2011
Scandalized South Florida Water Management District, largest by far of the state's five water management districts, isn't waiting around for the Legislature to dictate how its $1.1 billion budget should be cut. On Friday it released a plan to slash its 2012 budget by 40 percent -- down to $639.9 million. That cut is actually 10 percent deeper than even Senate budget chief J.D. Alexander called for.
It kills 91 district positions and, according to a story Friday in the Palm Beach Post, "everything from office supplies to Everglades restoration programs."
The Post also reported that on Monday the district board will appoint Tommy Strowd, the SFWMD's deputy executive director, as interim executive director. Strowd, who was named deputy in June 2010, oversees operations and maintenance at the district.
Alexander has said the Senate's plan to rein in the district's spendaholic ways -- padding its budgets with big salaries, benefits and unnecessary travel --  reflects the governor's desire to take control of the water management districts.
The governor is due shortly to appoint five new members of the SFWMD board.
To make its budget cuts, the Post story explained, "the Senate's budget bill would require the state's Office of Program Policy Analysis and Governmental Accountability to examine all the districts' staffing expenditures for the last three years. That state office would also inspect each district's inventory of aircraft and motor vehicles, along with operation and repair and maintenance expenses. A district would be allowed to replace vehicles only after 200,000 miles unless there is an emergency."
The district revealed it considered -- and perhaps still is -- another option: It could discontinue the Everglades cleanup project. The Post said it could recast the program to benefit local areas, "then charge those areas, such as Lee County and Fort Myers or Martin County and Stuart."
SFWMD Executive Director Carol Wehle's last day on the job is April 30. Wehle announced her resignation April 14, after a Post investigation revealed that the district hired Bob Howard, her live-in boyfriend, as a $120,000-a-year auditor for the inspector general, yet she never disclosed their relationship. For the time being, Howard remains at the district while the Department of Environmental Protection investigates.
Board members and the inspector general's office declined comment.

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Eco-Economics: What’s the Everglades Worth to You ?
Naples Daily News - by Barbara Wilson
April 22, 2011
The Everglades Foundation, the Conservancy of Southwest Florida and Hodges University will co-host a panel discussion called “What’s the Everglades Worth to You?” to highlight the financial value of restoring America’s Everglades ecosystem. The event, which is open to the public (by reservation), will be held Tuesday, May 3, 2011, from 4:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. at Hodges University in Naples.
Mather Economics Principal Investigator Bobby McCormick, Ph.D., will present results of his firm’s research, which projects that restoration will generate $4 in economic benefits for every one dollar invested in restoration projects. In addition, an increase in economic benefits of approximately $46.5 billion ranging up to $123.9 billion could be realized based on an investment of $11.5 billion.
Additional speakers will include: Jack Wert, executive director of the Tourism Development Council of Collier County; Matthew Raffenberg, manager of environmental licensing for Florida Power & Light; and moderator Andrew D.W. Hill, CFA of Andrew Hill Investment Advisors, Inc., and board vice-chairman for the Conservancy of Southwest Florida.
“We invite the community to this panel discussion to hear a business-to-business message regarding the value of restoring the Everglades,” said Hill. “Business audiences and the general public have much to gain from a frank discussion about job creation and economic data on water supply, tourism, fishing and real estate values associated with the Everglades ecosystem. This is a perspective that complements the intrinsic value of Everglades’ alligators, birds, fish and mangroves.”
Hodges University is located at 2655 Northbrooke Drive in Naples; to RSVP, please call Dannean Altman at (239) 250-2148 or email trainer305@aol.com.
About Florida’s Relationship with the Everglades:
More than seven million people live in the Everglades watershed and depend on its natural systems for their livelihood, food and drinking water. Florida’s agriculture, boating, tourism, real estate, recreational and commercial fishing industries all depend on a healthy Everglades ecosystem, which supports tens of thousands of jobs and contributes billions to our economy. Its waters flow through Everglades National Park, Big Cypress National Preserve, Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge, Biscayne National Park and John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park. Together, these parks draw several million visitors each year, contributing hundreds of millions of dollars to Florida’s tourism economy. “Measuring the Economic Benefits of America’s Everglades Restoration: An Economic Evaluation of Ecosystem Services Affiliated with the World’s Largest Ecosystem,” is available in its entirety at www.evergladesfoundation.org.
About Mather Economics:
Mather Economics is an economic consultancy based in Atlanta. Mather Economics was founded in 2002, and works with clients to improve business performance through applied economic analysis. Mather Economics advises business clients in the areas of profit optimization, pricing strategy, predictive modeling and customer analytics. The company works with more than 70 clients on a recurring basis to assist them with applied analytics and performance reporting. Mather Economics also works with clients to value ecosystem services using market data to quantify environmental contributions to economic activity. For further information, please contact Matt Lindsay at matt@mathereconomics.com.
About the Everglades Foundation Mission:
The Everglades Foundation, Inc. is a 501(c) (3) not-for-profit, charitable organization dedicated to protecting and restoring one of the world’s unique natural ecosystems that provides economic, recreational and life-sustaining benefits to the millions of people who depend on its future health. Since 1993, the Everglades Foundation has played a leadership role in advancing Everglades restoration through the advancement of scientifically sound and achievable solutions. The Foundation seeks to reverse the damage inflicted on the ecosystem and provides policymakers and the public with an honest and credible resource to help guide decision-making on complex restoration issues. For more information, please visit www.evergladesfoundation.org.
About the Conservancy of Southwest Florida:
The Conservancy of Southwest Florida began in 1964 when community leaders came together to defeat a proposed “Road to Nowhere” and spearheaded the acquisition and protection of Rookery Bay. The Conservancy is a grassroots organization focused on the critical environmental issues of the Southwest Florida region --- protecting area waters, land and wildlife. The Conservancy of Southwest Florida accomplishes this through the synergies of environmental education, policy and advocacy, science and research and wildlife rehabilitation. The Conservancy Wildlife Rehabilitation Clinic treats more than 2,400 injured, sick and orphaned animals each year and releases about half back into their native habitats.
The Conservancy of Southwest Florida is located in Naples at 1450 Merrihue Drive, off Goodlette-Frank Road at 14th Avenue North, and is currently undergoing many sustainable renovations, with a projected completion date in late 2012.
For information about the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, call (239) 262-0304 or visit www.conservancy.org
This story is contributed by a member of the Naples community and is neither endorsed nor affiliated with Naples Daily News

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S. Fla. water district proposes 40 percent cuts; state probes district director's boyfriend's hiring
Palm Bech Post - by Christine Stapleton, Staff Writer
April 22, 2011
WEST PALM BEACH — The ongoing turmoil at the South Florida Water Management District shifted from scandal to layoffs as proposed budget cuts released on Friday would eliminate 91 positions and make deep cuts to everything from office supplies to Everglades restoration programs.
Meanwhile, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection is investigating the hiring of Bob Howard as an auditor for the district's Inspector General, after The Palm Beach Post reported that Howard and the district's executive director, Carol Wehle, did not disclosed they were in a relationship before he was hired.
Wehle, 57, announced April 14 she would resign on April 30. On Monday the board will appoint Tommy Strowd, the district's deputy executive director, as interim executive director. Strowd became the deputy in June 2010 and oversees operations and maintenance at the district.
The district's reduction plan was submitted to the Florida Senate, which wants to absorb the state's five water management districts into its own budget. Gov. Rick Scott has proposed a cut a 25 percent cut in the district's property tax collections, while Senate budget chief J.D. Alexander floated a plan to slash 30 percent.
In response, the district hastily prepared and presented its own budget reduction plan to the Senate, said Deena Reppen, the district's deputy executive director of public affairs. Reppen cautioned that the Senate has not yet approved its budget and the proposed staff reductions are "very preliminary." She said retirements and attrition probably would lower the actual number of layoffs.
The district's plan would reduce its 2011 budget of $1.1 billion by 40 percent to $639.9 million in 2012.
Under the district's proposal, the division of Management and Administration would lose 28 positions, more than any other division, leaving 344 full-time employees. Other staff cuts include 18 in Water Resources Planning and Monitoring; 16 in Everglades programs; 12 in Outreach; nine in Operation and Maintenance; five in Acquisition, Restoration and Public Works; and three in Regulation.
The Senate budget's plan reflects the governor's desire to take control of the water management districts, which for years have been accused of padding their budgets with generous salaries, benefits and travel.
To make its cuts, the Senate's budget bill would require the state's Office of Program Policy Analysis and Governmental Accountability to examine all the districts' staffing expenditures for the last three years. That state office also would also inspect each district's inventory of aircraft and motor vehicles, along with operation and repair and maintenance expenses. A district would be allowed to replace vehicles only after 200,000 miles unless there is an emergency.
Another option considered by the district could include the discontinuation of the Everglades cleanup project, according to other documents released by the district. The district also could recast the program to benefit local areas, then charge those areas, such as Lee County and Fort Myers or Martin County and Stuart.
The investigation of Howard's hiring comes after The Post reported in March that Howard, a civil engineer, was hired for the $120,000-a-year job as liaison between the district and the Army Corps of Engineers, the district's partner in the billion-dollar restoration of the Everglades and management of South Florida's water system. Wehle told The Post that she did not publicly disclose the relationship because she had no role in hiring Howard. Howard also did not disclose the relationship before he was hired.
Investigators with the DEP's inspector general's office are conducting interviews and reviewing documents. A DEP spokesperson declined comment, saying the agency does not comment on on-going investigations
Joe Collins, chairman of the district's board, also declined to comment until the investigation is complete.
Five seats on the district's nine-member board remain empty. Interviews are ongoing and the governor is expected to make some appointment before the board's next meeting in May.
Post Staff writer Joel Engelhardt contributed to this story.

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Sun Sentinel
Save Florida's resources
Daytona Beach News Journal – Letter by REID B. HUGHES, Daytona Beach Shores
April 22, 2011
The governor of Florida and the majority Republican Legislature are poised to destroy our environment by cutting funding to agencies which regulate our environment and manage our precious water.
The proposal is to cut 25 percent of revenue from Florida's water management districts, diluting programs that are vital to preserving our water supply. The agenda: eliminate regulations that help make our state beautiful and water-abundant. Their actions would eliminate restoration of the Everglades and other vital land-preservation projects.
Gov. Rick Scott wants to move the Division of State Lands to the Department of Management Services, virtually eliminating its effectiveness and making it vulnerable to the selling of lands valuable to our water supply and environment.
Scott views the Department of Community Affairs as a "job killer" and wants to cut its budget from $779 million to $110 million. This department regulates growth and protects against urban sprawl. Our legislative leaders are committed to the governor's agenda for the DCA.
Florida Forever, the state's nationally honored land acquisition program, was not funded last year and is likely to be unfunded this year.
Yet our natural Florida drives our economy. Tourists are attracted to our natural treasures and flock to our state because of its beauty. Business and industry move here because of our quality of life.
The governor and Legislature will destroy water protection and endangered land acquisition and protection programs if we, as individuals and groups, do not loudly and immediately make our voices heard.
Hughes served on the St. Johns River Water Management District governing board from 1993-2001 and has served on the national boards of the Nature Conservancy and the national Audubon Society.

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Everglades wading-bird nesting increases amid drought
Sun Sentinel - by Andy Reid
April 21, 2011
Drought conditions straining South Florida water supplies actually could lead to a wading-bird baby boom in the Everglades.
Wood storks, spoonbills, white ibis and great egrets are taking advantage of lower water levels in the Everglades water conservation areas west of Broward, Palm Beach and Miami-Dade counties, with increased numbers of the birds nesting in areas normally too soggy for reproduction.
Last month, the South Florida Water Management District's nesting count found 1,050 nests for endangered wood storks, compared to none in March 2010.
There were 200 spoonbill nests, compared to 20 a year ago, while green egret nests went from 130 last year to 7,180 this year.
White ibis nesting totals soared even higher, from zero in March 2010 to 10,000 this March.
Water receding in some areas while still collected in others has allowed the wading birds to feed on concentrated amounts of small fish, according to the district.
Whether the flocks massing in the Everglades lead to a population boom depends on how long the drought lingers.
Jazz Drummer at 9:32 AMApril 22, 2011 :
Ibis are so cool !  To me, they're the WORKNG birds.   You always find them in a group, poking their beaks in the ground, looking for food. While they poke the gound, they losen the soil for air.  All good stuff.  They work and work, and never complain if they don't find something right then and there.  They just keep looking for food, together in a group.  They don't look for handouts.  I'm glad there are more of them. Go Ibis!

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Governor, state hurt environment
Sun Sentinel – by Drew Martin
April 21, 2011
Today, our governor and state Legislature, as well as the House of Representatives in Washington, are taking direct aim at Florida's environment. This will hurt Florida's economy. We depend on our environment to bring tourists and new residents.
People are drawn to Florida by its beautiful ocean reefs, wading birds, game fish and scenic vistas. But we are sacrificing our wetlands and our wildlife because of serious water pollution problems. These problems are related to ocean outfalls and the over-application of fertilizers in both agriculture and home gardens. Currently, all along the southeast Florida coast, five ocean outfall pipes spew over 300 million gallons a day of partially treated sewage into the coastal waters.
The Sierra Club, along with other groups, sued the EPA to enforce the Clean Water Act in Florida. This lawsuit resulted in the establishment of numeric standards, a verifiable standard that can be monitored and met to improve and maintain water quality.
The governor and the House of Representatives in Washington are moving in the opposite direction. The House, through an amendment proposed by Rep. Tom Rooney, R-Tequesta, would end funding for the EPA's establishment of the nutrient standards. The Florida Legislature seeks to repeal requirements to verify that septic tanks work properly, to repeal the law to abolish ocean outfalls and to reduce environmental planning by cutting funding for the Department of Community Affairs. They plan to reduce impact fees that prevent taxpayers from being charged for the costs of development, such as new roads, schools and sewer lines. Further, our state Legislature would do away with regulations that protect us from over-development.
Florida does not have too little development; it has too much. This development has caused too many houses and resulted in plummeting property values. Last year, more land was approved for development than the size of Everglades National Park, even though Florida still has 80,000 vacant houses due to foreclosure. The best way to improve property values is to reduce development of new houses and to rehabilitate those houses that are currently vacant. This would increase employment and improve the real estate market.
Let's get the governor to move in the right direction. Protect the environment and create jobs.
Drew Martin is conservation chair of the Loxahatchee Group of the Sierra Club and a Lake Worth

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Biscayne Bay

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Environmentalists fight plan to weaken protection of Biscayne Bay
Miami Herald - by SUSAN COCKING
April 20, 2011
A legislative proposal would cut funding for an office that works to preserve Biscayne Bay.
Nearly 40 years ago, commercial fisherman Walter Kandrashoff stirred public outrage when he pointed out lesions and deformities on fish he caught in Biscayne Bay. The outcry led to creationof the Biscayne Bay Aquatic Preserve – 67,000 acres of submerged lands set aside for protection for the enjoyment of future generations.
Today, the fate of the preserve is in jeopardy from the legislature’s budget ax and from a little-noticed amendment before a state Senate committee. Those measures would strip the bay of some of its most vocal advocates and watchdogs and could weaken protection of natural resources such as sea grass, mangroves and manatees.
“A bad idea,” said Joan Browder, a leading scientist at NOAA Fisheries’ Southeast Fisheries Science Center on Virginia Key who’s been studying the bay since the 1970s.
The preserve is managed by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, which has been ordered by lawmakers to cut its budget by 15 percent. To hit that number, the department proposes closing six offices and eliminating 23 staffers who manage some of the state’s 41 aquatic preserves.
Biscayne, which has two full-time employees working in an office at the old Florida Marine Patrol station on 79th Street in Miami, is on the hit list. The two staffers, whose salaries total $70,000 per year, and their office, which is basically free, would be gone by July 1.
A shame, says Browder.
“We really depend on the aquatic preserve to be the voice for the bay as a whole and to provide a voice for the more urbanized part of the bay above the Rickenbacker Causeway,” she said.
The preserve staff and a loose collection of unpaid volunteers and interns educate local marine law enforcement officers and school children on fish, coral and aquatic plants identification and act as lookouts for potential threats to the bay, such as illegal dredging and mangrove cutting. The office also oversees mitigation projects in areas where sea grass has been destroyed and helps keep watch over endangered manatees.
“That office is a vocal and valuable advocate of conservation in Biscayne Bay,” said Joe Serafy, a NOAA fisheries biologist and research associate professor at Rosenstiel,
At least two Miami-Dade County residents – descendants of the region’s pioneering families -- are fighting the proposed closures. Bruce Matheson — whose ancestors donated the land for both Matheson Hammock and Crandon parks – and Charles Munroe, whose great-grandfather built the Barnacle, now a state park in Coconut Grove — are trying to convince whoever will listen that the cuts are a terrible idea.
“What’s the point of the statute if you don’t manage the preserve?” Munroe said. “This is our tourism. Many people depend upon it for their livelihood. Why would you move to and invest in Miami if it weren’t protected?”
Added Matheson: “For the want of $70,000, you’re going to give up the preservation of the economic engine for all the people in the tourism industry.”
Both men serve as directors of Friends of Biscayne Bay, which raised money to pay for the preserve’s office and dock.
The budget cuts are not the only threats to the Biscayne Bay preserve, advocates say. An amendment now before the Senate Committee on Environmental Preservation and Conservation proposes to weaken the statute that created the preserve in the first place. The measure would make it easier for municipalities to build on or dredge state-owned, submerged lands by exempting them from demonstrating that a denial of their petition would pose an extreme hardship.
Laura Reynolds, executive director of Tropical Audubon Society, says now is not the time to weaken protection for Biscayne Bay.
“Without layers of education and enforcement, we won’t have the resources we count on for enjoyment or economic viability,” she said. “What would it cost us if we don’t keep these laws intact into the future?”
The current struggles are sort of a deja-vu for Matheson , whose uncle Hardy Matheson ran for county commission in the 1960s to block a proposed dredging project in the southern part of the bay.
“His reason for running was to keep the bay clean and clear,” Matheson said.
He said he has noticed big improvements in water quality in Biscayne Bay over the past 15 years.
“In the 60s, there were sewage treatment plants that discharged treated sewage into the bay,” he said. “The bay has been progressively cleaner. There has to be an organization that educates the public about Biscayne Bay because that’s what draws people to Miami.”

Biscayne Bay Aquatic Preserve Facts:
• The two-part preserve includes the inshore waters and natural waterways connected to Biscayne Bay from the Oleta River in the north to the Card Sound Road bridge between the mainland and north Key Largo in the south, excluding Biscayne National Park, which is part of the National Park Service.
• The preserve, established by the Florida Legislature in 1974, totals 67,000 acres in Miami-Dade and Monroe counties. It is one of 41 aquatic preserves in Florida, totalling 1.8 million acres, managed by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.
• The headquarters of the Biscayne Bay preserve is at 1277 NE 79th Street Causeway, Miami. It has two full-time employees with salaries totalling $70,000, plus a host of unpaid volunteers and interns. Their duties include monitoring and reviewing projects that may impact natural resources in the preserve and outreach and education

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Melissa Meeker
Melissa MEEKER

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Fla. environmental agency appoints water czar to oversee state's 5 water districts
Palm Beach Post - by Christine Stapleton, Staff Writer
April 20, 2011
WEST PALM BEACH — In response to Gov. Rick Scott's insistence upon more control and consistency in Florida's water policies, the Secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection has named a water czar to oversee the budgets, rules, regulations, permitting, lobbying and land deals made by the state's five water management districts.
Melisa L. MEEKER – Professional Resume
Melissa Meeker, a former board member of the South Florida Water Management District, will become the Deputy Secretary for Water Policy and Ecosystem Projects, according to an April 14 memo to the executive directors of the districts from DEP Secretary Herschel Vinyard.
Vinyard said consistent statewide water policies are needed to preserve water resources and "promote the regulatory certainty necessary to assure a vibrant economy."
"Melissa is your key resource and, in turn, I expect you to give her your full support," Vinyard wrote.
Vinyard's letter came two days after he received a letter from Scott, saying the governor "expected" the DEP to take a stronger role in supervising the districts, which not only control the flow of water but issue permits for water use and consumption.
The new position pleased two of the state's top environmental groups, Audubon of Florida and Earthjustice, a non-profit law firm that has filed many of the lawsuits against the districts and other agencies charged with environmental protection.
"I think it's a good thing if it means they will do a better job of prioritizing projects and spending more money on restoration and water quality and less on administrative costs and bureaucracy," said Kirk Fordham, CEO of the Everglades Foundation. "Melissa Meeker is very well regarded by the business and environmental communities."
Meeker did not return a phone call for comment.
She served on the board of the South Florida Water Management District for two years before leaving in 2009 to become a commissioner on the Florida Environmental Regulation Commission. She previously worked for the Department of Environmental Protection, including stint as director of the department's southeast region, which spans from St. Lucie County south to Miami-Dade County.
She also served as head of the department's branch office in Port St. Lucie. During a 1998 outbreak of sick fish in the St. Lucie and Indian Rivers, she answered questions and phone calls in person, spoke at public meetings and collected sick fish for scientists to examine.
She has a bachelor's degree in marine biology and a master's degree in management.
"I think this is really good policy to have supervision of the water management districts," said David Guest, attorney with Earthjustice. "It's an extraordinarily difficult assignment ... every bit as hard as steering a water bed rolling down a hill."
How Meeker's appointment will affect the South Florida Water Management District, which also oversees Everglades Restoration, is not known.
The district has five empty seats on its board and will be without an executive director at the end of the month, when Carol Wehle has said she will resign.
In addition to Wehle, two other executives at the district have announced they are leaving. Sandra Close Turnquest will leave her post as deputy executive director for corporate resources, where she oversees the Finance and Administration; Human Resources; Information Technology; Procurement; and Safety, Security and Emergency Management departments. Turnquest also had served as the district's human resource director for 18 years.
Carrie Hill, an assistant deputy executive director under Turnquest, is also leaving the district, where she acts as the business services director for corporate resources.
Candidates for the board are being interviewed in Tallahassee now. The board will hold a special meeting on April 25 to announce a new interim director, and its next regular meeting is in May.
Melisa L. MEEKER – Professional Resume

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Loxahatchee River to get extended boost of water from problem-plagued reservoir
Sun Sentinel – by Andy Reid
April 20, 2011
Water to replenish the Loxahatchee River will keep flowing from a reservoir in Palm Beach County, at least through the end of the month.
A test project launched in March pumps water over 27 miles from the reservoir in western Palm Beach County to the river, which is suffering from decades of draining nearby land to make way for agriculture and development.
Early success from the pumping project convinced the South Florida Water Management District to keep the water flowing for at least another few weeks.
The water comes from a problem-plagued, $217 million reservoir made from old rock mining pits west of Royal Palm Beach.
Since March 1, the district has used a series of pumps to send small doses of water from the reservoir east to the Grassy Waters Preserve, which helps provide West Palm Beach’s drinking water. From there, the water gets pumped north to the northwest fork of the Loxahatchee River.
In addition to boosting water levels in the Loxahatchee River, the infusion of reservoir water has helped lower polluting phosphorus levels in the Grassy Waters Preserve, according to the district.
At the end of April, the district plans to explore the cost of bringing in larger pumps to allow the water deliveries to continue during the lingering drought.
The water deliveries are a sign of hope for a reservoir project plagued by delays and controversy.
Work ended in 2008 on the $217 million, 15 billion gallon reservoir, but the large $60 million pumps needed to regularly deliver water to the river have yet to be built.
Leaving the reservoir water stagnant adds to water-quality problems hampering the reservoir's ability to feed the river and replenish community water supplies.

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Restore America’s Everglades
CaptivaSanibel.com
April 20, 2011
To the editor,
Extreme funding cuts to environmental initiatives will devastate more than just our state’s native wildlife – Florida’s residents, water supply and tourism-based economy will all suffer if our legislators do not preserve funding for Everglades restoration.
One third of Florida’s 18 million residents get their daily water supply from the Everglades. Continued funding of Everglades restoration will allow the state to move forward with water quality improvement projects that protect the health of 6 million residents while creating local construction jobs that put Floridians back to work.
We can — and should — put Floridians back to work restoring America’s Everglades.
Restoring this unique ecosystem is a “win-win-win” situation. Good for our residents, good for our economy, and good for our environment. We are encouraging everyone to write their state and federal elected officials and tell them that funding Everglades restoration helps fund a clean water supply for today and for future generations.
Cara Capp, Community Organizer, Clean Water Action

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Water management district to open STA-2 to hunting
Palm Beach Post – blog by Willie Howard
April 20, 2011
The Everglades water filtration marsh known as Stormwater Treatment Area 2 (along the east side of U.S. 27 in southern Palm Beach County) will open to alligator hunting this summer and to waterfowl hunting in the fall, the South Florida Water Management District announced Wednesday.
Outdoor recreation — mostly hunting, fishing and bird-watching — are some of the side benefits of building the STA marshes designed to remove phosphorus from water before it flows south into the Everglades water conservation areas.
“Hunting is a favorite South Florida recreational activity, and fortunately it is compatible with our stormwater treatment areas,” said Tommy Strowd, the SFWMD’s deputy director of operations and maintenance. “With treatment areas covering more than 52,000 acres, we continutally search for ways to provide public access on district-managed land when it does not impact restoration objectives.”
The alligator hunts in STA-2 will be similar to those already allowed in STA 1-West, STA 3/4 and STA 5.
The Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission will issue permits for the alligator and waterfowl hunts and will manage them. No motorized boats or all-terrain vehicles will be allowed.
STA-2 is located on the east side of U.S. 27, east of STA 3/4, just north of the Palm Beach/Broward county line.
In addition to regular alligator hunts (for those holding permits), youth alligator hunts will be offered at STA-2. The youth hunts, too, will be managed by the FWC  through the Youth Hunting Program of Florida.
The water management district spans 16 counties and manages just over 970 square miles of land. Some properties are natural, while others have been enhanced with parking lots, trail heads, campsites, hiking trails and information kiosks.
For more information about hunting, hiking, camping, fishing, off-road biking, airboating, paddling and other outdoor recreation possibilities on South Florida Water Management District lands, go to www.sfwmd.gov/recreation. The online recreation guide can be searched by type of activity.

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A no-brainer -- we think
PNJ.com - Editorial
April 19, 2011
Given his responsibilities to the residents — and taxpayers — of Florida, it seems inconceivable that Gov. Rick Scott will not meet Wednesday's deadline to join a federal lawsuit against the company that owned the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig.
But Scott has proven he's more than willing to act in inconceivable ways, so all bets are off.
Scott comes from a business background, which had to teach him that you keep your options open, especially when there's money on the table. Joining the lawsuit now doesn't mean Florida can't go its own way in the future.
But while it ought to be inconceivable to worry that the state's governor is more sympathetic to the interests of the corporations responsible for the oil spill than to the interests of the state residents who were its victims, that's not a given in Scott's case.
At the moment the Legislature — in most cases with Scott's blessing — is rapidly moving to reverse decades of legislation and policies that were enacted to try to reverse, and prevent in the future, damage done to the interests of state residents by corporations unbridled by anything but their own profits.
Florida remains saddled with a long list of problems caused by corporations acting solely in their own interests. Whether it is pollution from stormwater runoff or industrial waste, an Everglades close to collapse, a tax system that goes easy on business but harder on middle- and lower-income residents, higher local taxes needed to pay for extending infrastructure to serve urban sprawl, flooding from poorly planned development and even the ongoing hurricane insurance crisis, Florida residents have had to absorb the impact of policies that favor companies over people.
Certainly, those corporations acted rationally. It isn't the job of a business to worry that its waste will kill the river you fish in, or that the development it built will cause your neighborhood to flood.
It is the business of government to worry about that. But at the moment, both Scott and the Legislature appear to have a "what, me worry?" attitude toward corporations.
That's going to put the "worry" burden right back on Florida residents.

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Anti-EPA water rule bill moves forward in House; Senate version stalled
Florida Independent - by Virginia Chamlee
April 19, 2011
Two bills that would prohibit the implementation of a set of federal water quality rules by the state Department of Environmental Protection are moving forward in the House and Senate, but not without some minor setbacks. #
House Bill 239 directs the department to publish a “Notice of Proposed Rulemaking” no later than May 31, 2012, to revise the dissolved oxygen criteria applicable to Florida waterbodies to take into account the variability occurring in nature. #
The bill also prohibits state, regional or local governments from “implementing or giving any effect to EPA’s nutrient water quality criteria rules for the state’s lakes and flowing waters in any program administered by a state, regional, or local governmental entity where the criteria are more stringent than necessary to protect the biological community and the designated use.” #
A strike-all amendment filed last week would allow the Department of Environmental Protection to adopt numeric nutrient criteria for a particular surface water or group of surface waters, and may supplement those criteria with narrative statements. H.B. 239 was adopted, as amended, by the State Affairs Committee, its final committee of reference. #
The bill’s Senate companion (S.B. 1090) stalled in the Senate last week, and was temporarily postponed by the Environmental Preservation and Conservation Committee, its first committee of reference. #
A key point of contention concerning implementation of the criteria? Cost. In a House of Representatives staff analysis (.pdf) of H.B. 239, some cost estimates, which critics say are overblown and have been disputed within the state Department of Environmental Protection, were cited as recently as April 15: #
A study commissioned by the Florida Water Environment Association Utility Council in November, 2010, estimates that wastewater utilities alone will spend between $24 billion and $51 billion in capital costs for additional wastewater treatment facilities and incur increases in annual operating costs between $4 million and $1 billion to comply with the federal numeric nutrient criteria. According to the commissioned study, the EPA’s cost estimate inadequately accounted for existing baseline conditions, failed to address all direct costs, and did not consider all indirect costs to businesses and the public, including the costs of uncertainty. #
The race to eliminate the nutrient criteria has many supporters. State agricultural and utility reps have long maintained that their implementation would be too costly for the state, while environmentalists argue that the lack of standards would lead to high costs to the environment and key portions of the state’s economy, including tourism and fishing. #
One heavy-hitter who may not be entirely convinced of the efficacy of the anti-EPA bills? Gov. Rick Scott, who has not yet lent his support to H.B. 239. #
The House Bill was placed on the Special Order Calendar for April 20. The next move for the Senate bill is still unknown.

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Bills would change state environmental regulations, focus
Orlando Sentinel - by Kathleen Haughney and Andy Reid, Tallahassee Bureau
April 19, 2011|
TALLAHASSEE -- The Florida House is poised to take up legislation today that could essentially undo Florida's 25-year-old growth-management laws, following Gov. Rick Scott's mantra that stripping away regulations that govern development will spark the state's sluggish economy and generate jobs.
But where developers see a chance to put people back to work and spur economic growth, environmentalists see urban sprawl and disaster for the state's natural resources such as the Florida Everglades.
"Trying to find that balance, it can be difficult. It can be very difficult," said state Sen. Mike Bennett, R-Bradenton, who is sponsoring the Senate version of the growth-management bill.
Bennett's bill (SB 1122) is slightly different than the measure (HB 7129) before the House today, but both aim to significantly reduce state oversight of development. One of the main tenets of the House bill is to significantly limit state reviews and challenges to local land-use decisions, such as those that established urban boundary areas that have protected wetlands like the Everglades and eastern Orange and Seminole counties in Central Florida.
The bill also prohibits local governments from putting land-use decisions to a voter referendum and does away with the existing restriction that says county commissions can't update and approve development plans more than twice per year. It would also let developers out of a requirement to help foot the bill for roads, states and parks affected by sprawl, a requirement called "concurrency."
Rep. Ritch Workman, R-Melbourne, who's carrying the bill in the House, said the measure was not intended to eradicate environmental protections but to make it easier for local governments to make their own land-use decisions. Counties seeking help can still turn to the state Department of Community Affairs, he said.
Workman said that stringent state growth management was needed 25 years ago, but now it is stifling needed growth. "We're going to see more development which directly relates to more jobs," he said.
Doug Buck, a lobbyist for the Florida Home Builders Association, said existing growth-management laws haven't curbed urban sprawl and that some of the concurrency requirements, by restricting development in urban areas, lead developers to opt for more rural areas, contributing to sprawl.

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Gunster Attorneys, U.S. Sugar Win; Florida Taxpayers and Everglades Lose
Sunshine News - Nancy Smith's blog
April 19, 2011
Taxpayers, better sit down. This one is going to hurt.
Three Gunster attorneys, Daniel M. Mackler, Danielle DeVito-Huley and Rick Burgess, were just named South Florida Business Journal’s 2011 Heavy Hitters in Commercial Real Estate. And the Daily Business Review has made them finalists for the Top Dealmakers of the Year award. It's a very big deal, and I'd like to congratulate them, I really would.
But these three Heavy Hitters hit you and me.
They're being recognized for negotiating and closing what Gunster calls "one of the most significant land acquisitions by the State of Florida to date." I can't argue with that. You see, our award winners represented the United States Sugar Corporation (U.S. Sugar Corp.). Under the leadership of former Gov. and chief cheerleader for the deal Charlie Crist, the three brokered and rebrokered and re-rebrokered a deal for 26,800 acres made up of two unconnected parcels of citrus land and canefield, transferring ownership from U.S. Sugar to the South Florida Water Management District for $197,398,372.08.
This landmark rip ... uh ... sale took nearly three years to negotiate and close and it left the district broke. Yes, pretty much flat broke. Nevertheless, Gunster enthuses, "... It involved extensive negotiations, environmental analysis, contract preparation, and title review."
Sure did. Luckily our award winners were dealing with a board full of Charlie-Crist-appointed members, all of whom found a way before every meeting to leave their thinking caps at the door. These guys and gals were pushovers, every one.
Now look. Everglades restoration? Don't be silly. Not a single reed or drop of water or creature that lives in the River of Grass is likely to see benefit from this deal for more than a decade -- maybe long after that. No significant work can start without money. The two parcels our winners re-rebrokered? Involved in a lease. For now anyway, the district is leasing 18,000 acres of the land to somebody, anybody, because there's nothing that can be done with it.
U.S. Sugar Corp. won. Three Gunster attorneys won. But 19 million Floridians lost a lot of money and more important, the Florida Everglades lost a lot of precious time.

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Piece of Mind - Mother Earth, a threat to business?
Alamosa News, Valley Courier - by Gena Acres
Apilr 19, 2011
The “environment” is always getting in the way. Sandburs flatten my bike tires. My Geo Prism struggles up every hill and mountain pass. Let’s rev up the bulldozer and start anew.
Well, that’s what some of the Tea Party’s favorite state governors are thinking.
Governor of Maine, Paul LePage recently released a 63-point plan to cut environmental regulations, including “opening three million acres of the North Woods for development and suspending a law meant to monitor toxic chemicals that could be found in children’s products,” according to a NY Times report. Your grandchildren love you, LePage. They really love you.
Gov. Rick Scott of Florida is proposing to decrease the $50 million allocated for the restoration of the Everglades to $17 million. He would also like to decrease staffing in the Department of Community Affairs, which regulates land use and controls unchecked urban sprawl, from 358 to 40.
Adding to this energy, Republicans in North Carolina recently proposed cutting the state’s Department of Environment and Natural Resources operating funds by 22 percent.
Why are these cuts being proposed? Well, according to LePage, there is no hope that business and environment, as if they exist separately, will ever get along. “It’s time we start defending the interests of those who want to work and invest in Maine with the same vigor that we defend tree frogs and Canadian lynx.”
These solutions ineffectively target one problem: unemployment. People are unemployed because there aren’t enough jobs. There aren’t enough jobs because business is over-regulated. Therefore, if we decrease regulations, business will grow, creating more jobs, inevitably lifting hardworking Chevrolet and apple pie families out of unemployment and poverty.
I don’t want to get all touchy feely about the environment, but in comparison to trees and rocks humans are like weeds. We pop out of our mamma’s belly and 77.9 years later (according to the CDC) have lived a hopefully full and complete life. Red maples can live 80 to 250 years; American chestnuts 100 to 300 years; White oaks 300 to 600 years; Bald Cypress 600 to 1,200 years... and really, those are just estimated ranges (not by me, but by an actual tree person).
I won’t go crazy here and suggest we halt procreation so there are no more humans being born and quickly needing jobs.
Our economy cannot continue to be based on quick fixes, each masked behind lies of liberty and the independent American Man, free from the oppressive power of a national or state government. Gas prices will continue to rise. Agricultural land across the US is slowly drying up. Locally, the Rio Grande is as important today as it ever was.
Each of these issues point to a need for stricter environmental regulations, not de-regulation.
We value images of nature and wildlife when we decorate our homes and send cards to loved ones. However, just because the image is consumable doesn’t mean that the thing itself also has a price. Perhaps the scary fact is that there are no quick fixes to our economic woes; that we really have dug ourselves a very deep hole. Building a sturdy ladder will take more than un-regulated pet projects. It will require a culture shift.
Using New Orleans as the examples, Ed Hopkins, Sierra Club, and Eli Lehrer, Heartland Institute, explain this problem well, “Widespread destruction of coastal wetlands, badly conceived levee systems, inadequate home-building standards and a National Flood Insurance Program that effectively subsidizes construction in flood-prone areas have made things even more dangerous. And plenty of signs point to a worsening situation. Hurricane-prone areas still continue to attract significant population growth, and many scientists believe that human-caused global climate change could intensify hurricanes for years to come. The consequences are simple — when major disasters strike, more Americans will be at risk and the country will have to borrow billions of dollars in order to rebuild.”
Whatever the issue -- we live in a connected system where one variable can never serve as a means to another variable’s end. LePage, I’m guessing your issues are bigger than just hard working families needing jobs.
Gena Akers can be contacted at gena.leneigh@gmail.com.

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Proposals for Tampa Bay Water reservoir repair as high as $170 million
TampaBay.com - by Craig Pittman, Times Staff Writer
April 19, 2011
CLEARWATER — Fixing Tampa Bay Water's cracked reservoir could cost between $120 million and $170 million, according to the repair proposals from three contractors that were unveiled Monday at the utility's board meeting.
Expanding the 15-billion-gallon reservoir — already Florida's largest — by 3 billion gallons would add $40 million to the tab, engineer Jon Kennedy told the utility board. The whole package could wind up costing even more. Or it could cost less.
"The costs may fluctuate and come back different," Kennedy told the board, depending on the negotiations with the three contractors.
The big question mark, at this point, is whether it will require raising the utility's rates. At this point, no one knows, although last year utility officials said it was possible.
However, in a budget workshop where rising expenses from the desalination plant came up, several board members said they wanted to avoid any rate hikes right now, given the region's economic conditions.
"I can't see how we can justify asking for one more penny from our constituents," Hillsborough County Commissioner Sandy Murman told her colleagues on the board of Tampa Bay Water, which supplies water wholesale to Pinellas, Pasco and Hillsborough utilities to sell to customers.
The utility opened the C.W. Bill Young Regional Reservoir in June 2005 to store water skimmed from the Alafia and Hillsborough rivers and Tampa Bypass Canal. The reservoir, named for the longtime congressman from Pinellas County, covers about 1,100 acres in Hillsborough County.
The reservoir's walls consist of an earthen embankment as wide as a football field at its base, averaging about 50 feet high. An impermeable membrane buried in the embankment prevents leaks. The embankment's top layer, a mixture of soil and concrete to prevent erosion, began cracking in December 2006. Some cracks were up to 400 feet long and up to 15½ inches deep. Workers patched the cracks, but the patches didn't last.
An investigation found water is getting trapped between the soil-concrete lining and the membrane. As long as the reservoir is full, the trapped water remains stable. When the utility draws down the reservoir, though, pressure increases on trapped water in some areas, producing cracks and soil erosion.
The cracks have not been deemed a safety hazard to the structure, but utility officials say if they don't fix their underlying cause, conditions could get worse. But the reservoir's designer, HDR Engineering, says the problem is not that serious, and could be solved with a simple monitoring and maintenance program that would cost less than $1 million a year.
Tampa Bay Water's lawsuit against HDR is set for trial in July. Utility officials are hoping any damages won in the lawsuit will defray the cost of fixing the reservoir and eliminate the need to raise rates.
The three companies vying for the contract to fix the reservoir are Granite Construction Co., Kiewit Infrastructure South and Skanska USA Civil Southeast. Initially, utility officials had pegged the repair price tag at $125 million — nearly as much as the $144 million reservoir cost to build originally.
While the range of possible costs now exceeds that estimate, Kennedy said those estimates also include some items that were not part of the original request for proposals — five years of maintenance after the repair work, for instance.
The board will hold a special workshop May 16 to hear all the proposals, and then will vote in June on which one to negotiate a contract with. The final vote on that contract is slated for August.
During the negotiations, the board will make a decision on the proposed expansion of the reservoir, which will require building the walls higher. Kennedy said the plans call for starting work on the repair — and, if approved, the expansion — in September 2012. Officials have said the reservoir would have to be drained for two years to complete the work.

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Ancient secrets
Miami Herald - by Sue Cocking
April 18, 2011
A UM marine archaeologist is finding intriguing clues to the first Floridians in a 200-foot-deep sinkhole near Sarasota.
An underwater mortuary, sharpened wooden stakes, an impaled tortoise shell and a beautiful, carved green stone pendant. These are some of the tantalizing clues to the daily lives of Florida’s earliest inhabitants found in Little Salt Spring, a 200-foot-deep sinkhole about 10 miles inland near Sarasota.
“The deposits in here are like a fruit cake — totally packed with goodies,” says John Gifford, an associate professor and marine archaeologist at the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, who has been investigating the spring since 1983.
“We now have the largest collection of the oldest wooden artifacts anywhere in the world. It will increase our understanding of the way people lived 10,000 years ago.”
Little Salt, Gifford says, is a window into the world of Paleo Indians – nomadic hunter-gatherers who traveled a dry, dusty Florida peninsula that was twice its modern size. There were no Everglades or Lake Okeechobee, and fresh water was scarce, which made the spring an oasis.
“This would have been a magnet to animals,” he says. “The people were attracted to the animals, and that’s why we find all this stuff here.”
The remains and artifacts are exceptionally well preserved because there is no dissolved oxygen in the water. They are undisturbed because the University of Miami owns the 112 acres around the site, and admission is restricted to research personnel.
Gifford and research associate/caretaker Steve Koski, who lives in a trailer beside the spring, are trying to determine the uses of several wooden stakes that were driven into sediment beneath the surface some 10,000 years ago. They may or may not have some connection with several large tortoise shells, found on a 90-foot-deep ledge, which are the same genus (but a different species) as the giant land tortoises that inhabit the Galapagos Islands. The shells are about 12,000 years old.
The researchers, assisted by scientific divers from UM and the Florida Aquarium, have found human remains on the 90-foot ledge, but haven’t disturbed them.
Other intriguing findings include a 10,000-year-old, carved atlatl, or spear-thrower, and the green stone pendant, which is 7,000 years old, rare, and made of a rock not found anywhere in Florida. Gifford says analysis shows it most likely originated in North Carolina, and made its way here through trade networks to be worn around the neck of a person of importance, perhaps the local chief.
Some of the artifacts are on display at the Museum of Florida History in Tallahassee, and others are undergoing examination at a conservation lab at Texas A & M University.
The most recent items found are 5,000 to 6,000 years old. Gifford believes that’s because inhabitants were no longer dependent on the spring after sea levels rose, the peninsula shrank, and fresh water was generally available.
Over the years, the scientists have found numerous items that resemble tools, but they don’t know their purposes, and there are no experts they can consult because nothing comparable has been found elsewhere.
“We have all the examples in the world,” Gifford said. “We can’t go to a book and look and say, ‘This one looks like ours’. We are going to have to write the book.”
He and Koski plan to prepare a paper on their findings and present it at a scientific conference in a few months.
Meanwhile, excavation continues in Little Salt Spring, most of it on a shallow ledge about 30 feet deep. Divers climb down a wooden platform in the center of the spring and use a 2 ½-horsepower swimming pool pump with a four-inch hose to clear away sediment from the dig site. Aluminum hurricane shutters purchased from a nearby Home Depot serve as cofferdams to keep out sediment. Each item is mapped, photographed and entered into a computer database.
The pace of the work is glacial, at best. Since 1992, Gifford and his crew have excavated an area only 18 feet long and six feet wide — about 6 percent of the spring.
They dive under the watchful eyes of numerous turtles and Mama Gator, a five-footer with several babies who, fortunately, keeps her distance.
Shore headquarters consists of four dilapidated trailers, circa 1975, that serve as dormitories, dive storage locker and research laboratory. There’s a garden hose for a shower and two portable toilets.
Gifford and Koski are constantly on the lookout for funding. They are hopeful a University of Miami capital building campaign will raise $1 million for new facilities, but that’s uncertain. Private donations are welcome.
All are excited about the possibility of new finds when excavation resumes on the 90-foot ledge this summer. UM diving safety officer Rick Gomez is training the team to use TriMix, a breathing-gas mixture that can extend dive times safely in deep water.
As for exploring the dark bottom of the spring, Gifford says there’s no hurry to conduct an expensive dig through 20 feet of mud.
“We have plenty to do right here.”

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Daytona Beach News Journal

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Environmental changes on horizon
Daytona Beach News Journal – by Dinah Voyles Pulver, Environment Writer
April 18, 2011
Flurry of bills address growth, local authority, water supplies.
No matter which side of the fence they're on, most people who track environmental issues in the Florida Legislature say they can't remember a time when so much dramatic change was on the table. Rules could be rewritten for guiding growth, environmental permitting and regulating water use and supplies.
"There's a whole bunch of stuff out there," said Wayne Flowers, an environmental attorney in Jacksonville and former general counsel for the St. Johns River Water Management District. And, there are more at one time that "would have significant change than in any other year."
From a ban on local rules governing fertilizer use to changing how new housing developments would be reviewed by state agencies, dozens of environmental issues are wending their way through the legislative process in at least 21 different bills.
The bills could revamp the state's growth-management agency, prevent local governments from enforcing local environmental regulations but give them more authority over long-term planning and reduce water-management-district tax rates by 25 percent.
The driving forces behind much of the legislation, observers say, are the economic situation and the new, more conservative leadership in the Senate, House of Representatives and governor's office.
From the beginning, Gov. Rick Scott made it clear one of his top priorities was to streamline environmental permitting and eliminate "job-killing" regulations and duplicative bureaucratic hoops.
But, environmental advocates say it's "one of the worst sessions ever," that the politicians in control are rolling back protections right and left and poised to send the state careening back to the 1960s in terms of lax growth regulations and less oversight of water quality.
"They're not only throwing the baby out with the bathwater," said Charles Lee with Audubon of Florida, "They're literally ripping the bathtub out of the floor and throwing it out the window too."
Rep. Dwayne Taylor, a Daytona Beach Democrat, said the environmentalists are "exactly right."
The leadership is "rolling through a large number of things" without full consideration of the implications, Taylor said. "I don't think there was a whole lot of thought placed on the changes they're trying to make.
"Unfortunately, they have the numbers to do whatever they want and nobody can stop them, nobody," Taylor said.
The legislators are "yielding their power to him (the governor) to do whatever he wants done."
Taylor's colleague in the local legislative delegation, Rep. Dorothy Hukill, R-Port Orange, doesn't agree the Legislature is anti-environment.
"I'm not saying there aren't some people that feel that way," Hukill said.
"There is an overall feeling that we need to reduce layers of government and make it more efficient," she said. "I understand how that can produce angst in the environmental community."
The situation is more a function of the economy, Hukill said.
"Government doesn't have money. Our constituents don't have money, and they're facing very, very hard times," she said. "We have to take the money we have and prioritize and do the things that are important."
Cathleen Vogel, a water-resources consultant and former lobbyist who lives in Flagler Beach, said she would characterize the Legislature as "very pro-business."
"There are priorities in the state of Florida today that take precedence," she said. With unemployment so high and "people losing their homes and businesses, there are things that need immediate attention and that is what this Legislature is trying to do."
The political leadership took office stating they would streamline permitting, Vogel said, to avoid seeing "business walk away from Florida because you can't get permits."
Scott's 29-member regulatory-reform transition team recommended sweeping "cultural changes" to state regulatory agencies to reduce duplication, save money and create a more business-friendly approach.
But, several of the bills proposed to streamline permitting and reduce regulation are problematic for local governments because they take authority away, said Scott Dudley with the Florida League of Cities.
One requires local governments to seek permission from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection within one year to be able to continue local permitting for environmental programs that the state also regulates, such as permitting for construction in a wetland or dock building. And any programs permitted locally would have to comply with new, shorter permitting time frames[JJa: 2 wds webst: ].
Local officials said they haven't yet sorted out all the complications the bill will present for them.
Cities and counties would have to add staff to meet those new timelines, Dudley said.
"We're either going to have to deny permits or push them through without complete review because we can't meet the time frames."
However, pending growth-management legislation would give local governments more leeway over some aspects of long-term planning and require less reporting to state agencies.
Two agencies under the state umbrella have been especially targeted: the Department of Community Affairs, which oversees planning, and the regional water-management districts, which oversee water supply, use and protection statewide.
Lee and Charles Pattison, president of 1000 Friends of Florida, say the proposals will dismantle the community-affairs department and take away the agency's ability to be "a traffic cop" to bad development.
"It's like cutting a police force," Lee said. "All the crack dealers are going to cheer."
Pattison questions the need to make it easier to build houses, when the National Association of Realtors has estimated the supply of vacant homes in Florida at more than 400,000.
However, with just three weeks left to go in the session, it remains to be seen just how much change will actually be adopted.
"We still have a lot to do," Hukill said.
Dudley, who has 26 years of experience in legislative issues, said, "There's only so much that can get through the funnel, and there's an awful lot in the funnel."

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Republicans Continue to Alienate Voters: This Time on the Environment
Huffington Post
April 18, 2011
Republicans' war on our nation's environment is not quite getting maximum coverage, but it's every bit as unpopular as their other budget priorities. Americans do not want to see weakened protection of air and water quality, more oil industry exemptions from regulation, or the end of incentives for encouraging alternative energy technology. Republicans -- once again -- risk overplaying their hands by showing such enthusiasm for such unpopular positions.
This Gallup poll shows an alternative energy bill to be the most popular of a list of eight Congressional priorities. While this list may be outdated, the support for alternative energy sources is unmistakable.
2011-04-18-margieomero-image002.gif

A CNN/ORC poll from last week showed a clear majority (71%) wanting to see the government to continue funding the EPA to "enforce regulations on greenhouse gases and other environmental issues." Even a majority of Republicans (53%) and conservatives (56%) agree the EPA should continue to receive funding.
There was some coverage of this recent WSJ/NBC poll, which showed voters nearly divided as to whether cuts to "the EPA, that is, the Environmental Protection Agency," were acceptable (51% acceptable, 46% unacceptable). I suspect these conflicting results are likely because there is more support for what the EPA does than for the federal agency itself. When phrased simply in terms of "pollution control" this January 2011 Harris Interactive poll agrees with the CNN poll, showing a majority opposed cuts to spending, in a series of questions about other potential cuts.
And while the Gallup table above shows support for expanding drilling and exploration for oil and gas, there is little support for special favors for those industries. In the same WSJ/NBC poll three-fourths find "eliminating tax credits for the oil and gas industries" an acceptable way to reduce the budget deficit.
Other arguments for weakening environmental protections also fall flat. On Saturday, the New York Times ran a front-page story about Republican governors around the country trying to roll back, among other things, protection of the Florida Everglades and of Maine woodlands, and even bans of toxic baby products. The governors typically cited concerns about protecting local businesses, even if polling shows their own voters disagree. Nationally, this GQRR/Ayres McHenry poll for the American Lung Association shows a lot more support for protecting air quality than for reducing regulations on businesses. It also shows a clear majority reject the argument that the economy is too weak for updated environmental protections.
The partisan clashes over women's cancer screening, Medicare vouchers, tax breaks for the super-rich, and even NPR, have been well-documented. But the political skirmish over the environment is a bit more under the radar, despite (as with the other examples) public opinion consistently against Republican positions. It's a pity, since the repercussions of environmental neglect are arguably the most long-lasting.

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Bill eases sewage restrictions in South Florida
Miami Herald - by Patricia Mazzei, Herald/Times Tallahassee Bureau
(April 11, 2011)
A measure advancing in the Legislature would give three South Florida counties and one city more time and leeway in phasing out how much sewage they flush into the Atlantic Ocean.
TALLAHASSEE -- Three years ago, state lawmakers set a timeline for South Florida to stop pumping 300 million of gallons of sewage a day into the ocean — and to treat most of the region’s wastewater to reuse for irrigation, industry and other purposes.
But that was before population growth stalled, reducing the need for more water, and before local governments felt the full impact of the economy’s dive, leading to fresh sticker shock for the pricey water-treatment projects.
Now two Miami Republicans are pushing to loosen the sewage restrictions and extend the deadlines for six plants in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties to comply with the rules.
The measure put forth by Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla and Rep. Carlos Trujillo would give the plants five more years – from 2018 to 2023 – to upgrade from minimal to advanced treatments for wastewater reuse.
The sewage discharged into the Atlantic Ocean is screened of its worst components but still rich in nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus dangerous for, say, watering lawns.
Environmentalists, divers and some scientists say the wastewater has damaged beaches, marine life and coral reefs. And more of the treated sewage, they say, could be recycled for other uses, including recharging the underground aquifers that supply fresh water.
Under the bill, as the ocean-dumping practice is phased out, the plants would be given more leeway on what and how much sewage would have to be treated — a move that could result in more wastewater being spewed into the ocean than originally stipulated in state law.
The entire practice is still scheduled to shut down, with provisions for limited backup use, by 2025.
An original draft of this year’s proposal would have pushed back that date by five years. But the diving industry fought back and now favors the amended version.
“We just want the outfall pipes closed,” said Bob Harris, a lobbyist for the Diving Equipment and Marketing Association. “It has been for a long time an embarrassment, and our divers see the impact on the reefs.”
The measure also has the backing of Florida’s cities and counties associations. Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach and the city of Hollywood, which operates one of the plants in question, would save hundreds of millions of dollars with the changes — including $867 million in capital outlay costs for infrastructure in Miami-Dade alone.
Savings to operating costs, Diaz de la Portilla said, would amount to $4 billion to $5 billion over two decades.
At the bill’s second Senate committee stop Monday, Diaz de la Portilla characterized the bill as one that would keep consumers from seeing rate hikes on their water bills.
“Folks need some relief,” he said.
The bill, which has advanced to the House floor, faced no opposition at the Senate community affairs committee. But a couple of lawmakers from both sides of the aisle have voted against the proposal in other panels.
The rest of the state recycles more water than Southeast Florida, home to the last remaining pipes dumping sewage one to three miles out into the Atlantic.
One of them, Sen. Dennis Jones, R-Seminole, said he feared South Florida officials would lobby for another extension down the line.
“Sometimes,” he said at a committee last month, “you’ve just got to bite the bullet to clean this thing up.”
Patricia Mazzei can be reached at pmazzei@miamiherald.com.

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Retaking state: Floridians need to get active now
Sun Sentinel – by Stephen Goldstein, Columnist
April 17, 2011
Florida Gov. Rick Scott doesn't just look scary; he is scary — and he does scary things. As Floridians watch helplessly, millions are screaming "buyer's remorse," now that they finally understand the extent of Scott's radical agenda — and face what they did to themselves by failing to heed warnings.
In addition, the Florida Legislature, now tea party/Republican-dominated with overwhelming majorities, is matching Scott's madness. Under the pretense of achieving fiscal soundness, Tallahassee is giving Florida an extreme makeover — as a state in which corporate interests trump people's rights and religious zealots tell everyone how to live.
Floridians have a choice: They can grouse but do nothing — or they can retake the state and show the governor and Legislature that "the people" are still boss.
Voters should pass eight constitutional amendments to restore representative government in Florida:
1. The "Recall" Amendment would give "the people" power to toss all bad elected officials. Now, the Florida Constitution only allows the Legislature to impeach the governor, or Rick Scott would be on his way out faster than you could say $1.7 billion fine for Medicare fraud. Tainted politicians, like defective toasters, should also be returnable — by citizens.
2. The "Majority Rule" Amendment would require a winning candidate to get at least 50 percent of the vote — or force a do-over. Rick Scott was elected by just 48.9 percent of voters. He does not have the mandate he claims to rule Florida and wouldn't have been elected after a second round.
3. The "60 Percent" Amendment would require another election if fewer than 60 percent of voters turn out. Candidates win and initiatives are approved in primaries and off-year elections when almost no one votes.
4. The "Follow the Will of the People" Amendment would fine and remove from office elected officials who fail to enforce the provisions of constitutional amendments. Florida voters have repeatedly reaffirmed support for the amendment limiting class size in public schools. But every year legislators try to undercut it. The Legislature has also failed to uphold the provisions of the "polluter pays" amendment requiring Big Sugar to clean up its mess in the Everglades. Elected officials must be held responsible for flouting the will of "the people."
5. The "Blind Trust" Amendment would require all statewide officeholders to put their financial assets in the hands of an independent trustee during their public service so they cannot consciously profit from their policy decisions.
6. The "Anti-lobbying" Amendment would ban paid lobbyists. "The people" elect officeholders. Then, to meet with them, they have to pay lobbyists who pay for access to elected officials with campaign dollars. Legalized bribery is still corruption.
7. The "Open Primaries" Amendment would keep extremist candidates and party loyalists from hijacking primaries by allowing voters to take part in the process, even if they are not registered with a given party. Currently, primaries favor candidates who take radical positions to appeal to a party's base. But then, unless they lie, they can't win the general election when they need a broader, more moderate, appeal. Open primaries favor centrist, more electable, candidates.
8. The "Representative Government" Amendment would increase the size of the Florida Legislature (now 40 senators, 120 House members) by 50 percent. Our growing state's 19 million residents need growing representation.
Such transformative amendments, so little chance they'd ever be taken up, let alone passed, for a simple, sad reason: Deluded Floridians/Americans are conditioned to believe that real life mirrors TV and the movies. Bad guys always lose, and good guys always win. Too late, they discover that the worst politicians typically stay in office ruining people's lives.
There's a glimmer of hope, however: Now that millions of Floridians realize they "did it" to themselves by electing Rick Scott, they need to discover they can "do it" to Scott and others through the Constitution. This isn't sour grapes, but the sweet taste of democracy — and the power of "the people."
Stephen L. Goldstein's commentaries appear on alternate Sundays. Email him at trendsman@aol.com.

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Florida wetlands restoration creates habitat and supports local jobs
NOAA
April 16, 2011
NOAA, the Ecosphere Restoration Institute, state and local partners celebrated the restoration of nearly 70 acres of wetlands that feed into Tampa Bay today in Ruskin, Fla.
“This project restores fish and wildlife habitat lost in the 1950s when the wetlands were filled for development,” said Dr. Larry Robinson, Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere for NOAA. “The restoration work has helped support jobs for the community and improve important nursery habitat for fish, which is so vital to local recreational and commercial fisheries.”     
Ecosphere Restoration Institute hired local contractors to remove invasive tree species like Brazilian pepper, transform stagnant and abandoned ponds into thriving wetlands, and reconnect those wetlands to the waters of Tampa Bay.
NOAA provided $750,000 in American Reinvestment and Recovery Act funding to Ecosphere Restoration Institute for the project. Hillsborough County and the Southwest Florida Water Management District also contributed funding for the restoration.
"Without the NOAA Recovery Act funding, this project would have taken many years to complete since it would have required piecemeal implementation as funding became available," said Thomas Ries, President, Ecosphere Restoration Institute. "Instead we’ve been able to construct it in a short amount of time and with significant cost savings."
This project expands upon a 17-year restoration effort of the adjacent Cockroach Bay Aquatic Preserve, which is nearing its final stage of completion. The restored wetlands provide important nursery and foraging habitat for numerous fish, wading birds, and frogs.
Through the Recovery Act, NOAA was provided $167 million for marine and coastal habitat restoration. This project is one of four habitat restoration projects in Florida, out of 50 total projects selected by NOAA for this funding.
Most of the 50 projects will be completed within the next year. These projects are supporting thousands of short- and long-term jobs. When complete, these projects will have restored 8,700 acres of habitat and opened access to 700 stream miles for fish passage that had been blocked by obsolete and unsafe dams. The projects also will remove more than 850 metric tons of abandoned fishing gear and other marine trash, rebuild oyster and other shellfish habitat, and reduce threats to 11,750 acres of coral reefs.
NOAA’s mission is to understand and predict changes in the Earth's environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and to conserve and manage our coastal and marine resources. Visit us on Facebook.

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GOP govs work to ease environment rules
UPI.com
April 16, 2011
WASHINGTON, April 16 (UPI) -- Republican governors across the United States are pushing to roll back environmental regulations at the state level.
Some are also trying to trim efforts to restore and preserve natural resources, The New York Times reported Friday.
In Florida, Gov. Rick Scott wants to cut two-thirds of the state funding allocated to Everglades restoration. David Guest, a lawyer with the Florida office of Earthjustice, said Scott has delivered "the most radical anti-environmental budget" of the past two decades.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has taken aim at the Highlands Water Protection and Planning Act. Christie says the law, which aims to preserve open land and water quality in a region that provides water to half the state's residents, violates private property rights.
Gov. Paul LePage of Maine wants a drastic rollback in environmental regulations.
"Maine's working families and small businesses are endangered," he told Maine residents in a radio speech. "It is time we start defending the interests of those who want to work and invest in Maine with the same vigor that we defend tree frogs and Canadian lynx."

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The Army Corp of Engineers Seeks Phosphate Comments
Bradenton Times - by ManaSota 88
April 16, 2011
BRADENTON -- The Army Corp of Engineers is currently accepting comments until April 25, 2011 concerning the scoping process for the Area Wide Environmental Impact Statement for Phosphate Mining in the Central Florida Phosphate District.
This Areawide EIS (AEIS) is one of the most significant reviews that the Army Corps of Engineers can perform for the protection of Florida's water supply, air quality and the general well being and health of Florida's citizens. Because of the potential adverse impacts associated with phosphate mining and processing, it is important to have an adequate review of the industry before additional mining is permitted.
ManaSota-88 strongly encourages interested citizens to submit comments to the Army Corps of Engineers on or before April 25th. Comments can be made through the Corps website at: http://www.phosphateaeis.org/index.html.

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Court Rejects Injunction on Fla. Phosphate Mining
Courthouse News Service - by VIRGINIA CHAMLEE
April 15, 2011
(CN) - The 11th Circuit threw out an injunction against a Florida phosphate mine owned by Mosaic Fertilizer last week - a setback for environmental groups trying to protect the Everglades, but a boon to the big-name fertilizer company.
Sierra Club and two other groups filed suit against Mosaic and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Col. Alfred Pantano Jr. over a "dredge-and-fill" permit issued in June. The permit, approved by the Corps, allowed the company to strip-mine 7,687 acres of wetlands, streams and uplands for phosphate ore in Hardee County, Fla., about 50 miles southeast of Tampa.
Alleging that Mosaic was in violation of the Clean Water Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, the Endangered Species Act and the Administrative Procedures Act, the groups requested a permanent injunction against strip-mining at the company's South Fort Meade mine. On July 1, a federal judge for the Middle District of Florida remanded the permit, effectively shuttering the mine's operations for several months.
On appeal to the Atlanta-based 11th Circuit, Mosaic argued that the lower court exceeded its authority for granting preliminary injunctive relief. The three-judge appellate panel agreed and vacated the injunction in an unpublished opinion on April 8.
"The district court based the entry of the preliminary injunction entirely on letters from the Environmental Protection Agency which expressed concerns with the permit, and failed to apply the arbitrary and capricious standard in evaluating the Corps' practicable alternatives analysis," the unsigned decision states.
     The federal appeals court directed the District Court to stay the issuance of the permit for 90 days to allow for further consideration of the case.
     Mosaic lauded the opinion in a statement to investors this week. "The Hardee County Extension permit was an exhaustive, multi-year effort that resulted in the most extensively reviewed and environmentally protective phosphate mining permit in Florida's history," said Richard Mack, Mosaic's executive vice president and general counsel, in the statement. "We expect that our ongoing operations at South Fort Meade, together with other mitigation efforts, will be sufficient to support our finished phosphate production for the 90-day period set forth by the Court of Appeals." 

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Our views: Bulldozing the future
Florida Today
Apr. 15, 2011
Rolling back Florida's growth laws would stick taxpayers with bill.
It’s a bad case of déjà vu.
The Legislature is rushing to gut Florida’s growth-management laws, using the guise of less regulation to spur the economy as cover to end 30 years of bipartisan support to prevent sprawl and protect the environment.
You, the Brevard County and Florida taxpayer, will get stuck with the bill because developers would no longer have to pay their fair share for new roads, schools and other infrastructure that subdivisions and strip malls require.
And your quality of life would suffer as roads become choked with more traffic, classrooms again get more crowded and drinking-water supplies dwindle further when growth inevitably returns.
Lawmakers passed a similar measure in 2009, but it was struck down when a court ruled the plan violated the state Constitution.
The goal then, as now, was to roll back Florida’s landmark 1985 Growth Management Act, passed by Republicans and Democrats to control the anything-goes development of the 1960s and 1970s.
That support remained firm, with then-Gov. Jeb Bush and the GOP-controlled Legislature even strengthening the laws in 2005, saying they were too lax in letting developers and local governments fuel unchecked sprawl. The laws have never been perfect and failed to stop Florida’s housing boom that went bust and helped trigger the Great Recession — proof they are not the restrictive albatross that critics claim.
The fallout remains an anchor around the state’s neck, with Florida ranking near the top in foreclosures nationally with more than 1.5 million homes sitting empty. That includes more than 40,000 along the Space Coast, nearly 15 percent of housing units in the county.
Still, the laws have been valuable in requiring developers to change project designs, protect wetlands and water supplies, and fund roads and schools, including in Brevard.
We’re not against reforming growth management. The laws should be updated and streamlined to cut burdensome red tape in a careful, responsible manner that aids businesses while protecting the public and environment.

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Water chief's exit comes as South Florida Water Management District faces budget squeeze
Sun Sentinel - by Andy Reid
April 15, 2011
Carol Ann Wehle’s pending departure from the South Florida Water Management District comes as the agency faces its toughest budget squeeze in years.
Wehle on Wednesday announced her retirement, surprising board members that oversee the West Palm Beach-based agency charged with guarding South Florida’s water supply, protecting against flooding and leading Everglades restoration.
Gov. Rick Scott and state lawmakers have called for cutting more than $100 million from the district’s budget, which would be a 25 percent cut to the property tax revenue that helps pay for district operations.
Dipping into reserves and scaling back upkeep of the pumps, canals and other drainage structures that keep South Florida from flooding are among the budget-cutting options district officials this week said they are considering.
On Wednesday, the district’s board – appointed by the governor – OKed the possibility of using $24 million of its operating reserve fund to help cover costs in the budget year that begins in October.
The district currently has a $48 million reserve designated to help cover operating expenses and proposes taking that down to about $20 million in the next budget.
That $20 million would include $10.4 million set aside specifically to respond to hurricanes.
“We don’t know when a hurricane is going to come,” said Tom Olliff, the district’s assistant executive director. “We are responding to floods, droughts, hurricanes … very unpredictable kinds of things.”
The district has other reserve funds in its $1 billion budget, but those have been designated for certain ongoing construction projects or other commitments.
Another budget cut proposed Wednesday would reduce the district’s usual $60 million a year spent on a backlog of maintenance for aging flood control structures to $40 million.
The district operates and maintains more than 2,600 miles of canals, levees and berms as well as more than 600 pump stations, flood gates and weirs.
Delaying pump station retrofits, corrosion projects, canal dredging and canal bank stabilization are among the potential maintenance projects that could be deferred.
District board members on Wednesday said they weren’t ready to put maintenance work on hold, but that possibility could surface again during budget planning this summer.
District Board Chairman Joe Collins said cutting reserves and maintenance at the same time could “compound each other’s risk.”
The district has until September to approve a budget.
Wehle steps down April 29.
Management shakeups at the district had been a looming possibility ever since the new governor took office. Scott has been critical of district spending and during the campaign opposed an Everglades restoration land deal between the district and U.S. Sugar that Wehle championed.
The governor gets to appoint the members of the nine-member district board that has the power to hire and fire the district’s executive director.
Adding to the scrutiny, the Palm Beach Post in March reported that the district’s inspector general office last year hired Wehle’s then boyfriend – Bob Howard – for a $120,000-a-year job, without Wehle publicly disclosing their relationship.
Wehle and the governor’s office both contend she was not asked to step aside. Wehle said Thursday that she stepped down for personal and professional reasons.

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Environmental rules, viewed by GOP as invasive, are close to being repealed
Ocala.com - by Zac Anderson, Tallahassee bureau
April 14, 2011
Signaling major rollbacks in Florida's development permitting and water quality rules, a series of bills loathed by environmentalists and lauded by business leaders moved close to final passage in the Florida Legislature Thursday.
Republican lawmakers said the bills repealing growth management and clean water protections will remove burdensome regulation, spark economic growth and save state residents millions.
Similar rationale has been used to justify a host of other regulatory rollback proposals, as lawmakers have argued that less government intervention in private enterprise will spur the economy.
“I'm thinking that's a huge tax that I'm repealing if I repeal this bill today,” said Rep. Marti Coley, R-Marianna, in advocating one of the bills, to legislate mandatory septic tank inspections.
Meantime, environmental advocates say they are ready to declare 2011 the worst year in decades for environmental protection in Florida.
“It's been a very troubling session as far as keeping the state's protection of our land and water resources intact,” said Janet Bowman of the Nature Conservancy.
Much of the state's 1985 Growth Management Act would be repealed under a bill that cleared its final Senate committee Thursday and now goes to the full chamber for a vote. A similar House bill is also poised for final passage.
The legislation largely takes the state out of development reviews, giving more power to local officials. Sen. Mike Bennett, R-Bradenton, said the reduced permitting would spark new development.
“We're trying to create jobs,” he said.
But Democrats complained that the growth management rewrite was rushed through its final committee with just 10 minutes of public comment. Sen. Nan Rich, D-Weston, said she had numerous concerns that went unheard because Republican senators wanted to move the bill forward before the committee's time ran out.
“There has to be oversight; the state has a role,” Rich said. “We have seen what happens when development is allowed to run rampant without mechanisms to control it.”
Democrats had better luck raising concerns about three water quality bills debated on the House floor Thursday.
The bills would:
— Repeal a law enacted last year requiring all 2.3 million septic tanks in Florida to be inspected every five years. Roughly 10 to 20 percent of septic tanks are failing and leaking raw sewage into aquifers, but Republican lawmakers said the estimated $250 to $500 inspection cost was too burdensome for homeowners.
— Delay by five years the deadline to increase treatment standards for sewage treatment plants that dump waste directly into the ocean, a bill that led Rep. Ron Saunders, D-Key West, to ask the sponsor if “you don't think that tourists mind swimming in sewage water?”
— Decriminalize the act of spreading invasive water hyacinths, an invasive plant that chokes waterways and makes them unnavigable. Democrats noted that state and local governments spend millions annually removing the plant.
The septic tank inspections drew the most debate.
Bowman said the inspections are “low hanging fruit,” describing them as a relatively inexpensive way to improve water quality compared with installing sewer lines and other treatment options.
Democrats echoed those concerns in opposing the repeal bill.
“Isn't it part of what we need to be doing to clean up Florida's groundwater?” asked Rep. Michelle Rehwinkle Vasilinda, D-Tallahassee.
Coley said Floridians overwhelmingly oppose the inspections.
“The citizens of Florida have stood up and said this is intrusive and it is far overreaching for government,” she said.
In contrast to the often heated debate on other bills, one piece of water quality legislation drew unanimous support from Republicans, Democrats and environmentalists. All sides reached agreement on legislation that allows local governments to keep restrictions on applying fertilizer during rainy summer months, and provides a path for governments without the restrictions to adopt their own standards.
Only the water hyacinth bill passed the House Thursday. The other bills are expected to pass the full chamber Friday.

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Reusing Sewage: Water Conservation Comes to South Florida
JDsupra.com - by Rosa Eckstein Schechter, Eckstein Schechter Law
April 14, 2011
Summary: Water as a limited resource here in Florida may seem ludicrous to many -- after all, the state is literally surrounded by water: there's the Atlantic Ocean; there's the Gulf of Mexico. And then, Florida is blessed with lots of internal waterways, too. Beautiful rivers like the Alafia.
There's no desert here. To consider that Floridians might face a problem of water scarcity seems irrational, right? Except it's true. The lack of good, clear, usable water is a growing concern for our state. It's a big deal.
Florida Legislature Already Promoting Conservation and Reuse of Water
The Florida Legislature has passed laws that serve to protect and promote water throughout the state. Florida Statute 403.064, for example, provides:
(1) The encouragement and promotion of water conservation, and reuse of reclaimed water, as defined by the department, are state objectives and are considered to be in the public interest. The Legislature finds that the reuse of reclaimed water is a critical component of meeting the state's existing and future water supply needs while sustaining natural systems. The Legislature further finds that for those wastewater treatment plants permitted and operated under an approved reuse program by the department, the reclaimed water shall be considered environmentally acceptable and not a threat to public health and safety. The Legislature encourages the development of incentive-based programs for reuse implementation.
Please see full article below for more information.
Reusing Sewage: Water Conservation Comes to South Florida
Posted on April 14, 2011 by Rosa Schechter
Water as a limited resource here in Florida may seem ludicrous to many -- after all, the state is literally surrounded by water: there's the Atlantic Ocean; there's the Gulf of Mexico. And then, Florida is blessed with lots of internal waterways, too. Beautiful rivers like the Alafia.
There's no desert here. To consider that Floridians might face a problem of water scarcity seems irrational, right ?  Except it's true. The lack of good, clear, usable water is a growing concern for our state. It's a big deal.
Florida Legislature Already Promoting Conservation and Reuse of Water
The Florida Legislature has passed laws that serve to protect and promote water throughout the state. Florida Statute 403.064, for example, provides:
 (1) The encouragement and promotion of water conservation, and reuse of reclaimed water, as defined by the department, are state objectives and are considered to be in the public interest. The Legislature finds that the reuse of reclaimed water is a critical component of meeting the state's existing and future water supply needs while sustaining natural systems. The Legislature further finds that for those wastewater treatment plants permitted and operated under an approved reuse program by the department, the reclaimed water shall be considered environmentally acceptable and not a threat to public health and safety. The Legislature encourages the development of incentive-based programs for reuse implementation.
The Problem of Reusing Water - Treated Sewage Water is Still Sewage
In the Sun Sentinel this week, reporter Larry Barszewski covers the issues of water reuse in a story entitled, "Water reuse is South Florida priority." In particular, the article focuses upon efforts to increase the amount water reuse in South Florida - which is well behind other areas of the state in H2O conservation.
There are two main reasons for Florida to use treated sewage water for things like watering the local baseball fields: (1) conserving water available for us to drink, cook with, etc., and (2) protecting our waterways - particularly the Atlantic Ocean - from the impact of wastewater being dumped into their flow.
As the Sun Sentinel points out, lots of folk aren't too keen on sewage, no matter how clean it may be at the point of reuse.
Nevertheless, here in South Florida, the time has come for treated sewage water to be implemented into all our lives. While other parts of the state reuse up to 75% of their sewage water, Miami-Dade and Broward Counties are currently using almost zip of their available wastewater. That's going to change.

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South Florida water officials call for exploring Broward-Palm water-sharing reservoir
Sun Sentinel - by Andy Reid
April 14, 2011
Cost, concerns about divvying up water remain hurdles.
A proposed reservoir that would collect water in Palm Beach County and share it with utilities stretching all the way to Fort Lauderdale gained a new ally Thursday when state water managers agreed to help determine whether the pricey proposition would work.
For more than two years, a coalition of utilities and community leaders in Broward and Palm Beach counties has tried to win support for building the reservoir west of Royal Palm Beach.
The idea is to collect some of the stormwater that gets drained through the C-51 canal into the Lake Worth Lagoon for flood control, and instead use that wasted water to boost drinking-water supplies in Palm Beach and Broward counties.
Hurdles to construction include a project cost of more than $300 million, environmental concerns about where polluted canal water could end up and lingering controversy over another reservoir built west of Royal Palm Beach.
In addition, this reservoir proposal comes after the district still has a reservoir project left unfinished in southwestern Palm Beach County that already cost South Florida taxpayers nearly $280 million
Despite those concerns, the South Florida Water Management District board on Thursday agreed to move forward with a "non-binding" agreement with the city of Fort Lauderdale and the Lake Worth Drainage District to explore the possibility of building the reservoir.
"This place has a lot of excess water and it could be captured," District Deputy Director Dean Powell said about the area around the canal that extends through West Palm Beach. "How much water is there? How much water can be captured and stored? … We are in the very early stages."
Whether communities in Palm Beach County would support sending water south to Broward remains a political stumbling block.
Also, actually getting the water there poses an engineering challenge that could require canal improvements and building other infrastructure at a time when local governments face budget strains from a still-struggling economy.
Another alternative floated through the years called for Broward utilities to help pay for the reservoir, which would increase the regional supply of water, and in return get credit from the South Florida Water Management District to use more water from the Everglades than otherwise allowed to increase their local supplies.
"Part of this is who benefits and who pays," District board member Kevin Powers said about the reservoir study approved Thursday.

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Pepe Fanjul
Pepe FANJUL

Alfonso Fanjul
Alfonso FANJUL

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Sugar industry, Fanjuls cash in while taxpayers foot bill for Everglades, ethanol research
The American Independent - by Kyle Daly
April 14, 2011
Taxpayers pay for most of cleanup of Everglades destruction caused largely by sugar industry.
Despite being behind every packet of Domino sugar in every diner in the country, the name “Fanjul” is little-known outside of Florida. Alfy and Pepe Fanjul run Flo-Sun, Inc., the mega-corporation that, alongside U.S. Sugar, dominates the American sugar industry and wields substantial political influence in Washington and around the country.  Flo-Sun’s subsidiaries include Domino, Florida Crystals, C&H and Redpath Sugar, but the company’s legacy is its alleged stranglehold on sugar-industry policy in the United States. The Fanjuls’ sugar empire benefits from environmental efforts that give them a green image — as taxpayers foot the bill — and from federal subsidies that American consumers pay for both at the grocery store and on tax day.
Florida’s Everglades Forever Act of 1994 drives one of the major environmental cleanup efforts in the state. Everglades Forever implementation so far has cost the state of Florida $1.8 billion. Of that, Florida sugar companies have pledged to contribute $300 million in tax revenue. (The Fanjuls own 40 percent of Florida’s sugar industry, though no hard numbers exist on how much each company has offered to the effort.) Put another way, the industry that is almost entirely responsible for both the historical destruction of the Everglades and continual pollution of the ecosystem thanks to fertilizer runoff is footing less than 20 percent of the bill to clean up the mess.
Meanwhile, the far larger Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP) is funded half by the federal government and half by the Florida state government. CERP was originally projected to cost $7.8 billion; official Florida state cost estimates have since ballooned to $13.5 billion, though federal projections put it at just under $20 billion.
The fact that CERP is designed to clean up the mess in the Everglades without special contributions from the industry that largely created it has led some to speculate that the Fanjuls’ political connections played some part in shaping the program. However, the closest thing to a documented connection between the family and the program is the fact that one of CERP’s principal architects was former U.S. Sen. Bob Graham (D-Fla.); Flo-Sun was a major contributor to Graham’s campaigns. Flo-Sun also began sending family scion Jose Fanjul, Jr. to Washington as a lobbyist in the late ’90s, but he stopped lobbying on his family’s behalf in 2000, the same year that the CERP went into effect as part of the Water Resources Development Act.
The billions that have been spent and the billions that have yet to be spent are meant to reverse the massive ecological changes that came about when nearly 2 million acres of the Everglades were razed, predominately to make room for sugar development. The money is also used to cut down the concentration of phosphorus that ends up in Florida waterways after being dumped on fields of sugar cane. Phosphorus is a nonrenewable central element in the production of fertilizer and is already in short supply all over the world — it’s also one of the many contributors to record-high food prices.
Meanwhile, Florida Crystals has partnered with both Florida International University and the University of Florida in government-funded, multi-million dollar ethanol research projects. As with the corn industry, clean production of ethanol from sugar cane is thought to be the future of the sugar industry. These programs have generated no publicly available academic research, but studies show (PDF) that the larger University of Florida program has successfully begun generating 2 million gallons of ethanol a year from processed bagasse, a waste byproduct of sugar refining. The taxpayer-funded University of Florida, then, is making progress in seeking new profits for the Fanjuls.
The Fanjul family’s political connections — and, it could be said, the Florida sugar industry’s diminished role in paying for the Everglades reconstruction projects that were crafted in the ’90s — become rather more open when it comes to Alfy Fanjul’s longstanding ties to the Clinton family. The campaign donation records of Alfy Fanjul, a Democrat, show he gave extensively to both the Senate and presidential campaigns of Hillary Clinton. He has also given money to the William J. Clinton Foundation, was the co-chair of Bill Clinton’s 1992 Florida campaign and has hosted Clinton fundraisers in the past.
Alfy Fanjul’s Clinton association received outsized attention during the Kenneth Starr investigation of Clinton; Bill Clinton’s breakup speech with Monica Lewinsky was cut short by a phone call from Alfy Fanjul. While White House records don’t document the content of phone calls, Alfy’s call, made on President’s Day in 1996, could very well have been in reference to an announcement that Vice President Gore had made just hours before that he’d be pursuing a tax of a penny per pound on sugar producers. Fanjul could not have been happy about this — as evidenced by the millions spent by the sugar industry (PDF) in pre-election day advertising once the tax was put on the ballot in Florida. Ultimately, Big Sugar ads claiming the tax would be a job killer won out and Florida voters killed the measure. Bill Clinton quietly shelved it on the federal level against Gore’s wishes.
It’s worth noting that the penny-a-pound tax would be just a dent offsetting the 18 cents-per-pound-of-sugar subsidies (PDF) that cane growers like the Fanjuls receive from the federal government. The subsidies are in the form of loans; the cost of repaying them, plus interest, is tacked onto the purchase prices of sugar, which explains why the wholesale and retail prices for sugar in the U.S. have hit more than triple the global average several times over the last twenty years, according to USDA figures. A 2000 Government Accountability Office report concluded that the price markups cost U.S. consumers up to $1.9 billion annually in the 1990s, a figure that doesn’t even account for the fact that the subsidies are paid for with taxpayer money to begin with.
Between 1990 and 2009, U.S. prices for raw sugar averaged out to almost exactly twice the global average: 21.56 cents a pound, as compared to 10.85 cents a pound for the rest of the world. In recent months, however, food shortages, crop failures and the economic growth of sugar-producing countries like India and Brazil have driven global prices up to levels close to the artificially-inflated U.S. prices.
It’s unclear just how Big Sugar in general will be affected by rising global prices, but the Fanjuls are likely to face a windfall, thanks to their refineries in Canada, England, Mexico and Portugal. They also own thousands of acres of sugar farmland in the Dominican Republic. The Fanjuls, along with other sugar barons, were excoriated in the 2007 documentary “The Sugar Babies” for alleged slavery-like practices at their Dominican plantations (PDF). Representatives for Florida Crystals said at the time (PDF) that the documentary highlighted issues that were no longer company policy.

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EPA agrees to Independent Study to Help Determine New Florida Water Standards
Bradenton Times - by Dennis Maley
April 13, 2011 2:09 am
BRADENTON – The EPA has agreed to an independent review of federal water quality standards for Florida that were adopted last fall, now that opposition groups have delivered grossly disparate estimates of implantation costs. The EPA claims that nitrogen and phosphorus have caused algae in Florida waterways and red tide blooms in the ocean and gulf and passed new standards after the state failed to comply with a directive to develop its own. Agriculture, industry groups and utilities along with Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and Attorney General Pam Bondi have sued to block the new standards.
The EPA has estimated the cost of compliance at $135 million to $206 million. But the Florida Water Quality Coalition's consulting firm, Cardno Entrix, estimated the maximum costs as ranging from $3-8 billion. The Florida Water Quality Coalition consists of  various business groups, mostly from the agriculture and utilities industries.
EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said in a letter to Sen. Bill Nelson that the agency is working with the National Academy of Sciences to conduct the review, saying that the agency agrees that an independent cost review, which Senator Nelson advocated, is in fact warranted.

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EPA to see $1.6 billion funding cut, unsure how it will impact Florida programs
The Florida Independent - by Virginia Chamlee
April 13, 2011
A six-month spending bill unveiled by House Republicans Monday night would see large cuts in environmental spending in the U.S. According to Politico, the Environmental Protection Agency’s budget would be come in “about $1.6 billion below 2010’s funding.” That adds up to a 16 percent cut to the EPA, and could lead to drastic reductions in funding for some of the agency’s key projects. #
But what will such a large cut mean for some of the agency’s key projects — specifically those in Florida, such as Everglades Restoration and the implementation of a set of proposed water quality rules? #
According to EPA Public Affairs Specialist Davina Marraccini, those details aren’t yet known. “EPA staff are reviewing the funding levels in the continuing resolution and we will have more details when that review is complete,” says Marraccini. “We understand the need to make difficult decisions to ensure the government lives within its means.” #
Back in March, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said that cuts would, in fact, be detrimental to clean air and water projects in the country. ”Big polluters would flout legal restrictions on dumping contaminants into the air, into rivers, and onto the ground,” Jackson said to a Senate committee. “There would be no EPA grant money to fix or replace broken water treatment systems. And the standards that EPA is set to establish for harmful air pollutants from smokestacks and tailpipes would remain missing.” #
In addition to cutting funding to the EPA in the newly unveiled six-month budget, lawmakers from Western states included a rider that allows states to de-list wolves from the endangered species list. #
Though several members of Congress support the cuts, the general public likely does not. A recent survey, conducted by the Opinion Research Corporation International for the Natural Resources Defense Council found that 77 percent of Americans think that ”Congress should let the EPA do its job.” Sixty-one percent of Republicans answered the same way.

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Carol Ann WEHLE
Carol Ann WEHLE

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South Florida Water Management District's leader abruptly resigns
Sun Sentinel - by Andy Reid
April 13, 2011
Budget pressures, hiring scandal led up to Carol Ann Wehle's departure.
South Florida Water Management District Executive Director Carol Ann Wehle on Wednesday abruptly announced her retirement from the far-flung agency she led for nearly six years.
The district oversees water supplies, guards against flooding and leads Everglades restoration in a 16-county region stretching from Orlando to the Keys.
She did not state a reason for leaving, but management shakeups had been a looming possibility at the district since Gov. Rick Scott took office.
The governor appoints the district's nine-member board, which oversees the agency's $1 billion budget and has the power to hire and fire the executive director.
Scott during the campaign was critical of district spending decisions made under Wehle. After taking office, he proposed cutting the budgets of the state's five water management districts by 25 percent.
Adding to the scrutiny of the district, The Palm Beach Post in March reported that the district's inspector general office in June hired Wehle's boyfriend — Bob Howard — for a $120,000-a-year job, without Wehle publicly disclosing their relationship.
"Obviously she was under a lot of scrutiny," District Board member Eric Buermann said on Wednesday. "Maybe this was a good time for that [retirement] to happen."
Wehle, in an email sent to district employees Wednesday afternoon, said it was with "mixed emotions" that she announced plans to step down effective April 29.
During her tenure, Wehle championed a blockbuster Everglades restoration land deal, led the district through record droughts and hurricanes, and expanded landscape watering restrictions to a year-round requirement.
"While there's never a perfect time to leave an organization like the South Florida Water Management District — our work is never done — it is the right time for me, and I am excited about the prospect of new professional opportunities," Wehle wrote to district employees.
District Board Chairman Joe Collins said he was surprised by Wehle's decision to step aside.
"I wish her the best. We've got a professional staff here and I have high expectations for them," Collins said. "She wanted to move on and that's what we are going to do."
Wehle is paid more than $200,000 a year to lead the agency, which has about 1,700 employees.
A former Brevard County commissioner and deputy executive director for the St. Johns River Water Management District, Wehle started at the South Florida Water Management District in 2001 as director of the agency's Fort Myers service center.
Wehle rose to assistant executive director before taking over as executive director in 2005. She was the first woman to hold the top post of any of the state's five water management districts, according to her bio on the district website.
Under Wehle, the district worked to expand the construction of stormwater treatment areas, intended to reduce the pollution in stormwater that flows to the Everglades.
She also oversaw the district's response to the 2007 drought that dropped Lake Okeechobee to its lowest level on record and led to emergency once-a-week watering rules for all of South Florida.
But Wehle's support for former Gov. Charlie Crist's push to buy U.S Sugar Corp. farmland for Everglades restoration put her on the opposite side of that issue from Scott, who opposed the land buy as he campaigned for governor last fall.
What started in 2008 as a $1.75 billion plan for the district to buy all of U.S. Sugar's more than 180,000 acres was watered down over two years by a souring economy and political pressure to a $197 million deal for 26,800 acres finalized in October.

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Special report Sugar: why our favourite spoonful is not so sweet
Ecologist – by William McLennan
April 13, 2011
Sugar can be produced from both sugar beet and sugarcane. Sugarcane production is of particular concern in terms of environmental degradation and human rights abuses, reports William McLennan
Environment
The cultivation of sugarcane negatively impacts the land on which it is grown, and the surrounding environment.
Habitat loss
The conversion of natural habitats for sugar cultivation is widespread and reduces biodiversity.
In 15 sugar-producing countries 10 to 50 per cent of land is dedicated to sugar cultivation and in seven countries sugarcane covers more than 50 per cent of land.
Sugar cultivation affects the wider environment, altering water flow rates, increasing soil erosion and changing nutrient cycles.
Sugar cultivation requires a large volume of water and alters natural water flow resulting in the loss of wetland habitats, such as mangroves.
In Australia, sugar cultivation; including the damming of rivers, increases in soil erosion and heavy fertiliser use, has reduced the quality of freshwater flow to the Great Barrier Reef.
Soil quality
Sugar cultivation can decrease soil quality, leading to a decrease in productivity and increased soil erosion.
Growing sugar in monoculture over repeated seasons reduces the soils ability to store water and nutrients, leading to increased water use and intensive application of fertilisers.
Increased soil erosion results in sediment pollution of surrounding rivers, lakes and marine environments.
Agro-chemicals
Large quantities of chemicals are applied to sugar plantations to control pests and supply inorganic nutrients such as phosphorus and nitrogen. These chemicals can be toxic to the environment and alter natural biochemical systems.
Fertilisers
Application of fertilisers leads to acidification of soil making it unsuitable for many plants.
Up to 30 per cent of fertilisers are washed off in to the surrounding environment leading to an increase in available nutrients.
Increased nutrients lead to blooms of plants or microorganisms, which causes the depletion of oxygen in water.
In Florida, fertiliser runoff from sugar plantations has increased the available nutrients in the Everglades allowing aggressive species to take over and reducing biodiversity.
Pesticides
Pesticides are toxic to humans and the environment and can accumulate in sugarcane.
25 million cases of poisoning from pesticides occur in developing world each year, according to the World Health Organisation.
Overuse of pesticides can lead to the development of resistance in pests and can release secondary pests due to the elimination of their natural enemies.
Processing
The processing of sugarcane into refined sugar requires large quantities of water and chemicals, such as sulphur dioxide and phosphoric acid.
Nutrient rich effluents from the sugar mills are constantly released into the environment. In tropical regions where the oxygen content of water is already low, this can lead to the suffocation of waterways.
Annual cleaning of sugar mills can lead to the pollution of waterways with oil and chemicals. In 1995 in Bolivia the annual cleaning of sugar mills resulted in the deaths of millions of fish (WWF).
Human rights
In less industrialised countries, sugarcane is harvested by hand and is extremely labour intensive; violations of sugar plantation worker’s human rights are frequently reported.
Forced Labour
Around the world inequality and poverty are used by rich landowners to secure cheap labour.
In Bolivia and Brazil, indigenous people are recruited from remote areas and lead into a cycle of ‘debt-bondage’ where advances on wages are offered, these debts are then used to legitimise bondage over multiple seasons.
In 2007, in just eight months, 3,400 workers were liberated from ‘conditions analogous to slavery’ on Brazilian farms. However these practices are thought to be on going; plantations are in the remote Western Amazonian frontier and there is a history of governmental corruption, according to Human Rights Watch.
In South Asia cultural prejudices and traditions are used to exploit the most vulnerable groups. The majority of labourers working in debt bondage are Dalits or ‘untouchables’- a group at the bottom of the Hindu caste system, historically associated with occupations regarded as unsuitable for other groups.
Child Labour
Children have been found to be working on sugar plantations across the globe, cases range from young children helping their parents to teenagers working fulltime harvesting cane.
Children as young as 9-13 years old were found to be working fulltime on Bolivian sugar plantations, preventing them from gaining an education.
Child labour was ‘rampant’ on sugarcane plantations in El Salvador in 2004 with as many as 30,000 children under the age of 18 working the harvest, according to Human Rights Watch.
Conditions
The sugarcane harvest involves dangerous, exhausting and filthy work making the meagre wages even more unacceptable.
Labourers are paid as little as $3 per ton of cane harvested.
Sugarcane is harvested using machetes and often leads to injuries on hands and legs, leading labour inspectors to categorise it among the most dangerous types of agriculture.
Harvesting sugarcane is labour intensive and workers cut as much as 500 kilograms per hour.
Sugarcane fields are burnt immediately before harvesting meaning labourers work in dusty and sooty conditions.
Living conditions are often poor with workers sharing basic huts or plastic tents with limited sanitation and little privacy.
DOWNLOAD THE FULL 'WHAT'S IN YOUR CUPPA?' SPECIAL INVESTIGATION HERE (PDF)

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Aggregates seeks to dig new reservoir to help send Palm Beach County stormwater to Broward
Palm Beach Post - by Christine Stapleton,  Staff Writer
April 12, 2011
WEST PALM BEACH — An ambitious plan to divert billions of gallons of stormwater currently wasted in massive flushes to the Lake Worth Lagoon is moving quickly forward this week with supporters heralding it as a common sense solution to South Florida's environmental and growth management problems.
The plan, called the C-51 Reservoir Project, calls for building a 25-billion-gallon reservoir in western Palm Beach County to store stormwater that could then be moved through existing canals and used as a fresh water source for cities from Wellington to Fort Lauderdale.
Currently, stormwater is wasted -- flushed from the C-51 canal into the Lake Worth Lagoon -- bringing with it sediments, pollutants and fresh water that seriously damage wildlife in the lagoon.
Instead, it would be routed from the new reservoir east through the C-51 canal, then south to the Hillsboro Canal in Broward County. The project will depend on the ability of a patchwork of water managers, utilities and a controversial mining company -- all with separate motives -- to work together on the estimated $500 million project.
"It's like a world championship chess game," said Ronald Crone, manager of the Lake Worth Drainage District. "Every move you make creates another move."
Talk of building a new reservoir began two years ago but did not gain traction until last fall, when officials at the South Florida Water Management District realized that a new reservoir could help them appease an angry federal judge, who ordered the district to lower nutrient pollution in water headed to the Everglades or face dire consequences.
Because a reservoir needed for the stormwater project would sit just north of two of the district's most heavily polluted stormwater treatment areas, water from it could be used to dilute pollutants and stabilize waterflows into the stormwater treatment areas, said Dean Powell, the district's director of water supply planning.
Broward County, which draws most of its water from the Floridan Aquifer, has been interested in finding an alternative water source since demand increased with the housing boom of the 2000s. Although slower recent growth has reduced demand, county officials know the Floridan Aquifer cannot handle future increases, said Jennifer Jurado, the director of natural resource planning and management in Broward County.
"Overall there was some concern about putting our water dependence on the Floridan Aquifer," Jurado said. "We wanted a diversified approach and the C-51 would provide a nice complement."
Then there is Palm Beach Aggregates LLC, a partnership between Florida Crystals and Palm Beach Aggregates, a mining company that grabbed headlines and the attention of federal investigators during corruption probes of two Palm Beach County commissioners.
Although the company cooperated with investigators and no charges were filed against it or its owners, the company is aware of its reputation, said Ernie Cox, a company spokesman.
"We are completely open and transparent with everything we're doing," Cox said. "We will answer any questions. Everything will be done in the open."
For the company, digging another reservoir means tons of rocks and dollars. Although the company has not estimated how much aggregate will be mined, it intends to sell the rock for road construction. Tentative plans call for Aggregates LLC to build the reservoir and install necessary pumps and infrastructure, then sell it -- at a price not yet determined. The company sold an adjacent reservoir to the South Florida Water Management District for $220 million.
The likely buyer would be the little-known Lake Worth Drainage District, created 96 years ago to provide water control and supply from Okeechobee Boulevard south to Broward. Until now, its role has been limited to weed control, maintaining canal banks, monitoring water levels and issuing permits.
Becoming the owner and operator of a reservoir, transferring water through canals and negotiating contracts with other utilities would make the drainage district a major player in the region's water management.
Because the drainage district has no legal authority to perform many of these duties, freshman Rep. Lori Berman, D-Delray Beach, introduced a bill that would give the drainage district the ability to construct, operate, maintain and finance the project. On Tuesday the House Economic Affairs Committee, unanimously approved the bill, which is now headed for a full vote by the House.

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Damaged coastal wetlands means bad news for our climate
Earth Times - by Ruth Hendry
April 11, 2011
Coastal wetlands, which include mangroves, tidal marshes and seagrass meadows, remove carbon from the atmosphere and lock it into the soil. Unlike terrestrial forests, coastal wetlands continually build 'carbon pools', storing huge amounts of carbon. If coastal wetlands are drained, for example to convert the land for agricultural use, they emit large amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) is using the World Bank's report as a call to action. They want local people to be incentivised to protect and restore these vital coastal wetlands. The IUCN highlights this shocking statistic from the report: of the 15 wetland deltas studied in the report, 7 were found to have released more than 500 million tons of CO2 each since the wetlands were drained.
Carl Gustaf Lundin, Director of the IUCN Global Marine and Polar Programme, says ''We must work with nature to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but also restore the ability of nature to take carbon out of circulation. CO2 emissions from lost or degraded coastal wetlands are sufficiently large to warrant amendment of national and international climate change policy frameworks to promote restoration.''
Coastal wetlands are vital habitats. Not only do they sequester vast amounts of CO2, they also provide coastal communities with essential shelter from storm damage and flooding. In addition, coastal wetlands have been shown to increase local fishery productivity. Marea Hatziolos, Senior Coastal and Marine Specialist at the World Bank, says ''If wetlands conservation can be linked to carbon markets, communities have a way to pay for conservation which will generate local and global benefits''.
The report suggests that communities and conservation organisations manage wetlands to ensure optimum provision of ecosystem services, such as storm protection. This will complement existing nature-based solutions that reduce the effects of climate change. For local communities, wetlands are vital for wellbeing and prosperity. For the wider world, wetlands are a key component in mitigating the effects of climate change.

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Enemies are everywhere for lawmakers
The Miami Herald – by Fred Grimm
April 11, 2011
Gotta have us some enemies. Enemies being ‘bout as necessary to politicking as money.
Judging from the targets of legislation percolating through the Florida Legislature, we’ve got ourselves a passel. Enemies lurk everywhere. And, oh my, retribution looks like a fast train coming (but not of the bullet kind).
Public school teachers, known saboteurs of our American way of life, were at the top of the hit list. Lawmakers this session worked quickly, yanking away tenure and tying pay raises to a new array of test scores, though without bothering to fund those mythical raises.
Students made the list. The Legislature has decided to roll back school funding by $400 a pupil and pack ever more of these diabolical little rats into core curriculum classrooms. (Getting around limits voted into the Florida Constitution by redefining “core curriculum.” History, calculus, analytical geometry, anatomy, zoology, Spanish – all that becomes so much fluff.)
We especially despise students with the temerity to wear droopy pants, a horror apparently worthy of its own state law.
We don’t like school boards. One bill would eliminate their salaries.
We don’t like judges. Especially Supreme Court and appeals court judges. Bills would cut their power, cut their budgets and cut their chances of getting re-elected.
We don’t much mind electric utilities and insurance companies jacking up rates, or farmers who get careless with fertilizer run-off or homeowners with leaky septic tanks. We love developers, especially if they promise to build over wetlands. But we loathe water management districts and the Florida Department of Community Affairs, with their niggling rules — a bunch of damn job killers.
We don’t like regulators (who remembers tow truck and moving company scams?) We don’t like unions. We don’t like state workers. Those who survive the coming layoffs (some 6,000 are goners) will see their paychecks zapped another three percent to pay for pension benefits.
We don’t like immigrants (except, of course, when we need cheap labor.) Some 30 bills dealing with illegal immigrants swirl about the Legislature, three off them modeled after Arizona’s round-’em-up-and-send-’em-home law.
We really don’t like the developmentally disabled, who’ve been leeching money from the state that could be going to corporate tax breaks. The proposed budget reduces their aid by $42 million.
We loathe foster kids, particular the $8.2 million program to help former foster children to adjust to life out on their own. That money’s gone. Along with $25.6 million (and 352 jobs) that the House of Representatives budget would eliminate from the Department of Children & Family.
Don’t like psychiatric outpatients. Half their treatment budget is gone. Along with money to pay for hearing aids for the poor, prescription drugs for the impoverished and assistance for the long-term unemployed.
Legislators may be against raising taxes, but they think nothing about raising tuition — again — popping college students with a 15 percent increase, while mulling over new limitations on Bright Futures scholarships. Don’t think of it as a tax increase. Think of it as sweet revenge.
Druggies remain perpetual members of the Florida enemies list. The proposed budget erases $43 million for substance abuse treatment. We’d rather send them to private prisons. Private-prison corporations, known for their generous political contributions, are definitely not on the enemies list.
We don’t like doctors, who think they have a right to ask about firearms.
We don’t like environmentalists, with their notions about restoring the Everglades, preserving natural spaces and protecting endangered species. “We are under assault on all fronts,” complained Eric Draper, director of Florida Audubon Society of Florida. “We’re getting beaten up pretty hard up here.”
It must be a struggle for dutiful legislators just keeping track of who to punish: teachers, judges, foster children, environmentalists, state workers, prison guards, probation officers, the mentally disabled, school kids, immigrants, college students, school board members, nosy doctors, the poor (especially if they’re sick), state regulators.
So many adversaries. It’s as if the wild and vengeful 2011 Legislature has adopted the old Pogo observation as the state motto: “We have met the enemy and he is us.”

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EPA to review heavily debated nutrient standard cost estimates
The Florida Independent - by Virginia Chamlee
April 11, 2011
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced Friday that it has agreed to an independent review of the cost of compliance with new Florida water quality standards.
The EPA has projected that a set of numeric nutrient criteria would cost local businesses and communities somewhere between $135 million and $206 million, but the state Department of Environmental Protection’s cost projections differ greatly.
The state department, who has been accused of siding with industry by citing overblown and faulty cost estimates, has estimated costs at more than $2 billion for the agricultural industry alone. A recent Florida Independent report revealed that Department of Environmental Protection employees have even touted industry-derived cost estimates when questioned by state lawmakers.
The announcement of a secondary cost analysis comes nearly a month after Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., implored EPA administrator Lisa Jackson to “suspend application and enforcement of the rule, while providing for an independent analysis of the costs of compliance.” According to Nelson, an independent review will shed light on whether certain assumptions about the criteria — such as the claim that all state utilities will have to invest in the most technologically advanced types of wastewater-treatment equipment — are true.
On April 6, Jackson responded that, while the EPA still stands by its cost estimates (which would average about 2o cents a day for Floridians), the agency does agree that an independent review of costs should be performed, especially at a time when “the economic impact of the rule is dominating the public discussion in Florida.”
In her letter, Jackson says that the EPA has already begun work with the National Academy of Sciences to review the costs of the numeric nutrient criteria. Calling them a “highly reputable and independent organization that has the capability to do such economic reviews in a non-partisan, non biased manner,” Jackson wrote that the academy will review the agency’s cost estimates “in comparison with those of other stakeholders.”
According to EPA public affairs specialist Davina Marraccini, Jackson’s letter covers as much information as is currently available about the independent review to be performed.

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Florida's core values are at risk
Herald-Tribune - by BOB GRAHAM
April 10, 2011
As the Legislature enters its second half, there has emerged a disturbing pattern of ignoring many of Florida's core values. Over the last half-century these values have given Florida government — whether in Republican or Democratic hands — a stability and predictability that is now threatened.
What are some of those at-risk values?
Florida is a treasure which we have the privilege of enjoying with the responsibility to preserve and enhance that treasure for future generations.
For most of Florida's history, up until the mid-1960s, our state was treated like a commodity. If you didn't like it, you changed it: land into water; water into land. The business of the state was business, and our enormous natural resources were just another input. The quality and safety of our coasts, fresh waters, open lands and the Everglades were regularly and enthusiastically sacrificed on the altar of growth.
Riding over the horizon were two merging armies. Emerging Democratic leaders, such as Reubin Askew of Pensacola and Lawton Chiles of Lakeland, who were in the vanguard of the recently reapportioned Legislature, joined forces with young Republicans like Nathaniel Reed of Hobe Sound and Warren Henderson of Sarasota, who were appalled at the change they had seen in their newly adopted state.
These armies had a common mission: to reverse the damage commoditization had done to Florida and replace it with a culture of conservation and intergenerational responsibility.
Markers of success
The markers of success of the united armies of Florida are many.
Florida has one of America's most esteemed state park systems. Our state has seen dramatic improvements in air and water quality. The Florida Everglades are now the American Everglades, with Congress agreeing to partner with the state to preserve this unique treasure for our grandchildren's grandchildren and beyond — a public-private partnership for quality development rather than lowest common denominator.
In the next month all of this will be threatened. The Florida Forever Act and its predecessor land-acquisition programs, which have saved almost 9.4 million acres of our most environmentally sensitive lands for the public is, after 44 years, being zeroed out of the budget. The proposed cuts to Everglades restoration are so deep it is doubtful the crucial goal of salvaging this world treasure and protecting the water supply for more than 6 million Floridians will be realized. If Florida walks out on Everglades restoration, Congress won't be far behind. Comprehensive planning for future land and water use, which has elevated growth to a new standard of quality, is under all-out assault.
Florida is a dynamic state which requires vision to assure that future opportunities and needs are anticipated and met.
Since World War II that vision has largely been focused on understanding and responding to Florida's incredible growth.
Florida was the least affected of America's large population states by the Industrial Revolution. Our economy today — service, agriculture, tourism — is not much different than it was a century ago. What has substituted for traditional industry and has served as the fourth leg of our economic stool has been growth. Since the 1960s Florida has grown consistently by 3 million new residents each decade. It almost did so in the first decade of this new century but stagnant growth in the last years of that decade held it below the historic standard.
New vision is required
This is not a blip or statistical anomaly. There are several factors that have converged to slow growth, but three should particularly concern us. The current economic recession has shaken many Americans nearing retirement as to whether their defined contribution pension will support a move to Florida. Talk of major changes to Social Security and Medicare heightens that anxiety. Other states, especially in the Southeast, have emerged as stiff competitors for the attention of families at or near retirement. Fewer young families are choosing Florida as their home.
Now, new vision is required to prepare Florida for an era in which, yes, there will be growth, but it will likely be at a reduced rate and reduced capacity to carry our economy.
So what do we do about it? Get serious about attracting the technology industries which are shaping and will shape the world's future. This will require a dual strategy: a renewed commitment to the protection of our competitive edge — Florida's environment — and building a world-class preschool-through-graduate-school education system. The states which have benefited most by technology industries — such as North Carolina and Virginia — have done so not by selling themselves as the cheapest places to do business but rather as states that have built the infrastructure and the educational institutions which will most help businesses achieve sustained profitability.
In addition to a potential return to the Florida-as-a-commodity policy of the early 20th century, this Legislature is on course to erase decades of investment and progress in education. Hopefully the Legislature will reject a proposal of a 10 percent per-student cut in primary and secondary schools. Less likely is a change in the downward trajectory of support for higher education. Since 1990, in inflation-adjusted dollars, per-student funding of the state university system from general revenue has dropped by about $4,000. These savage cuts to education expose a lack of vision for Florida's future.
Florida aspires to fundamental fairness for all its citizens.
Traditionally Florida's tax system was based on three principles: adequacy — sufficient revenue to support education and other services to the people; resilience — a stable revenue stream matched to needs so that the effects of business cycles are mitigated; and fairness — Floridians pay taxes according to their ability to do so.
These principles have been mangled by changes in the last decade, most of which were advanced as necessary for economic growth.
Since 1999 there has been a stream of tax reductions to make the state more attractive for investment. Absent these cuts, state revenue in 2011 would be $4 billion greater. This would have avoided the need for the deep cuts now being considered by the Legislature.
The truth about tax cuts
The stunning truth is that on virtually all fronts — the Legislature, the executive budget office, academics — there has been a failure to subject these cuts to the basic question: Did they work?
Without specific analysis we are left to answer that question based on data reflecting the impact these cuts had on jobs: How many jobs have been created and what did they contribute to the quality of life of working families?
The increase in jobs from 2000 to 2010, after the economic development stimulating tax cuts began taking effect, was 606,798. This increase was substantially less than in the two decades prior to the tax cuts: 1980-1990: 1,998,833; 1990-2000: 1,530,936.
Those statistics describe the quantity of jobs created before and after the tax cuts. In terms of take-home pay, what was the quality of those jobs? Florida first achieved a long-sought goal of exceeding the national average of per capita income in 1983 when Floridians earned 100.3 percent of the national average. State workers reached a peak in per capita income in 1987 at 101.7. By 2010 that relationship reversed and Floridians earned only 96.8 percent of the national average.
After 12 years of tax cuts, there is no evidence in these numbers that the cuts have achieved their purpose of accelerating quality jobs.
If that is the case, what have we done? All of the tax cuts, particularly the total repeal of the tax on stocks and bonds, primarily benefited the upper 5 percent of Floridians, thus contributing to the enormous disparity in wealth in the United States: The top 5 percent of Americans claim 63.5 percent of the nation's wealth, while the lowest 80 percent get only 12.8 percent.
In more recent years, Florida politicians have regressively shifted the cost of state services from the richest Floridians to those working hardest just to make ends meet. If the Legislature remains committed to adequacy, resilience and fairness as the foundation of our tax system, serious reconsideration should be given to these tax cuts and the harm they have done.
As a lifelong Florida Democrat, I consider myself to be a conservative man in my personal conduct and political philosophy. I believe in respecting traditions which have proven themselves in the real life of our state. I hope this Legislature will pause, reassess the consequences of its decisions on the future of Florida, reject extremist ideologies, and recommit to Florida's heritage of common-sense values.
Bob Graham was governor from 1979 to 1987 and represented the state as a U.S. senator from 1987 to 2005. He wrote this column for the St. Petersburg Times; it is republished here with their permission.

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Should Florida stop trying to prevent bad development?
The Palm Beach Post - blog by Opinion Staff
April 10, 2011
How much should Florida regulate growth and sprawl ?  If some lawmakers get there way, it’ll be far less than the state does now.
Lawmakers want to make changes that would weaken the state Department of Community Affairs’ ability to review and approve individual counties’ growth plans. They say this will give local leaders more control over their own regions, but critics worry it will remove an extra check on the powers of developers to influence political decisions.
The DCA’s main function is making sure county growth plans comply with the state’s Growth Management Act, which helps prevent unnecessary sprawl and damaging impacts on natural resources like drinking water. Bills moving through both chambers of the Legislature would severely weaken the DCA’s critical role.
Environmentalists agree some changes are needed to the DCA to streamline the review process. But they say the measures go too far.
How much do you think the state government should regulate local plans for growth ?

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Can water from 25 miles away replenish the Loxahatchee River ?
The Palm Beach Post – by Bill DiPaolo
April 9, 2011
JUPITER — Water from 16 billion-gallon reservoirs, which were part of a political scandal, might help restore the Loxahatchee River.
Ongoing tests are pumping fresh water from the L-8 Reservoir northwest of Wellington to the Grassy Waters Preserve that supplies drinking water to West Palm Beach. A portion would then flow to the Northwest Fork of the Loxahatchee River.
Without more fresh water, Southeast Florida's only nationally designated "wild and scenic river" is in danger of losing cypress swamps, hardwood hammocks and the underwater nurseries for snook, tarpon and other Florida sport fish, said Albrey Arrington, executive director of the Loxahatchee River District.
"This is a balancing act. We don't want to push out so much salt water that we lose sea grasses and oysters. But we need more fresh water to restore the balance," Arrington said.
Drought, development, more drainage canals and increased demands for water mean less fresh water is flowing into the river as it makes its way to the Jupiter Inlet. That brings saltwater intrusion, which pushes brackish water into freshwater parts of the river, killing freshwater plants, fish and animals.
The increase of saltwater upriver has "totally transformed" the river, said Bud Howard, director of water resources for the Loxahatchee River District.
Cypress trees, which need mostly fresh water, are elbowed out by saltwater mangroves. Lionfish, voracious eaters that normally live in offshore coral reefs, have been spotted 3 miles inland from the Jupiter Inlet.
"When freshwater flows are not sufficient, the salt water comes in," Howard said.
The minimum flow levels set by state officials at the northwest fork of the river - 35 cubic feet per second - have not been met during the dry season for the past 15 years, said Ken Ammon, deputy executive director for the South Florida Water Management District.
"We're aiming to reach 70 cubic feet per second. Meeting the minimum standards just stops the bleeding. We want significant improvement," Ammon said.
The reservoirs, originally rock mining pits owned by Palm Beach Aggregates, were completed for about $220 million by the Water Management District about five years ago. They hold the equivalent of 1 acre of water 9.2 miles deep. The Palm Beach Aggregates project was the centerpiece of the corruption investigation that sent two county commissioners to jail.
Rejuvenating the Loxahatchee is not the only purpose for the pumping.
The reservoirs will store water during heavy rains in western neighborhoods around Royal Palm Beach, Indian Trail and Loxahatchee Groves. Instead of water running into canals, the Lake Worth Lagoon and Atlantic Ocean, the rainwater will flow into the reservoirs.
"Right now, the water has nowhere to go. Instead of just dumping this water into the ocean, it will be beneficially used in the reservoir," Ammon said.
Feeding the water through a mostly gravity-fed system the 27 miles between the reservoir and Loxahatchee River also will recharge groundwater for Grassy Waters Preserve, one of West Palm Beach's sources for drinking water. Groundwater systems for other communities along the route also would be recharged.
"The dream and scheme is to get all the water systems connected," said Pat Painter, the watershed manager for West Palm Beach.
Local officials have been granted a 60-day permit from state officials to conduct tests on pumping the water to Grassy Waters and the Loxahatchee River. Local officials conducted a brief test last year, but stopped when rains made added water unnecessary.
This year's drought made officials decide to test again. If the tests, scheduled to end early next month, show the recharging Grassy Waters and increasing the water flow in the Loxahatchee River works, local officials will apply for a state permit to permanently continue the process, Ammon said.
The overall project, including land acquisition, construction and new pumps is expected to cost the county, West Palm Beach and the water district about $500 million. Six more reservoirs, two in Palm Beach County, that will cost about $2.2 billion, are planned in South Florida, Ammon said.
Officials are excited the minimum flow rate to the Loxahatchee has been met during the test.
"We're in the worst drought in decades. We're using existing infrastructure. Yet, we met the flow rate. That's a big deal," Arrington said.

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Water, Water Everywhere
Biscayne Times - by Jim W. Harper   
April 2011
Antarctica is melting, and it’s heading to Miami in waves
Warning: Reading this column may be hazardous to your mental health. It may cause nausea, heartburn, dizziness, primal screaming, and an uncontrollable urge to stick your head in the sand. If you have a weak heart, do not continue reading.
South Florida is dying. With about 60 years of life remaining, our beloved home needs to be put on the palliative care of hospice. We need to start preparing for the inevitable.
No one wants to believe their home is built on sinking sand, but it doesn’t matter what you believe. South Florida is sinking back into the ocean, and we can face this reality bravely and wisely or belatedly and foolishly.
This is a joke, right ?
The Turkey Point nuclear plant, 24 miles south of the downtown Miami, sits along Biscayne Bay on land barely above sea level. When the sea level rises by six inches, the land surrounding it will be underwater.
At a minimum, sea level will rise six inches by 2100, according to a consensus of scientists around the world. It will probably happen sooner. Our tsunami, our Hurricane Katrina moment is approaching, ever so slowly but surely. Everyone living in South Florida is going to become a climate-change refugee. It’s only a matter of time.
I told you not to read this.
We need to start bracing ourselves for the new normal: In a century or so, Miami-Dade County will be completely underwater. Everyone will be either dead or gone. We’re the number-one most vulnerable large metropolitan area in the world subject to the destructive effects of rising sea levels, according to Europe’s Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. The ocean is using Miami to send a message to the rest of the world: “You’re going to lose, and I’m going to win.” If only there were hills to run to.
Actually, there is some good news for South Florida when it comes to climate change. Owing to forces from the Pacific that will overwhelm the Atlantic, hurricanes are predicted to become less frequent. Hooray! There’s just one little caveat: Only weaker hurricanes will decrease in number. Intense hurricanes, like Hurricane Andrew, are expected to arrive more frequently. In fact, hurricanes may reach a whole new level. “We may have to invent a Category Six,” says David Enfield, a veteran University of Miami atmospheric researcher who serves on the science committee of the Miami-Dade County Climate Change Advisory Task Force.
Okay, so there’s really nothing positive to say about the long-term effects of climate change. Let’s move on to the one thing that might actually cure the Earth: future voters.
High school students from Miami’s MAST Academy got it right recently at a forum they organized to discuss solutions for today’s environmental conundrums. Held February 16 at the Miami Science Museum, the forum brought together students and concerned community leaders, such as David Bernard, the chief meteorologist for CBS 4. Instead of the typical dire forecast -- “We’re all going to die” -- the overarching message of the forum was: “We can do this.” Let’s hope those students register to vote and hold our politicians accountable for their feeble response to climate change.
Helping the students get there is an extraordinary MAST instructor, Wafa Khalil, who teaches courses on solar energy. She provides hope that adults might also get it right. I met her and other concerned citizens this year at a seminar on climate change organized by Harold Wanless, the University of Miami professor of geology and local guru of sea-level rise. Wanless is a distinguished researcher and department chair with plenty to keep him busy, so he does not need to spend his weekends teaching the public about the basics of climate change. But he wants to, because he knows that his prophetic message is too important to hide under a bushel.
Horrible things are happening in the ocean. Corals are dying because of hotter and more acidic water, fish populations are being decimated by overfishing and habitat loss, and plastic debris is everywhere. Last month a research team led by Eric Rignot of NASA identified melting ice from Greenland and Antarctica as the new leading cause of sea-level rise, topping all other causes.
You could look at it this way: Our dead planet Earth has the blues. As the ocean rises, the Earth turns bluer and bluer, and our green, dry habitat becomes smaller and smaller.
Despite all this mounting evidence, UM’s Wanless doesn’t think international experts are sounding the warning bell loudly enough. “Antarctica is coming alive,” he warns, adding that we might be seeing “the beginning of rapid change.”
Wanless believes we should prepare for a sea-level rise of at least five feet by 2100, with quick acceleration after that. With even a five-foot rise, the majority of Miami-Dade County will be underwater. “Climate change,” he says, “will change Florida and Earth beyond your wildest imagination.”
Now how do you feel ?

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Big Sugar and the Everglades
Gainesville.com by Mary Barley
April 8, 2011
Frank C. Ortis ("Attack on sugar leaves a sour taste") applauded the sugar program in your online edition on April 4. I wonder if he knows the truth about this program.
I have spent much of my life working to save the Everglades. Phosphorus from the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA) as well as sugar demanding water be wasted to sea continues to be the biggest impediments to a healthy Everglades. Well over half of the EAA’s 700,000 acres is owned by Big Sugar. The sugar program has made Big Sugar very rich.  Big Sugar can buy the favors of politicians with ease, and it does just that.
Ortis says that the sugar program “doesn’t cost anything.”  How wrong can one be ?
While our state is in court over pollution of the Everglades, Big Sugar stays put in the EAA, raking in profits and forcing the Army Corps of Engineers along with other state and federal agencies to try to save the Everglades by working around their massive operations and forcing Florida and American taxpayers to foot the bill to clean up its pollution. To date, this is in the billions of dollars and growing more expensive every day. This is the taxpayers bill.
Now, for the consumer costs. Instead of openly writing checks to sugar producers, our government limits domestic production and foreign imports of sugar to keep the price far higher than the world price, a crafty way to hide this massive subsidy to the sugar industry. The sugar program is a price fixing gimmick that saddles U.S. consumers with the bill. It operates as a guaranteed profit right out of the consumers’ pocketbook. In 1998, the U.S. General Accounting Office estimated that consumers and manufactures paid an extra $1.9 billion a year in excess food costs due to the sugar program. Today, it is estimated to be an extra cost in the $4 billion a year range.
Ortis claims that changing the sugar program, as Senator Lugar and others propose, would rob Florida of more than 20,000 jobs, which is questionable given there are no more than 120 sugar cane farms in the state. The fact is that an estimated 112,000 jobs were lost in the U.S. sugar-using industries between 1997 and 2009, as candy makers and bakers closed their U.S. operations entirely due in large part to the outrageous cost of sugar.
The time has come to stop this robbery of the consumer and the taxpayer and this assault on America’s Everglades. Congress should enact real reform and kill the sugar program.
Mary Barley, Founder - Everglades Trust, Islamorada, FL

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Despite foreclosures, lawmakers push for more development
Miami Herald - by Curtis Morgan and Mary Ellen Klas
April 8, 2011
TALLAHASSEE -- Florida, which ranks near the top nationally for foreclosures and already has more than 1.5 million homes sitting empty, is poised to make it easier and cheaper for developers to build more of them.
State lawmakers — reciting Gov. Rick Scott’s mantra that reducing regulations will spark the sluggish economy — are on the verge of a major “streamlining” of growth management laws. Critics contend it amounts to a bulldozing.
“We’re not only throwing the baby out with the bath water, we’re literally ripping the bathtub out of the floor and throwing that out the window, too,’’ said Charles Lee, a lobbyist for Audubon of Florida, during a Wednesday conference call organized by nine conservation groups.
The groups contend bills speeding through the House and Senate would gut a state oversight process strengthened 26 years ago in an effort to control the rampant sprawl of strip malls and suburbs that left roads and schools overcrowded, plowed under wetlands and woods and strained water supplies.
At the top of the list of rules to go: reviews by the Department of Community Affairs of local government land-use decisions. That process, long labeled “red tape” by developers and local politicians, has usually been a speed bump to growth statewide but DCA oversight has proved critical in South Florida, helping to maintain the urban development boundary in Miami-Dade County and to preserve the last remaining hardwood hammocks and wetlands in the Florida Keys.
Among other things, opponents the critics say the measures (House bill 7129 and Senate bill 1122) also would radically shrink the DCA in size and authority, make it more difficult for citizens and advocacy groups to challenge development plans, and allow local government to let developers off the hook when it comes to helping to foot the bill for adequate roads, schools and parks — a critical anti-sprawl rule called “concurrency.”
Laura Reynolds, executive director of the Tropical Audubon Society of Miami-Dade, said the changes would essentially reverse “smart growth’’ efforts designed to steer more people into dense urban areas close to jobs and mass transit. Instead, she said, it would make it easier and cheaper to plow under rural and open land, an incentive that could jeopardize Everglades restoration efforts, some 57,000 acres of farms and nurseries in Miami-Dade and even South Florida’s supply of clean water.
“These bills are undermining everything we are achieving,’’ she said.
Lawmakers and lobbyists for the home-building and construction industry, who have drafted much of the proposed legislation, defend the overhaul as crucial to making the state more competitive and reviving the stagnant economy.
The situation for the state’s largest developers is “dire,’’ said Linda Shelley, a lobbyist for the Association of Community Developers and former DCA secretary under then-Gov. Lawton Chiles. She said the proposals simply buy developers time.
“These are some of the largest and most well planned communities and projects in our state and yet with this economic situation… they’re not having the impact,’’ she said. “They should have an extension so that when the economy comes back they can meet their responsibilities under the development order.”
Rep. Ritch Workman, R-Melbourne , the sponsor of the House bill, called his proposal “the best growth management package to come out of this House since the word ‘growth management’ entered statute.”
Workman, a mortgage broker, said the changes are needed to end the “burdensome and costly regulations on state property owners” and allow local governments more flexibility to plan for the future.
A similar bill is moving through the Senate, sponsored by Sen. Mike Bennett, R-Bradenton, a developer. He defends the approach as “leaving it up to the local communities to determine if they want to do that.”
Bennett’s bill would expand a 2007 pilot program that expedites state approval for development projects and reduces the scope of state review to regional issues. So far, the pilot program has been limited to Jacksonville, Miami, Tampa, Hialeah, Broward and Pinellas counties and the cities within those two counties.
The legislation mirrors the push by Scott, who wants to all but dismantle the state’s growth management agency.
“I’m very, very pleased with where we’re heading,’’ said Billy Buzzett, DCA secretary under Scott. “It’s a natural evolution of growth management in the state.’’
Proponents argue that the plans will include protections for essential resources, including the water supply, and contend that opponents are defending bureaucratic hoops that haven’t stopped development but added considerably to the costs of doing it — costs ultimately borne by consumers.
The bills’ proponents also defend tightening the options for challenging developments, saying it would limit “frivolous” and expensive legal battles but still leave the door open to address serious issues.
In 1985, lawmakers approved the Growth Management Act, with goal of reining in unchecked sprawl that had chewed through wetlands and farms, spawned traffic nightmares in places like West Kendall and overtaxed schools, sewage and water systems and police and fire services.
But the DCA’s record of success has been spotty. The agency rarely outright rejected development as Florida suburbs continued to explode. But state reviews did force road and school improvements, among other things. The agency, backed by the South Florida Water Management District, also put the brakes on a westward push across the Miami-Dade urban development boundary, citing a litany of concerns topped by county plans to meet water needs by sucking more of it out of the Biscayne Aquifer and Everglades.
The DCA also closely monitored growth in the Florida Keys, which the state designated an “Area of Critical Concern” in 1975 in an effort to halt runaway development. A controversial Rate of Growth Ordinance imposed on the Keys elevated ecological concerns in development reviews and, though it has been the subject of periodic squabbles with landowners and Monroe County leaders, the oversight has been credited with helping preserve the character of an island chain that attracts millions of tourists.
Charles Pattison, executive director of 1000 Friends of Florida, which has long advocated for statewide growth oversight, said his group isn’t opposed to “reasonable” changes that would streamline some admittedly complex processes and save local governments and builders time and money in making land-use decisions.
But he said any changes must preserve the right of citizens and agencies to challenge “inappropriate” local planning decisions. As written, the bills also would narrow the ability of other state agencies, such as water management districts, to review projects.
Environmentalists say the bills, written in the dense terminology of urban planning, are largely being crafted by developers and approved by lawmakers who likely have little understanding of their impact. One amendment added to the House bill in the last few days having to do with city-sized Developments of Regional Impact, which get the most intensive scrutiny from planners, ran 12 pages alone, said Janet Bowman, legislative director for The Nature Conservancy.
“We’re throwing out resources protection in the name of expediting development,’’ Bowman said.
Critics don’t buy the job-creation justification behind the bills, saying some lawmakers are exploiting the anti-regulation ardor of the tea party to enrich development interests.
“Nobody believes that Florida’s real estate collapse is because we failed to build an adequate number of strip malls and suburbs,’’ said Dawn Shirreffs, Everglades restoration managers for the National Park Conservation Association.
It’s a developers Christmas list,” said David Cullen of Sierra Club of Florida.

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Is Carol Wehle History at SFWMD ?
Sunshine News – blog by Nancy Smith
April 8, 2011
The latest investigative report detailing more waste and mismanagement at South Florida Water Management District has district insiders buzzing over the anticipated fallout.
Speaking on the promise of anonymity, SFWMD employees admitted Friday that after Dan Christensen's investigative story, "Water district loses $1.5 million on Hollywood company’s failed pumps; now buying $2 million more," circulated through the building on Gun Club Road in West Palm Beach, they were "waiting for something major to happen to somebody."
Said one worker, "Some of us are scared. What usually happens when there's trouble is, somebody loses their job and it's never the right one. It's the little innocent guy who had to do what he was told."
Said another, "It was just, like, a week ago when (Executive Director) Carol Wehle called us all together for a huge pep talk and rally, saying we're going to get through this controversy. Like the story in the Palm Beach Post about the district hiring her boyfriend was our fault. But then Wednesday night we read the Sunshine (State News) story and Broward Bulldog story and now we know somebody's got to go down.
"We're just waiting for something major to happen to somebody."
Still another worker asked Sunshine State News, "If a head's gonna roll, any idea whose it will be?"
Maybe. Could it be Wehle's ?  She was unavailable late Friday afternoon to confirm -- though, in fairness, I placed the call late in the day.
But, when asked Friday if Wehle would be receiving her pink slip, Gov. Rick Scott said, "I haven't made up my mind yet." Earlier in the day the governor's press office told me, "We do not traffic in rumors."
Well, I'm afraid frightened employees do. And rumor in some quarters of the district has it Wehle has already been given notice.
Has she ?  Is the governor's office playing it coy ?

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SIERRA CLUB, INC. versus U.S. ARMY CORPS OF ENGINEERS
United States Court of Appeals, Eleventh Circuit.
April 8, 2011
Before MARTIN, FAY and BLACK, Circuit Judges.
SIERRA CLUB, INC., PEOPLE FOR PROTECTING PEACE RIVER, INC., MANASOTA-88, INC., Plaintiffs-Appellees,
versus
UNITED STATES ARMY CORPS OF ENGINEERS, et al., Defendants,
MOSAIC FERTILIZER, LLC, Intervenor-Defendant-Appellant.
No. 10-13613.
United States Court of Appeals, Eleventh Circuit.
April 8, 2011.
Before MARTIN, FAY and BLACK, Circuit Judges.


PER CURIAM:
Defendant-Appellant Mosaic Fertilizer, LLC (Mosaic), a phosphate mining company engaged in significant operations in Hardee County, Florida, appeals the order by the district court remanding a mining-permit issued by the United States Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) back to the agency and further enjoining Mosaic from conducting operations approved in that permit. Specifically, the district court concluded the permit's issuance did not comply with the requirements of the Clean Water Act, 33 U.S.C. §§ 1251-1376, and that the Plaintiff-Appellees had demonstrated they were entitled to preliminary injunctive relief. In this interlocutory appeal, Mosaic argues the district court's order was a de facto determination of the merits of the Clean Water Act issue that exceeded the proper scope of preliminary injunctive relief. Based upon our review of the briefs, and with the benefit of oral argument, we conclude the district court's remand of the permit to the Corps was improper because it was effectively a final judgment on the merits.
The district court based the entry of the preliminary injunction entirely on letters from the Environmental Protection Agency which expressed concerns with the permit, and failed to apply the arbitrary and capricious standard in evaluating the Corps' practicable alternatives analysis. While the Environmental Protection Agency letters may prove to be helpful in evaluating the ultimate merits of the Clean Water Act claim, the full record will need to be analyzed through the deferential lens mandated by the Administrative Procedure Act to determine whether the Corps came to a rational conclusion.
Based on the limited record before us, and the lack of a response from the Corps on appeal, we are presently no better equipped to resolve this dispute than was the district court.1 We therefore vacate the preliminary injunction, set aside the remand to the Corps, and remand this case to the district court for consideration on the merits, after receiving the full Administrative Record.2
Due to the unique circumstances presented by this case, we direct the district court to stay the issuance of the permit for 90 days from the date of this order to permit the district court to proceed to a merits determination on the full record.3
VACATED AND REMANDED.

Footnotes
1. Counsel for Mosaic requested additional time to file a supplemental response. We have determined a supplemental response to the issue he wished to address would not have any effect on this decision.
Back to Reference
2. We take no position on the merits of the Plaintiff-Appellees' alternative grounds for relief.
Back to Reference
3. The parties may stipulate to a shorter or longer stay.
Back to Reference

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Engineering company official says reservoir doesn't need major repair
TampaBay.com - by Craig Pittman, St. Petersburg Times Staff Writer
April 7, 2011
The company that designed Tampa Bay Water's troubled reservoir says it doesn't need a multimillion-dollar repair job that would raise customers' rates, as utility officials contend.
Instead, according to HDR Engineering's senior vice president, Tim Connolly, all the reservoir needs is regular monitoring for any new cracks in the walls, and perhaps the occasional patch job.
The cost: Less than $1 million a year, which would mean no need for a rate increase.
The reason: Although Tampa Bay Water has been drawing water out of the reservoir since fall, no major new cracks have developed. And the cracks that appeared in the past "were in a very small area of the reservoir," so the entire reservoir doesn't require repair, he said.
The claim by a top HDR executive this week comes on the eve of Tampa Bay Water receiving bids on the big fix, which by some early estimates may cost $125 million, nearly as much as the reservoir cost to build.
It's also three months before the lawsuit Tampa Bay Water filed against HDR is scheduled to go to trial.
According to Tampa Bay Water general manager Gerald Seeber, what HDR says is wrong. He expects to see new cracks when the water gets down lower than it is right now, he said. That means the need for an extensive repair job is as urgent as ever.
"The underlying problem is still there," Seeber said.
Of course, the legal dispute between Tampa Bay Water and HDR is over what constitutes that underlying problem, and who's to blame.
The utility opened the C.W. Bill Young Regional Reservoir in 2005 as a place to store water skimmed from the Alafia River, Hillsborough River and Tampa Bypass Canal. The reservoir, named for the longtime U.S. representative from Pinellas County, is the largest in Florida, covering about 1,100 acres.
Cracks were first discovered in its earthen embankment walls in December 2006. Some cracks were up to 400 feet long and up to 151/2 inches deep. Inspectors said the cracks did not threaten the stability of the embankment, which is as wide as a football field at its base and averages about 50 feet high.
Workers patched the cracks, but the fix didn't last. More cracks appeared. Tampa Bay Water hired HDR to figure out what was wrong with the reservoir the company had designed.
However, utility attorney Richard Harrison recently accused HDR of spending as much time covering its own tracks as it was trying to find the cause of the cracks. Harrison pointed to a March 2008 memo between an HDR executive and one of the company's attorneys as evidence.
In that memo an HDR executive named John Ranon warned that the Nebraska-based company "better be ready to face the music."
One possible solution to the cracking would be installing drains inside the embankment to get rid of water collecting there, Ranon wrote. But if that worked "it could be problematic for HDR because it could be argued" that feature "could have (or should have) been developed eight years ago" — before the reservoir was built.
"HDR is the engineer of record, and we will not be able to escape the slings and arrows that likely will come our way," Ranon wrote. "This may have unfavorable consequences not only from a financial standpoint but also with respect to our standing with this and other clients."
Connolly contended Harrison's release of that memo to reporters was an attempt by Tampa Bay Water to smear his company prior to the July trial.
He contended that the cracks resulted from construction foul-ups by the contractor, Barnard Construction.
When Barnard began building the earthen embankment walls in 2003, the Tampa Bay region was just emerging from a long dry spell, Connolly said. Workers were supposed to compact the dirt so it was packed down tight, but because the soil was so dry they failed to pack it down enough, he said.
They also apparently used too much soil, he said. Despite requirements that the soil layer atop a plastic membrane be no more than 2 feet thick, a photo taken during construction shows earth that's piled up far higher.
"If the soil was placed loose, it would settle on saturation and that settlement could initiate cracking in the soil-cement," an engineering expert from another Tampa Bay Water contractor, Black & Veatch, wrote in a 2008 e-mail.
A year later, when heavy rains from a tropical storm washed away some of the earthworks under construction, the bulldozers simply pushed it back in place instead of rebuilding it properly, Connolly said. Yet nobody caught those errors — including HDR.
"There were lots of people out there, including us, including Tampa Bay Water," he said. "Nobody said back up and redo this — not us, not Tampa Bay Water, not anybody."
Asked what percentage of the blame belongs to HDR, he said that was up to a jury to decide.
Tampa Bay Water filed suit in federal court in December 2008 against HDR; Barnard Construction, the contractor; and CDG, which provided construction management. The board settled with CDG in the fall, and two months ago reached an unusual settlement with Barnard.
That settlement calls for the Montana-based Barnard to pay Tampa Bay Water no less than $750,000 and no more than $5 million in damages, depending on what a jury finds when the case goes to trial July 5. By keeping Barnard as a party in the case, Tampa Bay Water has an ally in accusing HDR of causing the cracks with a bad design.
Craig Pittman can be reached at craig@sptimes.com.

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Florida Legislative Session First-Half Report:  Yuck!
The Bradenton Times - by Dennis Maley
April 7, 2011
Confessions of a bought and paid for government
There were a lot of interesting dynamics going into the 2011 legislative session. A veto-proof majority for Republicans, the newly discovered clout of the Tea Party movement, and a wild-card governor whose best selling point was that he was never actually indicted on federal charges of Medicare fraud, he was just forced to resign for running a company while it was executing practices that would lead to the largest fine in the history of Medicare – just after he jumped off in a golden parachute.
Democrats were clearly going to be a quaint little relic in Tallahassee – a cute, but harmless, three-legged watchdog that'd been neutered even after it was discovered to have arthritic hips and a blind eye. The only hope for resistance was some sort of tension within the rank and file of the GOP and it was thought that perhaps Haridopolos' US Senate ambitions might give him cause to stand up to the governor, or that the populist momentum of the Tea Party would keep the incessant corporate cronyism to a minimum.
It turns out that as usual, the GOP has adapted to the their differences, quickly learning to play nice while lining up in an orderly, if anxious fashion to greedily eat from the trough they now have to themselves. What was supposed to be about job creation, tax relief for the working class and attracting vibrant industry to the state, instead became a massive special-interest feeding frenzy, with lobbyists writing down their wish lists and lawmakers ramming through some of the most blatantly bought-an-paid-for legislation of modern times. 
To recap, the legislation that has so far been whizzing through committees and toward law would: provide for sweeping deregulation of industries ranging from yacht sales, timeshares and auto mechanics to movers, interior decorators and employee leasing firms, eliminating nearly all consumer protection and practical recourse for fraud; set back women's reproductive rights decades with such distasteful provisions as making women who undergo an abortion listen to a fetus's ultrasound; re-institute slush funds that allow special interests to circumvent campaign finance laws and streamline the legislative bribery process; remove incentives for individual solar energy conversions and competition for commercial investments; and make sure that no one entering state employment will ever again have a pension.
As for the tax relief you were promised, no word on that yet, but it is clear that any savings would be quickly eaten up and then some, leaving the middle class and even upper middle class screwed. The poor of course, get screwed worse, but that goes without saying. The biggest giveaway of all will go to the property insurance industry, yes the same group of money-hungry shell-gamers that have been picking the pockets of hard working Floridians in both good times and bad now get a gold ATM card. Pending legislation would end the politically embarrassing exercise of going before the state to ask for rate increases and simply leave it up to the insurers themselves to decide annual increases up to 30 percent every year! They'd also get to cherry pick lines of coverage, while the state slowly dismantled Citizens through 25 percent annual rate hikes. Your utility rates are also likely to see a hefty spike, thanks to lobbyists' success in that arena as well.
The judicial branch is poised to become a lapdog of the two-headed monster that surrounds it, if House Speaker Dean Cannon is successful in breaking up the Supreme Court and/or raising the retention threshold to further politicize the bench. Another bill would give the governor sole authority in appointing the highest judges. I guess that'll teach them to do things like rule against a House Speaker when he's arguing the moronic merits of a hopelessly flawed ballot amendment proposition.
Much to the delight of pill heads everywhere, Florida is likely to remain the oxycodone capital of the world (over a million severed in 2010!), as Rick Scott is intent to make sure he eliminates a zero-cost program to implement the proven enforcement strategy, a policy he finds to be an invasion of privacy. Right to privacy fans might like the sound of that, unless of course they work for the state, where they'll be asked to pee in a cup every three months to make sure that they are drug free, even when there is no reason to suspect otherwise. Oh yeah, and it'll add around $30 million to the budget gap, while benefiting companies like Scott's Solantic, which administers such tests.
Cash-strapped local governments can brace themselves for a host of unfunded mandates, especially in the area of land development. Scott and other Republicans in the legislature seem bent on getting the state out of the land-use oversight game altogether, while making it illegal to pass citizen referendums for comp plan changes. You take care of it, no we can't give you any more money to do it right and wait, we're also going to tell you what you can and can't do now that it's off our plate.
If you are lucky enough to be Anglo, but have a tendency to tan well, I suggest wearing a confederate t-shirt or possibly investing in a tattoo that says you were made in the U.S.A., in order to avoid the racial profiling that is practically required by more than one immigration bill working its way to the floor. Local law enforcement agencies can figure out how they are going to pay for these new policies, since once again, the mandates come without financial support.
Despite no valid argument (aside from the generous campaign support from the private prison industry), a massive movement toward prison privatization is moving along swiftly, same with Medicaid HMO's. Apparently, "conservatives" who are appalled by state workers who receive a taxpayer supported pension (average $1,800 monthly for state employees through FRS), have no problem with the CEO's who earn millions while administering tax-payer supported businesses in these sectors – without real evidence of cost-saving.
Unions ?  Florida is taking a more subtle approach than say, Wisconsin, but pending legislation would cripple the ability of unions to function even at their current, severely limited capacity. The folks who brought you the weekend, the 40-hour week, dignified retirement, the sick day... well they are everyone's favorite pariah right now, and despite the fact that a quick look at an average earnings chart of right to work states vs. unionized ones demonstrates much higher economic parity and lower wages, many Americans who aren't big on history are buying into the propaganda that organized labor actually hurt the middle class rather than create it.
If you're mentally retarded, physically handicapped or otherwise disabled or infirm, you're facing assaults on all fronts. From reductions in programs to reductions in caregiver payments, the state government is proving that if you don't have a big-money lobbying firm, your share will go toward affording the special interest giveaways that a state with a $4-5 billion shortfall clearly can't afford – no ticky, no laundry in Tallahassee.
Did I miss anything? Oh yes, the environment. Let's not even go there, other than to say that any measure that can contribute to Florida becoming a great, big, giant toilet is pretty much okay. From Everglade restoration to water quality, to fertilizer regulations, it's deregulate and de-fund. Of course a couple of things didn't fly, proving that even the citizens of Florida will only take so much lying on their backs in the sugar-cane sand. A move to put the brakes on the incredibly popular college pre-paid plan met with enough resistance to be pulled, though lawmakers hinted it was only going to the shelf for a while.
But here it is, hands down the absolute most brazen, ham-fisted, audacious, mind-racking proposed bill of all: throwing a few million at Jack Nicklaus to build golf courses in Florida's gorgeous state parks! Yes, commercial golf courses in our state parks, where they would have also built hotels – hotels exempt from local ordinances! The fact that it wouldn't fly, pretty much stands as the line in the sand as to what Republicans can get away with in their single-party rule in 2011. That the environment in Tallahassee is so polluted that garbage like this can actually get out of an elected official's mouth, let alone into a proposed bill, shows you how pitiful the state of the state has become.
The voters and activists that carried the water in 2010 bought a line about getting the state back to work, shrinking big government and running the state like a business. Unfortunately, they bought the line from an assortment of crooks, stooges and carpetbaggers whose resumes should have told them everything they needed to know – that it would be the same old game: Talk tough, stir up the angry crowd, then steal everything that isn't bolted down and return with taxpayer-funded power tools to get the rest. 
If you would like to email your governor or state legislators to let them know how you feel about these policies, click here.

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Senate approves water management takeover
Palm Beach Post - by Dara Kam
April 7th, 2011
With no debate or discussion, the Florida Senate overwhelmingly approved a legislative take-over of the state’s five water management districts.
The measure (2142) is the brain-child of Senate budget chief J.D. Alexander, R-Lake Wales. Although lawmakers set the maximum amount of property taxes the districts are allowed to levy, the governor, who appoints the district members, has the ultimate say over how they spend it.
That’s not fair, Alexander said. He wants the legislature to have more financial oversight of the districts. The South Florida Water Management District got into hot water several years ago for lavish spending.
Only three Senators voted against the measure: Senate Democratic Leader Nan Rich of Weston and GOP Sens. Thad Altman of Melbourne and Paula Dockery of Lakeland.

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Taxpayers up Ten Mile Creek with next crazy Corps-water management district project
TCPalm – by Charles de Garmo
April 7, 2011
Charles de Garmo, a boat captain and home builder, lives in Sewall's Point.
Well, here we go again. There's another train wreck in the making at your expense as the South Florida Water Management District starts another storm-water treatment area along C-44, the canal between Lake Okeechobee and the Indian River Lagoon, at an estimated cost of $340 million.
Storm-water treatment areas are basically a series of ponds meant to hold the water and slowly filter out phosphorus and other contaminants, then slowly release the water back into use. Let's look at the dismal record of the district and you be the judge.
Exhibit A, Ten Mile Creek STA: This project in Fort Pierce was authorized by Congress in 1996 as an essential Everglades Restoration Project to bring immediate benefits to the St. Lucie River. The ribbon cutting was in April 2006 at which time Colleen Castille, secretary of the state Department of Environmental Protection, proclaimed, "This is a great day for Florida."Carol Wehle, executive director of the water district, said, "We are thrilled to see the completion of one of the first of many projects being built strictly to get the water right."
John Paul Woodley, assistant secretary of the Army for civil works, said, "You are accomplishing something very special here in South Florida and you're establishing a model for the rest of the country."
Today, after spending $49 million of taxpayer money plus $2 million promised to study the defects, the project stands abandoned and dry. Numerous structural problems (it won't hold water) are blamed on the contractor, the Army Corps of Engineers. So, since 2006 the water district has not taken possession of the storm-water treatment area from the corps even though it paid for it, and the corps has not come up with the estimated $92 million needed to fix the problems.
In January 2008, corps spokesperson Sonya Goines said, "We plan to make any necessary corrections needed." As of today, no lawsuits, investigation or accountability.
Exhibit B, STA I East: This is a $305 million, 5,330-acre corps debacle west of Palm Beach, the first storm-water treatment area built as part of Everglades restoration meant to clean water before it enters the Loxahatchee River.It has 25 miles of levees and 40 water control structures. It's another project built by the corps and managed by the water district that "does not achieve the authorized purpose and performance standards" as Wehle said in an April 5, 2010, letter to the corps. Today, there has been only a threat by water managers to sue the corps, but it sits as another waste of taxpayer money with no accountability.
Exhibit C, a $217 million stagnant gravel pit reservoir in Palm Beach County: This is sitting since 2008 awaiting $60 million in pumps to enable it to do its supposed purpose. It's been mired in scandal from the start; this failure of a project was suppose to aid the Loxahatchee.
Exhibit D, Coleman Landing Boat Ramp, Lake Kissimmee: This was scheduled for a recent ribbon cutting, but was called off because metal bolts were sticking up from the concrete boat ramp that would have impaled any boat being launched. This $849,532 (before change orders) contract was awarded by the water district in January 2010. As of today the ramp stands uncompleted and not open.If we give the water district a $1.1 billion budget, 1,930 employees and its own air force, is it asking too much to expect a boat ramp to be built correctly?
When you look at the above examples, do the words mismanagement and negligence come to mind?
So we have the world-record holder of manmade disasters (Army Corps of Engineers) together with water district orchestrating a ridiculous job of restoring the Everglades. Have no doubt, it's your local, state and congressional politicians sitting quietly by who are ultimately responsible for allowing these staggering wastes of money to continue without accountability.
Gov. (Rick) Scott: Your move.

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To Legislature, the enemy is us
Miami Herald - by Fred Grimm
April 7, 2011
Gotta have us some enemies. Enemies being ‘bout as necessary to politicking as money.
Judging from the targets of legislation percolating through the Florida Legislature, we’ve got ourselves a passel. Enemies lurk everywhere. And, oh my, retribution looks like a fast train coming (but not of the bullet kind).
Public school teachers, known saboteurs of our American way of life, were at the top of the hit list. Lawmakers this session worked quickly, yanking away tenure and tying pay raises to a new array of test scores, though without bothering to fund those mythical raises.
Students made the list. The Legislature has decided to roll back school funding by $400 a pupil and pack ever more of these diabolical little rats into core curriculum classrooms. (Getting around limits voted into the Florida Constitution by redefining “core curriculum.” History, calculus, analytical geometry, anatomy, zoology, Spanish – all that becomes so much fluff.)
We especially despise students with the temerity to wear droopy pants, a horror apparently worthy of its own state law.
We don’t like school boards. One bill would eliminate their salaries.
We don’t like judges. Especially Supreme Court and appeals court judges. Bills would cut their power, cut their budgets and cut their chances of getting re-elected.
We don’t much mind electric utilities and insurance companies jacking up rates, or farmers who get careless with fertilizer run-off or homeowners with leaky septic tanks. We love developers, especially if they promise to build over wetlands. But we loathe water management districts and the Florida Department of Community Affairs, with their niggling rules — a bunch of damn job killers.
We don’t like regulators (who remembers tow truck and moving company scams?) We don’t like unions. We don’t like state workers. Those who survive the coming layoffs (some 6,000 are goners) will see their paychecks zapped another three percent to pay for pension benefits.
We don’t like immigrants (except, of course, when we need cheap labor.) Some 30 bills dealing with illegal immigrants swirl about the Legislature, three off them modeled after Arizona’s round-’em-up-and-send-’em-home law.
We really don’t like the developmentally disabled, who’ve been leeching money from the state that could be going to corporate tax breaks. The proposed budget reduces their aid by $42 million.
We loathe foster kids, particular the $8.2 million program to help former foster children to adjust to life out on their own. That money’s gone. Along with $25.6 million (and 352 jobs) that the House of Representatives budget would eliminate from the Department of Children & Family.
Don’t like psychiatric outpatients. Half their treatment budget is gone. Along with money to pay for hearing aids for the poor, prescription drugs for the impoverished and assistance for the long-term unemployed.
Legislators may be against raising taxes, but they think nothing about raising tuition — again — popping college students with a 15 percent increase, while mulling over new limitations on Bright Futures scholarships. Don’t think of it as a tax increase. Think of it as sweet revenge.
Druggies remain perpetual members of the Florida enemies list. The proposed budget erases $43 million for substance abuse treatment. We’d rather send them to private prisons. Private-prison corporations, known for their generous political contributions, are definitely not on the enemies list.
We don’t like doctors, who think they have a right to ask about firearms.
We don’t like environmentalists, with their notions about restoring the Everglades, preserving natural spaces and protecting endangered species. “We are under assault on all fronts,” complained Eric Draper, director of Florida Audubon Society of Florida. “We’re getting beaten up pretty hard up here.”
It must be a struggle for dutiful legislators just keeping track of who to punish: teachers, judges, foster children, environmentalists, state workers, prison guards, probation officers, the mentally disabled, school kids, immigrants, college students, school board members, nosy doctors, the poor (especially if they’re sick), state regulators.
So many adversaries. It’s as if the wild and vengeful 2011 Legislature has adopted the old Pogo observation as the state motto: “We have met the enemy and he is us.”

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Why we need Everglades restoration
Miami Herald - by Kirk Fordham, CEO of the Everglades Foundation
April 7, 2011
One of the opportunities presented to policymakers as a result of Florida’s shrinking revenues is that it forces us to consider what is really important to the citizens of our state. It offers us an opportunity to look clearly not just at the present, but several years into the future.
No one envies the arduous task facing Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Legislature as they confront a series of budget challenges that will force them to make tough and sometimes unpopular decisions.
But some things are simply sacred to Floridians — clean air, clean water, a healthy environment and all of the other natural wonders that make growing up here, or moving here, something special.
Florida voters overwhelming support continuing the work to restore the Everglades ecosystem and oppose efforts to further defund this initiative.
Nearly two-thirds of Florida voters said in a February Tarrance Group poll that restoring the Everglades is “extremely important” or “very important” to them personally. And 55 percent oppose the proposed cuts to investments in Everglades restoration.
This should come as no surprise to anyone. After all, one in three Floridians depend directly on the Everglades for their daily supply of fresh water. Whether it is their drinking water or water to fill their swimming pools, irrigate their lawns or wash their cars, more than six million residents could not survive with this source of water.
Floridians also know Everglades restoration is good for business. Continuing work to restore the Everglades is, and will be for decades, an economic driver that creates jobs, enhances property values, boosts tourism and helps accommodate future population growth.
An in-depth study by Mather Economics for the Everglades Foundation found that the $11.5 billion cost to restore the Everglades ecosystem will result in an economic impact of at least $46.5 billion and potentially as much as $124 billion.
Gov. Scott and Florida’s legislative leaders, Senate President Mike Haridopolos and House Speaker Dean Cannon, have said that the No. 1 issue in Florida is job creation.
The Everglades Foundation agrees. The Mather Economics study found that restoring the Everglades will produce more than 440,000 jobs in the decades to come. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers estimates that an additional 22,000 jobs will be created, in the short term, on Everglades restoration construction work.
We are already seeing evidence of new job creation with work underway to build the Tamiami Trail bridges and other large-scale restoration projects. Long after the first car drives over the first new bridge on Tamiami Trail, the economic impact will continue as Florida reaps the benefits of a renewed Everglades.
An example of the major impact of the state’s investment is that as the health of Everglades ecosystem is restored, the purity of the water will significantly improve – water that is used to supply millions of homes and businesses on both coasts of our state. That means we can reduce the enormous cost of desalination – a cost that is passed on to taxpayers.
Clearly, Floridians get it. They understand that the Everglades ecosystem is vital to their future economic growth, the creation of jobs and the ability to keep Florida a special place to live and work.
In 2007, Florida invested $200 million in Everglades restoration. This year that figure dropped to $50 million – a 75 percent reduction. The proposed budget would reduce Everglades spending even further to a mere $17 million.
Business leaders throughout Florida see Everglades restoration in the same light as improving roads, waterways, port capacity, and other vital parts of our state’s infrastructure.
They recognize that on our current course, millions of Floridians will continue to compete with agricultural and industrial users for an ever-shrinking supply of water.
If our leaders in Tallahassee intend to grow our economy, it will be impossible to accommodate that growth without continuing our state’s investment in Everglades restoration.
Kirk Fordham is CEO of the Everglades Foundation.

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Call and write the Legislature - Your voice is needed to protect our resources
Sanibel-Captiva Islander - by RAE ANN WESSEL, SCCF Natural Resource Policy Director
April 6, 2011
Florida’s 2011 legislative session opened a month ago with a projected $4.6 billion deficit and it is turning out to be one of our toughest sessions yet to hold onto good legislation achieved in prior years and keep bad legislation from becoming law. Here at midpoint in the session are a few high priority bills we are working on and actions you can take to help.
Additional information and links to legislators' contact information can be found at www.sccf.org; click on Policy/Florida 2011 Legislature.
#1 Bad Bill - Agricultural Exemption for Wetland Impacts – TAKE ACTION to Protect Wetlands
The consequences of HB 421 and SB 1174 are especially damaging to south Florida. They would:
• Entitle agriculture with retroactive permit exemptions for agricultural impacts to surface waters and wetlands;
• Transfer regulation of public water resources – both surface and groundwater- from the state water management districts to the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services; and
• Waive mitigation of wetland impacts from agricultural activities.
Splitting the management of water resources between multiple agencies would undermine any effort to holistically manage our region’s most critical public resource. It would further aggravate existing problems with the volume, timing and distribution of water, causing additional harm to our natural systems and private nonagricultural landowners. And worst of all it creates a loophole and end-run around wetland protection and mitigation rules so that agricultural landowners would be incentivized and entitled to destroy wetlands — no permits or mitigation required — and sell the land for development. This bill would make current Ag exemptions and rent-a-cow schemes seem innocuous.
Take Action: Write to Trudi Williams, Chair of Agricultural & Natural Resources Committee and our entire legislative delegation (website listed above). Copy the Governor's Environmental Policy Coordinator: Andrew Grayson (Andrew.Grayson@laspbs.state.fl.us).
Budget Cuts – Write to Preserve Critical Programs
Everglades
During the budget crisis of the past two years there has been $50 million for Everglades restoration, down from $200 million just a few years ago. This year, the House has proposed just $26 million and the Senate a mere $2.1million. Such deep cuts at this critical time would be a devastating blow to the momentum of the last few years that has finalized planning and initiated construction on critical projects.
The fact is that Everglades restoration creates private sector jobs, and provides a 4-to-1 return on investment. Read the Mather Economic Report on our website (listed above). Everglades restoration protects the drinking water supply for millions of south Floridians, it's critical to the economic engine in southwest Florida and protects an International World Heritage Site.
Take Action: Contact the Governor’s office and our entire legislative delegation (website listed above). Encourage them to invest in jobs for south Florida that will protect and enhance our water resources and economy.
Florida Forever
Florida Forever and its predecessor land acquisition programs have saved almost 9.4 million acres of Florida’s most environmentally sensitive and historic native habitats that serve as parks, wildlife habitat and corridors and refuge from our urban landscapes. After 44 years, there is no budget this year... only an allowance to spend up to $308 million that would come from the sale of State-owned lands being sold as “surplus.” A strong acquisition program is needed to protect the very best of Florida, our water supplies, our wildlife and our natural heritage.
Take Action: Contact the Governor’s office and our entire legislative delegation (website listed above). Ask them to provide funding for and an investment in Florida.
Coastal & Aquatic Managed Areas (CAMA)
CAMA is responsible for managing Florida’s most pristine coastal and marine resources including over four million acres of submerged lands within 41 Aquatic Preserves, three National Estuarine Research Reserves, and the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. The House and Senate budgets propose cutting over $1 million in essential state funding that supports protection and conservation of Florida’s Aquatic Preserves. This program has been cut 25 percent over the last three years. The current proposed cut is an additional 15 percent reduction that will close six Aquatic Preserve field offices, and eliminate 23 staff involved in restoration, education, research, and stewardship of Aquatic Preserves. See our website (listed above) for CAMA fact sheet.
Take Action: Write/e-mail your local state legislators and budget leaders in the Senate and House (web site listed above) and urge them to support the Governor’s recommendation for Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s Office of Coastal and Aquatic Managed Areas (CAMA). Write to thank the Governor for preserving funding (rick.scott@myflorida.com).
Fertilizer Legislation
Senate Bill 606 and House Bill 0457 would delete the authority of counties and municipalities — including the City of Sanibel and Lee County, who passed the first local ordinances — to adopt fertilizer management practices more stringent than the weak statewide model ordinance. Local communities must have the authority to address local sources of pollution. While we continue to push for stronger fertilizer legislation, we thank local Representatives Gary Aubuchon and Trudi Williams for their commitment to protect existing local ordinances.
Septic Tank Inspections
Senate Bill 1698 is a compromise bill that would preserve a statewide septic tank inspection and maintenance program which north Florida interests are trying to have removed from legislation that we worked hard on and passed last year. The program is designed to keep nutrient pollution from malfunctioning septic systems from seeping into state waters. Inspection of septic systems is a responsible way of protecting the public health, safety and welfare and addressing pollution sources at a reasonable cost. The bill has had a flurry of amendments proposed and will be heard next week.
Take Action: Write our legislative delegation and House and Senate leadership in support of a mandatory statewide inspection and maintenance program for septic systems in Florida (website listed above).
Growth Management Reversal
HB 7129 undermines Florida’s landmark growth management system, essentially turning back the clock to the 1960s and 1970s when there was no planning for growth, development interests were unchecked, public resources were exploited, and growth controls were minimal. The bill:
• Severely limits citizens' rights to appeal inappropriate local government planning decisions
• Nearly obliterates state oversight coordinating growth between counties and shifts almost all decision making to local governments
• Limits local governments' ability to charge developers for the costs of new roads and schools, instead shifting the cost burden of new development to existing taxpayers — even when the development is deemed unneeded and financially infeasible.
• Allows large-scale development without any certainty that conservation lands will be preserved.
Take Action: Write your legislative delegation and House Leadership (website listed above). Coordinated growth management between 67 counties of Florida is essential to protect our state’s natural resources such as drinking water, our state's transportation system and our rights as citizens to contribute to the planning process. Ask them to oppose HB 7129.
Repeal of Fishing Licenses
Senate Bill 744 would repeal Recreational Fishing Licenses for residents and nonresidents to fish in state waters. This bill, which does not yet have a house companion bill, would eliminate the source of essential funding that supports fisheries management, law enforcement and research. Lee County receives the second highest revenue in the state for saltwater fishing licenses, second only to Monroe County. Eliminating license fees would forfeit millions in restoration fund money and eliminate anglers’ direct investment in fisheries.
Some good news...
Good news includes the withdrawal of House and Senate Bills proposing to build golf courses in state parks. Nicknamed the Jack Nicklaus Golf Trail, this terrible idea has been withdrawn by sponsors Rep. Pat Rooney (former SFWMD Governing Board member) of West Palm Beach and Sen. John Thrasher of St. Augustine.

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County Commission backs state law on water quality standards
Ocala.com - by Bill Thompson, Staff Writer
April 6, 2011
No way, EPA.
So said the Marion County Commission on Tuesday in backing a proposed state law that would prohibit state and local government agencies from implementing new water quality standards issued by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in December.
The board gave unanimous support to a bill (HB 239) introduced by state Rep. Trudi Williams, R-Fort Myers, who has criticized the EPA's "numeric nutrient" regulations for Florida's waterways as scientifically flawed, unmindful of the uniqueness of Florida's geography and too costly.
Williams' bill would instead use standards — some of which have already been established — set by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. That is, provided the agency can support its recommendations with sound science.
On Tuesday, the County Commission agreed.
Chairman Stan McClain said it was "bad policy" for the EPA to pursue a "blanket approach" when so many of Florida's rivers, lakes and streams have their own unique, individual identity and watershed. Moreover, McLain said, it was unclear whether the EPA plan was feasible locally.
The new rules seek to reduce nutrient runoff — primarily from nitrogen and phosphorous — by setting targets for Florida's waterways on a regional basis. The rules are set to take effect in March 2012.
The regulations emerged from a settlement between the Bush administration and a handful of environmental groups that had sued the EPA in July 2008, alleging the agency had not adequately enforced the federal Clean Water Act in Florida.
The EPA first ordered states to draft revised water-quality standards regarding nutrients back in 1998.
The agency, in announcing the more recent rules for Florida, maintained that the state was not moving fast enough to reverse the flow of contaminants into the state's impaired waters, including 1,918 miles of rivers and streams and 378,435 acres of lakes.
In Marion County that list would include Rainbow and Silver Springs, among other waters.
McClain conceded Tuesday that the DEP had "dropped the ball" in meeting the EPA's requirement. But he also had no confidence in the EPA, which has had 13 years to enforce its own rules.
After the meeting, county Stormwater Engineer Tracy Straub said over the past 13 years, the DEP had established pollution levels for just two Marion County waters: parts of the Ocklawaha River and the Orange Lake basin.
The state was close to adopting those limits — known as total maximum daily loads, or TMDLs — on other local waterways when the lawsuit was filed, Straub added.
McClain said it was unnecessary for the county to go through another process when the DEP, as sanctioned by the EPA, already had the TMDL mechanism in place.
Commissioner Charlie Stone suggested the issue had been overblown, since there was no threat to the county's drinking water or public health.
"Nitrates, in the water, has no human effect health-wise at all. So don't be concerned about that," Stone said. "If it was 10 times, or 100 times, the level they say is acceptable, it's not going to hurt you as a human."
The concern, rather, was algae growth related to run-off in surface waters, Stone said.
To emphasize his point, Stone held aloft a bottle of Zephyrhills spring water and said the nitrate level in the aquifer was far less than that found in the bottle — which, he noted, met nationwide quality standards set by the EPA.
Public opinion, as offered by a handful of residents who spoke on the issue, was split.
Like most speakers, Burt Eno, of Dunnellon, president of the Rainbow River Conservation group, urged the board to not endorse Williams' bill.
Eno said the EPA's approach appeared appropriate, and if the board wanted to pass a resolution, it ought to encourage the state to "get their act together and get the job done — because we don't have that much more time before there's absolute destruction."
But Ocala resident Gene LaCross praised the board for rejecting the EPA's "junk science."
Williams herself has labeled the EPA's mandate as "unscientific."
Straub, the stormwater engineer, declined to go that far. But she did say the problem for Marion County was that there was no science "coming down at all" from the EPA for local officials to judge how much responsibility the county bears for the pollution of local waters and, more importantly, how much the county would pay to clean them up.
So far, two House committees have voted to approve Williams' bill. Similar legislation introduced in the state Senate, however, has not been voted on yet.
If Williams' bill passes, the EPA could strip the state of its authority to administer federal anti-pollution programs and force potential polluters — including local governments like Marion County that operate wastewater treatment systems — to obtain both state and federal water-quality compliance permits, according to a House staff analysis of the bill.
Moreover, if that happens, state and local jobs centered around ensuring those federal standards are met would likely be lost, since Washington might withdraw the funding to support them, the report notes.
Finally, the report observes that elevating the DEP's standards over the federal pollution limits would make the Legislature the final decision-maker on whether the regulations are implemented.
State law says the DEP must submit for ratification by lawmakers any rule that, within five years of adoption, is likely to have an "adverse impact" of at least $1 million on economic growth, job creation, private investment, business competitiveness or regulatory costs.
"Considering the historic costs for surface water restoration, the DEP rules are likely to meet or exceed this threshold," the report states.

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Drought hits southern U.S. pretty hard
USA Today – by Doyle Rice
April 6, 2011
Those three words from Lyle Zoeller, an agricultural extension agent who works with farmers in Coryell County, Texas, likely echo the thoughts and prayers of farmers and residents across the parched southern USA.
The drought may be over in California, but large portions of the Southwest, southern Plains, Florida and the Southeast are all still enduring severe to extreme drought conditions.
"The biggest drought concern now is the southern tier of the U.S.," says climatologist Brian Fuchs of the National Drought Mitigation Center in Lincoln, Neb.
And no real relief is in sight for the spring and summer: Drought conditions are expected to persist and worsen for the next three months across the USA's southern tier and along the Mid-Atlantic seaboard, according to the Climate Prediction Center in Camp Springs, Md.
Texas is the hardest-hit state, where almost half the state is under an "extreme" drought, according to the Drought Monitor, a federal website that tracks drought.
"This is the driest winter we've had since the late 1960s," says John Nielsen-Gammon, the Texas state climatologist. "It's in the top five historically, back to 1895."
More than half of Texas' winter wheat crop has been rated as "poor" to "very poor," because of the drought and a few episodes of extreme cold, he says.
"Dry weather continues to take its toll on wheat," said Jerry Warren, extension agent for Callahan County, Texas. "We'll need rain soon to salvage any wheat for grain."
National Weather Service meteorologist Victor Murphy agrees: "This could end up being one of the more devastating droughts, agriculturally speaking and for wildfires, if we don't start getting normal to above-normal rainfall before June."
Fires add to woes
Normally, winter is the dry season in Texas, Nielsen-Gammon says, but it's usually not this dry. Much of West Texas has received less than an inch of precipitation over the past six months (where an average would be 3-5 inches), and he reports there are places along the Texas-Mexico border that haven't seen any rain at all since September.
"Many drought indicators in east-central Texas have reached the 'exceptional' drought level," the Drought Monitor reports. "If rain does not materialize soon, intensification of the current drought is likely."
Wildfires have also been a concern this winter and early spring in Texas.
The extreme dryness during the past several months and an abundance of vegetation that grew during a wet winter and early spring in 2010 have combined to create an active 2011 wildfire season, Nielsen-Gammon reports.
So far this year, Texas Forest Service has suppressed 605 fires burning 70,000 acres. That's compared with 149 fires burning 5,221 acres at this time last year. Nearly 180 of Texas' 254 counties have burn bans, which prohibits outdoor burning of any sort.
In Oklahoma, the 120-day span from late November to late March was the driest such period on record for central and southwestern Oklahoma, according to data from the Oklahoma Mesonet, a network of weather stations. "Some reports from western Oklahoma indicate the need for emergency assistance for livestock water will soon occur if the dry conditions persist for much longer," notes Oklahoma's assistant state climatologist Gary McManus in an online drought report.
Fuchs says that the lack of moisture has affected the winter wheat crops in Oklahoma and also Kansas.
Blame it on La Niña
In Florida, the South Florida Water Management reported last week that the area is in the midst of its driest dry season (winter) in about 80 years.
The water level of Lake Okeechobee — which supplies water to millions of people in Palm Beach, Broward and Dade counties in Florida — was recently reported at 11.59 feet, says Susan Sylvester, the director of operations control for the water management district. The average level at this time of year is 14.25 feet.
Rain in the past week has helped slightly in Florida. "We got a shot in the arm with the rainfall, but it doesn't get us out of the drought," Sylvester says.
The southern dryness this winter can be blamed on the La Niña climate pattern, a periodic cooling of Pacific Ocean water that affects weather patterns worldwide. Southern states almost always have a winter with less precipitation during a La Niña winter.
"This was a fairly strong La Niña event," Fuchs says. "One of the strongest on record" — and it's expected to continue through the spring and into the early summer.
However, on the good side, Fuchs says the California situation has improved a great deal because of a very wet March, with near-record rain and snows for much of the state. Gov. Jerry Brown declared the state's drought over last week.
"With the way water is harvested in California, stored in reservoirs and shipped all over the state, this last month played a big part in eliminating any dryness in the region," Fuchs says.

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Is saving the Everglades really necessary ? Yes.
Palm Beach Post - by Maggy Hurchalla
April 6, 2011
How soon we forget. South Florida is not sustainable on its present course. That was the unanimous conclusion of the Governor's Commission that helped develop the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan more than 10 years ago.
This was not a group of wild-eyed environmentalists. It was mostly business people. They spent a lot of time learning about water and what we could expect to happen on "our present course." Now, there are those who believe that "sustainable" is a word for Chicken Little old ladies in tennis shoes who care too much about spotted owls and alligators. They think that making Florida "business-friendly" is more important than alligators. They suggest that in bad economic times, the Everglades isn't really necessary.
Now, just as the feds are coming through with matching money to make Everglades restoration happen, Gov. Scott wants to cut Everglades funding to $17 million and wipe out land acquisition funding. He and the Legislature want to reduce the South Florida Water Management District budget, which has been cut two years in a row, by 25 percent more. That would leave the district just enough money to provide water to Big Sugar. It would leave nothing for Everglades restoration. It would leave nothing for repairing South Florida's environment. Why do we need a "water management district" if it is only going to make things worse?
They also are using our tax money to fight Environmental Protection Agency standards for clean water. The Department of Environmental Protection is being turned into the Department of Business Protection. Why do we need them if they are not going to protect the environment?
So, let's try phrasing it another way.
The plumbing system that manages water from Orlando through the Keys doesn't work. If we keep on keeping on what we are doing, South Florida won't work. It won't work for business. It won't work for agriculture. It won't work for alligators.
Lake Okeechobee will go belly-up with stinking blue green algae blooms more and more often. Sea grass and sponges will die off, and Florida Bay will become a dead zone. Coastal estuaries will be destroyed. And for those who think that environmental disasters are not important to business, there won't be enough water. If we don't hold more water on the land, dump less into the bays and estuaries, and keep the natural environment alive so that it can keep the water clean enough to use, we will not be competitive by any businessman's standards.
Before we abandon the natural world because we think it costs too much to restore and protect, we need a cold, hard look at what abandonment would cost. We have to look at what it would cost to provide South Florida with fresh water through desalinization. It would be mind-boggling, a tax increase like we haven't seen. It would work only if we got someone else to pay for it.
And the federal government won't help pay for it. Restoring the Everglades is a national goal. It's a World Heritage Site. It's the second-largest wetland in the world. Providing South Florida with clean water when they've destroyed what they have is not a national goal. States like New York that saved the Adirondacks and New York City's water supply won't be sympathetic.
A decade ago, business leaders understood that South Florida needed Everglades restoration. A decade ago, Tallahassee was willing to save South Florida. Today's politicians weren't there. They don't understand. They are determined to ignore the consequences. Somehow, someway, we need to teach them all over again that not being sustainable is fatal.
Maggy Hurchalla is a former Martin County commissioner.

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Environmental scorecard: Are area's state lawmakers protecting business over nature?
Naples Daily News - by ERIC STAATS
April 4, 2011
TALLAHASSEE _ The 2011 Legislature is considered pro-business. Does that mean it’s anti-environment ?  You be the judge.
The Daily News and naplesnews.com surveyed Collier County’s state lawmakers about their positions on 10 key environmental issues facing Florida leaders in Tallahassee. Here are their responses:
* * * * *
OIL DRILLING
Do you favor a voter referendum to amend the Florida constitution to ban oil drilling in the state’s coastal waters?
Richter: “No. We already have laws in place that ban offshore drilling up to a certain distance off the coast. Our current focus in Florida should be on creating jobs.”
Hudson: “A ban on oil drilling in Florida waters already exists. At this point, I do not see the need for a referendum.”
Williams: No.
Passidomo: “No. I do not believe in amending the Florida constitution for policy purposes or as a “knee-jerk” reaction to any issue. The Legislature, which is the appropriate venue for determining whether to regulate oil drilling, has already banned offshore drilling.”
* * * * *
GROWTH MANAGEMENT
Do you favor reducing growth management regulation and folding the state Department of Community Affairs into the state Department of Environmental Protection?
Richter: Yes.
Hudson: “I believe in streamlining government, provided we can keep the basic protections and services currently provided.”
Williams: “No. DEP and DCA have separate responsibilities and therefore I do not support merging them into one agency.
Passidomo: “Growth management regulation needs to be improved to help jump-start our economy and create jobs. DCA should be folded into DEP in order to streamline the permitting process and reduce duplicative costs and regulations.”
* * * * *
FERTILIZER
Do you favor a state law that would pre-empt local government regulations on fertilizer?
Richter: “No. In this instance, local governments can best represent their lands and their citizens.”
Hudson: Yes.
Williams: “No. If local governments are required to clean local waters and meet water quality standards, they most certainly should have the authority to design programs and write laws toward that end. Limiting their ability to do such is wrong — and undermines Florida’s efforts to object to the Environmental Protection Agency’s approach to numeric nutrient regulation.”
Passidomo: “The state should regulate the sale of fertilizer, and local government should regulate the use of fertilizer.”
* * * * *
FLORIDA FOREVER
Do you favor Gov. Rick Scott’s budget proposal to not fund the Florida Forever land preservation program?
Richter: “Yes – but not forever.”
Hudson: “We are facing extreme budget shortfalls in Florida. As we go through the budget process, we will be prioritizing our obligations. The amount of funding for Florida Forever will be set based on where it falls on our priorities and on the revenue remaining for that priority level.”
Williams: “Yes. Florida should be proud of the commitment it has made to conserve our state lands. However, with our current budget deficits, we need to be prudent about how we spend taxpayer money. Any further acquisition of land during these tough economic times would not be a wise use of our tax dollars.”
Passidomo: “Florida Forever should be funded to the extent that funds are available.”
* * * * *
EVERGLADES
Do you favor Gov. Rick Scott’s budget proposal to spend $17 million for Everglades restoration?
Richter: Yes.
Hudson: “We are facing extreme budget shortfalls in Florida. As we go through the budget process we will be prioritizing our obligations. The amount of funding for Everglades restoration will be set based on where it falls on our priorities and on the revenue remaining for that priority level.”
Williams: “Yes. As chair of Agriculture and Natural Resources Appropriations, I’ve allocated $20 million for Everglades Restoration.”
Passidomo: “I think we should fund Everglades restoration as much as possible if the funds are available.”
* * * * *
NUTRIENT POLLUTION
Do you favor House and Senate bills that would block a federal proposal to enact numeric limits on nutrient pollution in Florida waters?
Richter: “Yes. The federal standard for numeric limits is flawed because nutrient levels in individual bodies of water cannot be measured by a one-size-fits-all standard. Each body of water is different and can either be helped or harmed by a certain levels of nutrients.”
Hudson: Yes.
Williams: “As the House sponsor of the measure (HB 239), I do support this bill that would prohibit the implementation of the Environmental Protection Agency’s numeric nutrient criteria standards. These standards are not scientifically based and would cost our state, counties and municipalities billions of dollars to implement.”
Passidomo: “Yes. The federal proposal is arbitrary and unfair as it applies only to the state of Florida. It is also prohibitively expensive to implement.”
* * * * *
WATER MANAGEMENT DISTRICT
Do you favor Gov. Rick Scott’s budget proposal to cut property taxes collected by water management districts by 25 percent?
Richter: “Yes. Cutting taxes is a paramount initiative for the governor and Legislature on the road to improving Florida’s economy.”
Hudson: “I believe we need to cut property taxes, whether 25 percent is the right number or not is still to be determined.”
Williams: “Yes. Again, during these hard budget times we all must tighten our belts.”
Passidomo: Yes.
* * * * *
APPOINTMENTS
Should Gov. Rick Scott appoint members to the South Florida Water Management District who would scale back the purchase of U.S. Sugar lands proposed under then-Gov. Charlie Crist?
Richter: “The governor should appoint people based on their merit. If after fully reviewing the current factors involved in the land purchases and recommending a scale back of Governor Crist’s proposals of purchasing U.S. Sugar lands, I would expect the appointed individuals to provide just cause. I would agree with such a proposal based on the evidence.”
Hudson: “I don’t believe that that issue alone should be used as a litmus test.”
Williams: “I think this issue is a moot point since the purchase of the U.S. Sugar lands was made last year.”
Passidomo: “I do not believe that there should be a “litmus test” for political appointment. Appointees should be able to have independent judgment on facts presented.”
* * * * *
SEPTIC TANKS
Do you favor repeal of the 2010 law that requires annual inspections of septic tanks?
Richter: “Yes. The septic tank law passed in 2010 gave a great deal of regulatory authority to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. DEP instituted practices that septic tank owners in Florida felt would be overly burdensome and after reviewing these concerns lawmakers agreed that the implemented regulation went beyond what the Legislature intended to do with the original bill.”
Hudson: Yes.
Williams: “Yes. I also support legislation for a voluntary evaluation pilot program for onsite sewage and treatment and disposal systems.”
Passidomo: Yes.
* * * * *
BOTTLED WATER
Do you favor House and Senate bills that would enact a 6 percent tax on bottled water to fund the state’s Ecosystem Management and Restoration Trust Fund?
Richter: “No, Florida sales tax should go to general revenue. The Legislature is responsible for crafting a budget that reflects economic circumstances and legislative priorities.”
Hudson: No.
Williams: “No. I think it is unfair to force people to pay an additional tax on bottled water, especially during these tough economic times.”
Passidomo: “No. I do not believe in levying additional taxes on businesses or consumers. I would not like to see the cost of water increase.”
■ ■ ■
Editor’s note: The office of Gov. Rick Scott didn’t answer the individual questions that were submitted, but instead provided this statement to cover all 10 questions:
Scott: “Obviously the governor supports all of the policies he’s already proposed as you state in some of your questions. Regarding all other questions, his position/governing philosophy is generally well known.
“Governor Scott is committed to protecting Florida’s natural resources while also balancing the need to get Floridians back to work.
“With more than a million Floridians still out of work, the governor has proposed a budget that promotes job growth by reducing the size and scope of government, reducing the cost of government and passing the cost savings back to taxpayers as tax relief.”

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GOP chair calls primary architects 'drunken twits,' Bob Graham laments Florida
The Florida Times Union – Jacksonville.com - Florida Morning by Abel Harding
April 4, 2011
BUCK THE 'DRUNKEN TWITS' THAT DESIGNED GOP PRIMARY SYSTEM -  "I loathe e-mail commentaries (from more or less anyone) on political topics," writes Orange County Republican Party Chairman Lew Oliver in a letter first reported by Gary Fineout. "In the first place I have no time to read them all, and in the second place I am a curmudgeon anyway and no one else's opinion really interests me much. …I would like to publicly applaud the Florida legislature for having the cajones once again to defy an RNC-endorsed/coerced national primary electoral "system" that gives wildly disproportionate influence in the selection of our nominee (and potentially our next president) to a collection of syrup farmers and ethanol freaks in New Hampshire and Iowa. …We have all known since the day we were born that the system that allows Iowa and New Hampshire to ride roughshod over the rest of the county is just plain ridiculous. Only a drunken twit would purposely design such a system." Oliver's opinion is likely to further stoke the fires of resentment between the Sunshine State and "syrup farmers and ethanol freaks" in New Hampshire and Iowa. Oh, and our friends in South Carolina. They've all been pushing for Florida to be punished for having the "cajones" to make the case for the nation's largest swing state to be heard early in the primary process. Full letter: http://bit.ly/hgBjtw Story at St. Petersburg Times: http://bit.ly/fjangD
--Mark Cross, an Osceola state committeeman responds: "All we have to do is move to Saturday, March 3 and have a state convention and caucus and eliminate the primary. …With a state convention and caucus Florida RPOF can raise some extra cash. Florida ends up being fifth. We get all of our delegates. And as an extra bonus we get to save the taxpayers $40 million."
REQUIEM FOR A STATE - "As the Legislature enters its second half, there has emerged a disturbing pattern of ignoring many of Florida's core values," former Governor and Senator Bob Graham writes. "Florida is a treasure which we have the privilege of enjoying with the responsibility to preserve and enhance that treasure for future generations. For most of Florida's history, up until the mid 1960s, our state was treated like a commodity. If you didn't like it you changed it: land into water; water into land. The business of the state was business, and our enormous natural resources were just another input. The quality and safety of our coasts, fresh waters, open lands and the Everglades were regularly and enthusiastically sacrificed on the altar of growth. Riding over the horizon were two merging armies. …After 12 years of tax cuts, there is no evidence in these numbers that the cuts have achieved their purpose of accelerating quality jobs. If that is the case, what have we done? All of the tax cuts, particularly the total repeal of the tax on stocks and bonds, primarily benefited the upper 5 percent of Floridians, thus contributing to the enormous disparity in wealth in the United States: The top 5 percent of Americans claim 63.5 percent of the nation's wealth, while the lowest 80 percent get only 12.8 percent. In more recent years, Florida politicians have regressively shifted the cost of state services from the richest Floridians to those working hardest just to make ends meet. …I hope this Legislature will pause, reassess the consequences of its decisions on the future of Florida, reject extremist ideologies, and recommit to Florida's heritage of commonsense values." http://bit.ly/hMpmRe
ROD SMITH WON'T RULE OUT RUN FOR GOV - "Florida Democratic Party Chairman Rod Smith believes Florida’s misshapen districts have hampered Democrats’ ability to win elections, almost more than any other factor. And he won’t give a Shermanesque statement on not running for governor again," according to a report by Joy Reid. "Smith, who took over the party from embattled former chair Karen Thurman, was in the midst of a statewide road trip that he said had taken him to multiple rallies, many on the same day, with firefighters, teachers and other union members, plus meetings with party supporters in Tallahassee, Sarasota and in South Florida. Smith was enthusiastic about recent elections in Jacksonville, where the candidate Smith personally endorsed, Alvin Brown, scored a surprise berth in the upcoming run-off against a tea party candidate, as well as in Tampa, where Democrats held the mayor’s office (which they’ve controlled since Reconstruction) and picked up all four open city council seats." The Reid Report: http://bit.ly/dYtFmT
Good Monday morning and welcome to Florida Morning, your daily digest of political news from around the Sunshine State. Columnists around the state take swipes at the Florida Legislature, Key West residents collect a communal urine sample for Gov. Rick Scott and a discredited bureaucrat lands a comfy gig.
MADHOUSE OR CIRCUS? VIEWS ON THE FLORIDA LEGISLATURE HALWAY THROUGH - 
--Mary Ann Lindley: "A good line ought not go to waste, so when Tiger Bay President Tim Center, quoting columnist Daniel Ruth, joked that the Florida Legislature is like "a Baker Act convention," I had to borrow it. You couldn't describe our manic and depressing state Legislature and governor any better. We are at that halfway place in the legislative session when all the balls are in the air, the juggling and maneuvering constant. Madhouse or circus? It's both." Tallahassee Democrat: http://bit.ly/gsz52P
--Carl Hiaasen: "I once referred to a past Legislature as a festival of whores, which in retrospect was a vile insult to the world’s oldest profession. Today’s lackluster assemblage in Tallahassee is possibly the worst in modern times, and cannot fairly be compared to anything except a rodeo of phonies and pimps." Miami Herald: http://bit.ly/epr64L
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ HEADED TO DNC? - "Democratic National Committee Chairman Tim Kaine is on the verge of a Senate run, but Team Obama wants to broaden the search beyond the two top candidates to succeed him — former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland and Florida Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Democrats say. Strickland and Wasserman Schultz are very much in contention, sources close to the process tell POLITICO, but President Obama’s political team has expanded its hunt for a more out-of-the-box candidate for a job they view as central to keeping the White House and the Senate in 2012." Politico: http://bit.ly/fvwzY2
WATER 'ETHIC' NEEDED - "Florida doesn't need another white paper offering water policy recommendations to protect future water supplies. What the state finally needs is a "water ethic." That's the case made in a recent report by the Collins Center for Public Policy called "Our Water, Our Florida: A Water Ethic for Florida" by Cynthia Barnett. She is an associate editor of Florida Trend magazine and author of "Mirage: Florida and the Vanishing Water of the Eastern U.S." Barnett argues that Florida water history can be boiled down to two big mistakes: We took too much from its natural systems, then relied on big infrastructure fixes (especially groundwater pumping). And she says a new approach is needed in the future to deal with an increasing population and limited water supplies." FloridaEnvironments.com: http://bit.ly/fLPorw
EDUCATION 'REFORMS' JUST GETTING WARMED UP - "It's not over yet," writes Patricia Mazzei in the St. Petersburg Times. "After overhauling teacher pay, evaluations and contracts, state lawmakers are just getting started on bringing major changes to education. In the pipeline: expanding charter schools and school-voucher programs, and rewriting wide-ranging rules that could require middle school students to pass civics and give schools with poor reading-test scores automatic F grades. There's also pension reform, a looming move that would require tens of thousands of schools employees to pay a portion of their retirement. The far-reaching legislation would build on Florida's reputation for dramatic education reforms embraced more than a decade ago by then-Gov. Jeb Bush. Yet now the changes come as the state grapples with the loss of nearly $1 billion in federal stimulus dollars for education, a hole that translates to classroom cuts." http://bit.ly/hiw4SL
On this day in 1881, Morris A. Dzialinkski, a former Confederate soldier and a Democrat, was elected mayor of Jacksonville. And in 1978, the new Capitol Building in Tallahassee was formally occupied.
Your feedback is welcomed and valued. E-mail Florida Morning at abel.harding@jacksonville.com or find me on the Twitters, @abelharding. New followers include @mbarilla and @markpminer.
CONCHS GIVE GOV A (URINE) SAMPLE OF THEIR AFFECTION - "A group of Key West residents calling themselves the Committee for the Positive Insistence on a Sane Society (PISS) plans to gather at high noon today to gather a communal, Southernmost urine sample. The committee says this is a peaceful protest of Scott's plan to drug test state employees. 'In one breath our CEO professes to be focusing on cutting wasteful government spending and laying off tens of thousands of state employees, while at the same time he announces a program to drug test state employees without any legitimate basis for such an invasion of privacy,' attorney Robert Cinton wrote in the press release. The sample supposedly be 'kept under lock and seal' until it can be transported to Tallahassee. 'In his way, the committee will save the Florida taxpayers from the expense of paying for individual drug testing in Key West,' according to the press release." St. Petersburg Times: http://bit.ly/g0TxXv
SOFT LANDING FOR DISCREDITED BUREAUCRAT - "Carl Littlefield is Tallahassee's version of the political crony who came to dinner, a discredited bureaucrat with a shameful record of permitting the sexual abuse of the developmentally disabled on his watch as an official with the Agency for Persons with Disabilities. But Littlefield will not go away. Instead, Gov. Rick Scott created a soft landing by creating for him a $78,000-a-year Department of Children and Families' paper-pushing job in Tampa as thousands of other state workers are facing the prospect of pink slips. Now that's real job creation. Littlefield had been tabbed by Scott to run the Agency for Persons with Disabilities, a $140,000-a-year plum. But that appointment was scuttled in the wake of revelations that Littlefield, in his capacity as a regional director for the agency, oversaw the medieval operations of a Seffner group home in which men with severe behavioral problems, including sex offenders, were encouraged by staff members to engage in sexual activities as a form of 'therapy.'" St. Petersburg Times: http://bit.ly/eyz0qF
QUOTE OF THE DAY - 'We feel this is job-killing legislation,' said Leke Alli, owner of Bearss Pharmacy in Tampa and one of the organizers of Sunday's event to protest a crackdown on small, independent pharmacies by the Florida House. 'They're trying to taint independent pharmacies with pill mills. We believe that pharmacies should be well-regulated, but not to our detriment.'"

110403-a






Bob Graham

110403-a
Florida — the sad state of our state
TampaBay.com - by Bob Graham, special to the St. Petersburg Times
April 3, 2011
As the Legislature enters its second half, there has emerged a disturbing pattern of ignoring many of Florida's core values. Over the last half-century these values have given Florida government — whether in Republican or Democratic hands — a stability and predictability that is now threatened.
What are some of those at-risk values?
Florida is a treasure which we have the privilege of enjoying with the responsibility to preserve and enhance that treasure for future generations.
For most of Florida's history, up until the mid 1960s, our state was treated like a commodity. If you didn't like it you changed it: land into water; water into land. The business of the state was business, and our enormous natural resources were just another input. The quality and safety of our coasts, fresh waters, open lands and the Everglades were regularly and enthusiastically sacrificed on the altar of growth.
Riding over the horizon were two merging armies. Emerging Democratic leaders, such as Reubin Askew of Pensacola and Lawton Chiles of Lakeland, who were in the vanguard of the recently reapportioned Legislature, joined forces with young Republicans like Nathaniel Reed of Hobe Sound and Warren Henderson of Sarasota, who were appalled at the change they had seen in their newly adopted state.
These armies had a common mission: to reverse the damage commoditization had done to Florida and replace it with a culture of conservation and intergenerational responsibility.
The markers of success of the united armies of Florida are many.
Florida has one of America's most esteemed state park systems. Our state has seen dramatic improvements in air and water quality. The Florida Everglades are now the American Everglades with Congress agreeing to partner with the state to preserve this unique treasure for our grandchildren's grandchildren and beyond — a public-private partnership for quality development rather than lowest common denominator.
In the next month all of this will be threatened. The Florida Forever Act and its predecessor land-acquisition programs, which have saved almost 9.4 million acres of our most environmentally sensitive lands for the public is, after 44 years, being zeroed out of the budget. The proposed cuts to Everglades restoration are so deep it is doubtful the crucial goal of salvaging this world treasure and protecting the water supply for more than 6 million Floridians will be realized. If Florida walks out on Everglades restoration, Congress won't be far behind. Comprehensive planning for future land and water use, which has elevated growth to a new standard of quality, is under all-out assault.
Florida is a dynamic state which requires vision to assure that future opportunities and needs are anticipated and met.
Since World War II that vision has largely been focused on understanding and responding to Florida's incredible growth.
Florida was the least affected of America's large population states by the Industrial Revolution. Our economy today — service, agriculture, tourism — is not much different than it was a century ago. What has substituted for traditional industry and has served as the fourth leg of our economic stool has been growth. Since the 1960s Florida has grown consistently by 3 million new residents each decade. It almost did so in the first decade of this new century but stagnant growth in the last years of that decade held it below the historic standard.
This is not a blip or statistical anomaly. There are several factors that have converged to slow growth, but three should particularly concern us. The current economic recession has shaken many Americans nearing retirement as to whether their defined contribution pension will support a move to Florida. Talk of major changes to Social Security and Medicare heightens that anxiety. Other states, especially in the Southeast, have emerged as stiff competitors for the attention of families at or near retirement. Fewer young families are choosing Florida as their home.
Now, new vision is required to prepare Florida for an era in which, yes, there will be growth, but it will be likely be at a reduced rate and reduced capacity to carry our economy.
So what do we do about it? Get serious about attracting the technology industries which are shaping and will shape the world's future. This will require a dual strategy: a renewed commitment to the protection of our competitive edge — Florida's environment — and building a world-class preschool through graduate school education system. The states which have benefited most by technology industries — such as North Carolina and Virginia — have done so not by selling themselves as the cheapest places to do business but rather as states that have built the infrastructure and the educational institutions which will most help businesses achieve sustained profitability.
In addition to a potential return to the Florida as a commodity policy of the early 20th century, this Legislature is on course to erase decades of investment and progress in education. Hopefully the Legislature will reject a proposal of a 10 percent per student cut in primary and secondary schools. Less likely is a change in the downward trajectory of support for higher education. Since 1990, in inflation-adjusted dollars, per student funding of the state university system from general revenue has dropped by about $4,000. These savage cuts to education expose a lack of vision for Florida's future.
Florida aspires to fundamental fairness for all its citizens.
Traditionally Florida's tax system was based on three principles: adequacy: sufficient revenue to support education and other services to the people; resilience: a stable revenue stream matched to needs so that the effects of business cycles are mitigated; and fairness: Floridians pay taxes according to their ability to do so.
These principles have been mangled by changes in the last decade, most of which were advanced as necessary for economic growth.
Since 1999 there has been a stream of tax reductions to make the state more attractive for investment. Absent these cuts, state revenue in 2011 would be $4 billion greater. This would have avoided the need for the deep cuts now being considered by the Legislature.
The stunning truth is that on virtually all fronts — the Legislature, the executive budget office, academics — there has been a failure to subject these cuts to the basic question: Did they work?
Without specific analysis we are left to answer that question based on data reflecting the impact these cuts had on jobs: How many jobs have been created and what did they contribute to the quality of life of working families?
The increase in jobs from 2000 to 2010, after the economic development stimulating tax cuts began taking effect, was 606,798. This increase was substantially less the in the two decades prior to the tax cuts: 1980-1990: 1,998,833; 1990-2000: 1,530,936.
Those statistics describe the quantity of jobs created before and after the tax cuts. In terms of take-home pay, what was the quality of those jobs? Florida first achieved a long-sought goal of exceeding the national average of per capita income in 1983 when Floridians earned 100.3 percent of the national average. State workers reached a peak in per capita income in 1987 at 101.7. By 2010 that relationship reversed and Floridians earned only 96.8 percent of the national average.
After 12 years of tax cuts, there is no evidence in these numbers that the cuts have achieved their purpose of accelerating quality jobs.
If that is the case, what have we done? All of the tax cuts, particularly the total repeal of the tax on stocks and bonds, primarily benefited the upper 5 percent of Floridians, thus contributing to the enormous disparity in wealth in the United States: The top 5 percent of Americans claim 63.5 percent of the nation's wealth, while the lowest 80 percent get only 12.8 percent. In more recent years, Florida politicians have regressively shifted the cost of state services from the richest Floridians to those working hardest just to make ends meet. If the Legislature remains committed to adequacy, resilience and fairness as the foundation of our tax system, serious reconsideration should be given to these tax cuts and the harm they have done.
As a lifelong Florida Democrat, I consider myself to be a conservative man in my personal conduct and political philosophy. I believe in respecting traditions which have proven themselves in the real life of our state. I hope this Legislature will pause, reassess the consequences of its decisions on the future of Florida, reject extremist ideologies, and recommit to Florida's heritage of commonsense values.
Bob Graham was governor from 1979-1987 and represented the state as a U.S. senator from 1987-2005.

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110403-b
More delay will cost state
Palm Beach Post
April 3, 2011
The arguments against the plan for clean water in Florida don't hold water.
U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney, R-Tequesta, and Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., have filed amendments to block the Environmental Protection Agency from imposing strict levels for pollution entering the state's lakes, rivers and streams. The action by Rep. Rooney is ironic, since some of his Martin County constituents have seen pollution-fed algae turn their backyard canals green. State legislators want to place similar restrictions on the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.
They are responding to the announcement last November by the EPA that it had set the standards - numbers, not just guidelines - for Florida. Because of the controversy, the EPA gave the state 15 months before implementation, which will require public utilities, farmers, ranchers, phosphate companies, paper companies and others to control pollution-laded runoff. Most of the state's politicians, urged on by those affected interests, oppose the standards. Their arguments go like this:
It will cost too much. Rep. Rooney uses the figure of $3 billion in direct and indirect annual costs.
Answer: Those numbers assume that every polluter would have to use the most expensive treatment options. For utilities, that would be reverse-osmosis plants to filter water. The EPA is not requiring reverse-osmosis, and the agency's fiscal impact study places the number much lower.
EPA scientists disagree over the standards.
Answer: "There was debate at the EPA over what the standards would be," said Manley Fuller, president of the Florida Wildlife Federation, "but not over the need for specific standards." Mr. Fuller's group was among the plaintiffs who sued the EPA in 2008, asking the agency to enforce the Clean Water Act in Florida. The consent decree from that lawsuit led to the standards.
There should be an independent, scientific review of the standards.
Answer: "We've never objected to that," Mr. Fuller said. "But don't stack it with people opposed to the standards."
Florida has wrongheadedly postponed this day of reckoning too long. In 2003, the Legislature delayed for 10 years the final deadline for cleaning water entering the Everglades. The state's lakes, rivers and streams and coastal waters - to be covered in the next phase - support the tourism, fishing and recreation industries. They raise the state's quality of life. Are sick lakes draws for business?
"We don't want to ruin farmers," Mr. Fuller said. "If all that fertilizer (a major pollution source) is running off, maybe they're using too much fertilizer. We'd like to change the way business is done, and make it better for the farmer."
In 2009, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection proposed pollution standards that are very close to what the EPA is requiring. The two agencies took 13,000 water samples. During the EPA's public comment period, 20,000 of the 22,000 comments supported the standards.
A spokesman for Rep. Rooney said, "While the DEP and EPA numbers are not that far apart, EPA's proposal is more stringent, and there is a great disparity between DEP's plan to implement and administer the new criteria and EPA's." The DEP, the spokesman said, "was taking a much more thoughtful, careful and practical approach than EPA.
In fact, Rep. Rooney is arguing for more delay. He says he supports "reasonable" standards, but offers no definition. No doubt, there will be a public cost for the higher standards. When standards kicked in to cut acid rain in the Northeast, however, the costs were far less than estimated and the benefits far greater. We believe that will hold true for cleaning water in Florida.
- Randy Schultz for The Palm Beach Post Editorial Board

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110403-c
Restoring the Everglades will boost the economy
News-Press.com
April 3, 2011
One of the opportunities presented to policymakers as a result of Florida's shrinking revenues is that it forces us to consider what is really important to the citizens of our state. It offers us an opportunity to look clearly not just at the present, but several years into the future.
No one envies the arduous task facing Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Legislature as they confront a series of budget challenges that will force them to make tough and sometimes unpopular decisions.
But some things are simply sacred to Floridians - clean air, clean water, a healthy environment and all of the other natural wonders that make growing up here, or moving here, something special.
Florida voters overwhelming support continuing the work to restore the Everglades ecosystem and oppose efforts to further defund this initiative
Almost two-thirds of Florida voters said in a February Tarrance Group poll that restoring the Everglades is "extremely important" or "very important" to them personally. And 55 percent oppose the proposed cuts to investments in Everglades restoration.
This should come as no surprise to anyone. After all, one in three Floridians depend directly on the Everglades for their daily supply of fresh water. Whether it is their drinking water or water to fill their swimming pools, irrigate their lawns or wash their cars, more than six million residents could not survive with this source of water.
Floridians also know Everglades restoration is good for business. Continuing work to restore the Everglades is, and will be for decades, an economic driver that creates jobs, enhances property values, boosts tourism and helps accommodate future population growth.
An in-depth study by Mather Economics for the Everglades Foundation found that the $11.5 billion cost to restore the Everglades ecosystem will result in an economic impact of at least $46.5 billion and potentially as much as $124 billion.
Gov. Scott and Florida's legislative leaders, Senate President Mike Haridopolos and House Speaker Dean Cannon, have said that the No. 1 issue in Florida is job creation.

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110403-d
State may slow money tap for water districts
Naples Daily News - by Michael Peltier
April 3, 2011
TALLAHASSEE — Lauded and criticized for their fiscal autonomy, water management districts would find their budget determined by the Legislature and their spending approved by the governor under a pair of bills advancing through the Legislature that attempt to clip their wings.
More immediate, the districts would see their budget cuts by up to 30 percent for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1 under a Senate effort that would reduce taxes for water management district residents by $210 million statewide.
Taking up budget issues Thursday, the Senate Budget Committee approved a measure that would require lawmakers to annually set the tax rate for water management districts to levy.
The Senate proposal requires the districts to submit their budget requests to the governor, who would submit the proposals as part of his budget request. The Legislature, however, would ultimately decide funding levels.
“When it comes to the expenditure of dollars, it comes back to the fact that Legislature has the authority and responsibility of looking after (taxpayers) dollars,” said budget Chairman Sen. J.D. Alexander, R-Lake Wales.
A measure traveling in the House would also provide for gubernatorial oversight but the measures stops short of putting lawmakers in charge of the budget purse strings.
The House proposal would also require the districts to review their holdings every five years and put up for sale tracts of land no longer considered essential for conservation or water management purposes. The sales could occur only if the parcels would return to the tax rolls following the sale. Lands held jointly between the districts and a local government could not be sold without the consent of local officials.
Further, the proposal would require the governor to approve fund transfers within the water management districts. Under current law, the governor approves a district’s overall budget but has no control over how the monies are spent after that point.
A favorite target of lawmakers because of the massive taxing authority they command, the water districts are again under the microscope as Gov. Rick Scott and Republican lawmakers look to trim government collections and spending.
The South Florida Water Management District, for example, is expected to collect $404 million a year in property taxes from the residents who live in the district. The money is used for flood control, maintenance of the canals and other storm water efforts. A significant portion also goes toward Everglades restoration.
Gov. Rick Scott has proposed reducing water management district taxes by 25 percent for the next two years. The Senate bill would trim the South Florida district’s budget by 30 percent next year, a $120 million reduction, and allows lawmakers to set rates after that.
House water committee chairwoman Trudi Williams, R-Fort Myers, said earlier this year that even a 25 percent cut would delay discretionary programs such as the district’s long-term commitment to re-plumbing the River of Grass.
Janet Bowman, legislative director for the Nature Conservancy, said the House proposal largely puts in statute what has been common practice within the districts. The Senate version, however, would break new ground.
“There could be some constitutional issues if you go too far in that direction,” Bowman said.

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110403-e
What's more important: Saving an endangered species or Everglades restoration ?
Sun Sentinel
April 3, 2011
I have been keeping up with the issue of the Interior Department's decision not to set aside critical habitat for the endangered Cape Sable seaside sparrow. Their habitat is on the southern most part of the Everglades, where it flows into Florida Bay.
So by funding the Everglades restoration project instead of setting aside a habitat for the sparrows, these poor birds' habitat will negatively suffer.
This is true because their plan is to restore more natural water flows through the Everglades. Meaning they will tear down some of the surrounding ecosystem in order to obtain a proper water flow. Doing this might work, but it also might bring in too much water and flood the dryer highlands of the Everglades, or maybe even more.
Weighing which is more important — A species of sparrow that we might not ever see again, or restoring the Everglades — with uncertainty of the outcome? It's a tough decision, but I know the side I take.  What's yours ?

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110402-a
Calling all 20- and 30-somethings who care about the St. Lucie River
TCPalm.com - by Eve Samples
April 2, 2011
The St. Lucie River almost always looks good this time of year — but don't be fooled.
Thick layers of suffocating muck remain on its floor.
After the rainy season returns, the river will once again face deluges of polluted freshwater from Lake Okeechobee.
Now, more than ever, it seems that permanently halting the Lake O releases will be a battle fought over generations.
Yet the St. Lucie River's most visible advocacy group, the Rivers Coalition, doesn't have much generational diversity. Its youngest voting members are over 40, and most of them are well past that mark.
"I don't want to become the 'tired old man' club," Rivers Coalition Chairman Leon Abood said at last week's gathering of the group at Stuart City Hall.
"Look at us," he said, gesturing to the greying group of volunteers around him.
They chuckled at Abood's observation of their experience. Then they agreed. How could they not?
It sure doesn't look like a fix is coming soon for the St. Lucie River.
The South Florida Water Management District's proposed purchase of a huge swath of U.S. Sugar land — which could have opened up options for sending water south of Lake Okeechobee — was scaled back dramatically last year, leaving little hope for solving the St. Lucie River's biggest problem.
Gov. Rick Scott, who opposed the U.S. Sugar purchase, will soon appoint five new members to the district's nine-member governing board. It's a safe bet that those appointees will prioritize tax cuts over land purchases that could aid our river.
"We need a Bill Gates or Warren Buffett that wants a flow way named after them," said Jim Harter, a member of the Rivers Coalition who lives in Palm City. He wasn't joking.
With no benefactor in sight, the only thing offering a glimmer of hope is the Rivers Coalition Defense Fund's 2006 lawsuit against the federal government. A lower court blocked the lawsuit, which aims to stop the releases from Lake O, and the Rivers Coalition Defense Fund is hoping an appeals court will overturn that decision.
If the appeal fails, little hope for a near-term solution will remain. That's why the Rivers Coalition needs a new generation to take up the fight.
Yes, the river is clear today. Salinity levels are good. There are no bacterial outbreaks like the ones the county health department warned us about last year.
Lots of 20- and 30-somethings are enjoying the river every weekend. They're on the sandbars, they're in their kayaks.
"It's hard to convince people there's a problem when you look at this," said Mark Perry, a member of the Rivers Coalition and executive director of the Stuart-based Florida Oceanographic Society.
But the story will change with the weather.
"You're all going to be screaming like crazy saying ... 'I thought you were going to do something to fix this,'" said Karl Wickstrom, a Rivers Coalition member and founder of Florida Sportsman magazine.
We can't take our eye off the ultimate goal: ending the releases by creating a way to move excess water south of the lake.
"We've got to be angry about it," Wickstrom said. "It deserves our anger."
And we can't rely on the old guard to keep up the fight forever.
If you're in your 20s or 30s and care about the St. Lucie River, come on over to the next Rivers Coalition meeting. It's 11 a.m. April 28 at Stuart City Hall.
Coffee and doughnuts are on the Rivers Coalition.
Eve Samples is a columnist for ScrippsTreasureCoast Newspapers.

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110402-b
Disaster fuels debate over nuclear accident evacuation plans
Miami Herald - by Curtis Morgan
April 2, 2011
Emergency managers are confident they could protect the public in the remote chance of an accident at Turkey Point, but the high risk and “dread factor” of radiation raises questions about emergency plans in South Florida.
Dead-center in hurricane alley, South Florida has probably performed more large-scale evacuations than any place in the country.
But a wind-borne cloud of radioactive isotopes represents a different monster, unseen but every bit as scary as a powerful cane. For emergency managers thrust into a crisis like the one in Japan, the concern would not be the few ignoring orders to leave Turkey Point’s 10-mile evacuation zone.
“The big issue is how many people will leave outside the evacuation zone,’’ said Jay Baker, a Florida State University geography professor and authority on evacuation behavior who conducted hazard response surveys for a state study last year. “No one knows, to be honest with you.’’
It’s a critical X-factor in the uncertain, untested science of protecting the public from nuclear accidents.
Would residents remain calm and orderly if Turkey Point issued a “general emergency” alert signaling a severe threat of radiation release? Or would much of Miami-Dade — even those far beyond the high-risk zone — bolt and create what emergency managers call a “shadow evacuation’’ so massive it could overwhelm carefully crafted, repeatedly rehearsed emergency plans?
Barry White, an organizer for Miami-based Citizens Allied for Safe Energy, one of several groups fighting Florida Power & Light’s plans to add two more reactors at Turkey Point, envisions chaos that would quickly clog every road out of South Miami-Dade, stranding thousands close to the plant and most at risk.
“Evacuation by car, bus, train, bicycle, I don’t care what, is impossible,’’ said White. “You can’t get out of there in time. It’s madness.’’
The disaster in Japan, followed by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission urging Americans to evacuate within 50 miles of the Fukushima Daiichi reactors, has sparked calls to reassess emergency plans for the nation’s 65 nuclear plants.
Activists — echoed by political leaders in some states with aging reactors near major cities, including New York and Vermont — say the plans don’t reflect real-world risks. They’re urging regulators to expand the 10-mile “plume exposure pathway emergency planning zone’’ — the public safety standard since a meltdown at Pennsylvania’s Three Mile Island in 1979.
The NRC and nuclear power industry defend existing plans, saying the 10-mile zone provides “reasonable assurance’’ of protecting residents most at risk of radiation exposure. There is also a 50-mile “ingestion pathway’’ intended to prevent people from consuming contaminated produce, milk and water — a safety standard that the NRC went far beyond when it issued its evacuation warning in Japan.
Federal, state and South Florida emergency managers also downplay concerns, citing stringent U.S. safety and emergency protocols and confidence in the state’s 400-page radiological emergency plan, which details accident response for all three state nuclear plants, FPL’s at Turkey Point and in St. Lucie County and Progress Energy’s Crystal River plant.
They’re confident they could calm public jitters and safely move out the estimated 187,000 people who live within 10 miles of Turkey Point, an area including Homestead, Goulds, sections of Cutler Ridge and the Redland as well as Ocean Reef Yacht Club on North Key Largo.
The key to any evacuation, said Curtis Sommerhoff, Miami-Dade’s emergency management director, is for the public to follow the directions of authorities trained to assess risks and manage large numbers of people on the move.
“Radiation is a mysterious thing to a lot of people,’’ he said. “One of the things we try to hammer into everybody’s head is that when there is an emergency, listen to the public officials.’’
Under training scenarios, estimated clearance time for sections or all of the 10-mile zone ranged from about two hours to 14 hours.
That’s factoring in shadow evacuation, which Sommerhoff sees as an early “challenge’’ but one that could be controlled with public safety messages, traffic flow reversals and other efforts. The focus would be on first moving downwind sections, the most at risk, then other areas if needed.
Emergency managers insist that’s sufficient time to minimize public exposure for an event likely to unfold over days or weeks.
“Right now, Japan is probably reinforcing the fact that the plans are good,’’ said Chuck Lanza, emergency management director for Broward County and formerly Miami-Dade’s emergency chief. “You’re not going to see this Hiroshima-like plume coming out of the reactor. This is a slow-moving event.”
FPL spokesman Michael Waldron said plants rehearse emergencies multiple times a year and the utility has confidence in federal plans and the expertise of state and local responders.
Irene Toner, Monroe County’s emergency management director, pointed to the response in Japan as evidence that the public can be protected from meltdowns, even in a nation reeling from an earthquake and tsunami.
“You didn’t see a lot of panic,” she said.
Within five hours, thousands evacuated within two miles of the plant. The zone was expanded to six miles the next day, then 12 miles. The government has since “encouraged” residents within 19 miles to leave.
Critics — including members of Congress and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo — have questioned why the NRC’s 50-mile evacuation warning isn’t standard in domestic emergency plans. Cuomo is campaigning to close Indian Point nuclear plant, located in an earthquake zone 25 miles from New York City. In 1989, his father, then Gov. Mario Cuomo, signed a deal that closed the $6 billion Shoreham nuclear plant on Long Island, where escape routes were a major concern.
More than half the country’s reactors are within 50 miles of major cities. Turkey Point is about 26 miles from downtown Miami. Any 50-mile zone — for food safety testing or evacuation — would cover all of Miami-Dade and reach to Islamorada and Fort Lauderdale, an area with more than 3 million people.
NRC spokesman Roger Hannah said the 50-mile evacuation warning in Japan was based on “very conservative’’ calculations for a plant with four failing reactors and fuel pools — a much larger risk than posed by U.S. plants. Turkey Point, like most, has two reactors now but FPL expansion plans would double that.
For now, though, Hannah said, “It would be impossible to draw parallels here.’’
But, he added, emergency planning is an area that will be reviewed in the wake of the meltdowns.
Bryant Kinney, a spokesman for the Nuclear Energy Institute, the industry’s lobbying and policy arm in Washington, D.C., would not speculate on the implications for the 28 new reactors the NRC is considering — FPL’s among them.
But he stressed the industry had made safety and security improvements after Three Mile Island, the 1986 Chernobyl disaster and the 2001 terrorist attacks.
The 10-mile zone was only a starting point, he said. “It doesn’t take away government’s ability to go beyond that if they felt it was warranted.’’
South Florida activists hope regulators take another look before agreeing to adding two new reactors at Turkey Point. If approved, they would be expected to be operational around 2013.
White’s group, CASE, filed lengthy concerns with the NRC, about the adequacy of emergency plans. The group questioned placing a stockpile of potassium iodide pills, which can help prevent radiation-induced thyroid cancer, for nearly 200,000 people at a single location.
Group members cited studies conducted after Three Mile Island that found people evacuating more than 40 miles away. They argued Turkey Point’s location on south Biscayne Bay gives residents few roads and directions to go in an emergency — either north into heavily populated cities or south down one main road to the Keys.
Federal regulators, White said, “rejected every one of them, right down the line.’’
The NRC has shown reluctance to tweak its health measures. A 2002 bioterrorism law passed by Congress called for providing potassium iodide pills to residents within 20 miles from plants. But both the Bush and Obama administrations have invoked a waiver, supported by the nuclear power industry, contending there is little risk of exposure beyond 10 miles.
White considers evacuation plans table-top fantasies. While emergency responders and FPL may drill, the public doesn’t, he said. He questioned whether crucial role players, such as school bus drivers, would remain in danger zones.
He also is skeptical of assurances that evacuation zone residents would have open roads in front of them.
Last year’s statewide hurricane evacuation study found longer clearance times for storms. The scenarios didn’t focus on the 10-mile evacuation but looked at moving people from heavily populated coastal areas with many times more people.
Those scenarios — which could be likened to a response to a nuclear accident — showed it would take from 9.5 hours up to two days to clear people from coastal areas in Miami-Dade, depending on the severity of storm surge and winds. That’s considerably longer than predicted evacuation times for the 10-mile zone.
A mild, 10-mph wind could spread radiation over the evacuation zone in an hour, White said.
“For all but the swiftest, everybody is going to be toast,’’ he said.
In a query to the Miami Herald Public Insight Network — an online network of people who have agreed to share their thoughts on various news topics — 13 of 15 people who responded said they would monitor and follow emergency managers’ instructions.
Clara Waterman Powell, who lives within two miles of the plant, said she reviews the pamphlets she receives annually from FPL and trusts safety measures at Turkey Point.
“Being so close to the plant, I really don’t have any chance of surviving’’ in the event of a serious accident, she said. But she also stressed: “I don’t worry about it.”
In the surveys FSU professor Baker did for the statewide study, there were strong indications residents would follow orders.
Nine in 10 Miami-Dade and Monroe residents surveyed said they would evacuate if told to for a nuclear accident. Eight in 10 said they’d shelter in their own homes if ordered.
After studies of dozens of hurricanes, emergency managers know far more people say they will leave than actually do. Baker wonders if the “dread factor’’ of radiation could produce the opposite effect.
“We have lots of empirical data about what people have actually done in hurricanes,’’ he said. “We don’t have that with nuclear accidents. The only one we’ve had was Three Mile Island and, in those days, we didn’t have evacuation plans.’’

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South Florida - Great For Bird Watching
Southwest Florida Online – by Don Browne
April 2, 2011
Wading Birds Plentiful In Conservation Areas This Year.
CLEWISTON, FL. -- Extremely dry conditions that have created a water shortage for some have been a boon for wading birds so far this nesting season.
Endangered wood storks, spoonbills, white ibis and great egrets have begun nesting in the Everglades Water Conservation Areas in numbers representing a significant increase from the start of last wading bird season, South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) scientists reported this week.
Endangered wood stork nests numbered 1,050 while white ibis nests were counted at 10,000. No nests were observed for either of these species in the conservation areas in March 2010. Spoonbill nesting increased to 200 nests from only 20, and great egret nests increased to 7,180 from 130.
There are typically two adult birds per nest.Tens of thousands of birds have been seen foraging in Water Conservation Area 3 in Broward and Miami-Dade counties. All together, scientists observed 18,430 nests at the beginning of the wading bird nesting season this March in the conservation areas compared to only 150 nests seen during the same time in 2010.
Scientists attribute this early success to water levels that are currently optimal for wading birds because their food supply of crayfish and other small fish are massing in smaller areas as the land dries out. This concentration makes for easier foraging with less energy expended. Recent SFWMD research has also made a major contribution to determining optimal water depths for wading birds.
"A key goal of Everglades restoration is to restore natural water conditions that will help re-establish an adequate food supply for wildlife across the Everglades," said SFWMD Executive Director Carol Ann Wehle. "This will more permanently support the return of successful wading bird nesting colonies."
Optimal hydrologic conditions also led to a 2009 breeding season that was exceptionally good for wading birds in South Florida, with a most noteworthy improvement for the federally endangered wood stork at the time.
While the new nesting numbers are encouraging, scientists noted that water levels may be falling too fast to maintain large populations. Birds tend to abandon nest sites and nestlings when food becomes scarce. Nestlings that manage to fledge will have a limited food supply.
Extensive dry conditions may also lead to a significant decrease in apple snail populations, which are the primary food source of the endangered Everglades snail kite.
District scientists will continue to monitor wading birds and their nesting colonies in the Water Conservation Areas throughout the season.

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Citing an Everglades impact, Audubon backs challenge to Scott's rule-freeze
Sun Sentinel - by Aaron Deslatte
April 1, 2011
TALLAHASSEE -- The Florida Audubon Society has filed a brief supporting a legal challenge to Gov. Rick Scott's inaugural-day executive order freezing new rules.
One of Scott’s first acts in office was to freeze all new state agency rules designed to implement mandates made by lawmakers, until they could be pre-cleared by his new Office of Fiscal Accountability and Regulatory Reform. So far, the office has killed 18 rules. But Scott’s new office is also instituting a much broader review of thousands of existing rules – and asking lawmakers to sanction still more discretion for the governor to quietly change the way the state exercises power.
Earlier this week, Florida Legal Services and Sandy D’Alemberte, a former ABA and Florida State University president, asked the Florida Supreme Court to stop his review, arguing it’s an unconstitutional attempt to change the laws that direct state agencies how to behave.
D’Alemberte and his wife, Patsy Palmer, filed the petition on behalf of Rosalie Whiley, a disabled Miami-Dade woman who says Scott’s office is holding up a rule that would have simplified the reapplication process for food stamp recipients like her.
Audubon argued in an amicus brief Friday that the freeze was delaying water-protection efforts in Biscayne Bay that are part of the massive federal Everglades restoration plan.
"This delay only exacerbates and aggrevates the current degradation of Biscayne Bay's vulnerable ecosystem and increases the difficulty (and cost) or restoration," prominent environmental lawyer E. Thom Rumberger writes in the brief, noting that "environmental law is particularly complex and regulation-driven" and offering the group's expertise in the field.

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