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Conference to address health and security implications of global water management
May 31, 2011
The challenges and opportunities of sustaining a safe global water supply will be the focus of a University of South Florida College of Public Health conference bringing together international experts from academia, government, the military, non-governmental organizations and the private sector.
Registration is open for the free event, "Security and Stability Partnerships for Water: Their Impact on Health," to be held June 13-15, 2011, at the Alfano Conference and Banquet Center, 11606 N. McKinley Dr., in Tampa. Sessions will cover the geopolitical, cultural, religious, environmental and economic issues affecting global water management, with an emphasis on implications for health.
The World Health Organization estimates that about one in eight people lacks access to safe drinking water, and more than 3.5 million people die yearly from water-related diseases. Increasing, and often competing demands, for fresh water because of population growth, agriculture, industry and changing lifestyles are leading to its increasing scarcity, especially in needy communities.
"As a global community, we need better ways to conserve diminishing freshwater resources so vital to the health of individuals and populations," said conference director Thomas Mason, PhD, USF professor of public health. "USF is committed to providing platforms, like this conference, where experts from various disciplines can address the central role that water plays in the stability of regions and nations. The aim is to develop collaborative activities and policies that foster secure, well managed and shared water resources."
Katherine Bliss, PhD, director of the Project on Global Water Policy for the Washington, DC-based nonprofit Center for Strategic and International Studies, will speak about key elements affecting access to safe drinking water and sanitation, which are recognized by the United Nations as basic human rights. She is the opening keynote speaker in a lineup that includes:
Swathi Veeravalli, social scientist at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineering, who will talk about discerning water's role in counterinsurgency operations.
Greg Allgood, PhD, director of Procter & Gamble's Children's Safe Drinking Water Program, will discuss the corporation's nonprofit project providing water purification at the household level in developing countries to prevent childhood deaths from contaminated drinking water.
Joe Rozza, global water resource sustainability manager, Coca-Cola Co., and Karin Krchnak, senior advisor for international water policy, The Nature Conservancy, will talk about building public-private partnerships for water sustainability. The company recently worked with the conservation organization to assess Coca-Cola's water "footprint" - volume of water consumed directly and indirectly to produce a product -- to help inform and improve Coca-Cola's global water stewardship policies.
Lt. Col. Monir Akhand, Army of Bangladesh, will discuss seasonal floods, salinity of water, rises in sea-level, cyclones and other water-related issues affecting Bangladesh.
Jean-Paul Chretien, MD, PhD, a U.S. Navy physician and epidemiologist working to strengthen global health and security, will speak about the importance of water for health and human security in Helmand Province, Afghanistan
Provided by University of South Florida


Pinellas ordinance bans use of nitrogen fertilizer starting Wednesday
News Channel 8 - by Yolanda Fernandez
May 31, 2011
CLEARWATER A new ordinance goes into effect Wednesday in Pinellas County banning the sale and use of lawn fertilizers containing nitrogen and phosphorus during the rainy season.
The ban, which includes all of the county's municipalities, ends Sept. 30.
The commonly used ingredients, which help keep lawns green, are causing problems in Tampa Bay area waterways, said Holly Greening, executive director of the Tampa Bay Estuary Program.
"When excess nutrients run off the land, it can result in an algae bloom, which can reduce the amount of oxygen in the water and cause fish kills," Greening said.
The problem is that during the summer months the afternoon thunderstorms can dump several inches of water in a short amount of time, and wash away recently applied fertilizer.
At the Lowe's home improvement store in Clearwater, the shelves are already marked showing which fertilizers are approved for summer use. On Wednesday those containing the banned nutrients will be removed.
Lowe's garden specialist and master gardener Sally Ervin said there are substitute products homeowners can use to keep their lawns healthy and green through the summer.
She recommends using iron products, compost or cow manure. Sunniland, a Florida manufacturer, also has a product without nitrogen and phosphorus called Summergreen. It costs about the same as traditional fertilizers.
Pinellas' ordinance is one of the most restrictive in West Central Florida. Manatee and Sarasota counties restrict the use of fertilizers, but don't ban the sale of the products. Hillsborough County has no rules on the use or sale of fertilizers. Later this week, however, the city of Tampa plans to consider implementing its own fertilizer ordinance.


Water district eliminates basin boards - Highlands Today - by Gary Pinnell
May 31, 2011
Home, biz owners will save money, have less representation
SEBRING - In the budget bill that Gov. Rick Scott signed last week was a 32 percent cut for the South Florida Water Management District and 36 percent less for the Southwest Florida Water Management District.
To compensate, the Southwest Florida district eliminated its basin boards.
What's a basin board, and how does that affect Highlands County?
"The basin boards had separate taxing authority," said Ray Royce, executive director of Highlands County Citrus Growers Association and Heartland Agricultural Coalition. "We were part of the Peace River Basin," a water district subcommittee.
Last year's Highlands County property tax rate, said district spokeswoman Robin Felix, was 0.3770. The Peace River Basin Board assessed 0.1827. In the coming year, the water district board has suggested the combined millage will be about 0.4.
How much will that save the Highlands County owner of a $100,000 home?
About $7.98, said Ed Sager, commercial coordinator in the Highlands County Property Appraiser's Office. "You can barely get lunch on that."
Highlands County doesn't have a representative on the eight-member water district board, but Fred Trippensee of Avon Park was vice chair of the Peace River Basin Board.
"That allowed us to have a larger voice in the water management district," said Highlands County lakes manager Clell Ford. "That voice is now diluted."
Ford said Highlands County residents paid more money to the Peace River Basin Board than they received, but nevertheless, the board funded several local projects, including the diversion of Lake Placid stormwater from Lake Clay.
"The stormwater was adding nutrients that, over time, would do things to Lake Clay. We saw a steady decline in water quality," Ford said.
Similar projects were funded in the cities of Sebring and Avon Park lakes, and the Carter Creek watershed, from Avon Park airport to Sun 'N Lake to Highlands Ridge.
"Without that tool, I don't know how we're going to do it," Ford said.
Genesis of a tax cut
The tax-cutting proposals came from the governor, according to a Palm Beach Post capitol report.
House budget chief Denise Grimsley, R-Sebring, advanced the offer, similar to a deeper cut pushed by her Senate counterpart, J.D. Alexander, R-Lake Wales.
Alexander, a citrus grower whose district includes Okeechobee and Glades counties, has been pushing to more tightly restrict water management district spending for months, the Post said.
Florida's five water management districts collect more than $1 billion in property taxes, with the South Florida Water Management District alone garnering $411 million.
Alexander complained that districts have been sitting on reserves that could cover existing costs and make room for the property tax break. The South Florida district has $346 million in reserves, Alexander told the Post.
Environmentalists feared the tax-cut package could threaten Everglades restoration.
Also, because of slumping property tax values across the region, tax revenue collected by the district already has dropped about $150 million since 2007-08. State Rep. Trudi Williams, R-Fort Myers, a former South Florida district board member, questioned whether the district could manage its flood control and maintenance responsibilities with such a steep reduction.
Another recent development: both water management district executive directors have resigned in the past month. Carol Wehle at South Florida retired April 29. Dave Moore at Southwest Florida gave no reason for resigning Thursday.


Hungry beetles to be set loose on invasive Everglades plants
Sun Sentinel - by William E. Gibson, Washington Bureau
May 29, 2011
WASHINGTON — Some of the busiest workers restoring the Everglades are ugly little weevils that gobble up the leaves of invasive plants that choke much of Florida's marshland.
For more than two decades after they were released into the wild, weevils known as the Australian snout beetle have been munching the leaves of melaleuca trees to stop them from spreading seeds and turning sawgrass meadows into dense, water-sucking forests.
Now federal scientists are preparing to escalate the bug attack by rearing tens of thousands of the snout beetles over the next few years and mass-producing other useful insects after testing them at an expanded Invasive Plant Research Laboratory in Davie.
The lab's scientists say bugs play a vital role in restoring the damaged ecosystem by ridding the 'Glades of invasive plants that alter the soil and water, limit sunlight penetration and crowd out native species.
The enemy comes in several varieties, but the main villain is melaleuca, a native of Australia that was once planted as an ornamental tree but has taken over much of South and Central Florida. A single tree can reach 50 feet and drop millions of seeds at a time.
Scientists are optimistic a concerted bug attack will produce clear victories.
"Within 10 years, melaleuca will be a non-issue," predicted Ted Center, research leader at the lab.
Other helpers include a tiny sap feeder called a psyllid, which looks like an aphid, and a fly known as a midge. All must be carefully tested and constantly monitored to make certain they cripple invasive species without damaging native plants and animals.
Center said other invaders — Brazilian pepper, Australian pine and Old World climbing fern — may require more time and a different set of bugs.
"We go to an area of the world, often where the invasive plants came from, and look for insects that might be useful for controlling them here," Center said. "The insects that look promising are brought over and studied under quarantine at our lab. If everything's OK, we release them.
"That's where the bottleneck has been. We haven't had the capacity to readily build big populations in the field."
To provide more space and resources, an annex will be added to the lab, and four scientists and eight technicians will be hired. Construction is expected to begin by August and be completed in September 2012.
The $16.7 million cost of the expanded lab and mass production of bugs will be split between the federal government and the state. The Army Corps of Engineers, the U.S. Agricultural Research Service, the University of Florida and the South Florida Water Management District all have a hand in the project.
The annex will house brightly lit chambers that keep the air constantly warm and humid — ideal for "mass rearing" of the snout beetle. Tens of thousands will be raised and released in about two years. Each female produces more than 300 eggs, so scientists expect the larger population to produce millions more.
At the same time, scientists also will be mass-rearing psyllids and midges while importing and testing other bugs.
The snout beetles consume young leaves of melaleuca, disrupting plant growth and greatly reducing the spread of seeds. Because of those seeds, melaleuca continues to reproduce even when adult trees are cleared away.
"All the work we are doing to get water to the right places at the right time at the right depth would be for naught if sawgrass is converted into melaleuca forest," said Dan Thayer, director of land management at the water management district.
The snout beetle lays its eggs on melaleuca leaves. Larvae drop or crawl to the ground to grow into adults, but many don't survive in areas covered with water much of the year. Other bugs, such as the midge, may be a better alternative in wet areas.
"We've seen native plants increase dramatically as the melaleuca declines," said Paul Pratt, a federal scientist at the lab who has been releasing bugs into the greater Everglades area for a dozen years. "We're seeing more Florida panthers, but also more native plants that host the prey that the panthers eat."
Once established, the bugs naturally spread to more of the plants they love to consume. Scientists foresee a more vibrant Everglades — and predict the beetles eventually will eat themselves out of a food supply.
"They'll fly off to find more food, but they won't attack native plants," Pratt said. "And when their host plant decreases to a point when it no longer sustains them, they will die."


Environmentalists say pumping from low Lake Okeechobee to irrigate farms will threaten snail kites
Palm Beach Post - by Christine Stapleton, Staff Writer
May 27, 2011
Everglades snail kite
WEST PALM BEACH — Water managers began pumping water out of drought-stricken Lake Okeechobee to irrigate farms south of the lake on Friday, a move that has angered environmentalists who say removing more water from the lake will threaten the endangered snail kite.
Tests began Friday afternoon on four of the 14 available pumps installed at three sites along the southern rim of the lake. The four pumps will be opened and closed as needed. The lake's water level is at 10.32 feet. At 10.5 feet there is too little water for gravity to pull the water south for irrigation or drinking.
Less than 12 inches of rain have fallen since October, about 8 inches below normal, making this the driest dry season on record. It is not just the lack of rain that worries water managers. Evapotranspiration -- evaporation coupled with the water loss caused by thirty plants -- is the biggest drain on the lake, said Susan Sylvester, director of operations control at the South Florida Water Management District. The lake loses about 8.6 billion gallons of water with every inch-drop in its water level.
"Evapotranspiration is a huge driver of the drought right now," Sylvester said.
On Monday, Eric Draper, the executive director of Audubon of Florida sent a a letter to the South Florida Water Management District warning of dire consequences for the snail kite if the pumps are used.
"These pumps, if used as intended, will draw down the lake significantly, drying out areas around active nests and contributing to lake-wide harm to the snail kite's only food source - apple snails," Draper wrote. "To date, seventeen snail kite nests on Lake Okeechobee have failed this season and some remaining nests are perched above perilously low water depths."
Snail kite numbers have dropped from more than 3,000 in the mid 1990s to less than 700 now. The bird is a performance indicator of the Everglades, said Paul Gray, the Lake Okeechobee science coordinator for Audubon on Florida. Its health predicts the health of the Everglades. "It is the proverbial canary in the coal mine."
Water managers should have implemented stiffer water restrictions much sooner, Gray said. Growers have been ordered to reduce their water consumption by 45 percent of their permitted allotment.
"We're not desperate yet, but we could get there if we don't get some rain," said Barbara Miedema, a vice president at the Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative. "There is nothing we can do. It all depends on what mother nature does."
However, the drought has had some benefits. Some wetlands, impenetrable by airboat, are now dry, allowing vegetation specialists to remove exotic plant species and replace them with healthy plants, such as bullrush.
"We could see it coming so we have tried to do as much as possible," said Lawrence Gerry, a stormwater treatment coordinator. "It's been a busy winter for vegetation management."
Meanwhile, twice-a-week water restrictions for lawns are being unevenly enforced throughout Palm Beach County. To date, 1,822 warnings have been issued, with Tequesta (574) and Wellington (219) leading the enforcement. Violating the restrictions carries a $125 fine. As of Friday, only 33 citations had been issued, with the most in Delray Beach (15) and Palm Beach (10).
Among the offenders, author James B. Patterson and four other oceanfront home owners in Palm Beach. Patterson could not be reached for comment.


Gov. Scott appoints Estero resident to South Florida Water Management District
Naples Daily News - by LAURA GATES
May 27, 2011
Forging cooperative relationships has been the hallmark of Dan DeLisi’s career as a Southwest Florida land use planner. Now DeLisi will take his strategic thinking skills to the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) as a newly appointed board member.
Gov. Rick Scott has named DeLisi and four others to the district’s nine-member governing board. DeLisi, a 37-year-old Estero resident and principal of the Fort Myers consulting firm DeLisi Fitzgerald, Inc., will represent Collier, Lee, Hendry and Charlotte counties for a term which runs through March 2015.
"Water supply planning really is a big part of growth management these days," said DeLisi, who has a long history of working with environmental policy. Key issues for the SFWMD include everglades restoration and land acquisitions to preserve the area’s water supply.
"We need to buy land and do restoration in a more strategic way," DeLisi said.
Those who have worked with DeLisi note his competency in community planning and his ability to find creative solutions for complex issues.
"He’s very smart," said Brad Cornell, Southwest Florida policy advocate for Collier County Audubon Society and Audubon of Florida. "He’s a collaborative worker in wanting to involve people who want to contribute to a good outcome."
DeLisi has worked with Audubon on several land use projects, including proposals to transfer development rights in Collier and Hendry counties, allowing owners of environmentally sensitive lands to shift development to areas already impacted.
DeLisi also has sought compromise between developers and residents affected by rock mines in eastern Lee County. While he doesn’t always agree with DeLisi, Cornell calls DeLisi a "very willing partner in discussions" who embodies a spirit of cooperation.
"Dan shows a lot of creative approaches in balancing the concerns for citizens, for business and for the environment," Cornell said. "Those are tough institutions to balance, and he’s going to have the same balancing requirements in the water management district."
As a longtime member of the Estero Community Planning Panel (ECPP), DeLisi also has lent his expertise to development of the Estero Community Plan and Estero-specific Land Development Code. DeLisi has helped Estero leaders forge respectful relationships with Lee county officials and the Southwest Florida development community, said Neal Noethlich, emeritus chairman of the ECPP.
"Dan cares deeply about making the Estero community a better place," Noethlich said. "There has been no better proponent of the Estero vision and plan."
DeLisi threw his name out for the SFWMD position after being on the receiving end of poor customer service from the agency, he said.
"The water management district has a reputation for being too heavy-handed when they deal with people, and I think we need to change our approach," DeLisi said. SFWMD reviewers should be eager to work with developers who bring creative ideas to help restore natural waterways, he added.
DeLisi would like to see more developments like The Brooks in Estero. "When The Brooks went in, they restored this incredible flow way that had long been decimated," he noted. "It was a tremendous environmental benefit."
DeLisi’s goals for the SFWMD include ensuring customer interactions are "fair and nice" and seeking out ways to restore waterways which have been disturbed by agricultural use.
One challenge will be doing so with a reduced budget passed by the state legislature. "We’re going to have to figure out how to make due with 30 percent less," DeLisi said.
In his free time, DeLisi enjoys boating with his wife, Koko, and their two children. The family lives along a canal and appreciates the need to protect the region’s waterways. DeLisi recently was elected as first vice president of his synagogue, Temple Judea, and enjoys SCUBA diving, beer brewing and cooking in his wood fire oven.
"I generally like to only cook things that are complicated," he noted. That includes sourdough loaves which require a week of prep before baking. DeLisi also donated a batch of home-brewed pumpkin ale for an Audubon Society fundraiser last fall.
DeLisi is a member of the American Institute of Certified Planners and is certified as a circuit court mediator by the Supreme Court of Florida. A one-time music major, DeLisi has a bachelor’s degree in East Asian Studies and a Master of City Planning and Urban Design Certificate from Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
One of his early role models was famed composer Johann Sebastian Bach. "Bach is a good example of a mathematician who was a musical genius," DeLisi said. "I always liked to think of Bach."


Rooney, Southerland talk agriculture, water rules with Florida Farm Bureau
Florida Independent - by Virginia Chamlee
May 27, 2011
Nearly 75 members of the Florida Farm Bureau met with members of their congressional delegation this week to discuss agricultural issues as part of the group’s annual Field to the Hill event. Among the topics brought up during the event, which ended yesterday, were the controversial numeric nurient criteria, a set of water pollution standards proposed by the EPA, and the heavily debated Farm Bill, which is currently being drafted. #
In an interview posted on Southeast AgNet, Rep. Steve Southerland, R-Panama City, said he felt a “camraderie among farmers” concerning many of the issues affecting Florida, and is especially concerned about the forthcoming Farm Bill (a bill being drafted to replace the Food, Security, and Bioenergy Act of 2008):
This year’s farm bill is gonna be centered on the budget. … There is not a single sector that is not gonna be affected by the national debt. … Because there’s a shrinking budget, we can’t just make good decisions regarding the ag bill, we have to make the very best decisions. So we’re trying to appeal to the appropriators — hey, give us, and allow us, to have more input, because the dollar has to go farther today. … I’m cautiously optimistic, but it’s gonna be long days, long nights.
Southerland also said he had lobbied hard to get a position on the agriculture committee and that he would be taking a close look at trade agreements and how they affect every sector of agriculture in the state.
Rep. Tom Rooney, R-Stuart, was also in attendance at the event, and spoke to AgNet about the EPA’s numeric nutrient criteria: #
We had the numeric nutrient amendment, that was co-sponsored by Marco Rubio, over in the Senate … some success. It wasn’t part of the overall continuing resolution but we did get quite a lengthy delay. We’re hoping that we still have a chance to reverse what [the EPA wants] to do. #
I also think that, legally, there’s going to be some issues with … the EPA picking on Florida, alone. There could be some legal problems with that, which could be good for us.
Rooney said he and Rubio are still hoping to get a response from EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, whom they wrote with their concerns regarding the criteria: “We’re not just sending these letters for our health, we want to get the answers. … It would be horrible if these rules were able to be implemented.”
Together, Rooney and Rubio penned an op-ed that ran in TCPalm in late March, arguing that the criteria would “destroy jobs” and cost the state $2 billion per year. The two also falsely claimed that the criteria were the result of a decision made by the Obama administration. As previously reported by The Florida Independent, the decision to create the nutrient criteria occurred on Jan. 14, 2009, six days before Obama took office, and was actually one of the EPA’s “last acts under the Bush administration” (.pdf).


Industry-sponsored forum on water issues scheduled for next week
Florida Independent - by Virginia Chamlee
May 26, 2011
A water forum sponsored by Associated Industries of Florida and the Florida Section of the American Water Works Association will be held next Friday in Orlando. According to a press release, the event will “address Florida’s water crisis,” with discussions centering on the EPA’s proposed — and controversial — numeric nutrient criteria, a set of water pollution standards that aim to combat the state’s nutrient problem.
Nutrients like phosphorus and nitrogen lead to wide-scale algal blooms and fish kills in state waterways. Environmentalists argue that current regulations aren’t doing enough to stave off the problem.
Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam will act as the featured speaker at the June 3 lunch, and is slated to discuss his “Vision of Florida’s Water Policy.” State Rep. Trudi Williams, R-Ft. Myers, will also be in attendance — discussing the goals of the House Select Committee on Water Policy (which she chairs) and the committee’s upcoming hearings around the state. Williams has gained a reputation as one of the most vocal opponents of the EPA’s nutrient criteria, and even sponsored a bill that would have blocked state and local governments from enforcing them. (Williams’ committee eventually approved a substantially revised version of that measure.)
Associated Industries of Florida, one of the event’s sponsors, has also made clear its opposition to the criteria. Associated Industries President Barney Bishop recently made headlines after slamming EPA chief Lisa Jackson and environmental groups that are supportive of the criteria. Bishop told the Florida Tribune that Jackson “thinks she talks to God and she’s the only one who knows exactly what is the right thing to do about our environment.
In the same interview, Bishop claimed that Florida has clean water, rendering the standards unnecessary: “Ladies and gentleman, we have clean water in Florida. … Don’t let any environmentalist tell you otherwise. It is clean, it smells good, it looks good.”
U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross, R-Lakeland, is also slated to take part in the event, and will be updating attendees on the current status of the EPA criteria and “what is next in Washington.”


Initiate national water works - Letters
May 26, 2011
I think the United States should build a pipeline system from points along the Mississippi River east to central Florida and west to southern California. A pipe perhaps 8 feet in diameter and pumping stations throughout the system would allow for water to refill dried lakes and marshes in Florida or alleviate the recent droughts in Georgia.
There will be periods when no water needs to be pumped, but rather than waiting for a serious flood or drought to hit the U.S. again and having no options, we could start this major works project. Part of the system could even be built with prison labor to keep costs down.
Tom Culhane, Union, NJ


Pumps to keep Lake Okeechobee water moving south, despite environmental threats
Sun Sentinel - by Andy Reid,
May 26, 2011
Pumps will be added to keep drought-strained Lake Okeechobee’s water flowing south, despite environmental objections about draining wildlife habitat.
While that will help irrigate sugar cane fields and potentially boost community water supplies, siphoning the lake threatens wildlife that rely on its water to survive.
Of particular concern is the endangered Everglades snail kite which has already seen 80 percent of its lake habitat dry-up due to lake levels dropping.
Water supply needs for agriculture and communities that get a boost from the lake outweighed the environmental objections, the South Florida Water Management District decided this week.
The district is “closely monitoring water levels and is urging residents and businesses to conserve water and follow landscape irrigation restrictions to stretch available supplies,” the agency said in a statement released Wednesday.
Installing the four temporary pumps at the southern end of the lake comes despite Audubon of Florida warning in a May 23 letter to district officials that pumping threatens to “harmfully impact the success of future Snail Kite nesting for years to come.”
The water supply benefits aren’t worth the environmental damage, according to Audubon.
“Installation and use of temporary forward pumps poses significant risk to the designated critical habitat and nesting success of the Snail Kite. These pumps, if used as intended, will draw down the lake significantly, drying out areas around active nests,” Audubon Executive Director Eric Draper wrote in the letter to the district.
Canals south of the lake deliver water that sugar cane growers and other agricultural operations use for irrigation.
The canals can also deliver lake water to the Everglades water conservation areas, west of Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties.
Those conservation areas are the northern reaches of the Everglades. In addition to providing animal habitat, the conservation areas hold water used to supplement community water supplies in southeast Florida.
Lake Okeechobee on Thursday was 10.28 feet above sea level. That’s almost 3 feet below normal.
At 10.5 feet, gravity can no longer consistently move water in the canals that send lake water south.
Also at 10.5 feet, more than 80 percent of the foraging habitat for the snail kite dries out.
The health of the snail kite is considered a barometer for the overall health of the Everglades. Lake Okeechobee’s water level is important to the kites because the marshes rimming the lake are home to the apple snail – the primary food source for the finicky snail kites.
Snail kite populations during the past decade have dropped from 3,000 to about 700.
In addition to adding the pumps, growers that use lake water for irrigation have been required to cut back water use by 45 percent.
Landscape watering for homes and businesses across South Florida has been limited to twice a week since March 26.
The ongoing drought has resulted in a more than 8-inch rainfall deficit since October, but manmade problems also are to blame for South Florida’s water supply strain.
During rainier times of year, flood control for communities and farms built on former wetlands leads to stormwater getting drained out to sea due to lack of storage space.
During 2010 more than 300 billion gallons of Lake Okeechobee water was drained out to sea to ease the strain on the lake’s 70-year-old dike.


Swiftmud's longtime chief resigns - by Craig Pittman, Times Staff Writer
May 26. 2011
The longtime executive director of the Southwest Florida Water Management District has resigned, leading to questions about whether Gov. Rick Scott is pushing out the directors of all five of the state water districts.
Dave Moore, 54, did not give a specific reason for his departure in his resignation letter, which he sent the governor and his board members at 9 a.m. Thursday. He also did not specify his last day, instead offering to stay in the $194,875-a-year job until a replacement is hired.
Moore, who has run the agency commonly known as Swifmud since 2003, is the second of the five water management executive directors to quit. The first, Carol Wehle, abruptly resigned as executive director of the South Florida Water Management District in April after six years on the job. Wehle was paid $200,000 a year to lead that 1,700-employee agency.
There "may have been a suggestion" from Tallahassee that Moore should quit, said Ronald Oakley, Swiftmud's chairman for the past year.
"When the governor was first elected there were a lot of rumors that he would change all the executive directors," Oakley said, "but you never know whether it's true until something like that happens."
Scott has proposed cutting by 25 percent the budgets of the state's five water management districts, which regulate every aspect of water use, from utility pumping to wetlands development around the state. The Legislature passed a bill ordering Swiftmud to cut its tax rate by 36 percent.
And at Scott's behest Swiftmud's board voted this week to abolish its seven basin boards, volunteer-run taxing districts that oversaw everything from water supply to conservation projects.
"The governor is in the process of replacing all the old horses at the water districts, including the executive directors and the general counsels," said Moore's predecessor, E.G. "Sonny" Vegara, who ran Swiftmud for five years. "Dave has done an exemplary job, but he's still an old horse."
But Moore said that Scott's push to remake the water districts "didn't factor into my decision. These positions aren't meant to be forever....You just come to the point where it's time to leave."
Moore did acknowledge, though, that "had all this change been occurring just two years into my time here, I wouldn't be making this move."
When Moore was hired as executive director, beating 10 other applicants, he was serving as deputy executive director for the agency. For Swiftmud board members to hire him, though, took a flurry of telephone calls with Tallahassee officials under then-Gov. Jeb Bush. It helped that Moore's candidacy was backed by citrus magnate Ben Hill Griffin III.
Moore, a hydrogeologist, has worked for Swiftmud since 1984. The agency now employs 804 people, down this year from a high of about 900.
During his time at the top, Moore said he was proud of the restoration work that has helped clean up Tampa Bay and the imposition of new rules on emergency farm irrigation in the wake of last winter's overpumping in Plant City and Dover that led to sinkholes and other damage.
Oakley said Moore worked hard to create new water supply sources for the district's 16-county region —- until the economy slumped and the state's population boom went bust.
"We went from thinking that we were not going to have enough water to having enough water for 20 years out," he said.


The job-killing governor - Editorial
May 26, 2011
Gov. Rick Scott will sign into law today a $69.7 billion state budget for 2011-12 that he boasts is all about creating jobs and reducing Florida's high unemployment. In fact, it is a job-killing budget that threatens the state's anemic recovery and makes the state less attractive to new residents and businesses. The governor and the Legislature are starving the state instead of investing in it. Let us count the ways they are undermining Florida's economy:
1 State workers Positions in prisons, social services and other areas have been slashed. Scott says he's only interested in private sector jobs. State employees buy houses, cars and appliances, too — even if they have not had raises in five years. Estimated Jobs lost: 4,500.
2 Public schools Spending will drop by $542 per student, or 8 percent. School districts are sending out lay-off notices to thousands of teachers, including 1,400 in Broward and 1,100 in Pinellas. Some of those could keep their jobs. But Pasco schools could eliminate 470 overall positions and Pinellas could cut 400 positions. School districts are the largest employers in many counties. Estimated jobs lost: THOUSANDS.
3 Universities Operating expenses have been cut at the 11 public universities by $140 million, or 4 percent. The University of Florida alone loses $54 million in state money, although some of that will be recovered with an expected 15 percent tuition increase. Florida State University expects to cut 50 faculty members. States that starve higher education cannot attract high-paying new jobs. Estimated jobs lost: Undetermined.
4 Transportation Another $150 million will be transferred from the transportation trust fund to pay for other government services. That means fewer roads will be built, and fewer private construction workers will have jobs. Estimated jobs lost: 8,400.
5 Everglades Money earmarked for restoration has been cut from $200 million in 2008 to a token $30 million in this budget. The water management district budgets have been cut another 25 percent. Over decades, Everglades projects are to create 22,000 jobs directly related to construction and hundreds of thousands of jobs in tourism, commercial fishing and other areas. Estimated jobs lost: hUNDREDS.
6 Health care Medicaid reimbursement rates to hospitals will be cut by 12 percent, or $510.5 million, a decline in state and federal funding that is expected to require hospitals across the state to cut jobs, particularly those such as All Children's in St. Petersburg and Tampa General that serve a high volume of Medicaid patients. All Children's is expecting at least $6 million less in Medicaid funding; Tampa General $19 million. Estimated jobs lost: Undetermined.
* We would mention the Tampa to Orlando high-speed rail project, which would have created 6,200 jobs in 2011 but was killed when Scott rejected $2.4 billion in federal money to pay for it. But that would be piling on.


DeLisi must defend region - Editorial
May. 25, 2011
Welcome to Dan DeLisi, Southwest Florida's new representative on the South Florida Water Management District Governing Board.
He's an accomplished man, a community planner with a master's from MIT and a belief that compromise can turn even profound disputes into "win-win" situations.
DeLisi is one of five governing board members - a majority of the nine-member board - appointed by Gov. Rick Scott. Some fear Scott will gut environmental programs to save money and make life easier for developers.
But DeLisi has won respect from environmentalists for his brains and reasonableness.
"I don't think he'll be bad," says Nancy Payton of the Florida Wildlife Federation. "How good he'll be remains to be seen. He's always given sound reasons for not agreeing with me."
Lee County's big problem with the water district and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is that the Caloosahatchee River and its estuary, crucial to our environment and economy, continue to either get inundated with excess water when Lake Okeechobee becomes too full or starved of fresh water, which is siphoned to other users during a drought, such as now.
Scott wants to cut water management district budgets sharply, endangering Everglades restoration projects. They include a reservoir to even out the damaging fluctuations in freshwater releases into the Caloosahatchee.
DeLisi thinks the reservoir may not be needed or feasible financially. He may be right on the latter point, at least for the time being.
But we need to be convinced that the region's interests, so often neglected by the West Palm Beach-based water district, can be protected without that reservoir.
Maybe DeLisi can figure it out. Good luck.


On orders from Gov. Scott, Swiftmud eliminates seven basin boards - by Craig Pittman, St. Petersburg Times Staff Writer
May 25, 2011
In a move they said was dictated from Tallahassee, Southwest Florida Water Management District board members voted Tuesday to get rid of seven volunteer boards that help with everything from restoring Tampa Bay to planning for future water needs.
The seven basin boards had their own budgets and taxes, and some had been around longer than the water district itself. But as of May 31, they will all be gone.
The proposal to disband all the basin boards wasn't on the meeting agenda posted online, according to Todd Pressman, the district board member who cast the lone vote against. Instead, it came up during a discussion of ways to cut the budget.
But the leaders of the state agency commonly known as Swiftmud were well aware this was coming, Pressman said, and that it was being pushed by Gov. Rick Scott and his staff.
"It's been in the works from Tallahassee for a few months," said Pressman, a Clearwater political consultant and chairman of the Pinellas-Anclote River Basin Board.
Pressman said he opposed the change because no one seemed to know who would take over the basin boards' duties.
The Swiftmud member who made the motion to eliminate the basin boards, Neil Combee, agreed that the word came from Scott's staff to get rid of them.
"Their belief is that it will help streamline things and remove a layer of government," Combee said. He said he agreed with Scott's staff that "times have changed" and the basin boards were no longer necessary.
As a former basin board member, Combee said, he became convinced that the Swiftmud board itself can do the basin boards' job, cutting out a layer of bureaucracy.
Neither the basin board members nor the governing board members are paid, but the staff estimated that eliminating the basin boards would "save $350,000 to $400,000 annually," said Swiftmud spokeswoman Robyn Felix.
Swiftmud is facing a major cash crunch because the governor and Legislature ordered it to cut its taxes by 36 percent this year — more than any of the other five state water districts, said Pressman.
Among the negatives listed by the Swiftmud staff in a memo on eliminating the basin boards: "Removes local representation for local expenditure of local taxes." Among the pros: "Quick, clean and carries out the direction from the governor and Department of Environmental Protection."
The DEP did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday.
Even among the basin board members, opinions were divided about whether their elimination was a good idea. Housh Ghovaee, a member of the Pinellas-Anclote board, called it a great loss, while Terry England, the Pinellas-Anclote board's vice chair, said he thought it was a good idea to downsize government whenever possible.
Still, England said, "we helped them keep their fingers on the pulse of what the citizens wanted on reclaimed water and who was having flood problems." For instance, he said, Pinellas-Anclote helped pay to clean up St. Petersburg's Clam Bayou.
He questioned how the Swiftmud board can provide the same representation of the region.
The basin boards were set up to cover sections of Swiftmud's 16-county region, stretching from Levy and Marion counties in the north to Charlotte County in the south and to Polk in the east. Each region covers the watershed or drainage basin for one of the waterways in that area.
The governor appoints the basin board members, who are confirmed by the state Senate. However, in recent years the appointment process has lagged, to the point where some boards were unable to get a quorum for legal meetings, Combee said.
Each basin board has the power to levy up to 50 cents in taxes for every $1,000 of property value, and the money can be spent only within that basin. Basin board tax money helped pay for such projects as Tampa Bay Water's desalination plant.
Gerald Seeber, general manager of Tampa Bay Water, worried that without the basin boards and their taxes, "fewer dollars will be available around the region to city and county government for new water supply projects."
However, since the utility isn't planning to build anything else for a while, Seeber said, "the impact will not be realized at our agency for several years."
The basin boards would have had $40 million to spend in 2012, Felix said. That money will now be handed out by the Swiftmud board instead, she said, although how that will work has yet to be determined.
"The basin boards are not a duplication" of what the governing board does, Pressman said. He said he has heard intense opposition to their elimination from local government officials throughout the region, but it was outweighed by political pressure from Tallahassee.


Power plant in panther habitat wins zoning approval
Sun Sentinel - by David Fleshler
May 25, 2011
A large power plant proposed for Florida panther habitat south of Lake Okeechobee passed an important hurdle Tuesday when the Hendry County Commission voted unanimously to rezone 3,127 acres of ranch land for the project.
Eddie Garcia, a Palm Beach Gardens real estate developer, sought the rezoning to accommodate a combined natural gas and solar plant capable of generating more than 3,750 megawatts of electricity, about three times the capacity of Florida Power & Light’s plant at Port Everglades.
The proposed Hendry Next Generation Clean Energy Center still needs to obtain many more approvals, including those of the Florida Public Service Commission, Florida Department of Environmental Protection and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. And FPL, the presumptive builder and operator, has not yet committed to the deal, although it has been involved in the project.
Garcia’s plan calls for mitigating the destruction of panther habitat by giving perpetual protection to adjacent panther habitat. But several environmental groups are fighting the proposal, including the South Florida Wildlands Association, Conservancy of Southwest Florida and Sierra Club, saying it will destroy habitat for several endangered species, contribute to global warming and use massive quantities of water.
“Sierra Club will continue to fight this proposed power plant and any other urban or industrial project in the vicinity which would threaten the Florida panther's remaining habitat, so critically needed for its survival,” stated a news release by the Sierra Club issued Wednesday.
Also opposed is the Seminole Tribe. The Florida Wildlife Federation supports it because of the protection the plan would afford nearby panther habitat.


Protect our water table – Letter by C.F. Neeley
May 25, 2011
Editor:  Here in Highlands County the Blue Head Ranch is asking for more water, for more crops. My question is why? And for what crops? The ones needed here in Florida by the residents of south Central Florida or all over the world?
Here in the middle of the county (Lake Placid) we are at the very least 4 to 5 feet below normal due to lack of rain for years and growers are pulling more water than was the original agreement.
Do we the citizens have no say in our water? Are our commissioners so dumb and blind that they can not see the low water table? The greedy money grabbers have known for years that they need water, where is the saline plants to draw sea water for their crops? Or is it take the money and run while we the residents have to cut, cut and cut more while the money grubbers get more and more and more?
This never came upon them "growers" and the commission today or yesterday, it has been in the making for years. They just put in a gas line from coast to coast why not a transmission water line with treated sea water?
Let the welfare tax people, like the farmers and growers, put something back like water. They use our water for citrus and the like and we pay more for it here than we can buy the same product when shipped 1,100 miles away at a third of the cost.
Commissioners take a long hard look at this request for more water. When we have no water, you will not be needed because we will leave and guess what, no taxes. You need to stand with the people not the money grubbers and the low water makers and the sink hole makers from the water table being too low. So, do your job and serve and protect the citizens of this county. No more water for Blue Head or any other money grubbing on our water source.


Florida and the EPA Slammed with Failure to Preserve the Everglades
SEO Law Firm - by Krystina Steffen, staff In Good Practice writer
May 24, 2011
The Everglades are a meandering chain of sawgrass marshes, forested uplands and freshwater ponds that provide a habitat for birds, fish, wildlife, and a diversity of unique plants. The River of Grass, as it is called, is also critical to the state’s tourism industry and the seven million people that rely on it for drinking water. And now it is the battlegrounds of the federal government against the state, as Florida faces allegations of failing to preserve the Everglades’ water quality and overall health.
U.S. District Judge Alan Gold has given the state and the Environmental Protection Agency until July 1 to show what they are doing to reduce pollution as mandated by the federal Clean Water Act. [1] Nearby sugar farms and agricultural businesses unleash pollutants such as phosphorous and nitrogen as byproducts from fertilizer and farming practices. Sulfate is then used to kill off algae blooms that are created from these chemicals that choke the waterways. But when sulfate combines with other elements in the ecosystem – some natural and some from manmade waste – it creates methylmercury, which drifts into the Everglades vital waterways. [2] These potent chemicals harm plant populations, create serious neurological and hormone problems in animals, and over time diminish the livelihood of the entire area. [3]
For more than 25 years, the Everglades have been decreasing in stability as opposing parties duke it out in various courts to protect their special interests. Advocates for the Everglades recently took out full-page ads in the Washington Post and other D.C. newspapers in hopes of President Obama latching onto the fight to save and restore the World Heritage site.
 “Big Sugar and the state’s other chronic polluters have lobbied and litigated to delay the cleanup of fertilizer and hazardous toxins,” said the Everglades Foundation in their ad. [4] “While BP is paying 100 percent of the cost of cleaning up their oil spill, Big Sugar has successfully pushed the cost of cleaning up their pollution onto taxpayers.”
The EPA and state have not enforced tough enough regulations against agricultural back-pumping and chemical treatment, they said. Environmental advocates show that the permit process of discharging chemicals into the state’s coveted waterbody is lax to non-existent. Waste and stormwater treatment areas are not big enough and enforced appropriately to restore the Everglades for future generations to enjoy. Florida Governor Rick Scott asked the EPA to “…drop numeric limits for nutrients such as phosphorous in Florida waterways.” [5] With lower standards, polluted waterbodies would be deemed safe again and affect upstream waterways by increasing the flow of detrimental chemicals to these areas, say scientists. [6] Florida also reset deadlines from 2006 to 2016 for its cleanup plan to decrease the harsh levels of the chemical when it amended the Everglades Forever Act several years ago. [7]
 “We don’t have a Silicon Valley,” said former Florida Governor Bob Graham. [8] “We don’t have a steel or auto industry in Florida. Our economy is so intertwined with our natural resources and our environment that if we allow that to deteriorate, then we’re really sacrificing our future economic growth. The consequence of [downgrading environmental protections] is to go back to the era where we looked at Florida and just said it’s not really worth very much. If we don’t like what it is, let’s change it and let’s put it on the auction block.”
Florida has done so much over the last decades to reshape its image yet it wrestles with this vital wetland area that protects its citizens from deadly hurricanes and provides much needed drinking water, amongst other key reasons to safeguard its viability. “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,” said Judge Gold in his 76-page ruling against the EPA and Florida. [9] “State agencies and water managers have not been true stewards of protecting the Everglades in recent years.”
The state’s Department of Environmental Protection feels differently and is planning an appeal. “The Florida DEP maintains that its permitting actions have been consistent with the Clean Water Act, Florida law and the Court’s earlier order,” said DEP Secretary Michael W. Sole. [10] “DEP and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency have worked in close coordination in establishing water quality standards and issuing permits that are not only in compliance with the Clean Water Act but also are protective of the Everglades. With more than $1.8 billion already invested in water quality improvements, the state has demonstrated unwavering commitment to clean up and restore the Everglades. We remain committed to cooperating and negotiating with our federal partners to build the right suite of projects and implement permits that will bring meaningful progress in restoring the Everglades.”
In 2000, Congress passed the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan to help revitalize the Everglades over the next 30 years via a 50-50 partnership with the state and federal government for funding. [11] The Everglades, which once covered 11,000 square miles, has been diminished to half the size, and parts of CERP have fallen short of implementation as costs have risen to create a bad-to-worse scenario. [12] From $200 million in the Jeb Bush years to $50 million and now Rick Scott’s proposed $17 million in funding, the Everglades has become a victim of politics, say Everglades advocates. [13] In 2010, funding totaled $3.5 billion and no major projects were completed to uphold the Everglade’s ecological needs. [14]
“Protection of the Everglades requires a major commitment which cannot be simply pushed aside in the face of financial hardships, political opposition, or other excuses,” said Judge Gold. [15] “These obstacles will always exist, but the Everglades will not – especially if the protracted pace of preservation efforts continues at the current pace.”
With the July 1 deadline looming, the EPA, Florida, and South Florida’s Water Management District are in the hot seat. Advocates say Gold’s ruling is meant to enforce action and timetables that finally will implement remedies to save the Everglade’s livelihood. “Judge Gold’s and the EPA’s actions are not an assault on states’ rights,” said the Friends of the Everglades coalition. [16] “The EPA is doing what Congress authorized and required it to do – by assuming control over federal permitting when the state is unwilling or unable to issue permits that comply with federal law.”
From the beginning of the 1900s, Florida has grappled with the Everglades as it developed viable farmland and cities. As it struggles today to continue its farming traditions and foster the health of its citizens, wildlife and natural beauty, these prized wetlands will reflect Florida’s and the nation’s sentiments about the environment. Will it become a place of progress or remain in critical condition ?
The Newsroom extends editorial freedom to their staff writers thus the views expressed in this column may not reflect the views of, Adviatech Corp., or any of its holdings, affiliates, or advertisers.


Officials: Treated Waste From Sewer Plants No Threat to Public Health
The Ledger - by Tom Palmer
May 24, 2011
BARTOW | Land disposal of treated wastes from sewer plants and septic tanks poses no serious threat to public health or the environment, County Commissioners were told Tuesday.
However, commissioners said they are still concerned how well the rules for disposing of these wastes are being enforced, based on complaints they receive.
The presentation by environmental officials and a university researcher was scheduled after area residents appeared before the commission earlier this year complaining about having to put up with foul odors and flocks of vultures at disposal areas near their homes on the outskirts of Lake Wales and Mulberry.
Maurice Barker from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection said the current rules require the wastes to be treated to reduce the threat of disease and concentrations of metals that can cause health problems.
He said revised rules will include even more oversight and there will be more restrictions on where disposal can occur to prevent groundwater and surface water contamination.
George O'Connor, an environmental soil chemist from the University of Florida, said although the wastes can improve soil fertility — the wastes are most commonly used in pasture and hay fields — and provide other benefits, odor is a "big issue."
He said the wastes disposed of in Florida are "high quality" and cited studies that showed no health effects.
Loretta Firis from the Polk County Health Department, said the septic waste disposal sites are inspected twice a year and citizen complaints about odors and other problems are investigated.
After the presentation, Commissioner Melony Bell in whose district most of the complaints have originated, said she was grateful for the information but was still troubled.
"I don't think we have enough policing," she said. "We have got to protect the citizens."
Commissioner Bob English agreed.
"I think it's safe, but we need to be vigilant to make sure the rules are followed,'' he said.


Two Groups Want DEP Secretary Vinyard Disqualified Under Federal Rule
Sunshine News – by Kenric Ward's blog
May 24, 2011
Florida’s top environmental official contends that the federal Clean Water Act conflict-of-interest disqualification does not apply to him, but two environmental groups are calling him on it.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is deciding whether Herschel Vinyard, secretary of Florida's Department of Environmental Protection, must recuse himself from all water permit and standards actions because of his ties to industry.
On Feb. 23, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility and the Florida Clean Water Network filed a complaint with EPA requesting that Vinyard be barred from making any decisions on pollution discharge permits in federally delegated and financed water quality programs. The groups cited a provision barring individuals who have “during the previous two years received a significant portion of [their] income directly or indirectly from permit holders or applicants for a permit.”  
The complaint noted Vinyard’s tenure as director of operations for BAE Systems Southeast Shipyards, where he was involved in its permits for its treated wastewater as well as its other regulatory affairs. He was also the chairman of the Shipbuilders Council of America, representing 40 companies operating 100 shipyards.
In an April 8 letter, EPA Regional Counsel Mary Wilkes wrote that if the groups’ contentions are correct, Vinyard would have to create an “irrevocable delegation” of water quality duties to another state official for at least two years.   
In a May 2 reply to EPA, DEP General Counsel Thomas Beason argued that Vinyard’s direct regulatory experience was not of sufficiently great duration or depth. Beason asserted that Vinyard was employed with BAE Systems Southeast Shipyards AMHC, Inc. only for the two-week period during which Gov. Rick Scott appointed Vinyard to head the DEP.  
In a May 20 rebuttal, PEER and Florida Clean Water Network detailed Vinyard’s extensive direct involvement with permit matters, and called the DEP response a “clear effort to rewrite history.”   
“Governor Scott picked Vinyard precisely because of his industry record -- a record that disqualifies him to oversee the permits he used to seek,” stated Florida PEER Director Jerry Phillips, a former DEP enforcement attorney. “You can’t have it both ways: Either the governor was given a bogus résumé for this guy or Vinyard is now trying to run away from his past.”
Linda Young, director of the Florida Clean Water Network, said, “The state of Florida has thumbed its nose at the Clean Water Act for many years, but Rick Scott putting a polluter’s lawyer in the top position at DEP is beyond flippant, it’s more of a middle finger at the law of the land."


New watering limits for growers as Lake Okeechobee drops
Sun Sentinel – by Andy Reid
May 23, 2011
New irrigation restrictions kicked in Monday for sugar cane growers and other agriculture due to drought-strained Lake Okeechobee dropping too low to keep water flowing to South Florida.
Lake Okeechobee is South Florida’s primary backup water supply as well as a vital source of water for the Everglades and other wildlife habitat.
Under the new watering restrictions, agriculture that relies on Lake Okeechobee for irrigation now must cut its water use 45 percent. That’s up from the 15 percent cutbacks that had been in place since March.
The South Florida Water Management District imposed the additional watering restrictions on agriculture because lake levels last week dropped below 10.5 above sea level. That’s the point where gravity can no longer consistently move lake water into the canals that send water south.
On Monday, the lake’s elevation was 10.41 feet, about 2.8 feet below normal and 4 feet below this time last year.
The district this week may start installing temporary pumps that can keep a reduced amount of lake water moving south.
The first pumps are being considered for the West Palm Beach canal. The district may hold off on adding pumps to the other outlets south of the lake to see if the summer rainy season begins to bring relief to water supplies.
"This week is going to be our first kind of test week," said Barbara Miedema, vice president of the Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative of Florida. "We are praying for rainfall."
The canals south of the lake that growers rely on for irrigation also deliver lake water to the Everglades water conservation areas, west of Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties.
Those conservation areas are the northern reaches of the Everglades. In addition to providing animal habitat, the conservation areas hold water used to supplement community water supplies in southeast Florida.
With Lake Okeechobee below 10.5 feet, there’s not enough back up water to provide a boost for South Florida’s ecological or community water supply needs.
Putting more limits on agriculture’s use of water is supposed to help stretch existing supplies.
The lake’s continued decline so far hasn’t triggered a change to the emergency landscape irrigation restrictions in place for South Florida homes and businesses since March.
Landscape irrigation accounts for about half of the use of the public water supply. Twice-a-week watering remains the limit for landscape irrigation.
While a drier-than-normal dry season has led to a more than 8 inch rainfall deficit, South Florida’s water supply strain is also affected by manmade problems.
Flood control for communities and farms built on what used to be the Everglades leads to stormwater during rainier times of year getting drained out to sea, instead of held for times of need.
During 2010 more than 300 billion gallons of Lake Okeechobee water was drained out to sea to ease the strain on the lake’s 70-year-old dike.


UF update: Graduate student ready to dig into ecological restoration
TCPalm - Compiled by UF
May 23, 2011
Passion and purpose shimmers in the eyes of graduate student Adrienne Smith when she explains how she intends to pursue a career in ecological restoration.
Smith envisions herself digging deeper into the field's vast possibilities and waterways. Having almost completed a master's degree in environmental horticulture at the University of Florida Indian River Research and Education Center (UF/IRREC) near Fort Pierce, her resumélists impressive accomplishments. Her cumulative experience includes scholarship and fellowship awards, an internship with the premier foundation leading Florida Everglades restoration and scientific research experience conducted one-on-one alongside highly respected research professors.
"I like to grow plants, learn more about them," she said. "There will always be something to discover."
Smith's graduate research project, "The Growth and Development of Native Wildflowers In Varying Containerized Media," is in full progress, under the direction of UF/IRREC associate professor Sandra Wilson, who leads the environmental horticulture department at the local location. The research will provide local growers with a successful technique to grow native wildflowers for commercial production. Native Florida plants are sought after by local government and theme park horticulturalists for their low maintenance characteristics and ability to attract wildlife. Large scale commercial production and distribution will flow into more choices for homeowners' gardens, Smith said.
The UF/IRREC location offers the largest department of its kind away from the university's main campus in Gainesville, two botanical gardens open to the public and university-level courses taught by Wilson.
Smith's studies were supported by scholarships awarded to her by garden clubs. The Garden Club of Indian River County has provided eight $1,000 scholarships to residents of Indian River County. Smith received an award early last year. She was also recipient of the Mary S. Compton Orlando Garden Club Fellowship, a $2,000 award to offset graduate tuition. She competed along with students earning degrees from UF's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences statewide for the fellowship award.
Smith is interested in work to restore natural habitats to their original, historic ecosystems. This work is gaining importance as managers of large land tracts, such as ranches and state parks, witness the encroachment of invasive species and development. Florida spends billions of dollars each year managing invasive species on public land. A total cost for private lands is not quantified. Managing plants and restoring native plants is environmental horticulture.
The Florida Everglades exemplifies the cost of invasive species and the loss of natural resources. It is the world's largest, most ambitious and challenging ecological restoration effort.
Smith, along with four fellow students, have quantified the value Everglades ecological restoration. Last summer, she served as an Everglades summer intern with the Arthur R. Marshall Foundation & Florida Environmental Institute Inc. She and her fellow students received a $2,000 stipend, and devoted 11 weeks to a full-time program in which they learned the history and ecology of the water system. They also contributed to the saving effort by quantifying, or "valuing the ecosystem services" the "River of Grass" has to offer its native region, and they spoke with high-ranking officials engaged in the Everglades restoration effort. The students' work is being edited and is expected to be published in scholarly science journals. The group presented a poster with some elements of its findings at the Greater Everglades Ecosystem Restoration Conference held in Naples last year. It also made a presentation before the Governing Board of the South Florida Water Management District.
Smith recognizes ecological restoration can be controversial, yet highly rewarding. One of the most compelling experiences she had during her educational pursuits was meeting Col. Alfred A. Pantano Jr., district commander of the Corps of Engineers, Jacksonville District. Pantano is thought to be the most prominent person in Everglades restoration and regulation efforts. Officials with the Arthur R. Marshall Foundation said "sheet flow" needs to be reestablished in the Everglades. Smith understands well the need for "sheet flow" among the governmental agencies and special interest groups who are working together to restore the Everglades.


Everglades funding should be protected
Central Florida Future - by Michael McCombie, Guest Columnist
May 22, 2011
The Florida legislature recently approved the state's $70 billion annual budget. The new budget, which passed on May 7, closes a $4 billion budget shortfall, according to First Coast News. One program that took a hit in the process is the Everglades Restoration project, which is a project that needs to be preserved. The budget would cut some $30 million from this project, according to an article in the website of National Public Radio.
Governor Rick Scott said that this was his "Jobs Budget" aimed at getting Floridians back to work, but the budget would cut the funding to a project that created nearly 3,000 jobs in 2009, according to the Everglades Coalition. Without this funding, it is likely that most of those employees will either lose their jobs or see drastic pay cuts.
This project not only creates jobs, but also helps protect one of Florida's most vital resources. The Everglades is the United States' 3rd largest national park, and gives a home to most of Florida's endangered species, including rare birds, alligators, and panthers. If the government doesn't give the restoration project the funding that it needs, then many of these native species will die out.
Cutting Everglades funding will also affect tourism, which is Florida's most important industry. The most recent figures from the National Park Service show that the Everglades had 822,118 visitors in 2008. By cutting funding for this restoration project, it is likely that, over time, the rate of tourism brought by this site will steadily decrease every year. Furthermore, Florida's main tourist attractions, its beaches and coastlines, are kept clean in part due to the mangroves in the Everglades that act as natural water filtration systems. Because of budget cuts to this project, tourism in Florida could suffer as a result.
Everglades funding should be preserved because of the work that it accomplishes and the jobs that it creates. For example, this project has done a number of important things, including elevating the Tamiami highway. The Everglades Coalition projects that this project will create 1,212 jobs between 2010 and 2012. Cutting funding for this project will not help our economic growth.
According to the Asbury Park Press, the budget cuts $30 million from the corporate-income tax. Instead of making these types of choices, maybe we should consider investing in projects like this one as a way to spark Florida's economic growth.
Last October, the Everglades Coalition released the results of a year-long study that estimated that the economy receives a four-to-one economic benefit for ever dollar invested in restoration projects. In a different study completed by Mather Economics, it was estimated that investing nearly $12 billion in Everglades restoration would bring more than $46 billion in returns and create 400,000 jobs over 50 years.
Corporate tax cuts should not take priority over protecting our environment. The Florida Everglades are a natural wonder that should be an important funding priority for our government. Sacrificing real jobs and the restoration and protection of the Everglades for tax cuts and hypothetical job growth is a short term solution and risks our long term economic prosperity and environmental stability.


Protecting migrating birds could block water Everglades needs
Sun Sentinel - by Andy Reid
May 22, 2011
Black-necked stilts nests could restrict water flows to Everglades.
In a feathery twist of fate, protecting a bird threatens to get in the way of saving the Everglades.
Migrating birds called black-necked stilts are taking advantage of drought-strained South Florida conditions and nesting by the dozens in dry portions of stormwater-treatment areas.
Those areas are man-made filter marshes intended to clean pollutants from water that drains off farmland before heading to the Everglades. The treatment areas stretch across more than 50,000 acres of former agricultural fields, mostly in western Palm Beach County.
The timing of the black-necked stilts nesting during the lingering drought threatens to create federally protected obstacles to hydrating the Everglades when summer rains begin.
Drought conditions already leave the stormwater-treatment areas with less water than they need. Trying to keep water away from the nesting birds adds another unwelcome hurdle, said Stephen Davis, wetland ecologist for the Everglades Foundation environmental group.
Keeping stormwater out of the treatment areas to protect the nesting birds could mean delaying much-needed water deliveries to the Everglades or even dumping more water out to sea to avoid flooding concerns.
"It's kind of a double-edged sword with these birds," Davis said. "We're more concerned about getting clean water to the Everglades."
The black-and-white birds, with long legs and long narrow beaks, nest on the ground at the waterline.
In early May there were just four stilts nests in the stormwater treatment areas. One week later, more than 100 had spread across the treatment areas, built on land that was once part of the Everglades.
It takes about 28 days for black-necked stilts' eggs to hatch and for the newborns to leave the nest, according to the district. The stilt's nesting cycle lines up with the usual late-May, early-June beginning to Florida's summer rainy season.
Federal protections for migratory birds require the water management district to try to avoid disrupting their nesting, which restricts the district's ability to raise water levels in the treatment areas, said Deborah Drum, district deputy director of Everglades restoration.
The district monitors nesting locations and follows an "avian protection plan," created in cooperation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, to lessen the impact of moving stormwater through the treatment areas
"These birds are protected," Drum said. The district tries to "flow water in areas that either don't have nests or have a minimal number of nests," she said.
The same nesting problem surfaced during previous droughts and is expected to get worse as the district expands the stormwater treatment areas to try to meet overdue water quality standards.
Better water management decisions earlier in the year could have helped avoid the dry conditions in the treatment areas that allowed the black-necked stilts to move in, according to Jane Graham of Audubon of Florida.
Audubon — dedicated to protecting birds as well as a strong advocate for Everglades restoration — earlier in the year called for tougher watering restrictions to try to beef up water supplies.
That would have allowed the district to have more water on hand to restock the treatment areas during the drought, which could have avoided the dry spots attracting nesting stilts, Graham said.
Now that the nests are there, flooding the birds shouldn't be an option even though the Everglades needs water, Graham said.
"It's definitely a strange situation," Graham said. "Not enough water was saved. … This is an example of what happens."


State dismantles growth-management laws
Miami Herald - by Andres Viglucci
May 22, 2011
The Florida Legislature’s dismantling of the state’s growth-management system calls into question the future of Miami-Dade County’s Urban Development Boundary, which has contained suburban sprawl into farmlands and the Everglades.
For a generation, a sharp and sometimes controversial line has contained Miami-Dade’s explosive urban growth like a gasket, largely insulating the county’s fragile agricultural hinterlands, surviving wetlands and two national parks from subdivisions and commercial-strip development.
Now the days of holding the line on the Urban Development Boundary — the focus of some of the fiercest local battles over growth and the environment — may be drawing to an end.
Measures approved by the Florida Legislature with little scrutiny or debate in the waning moments of this year’s session would dismantle the state oversight that has acted as the principal brake on repeated efforts by the county commission to breach the line for new development.
The measures, almost sure to be signed by business-friendly Gov. Rick Scott, would significantly water down the state’s 25-year-old growth-management system, giving counties and municipalities far greater freedom to amend the local comprehensive development plans that are meant to control suburban sprawl. The UDB, which runs along the inside of the county’s western and southern edges as well as its southeastern coastal fringe, is a key feature of Miami-Dade’s comp plan. Development outside the line is limited, in most areas, to one dwelling per five acres.
Given the Miami-Dade Commission’s history of voting repeatedly to alter its comp plan to move the line, UDB supporters say there would be little standing in elected officials’ way once the measures become law. They note the county recently fought for years to win approval of a Lowe’s Superstore outside the UDB over residents’ and state planners’ objections — and two vetoes by then-mayor Carlos Alvarez — before it was ultimately rejected by then-Gov. Charlie Crist and the state Cabinet, acting under existing growth-management law.
But that kind of challenge by residents will likely become significantly harder, if not impossible, under the approved bills, which in most cases would end state review of such local planning decisions. Backers of the overhaul, including business groups like the Florida Chamber of Commerce, contend that state growth rules have needlessly blocked or delayed development and the jobs it brings, and that such decisions are best left to local government.
In Miami-Dade, hold-the-line advocates and others predict the changes will lead landowners and developers who have been banking land in the agricultural Redland and other environmentally sensitive areas outside the UDB to begin applying for — with likely commission approval — an increasing number of amendments requiring that the line be moved to accommodate development.
“I’m not under any delusions. Surely history will suggest that Miami Dade County is likely to approve a lot more UDB amendments,’’ said Richard Grosso, a law professor at Nova Southeastern University who represented two environmental groups in the Lowe’s case. “The county has rarely denied them.’’
Though the existing oversupply of suburban homes and banks’ continuing reluctance to finance developers suggests the effects won’t be immediate, Grosso and other UDB advocates say some landowners who have been waiting years for rules to be relaxed may want to lock in entitlements so they can build once the economy recovers sufficiently. In time, they fear, Miami-Dade will look like Broward County — fully paved from the Atlantic Ocean to the Everglades dike, with no remaining agricultural land.


Water district's man in middle
May. 22, 2011
New appointee DeLisi sees role as mediator
As Southwest Florida’s new representative on the South Florida Water Management District’s governing board, Dan DeLisi wants to help manage the area’s water resources through the art of compromise.
Gov. Rick Scott appointed DeLisi, 37, and four others to the governing board last week. DeLisi, 37, replaces Charles Dauray, who had been appointed to the board in 2007 by Gov. Charlie Crist.
“I’ve known Dan a long time, and I think he’s going to be a good representative for our water resources interests,” said Brad Cornell of the Collier County Audubon Society. “He’s a smart guy, and he knows the territory.”
DeLisi, whose term will end March 1, 2015, is not concerned that the position comes with a certain amount of controversy, with the district trying to balance the water needs of the environment, agriculture and development.
“I’ve never shied away from controversy,” DeLisi said. “I’m a certified mediator, and I take a mediator’s approach to land-use planning, looking for win-win solutions.
“I don’t think agricultural and environmental interests are contrary with each other. Same thing with business and development.”
DeLisi’s win-win approach, however, doesn’t mean he’ll please everybody in every situation.
In fact, he said he doesn’t mind being the bad guy when he has to be.
“I get support from environmental groups who share the perception of win-win solutions,” DeLisi said. “The environmental groups that want to protect everything: Those are the ones that don’t support me.
“But I want to bring those people to the table. They have valid arguments that need to be heard.”
A graduate of the Interlochen Arts Academy high school in Interlochen, Mich., DeLisi earned a degree in East Asian studies from Brandeis University in Boston and a master’s degree in city planning from Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
He moved to Lee County from Boston in 2000.
“My wife wanted someplace warm,” he said. “I don’t do things halfway and said, ‘If we leave Boston, it better be warm all year around.’ I wanted the tropics, and this is it.”
In 2006, he founded the planning and engineering firm DeLisi Fitzgerald.
He has taught a course at FGCU called The Community Planning Process and is an adjunct faculty member at Nova Southeastern University.
Among the policy committees of which DeLisi has been a member are the Florida Impact Fee Review Task Force and the Estero Community Planning Panel.
“He has a lot of background,” said Jack Lienesch, chairman of the Estero Community Planning Panel. “He’s an MIT grad. He has a broad knowledge of both sides of an argument. He knows you can’t be a single-issue person.”
Nancy Payton of the Florida Wildlife Federation said she was not unhappy when she heard about DeLisi’s appointment to the water district’s governing board.
“I don’t think he’ll be bad,” Payton said. “How good he’ll be remains to be seen. In my associations with him, he’s always been approachable and open to different thoughts and comments. He’s considered them and sometimes acted on them. And sometimes he hasn’t. He’s always given sound reasons for not agreeing with me.”
One of DeLisi’s hobbies is brewing beer, a process that sounds a lot like the art of compromise.
“With beer, you can be making it for two months,” he said. “Then you can ruin the whole batch with one slip-up.”


Land, water management gains go up in smoke
Miami Herald – by Bob Graham
This summer marks the 40th anniversary of the great fires in the Everglades. For weeks flames scorched 500,000 acres of the Everglades. Waves of smoke swelled over South Florida from the Keys to north of Palm Beach. Ten miles from the coast saltwater intruded into Miami’s primary water supply. The Washington Post headlined “Drought-Ravaged South Florida Faces an Environmental Disaster.”
More than any other event, these fires drove home to Floridians that something was wrong. They were the catalyst for a four-decade effort to protect the Everglades and, more broadly, Florida’s land and water.
This anniversary of the fires was celebrated in Tallahassee by legislative and budget decisions that will virtually wipe away those protections and return us to pre-1971 Florida.
Some of the most destructive features are:
•  Everglades’ restoration: The first steps toward restoring the Everglades to as much like its natural state as possible began in 1972 when the first state land and water management laws were enacted and a major land-acquisition program funded. In 1983 the state launched the Save Our Everglades initiative. It was in 2000 when the federal government joined in a 50/50 marriage with the state that Everglades’ restoration took off. Now we fear that marriage is doomed.
Legislation at this session has gutted the laws, which have protected the Everglades since the early 1970s. Other legislation restricts the capability of the South Florida Water Management District to be the state’s representative in the marriage by shifting decision-making from independent appointed citizens to the Legislature and cutting the district’s budget by 25 percent. The state of Florida’s appropriation for Everglades’ restoration has dropped from $200 million in 2007-2008 to $30 million in the 2012 budget. If Florida is so indifferent about the Everglades’ health, how can we expect a member of Congress from far away to continue spending $200 million a year from a deficit-plagued federal budget? How close are we to the divorce court?
•  Concurrency: It has been the means by which projects such as large residential developments and shopping malls — which impose special burdens for roads, drainage, water and sewers, and schools on the region in which they are located — are required to pay a portion of the cost to relieve those burdens. While the local government in which the project is located can require such assessments, the protection that had been afforded to surrounding communities is significantly limited.
Florida is a state where more than 1.5 million homes are now vacant, and there is an unprecedented oversupply of commercial, office and industrial properties. Another enactment of the Legislature will trash the current requirement that developers show a need for the proposed project and that it is financially feasible before the project is permitted.
With regular gas selling for more than $4 in many places in Florida, the Legislature has removed the requirement that new developments be energy efficient.
•  Citizens’ rights: Citizens, beware! The rights of citizens to participate in the process of land and water management are dramatically reduced. Currently the citizen is on notice that twice a year changes to the local plan can be considered. Under this legislation alterations can be considered at any meeting. Stunningly, the legislation goes further and prohibits local governments from submitting key planning issues to the people through a referendum.
While all state review of large scale proposals is reduced, in the following instances no state planning oversight is allowed: mining, industrial, hotel/motel and movie theaters. That’s because they have been taken from the list of potential developments of regional impact. This is a virtual roster of the most influential lobbyists in Tallahassee.
The current land- and water-management system in Florida has provided reasonable state oversight for projects that are of genuine concern to a region of Florida or the entire state. The state role has assisted, not hindered, local governments and applicants in creating projects that serve as good neighbors and contribute positively to Florida’s quality. A good example of this:
As Dolphin Stadium was being permitted, a myriad of infrastructure needs that the stadium’s construction would generate were identified. Most people in South Florida recognized the importance of the new stadium. Miami-Dade County staff worked with the Dolphins management to ensure that impacts on the drainage, water, sewer and, certainly, transportation were met. This ensured that they could issue a building permit in keeping with county rules and ordinances. However, a significant amount of similar impacts were also affecting residents of the city of Miramar near the stadium. Were it not for requirements in Florida’s growth-management laws that impacts occurring outside of the “home” city or county must be addressed before permits could be issued, Miramar’s needs might not have been met. Unfortunately, this legislation eliminates the requirement that such extra-jurisdictional needs must be mitigated before permits are issued.
There is a constructive alternative to the debacle awaiting us if this legislation becomes law. All of the major pieces of the current land- and water-management system were the result of thoughtful, citizen-led reviews of the state of Florida’s economy and environment. On three occasions, beginning with the response to the 1971 fire in the Everglades, the governor has appointed such a commission and the Legislature adopted its recommendations because they were reasonable, wise and visionary.
Gov. Rick Scott has an opportunity to follow this model. First, he should veto the damaging legislation. Appoint a representative group of Floridians to assess the current state of land and water management, its protection of the environment as well as its effect on Florida’s economy and job creation. The recommendations of these Floridians will give the Legislature in 2012 a thoughtful basis on which to make decisions that will be most beneficial to Florida’s future, not the after-midnight process which produced the ill-considered legislation at this session.
Floridians don’t want to go back to the smoke of 1971 or the smoke-filled rooms of the 2011 Legislature. There is a path to avoid that.
Bob Graham was Florida governor 1979-1987 and U.S. senator 1987-2005. Nat Reed is vice-chairman of the Everglades Foundation.


Down the dollar drain - Editorial
May. 20, 2011
The ironies of the recently ended legislative session are almost too many to count, at a time when the idea of state government has been reduced to a spreadsheet, where cutting the numbers has taken on a logic of its own.
In Tallahassee, cutting budgets now appears to be seen as universally good, no matter what the impact on Florida residents or the state's future.
So here's one headline from Florida newspapers Thursday: "South Florida water supply suffers from Lake Okeechobee's declining levels." With Florida parched by lack of rain — the Panhandle no exception, with the News Journal reporting Thursday a six-inch deficit already this year — South Florida's perennial water problems continue to fester.
In large part the problems stem from Florida's continued growth, with 2.75 million new residents since 2000. The problem is exacerbated by decades of destructive policies that filled wetlands, diverted stormwater and otherwise disrupted the environment and geography of the peninsula.
For example, the Sun Sentinel reported that in 2010 man-made disruption of the Lake Okeechobee-Everglades system diverted into the ocean some 300 billion gallons of stormwater that would otherwise have been absorbed and held in the Everglades.
In recent years tens of billions of dollars have been spent trying to repair that damage and restore the ability to store that water and keep it clean. Leading that effort — and statewide efforts to protect drinking water aquifers and water quality — are the state's water management districts.
Here's another headline from Thursday: "Water management budgets under fire."
To help Gov. Rick Scott fulfill a campaign pledge to reduce corporate taxes in Florida — already so low that economic development officials tout those low taxes as an incentive to do business here — the Legislature cut $210 million from water management district budgets by lowering property taxes the districts levy by about 30 percent.
That makes as much sense as it would to, oh, cut the Forestry Division's firefighting budget at a time when 137 active fires are impacting 199,000 acres across Florida, 12 counties have burn bans, parts of the state are drier than they have been in decades and the division's website warns of increased drought and wildfire risk for 2011.
Oh ... they did that, too.


Florida lawmakers trash growth control policies to the detriment of natural environment
May 20, 2011
Local governments and citizens will have renewed responsibilities to protect the environment and limit potential taxpayer burdens
Nathaniel Reed is one unhappy camper. And, he's far from alone.
Reed, a Hobe Sound resident who served as assistant secretary of the interior under Republican presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford, believes actions being taken by GOP leadership in Tallahassee may cause immeasurable harm to the state's environment by sabotaging regulations that have helped to curb unchecked growth.
Gov. Rick Scott and the Legislature have adopted pro-business, anti-regulation policy they claim is necessary to overcome obstacles to job-creating development at the state level. They want far fewer guidelines and to leave major decisions on development at the local level.
But, Florida has seen the damage that rampant development can do.
In a guest column first published in the St. Petersburg Times, Reed called the new policies being touted by the governor and legislators "disastrous" and said, "Current efforts will do nothing less than open Florida back up to the ravages of unchecked development experienced in our state in the 1960s and 1970s. The resulting damage to the Everglades, drinking water supplies and public infrastructure is being felt to this day. Floridians simply cannot afford to make these mistakes again."
But, that is the direction in which we are headed.
Columnist Carl Hiaasen of the Miami Herald, who makes his home in Vero Beach, referring to the governor as a "radical wingnut," wrote recently, "What happened in Tallahassee this spring virtually guarantees higher taxes and fewer services for ordinary Floridians. A prime example: the skeletonizing of the Department of Community Affairs, the agency that held a supervisory role over mega-developments. Lawmakers, echoing the governor, basically trashed the concept of growth management. In doing so, they've pushed Florida back to a time when developers weren't required to pay for new roads, sewers, schools and services that their projects required, a time when such costs were unfairly heaped on local residents — you and me. And that's who'll be paying once again."
The DCA, certainly, has been far from perfect. But, it has provided a measure of growth control and was able to look at developments from a regional and statewide basis.
With decisions on projects apparently heading back to local governments, the burden of watchdogging what developers may be up to will fall on local officials and citizens. It will be tempting for local elected officials to look at the prospect of jobs claimed by developers and to ignore the potential costs to taxpayers and to the environment.
And, certainly, developers have a long history of generous donations to their favorite politicians.
On the Treasure Coast, if residents don't want to witness urban sprawl, destruction of wetlands, pollution of our water and air, new costs borne by taxpayers for schools and roads and law enforcement, and little oversight or penalties, it's incumbent on those who want to leave this part of the state at least as good as it was when they arrived to make their voices heard, loud and clear.
That message includes the fact that building subdivision after subdivision and strip mall after strip mall is not an economic development or job-creation strategy. It's a recipe for disaster.
Concerned Floridians must sound the alarm until lawmakers recognize their folly and return to some saner policies.


Gov. Scott Asked by Conservationists to Veto SB 2142 Which Gives Legislature Power Over Water District Budgets - by Rosa Eckstein Schechter, Eckstein Schechter Law
May 20, 2011
Summary: Kirk Fordham, Chief Executive Officer of the Everglades Foundation has written a letter to Governor Rick Scott, asking Governor Scott to veto one of the gazillion new laws coming to him for approval from the Florida Legislature that are designed to help heal our economically-hurting state. There's also been a press conference.
Specifically, the Everglades Foundation is asking Governor Scott to veto SB 2142. You can download the letter and read the whole thing over at the Miami Herald's Naked Politics blog.
The proposed law involves the state's water management rules and you can read SB 2142 here. This is the text of what Governor Scott is being asked to sign - or veto.
SB 2142 - Florida Water Management Policy Changes
The new law will do several things. One key point: unlike some of the other laws going into effect these days, this law does not end or limit state regulatory powers.
SB 2142 will increase the power of state government to review and to nix the budgets of our water management districts by allowing the Florida Legislature as well as the governor the right to this level of oversight. It's true that the bill is curtailing some state-level regulatory authority, in a way: the governor's power over state water management is arguably being weakened.
So, why is the Everglades Foundation upset that there's going to be Legislative oversight of Florida waterways?
You'd think that this group would welcome the state legislature here, the idea being more regulation rather than less when natural resources are concerned, but no. Seems their position is that SB 2142 is going to muddy things up money-wise, especially.
Seems SB 2142 will allow the Florida Legislature to limit the amount of money that the water management districts can collect in ad valorem taxes - and it gives the Legislative Budget Commission the power to line-item veto each district's budget. These are seen as dangerous and wrong by the conservationists here.
Please see full article below for more information:

Gov. Scott Asked by Conservationists to Veto SB 2142 Which Gives Legislature Power Over Water District Budgets
Florida Commercial News
May 18, 2011)
Kirk Fordham, Chief Executive Officer of the Everglades Foundation has written a letter to Governor Rick Scott, asking Governor Scott to veto one of the gazillion new laws coming to him for approval from the Florida Legislature that are designed to help heal our economically-hurting state. There's also been a press conference.
Specifically, the Everglades Foundation is asking Governor Scott to veto SB 2142. You can download the letter and read the whole thing over at the Miami Herald's Naked Politics blog.
The proposed law involves the state's water management rules and you can read SB 2142 here. This is the text of what Governor Scott is being asked to sign - or veto.
SB 2142 - Florida Water Management Policy Changes
The new law will do several things. One key point: unlike some of the other laws going into effect these days, this law does not end or limit state regulatory powers.
SB 2142 will increase the power of state government to review and to nix the budgets of our water management districts by allowing the Florida Legislature as well as the governor the right to this level of oversight. It's true that the bill is curtailing some state-level regulatory authority, in a way: the governor's power over state water management is arguably being weakened.
So, why is the Everglades Foundation upset that there's going to be Legislative oversight of Florida waterways ?
You'd think that this group would welcome the state legislature here, the idea being more regulation rather than less when natural resources are concerned, but no. Seems their position is that SB 2142 is going to muddy things up money-wise, especially.
Seems SB 2142 will allow the Florida Legislature to limit the amount of money that the water management districts can collect in ad valorem taxes - and it gives the Legislative Budget Commission the power to line-item veto each district's budget. These are seen as dangerous and wrong by the conservationists here.
Bottom line, however, is this legislation along with many of the other laws that Governor Scott is being asked to sign into law deal with the economic crisis that our state is facing and money is the focus. Ad valorem tax money controls are what the legislators would focus upon, presumably, not tying the hands of the water districts.
Property taxes mean little without corresponding property values. The reality of the Florida Foreclosure mess and the decline in our state's fair market property values is one of the reasons our economy has suffered. Floridians have seen their property values plummet – and they are clammoring for some relief, and for economic growth. In increasing the oversight over future property taxation, this bill is addressing an issue of key economic concern to our state.
We're in big trouble and SB 2142 is one more brick in the wall designed to stop the economic downturn.
Governor Scott is going to sign this bill into law. Watch.


Predicting sea level rise - the Arctic Council raises the ante - Global
May 20 (16), 2011
Last Thursday Secretary of State Hilary Clinton and other prominent diplomats signed the first ever treaty under the auspices of the Arctic Council; specifically, the member nations addressed Arctic search and rescue, made necessary by the increasing traffic in the formerly ice-locked realm caused by the reality of Arctic warming. Less noticed, perhaps, was the release of a report by the Council's Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Program (AMAP).  Among other things, the report, Snow, Water, Ice and Permafrost in the Arctic, forecasts up to a 5-foot rise in sea level by the turn of the century. This is real news because the earlier report in 2007 by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change forecast an increase only one-third as large. We hesitated to report the AMAP conclusions because the last thing a law firm wants to be called is an alarmist, always sounding the air raid siren when a blip appears on the radar.   But, by the same token, counsel's fundamental role is to assist clients in addressing risks. That there are extreme views on almost any subject does not mean that the subject should be ignored. And the views here are not extreme.  Climate change is occurring. Prudence dictates that the effects be considered and addressed.    
The AMAP report is a product of the environmental assessment arm of the Arctic Council, an 8-nation group that considers how to promote sustainable development and environmental protection in the Arctic. The report picks up where the IPCC left off, when it forecast a sea level rise of between 7 and 23 inches by 2100. Left out of the IPCC analysis was the effect of the melting Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets because the science was undeveloped.
Four years later, the Arctic Council has filled in that void and reached a startling result. According to the report's executive summary, the warming of the Arctic is having a dramatic effect. "A nearly icefreesummer is now considered likely for the Arctic Ocean by mid-century."  A "Key Finding" was that "global sea level is projected to rise by 0.9–1.6 m by 2100."  Translating, that is a sea level rise of between 3 and 5 feet by the end of the century.
Shipping companies are salivating at the prospect of a straight shot over the roof of the world from Europe to Asia. Investors in the Panama Canal are less enthusiastic.
What does all this mean for those considering their waterfront risks far south of the Arctic Circle?  Quite a bit actually.  The EPA offers some sobering data on its website.
A two foot rise in sea level would eliminate almost 10,000 square miles of land (that is, an area exceeding all of Massachusetts.
Damage from storms in a world with a 3-foot higher sea level would be 2 or 3 times as large.
The salinization of coastal aquifers from salt water intrusion from rising sea levels threatens water supplies in Florida and south Jersey.
It may seem like there is little that can be done if one is unilling to abandon the shore.  But that would be a very shortsighted view.  Investors, lenders, developers and businesses involved with real estate near the shoreline should be considering the following
What interest in land should one acquire - a fee simple or a conventional 30-year lease?  The lessee, without a single additional word in its lease, may be protected from rising sea levels by the covenant of quiet enjoyment. The fee owner, on the other hand, bears all of the risk of a rising mean high water mark.
How effective are one's contracts' force majeure clauses?  Will performance be excused if one's facility is submerged?  What about if the local infrastructure goes underwater?  Does a condemnation action by governmental authorities trigger the provision?
Where exactly is mean high water?  Where will it be if the predicted rise occurs even in part?  What is the significance of that for the investment expectations of all involved?
What is the effect of a state statute that establishes the seaward property line at something other than the sea?  If this sounds nonsensical, it is the law in Florida, as confirmed by the U.S. Supreme Court in Stop the Beach Replenishment, Inc. v Florida DEP.  Florida's statutory "erosion control line" converted many beachfront properties, into beachview properties. And no, there was no compensable "taking."
There are certainly others. The point is not to run about shouting "The sky is falling!". The point is to consider thoughtfully the possibility that the sky may fall and whether there is anything that can be done about it.



Mercury transport and deposition is a global problem that can hardly be locally controlled. However, according to the scientists, the transformation of mercury and its entrance into the food chain (as toxic methyl-mercury) is driven by the presence of SULFUR.
Why is the FDEP mainly concerned with the TMDL of Hg rather than focusing on how to limit excessive sulfate/sulfide levels in the FL environment ?
Unlike mercury, THOSE could be controlled and minimized.
CERP Sulfate :
Target = 1 mg/L Reality: 30-50 mg/L !

Sulfate in the Everglades: Whose problem is it, and what should be done?
Florida Independent - by Virginia Chamlee
May 20, 2011
The presence of methylmercury in the Florida Everglades has documented by scientists and researchers in the area. The dangerous chemical can cause significant damage to developing fetuses and children, and leads to major hormonal imbalances in animals native to the Everglades.
The presence of methylmercury in the Florida Everglades has been documented by scientists and researchers in the area. The chemical can cause significant damage to developing fetuses and children, and leads to major hormonal imbalances in animals native to the Everglades.
The state’s environmental regulators have been slow to tackle the problem. State agencies have almost no regulations for the use of sulfate, one of the chemicals that may be largely to blame.
The Everglades contain mercury in its pure form, but when it combines with other chemicals, it can become much easier to absorb, and therefore more dangerous. Sulfur in the form of sulfate (which is commonly used by the agricultural industry) can combine with mercury  to create methylmercury (MeHg) – a neurotoxin that can be harmful to wildlife.
“Methylmercury bioaccumulates in an organism,” says Dr. Melodie Naja, Water Quality Scientist with the Everglades Foundation. “It sticks to the cells of those that ingest it.”
The environmental concern, according to scientists, is that mercury can throw off an entire ecosystem, as mercury poisoning can lead to odd mating behavior that generally doesn’t yield offspring. In a study conducted by University of Florida Professor Peter Frederick, even levels of mercury typical of store-bought fish were found to cause homosexual behavior in wading birds. Male birds ingesting even minimum amounts of mercury-laced fish mated with other males, and established a long-term commitment to a nest with their same-sex mating partners.
Mercury on its own is difficult to regulate, because it often arrives in the Everglades through rainfall. Because it would be nearly impossible to remove mercury from the ecosystem, some scientists argue that the most promising way to control the effects of methylmercury would be to control the levels of sulfate.
“Mercury emissions are out of control,” says Bill Orem, a scientist with the United States Geological Survey. “So the other approach is to reduce sulfate.”
One issue, in terms of regulating sulfate and determining how great a problem it poses, is figuring out whose problem it is. The state Department of Environmental Protection claims a certain amount of responsibility, but doesn’t have specific regulations for sulfate. The South Florida Water Management District says it is conducting sulfate research, but has not said when the research will be complete or whether it will yield a call for regulation.
“DEP is responsible for implementing the state’s water quality standards program. While EPA has not issued a suggested water quality criteria and there is no state water quality criterion for sulfate, many of the state and federal agencies conduct water quality sampling and analysis in the Everglades to evaluate sulfate concentrations,” says Jennifer Diaz, Policy Communications Specialist for the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.
There are also no sulfur-specific regulations in either the South Florida Water Management District nor the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
“Sulfur can be a component in some fertilizers (e.g. ammonium sulfate) and, therefore, the amount of sulfur applied would be limited by the nitrogen requirements of the crop to which the ammonium sulfate was being applied,” says Department of Agriculture spokesman Rich Budell. “There is no shortage of scientific opinion on all sides of [the relationship between sulfur and methylmercury.]  Unfortunately, there appear to be as many questions as there are apparent answers.”
A set of proposed criteria to regulate the amount of nutrients (phosphorus and nitrogen) in waterways has proved to be highly controversial. Environmentalists argue that the criteria are necessary to the health of state waterways,  but agriculture and industry have come out hard against them, arguing that they would have to take costly measures to prevent the nutrients from reaching Florida waterways. Attempting to create a new set of regulations for another set of damaging chemicals could prove politically difficult.
Though scientists agree that the agricultural industry is largely responsible for the widespread use of sulfate, no one seems able to answer the question of how much is being used in the area. According to Dr. Melodie Naja, Water Quality Scientist at the Everglades Foundation, farmers use sulfur for three purposes: to lower the pH of the soil (which makes phosphorus more available to plants), as a fungicide in the form of copper sulfate and as a fertilizer counter-ion in the form of potassium sulfate.
Still, according to Alan Wright, Assistant Professor of Everglades Research at the University of Florida, “There is no source of information for how much sulfur is being used in agriculture.”
“There are many sources of sulfur – it is abundant in nature occurring as sulfides and sulfates” says Sterling Ivey, spokesperson of the state Department of Agriculture, who adds: ”It would be difficult to obtain a quantified measurement of how much sulfur is present in the environment, specifically from agriculture products/use.”
“We do not know the exact amount of sulfur that the farmers are using,” says Dr. Melodie Naja, a water quality scientist with the Everglades Foundation. “It is an investigation that someone should conduct.”
A 2011 report conducted by the South Florida Water Management District found that methylmercury poses a serious problems for the Everglades that may warrant new regulations on its chemical components:
As a highly toxic form of mercury that bioaccumulates in food chains, methylmercury (MeHg) is a risk to wildlife and humans that consume Everglades fish.  Regional effects of elevated mercury and sulfur concentrations are evident ― and the Everglades has among the highest mercury levels in fish in Florida. Options for reducing these levels include mercury and sulfur source reduction, although the predominant remaining mercury source to the Everglades may be atmospheric deposition from international sources.
The report found that about 60 percent of the Everglades marsh area has sulfate concentrations “that exceed the desired restoration goal,” but that “further research is needed to quantify sulfur sources and better understand sulfur-related effectson the Everglades ecosystem.” According to the report, “during periods of normal or high rainfall, the [Everglades Agricultural Area] is a key source of sulfur to the downstream Everglades, mostly due to sulfur release by soil oxidation as well as agricultural sulfur application and runoff.”
Because it much of it comes via rainfall, not much can be done by state regulators to stymie the amount of mercury in the Everglades. Sulfates, however, can be reduced.
“Any reduction in sulfate inputs would reduce sulfate as a whole,” says Bill Orem of the United State Geological Survey. “Even the slightest reduction would benefit the entire ecosystem.”
There is currently at least one regional sulfur study underway, which will determine the amount of sulfur exchanged between the Everglades Agricultural Area, and waterways within the Everglades. In the meantime, Orem says both farmers and state agencies need to make strides in addressing the problem.
“There are currently Stormwater Treatment Areas in the EAA that filter out Phosphorus,” he says. “Those could be re-engineered to mitigate sulfate. And farmers need to be encouraged to use less sulfate. There’s certainly enough [in the soil already] that they don’t need extra. Recent work has shown that elemental sulfur isn’t even effective any more for agriculture because the soil is changing over time. Farmers are using protocol from the 1960′s, so they need to change the way they do business.”


Conservancy of Southwest Florida unveils new logo, evolves mission and brand
May 19, 2011
Upon raising $38.8 million and exceeding its “Saving Southwest Florida” capital campaign goal, the Conservancy has retired its campaign logo, unveiling a new logo to represent the “reborn” Conservancy and to evolve its brand identity.
PRLog (Press Release) – May 19, 2011 – NAPLES, Fla.  –  The Conservancy of Southwest Florida Marketing and Development Committee, chaired by board member Maureen Lerner, provided the leadership and guidance for this important step. Conservancy of Southwest Florida Director of Marketing and Communications Barbara Wilson and Graphic Designer Kate Kintz devoted countless hours of research and explored over 100 potential designs to ensure the logo accurately reflected the Conservancy of Southwest Florida “brand.”
 “We believe the new logo represents the next generation of the Conservancy of Southwest Florida,” said Wilson.  “Our research indicated that logo revision is a very disciplined, deliberate process, and we did not take on the task lightly. We adhered to the best practices and guidelines for logo revisions implemented by environmental organizations and some of the largest brands in the world as they evolved their mission and brand.”
Wilson added that it was very important to keep the rich history of the Conservancy in the new logo.  “We accomplished this by maintaining the historical green color, the typeface and the eagle, all core elements of the previous logo,” she said. “The eagle, although updated, is still the main feature. It has been part of Conservancy history from the beginning. Its keen eyesight keeps track of our environment. Furthermore, the eagle is a brave animal and is not afraid to stand up for what is right. Once on the endangered species list, it represents hope for all native wildlife. We added the blue color to represent the water element of our mission, while the green represents the land. All three elements, the water, land and wildlife, capture the essence of our mission.  Lastly, the new color yellow was added to signify the dawning of a new age and a bright future for the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, the community and our quality of life.”
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 not-for-profit grassroots organization focused on the critical environmental issues of the Southwest Florida region with a mission to protect the region’s water, land and wildlife.  This is accomplished through the combined efforts of environmental education, science and research, policy and advocacy and wildlife rehabilitation. The Wildlife Rehabilitation Clinic treats more than 2,400 injured, sick and orphaned animals each year and releases about half of them back into their native habitats. The Conservancy of Southwest Florida and Nature Center is located in Naples, Fla. at 1450 Merrihue Dr., off Goodlette-Frank Road at 14th Avenue North. For information about the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, call 239-262-0304 or visit
Media Contact:  Barbara Wilson, Conservancy of Southwest Florida, 239-403-4216 or


Conservationists ask Scott to veto bill that slashes water-management budgets
News-Press - by Jim Ash
May 18, 2011
TALLAHASSEE - Conservationists, including crusading former House Speaker Dick Pettigrew and Naples Vice-Mayor John Sorey, called on Gov. Rick Scott today to veto a bill that would slash water management district budgets by $210 million.
The plea is long shot, especially considering that HB 2142 is the result of Scott's own tax-slashing recommendations. The advocates hope to persuade the governor that by increasing their say over water management district budgets, lawmakers are increasing their power at the governor's expense.
The bill would give the Legislature the power to cap the amount of revenue each of the state's five districts could raise through property taxes.
If Scott signs the legislation, property tax revenue for the St. Johns River Water Management District would be capped at $107.7 million and the South Florida Water Management District would be capped at $284.9 million. The Northwest Florida Water Management District would face a $5.4 million cap. The caps represent about a 30 percent reduction in the districts' property-tax revenue, but that is not their only source of income. Much of it comes from federal sources.
Sorey is a member of the Big Cypress Basin Board, which advises the South Florida Water Management District, the largest of the five districts. Sorey warned that the budget cut would threaten environmental restoration in Southwest Florida.
"If we get these resources cut, we're going to end up delaying projects and having a negative impact on quality of life in Naples and Collier County," Sorey said.
Kirk Fordham, chief executive officer of the Everglades Foundation, warned that the cutbacks will endanger Everglades restoration and water resource development in South Florida.
Sen. Don Gaetz, a Republican from Niceville who is next in line to be Senate president, said the legislation is necessary to rein in excessive spending at some of the districts. Gaetz was quick to defend the Northwest Florida Water Management District, calling it well managed and efficient.
Any notion that the move is a power grab is simply "hyperbole," Gaetz said.
"The Legislature is supposed to be a last-resort protection for the tax payer if you have a local entity gone wild," Gaetz said. "There are some water management districts that have become huge governments unto themselves."


Dangerous levels of insecticide found in Country Club Manor well water
Daytona Beach News Journal - by DINAH VOYLES PULVER, Environment writer 
May 19, 2011 12:05 AM
If you live in Country Club Manor or nearby, what do you need to know or do?
Residents with private wells who live within a half mile of the intersection of Yale and Princeton roads can contact Wendy Volkman of the Volusia County Health Department at 386-736-5082 to volunteer to have well water tested.
The department will select locations scattered at varying distances around the initial well, said Chuck Luther with the department's environmental health unit. They'll start at wells within 500 feet and move out from there. If they get positive results, they'll continue expanding the area.
What is known about dieldrin?
Dieldrin and a similar insecticide known as aldren were widely used for crops between the 1950s and early 1970s, but banned by the U.S. Environmental Protection agency in 1974 for everything except termite control because of concerns about impacts to human health and the environment. Both were banned entirely in 1987.
Locally, it could have been used in ferneries or on golf courses and may have been used to treat the foundations of homes for termites as late as the 1980s. Pockets of contamination have been discovered in Lake and Seminole counties, but this is the first in Volusia County.
Most of the homes along Yale Road were built in the 1970s and 1980s. Officials haven't yet determined what the property was used for before the homes were built.
How long does it last in the soil?
The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry reports dieldrin in soil and water breaks down very slowly. Volusia County Health Department director Bonnie Sorensen said it can "hang around in the soil for years and years."
What is known about the health effects?
Officials studied the potentially deadly results of direct contact when dieldrin was banned, but studies have not determined the possible impacts of extended exposure to trace amounts. Little is known about the long-term impacts of drinking water with low levels of dieldrin, but risks do increase as the level of contamination increases and when someone drinks contaminated water for long periods of time.
Editor's note: The maximum level of dieldrin considered safe in drinking water in Florida is .002 micrograms per liter and not as originally reported.
DELAND -- Seven families in the tree-lined community of Country Club Manor learned this week that water flowing from their wells contains trace amounts of insecticides.
Eight private residential wells have tested positive for dieldrin, a chemical once used to kill agricultural pests and termites. And, within the next two weeks, state officials want to test 20 more wells within a half-mile of a home on Yale Road where the contamination was originally discovered last month.
The Volusia County Health Department began notifying the owners with contaminated wells this week, "advising them that their water does not meet health-based drinking water standards," said department director Dr. Bonnie Sorensen.
The news surprised the community, leaving residents with many questions and few answers.
For now, seven of the eight homes with contaminated wells have agreed to accept vouchers from the state for free bottled water.
Officials do not know how the insecticide got into the water.
"It's hard to speculate what the source is," Sorensen said. "Right now, we're early in the process of just trying to figure out what the extent of the contamination is and what sort of area it is in."
The risk over a short-term period is "not that great," Sorensen said. "It's more of a health concern over the long run, over years of drinking this water."
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection is evaluating two options for solving the problem, either hooking the homes up to city water or installing charcoal filtration systems on the wells. By statute, the department is required to select the option that is most cost-effective in the long-term, department spokesman Kristin Lock said this week.
The department will foot the bill using a state trust fund, Lock said, but a property owner's decision to participate "is completely voluntary."
The city of DeLand is preparing estimates on how much it might cost to hook the area up to the city water lines already installed in part of the community.
Five wells on Yale tested positive for the chemical, and one well each on Princeton, Yorkshire and Stratford roads. The insecticide levels range from just above the federal safe drinking water standard to many times higher, according to test results released by the Volusia County Health Department this week. Five wells in the neighborhood did not have elevated levels of the insecticide.
But the fact that insecticides are there at all leaves some residents wondering if cases of cancer among their neighbors could be attributed to the well water, officials said this week.
The backyard of Bill and Lisa Hightower borders two backyards with contaminated well water.
"More than likely ours is going to be that way, also," said Bill Hightower, who looks at the situation from at least two perspectives. He is a lung cancer survivor and retired from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, where he helped conduct environmental investigations.
Hightower doubts his cancer was related to the well water. He had only lived in the community for four years when he was diagnosed and had part of a lung removed in 2001.
Doctors told him they didn't know what caused his cancer, but the fact that he had smoked for a period of his life "didn't help."
"If it's something that's going to cause problems, it's going to take a long time," Hightower said. "They say dilution is the solution. You'd probably have to drink gallons and gallons of water over a long period of time to do anything."
But, he has asked to have his family's water tested, "for the wife's feelings."
The maximum level of dieldrin considered safe in drinking water in Florida is .002 micrograms per liter. Anything above that triggers a health alert, according to state standards.
At Country Club Manor, test results in the community have shown dieldrin levels ranging from .0028 to .099.
Health Department officials say the federal government sets safe drinking water guidelines at levels hundreds or thousands of times lower than the level at which direct exposure causes health impacts. A lifetime of exposure to chemicals at or below the guideline is unlikely to cause illness.
Steve Kintner, retired manager of environmental management for Volusia County, is among the community's residents who have volunteered to have their well water tested.
Kintner said he always knew the possibility existed that low levels of contamination could be found in area well water. When he was looking to buy in the neighborhood in 1989, he discovered it lies within an area of concern because a different insecticide, ethyl dibromide, was found in water in the nearby golf course in 1983.
At the time, state environmental officials created a special area around the golf course to institute separate permitting requirements for private wells. Several homes in the area were hooked up to city water. "It wasn't anything I was concerned about because we were so far away from the country club," he said.
New wells permitted since then have been required to use double casing and extra protections, Health Department officials said this week.
In Florida, testing of private drinking water wells is not required. However, state officials recommend all private well owners test their water once a year for bacteria and nitrates, advice they suspect few heed.
More information: Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry: Aldrin/Dieldrin | Florida Deptartment of Health: Dieldrin (pdf)


Federal partner needed now more than ever to restore the Everglades
Sun Sentinel - Editorial
May 19, 2011
THE ISSUE: Washington pledges to do its part in restoring 'Glades.
It's time for Washington to step up, not only to cover the state government's cuts to Everglades restoration, but to show that it is indeed a partner in this badly needed public works project. If the River of Grass is the treasure politicians in Tallahassee and Washington say it is, now's the time to prove it.
The massive restoration project is essential to South Florida. More than an answer to a tree hugger's prayer, the federal-state effort known as the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Project will bolster the region's water supply, help improve water quality and maintain one of the world's most unique environmental wonders.
The good news is that efforts to restore the Florida Everglades remain a high priority among a myriad of worthwhile programs demanding federal government attention. The fact that officials in the Obama administration and in Congress — both Democrats and Republicans — believe that restoration work will survive deep budget cuts on Capitol Hill is encouraging.
Budgetary constraints forced the Florida Legislature to reduce the state's contribution to the project for a second year in a row. Starting in July, the state will contribute $30 million, a far cry from the highpoint when the state spent $200 million annually to restore the Everglades.
But state lawmakers can be forgiven for the cuts. Since the program's inception more than a decade ago, Florida aggressively "frontloaded" its investment, to the tune of $2.5 billion, to buy land for pump stations and storage areas needed to recreate a more natural water flow. The replumbing of the Kissimmee River, north of Lake Okeechobee, is just one indication of the project's success.
Fortunately, Washington is reinvigorating its efforts to keep the overall project going — Congress provided $248 million in the current budget, and Everglades restoration received an additional $112 million in the economic stimulus bill. President Obama pledged $271.5 million in the upcoming budget, a figure Floridians should welcome given the state of our overall economy.
There is still more to be done, but with the potential of bolstering an environmental showplace, improving a region's water quality and supply, and fueling Florida's economy through the jobs needed to complete the project and the long-term benefits from tourists flocking to the River of Grass, now is not the time for either Tallahassee or Washington to lose any enthusiasm for Everglades restoration.
BOTTOM LINE: Partnership to restore the River of Grass must continue.


Click to enlarge

Lake Okeechobee levels
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In a record dry season, Lake Okeechobee keeps dropping
Palm Beach Post - by Christine Stapleton, Staff Writer
May 19, 2011
Every year in May, the end of Florida's dry season, water managers obsess about the level of Lake Okeechobee, a major source of drinking and irrigation water in South Florida. Every year, they cross their fingers, wait for the rainy season and implore homeowners to conserve.
But this is not like other years. There hasn't been a dry season this dry since rainfall tracking began in 1932: only 11.75 inches of rain since October, about 8 inches below normal.
Lakes and canals are so dry that homeowners are besieging the South Florida Water Management District with calls, asking the district to release some water to fill them.
"There's no water to release," said Susan Sylvester, the district's director for operations control and hydro data. South Florida entered the dry season a little earlier, in October, and a little drier than normal.
Lake Okeechobee's water level on Wednesday was 10.57 feet above sea level, less than an inch from the point at which gravity can no longer pull the water south to the farms. When the lake falls below 10.5 feet, which is expected to happen any day, water managers will begin pumping water out of the lake.
Peter J. Kwiatkowski, the district's director of resource evaluation, has had weekly meetings with growers about pumping. The district's governing board tightened irrigation restrictions on growers last week by 45 percent.
"This is not your typical dry season," Kwiatkowski said.
Water restrictions also apply to golf courses, as well as residential and commercial landscaping. Landscaping irrigation is allowed twice a week.
Homes and businesses with odd-numbered street addresses can water Wednesdays and Saturdays from midnight to 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. to midnight. Even-numbered addresses can water Thursdays and Sundays during the same hours.
More than 2,500 warnings and 116 citations have been issued to homeowners and businesses. The district has issued 242 warnings to growers and issued two citations. Nearly 2,300 fact sheets have been distributed to homeowner associations.
The district has received 61 petitions for variances to excuse the applicants from the water restrictions. Of those, 37 have been approved, three denied and 10 withdrawn, with 11 still under review.
Among the properties granted temporary variances are some of the county's top golf communities and courses, including Lost Tree, The Breakers hotel, the Everglades Club, Palm Beach Country Club and Seminole Golf Club.
What is particularly unnerving for water managers is that the data from the National Climate Prediction Center show an equal chance of below average, above average and normal rainfall. Even an average amount of rainfall this summer may not be enough to lift the drought.
"If we're still in a water shortage by November, we're staring at some severe restrictions for the next dry season," Kwiatkowski said.


Sharing Lake Okeechobee's declining water supply stresses environment
Sun Sentinel - by Andy Reid
May 19, 2011
Lake Okeechobee’s declining water level strains urban and environmental water supplies alike, as South Florida waits for drought-quenching summer rains to bring relief.
Lake Okeechobee serves as South Florida’s primary back-up water supply, but on Wednesday it neared the point where it would drop too low to keep sending water south.
That heightens the difficulty for the South Florida Water Management District to meet the sometimes competing water needs of the environment, agriculture and community supplies.
The lake hit 10.57 feet Wednesday, 4 feet lower than this time last year and 2.7 feet below normal.
At 10.5 feet the lake would be too low for gravity to keep sending water to the canals that deliver lake water that sugar cane growers and other agriculture rely on for irrigation.
Those canals also deliver lake water to the Everglades water conservation areas, west of Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties.
In addition to hydrating the northern reaches of the Everglades, water in the conservation areas helps supplement community water supplies in southeast Florida.
As of mid May, more than 60 percent of the land in the vast Everglades water conservation areas was dry.
"It becomes very difficult to move water," Susan Sylvester, district director of operations, said about the lake’s continued decline. "We are really looking for those wet season rains to kick in."
The district can temporarily install pumps to keep water flowing south after the lake drops below 10.5 feet, but those pumps move less than half what the canals can usually provide.
The district plans to make a week-by-week evaluation about whether to install the pumps, with the hopes that the summer rainy season will instead bring the water that is needed.
Aside from straining South Florida water supplies, Lake Okeechobee dropping too low threatens wildlife habitat.
Low lake levels already threaten the habitat of the endangered Everglades snail kite and at 10.5 feet, more than 80 percent of the foraging habitat for the snail kite dries out.
The health of the snail kite is considered a barometer for the overall health of the Everglades. Snail kite populations during the past decade have dropped from 3,000 to about 700.
There were 33 active snail kite nests on Lake Okeechobee midway through May, according to the district.
"Water drives ecology," said Deborah Drum, the district’s deputy director of Everglades restoration. "There remains major concern regarding lake level."
South Florida averaged just over 10 inches of rain since the dry season began in October, about 68 percent of normal.
Relief could be coming soon.
Traditionally, Memorial Day marks the beginning of South Florida’s rainiest time of year.
From Memorial Day to July 4, South Florida usually gets about 11 inches of rain, according to the district.
"We need an above-normal (summer) wet season.  … Even an average one may not get us out of this," said Pete Kwiatkowski, district water-shortage incident commander.
Manmade manipulations, not just a drought, contribute to South Florida’s water supply strain.
Flood control for communities and farms built on what used to be the Everglades leads to stormwater getting drained out to sea, instead of held for times of need.
Safety concerns about Lake Okeechobee’s aging dike have the Army Corps of Engineers keeping the lake about a foot lower year-round while work continues on decades-long repairs. During 2010, more than 300 billion gallons of lake water was drained out to sea because of flood control concerns.
Dumping lake water out to sea worsens the water supply effects of the periodic droughts that are a natural occurrence for South Florida.
Also, landscape irrigation accounts for about half of the use of South Florida’s public water supply.
To boosts water conservation, twice-a-week landscape watering limits for homes and businesses will remain for the foreseeable future, district officials said Wednesday.
Cutbacks for sugar cane growers and other agricultural users near Lake Okeechobee increase from 15 percent to 45 percent when the lake hits 10.5 feet.


State finds no fault in hiring of water district chief's boyfriend
Palm Beach Post - by Christine Stapleton, Staff Writer
May 19, 2011
State investigators have found no evidence that Carol Wehle used her position as executive director of the South Florida Water Management District to help her boyfriend land a $120,000-a-year job as the district's engineering auditor.
In a 33-page report dated May 16, investigators with the Department of Environmental Protection also found no evidence that John Williams, the district's inspector general, acted improperly when he hired Bob Howard, Wehle's boyfriend, or that Howard used his relationship to secure the job.
The controversy began after a March 27 article in The Palm Beach Post detailed the district's hiring of Howard last June as an engineering auditor to review work performed by the Army Corps of Engineers in joint projects with the district. The newly created position paid $120,000.
Wehle told the Post she did not publicly disclose the relationship because she had no role in hiring Howard, whose job falls under the agency's inspector general, a watchdog of Wehle's work that reports to the governing board.
On March 28, Joe Collins, chairman of the board, contacted DEP Secretary Herschel Vinyard and asked that the DEP's inspector general investigate the allegations. Meanwhile, Wehle, a civil engineer and the first woman to head any of Florida's five water management districts, announced her retirement.
Wehle left office on April 29. Howard remains at the district.
Top administrators at the district told state investigators that Howard was repeatedly portrayed as the best qualified candidate and that Wehle did nothing to help Howard get the job. When Wehle learned that Howard was on the short list of candidates, she instructed Deputy Executive Director Ken Ammon to inform the board of her relationship with Howard.
"I said now I want you to know that Bob has a personal friendship with Carol," Ammon told investigators. "And every board member shook their head, OK, I understand that. And literally, to this day, no matter what has been reported, that's all I know it to be. I've never seen anything more than showing a friendship and that's how I characterized it."
But former board Chairman Eric Buermann wanted to know more about the relationship and became upset when he learned that Howard and Wehle were dating. "They can't do business this way," Buermann said he told Williams.
Buermann, whose term has expired, said he was told that Howard "was never going to be in West Palm Beach auditing and dealing with executive management." Williams, the inspector general, told the Post that Howard would spend at least 75 percent of his time in Jacksonville.
District records, however, show that Howard spent only nine nights in Jacksonville in December, January and February, 14 percent of his time. A district spokesman explained that the corps has offices in West Palm Beach and Clewiston, as well as Jacksonville, and "the need for travel will vary according to the project."
Howard told investigators he would be surprised if Williams did not know about his relationship with Wehle and that he did not tell the interview panel about the relationship because he was "almost absolutely positive that every one of them knew."
Wehle told investigators that she met Howard in 2001 when he began working for the district. But she had not seen Howard for years until her husband's funeral in November 2008. Wehle said she had trouble sleeping after her husband hanged himself in the garage of their home, and she rented Howard's vacant townhouse for 10 months.
Wehle said her relationship with Howard "had never been hidden" and that Howard escorted her "everywhere." As for helping Howard get the job, Wehle said the "only thing I did do" is tell a group of top administrators who were discussing the candidates that Howard was "a really excellent engineer."
"If there is anybody who is a victim in all of this, I think it's him because he applied for a job and got hired and everybody told him everything was OK and then The Palm Beach Post went after him in a very ugly way," Wehle said.
Although investigators found no evidence of influence peddling, they did fault the district's general counsel for failing to provide a written legal opinion when Wehle and Williams asked if hiring Howard posed any ethical problems.
"They made some recommendations, mainly around our document procedures, and we're already in a position to implement those," Collins said.
The district's new executive director, Melissa Meeker, takes office on June 1.
"I'm looking to Melissa starting and moving forward," Collins said.


Conservancy Receives Government Proclamations
PRLog (Press Release)
May 18, 2011
City, county and state officials recognize Conservancy and supporters for raising $38.8 million to benefit land, water, wildlife.
– NAPLES, Fla. (May 12, 2011)
Representatives from the State of Florida, Collier County and the City of Naples have officially recognized the Conservancy of Southwest Florida and donors to the “Saving Southwest Florida” Campaign for raising $38.8 million to benefit Southwest Florida’s environment. During a May 10 event at the Conservancy, Kristi Bartlett, representing the Board of County Commissioners of Collier County, proclaimed May 10, 2011 as "Saving Southwest Florida Day” in Collier County. In addition, City of Naples Councilmember Doug Finlay read a proclamation on behalf of City of Naples Mayor Bill Barnett declaring May 10 as “Saving Southwest Florida Day” in the City of Naples. Representing the State of Florida, Sandra Mummert, a legislative assistant for Senator Garrett Richter’s office, shared a state proclamation recognizing the Conservancy for successfully completing its fundraising endeavor to enhance the environment for decades to come.  
 “We are grateful to our partners with the City of Naples, the Board of County Commissioners of Collier County and at the state level for their ongoing support for the Conservancy and our mission,” says Andrew McElwaine, Conservancy president and CEO. “Even before the campaign was announced and renovations began, a strong partnership was formed. We have worked closely with Collier County, its Board of County Commissioners and other local and state officials throughout the renovation process. We are grateful for their continued support.”  
The largest environmental campaign in Collier County and one of the largest in the state of Florida, the “Saving Southwest Florida” Campaign proceeds will support core Conservancy programs and endowment for ongoing and future policy, advocacy, environmental science, research and education. This includes the renovation and construction of new sustainable buildings at the Conservancy to transform the 21-acre campus into the premier Nature Center in the southeastern United States.
Built in 1984, the original Conservancy buildings have become outdated, cramped and energy inefficient. The “Saving Southwest Florida” Campaign will fund the renovation and construction of sustainable buildings at the Conservancy Nature Center. These projects, which meet stringent Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards, include the new von Arx Wildlife Clinic, Dalton Discovery Center, Ferguson Learning Labs, Eaton Conservation Hall and the Sugden Gomez Environmental Planning Center. A major portion of the campaign funds provided the resources to purchase additional land and build a new entrance to open access to the Conservancy Nature Center from Goodlette-Frank Road:  Smith Preserve Way.  Ultimately, this new entrance may also provide access to the future Gordon River Greenway Park. Part of achieving this goal was funding for the eight acres of property the Conservancy purchased from the Fleischmann family. This valuable natural upland and scrub habitat, located between the Conservancy Nature Center and Goodlette-Frank Road, is now safe from major development and is known as the Christopher B. Smith preserve. The Conservancy Nature Center campus renovations are expected to be completed by late 2012.
In addition to campus renovations, support to the endowment includes funding for the following:
·        A new strategic partnership with Florida Gulf Coast University to focus on enhanced environmental education.
·        Support for sea turtle research, monitoring and protection.
·        Resources for wildlife rehabilitation training and veterinary services.
·         Funds for policy and advocacy efforts for ongoing and future work.
·        Support for research projects such as Everglades restoration and water quality research.
About the Conservancy of Southwest Florida Sustainable Campus Initiative:
The Conservancy of Southwest Florida began its sustainable campus initiative in April 2009 as part of its “Saving Southwest Florida” Capital Campaign. The 21-acre Conservancy Nature Center is being transformed into a model for sustainable design and environmental responsibility, with Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards incorporated into the new and renovated buildings. Once completed, the new Conservancy of Southwest Florida Nature Center will include two new buildings and three major rehabilitation projects.
The von Arx Wildlife Clinic with more space, improved treatment areas and modern equipment.
Totally remodeled Dalton Discovery Center with new and exciting immersive environmental exhibits featuring the habitats of southwest Florida.
The new Sugden Gomez Environmental Planning Center with updated research laboratories, staff offices and meeting rooms to allow for even greater environmental collaboration.
Eaton Conservation Hall will be re-built on the foundation of the current Delnor Auditorium  and used for a theater and increased environmental education programming, meetings and events.
Ferguson Interactive Learning Lab for hands-on learning about environmental topics relevant to southwest Florida and sustainability.
Christopher B. Smith Preserve to protect natural upland and scrub habitat and native wildlife.
Two constructed wetlands areas serving as natural filter marshes to cleanse storm water runoff before it’s released into the Gordon River and Naples Bay.
New trails, gardens and walkways featuring native landscaping.
New environmental education and programming, trails and new Nature Center experiences.
The project also includes a new entrance to the Conservancy Nature Center, Smith Preserve Way, from Goodlette-Frank Road that will bring the vision of a “Naples Central Park” closer to reality. The new entrance will potentially provide access to the Gordon River Greenway Park and the Naples Zoo.
Green building practices, sustainability features and best management practices are being incorporated into all aspects of the construction and building designs. Key features include:
All new buildings will be built to rigorous LEED standards.
LEED standards will be applied across the overall for Nature Center.
Water conservation will be emphasized and best management practices for storm water management applied. Storm water will be captured for re-use or filtered before naturally flowing into the Gordon River.
Energy efficiency will be incorporated at every opportunity with a multi-year goal to achieve “net zero” energy cost.
Campus construction has been phased over several years to minimize the impact on Conservancy guests and staff. Completion is expected sometime in late 2012.
The construction project team members bring a variety of backgrounds and specialization in sustainable design, advanced building construction and applied technology to the project. All contractors working on the project have achieved or are pursuing personal LEED accreditation. The construction partners all have adapted their own business philosophies and practices to meet the demands of the project. They also have committed to using their experience with sustainability practices on the Conservancy campus to extend that concept into future projects for other Southwest Florida clients. Team members include:
Curtis Cafiso, Conservancy of Southwest Florida (Project Executive)
Keith Predmore, Keith Predmore & Associates (Owner’s Representative)
Casey Neurock, Neugreen LLC (LEED Consultant)
Larry Warner Architects (Initial Master Planning and Building Design)
Fernando Zabala and Brian Leaders, L-Architecture (Master Planning and Building Design)
Alex Lopez, JALRW Engineering Group (MEP Engineers)
Derry Berrigan, DBLD Sustainable Lighting Design (LED Lighting)
Peter Kuttner, Cambridge 7 Associates (Discovery Center Exhibit Design and Campus Interpretive Design)
Walter Crawford, Heatherwood Construction (Construction Managers)
Frank Feeney, Hole Montes (Civil Engineer)
Since 1964, the Conservancy of Southwest Florida has focused on protecting water, land and wildlife through environmental education, policy, science and wildlife rehabilitation. 1450 Merrihue Dr., Naples, FL , (239) 262.0304,


Florida gears up to fight new federal rules on water pollution
Orlando Sentinel - by Mike Thomas
May 18, 2011
Ladies and gentleman, we have clean water in Florida. Don't let any environmentalist tell you otherwise. It is clean; it smells good; it looks good. — Barney Bishop, president of Associated Industries of Florida
Barney needs to get out of his bathtub.
I'll take him out on Lake Apopka and he can do a swan dive into its pristine and perfumed waters.
Assuming the black ooze doesn't digest him, he can swim back to shore because I'm not letting him back into my boat.
SEAL Team 6 wouldn't stick a toe in that water, even if the entire al-Qaida leadership was out there fishing.
I like Barney, so I'll attribute his comments to political posturing instead of outright lying.
What prompted this is a move by the feds to impose strict water-pollution restrictions in Florida.
Industries and utilities are lined up to fight them, backed by the full might and fury of Florida's Republican leadership. They see this as nothing but a job-killing power grab by Washington and its jackbooted thugs in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Barney claims EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson "thinks she talks to God." And her allies include the "communist-inspired'' environmentalists.
Barney is getting just a bit shrill in his old age.
It must be something in the water.
Perhaps it's too much nitrogen and phosphorous, which are the focus of the EPA's concern.
These are the main ingredients in poop and fertilizer. They get into lakes and rivers from sewer pipes, farms, septic tanks and front yards. They feed outbreaks of algae that turn water into pea soup.
Some algae are toxic. Some algae congeal in nasty clumps that look like mutant jellyfish.
Most algae sink to the bottom and rot, creating a blanket of black ooze. It sucks the shoes right off your feet.
Algae are taking over Florida's waterways, because Florida is drowning in poop and fertilizer.
It even has saturated the ground and is flowing out of the springs.
I will now reduce a zillion pages of mind-numbing rules and regulations to a few clever and entertaining paragraphs.
To keep water clean, we figure out how much pollution we can dump into it before it becomes dirty.
Defining dirty is the big trick. It requires legions of lawyers, lobbyists, politicians and consultants who get big checks to produce big studies that reach predetermined conclusions.
This is because a strict definition of dirty requires polluters to spend a bunch of money cleaning up their pollution.
Florida has spent years defining dirty in lakes and rivers all over the state, working in concert with the very industries that dump poop and fertilizer in them.
I can assure you of one thing. Having spent my entire life in this state, this ain't working. I've watched Lake Butler, Crystal River and Weeki Wachee Springs all turn green, green and green.
That's just to name a few.
And so, spurred on by a lawsuit from the communist environmentalists to do something about this, the EPA decided to attach numbers to dirty. No more guesswork.
Set a fixed amount of nitrogen and phosphorous allowed in the water. Then put the water under a microscope and do a head count.
If you violate the limit, you have to cut way back on what you're dumping in that lake or river.
In sections of the St. Johns River, you'd pretty much be limited to dumping holy water.
That would require big, big filters at sewage plants, farms and other polluters, all of which would cost big, big bucks.
The EPA claims it would be millions and millions, and well worth it.
The state claims it would be billions and billions, and might not do squat.
This dispute is bigger than just us.
If Florida knuckles under, the feds will move on to other states with their demands for cleaner water. So polluters and mudfish all over the nation are cheering us on.
We are the Maginot Line of dirty water.
Look for millions and millions spent on lawyers and lobbyists.
Florida can challenge EPA's numbers. It can challenge EPA's approach.
But nobody can challenge what is happening to our water.


Lake Erosion
Sun Sentinel - by Sheri Scarborough
May 18th, 2011
The drought and extremely low water levels are giving us an opportunity to evaluate the health of our lake banks. Lake erosion in south Florida is a major problem. Shoreline erosion is not only unpleasing to the eye but also causes property damage and is a very a serious safety issue. Typically erosion is caused by the action of wind and water, however other factors accelerate erosion including man altering the landscape and some fish species. The more erosion, the steeper the lake slope. The steep slopes can make it impossible to rescue someone that has fallen into a lake. Pesky sailfin catfish burrow into lake banks creating tunnel like areas rendering them unstable, especially for a heavy equipment.
While we can’t stop mother nature, we can help slow down the rate of erosion. There are several solutions available for restoring lake banks and protecting them from future erosion. With low lake levels, now is the time to assess how much of the land has been lost as well as the most effective way to restore the bank. A good website to visit is:


New mercury rules protect air, water, us
Pocono Record
May 18, 2011
As an angler and sportsman, I welcome the U.S Environmental Protection Agency's efforts to toughen limits on toxic air pollution like mercury and arsenic, steps that could cut 91 percent of mercury coming out of power plants.
Every state in the nation has a fish advisory of some type because of unsafe levels of mercury. Pennsylvania lists 82 streams and lakes with fish consumption warnings and almost all of our lakes and reservoirs have mercury in amounts exceeding safe levels. According to EPA, nearly all fish and shellfish contain at least trace amounts of mercury.
Mercury typically settles into waterways from coal-fired power plants. It can alter fish development and reproduction. When people eat fish, we are exposed to the mercury.
In addition to fish, predators of small fish, like larger fish and birds, are exposed to mercury. It has been found in eagles, otters and endangered Florida panthers. In animals, mercury can cause death, reduced fertility, slower growth and abnormal behavior, says EPA. The National Wildlife Federation reported in March that fish like brown trout, walleye and largemouth bass may be harmed by mercury and that emerging research has found mercury harms terrestrial animals, loons and migrating songbirds as well.
America's wildlife is under serious threats from air and water pollution, climate change, invasive species and habitat loss. Thanks to the EPA, reducing mercury pollution will help protect wildlife, their habitat and us.


Low lake levels worry Florida farmers - U.S. News
May 17, 2011
PALM BEACH, Fla., May 17 (UPI) -- Water managers in Florida say they may have to use pumps to move water from Lake Okeechobee for farms as drought has lowered the lake level 3 feet below normal.
If level of the lake falls another 1.68 inches, managers say, they'll have to install 14 pumps at three sites along the southern rim of the lake to substitute for gravity that normally allows for water flow, The Palm Beach Post reported Monday.
If the water level drops below 10.5 feet, there is insufficient water for gravity to pull it south through farmlands and into the Everglades, the newspaper reported.
Since the dry season began last October, only 11.75 inches of rain have fallen, the lowest since rainfall recording began in 1932.
Even with the rainy season expected in June, climate forecasts suggest the lake could experience low levels the entire summer, Peter J. Kwiatkowski, director of resource evaluation, said.
"The really sobering thing is that, come November, we could still be in a shortage," Kwiatkowski said. "That is not a good indicator of what we could be looking at for the next rainy season."


South Florida rainy season: will it be enough ? – by David Damian
May 17, 2011
There are two distinct seasons in South Florida.  Some might argue the hot season and the hotter season, and considering how warm it has been in recent months, that would be completely understandable.  Actually, It's the wet, or rainy season, and the dry season.  In any given year, the wet season typically begins on May 20th and ends in the latter half of October, usually around October 17.  As defined by the National Weather Service, the wet season begins as atmospheric moisture content increases and temperatures increase, coupled with warm ocean temperatures and daily seabreeze establishment.  
According to the National Weather Service, an average wet season produces 33 to 44 inches of rainfall, which accounts for roughly 70 percent of yearly totals.  This year's wet season is critical because, according to the South Florida Water Management District, this past October-February period was the driest in 80 years.  Additionally, South Florida just endured the warmest April on record.  Extreme drought conditions still persist over most of South Florida, and the only relief from this will be the much anticipated rains that are counted on each year.
In addition to extreme drought conditions, much of South Florida, particularly the Everglades, are at high risk for wildfires.  The recent brush fires and wind patterns have caused smoke from these fires to blow over the metropolitan areas of Broward and Miami-Dade counties.  Despite the recent rains, the problem of continued extreme drought and occasional brush fires will remain high until the daily rains, which mainly come in the form of afternoon thunderstorms, kick in.
But how do we go from one season (dry) to another (wet) on what seems to be a specific day of the year?  Is there some sort of magical meteorological switch that is flicked on by the weather gods?  Not quite, but the process is something that can generally be counted on year-in and year-out.
The possible keys to the start of the wet season are the rise in the dew point temperatures that must average about 70 degrees or greater on a daily basis.  The higher the "dew points", the more "tropical" it feels to the skin, especially when high temperatures are factored in.  This is because there is a high moisture content in the air, especially at the surface where you and I live and breathe.  Additionally, ocean temperatures must reach the 80 degree or higher threshold.  Also, the daily convective thunderstorm pattern must be established.  Convection is simply a cycle of hot, rising air that cools and falls as it becomes denser.  When enough moisture sunshine is available on a daily basis, the familiar sights and sounds of huge thunderheads building up over the interior sections of South Florida is what drives the wet season.
If enough moisture is available, and once the hot sunshine begins to heat up the earth's surface fed by the seabreeze, the air begins to rise, form the towering cumulonimbus clouds, cool, condense and then release it's heat energy in the form of rain (and sometimes strong winds, hail, and the occasional isolated tornado).  This daily pattern is critical to replenishing the water supply, including the Biscayne Aquifer.  Local lake levels begin to rise, canals are fed by ample rainfall, and the water budget for the region is restored.
In addition to the daily thunderstorm pattern which typifies the wet season, tropical systems are also an important factor in the overall rainfall contribution on a yearly basis.  Most tropical systems that affect South Florida are weak systems:  Tropical disturbances such as tropical waves and tropical depressions.  As destructive as they are, stronger systems such as tropical storms and hurricanes do play a role in feeding the local water tables from year to year. 
According to the National Weather Service, and as predicted by the team of William Gray and Phil Klotzbach at Colorado State University, there is a climate shift form a "La Nina" climatological pattern to a "neutral" pattern.  What this means for the South Florida wet season is ultimately not known, but past history suggests that we might expect a normal wet season (with the total rainfall for a given area between 33 to 44 inches of rain through mid-October) with above average temperatures.  In a nutshell, expect normal daily thunderstorm activity which will be augmented by a few tropical systems and a hot summer.
An important note to remember during the wet season:  Of all weather related phenomena, lightning is the number one killer in Florida.  Hurricanes will always pose a great risk to life and limb, and the incredible tornado outbreak in the Southeastern United States reminds us all of how deadly and powerful weather can be.  However, the greatest threat to life on a daily basis are the thunderstorms that pop up in South Florida during the wet season naturally produce potentially deadly cloud-to-ground lightning.  Use common sense if you hear thunder and seek shelter immediately.  It could save your life.
Will the daily thunderstorms and occasional tropical systems be enough to replenish South Florida's aquifers, lakes and canals?  It remains to be seen, and any deviation of rainfall below what is expected from a "normal" wet season could have far-reaching implications beyond this Summer.  South Florida will need every drop of rain Mother Nature can provide.  Conservation is still a wise idea that everyone should embrace.
David Damian, a Meteorologist with almost 20 years experience in the dynamic south Florida market, knows south Florida weather.


Nuclear Plant
cooling canals

Nuclear Energy - Letter
May 16, 2011
Mr. Paul Sicca wrote a letter on May 13 about the need to maintain nuclear energy in water and not on land. I agree with Mr. Sicca in most of his conclusions. We need to keep nuclear power from using fresh water.
He mentions that Florida Power & Light is planning to build five nuclear reactors. He also said that Turkey Point nuclear site uses fresh water from The Everglades. This is not the case. I worked at Florida Power & Light for 35 years. Turkey Point plant uses salty water from Biscayne Bay. That water is recycled back to Biscayne Bay after it goes through a cooling canal system built for that specific purpose. All of Florida Power & Light's reactors use ocean water.
All new reactors should be built where they don't use fresh water as Mr. Sicca suggests and so far all of Florida Power & Light's reactors meet that criteria. An added benefit from the cooling canals at Turkey Point has been that the endangered saltwater crocodile has been doing very well there.

Turkey Point nuke
Turkey Point FPL nuclear power plant south of Miami was to be doubled in size. This would require wast quantities of gravel, to be mined close-by. The plant expansion has been postponed. The plant's current huge cooling system of canals can be seen all the way from satellites in space.


Once a major issue in Florida, climate change concerns few in Tallahassee - by Craig Pittman, Times Staff Writer
May 16, 2011
Four hundred scientists gathered in Copenhagen this month to talk about the warming temperatures in the arctic. Their conclusion: The arctic's glaciers are melting faster than anyone expected due to man-made climate change.
As a result, the world's sea level will rise faster than previously projected, rising at least 2 feet 11 inches and perhaps as high as 5 feet 3 inches by 2100, they said.
In low-lying Florida, where 95 percent of the population lives within 35 miles of its 1,200 miles of coastline, a swelling of the tides could cause serious problems. So what is Florida's Department of Environmental Protection doing about dealing with climate change?
"DEP is not pursuing any programs or projects regarding climate change," an agency spokeswoman said in an e-mail to the St. Petersburg Times last week.
"That's a crying shame," said former Gov. Charlie Crist.
It shows how fast popular causes can come and go in Florida politics — even ones that are put into state law. Yet even when causes lose favor in Tallahassee, that's not necessarily the end of them.
Four years ago, the newly elected Crist told legislators that global warming is "one of the most important issues that we will face this century." Crist pledged to "bring together the brightest minds" and "place our state at the forefront of a growing worldwide movement to reduce greenhouse gases."
Crist's climate-change crusade got him national attention, with a write-up in Time magazine and an interview on the CBS Early Show. He shared a stage with singer Sheryl Crow and met with Robert Redford. California's then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger called him "another great action hero."
Crist's enthusiasm led to more than just meetings. At his urging, the Public Service Commission rejected a plan for a coal-fired power plant near the Everglades because of its greenhouse gas emissions, and other utilities that had been planning coal-fired plants changed course. That may be Crist's biggest climate change legacy, said Susan Glickman of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy.
With little opposition, the Legislature passed a bill called the Florida Climate Protection Act calling for DEP to set up a program to cut back greenhouse gases, such as with a cap-and-trade system. The act also created a Florida Energy and Climate Commission to recommend other steps for the state to take.
But Crist's ardor for battling global warming cooled considerably as the economy collapsed and he mounted a bid for the U.S. Senate. Crist's successor, Gov. Rick Scott, doesn't think climate change is real, even though it's accepted as fact by everyone from NASA to the Army to the Vatican.
"I've not been convinced that there's any man-made climate change," Scott said last week. "Nothing's convinced me that there is."
Now Tallahassee has lost its passion for combating climate change. Some lawmakers attempted last month to repeal the Florida Climate Protection Act, arguing it was no longer needed. They did pass another bill abolishing the Florida Energy and Climate Commission and handing its duties to Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, suggesting they see the future in ethanol and biofuels, not solar, wind or other alternate fuels.
The shift came as a surprise to commission chairman Jim Murley.
"It's possible they just don't like commissions," joked Murley, a former secretary of the Department of Community Affairs, who said he did not know if Scott will sign the bill into law.
In its two-year lifespan, the climate commission did very little about climate change, Murley said. Instead, thanks to an influx of $175 million in federal stimulus funds, it turned into an ATM for energy-efficiency projects, which he said is a good legacy if this is the end.
But some of the commission's grants went to two groups in Florida who still care about climate change: local government agencies and universities. As Tallahassee has turned its back on the subject, those groups have become more active than ever.
After all, they have seen the results of rising sea level — roughly 9 inches in the past 75 years, with an acceleration in the rate of rise in the past decade, according to a report from Florida Atlantic University. On Big Pine Key, for instance, what used to be a pine forest has turned into a tidal marsh.
Last fall, Florida State and the University of Florida started a joint Florida Climate Institute, the main focus being the impact of climate change on agriculture. And four South Florida counties have agreed to work together on how to deal with a rising sea level that will inundate the state's barrier islands and coastal wetlands and taint the underground supply of freshwater.
There are big issues to be settled, said Peter Harlem, a research ecologist with Florida International University who has been studying rising sea levels since the 1980s — for instance, what to do about saving Florida Power & Light's nuclear plant at Turkey Point from being swamped. Dealing with those issues would be easier if the governor and Legislature were involved again, he said.
"While they're playing politics," Harlem said, "the water's still coming up."
Times staff writer Michael C. Bender contributed to this report. Craig Pittman can be reached at


South Florida Water Management District projects at risk
May. 15, 2011
Cuts threaten the work to restore Everglades, keep estuaries clean
The South Florida Water Management District is looking at coming up $126 million short in its 2011-12 budget.
Earlier this year, Gov. Rick Scott said he wanted the state’s five water management districts to cut their property tax revenues by 25 percent; last week, the House and Senate agreed to cut the districts’ property tax funding by $210.5 million.
More than half of that will be from the South Florida Water Management District, the largest district in the state: Typically, the district collects $411 million in property taxes, but the Legislature has set a limit of $285 million.
The water district will begin budget discussions for fiscal year 2011-12 in June and approve a budget in September.
Last year local property owners paid 62.4 center per $1,000 of taxable value.
Some people are wondering how a shortfall will affect the district’s environmental projects.
“It’s most unfortunate that the environment is in the crosshairs of the Legislature and the governor,” Lee County Commissioner Ray Judah said. “This is a draconian reduction of the water district’s budget at a time when more than half of our waterways — rivers, streams and lakes — are impaired.
“The governor and Legislature are withdrawing their support for the restoration of these waterbodies and allowing for further degradation of our precious water resources.”
Of particular concern is how the reduction will affect Everglades restoration.
“We are worried that the district’s ability to do water-storage and treatment projects is really going to be compromised,” said Brad Cornell, a spokesman for Audubon of Florida. “Our other concern is that the precedent of the Legislature’s taking that kind of control over the budgets of the water management districts has a very real threat of jeopardizing all ad valorum (property) taxing ability.”
Southwest Florida’s big Everglades project is the C-43 reservoir in Hendry County.
The $338 million reservoir, which would be built on a 10,500-acre parcel south of the Caloosahatchee River, would store 55.4 billion gallons of water from the river basin and from Lake Okeechobee releases.
Storing water in the reservoir would keep too much nutrient-rich fresh water from flowing into the river and its estuary. Excess nutrients can trigger harmful algal blooms, and excess fresh water can upset the estuary’s salinity.
A reservoir also allows for freshwater releases into the estuary during the dry season. High salinities can kill tape grass, an important component of the upper river’s ecology.
“In Lee County, we have concerns environmentally and economically for the quality of water coming down the Caloosahatchee,” said Charles Dauray, former member of the water district’s governing board. “We need some kind of reservoir. If we delay on C-43, then we’re in trouble. I don’t see any way out of it.”
Dan DeLisi, who has replaced Dauray as Southwest Florida’s representative on the district’s governing board, said the district will need to set priorities on its spending.
“The first thing that needs to be done is decide what are the luxury things,” he said. “In what areas are we spending money that we don’t need to spend money in?”
One area where the district might not need to spend money is reservoirs, DeLisi said.
Instead, the district should look closely at giving property owners incentives to store water on their land.
“We have difficult decisions ahead of us as far as Everglades restoration,” DeLisi said. “If we change our approach, get away from the idea of grandiose reservoirs, pare it down to smaller approaches, things will go a lot farther.
“If you give landowners incentives to do something, they’ll get get it done. They won’t waste 10 years thinking about how to do it.”


Florida is
not alone -

Officials discuss possible costs to lower pollutants discharged into nearby water systems
TribLocal - by Amy Alderman, TribLocal reporter
May 14, 2011
Following a recent rate hike on water and sewer service, local and state officials are saying that even more money might be needed to upgrade Libertyville’s Wastewater Treatment Plant if it does not meet state regulations that could be on the horizon.
The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency is discussing setting standards in accordance with federal EPA regulations that restrict the amount of nutrients public wastewater treatment systems can discharge into water systems.
The restrictions are to combat excess nutrient discharges — specifically large amounts of phosphorus, which can lead to too much plant growth and not enough oxygen, making some waterways uninhabitable for some fish and wildlife, IEPA officials have said.
According to an IEPA study, high levels of phosphorus have largely impaired aquatic life in the Des Plaines River near Libertyville.
However, Libertyville officials aren’t sure yet as to how the village would pay for the mandate, if it goes through.
“The U.S.EPA would like to force state of Illinois to adopt their regulations,” said Director John Heinz at a recent water and sewer committee meeting. “That may require us to do some significant work to our treatment plant if we’re not able to meet their requirements.”
The village spent $1.5 million over the last two years to upgrade electrical and mechanical components at the plant, Heinz said.
It’s too early to tell what the upgrades will be, if they will be needed and what it would cost the village, Heinz said.
“I don’t know the limits, and how it’s going to impact our plant,” Heinz said, adding the regulations were “not on my radar” while the village was implementing its budget.
IEPA officials say the issue of too much phosphorus leaking into water systems has been a discussion at the federal and state level for 11 years. But Illinois stakeholders are meeting in Springfield on Monday to discuss regulating nutrient standards, such as phosphorus levels, said Bob Mosher, manager of the water quality standards unit at the IEPA’s Bureau of Water.
“It’s really been going on for quite a while,” Mosher said. “U.S. EPA, on a national level, got on a path to get all states to have nutrients standards, including phosphorus, and that started 11 years ago. All this time, a lot of work’s been done, but not a lot of status and regulations has changed yet. Florida is kind of the poster child in that, with people suing to make standards happen. We are getting a little closer to changing the whole way we do things. We have a group that meets Monday — the Nutrient Standard Stakeholder group, with governmental agencies and environmental groups — to figure out what we need.”
In the last five years, IEPA officials have worked with developing municipalities to implement technology at wastewater treatment plants that regulate the discharge of phosphorus into waterways.
However, Libertyville has not fallen into the category of a growing community by IEPA’s standards, and has not been required to upgrade its wastewater plant with technology to reduce phosphorus, Mosher said.
But Libertyville’s plant does fall into IEPA’s category of a major facility, which would likely require the village to incorporate the new regulations, Mosher said.
“Will everyone have to remove phosphorus someday? We’ll probably draw the line with large enough entities that can reasonably afford and run the energy that it takes,” Mosher said. “Larger communities will fall into that. Small towns and campgrounds and Boy Scout camps are probably too small to ever talk about… We draw the line at one million gallons a day of discharge capability. So Libertyville is in the category of major facilities, which we draw the line at one million gallons a day of discharge capability … Libertyville is in the neighborhood of over two million gallons a day.”
Municipalities would be given a compliance schedule in order to take time to adapt to new regulations by organizing financing through grants, and likely through raising sewer rates, Mosher said.
In order for municipalities to receive permits from EPA and National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System to operate, the changes might not be optional.
“It’s not a question of affordability when the law requires you to change things. We don’t ask, ‘Can you afford it?’” Mosher said.
And Libertyville, at this point, cannot afford it, Heinz said.
“There’s no money at this stage at all,” Heinz said. “We had to significantly reduce our water and sewer capital plan, because we do not have the money. Water and sewer rate increases went into place so we can meet the costs that it takes to run the facilities.”
Libertyville approved a 3 percent water and sewer rate increase to offset the costs passed down to the village from a 37-cent Lake County sewer rate increase and the 6-cent Joint Action Water Agency water rate increase.
There have been preliminary discussions of a bond issue to pay for any upgrades that might need to be made at the Libertyville plant, but since the costs are still unknown, “we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it,” Heinz said about the next steps for the village on this issue.
The Illinois Association of Wastewater agencies have recently sent out a bid request for engineering firms to assess the costs of the technologies available to implement new phosphorus regulations, Mosher said.
Some facilities might be able to get away with doing what Mosher called a relatively simple addition to their wastewater plants by adding either ferric chloride or aluminum sulfate into their systems.
“This way, the phosphorous settles out, and would be carried away with dry sludge and goes to a farm field as fertilizer or a land fill,” Mosher said.
Phosphorus levels are high in almost every waterway in Illinois, Mosher said. Mostly the levels increase through public wastewater treatment plants discharging phosphorus.
“That’s the most common technology, but it may not be applicable to all technologies now. It (phosphorus) will only get so low. One of the things we’re studying is what it will require to get phosphorus to a lower level than what we have now.”
In the meantime, homeowners and municipalities can help to reduce the amount of phosphorus that is discharged into water ways by not using or banning products such as fertilizers and dishwasher detergents that have a high percentage of phosphorus, Mosher said.


Bug factory to help Everglades fight plant invaders
Reuters - by Shurna Robbins
May 13, 2011
MIAMI (Reuters) - Scientists are planning to scale up deployment of laboratory-bred insects to battle invading plant species that threaten to throttle parts of Florida's ecologically fragile Everglades wetlands.
The plant- and seed-eating bugs, which include moths, mites and weevils, act as biological control agents -- basically environmental gamekeepers -- against the invaders.
They are to be produced in their hundreds of thousands at a new research laboratory planned jointly by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers and the South Florida Water Management District.
The new "bug factory" facility is scheduled to open on September 2012 and aims to saturate areas infested with invasive plant species in a $16 million program over 20 years.
This is considered a modest investment compared to the untold billions in environmental damage that can be inflicted by the nonnative invaders.
While herbicides and physical eradication have been used for decades, scientists consider mass-produced biocontrol bugs a more effective weapon
"The goal (for each insect type) is to control 90 percent of the proliferation," said USDA's lead scientist for the project, Ted Center. "It won't eradicate the invasive species, but it will do a lot of the work for us."
The Everglades wetlands at the southern end of the Florida peninsula are one of the United States' most famous natural attractions.
Covering two million acres and designated as an endangered World Heritage site by UNESCO, they are a mosaic of marshland and tree islands, famous for crocodiles, manatees, panthers, and exotic birds, including plants and animals found nowhere else.
In recent decades, the Everglades ecosystem has been weakened by growing urbanization and polluted run-off from nearby farming and cattle operations.
"When you are flying over the Everglades, you will see houses and malls just on the other side of the levees," said LeRoy Rodgers of the South Florida Water Management District.
While public attention has focused on the more visible invasive animal species, such as the Burmese Python that has tangled with local alligators, experts say the plant invaders can cause just as much, if not more, havoc to the habitat.
One leafy invader is the fast-growing Old World Climbing Fern which creeps up trees, blankets land with vegetation and accelerates the spread of wildfires.
"Some tree islands have collapsed from the weight of the ferns," said Center, adding that one biocontrol agent, an Australian moth, has achieved some limited success in pushing back the plant.
Another creeping interloper is the Brazilian pepper, which has infested over 700,000 acres of public and private lands.
Some 1,400 of more than 25,000 nonnative plants imported into Florida have established populations in the wild, with nearly 70 identified as ecosystem-damaging plants, according to research studies.
The USDA has targeted 11 invasive plants as serious threats to the Everglades.
Scientists believe the trespassing species come from the hundreds of exotic plants imported into nurseries in Florida every year.
The nurseries are virtually unregulated, catering to an extensive gardening market that must meet demand for new varieties of ornamental plants.
Some of the exotic plants propagate into the wild tropical wetlands, where they have no natural predators, said Center.
Pushing back against the invaders can take much longer.
Searching for an insect predator for the Brazilian pepper, the USDA is three years into the hunt for a winning biocontrol bug with scientists making several trips to Brazil, collecting 12 species to be used to build lab colonies for testing.
Due to a "glacially slow" regulatory process, it can take several more years for a biocontrol insect to be released into the Everglades. The period from identifying an invasive species through to its eventual reduction can run to about 20 years.
U.S. scientists are also traveling to China, Australia and Argentina to look for potential biobug gamekeepers.
(Editing by Pascal Fletcher and Jerry Norton)


Governor's policies will damage Florida's future - Letter byMargaret Eubank, Port St. Lucie
May 13, 2011
I do not understand Gov. Rick Scott's reasoning. From my point of view, we need an educated populace to attract businesses to Florida. What business person will locate in Florida if there are not good schools in which to educate his children and if he cannot find competent employees ? So why is the governor reducing funds for public schools when Florida has among the lowest funding in our nation for public education ?
Second, we need safe water to drink to live. We need water to grow food to live. Why then does our governor reduce funds for the South Florida Water Management District? We need to police our water system.
Third, according to our governor and many Floridians (myself included) tourism is a major business in Florida. Why would the governor advocate things that are detrimental to our tourist environment such as closing parks, not cleaning up the Indian River Lagoon, not seeing that Big Agriculture returns the water it uses in the same condition (if not better) that it was in when it was borrowed? These actions are destroying the golden egg the goose lays.
Fourth, since unbridled growth contributed to our current economic decline, why would the governor eliminate state control over growth as so eloquently articulated by Nathaniel Reed in his column, "Speak out before politicians destroy this state" (May 4) ?  
I believe we need government controls in place to keep greed in check.


More than half of Everglades water conservation areas have gone dry during drought
Sun Sentinel - by Andy Reid,
May 13, 2011
More than half of the Everglades water conservation areas have gone dry during South Florida’s lingering drought, threatening wildlife habitat and straining a key back-up to community water supplies.
Sixty percent or more of the land in the Everglades water conservation areas, west of Broward, Palm Beach and Miami-Dade counties, is dry, according to the South Florida Water Management District.
That dry out along with Lake Okeechobee’s continued decline are limiting water managers’ ability to meet the sometimes competing water needs of the environment, agriculture and community water supplies
"Water levels are dropping fast," said Deborah Drum, the district’s deputy director of Everglades restoration. "We are very close to being almost entirely dry throughout the entire Everglades."
That increases the likelihood of more wildfires, like those that have already been sending smoke toward the coast.
In addition, an expanded dry out would hurt wading bird nesting that had been thriving in still-soggy portions of the water conservation areas.
Aside from providing wildlife habitat, water from the Everglades water conservation areas is used to restock water supplies for South Florida communities.
But water levels in the conservation areas are at or near the "floor" threshold where withdrawals are stopped until conditions improve, according to the district.
Lake Okeechobee water can be used to restock the water conservation areas, but the lake level is more than 2 feet below normal. The lake is fast approaching the point where gravity will no longer send lake water into the drainage canals used to move water south.
Lake Okeechobee was 10.62 feet above sea level on Friday. Flows to the south start getting interrupted when the lake hits 10.5 feet.
The water management district plans to install temporary pumps to keep water flowing south once the lake hits 10.5 feet. But installing the pumps can disrupt water flows for more than a week. Also, once installed the pumps can’t deliver as much water as usually moves through the canals.
Sugar cane growers and other agricultural operations south of the lake rely on those canals for irrigation.
Using pumps to keep Lake Okeechobee water flowing south raises concerns for environmentalists worried that the pumping could speed the lake’s decline. Low lake levels already threaten the habitat of the endangered Everglades snail kite.
At 10.5 feet, more than 80 percent of the foraging habitat for the snail kite dries out.
And while the pumps would keep water going to agriculture, lake water releases west to protect the Caloosahatchee estuary have been cutoff.
Without an infusion of freshwater from the lake, sea grasses vital to the health of the Caloosahatchee River and West Coast fishing grounds are dying.
"I have a mile wide view of a dying estuary," said Pete Quasius of Audubon of Southwest Florida, who lives near the Caloosahatchee. "We need better water management. … We need some equity."
Lack of South Florida water storage facilities and past water management decisions, not just the drought, account for the current water supply problems.
Safety concerns about Lake Okeechobee’s aging dike prompt the Army Corps of Engineers to keep the lake about a foot lower year round to ease the threat of a breach while repairs continue. To lower the lake during rainy periods, the corps during 2010 released more than 300 billion gallons of lake water out to sea.
"We have got to stop dumping (water) east and west," said Mark Perry, Everglades Coalition chairman. "It’s just not a wise use of water resources."
To try to stretch water supplies, the district on Thursday approved tougher irrigation limits for agriculture. Agriculture since March has been required to reduce water use 15 percent. Once the lake hits 10.5 feet, that cutback for agriculture goes to 45 percent for growers near the lake.
Twice-a-week watering remains the limit for landscape watering throughout South Florida under the emergency drought measures.


Muddy Waters
Gulf Coast Bus.Review – Jay Brady
May 13, 2011
What.  Swiftmud’s cash balance
Issue.  Fixes may be late, but are they enough ?
Impact. bTaxpayers get a break next year, but no refunds.
In a time when most organizations experienced a boom in revenue followed by a tightening of capital, the Southwest Florida Water Management District has steadily accumulated cash — and lots of it.
During the past nine years, the state agency known as Swiftmud, funded mostly from property tax revenues, has increased its cash balance more than two-and-a-half times — from $268 million in 2001 to $674 million in 2010. The district saw increases in each of those years, including the past three when property values decreased with the recession.
Now, after nearly two years of questioning by a new district board member, the Legislature and Gov. Rick Scott aim to rein in four of the five districts with property tax cuts totaling $210.5 million. That’s 30% of their combined property tax revenues for fiscal year 2011, and more than Scott originally targeted.
“We were on a pathway to address it ourselves,” says Dave Moore, executive director of Swiftmud.
But its slow pace in dealing with its cash is now raising questions about management of the agency charged with water supply planning and environmental permitting functions across 16 counties and roughly 10,000 square miles of west central Florida. The district extends from Levy to Charlotte counties and inland to adjacent counties.
“As needs reduced for permits, the district did not seek to match service needs with our staffing levels,” says district governing board member Carlos Beruff, president of Medallion Home, a Manatee County homebuilder.
Total permit applications — for things like well construction, water use and projects affecting surface waters — dropped from 21,242 in fiscal year 2006 to roughly 9,500 last year, a 55% slide. “We should have been seeing it in ’09 and ’08,” says Beruff about the decrease in permitting.
Meanwhile, regular full-time equivalent staff numbers have remained constant at 736 since at least 2003. But when temporary and contracted employees are added in, the number of workers rose to a peak of 897 in 2009 before dropping off to 850 this year because of a cutback in outsourced workers.
In addition to total staffing levels that grew while permit applications fell, Swiftmud grew its cash and investments balance from 2007 to 2010, from $550 million to $674 million. In 2001, the balance was just $268 million, so it’s grown 251% in nine years, or nearly 27% a year on average. (See chart on page 21A.)
During that period the district-wide millage rate — equal to $1 of property tax per $1,000 of assessed value — barely inched downward. In fact, the rate stayed at .4220 from 1994 to 2007. In 2007, it dropped 8.4% to .3866 to comply with tax reform legislation that year. It was next lowered this year, to .3770, a 2.5% cut.
It’s a “perfect storm” scenario according to Beruff, who joined the board in August 2009 and has been trying to get staff and other board members to see the link between the cash balances, reduced permitting levels and the millage rates.
Beruff says, “It’s not all the district’s fault.” That’s because another part of the problem stems from local governments canceling cooperative funding projects, which contributed to the rise in cash that had nowhere to go.
“We put away our money with anticipation of these projects, and now with the downturn in the economy, the municipalities don’t have their matching funds,” explains Beruff. Those projects are funded half with local money and half from the district.
The numbers bear him out: In the last three years, including so far this year, $64 million in cooperative funding projects have been canceled. Beruff says there are more not yet accounted for. In the previous seven years, less than $21 million in projects were canceled.
And for every matching local dollar from projects canceled, that results in an additional dollar added to the cash balance, according to Moore.
The biggest cancellations are the Tampa reclaimed water expansion (STAR), a $9.9 million project, and the $8.5 million Tampa Dale Mabry best management practices project. Those cancellations contributed to the reduction of the 2011 millage rate for the Hillsborough River Basin.
The district has seven river basins that assess an additional millage for projects in their area. After recent reductions, those rates now range from .1481 to .2600.
Other projects canceled across the Gulf Coast include those planned for Pasco County, Pinellas County, Safety Harbor, Clearwater and Sarasota.
The Legislature intervenes
On May 5, legislative leaders approved a revised deal cutting the budget and resulting property taxes for four of the five water management districts by $210.5 million. That measure, Senate Bill 2142, passed May 7, the last day of the session.
Not only does the new legislation reduce the tax collection by water management districts by 30%, it also gives the Legislature the power to set the districts’ revenue annually.
It also changes the oversight of the districts giving more authority to the Legislature. The key provisions:
• Requires the Legislature to annually review the preliminary budget for each water management district and set the maximum amount of revenue a district may raise through its ad valorem tax.
• Provides that, if the annual maximum amount of property tax revenue is not set by the Legislature on or before July 1 of each year, the maximum property tax revenue that may be raised reverts to the amount authorized in the prior year.
• Requires each water management district to provide a monthly financial statement to its governing board and make such information available to the public through the district’s website.
• Revises provisions allowing the governor’s office and the Legislative Budget Commission to disapprove, in whole or in part, the budget of each water management district.
In the past, the Legislature set the maximum millage rates for the districts and the governor approved the districts’ budgets. Gov. Rick Scott proposed a $177.8 million cut in his budget plan, so legislators saw an even greater need to rein in the districts.
Swiftmud got a $60 million haircut to the property tax portion of its budget, 36% of its property taxes levied this year. That’s the highest percentage reduction of the four districts faced with cutbacks.
The South Florida Water Management District, the largest of the five, had its property tax dollars sliced by $120 million to $405 million, a 30% cut matching the overall percentage cut for all the districts.
Beruff says that district has 1,500 employees and “could probably do with 1,100 without suffering.” He notes it has 47 staff attorneys on its payroll. “You should be able to do that district with 10 attorneys,” he argues. That’s because, he says, attorneys are attending application meetings instead of focusing on litigation.
Refunds not legal ?
Swiftmud’s budget is the most dependent on property taxes of the five districts. In fiscal year 2010, nearly 63% of its budget came from property taxes. After this year’s small cut in the millage rate, that percentage fell to 57.5%.
The bottom line: Swiftmud will have a maximum of $107.8 million in property tax revenue to work with in 2012 compared to the $167.8 million it has this year.
Moore says he’s now looking at a $160 million budget next year, down from $280 million this year. “This adjustment is fundamentally related to the economic cycle,” he says. “We went up a lot in collections during that 2000 to 2008 period. Then we came down drastically like we’ve never come down before.”
According to Beruff and Moore, the district recognized the surplus revenue issue a year ago, but was told by legal staff that the district does not have the authority to return unused property tax proceeds to taxpayers. “Carrying such unused money forward would appear to be an appropriate mechanism for accounting for this revenue,” a legal Swiftmud memo notes.
Now, Moore will be discussing cuts with the governing board this month. “At the end of the day, we want to reduce all of our major expenditure categories,” he says.
With the $60 million cut to the district, Moore says he thinks the district’s combined millage rate for next year could come down to as low as .42. That means if basin rates remain unchanged, it would lower the combined district-wide and basin rates to a range of .420 to .532. That represents a cut of as much as 20%.
But with a long-term plan to implement, Moore doesn’t want to lose focus on funding capital improvement projects that will be needed. “The real challenge is to do the appropriate adjustment that solves the problem in the near term that doesn’t handicap you in the long term,” he says. “That’s the real trick.”
Beruff sees the funding problem a little differently, though he appreciates that Moore sees the need to adjust the business plan. “The great thing about this district is it has no leverage,” he says. “It has no debt. It’s extremely fiscally conservative, but unfortunately with the taxpayers’ money.”
The Scope of Swiftmud
The Southwest Florida Water Management District encompasses all or part of 16 counties along Florida’s central west coast. About 17% of the state’s total area or 10,000 square miles, and almost 25% of the state’s population, approximately 4.7 million people are contained within the district. The district stretches from LevyCounty in the north to CharlotteCounty in the south and inland as far as Polk and Highlands counties. The region also contains the GreenSwamp, and headwaters for the Peace, Hillsborough, Withlacoochee and Oklawaha rivers.
Water management districts derive their revenues from seven major sources. These include state revenues, local revenues, federal revenues, ad valorem revenues, certificates of participation, miscellaneous revenues and permit fees. The districts’ primary revenue sources are from ad valorem taxes and state appropriations.


After appointment, water district's new chief ends four contracts her firm had with district
Palm Beach Post - by Christine Stapleton, Staff Writer
May 12, 2011
WEST PALM BEACH — Just two months ago, Melissa Meeker was put in charge of all the water management districts in the state after Gov. Rick Scott said he wanted stronger state supervision of water management.
She gave it up Thursday to become executive director of the largest and most troubled of those districts, the South Florida Water Management District based in West Palm Beach.
"This is such a time of opportunity," Meeker said. "My whole career has focused on challenges like this and this district really should be the best of the best."
Meeker, approved by the South Florida district's board Thursday in a surprise appointment, is both an insider and an outsider at the district, having sat on the district's board and done business with the district as a private consultant. She's also a political insider in Tallahassee, working directly under Herschel Vinyard, the Secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection, who made her the state's first Deputy Secretary for Water Policy and Ecosystem Projects earlier this year.
She'll likely need skills she's acquired from all those roles as she inherits an agency that was recently rocked by allegations of cronyism and targeted for dramatic budget cuts by the legislature, an agency where staff cuts are imminent and federal judges are threatening strict sanctions in several lawsuits brought by environmental groups and the Miccosukee Tribe over the Everglades restoration.
Asked why she took the district job so soon after accepting the statewide position, she said timing was a factor.
She said she accepted the water czar position before the district's executive director position became available. Carol Wehle, the district's former executive director, announced her retirement only last month after The Palm Beach Post reported that neither she nor her boyfriend reported their relationship before the district's inspector general hired him to a $120,000-a-year job as the district "engineering auditor."
"It will be an honor to carry this agency forward," said Meeker, whose salary has not been set. "It's about time government took a more active role in water management."
She said she intends to rein in the district, focusing on its core mission: flood control, water supply and restoration. Programs beyond that would be eligible for cuts, she said. "We can do this even with the proposed budget cuts."
Meeker served on the district's governing board 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 a period as director of the department's southeast region, which spans from St. Lucie County south to Miami-Dade County.
Her private-sector past includes nearly five years in two stints at Tetra Tech EC, a global engineering and construction company, and more than three years with her own consulting firm, Stuart-based Hesperides Group, now led by her husband, Richard.
Although Meeker's name no longer appears on corporate records, she described herself as a managing member of Hesperides as recently as Feb. 23. According to a contract she signed on that date, Tetra Tech hired Hesperides as a subcontractor to perform water quality monitoring.
Meeker said Hesperides is subcontractor on a total of four district projects. On Thursday afternoon, after the governing board unanimously voted her as executive director, Meeker said she sent letters to the primary contractors, saying her husband's firm could no longer do business on district projects.
"Our intent is to avert all conflicts," she said. The district and its contractors were never big clients, she said, adding that her husband would no longer do business with the district or state.
Her husband's business contact with the district began before she joined the board in 2007. In 2005 a district contract went to her husband's now defunct company, Wetland Consulting Services. The company was paid $19,680 to manage vegetation in two stormwater treatment areas.
In April 2010, nearly a year after Meeker left the governing board, Hesperides also received a $46,400 contract from the district to identify up to 15 public lands that could be used to clean water entering Lake Okeechobee.
Hesperides received final payment of $43,160 in October and turned in a 34-page final report on April 11. Because the contract did not exceed $50,000, it did not require board approval or competitive bidding.
Environmentalists were pleased with Meeker's appointment.
"Widely respected by both conservationists and business leaders, Meeker has the guts and the environmental credentials to build consensus among very polarized interests on the complicated water supply and water quality problems plaguing South Florida," Kirk Fordham, CEO of The Everglades Foundation wrote in a press release.
Staff writer Joel Engelhardt contributed to this story.


Is Environmentalism Good for American Business ? - American Business CP
May 12, 2011
Executive Describes How Public-Private Partnership Can Be Good for America's Bottom Line
PITTSBURG, PA, May 12, 2011 (MARKETWIRE via COMTEX News Network) --
Joe Veilleux doesn't view himself as an environmentalist, but he understands how his actions might paint him with that brush.
"I'm not an environmentalist," said Veilleux, general manager of the U.S. operations of natural health ingredient manufacturer Euromed. "I'm a pragmatist. There's a difference. A lot of environmentalists have characterized their cause as one that pits them directly against corporate America. I'm part of corporate America, but I also recognize the debt I owe to the environment, and want to do my fair share to protect it. In the long run, it's just good for business."
Veilleux's company is partners with the Everglades Foundation in a campaign dubbed Glade-iator (, which is a model of the public-private partnership Veilleux believes is good for business. In the program, every time a manufacturer purchases an order of Euromed's saw palmetto extract to create a natural health supplement, Euromed will make a donation to the Everglades Foundation in the name of the purchasing company. According to the annual USA Giving report, corporate giving, which is tied to corporate profits, increased 5.5 percent in 2009 to $14.1 billion Not only that, but giving to environmental causes was on the way up, with $6.6 billion in donations in 2009.
Along those lines, companies who help with the Glade-iator effort will also be able to help educate their customers about how they can help the green effort, Veilleux said.
"Companies can make a connection with people through public-private programs like Glade-iator," he added. "Corporations have massive reach into the consumer community, and using that reach not only helps educate consumers about environmental issues, but it also helps make them feel like they are part of the solution. It helps companies build a connection with consumers that is of benefit to the company, as well. Consumers who are on board with the green movement have a tendency to be more loyal to those brands which espouse similar values. It's a win-win for everyone and that's why we're involved in this kind of partnership."
About Joe Veilleux
Joe Veilleux is a veteran of the natural health industry and general manager of the U.S. operation of Euromed, the company that has spearheaded Glade-iator (, a public-private partnership between his company and the not-for-profit Everglades Foundation.
Ginny Grimsley
SOURCE: Euromed


Pollution deniers spout nonsense – opinion by Ron Littlepage
May 12, 2011
Spinning around the news dial ... click.
Sometimes, as a columnist, you can just let what a person says speak for itself.
Take these words of Barney Bishop, the head of the Associated Industries of Florida who unleashed a tirade earlier this week against stricter water quality standards and Lisa Jackson, the administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
As reported by Bruce Ritchie of the Florida Tribune, Bishop had this to say:
"Lisa Jackson thinks she talks to God, and she's the only one who knows exactly what is the right thing to do about our environment."
Wait, it gets better:
"Ladies and gentlemen, we have clean water in Florida. Don't let any environmentalist tell you otherwise. It is clean, it smells good, it looks good."
Wait, it gets better still:
"A group called Earthjustice, which is a liberal, left-leaning, communist-inspired environmental organization - in case you had any question about where I'm coming from - this organization sued the state of Florida in court."
The response of David Guest of Earthjustice also speaks for itself. As reported by Ritchie, Guest said:
"The bottom line here is that no matter how many times polluters and their lobbyists claim the water is clean, the sad truth is that it isn't."
Perhaps Bishop has missed the smells of the annual algae blooms and fish kills in the St. Johns River.
"These toxic algae outbreaks are a threat to little kids splashing in the shallows, to family pets and to the elderly," Guest said. "... that's what these EPA limits on sewage, manure and fertilizer pollution are all about."
Enough said.


Smoky haze from Everglades fire blows over Miami
May 12, 2011
MIAMI (Reuters) - Residents of Miami and its surrounding areas have been waking up this week to the sight of a smoky haze and a strong smell of burning blown eastwards by winds from a big wildfire raging in the Everglades.
The blaze, which fire officers say is contained, has burned over 38,000 acres of the Big Cypress National Preserve in the western part of the Everglades. It started two weeks ago after lightning strikes ignited the swamp brush and forest.
Authorities have been recommending that the elderly, young children, pregnant women and people with respiratory problems such as asthma avoid going outdoors, and keep the windows shut.
"If people do have to go outside, then we are asking them to pace themselves and not to overexert themselves," Miami-Dade Environmental Resource Management spokesperson Luis Espinoza told Reuters on Thursday.
The haze was visible at Miami's international airport earlier on Thursday but did not disrupt flights. It appeared to have cleared somewhat later on.
"It was like there was mist in the air and there was a smell of smoke ... I'd heard about the fire and I knew it was that," said housewife Isis Medina, 56, as she went for a morning walk in the Pinecrest neighborhood.
Authorities say the wildfire poses no hazard to cities as it is burning in an uninhabited area of the South Florida peninsula, more than 60 miles from most major cities including Miami and Ft. Lauderdale.
(Reporting by Shurna Robbins, Editing by Pascal Fletcher and Greg McCune)


South Florida Water Management District selects new director
Sun Sentinel - by Andy Reid,
May 12, 2011
Initial challenges include deep budget cuts, dealing with drought.
The South Florida Water Management District board on Thursday chose former board member Melissa Meeker to become executive director of the agency, just a month after the district's previous leader abruptly resigned.
Meeker takes over the state's largest water management district as it faces steep budget cuts and a leadership shakeup prompted by the election of Gov. Rick Scott.
Meeker moves to the district's top job less than two months after she was appointed to a new post in the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, helping oversee Florida's five water management districts.
She is a former environmental consultant who has worked for the Department of Environmental Protection as well as the South Florida Water Management District. She also was one of former Gov. Charlie Crist's appointees to the district governing board, serving from 2007-09.
"I am honored and deeply humbled by the confidence you have placed in me," Meeker told the new district board Thursday. "It will be an honor to carry this agency forward."
In addition to addressing spending cuts, the district is dealing with water-supply strains from a lingering drought and faces the start of hurricane season next month.
Meeker's selection Thursday was the first move of a district board remade earlier in the week when Scott appointed five of its nine members.
"I'm optimistic that [Meeker] will lead the district in the new direction we hope to proceed," said newly appointed district board member Jim Moran.
Carol Wehle stepped aside as executive director in April. She left with the district facing the potential of more than $100 million budget cuts called for by Scott and the Legislature.
Scott had been critical of district spending under Wehle, particularly its $197 million land deal completed in October to buy 26,800 acres of U.S. Sugar Corp. farmland for Everglades restoration.
Environmental groups have raised concerns that proposed budget cuts at the district could bring Everglades restoration to a halt.
Audubon of Florida on Thursday welcomed Meeker's selection.
"We think she's someone we can work with," Jane Graham of Audubon said.
Agricultural representatives also praised the selection of Meeker. With critical water supply decisions required during the drought and budget challenges ahead, it was important for the district to fill the post quickly, said Barbara Miedema, vice president of the Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative of Florida.
"We are pleased to have somebody who has the knowledge of the water management district … and the challenges facing us," Miedema said.
Meeker said her goals for the district include "fiscal prudence" and streamlining its permitting and other regulatory actions.
Meeker said the district needs to focus on its core mission of flood protection, water supply and restoration.
"We can create an agency that the public expects and demands," said Meeker, a Florida native who lives in Stuart.
The spending cuts called for by the governor and state lawmakers came from "a lot of dissatisfaction with the district," new board member Daniel DeLisi said.
"I would suggest that the leadership here [reflect] on how things have been working," DeLisi said. "Figure out what maybe we did wrong."
Outgoing board member Eric Buermann, whose replacement has yet to be named, called the looming budget cuts "unfortunate" and warned that they could stop already overdue Everglades restoration.
That would hurt the environment as well as the water supply vital to South Florida's economy, according to Buermann.
"The greatest challenge is political," Buermann said. "The new administration and the Legislature are choosing to cut the budgets [and] that's going to be a sea change for how the district operates."
The South Florida Water Management District has a $1 billion budget and is charged with protecting water supplies, guarding against flooding and leading Everglades restoration.
Its territory touches 16 counties, stretching from Orlando to the Keys.
Meeker's contract and salary still must be negotiated by district board chairman Joe Collins. Her predecessor was paid about $200,000 a year.


New ‘bug nursery’ a weapon in war on exotic plants
Miami Herald - by Curtis Morgan
May 11, 2011
Agencies break ground on a research facility in Davie that can breed “bio-control agents” – bugs that attack exotic plants have spread across the Everglades.
The Burmese python may be the Everglades’ most infamous invader, but a host of exotic plants like melaleuca and old world climbing fern pose far bigger ecological threats. Over the decades, they have swallowed marshes, mangrove forests and tree islands whole.
On Tuesday, federal and state agencies broke ground on a research facility in Davie that scientists hope will produce what may be the most promising weapons in Florida’s long struggle to control the spread of exotic plants.
It’s a “bug nursery.”
The project, a major expansion of the U.S. Agricultural Research Service’s invasive-plant research laboratory, will be capable of raising mass swarms of “bio-control agents” such as the melaleuca snout beetle, one of several bugs that scientists have imported to attack the notorious, water-sucking Australian tree.
Though the $16 million lab is a drop in the bucket of the billions spent on the Everglades, the agencies bankrolling it say controlling exotics is one of the biggest challenges to restoring the Glades.
“In terms of impact, this project is huge,” said Col. Al Pantano Jr., commander of the Jacksonville district of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which is building the project as part of the Everglades restoration effort. The U.S. Department of Agriculture, the South Florida Water Management District and the University of Florida are partners in the expansion, which is expected to be completed by next September.
Ted Center, research leader of the USDA’s invasive-plant lab, believes the facility will allow scientists to expand a program that has registered a number of successes, topped by the melaleuca snout beetle. Found in Australia and released in South Florida in 1997, it doesn’t kill trees. But its larvae munch young leaves and stems, knocking back seed output.
That has helped water managers save money and time in controlling a tree that had overrun much of the Glades, said LeRoy Rodgers, lead exotic-plant scientist for the water district. Before the beetle, thick seedlings would begin popping up within a few years of aerial spraying. Now, they are few and far between.
The lab has released dozens of other bugs — including a moth with a voracious appetite for climbing fern but, unfortunately, little tolerance for cold snaps — and there are other promising insects in the pipeline. One of the biggest hurdles, said Center, has been producing enough of them to survive and breed in the wild. The facility, capable of raising hundreds of thousands of bugs, should resolve that, he said
Agencies and the lab’s scientists downplay the threat of bio-control bugs going bad, devouring unintended targets, such as crops. They say that that unlike melaleuca, pythons, the bufo toad and myriad other troublesome invaders, “bio-control” bugs undergo years of scrutiny before they are released.
The bugs are tested for effects on hundreds of native plants and crops, Center said, and if they sample anything they’re not supposed to, they don’t make the cut.
“I always say biological controls are a lot like the game of baseball,” said Rodgers. “There is a lot of disappointment you have to go through before you hit a homer.”


Raytheon neighbors will live with pollution for years - by Mark Douglas
May 11, 2011
ST. PETERSBURG --  More than 100 people heard state environmental regulators and Raytheon Co. executives detail a cleanup plan Tuesday night for a plume of pollution that has been moving beneath their neighborhood for 16 years.
Raytheon said it will take a lot longer than that to get rid of the pollution, the result of chemical dumping by a company that developed the operation decades ago.
During a community meeting at Azalea Middle School, Bob Luhrs, Raytheon's senior manager for remedial programs, said 97 percent of the chemical mass will likely be gone within three years.
But projections show it could take as long as 80 years to finish the cleanup.
"Mother Nature will tell us whether we guessed a little too long or a little too short," Luhrs told the crowd, "So I wouldn't hang my hat on the 80 years, but it will be a long period."
Homeowner Jim Schottman wanted to know whether Raytheon will stay with the project now that it has placed the shuttered defense plant at 1501 72nd St. North up for sale.
"I don't know whether we'll sell it or not, but there is a sign for sale," Luhrs responded. "I do agree to that."
The plume of industrial waste was first made public through a News Channel 8 investigation three years ago. The plume spread under parks, playgrounds and homes without the knowledge of many residents, even though the state and Raytheon have been quietly working on the problem since 1995.
Concern grew among homeowners when they learned the pollution had contaminated more than two dozen private irrigation wells near the plant. State health officials said no one was at any risk due to the low concentration of chemicals in the wells and the fact that no one drinks the water.
Still, the stigma of pollution up to half a mile from the Raytheon plant has hurt property values. Last year, Pinellas Property Appraiser Pam Dubov reduced the value of 349 parcels by 5 percent for a total reduction of $3.5 million in neighborhood home values.
At the Tuesday meeting, Raytheon explained that the cleanup will take a three-pronged approach involving pump and treat technology, thermal heating and oxidation.
A system of wells and pumps will extend into the neighborhood to extract tainted ground water but won't be noticeable after initial construction.
"Everything will be out of sight and it will be dead silent," Luhrs said.
He also discounted the idea that mass pumping will trigger sinkholes.
The thermal treatment will heat groundwater and soil under the plant to near boiling temperatures to release chemicals in a vapor state so they can be extracted and treated onsite.
Oxidation will act to break down other compounds through chemical reactions under the plant, where the highest concentration of pollutants exist.
Luhrs said a temporary pump and treat system on the Raytheon property has already extracted 28 million gallons of polluted groundwater for treatment onsite and disposal in the city sewer system.
Tom McClure, who said he has lived in the neighborhood for 30 years, questioned why the state hasn't fined Raytheon.
"That would be the only fair thing," McClure said Tuesday night. "It would be expected if it happened to me."
Others pressed Luhrs for a completion date so they can sell their properties without having to declare a pollution problem to potential buyers.
Luhrs didn't have an answer.
"All I can say is it's going to shrink," Luhrs said. "I don't have that information in front of me."
The next step in the cleanup process, the state Department of Environmental Protection, said, is state approval of the Raytheon plan.


UF researchers develop method to remove phosphate from water, using biochar
UF News
May 11, 2011
Filed under Environment, Florida, Research
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Phosphate poses one of Florida’s ongoing water-quality challenges but a process developed by University of Florida researchers could provide an affordable solution, using partially burned organic matter called biochar to remove the mineral.
The process also yields methane gas usable as fuel and phosphate-laden carbon suitable for enriching soil, according to Bin Gao and Pratap Pullammanappallil, assistant professors in UF’s agricultural and biological engineering department, part of the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. Crop wastes would provide raw material for the biochar.
A laboratory study demonstrating the effectiveness of biochar for phosphate removal appears in the current issue of the journal Bioresource Technology.
The study involved beet tailings, which are culled beets, scraps and weeds removed from shipments of sugar beets destined for processing to make sugar, said Gao, one of the authors. In the U.S., sugar beets are grown primarily in the Northeast and upper Midwest, but the technology can be adapted to other materials, he said.
“It’s really sustainable,” Gao said. “We will see if it can be commercialized.”
UF has filed a patent application for the phosphate-removal process, Gao said. Wastewater treatment facility representatives have shown interest in the technology, he said.
Phosphate is used to make fertilizers, pesticides and detergents. Florida produces about one-fourth of the world’s phosphate.
Florida’s surface waters sometimes contain large amounts of phosphate, arising from natural sources or human activity. Because the chemical can spur algae growth, it has caused water-quality concerns in some communities.
Some water treatment plants filter phosphate from wastewater but existing methods have drawbacks, including high cost, low efficiency and hazardous byproducts.
In the study, researchers started by collecting solid residues left after beet tailings were fermented in a device called an anaerobic digester, which yields methane gas. The material was baked at about 1,100 degrees Fahrenheit to make biochar.
The biochar was added to a water-and-phosphate solution and mixed for 24 hours. It removed about three-fourths of the phosphate, much better results than researchers obtained with other compounds, including commercial water-treatment materials. The phosphate-laden biochar can be applied directly to soils as a slow-release fertilizer.
The research team plans to investigate whether biochar could remove nitrogen from wastewater. Nitrogen can stimulate algae growth in surface water.
The research team has also been testing the potential for biochar to purify water of heavy metals including lead and copper, he said. Part of the challenge involves pinpointing raw materials with the greatest affinity for a particular contaminant. And used biochar packed with toxic metals would have to be regenerated or handled as hazardous waste.
Previous UF studies have demonstrated the potential value of producing methane gas by fermenting crop waste. Pullammanappallil specializes in this area and regularly collaborates with Gao on biochar studies.
Perhaps the biggest challenge researchers face is making biomass technology more cost-effective. Pullammanappallil recently helped design, build and operate an anaerobic digester at an American Crystal Sugar Company facility in Moorhead, Minn.
The digester processed beet tailings like those used in the study, and worked well, said Dave Malmskog, the company’s business development director at Moorhead. But when the research grant funding the project ended, the company found it wasn’t practical to continue.
Nonetheless, the researchers remain optimistic that the process can be made cost-effective.
“Florida agricultural industries could benefit,” Pullammanappallil said. “You could do this with any biomass — sugarcane bagasse, citrus pulp.”


The solution or the problem ?
Miami Herald – Editorial
May 11, 2011
OUR OPINION: Federal judge right to take state to task for Everglades cleanup delays
Has Florida lost its will to clean up and protect the Everglades? A federal judge seems to think so.
In a strongly worded decision, U.S. District Judge Alan Gold vented his deep frustration over continued delays and “disingenuous” legal maneuvers by state lawmakers and agencies that have weakened rules meant to reduce phosphorus in the Everglades. In a decision that basically said that, if the state won’t clean up the Everglades, let the federal government do it, Judge Gold ordered the Environmental Protection Agency to take over the cleanup.
This is a stunning turn in what has become the longest-running legal saga since Charles Dickens wrote Bleak House. It should be a wake-up call for Gov. Rick Scott and the state agencies responsible — primarily the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD). Is Florida still willing to do its share to preserve the River of Grass?
So far the only answer is that the state swiftly appealed the ruling. That’s not going to solve the problems the judge outlined in his decision. “Protection of the Everglades requires a major commitment which cannot be simply pushed aside in the face of financial hardships, political opposition, or other excuses. These obstacles will always exist, but the Everglades will not — especially if the protracted pace of preservation efforts continues at the current pace,” Judge Gold admonished.
Judge Gold is spot-on. There is urgency here. The original lawsuit — United States vs. South Florida Water Management District — charging the state with allowing pollution to threaten the Everglades was filed in 1988. In a 1992 settlement, the state agencies and the EPA agreed to meet a 2002 deadline for reducing phosphorus in waters flowing into Everglades National Park using acceptable water-quality standards.
The Florida Legislature adopted the Everglades Forever Act in 1994 to enshrine the settlement. And in 2000, Congress and the state of Florida jointly committed to spending billions of dollars to implement the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan.
It sounded good on paper. But even as the state was spending millions on land acquisition for the cleanup, the Legislature in 2003 weakened phosphorus-reduction standards and extended the cleanup deadline. This put the federal commitment in jeopardy. Indeed, Congress didn’t provide real funding until the Obama administration stepped up. Meantime, lawsuits keep coming — from the Miccosukee Tribe, environmental groups, state and federal agencies — further delaying progress.
Judge Gold says that neither the DEP nor the SFWMD has done enough in recent years. Until recently, he charges, neither did the EPA. But under the Obama administration, the EPA got busy and offered a set of water-quality standards — not just for the Everglades, but for all Florida’s fresh water. The state strongly opposes them. So Judge Gold told the state agencies to come up with their own criteria. They didn’t.
This continued stalling prompted Judge Gold’s decision to put the EPA in charge. Judge Gold also noted the state’s waning commitment, as in Gov. Scott’s freeze on new rules and cutting funding for the cleanup, and the Legislature’s bill reducing the amount of taxes the water management districts can levy on property, which helps fund the cleanup.
Judge Gold asked the right question: Is Florida part of the solution or is it the problem? Only Gov. Scott and state agencies involved can answer that by their actions


Big Cypress fire

Big Cypress National Preserve’s wildfire causing health concern in South Florida
Miami Herald - by Lidia Dinkova and Serena Dai  ( )
A layer of haze and smoke over most of Miami-Dade and Broward caused by a wildfire in the Florida Everglades prompted both counties to issue air quality advisories on Tuesday.
Smoke and haze blowing east from the brush fires at Big Cypress National Preserve in the western Everglades had increased the amount of fine matter in the air and worsened the AQI, or air quality index.
“It’s terrible,” Randy Feinman, 44, of Miramar said as he began his job washing windows shortly before dawn at a Dunkin’ Donuts on Broward Boulevard.
The professional window cleaner suffers from allergies and said because he works outside most of the day, he is concerned about his health. “Usually I only get sick when I get a bad cough, but in conditions like this, well, it really doesn’t help,” he said. “It’s worse today than yesterday, I hope it doesn’t get even worse.”
Officials believe lightning sparked the Big Cypress National Preserve wildfire April 26, but the smoke was most intense in South Florida on Monday and Tuesday.
Big Cypress National Preserve spokesman Jim Payne said that during the weekend, fire crews contained 60 percent of the blaze by carrying out a burnout operation in which they fought the wildfire with fire, a tactic that helps them control the direction of the wildfire and shrink it, Payne said. By Monday, the raging flames had burned about 35,850 acres.
Firefighters expect to have completely put out the fire May 18. But in the meantime, citizens with respiratory problems, children, the elderly and pregnant women are being advised to limit outdoor activities. Health officials said the smoke can cause burning eyes, runny nose, coughing, scratchy throat, or difficulty breathing.
About noon, the air quality index in Miami-Dade ranged between 50 to 100, within the moderate level, said Luis Espinoza, spokesman for the Department of Environmental Resource Management. South Florida’s air quality index rarely reaches above 50.
Zevy Landman, a doctor who specializes in asthma at the Florida Center for Allergy & Asthma Care, said that’s a concern. Already this week, he said, he has treated seven children and one adult, all with asthma, after they began to experience difficulty breathing.
Landman said he is convinced the smoke exacerbated their asthma symptoms. He added that very asthmatic children should stay home even if that means that they have to miss a day of school.
People with asthma should take their medications before they leave their homes, Landman said.
The Broward County Health Department also advised that the best protection from the smoke is to stay indoors as dust masks and bandannas do not protect from inhalation of the fumes. Officials said outdoor activity, especially exercising or physical chores, should be avoided.
Drivers’ visibility was impaired in some areas.
The National Weather Service in Miami issued an advisory for motorists heading out early Tuesday, warning of reduced visibility along Alligator Alley and the Tamiami Trail because of fog and smoke.
Jeff Clock, who has been driving 18-wheelers for years, said the conditions were not to be taken lightly.
“Just use your common sense; don’t be high balling through because it’s just like a thick fog,” Clock said.
The Florida Highway Patrol did not announce any road closures, but signs every couple of miles on the Florida Turnpike warned commuters of the thick fog.
The westerly winds that were blowing the smoke from Collier County to Miami-Dade and Broward subsided by noon Tuesday. Afternoon easterly winds were expected to push the smoke back to the west. National Weather Service forecasters said a similar pattern was expected Wednesday.
About 360 people are involved in the efforts to contain the fire. No one has been injured.
Two nearby private hunting camps have burned down.
Four panther cubs died in the wildfire last week. Firefighters doused the cub den with water in an attempt to save them, but the thickness of the smoke made it too dangerous for crews to remain in the area.


Conservancy of SWFL undergoes major facelift with $38.5 million in donations
May 10, 2011
NAPLES, Fla. - Imagine Central Park in the middle of Naples. The largest environmental campaign in the state is on it's way to making that happen. Tuesday, the Conservancy of Southwest Florida took WINK News on a tour of how it plans to spend $38.5 million.
"It's a whole new day for the Conservancy of Southwest Florida," President and CEO Andrew McElwaine said.
The group exceeded its original goal of raising $25 million. Because of generous donors over the last five years, the conservancy now has $38.5 million to spend.
Twenty million dollars will go to campus improvements, including a pristine environment for a herd of 60 threatened gopher tortoises.
In the last four months, the conservancy has treated a thousand injured animals in a 1,700 square foot building.
McElwaine said they've seen everything from bobcats, to bears, to baby birds. "The major inconvenience is just the difficulty of doing so much work in a small space," he said. 
Not the case anymore with a new 5,000 square foot clinic that will have X-ray, surgery, and a permanent vet on site.
Plus, a gallery that will house more than 100 species of live animals is also under construction. That area will educate the public of the major ecosystems by way of water flow from uplands to sea.
A popular attraction at the conservancy is the boat dock and it's guided tours. That whole area will also be reconstructed.
With expansion at a nearby park and the zoo, McElwaine said this corner is set to become the Central Park of Naples. "You put it all together you've got 140 acres of conserved land here."
With so much planned, the conservancy will close for most of the summer to complete construction. They will, however, still take in injured animals.


New board expected to bring changes to South Florida Water Management District
Sun Sentinel - by Andy Reid
May 10, 2011
Environmentalists warn that Gov. Rick Scott's proposed changes could derail Everglades restoration.
Gov. Rick Scott on Tuesday appointed five people to the South Florida Water Management District board, continuing his push to reshape the agency charged with protecting water supplies, guarding against flooding and leading Everglades restoration.
The new faces include a tea party activist as well as attorneys and an engineering consultant who have represented South Florida developers.
They come on board at a time when environmentalists warn that Scott's proposed deep spending cuts at the district threaten to derail already overdue Everglades restoration.
The new appointees now will help lead an anticipated change in direction — including hiring a new executive director along with spending cuts — for the state's largest water management district, which touches 16 counties reaching from Orlando to the Keys.
"All I can say is hold onto your hats," said Charles Lee, of Audubon of Florida. "The district is going to need very creative leadership. … We are very concerned."
Scott's initial appointees to the nine-member, volunteer board:
Daniel DeLisi, 37, of Estero, will represent southwestern Florida. He is a planning and engineering consultant whose term lasts until March 2015.
James Moran, 63, of West Palm Beach, fills Palm Beach County's long-standing vacancy on the district board. Moran, a tea party activist, is an attorney whose term lasts until March 2015.
Daniel O'Keefe, 43, of Windermere, is a real estate attorney who will represent areas near Lake Okeechobee, including Glades, Okeechobee, Highlands, Polk, Orange and Osceola counties. His term ends March 2012.
Timothy Sargent, 41, of West Palm Beach, is a chief financial officer for Huizenga Holdings Inc. His term lasts until March 2014.
Scott also chose to move current district board member Glenn Waldman, 51, of Weston, from a multicounty seat on the board into Broward County's vacancy on the district board. Waldman's new term expires in March 2014.
After months of lingering board vacancies and expiring terms, district board Chairman Joe Collins said he was grateful the governor made the appointments so soon after the legislative session ended last week.
"Certainly we are facing challenging times," Collins said. "We are going to get to work on that as soon as possible."
Scott's appointees still must be confirmed by the Florida Senate, but they can begin serving at Thursday's monthly district board meeting as they await confirmation
Governor names four to South Florida Water Management board, two from Palm ... Palm Beach Post
Gov. Scott appoints new majority to South Florida water board Naples Daily News
South Florida Water Management District board to get new look The News-Press
New York Times


Southwest Florida's representative on water management board won't return for another term
May. 10, 2011
Southwest Florida’s representative on the South Florida Water Management District’s governing board will not return for another term.
Florida’s governor appoints members to the state’s five water management districts’ governing boards.
Charles Dauray, who was appointed to the board in 2007 by Gov. Charlie Crist, said he received word Monday that he would not be reappointed to the board.
 “I reapplied, hoping to be reappointed for another four years,” Dauray said. “That’s not going to be the case. Sure I’m disappointed, but I’m going to support whoever is appointed. The governor has to make the decision.”
Lane Wright, a spokesman for Gov. Rick Scott, said the governor’s office had no comment about why Dauray was not reappointed.
The governor’s choice for the position would be announced “pretty soon,” Wright said, but he would not say who the new governing board member might be.
After moving to Florida from St. Louis in the early 1970s, Dauray worked as a restaurateur and Realtor and was involved in such organizations as the Save Our Everglades Referendum Steering Committee, the Marine Habitat Foundation and the boater-advocacy group Standing Watch.
Dauray is the head of the College of Life Foundation, formerly the Koreshan Unity Foundation he is also chairman of the Florida Division of the Izaak Walton League of America.
“My plate is going to be full,” he said. “I bow out with hopes that whoever is appointed has as much of a deep and sincere concern for the environment and the economy of Lee County and Southwest Florida as I have.”


Fran Reich Preserve
Fran Reich Preserve
in Palm Beach County

Excavation, rock crushing expected to give way to Everglades restoration
Sun Sentinel – by Andy Reid
May 9, 2011
More federal money needed to finish reservoir planned along Hillsboro Canal.
Land once envisioned for a new landfill is in the midst of an intensive reshaping aimed at boosting Everglades restoration.
While the long-term results are expected to provide more water for the Everglades and improv wildlife habitat, the short-term reality includes digging up and crushing rock to build embankments, floating in a crane by barge and "dewatering" land to make way for levee improvements.
Construction crews in the fall started a $200 million project to turn 1,600 acres west of Boca Raton into a reservoir and refurbished wetland aimed at increasing water supplies in the Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge – the northern remnants of the Everglades.
The project is known as the Fran Reich Preserve, named after the Palm Beach County neighborhood activist who marshaled the community opposition that convinced the county not to build a landfill and incinerator on property now being used for restoration.
Contractors for the Army Corps of Engineers in the fall began the initial $44 million phase of the project, paid for with federal economic stimulus money. The work involves reinforcing the levee on the southern edge of the refuge, to keep Everglades water from seeping out and getting drained away for flood control.
The first phase, expected to last until October 2012, also includes refurbishing a 6-acre wetland to create more wildlife habitat.
Plans call for excavating more than 25,000 cubic yards of rock to provide the material to strengthen the levee, fill in embankments and create access roads.
A mixing plant was created on site to use the excavated and crushed rock to create cement planned to "armor" the levee.
Once finished, the proposed water storage area on the north side of the Hillsboro Canal is intended to hold onto some of the stormwater runoff that now gets drained out to sea by canals that protect South Florida neighborhoods from flooding.
But finishing requires convincing Congress to pay for the remainder of the $200 million project. Future phases involve constructing embankments for an above-ground reservoir as well as pumps and other structures to control the flow of water.
Federal officials and local environmentalists alike celebrated in October when they broke ground on the Fran Reich Preserve. But keeping the work going requires convincing congressional leaders, already battling over budget cuts, to keep the money flowing.


For President Obama
Ad poster for
President Obama
(click to enlarge)

Greens push Obama to save Everglades
Politico - by BOB KING
May 9, 2011
Florida environmentalists are launching a national ad campaign urging President Obama to rescue the lagging multibillion-dollar Everglades restoration effort, with some activists arguing it could give him an edge in the swing state in 2012.
At the very least, stepping up on the Everglades could help Obama avoid the friction with some Florida greens that may have helped doom Al Gore's presidential hopes 11 years ago.
Everglades supporters also argue that the mammoth marsh project, approved 10½ years ago by a Republican Congress and Democratic president, offers a rare chance to seize on bipartisan agreement about the environment — the kind Obama won't find on climate change or offshore drilling.
“The Everglades is to Florida what ethanol is to Iowa,” said Kirk Fordham, CEO of the Everglades Foundation, a well-financed advocacy group that is running full-page ads Tuesday in the Washington Post, Roll Call and CQ Today. The ads note that the Everglades supplies drinking water to millions of Floridians, along with livelihoods for fishermen and tourism-dependent businesses.
“There's a widespread constituency of people who benefit from a clean and healthy Everglades,” said Fordham, who has served as an aide or campaign worker for various Hill Republicans, including ex-Sen. Mel Martinez, ex-Rep. Mark Foley and then-Rep. Jim Inhofe. “It's not just environmental activists who care about this.”
Still, some of the steps the group is advocating seem likely to inspire strong opposition from some quarters.
For example, the ads call for elimination of the federal sugar program that helps growers farm cane across hundreds of thousands of acres of drained former Everglades. The sugar industry's political influence has fended off similar calls before, even from conservative free-market groups, such as the Cato Institute.
The foundation is also advocating strong EPA action on pollution in the Everglades — just as House Republicans have been trying to throttle a separate attempt by the agency to regulate water pollution in Florida.
Probably less controversially, the ads say Obama should direct Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, Attorney General Eric Holder, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and the leader of the Army Corps of Engineers to “launch a coordinated Everglades restoration strategy.” Their agencies are already part of a state-federal task force that's supposed to be doing just that, but Fordham said direction needs to come from a higher level.
“We're looking for the White House to put in some strong political leadership and almost have a war-room-like strategy,” he said.
The foundation has considerable resources to put into the fight: Its board includes musician Jimmy Buffett and golfer Jack Nicklaus, and the group has gotten major backing from billionaire-trader Paul Tudor Jones. It used to hold its annual fundraisers at Donald Trump's Palm Beach mansion.
Then again, the Everglades could use all the help it can get.
It's a moment of both promise and peril for the state-federal restoration, a giant plumbing and land-buying initiative that then-President Bill Clinton signed into law in December 2000 amid virtually unanimous support from Florida environmentalists, politicians, farmers and business leaders. At the time, supporters hoped it would provide a model for similar efforts around the country and the world.
But now the estimated price tag has risen from $7.8 billion to as much as $15 billion. Through the 2010 fiscal year, state and federal funding for the effort has totaled $3.5 billion, without finishing a single major project or meeting any of its ambitious ecological goals. And so far, 79 percent of the money has come from the state of Florida, a far cry from the 50-50 partnership that Congress promised.
Meanwhile, budget woes are shrinking the flow of state dollars, and the state agency in charge of Florida's half of the project is facing sharp spending cuts under new Gov. Rick Scott. The state also shows no signs of finishing a separate $1 billion-plus Everglades pollution cleanup it agreed to in 1991 — a failure that last month prompted a federal judge to order the EPA to take control of the cleanup's discharge permits.
On the other hand, Fordham notes that federal Everglades restoration spending has risen sharply under the Obama administration. Some crucial Everglades-related efforts are on track for completion in the next couple of years, including a controversial 22-year-old project to increase water flows into Everglades National Park. And in January, Salazar announced an effort to assemble 150,000 acres of land and conservation easements to preserve habitat and reduce water pollution north of Lake Okeechobee, the giant hole visible in Florida when the state is viewed from space.
“We've seen significant progress over the last two years,” Fordham said. “It would be a tragedy if it all collapsed.”


Put Everglades under aegis of single efficient agency
Palm Beach Post - Opinion
May 9, 2011
In his April 28 op-ed on Everglades restoration ("Everglades Foundation story doesn't hold water), Associated Industries of Florida President Barney Bishop discusses approaches to Florida's water future.
We have five water districts, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, the federal EPA and multiple interest groups, all with their fingers in the pie. Then there are the political ideologues tinkering with the budgets and muddying the waters. All of these fragmented interests make it difficult to maintain a clear vision of how and when we are going to achieve the desired statewide result.
To streamline and concentrate effective action, there is a successful agency in New York that deserves study as a model to emulate. The Adirondack Park Agency was established to preserve wilderness and protect the watershed - a major source of water for New York City. It encompasses 6 million acres - larger than the state of Vermont. The primary goal was to zone the entire area, including municipalities, to achieve consistent standards in keeping with its mandate. It is a small, efficient operation and therefore inexpensive but very effective. The result has been to curtail second-home development, keep the small population stable, preserve the integrity of large pristine forests and clean water and encourage recreational activities for all the state residents.
Perhaps what we can use to great advantage here in Florida is a single agency modeled on the APA to preserve and ensure that our huge watershed from the northern lakes region down to the Everglades will have the environmental protection that is vital to all the development along both coastal areas.
NELSON ENOS, West Palm Beach


Seawater will rise higher than expected-- MY FAMILY, FUTURE GENERATIONS OF MINE, and You will be affected - by Kevin Anthony Stoda
May 9, 2011
A new international report finds rapidly increasing climate change could raise global sea levels up to five-feet, three-inches by 2100. Temperatures in the Arctic are the warmest ever recorded, putting the regions ice caps and glaciers, as well as the Greenland Ice Sheet, at risk of melting. Such a thaw would threaten coasts from Bangladesh to Florida, low-lying Pacific islands, and cities from London to Shanghai. My family is affected too.
Seawater will rise higher than expected-- 5 1/4 feet--by end of century
MY FAMILY, FUTURE GENERATIONS OF MINE, AND I are going to be affected adversely and too soon due to GLOBAL CLIMATE CHANGE (WARNING).
"A new international report finds rapidly increasing climate change could raise global sea levels up to five-feet, three-inches by 2100. Temperatures in the Arctic are the warmest ever recorded, putting the regions ice caps and glaciers, as well as the Greenland Ice Sheet, at risk of melting. Such a thaw would threaten coasts from Bangladesh to Florida, low-lying Pacific islands, and cities from London to Shanghai. The report from the Oslo-based Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Program draws on the work of hundreds of experts. It also warns of a significantly higher sea level rise than previously anticipated. The last major report issued in 2007 predicted sea levels would rise between 18 and 59 centimeters by 2100 (roughly equivalent to between seven and 23 inches)."
--I live on an island currently and work at a school, situated on the beach in Taiwan (on Beigan island). The school would have to be moved.
--My wife and I live on the sea in Palawan in the Philippines. There is a beach and offshore islands. They will disappear. My daughter and certainly our grand daughter might never really enjoy them.
--I own a timeshare on Gili Island near Lombok in Indonesia. The entire island would likely be under water.
KEVIN STODA-has been blessed to have either traveled in or worked in nearly 100 countries on five continents over the past two and a half decades.--He sees himself as a peace educator and have been-- a promoter of good economic and social (more...)


Groundcover plants purchased to restore native ecosystems
The News Herald - by Randal Yakey
May 8, 2011
PANAMA CITY BEACH — Water management district officials will be restoring wetlands in Bay County in an effort to make sure the ecosystem remains vibrant for years to come.
Wiregrass once covered the Southeast and its flammable leaves helped spread fire needed to sustain 90 million acres of longleaf pine-wiregrass habitat.
This natural ecosystem also included wetlands, especially wet prairie and wet pine flatwoods habitat, which are being restored across the Panhandle. The Northwest Florida Water Management District Governing Board recently approved purchase of a half-million mixed wet prairie wiregrass and toothache grass tubelings to restore over 400 acres of wet prairie and wet pine flatwoods habitat in Bay, Washington and Santa Rosa counties for mitigation purposes.
In Bay County, the plantings will be done just west of State 79 within the Ward Creek area annexed by Panama City Beach in 2010, water management officials said.
“These wetland plants will help restore wetland functions and improve water and natural resources for humans and natural systems,” said Executive Director Douglas E. Barr. “Also, since the district has collected these seeds from the Garcon Point Water Management Area, the germinated seedlings, especially toothache grass, come at significant savings.”
“Wet prairie wiregrass and toothache grass are critical to our groundcover habitat restoration efforts,” said William O. “Bill” Cleckley, director, Division of Land Management and Acquisition. “Using these grass species to restore wetland habitats allows us to quickly release credits to offset wetland losses due to Florida Department of Transportation road construction.”
Panama City Beach purchased the Ward Creek property from St. Joe in 2008 for wetland mitigation purposes.
The Ward Creek property is about 719 acres. This year the management district plans to plant 157,300 wet prairie wiregrass/toothache grass plants on 130 acres and 50,000 plants of other wet flatwoods groundcover species (rayless sunflower, swamp sunflower and sneezeweed) on 41 acres. Additionally, 4,000 cypress trees will be planted.
Last December, the district planted 135,520 wet prairie wiregrass plugs on 28 acres, and 58,080 toothache grass plugs on 12 acres on the Ward Creek tract.
In 2009, the district planted 87,120 wet prairie wiregrass plugs on 18 acres, and 53,240 toothache grass plugs on 11 acres on the Ward Creek tract.
Other components of the restoration process have included a timber harvest, removal of thick shrubs, and prescribed burns in a number of areas on this tract.
Ward Creek area is slated to be transformed into passive recreation activities on the property – primarily walking/hiking and bicycle trails. The project will filter millions of gallons of treated waste water flowing into West Bay.
The site eventually will also include an outdoor amphitheater for wildlife lectures, a large picnic pavilion and 22 miles of unpaved nature trails and boardwalks for hiking, biking and bird-watching.
The management district also plans to increase species diversity in these mitigation areas by planting 100,000 sunflower, 50,000 sneezeweed and 12,000 endangered and threatened groundcover tubelings. These include purple silky scale, white topped sedge, chaffhead, Curtis sand grass and Panhandle meadow beauty.



New growth rules could have big impact in South Florida
Sun Sentinel - by David Fleshler and Andy Reidl
May 8, 2011
Removal of state authority could revive projects that had been rejected.
From the farmlands of western Palm Beach County to the historic neighborhoods of downtown Fort Lauderdale, the sweeping growth management changes approved by the state Legislature could have a big impact on South Florida.
The changes, given final passage Friday with the support of Gov. Rick Scott, Republican legislative leaders and the building industry, could put more of Palm Beach County's fields of vegetables, citrus and sugar cane in play for development. They are likely to generate a new and stronger push to move Miami-Dade County's urban development boundary closer to the Everglades. And they will make it harder for neighborhood groups to challenge proposals for condominium towers and other construction projects, as they have in Fort Lauderdale.
Once signed by Scott, the new rules will allow cities and counties to make changes to their growth plans without permission from the state. They will eliminate the authority of the Department of Community Affairs to review major projects, except in a few circumstances, removing a check on decisions by local governments. Developers will no longer have to pay impact fees for new roads schools, parks and other civic infrastructure, unless required by local governments.
"You and I and every other taxpayer are going to be subsidizing this development," said Richard Grosso, professor of law at Nova Southeastern University and director of the Environmental and Land Use Law Clinic. "The farther away it is, the greater the subsidy. New police and fire stations, roads and new schools."
No one expects a stampede for building permits, given the acres of homes that stand vacant in South Florida from foreclosures and the collapse of the real estate market.
"The reality on the ground is a vast supply of houses available on the market," said Jim Murley, a former DCA secretary who now is director of the Center for Urban and Environmental Solutions at Florida Atlantic University. "So supply vastly exceeds demand, so that will be a control."
But once the construction industry revives, interviews with environmentalists and members of the development industry suggest there are obvious areas where the looser rules could allow developers to go where they couldn't go before.


Orlando breakthrough destroys sewage, produces power
Orlando Sentinel - by Mark Schlueb
May 8, 2011
They have traveled here because they've heard there may be an answer to an intriguing question that has dogged scientists for years: What if you could take sewage and get rid of it cleanly and quickly, without dumping it in rivers or landfills — and generate pollution-free electricity at the same time?
"The technology has the potential to revolutionize how wastewater is processed — the destruction of all organics, the generation of electricity, a completely green footprint," said Don Morgan, CEO of SuperWater Solutions, a Wellington company working with Orlando.
Treated sewage used to be dumped into waterways, but technological advances and tougher regulations ended that practice decades ago.
Orlando treats more than 35 million gallons of sewage a day, essentially by feeding the outflow from the city's toilets and sinks to bacteria. The process produces reclaimed water that's clean enough to be piped to some neighborhoods, golf courses and road medians to irrigate flowers and grass.
But there's another byproduct of the treatment process that's harder to deal with. The bacteria that gobble up the sewage reproduce as they eat, so as the sewage goes away, it's replaced with smelly, mud-like piles of microorganisms. That's sludge, and there's a lot of it.
At Iron Bridge — just one of Orlando's three treatment plants — workers have to get rid of as many as 15 tractor-trailer loads of sludge a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. The city's disinfected sludge is spread over fields and pastures. Property owners are happy to get it, because they don't have to buy fertilizer.
But sludge can't be spread on land that's wet — a problem during stormy summers — and environmental rules that will further restrict the practice are on the way.
So, what to do with all that sludge?
Orlando inked a deal with SuperWater Solutions to develop a way to treat sludge using a process called "supercritical water oxidation." Several other companies also are testing its use in treating wastewater, as well as industrial and hazardous waste. Plants are now under construction that will use it to destroy the military's stockpiled chemical weapons.
But stubborn technical hurdles have kept it from being commercially viable.
"For 20 years, people at MIT and all around the world have been trying to do this," said Orlando environmental services director David Sloan.
Here's how it works: The sludge is thickened, fed through a grinder and subjected to extremely high pressure. The pressurized mix is pumped through a reactor, along with pure oxygen, where it's heated to more than 700 degrees Fahrenheit.
A strange thing happens to water when it's put under such extreme pressures and temperatures. It's no longer one of the three states — liquid, solid or gas — that kids learn about in school. Rather, it's "supercritical water," a fourth state that's something between a liquid and a gas and is a powerful solvent.
Within the reactor, supercritical water destroys more than 99 percent of organic matter, including sludge. The process leaves behind inorganic salts, clean water and liquid carbon dioxide.
City officials think they can make money from the byproducts. Carbon dioxide could be sold to beverage companies, and the powdery salts are mostly phosphates that could be used by fertilizer manufacturers.
Another byproduct is heat, which can easily be captured and used to power an electrical turbine. Sludge holds about as much energy as coal, and city officials estimate that treating Orlando's 35 tons a day will produce enough electricity to power about 1,183 homes — without pollution or greenhouse gas emissions.
The reactor would use about half the electricity, and the rest could be sold back to the power company — at a "green energy" premium.
The test reactor in a corner of the city's Iron Bridge plant came from a partnership between the city and SuperWater Solutions, which provided the technology. Orlando paid for the development and construction of the system, and city engineers, chemists, mechanics and computer technicians helped figure out how to make it work.
SuperWater Solutions said the technology is now ready to be taken to the commercial market, with the potential for full-size treatment systems built around the world. Orlando will likely be the first customer, with construction of a full-size unit by 2013.
Under their agreement, if SuperWater Solutions builds plants elsewhere, Orlando will be paid royalties. For every ton of sludge treated anywhere in the world, Orlando will earn $2.50. SuperWater Solutions projects royalty payments of $60 million over the next 20 years.
It's not a sure thing. Other companies are racing to perfect their own technology.
But for Orlando officials, the money isn't the point. They simply want a sustainable way to get rid of their sludge, a chore most residents don't want to think about.
"Putting a man on the moon is sexy, but getting rid of poop is not," City Commissioner Patty Sheehan said.


Environment ‘the big loser’ with water district budget cuts, Naples leader says POLL
Naples Daily News- by ERIC STAATS
May 7, 2011
NAPLES — The agency that manages water in Collier County is bracing for budget cuts trickling down from Tallahassee.
The state Legislature has proposed capping property tax revenue for the South Florida Water Management District at $285 million — a 30 percent whack — for fiscal 2011-12. The state’s other four water management districts also face property tax caps.
The 30 percent cut would mean a $4 million budget hit for the Big Cypress Basin, the local arm of the water management district.
“That’s a lot of money,” Basin board member Fred Thomas said.
It is too early to say how the Basin would make the cuts, but everything from educational outreach on water conservation to grants to local governments for water supply and drainage projects are on the block, the Basin’s Executive Director Clarence Tears said.
“At this point in time, I just don’t know,” Tears said. “I need to look at the numbers.”
The five-member Basin board, appointed by the governor, plans to meet June 17 to talk about the budget.
Scott had proposed a 25 percent property tax cut for the South Florida Water Management District, not the Legislature’s 30 percent, but the Legislature wants to go further in other ways, too.
The tax-cap bill also gives the Legislature the power to review the districts’ budgets every year, set a tax cap that could change each year and veto line items in the district’s budget, a power now only held by the governor.
The Big Cypress Basin levies its own property tax, which raises money that stays in Collier County. Basin taxpayers also pay taxes to the district, although the Basin rate is smaller than the rate paid by taxpayers in the district’s 15 other counties from Orlando to the Florida Keys.
Carved out of the larger district in 1977, the Basin is the caretaker for 162 miles of canals and 46 water control structures.
The Basin’s five-year strategic plan calls for spending millions to upgrade that system to better balance flood control and water conservation.
Beyond its own upgrade, the Basin has made it annual practice to award grants — almost $4.5 million this year — to the cities of Marco Island, Naples and Everglades City and to Collier County to help pay for their water supply and drainage projects.
“The quality of our environment is going to be the big loser,” said Basin board member John Sorey, also a Naples councilman.
Those have included ongoing projects to replace septic tanks on Marco, improve Everglades City’s drinking water quality and divert water from the Golden Gate canal to the city of Naples’ reclaimed irrigation system.
Basin budget cuts could slow the flow of that money, delaying the completion of those projects.
“The quality of our environment is going to be the big loser,” said Basin board member John Sorey, also a Naples councilman.
Thomas, a civic leader in Immokalee, said he hopes the budget cuts won’t slow the Basin’s efforts to turn a disposal site for the Lake Trafford muck removal project into a long-awaited ATV-riding site.
“I don’t want to see that cut because it would be a money-maker (for Immokalee),” Thomas said.
Basin board Chairman Charles Dauray, who also is Southwest Florida’s representative on the district’s governing board, said the cuts will leave enough money to protect the public and maintain operations but new drainage or environmental restoration projects will have to wait.
“It’s reality,” said Dauray, who is seeking reappointment this year by Scott. “That’s why we elected Gov. Rick Scott. I call it a fiscal reality check.”
Dauray said the Basin already runs a tight fiscal ship and he doesn’t see any “wholesale cuts” in either Basin personnel or grant programs to local governments.
“But they will have to be reviewed very carefully,” he said.


Legislature’s zaniness pales next to Scott’s
Miami Herald - by CARL HIAASEN
May 7, 2011
Having a radical wingnut for governor has proven to be a blessing for other top Florida Republicans. No matter what kind of reckless mischief they devise, they still appear almost sane and levelheaded compared to Rick Scott.
The new $68 billion state budget is a good example of them pretending to be responsible while inflicting damage on the average Florida taxpayer.
Governor Spaceman wanted $2.4 billion in property tax cuts and giveaways to big business, a sum no one took seriously because it would have financially crippled not just the state, but many cities and counties as well.
Lawmakers came back with a figure of $308 million. It’s still an outrage, because Florida can’t afford to lose $308 million right now, but it’s not a catastrophe on the scale of Scott’s goofball scheme.
The two Republicans benefiting most from the distraction of the governor’s glassy-eyed extremism are House Speaker Dean Cannon and Senate President Mike Haridopolos. Both are ambitious and trying hard to look like grownups, though in fact they’re not all that different from Scott — just more polished.
Haridopolos is gunning for the U.S. Senate seat held by Bill Nelson, so he’s been more careful than Cannon about letting his true colors show. It was Haridopolos who publicly balked at Scott’s screwball proposal to slash Florida’s corporate income taxes by $458 million, which would have shifted a devastating burden to the public sector.
Budget negotiators eventually settled on corporate tax cuts of about $30 million. It doesn’t sound like that much money unless you’re trying to run a school system or a public hospital, or clean up pollution in the Everglades.
Scott’s headline-grabbing antics have provided a measure of cover for lawmakers whose agenda is no less dangerous for the state’s future, and whose allegiance to wealthy special interests is no less devout. What happened in Tallahassee this spring virtually guarantees higher taxes and fewer services for ordinary Floridians.
A prime example: The skeletonizing of the Department of Community Affairs, the agency that held a supervisory role over mega-developments. Lawmakers, echoing the governor, basically trashed the concept of growth management.
In doing so, they’ve pushed Florida back to a time when developers weren’t required to pay for new roads, sewers, schools and services that their projects required, a time when such costs were unfairly heaped on local residents — you and me.
And that’s who’ll be paying once again.
It was House Speaker Cannon who led the charge, parroting Scott’s claim that growth-management laws discourage development. This is a laugh riot to anyone living in Broward, Palm Beach or Miami-Dade County.
The only thing that stalls development is overdevelopment, which is why there are thousands upon thousands of unsold houses, ghost-town subdivisions from the Panhandle to Homestead. Apparently lawmakers yearn for another fatal housing bubble.
While it was predictable that the Legislature of 2011 would be owned by the corporations and utilities that bankroll political campaigns, the degree of subservience was historic.
While just about everything important to working Floridians — schools, universities, public parks, public hospitals, health-care, Everglades restoration, water conservation — took a major hit, lawmakers labored slavishly to make Florida a dirt-cheap playground for big businesses.
They defended their sellout as a way to create new jobs. In reality, it’s just a way to help those industries get richer by ducking taxes and fees they can well afford to pay.
And guess who has to make up the difference?
The budget wouldn’t be the mess it is if not for the orgy of cowardice and supplication that took place over the last few weeks in Tallahassee. Alarm and disgust cut across party lines among an earlier generation of politicians.
Republican Nat Reed, a longtime Hobe Sound resident who was assistant secretary of the Interior under Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford, recently wrote of his “incredible sense of dismay” at the Legislature’s assault on growth management and conservation programs.
Democrat Bob Graham, the former U.S. senator and governor, last month accused lawmakers of “ignoring many of Florida’s core values” and promoting what he called a dangerous “commoditization” of the state’s treasured resources.
Reed and Graham were different from guys like Cannon and Haridopolos, because Reed and Graham saw the big picture. They knew Florida couldn’t afford to destroy the very things that made it so extraordinary and appealing.
The governor’s an easy target, but what did we expect ?  He hasn’t lived here long enough to understand the place, and what he doesn’t know about it could fill Lake Okeechobee.
But it would be a huge mistake to believe that Scott is more of a threat than Cannon or Haridopolos, who do their dirty work in the governor’s twitchy shadow.


Thumb up: Federal judge confirms Florida has done too little to protect its waterways from pollution
May 7, 2011
ONE FOR THE GLADES: A federal judge has ruled that Florida has done too little to stop pollution of the Everglades and other waterways and said the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency must step in to enforce standards under the federal Clean Water Act.
Gov. Rick Scott and state lawmakers have been fighting the standards to protect water quality, saying pollution restrictions imposed lack sufficient scientific basis and would be too costly and damaging to the state economy to implement.
But U.S. District Judge Alan Gold said, in part, "Protection of the Everglades requires a major commitment which cannot be simply pushed aside in the face of financial hardships, political opposition or other excuses. These obstacles will always exist, but the Everglades will not — especially if the protracted pace of preservation efforts continues at the current pace."


Bill would reverse ban on spraying sewage on farmland - by Craig Pittman, St. Petersburg Times Staff Writer
May 6, 2011
Every year, more than 90 companies across Florida pump the waste from about 100,000 septic tanks. Where does it all end up? State officials estimate 40 million gallons of it is treated with lime and then sprayed on farmers' fields as fertilizer.
But the septic tank waste is a potential wellspring of disease and can lead to water pollution and toxic algae blooms. So last year, the Legislature voted to ban the practice known as "land application" starting in 2016, and in the meantime ordered state health officials to look for alternatives.
This year, though, water pollution and the spread of disease are far less of a political concern, and the probusiness Legislature is poised to repeal the ban before it even takes effect.
The House passed HB 1479, which lifts the ban, by a vote of 89-25 on Monday despite strong opposition from environmental groups such as Audubon of Florida.
During Monday's debate, one lawmaker, Rep. Bryan Nelson, R-Apopka, urged his colleagues to repeal the ban because keeping it in place would drive up the cost of disposal, which he compared to imposing a tax on people with septic tanks. Audubon's Eric Draper called that bizarre reasoning for rejecting a measure designed to clean up the state's most widespread pollution problem.
A critic of the bill, Rep. Mark Pafford, D-West Palm Beach, pointed out that pollution from sewage waste has fouled once-pristine Wakulla Springs, creating such murky conditions that the attraction's glass bottom boats no longer operate.
"The springs have been devastated, folks," Pafford said.
The state Department of Health has issued permits to 92 companies to pump out septic tank waste and haul it to farms. In the Tampa Bay region, 15 are based in Hillsborough County, five in Hernando County, four in Citrus and one in Pasco.
One of the oldest is Nuckles Septic Tank Services, which operates in the shadow of the Lee Roy Selmon Expressway in Tampa. Four generations of Nuckles family members have run the company, although every year the trucks have to go farther and farther out to find farms that haven't been converted into suburban sprawl.
Nuckles hauls its waste to a 257-acre farm in southeastern Hillsborough, said co-owner Todd Nuckles, but some others "are taking it out of the county to Hernando and Polk."
While spreading it on pastures may lead to pollution, he contended, "it's a drop in the bucket by comparison" to the fertilizer and other pollutants washed into waterways by rain storms.
Nuckles said the treatment process used on the waste prior to spraying it leaves it so odor-free "that in 30 minutes time you'd never know a truck was in the field."
But the state still gets complaints about it, said Gerald Briggs, chief of the bureau of onsite sewage programs for the Department of Health.
"When people see trucks going by and they see it being sprayed on the fields, there's a negative reaction," he said. "People have claimed they're getting ill. … We've never been able to substantiate any of those claims."
Briggs said the department keeps a record of where those 92 haulers are spraying the septic tank waste — but the list he provided a reporter contained only the addresses of the haulers, not a location for the farms where the waste was dumped.
"I didn't realize there was a disconnect between the list and the addresses," he said.
The debate over septic tank waste takes place as Gov. Rick Scott and legislative and business leaders across the state have been complaining about new water pollution rules being imposed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
The rules are aimed at cleaning up excess nitrogen and phosphorus pollution, which comes from fertilizer and sewage flowing into the state's lakes, rivers and other waterways. Pollution from those sources feeds the increase in algae blooms that kill fish and cause respiratory problems and rashes among swimmers and beachgoers.
Meanwhile, a task force trying to clean up pollution tainting the state's popular springs pushed through legislation last year that targeted the waste from Florida's 2.6 million septic tanks, more than half of which are more than 30 years old and may be leaking.
The new law required inspections every five years to check for leaks, at an estimated cost of $100 and $150, and banned spreading the waste on land. Briggs' bureau came up with a report on alternative ways of disposing of the waste, including taking it to sewer plants for treatment and dumping it in landfills — both options likely to make disposal cost more.
But septic tank owners rebelled against spending any money checking their tanks for leaks, and the septic tank haulers objected to banning land spreading. Rep. Marti Coley, R-Marianna, filed bills to repeal both the inspections and the ban.
The inspection bill, HB 13, passed the House two weeks ago 110-3 but has stalled in the Senate. Today is expected to be the last day of the legislative session, but there is no indication whether the Senate will pass either of Coley's bills.
Times news artist Darla Cameron and researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report, which contains information from the Tallahassee Democrat. Craig Pittman can be reached at



The Aquatic Preserve Act of 1975 set aside the best of Florida's coastal landscapes as aquatic preserves to protect the sea life and habitat. It includes protecting space for bird rookeries, fish nurseries, freshwater springs and salt marshes, sea grass meadows and mangrove forests.

The Milton/
Northwest Florida office is one of 11 aquatic preserve field offices that manage Florida's 41 aquatic preserves. It is one of six offices slated to close because they would be the easiest to reopen, should revenue streams improve. The preserves will remain protected but all coastal education and resource monitoring programs will likely be eliminated. The other offices slated to close are: Estero Bay; Tampa Bay; Biscayne Bay; Central Panhandle/
St. Joseph Bay and Jacksonville/
Northeast Florida.

Details -Visit:

Budget sinks aquatic preserve protectors
May. 6, 2011
Gulf Breeze resident Robert Turpin's earliest childhood memories include harvesting scallops in a cove near Fort McRee with his family. He has longed for the day he could introduce that ritual to his daughters. But that day may never come.
A program to restore the scallop fishery in Pensacola area waters may cease on July 1 if the Northwest Florida Aquatic Preserve office on Garcon Point is closed.
That office and five others across the state, operating under the Department of Environmental Protection, were not funded in the state budget set for approval by lawmakers today. The budget goes into effect July 1.
"I won't be able to expose my kids to scalloping unless we're managing and trying to improve the scallop fisheries," said Turpin, 50, a marine biologist.
Turpin, other residents and fellow scientists worry what will happen to the entire 76,000 acres of underwater lands in the Northwest Florida preserves and the sea life the lands nurture without the watchful eye of the aquatic preserve staff, especially as the impacts of the BP oil spill still are being assessed.
"The aquatic preserve's staff are the silent soldiers protecting our natural resources," said Heather Reed, a marine biologist and the City of Gulf Breeze project manager for the Deadman's Island Restoration Project.
The aquatic office, with a staff of three and an annual budget of $178,281, is responsible for the restoration and preservation of salt marshes, seagrass beds, oyster beds and shoreline stabilization and water quality monitoring of the submerged land from Perdido Key to St. Andrews Bay.
These resources are directly tied to the quality of the environment and viability of the economy of Northwest Florida, in terms of the seafood industry, tourism, recreation and the quality of life, Turpin said. Restoring, monitoring and preserving these resources is more critical than ever in the oil spill's wake, he said.
DEP would not allow the aquatic preserve staff to be interviewed for this story.
Turpin, Reed and Vernon Compton, who works closely with the staff as director of the Gulf Coastal Plain Ecosystem Partnership of the Nature Conservancy, said staff members were key players in pointing out to BP's Unified Command the environmentally sensitive areas of the Panhandle that needed the most protection last year during the disaster.
"I understand the difficult budget situation the state is in and the tough decisions that have to be made," Compton said. "But the management of these preserves is tied directly to clean water and marine and fish habitat, and that's important to the people of the Panhandle."
The aquatic staff are the experts who can identify and monitor oil spill restoration projects in the area as the state doles out the $100 million BP handed over last month as part of the Natural Resources Damage Assessment program to begin restoration of seagrass beds, oyster reefs and bird habitat impacted by the spill.
Compton believes the office could be funded with some of that BP money.
"That office could be funded for many years with just $1 million of that money," he said.
Compton is encouraging citizens to put pressure on lawmakers to save the office from closure.
Reed believes closing the office could make the lands vulnerable to development. And she has a hard time understanding how the value of these lands and the people who protect them are not understood in Tallahassee.
"We saw (Gov. Rick Scott) on the front page of the paper catch a beautiful fish," Reed said. "Does he not realize that healthy fish was in the aquatic preserve our local office managed?"
"I understand the difficult budget situation the state is in and the tough decisions that have to be made," Compton said. "But the management of these preserves is tied directly to clean water and marine and fish habitat, and that's important to the people of the Panhandle."
The aquatic staff are the experts who can identify and monitor oil spill restoration projects in the area as the state doles out the $100 million BP handed over last month as part of the Natural Resources Damage Assessment program to begin restoration of seagrass beds, oyster reefs and bird habitat impacted by the spill.
Compton believes the office could be funded with some of that BP money.
"That office could be funded for many years with just $1 million of that money," he said.
Compton is encouraging citizens to put pressure on lawmakers to save the office from closure.
Reed believes closing the office could make the lands vulnerable to development. And she has a hard time understanding how the value of these lands and the people who protect them are not understood in Tallahassee.
"We saw (Gov. Rick Scott) on the front page of the paper catch a beautiful fish," Reed said. "Does he not realize that healthy fish was in the aquatic preserve our local office managed ?"


Builders hail late legislation change – by Mary Wozniak
May 6, 2011
Environmentalists stunned as bill goes to gov
Environmental groups called it a stunning setback. Developers called it a positive step.
One thing is clear: A bill sent Thursday by state lawmakers for Gov. Rick Scott's signature makes a 180-degree change in how future Southwest Florida developments will be approved or denied.
House Bill 993 flips several decades of legal precedent on its tail by requiring challengers to prove why permitting a proposed development would harm the environment, instead of the developer proving why it wouldn't.
"I think it's shocking and appalling, and shame on our governor if he signs that bill," said Nancy Payton, Southwest Florida field representative for the Florida Wildlife Federation.
"I'm sure he's got his pencil sharpened," Payton added.
Combined with some of the other pending legislation, "it looks like a free-for-all on behalf of those who want to develop and want to negatively impact the environment," Payton said.
The bill will make it extremely difficult to challenge any growth-management decisions, could be detrimental to water quality, and increase the burden on the area's water supply, said Andrew McElwaine, president and CEO of the Conservancy of Southwest Florida.
"Just when you think it's not going to get worse, it gets worse," McElwaine said. "It's really quite stunning, and it will have severe repercussions for the people of Southwest Florida."
In the meantime, the state Department of Community Affairs is being whittled, and with it resources for environmental oversight and the checks and balances that manage growth.
"We're not in a deep recession because we didn't have enough development," McElwaine said.
But supporters say developers are tired of being tied up for months and sometimes years in court by activists who in some cases live hundreds of miles from the projects they target.
The Lutgert Companies, developer of the Naples Park Shore neighborhood - luxury high-rise condominiums and numerous commercial projects such as the trendy Mercato shopping and dining center in North Naples - welcomes the measure
"We think this is a positive change to the process, as the governmental approval process certainly doesn't work well in its current form," Dougall McCorkle, Lutgert senior vice president, said in an email. "And the 'presumption of guilt,' as per the current process, isn't an equitable starting point."
However, "There does need to be some kind of counterbalance to make sure our environment isn't adversely impacted, particularly in large-scale developments and industrial uses," McCorkle wrote.
Representatives of several other local developers either couldn't be reached Thursday or couldn't immediately comment.
Democratic critics labeled the bill, amended on the fly and passed 79-36, a sneak attack mounted in the hectic final days of the legislative session.
"We are about to change 30 years of environmental law," warned Rep. Scott Randolph, D-Orlando. The legislation makes such a fundamental change that it will cost the state its delegated authority to enforce the federal Clean Water Act, he said.
Jim Ash of The News-Press Capital Bureau and staff writer Brian Liberatore contributed to this report.


Fishing boosts state’s economy
The Bemidji Pioneer
May 6, 2011
A ripple spreads when a bobber plops in calm water. Waves of economic impact roll over Minnesota when all its anglers do the same.
“Though often perceived as a pleasant pastime, fishing is more than that,” explained Dirk Peterson, fisheries chief of the Minnesota (DNR). “It’s an economic engine that supports 43,000 Minnesota jobs, generates $2.8 billion in direct annual expenditures and contributes more than $640 million a year in tax revenues to the treasuries of our state and federal government.”
These figures, Peterson said, are based on a 2007 study that analyzed the economic impact of the nation’s 39 million licensed anglers, including 1.4 million in Minnesota. The study, he said, showed that Minnesota angling expenditures exceed those of 47 states. Only Florida and Texas anglers spend more money than Minnesota anglers. The economic impact of Minnesota fishing exceeds $4.7 billion per year when adjusted for expenditures on gas, lodging and the services purchased by fishing-related businesses.
“As an economic engine, fishing is more like a Mack truck than a mo-ped,” said Peterson. “You can easily hear it rumble through all corners of the state. Many people make part or all of their living by servicing fishing-related businesses.”
Peterson believes a Legislative proposal to raise the price of most fishing licenses makes sense. That’s because additional revenue would offset the erosive effects of inflation, channel funds to emerging priorities, and help maintain the quality of the state’s fish populations.
“License prices haven’t changed in a decade,” he said. “At $17, a year-long resident fishing license is a bargain. If it went to $24 it would still be a bargain compared to most forms of entertainment.”
Moreover, it would help strengthen the backbone of our state’s tourism economy.”
Peterson said during his 34-year DNR career he has clearly seen the link between sound fish management and results that draw Minnesotans and out-of-state tourists to the water’s edge. Thirty years ago, he said, Minnesota’s fishing reputation was eroding. It was becoming known as a state of “quarter-pounder walleyes and potato-chip panfish.”
This documented decline in angling quality gave rise to more aggressive research, management and a citizen input process called the Fisheries Roundtable. Outcomes of these efforts resulted in more effective fishing regulations, better understanding of fish populations and increased efforts to protect the places where fish spawn, raise their young, and find protection from predators.
The agency also fine-tuned its walleye stocking practices, implemented policies to minimize the spread of fish diseases, and created a youth program to recruit new anglers and instill a conservation ethic in the next generation of anglers. Today, the trend lines for most fish species are heading in the right direction, both in terms of quantity and quality.
At Lake Winnibigoshish, for example, today’s angler is six times more likely to catch a walleye 19 inches or longer than a decade ago. Large smallmouth bass are four times more abundant in the Mississippi River between St. Cloud and Dayton than 20 years ago. Minnesota has become the nation’s leading destination for catching muskellunge 50 inches or larger. Lake sturgeon, some reaching more than 100 pounds, have become an important economic contributor to the fishing scene in far northern Minnesota.
And the list goes on, including positive trends in Lake Superior, southeast trout streams, and river systems in the south and northwest that harbor growing populations of large catfish.
“We support tourism by making fishing as good as it can be,” said Peterson. “And in most of the 5,400 fishing lakes we manage, it’s as good or better than it has been decades.” He gave much of the credit to employees in 28 field locations and 17 hatcheries, plus the partners they work with day-in, day-out.
“In many ways, we fish biologists are mechanics,” said Peterson, “We understand the role of each part. We understand how the parts work together. And we know that keeping Minnesota’s economic engine humming along requires an investment in monitoring, managing and repairing what needs to be fixed.”


Economic impacts on the local economy by restoring Everglades - by LAURA ARCHAZKI-PACTER
May 5, 2011
NAPLES — On a warm evening in Naples, residents and economists gathered inside Hodges University to discuss the economic impact of the Everglades restoration on the economy of Southwest Florida. The panel discussion appropriately titled, “What’s the Everglades Worth to You?,” highlighted the essential financial value of restoring the fragile ecosystem known as America’s only Everglades.
For Longshore Lakes resident, Sally Kirk, the free public meeting presented facts about a resource near and dear to her community association – water. “I’m on the Board of Longshore Lake, and I’m very interested in protecting our groundwater to protect the Gulf and the Everglades. I’ve written letters to the editor, and we just initiated a fertilizer ordinance. Since the fertilizer ordinance went into effect, we’ve noticed a significant drop in our algae in our lakes.”
Speakers at the event included Bobby McCormick, Ph.D., the Principal Investigator for an economic impact study on Florida Everglades, from Mather Economics. He discussed the results of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan, also known as CERP.
McCormick was introduced by the moderator of the event, Andrew D.W. Hill, Chief Financial Officer of Andrew Hill Investment Advisors. Members of the public were welcomed to the free informational seminar by Terry P. McMahon, President of Hodges University, and by Andrew McElwaine of the Conservancy of Southwest Florida.
Touchstones McCormick presented included charts illustrating the groundwater purification process to ultimately reduce the salinity of groundwater, aquifer recharge, residential real estate impacts, recreation impacts, water quality, recreation, tourism and open space benefits, totaling four dollars in economic benefits for every one dollar invested in the restoration of the Everglades.
Public-private partnership benefits in restoring the Everglades, and conservation efforts within business were also highlighted by Matthew Raffenberg, Manager of Environmental Licensing for Florida Power and Light. He cited the 13,000 acre Miami-Dade Everglades Restoration Project as an recent example of a successful improvement of natural ecosystem.
“The world is watching what we are doing here,” explained Jack Wert, executive director of the Tourism Development Council of Collier County, of the impact of the Everglades on tourism in Southwest Florida. “We simply cannot fail, and we need to continue to improve the product we offer.”
With about 40 percent of the visitors arriving to Collier County seeking eco-tourism, Wert emphasized the need for pre-planning before visitors get to Collier County. “We make sure that they know about things such as the Everglades before the get there,” Wert said, pointing to the inclusion of the Everglades in tourism branding for the Southwest Florida area.
Additionally, Jerry Karnas, with Everglades Foundation was on hand to answer questions following the presentations of the evening. “Our primary goal is to help folks understand that even in tough economic times and tight budgets, that dollars spent on the Everglades are dollars well spent. It’s a four to one return on investment to the American taxpayer,” Karnas explained.
Job creation was another impact that Karnas suggested as an example of benefits from Everglades restoration. “These projects create private sector jobs, and during the legislative session there was a 60 percent decrease in State Everglades funding, which is down from last year. This presentation today shows that this cut is not a wise choice for taxpayers”
“The presenters made it clear that the health of the Everglades is essential to the economy of Southwest Florida,” quipped Naples resident Jeannette Showalter of the recent Everglades Foundation presentation


Environmentalists "betrayed" by DEP maneuver – by Jim Ash
May 5, 2011
TALLAHASSEE -- The Republican-dominated House voted overwhelmingly on Thursday to reverse a fundamental concept that has guided Florida environmental law for the past 30 years.
With little debate in the second-to-the-last-day of session, the House voted 79-36 to give final approval to HB 993 by Rep. Ken Roberson, R-Port Charlotte -- but only after tacking on a controversial burden-of-proof amendment.
The bill now goes to Gov. Rick Scott, who is eager to sign it.
It turns a decades-old legal concept on its head. As it is, potential polluters must prove that a housing development, strip mall, or any other project that requires a regulatory permit, will not cause irreparable harm to the environment.
Now, under the bill, challengers -- concerned neighbors, citizens groups and environmental activists -- would have to prove that a project will cause irreparable harm.
Eric Draper, executive director of Audubon of Florida, said opponents of the provision were assured earlier this week that the provision was dead. It was revived after Scott's Department of Environmental Protection insisted that it pass.
"We feel betrayed," Draper said. "It's one thing to fight the polluters. It's another to also have to fight the agency that's supposed to be protecting us from them."
The business lobby was elated.
"If someone wants to challenge a permit, God bless them," said Associated Industries of Florida lobbyist Keyna Corey. "But let's make sure they have a defensible reason. We spend so much time and so much money trying to go through the permitting process, and the only reason we are doing it is because there are people who simply want to stop all growth in Florida."
Developers have long complained about being tied up in court or administrative hearing rooms for months -- sometimes years -- by environmentalists.
"What we have now is a presumption that you are guilty until proven innocent," Rep. Lake Ray, R-Jacksonville, said in debate.
Rep. Scott Randolph, D-Orlando, warned that the move will backfire.
The legislation makes such a fundamental change to Florida law that it could lead to direct federal enforcement of the Clean Water Act, Randolph said.
"Just last week, a judge nearly removed Florida's control over water quality programs relating to Everglades protection and restoration. Today, the majority has all but ensured federal government intervention in protecting Florida's waterways from polluters," he said in a release blasted to reporters seconds after the bill passed.
Rep. Jimmy Patronis, a Republican from Panama City who sponsored another streamlining measure, argued that the burden-of-proof amendment doesn't change specific rules and regulations limiting pollution.
"This legislation does not change a single environmental standard," he said. "Take a chance to take your state back."


House votes to relax environmental protections - Ch.10 News – by Jim Ash, Florida Capital Bureau
May 5, 2011 
TALLAHASSEE, Florida -- In what Democratic critics labeled a sneak attack, House Republicans just voted overwhelmingly to undo a key protection that has guided Florida environmental law for the past 30 years.
With less than 20 minutes of debate in the waning days of the 60-day session, the House voted 79-36 to approve HB 993 by Rep. Ken Roberson, R-Port Charlotte -- after tacking the provision on at the last minute.
The measure now goes to a pro-business governor who is eager to sign it.
The bill turns a decades old legal concept on its head, one that requires polluters to prove that a housing development, strip mall, or any other project will not cause irreparable harm to the environment.
The new language would force challengers to prove instead that the project will harm the environment.
Supporters say developers are tired of being tied up for months and sometimes years in court by citizen activists who in some cases live hundreds of miles from the project.
"What we have now is a presumption that you are guilty until proven innocent," said Rep. Lake Ray, R-Jacksonville.
Democrats cried foul, noting that they were promised the measure would not resurface when it was stripped off another bill by Rep. Jimmy Patronis, R-Panama City, as part of a compromise.
Rep. Scott Randolph, D-Orlando, warned that the legislation makes such a fundamental change to Florida law that it will cost the state its delegated authority to enforce the federal Clean Water Act. A federal judge in South Florida warned last week that the state's Department of Environmental Protection has failed so miserably to protect water quality in the Everglades that he is contemplating ordering the federal government to take over water-quality enforcement.
"How does this comply with the Clean Water Act?" Randolph asked Roberson.
"It does not," Roberson said.
Patronis argued that the amendment doesn't change specific rules and regulations limiting pollution.
"This legislation does not change a single environmental standard," he said. "Take a chance to take your state back."
Randolph quickly decried passage.
"Just last week, a judge nearly removed Florida's control over water quality programs relating to Everglades protection and restoration. Today, the majority has all but ensured federal government intervention in protecting Florida's waterways from polluters," Randolph said in a release.
Jim Ash, Florida Capital Bureau


If state funding is cut, federal officials say Everglades restoration will continue - Cox Newspapers
May 4, 2011
WEST PALM BEACH — Despite dire warnings from environmentalists that Everglades restoration is doomed if drastic cuts to the state budget are approved, federal agencies say they have the money to keep the programs going and are ready to step up and fulfill their commitment to share the costs.
"The fact that they don't have the financial wherewithal right now, does that mean we stop dead? No, not at all," said Stu Appelbaum, deputy district engineer for Everglades restoration at the Army Corps of Engineers.
This year's federal commitment to restoration construction programs is $180 million, Appelbaum said. Next year's federal budget proposal is $163 million.
Meanwhile, Gov. Rick Scott has proposed a 66 percent cut in Everglades restoration spending, from $50 million this year to $17 million. House and Senate proposals each stand at about $19 million.
Scott also has proposed cutting by 25 percent the property tax collection rate of the South Florida Water Management District, the state sponsor of the program. During the restoration's peak years, the state allocated as much as $100 million for the project.
"If the governor's budget goes through, it will derail Everglades restoration," said Eric Draper, the executive director of Audubon of Florida. "It will stop it in its tracks. It will take away the money needed to build projects."
In 2000, when then-Gov. Jeb Bush vowed to restore the Everglades, Florida entered into a 50-50 cost-sharing agreement with the federal government. The district has spent more money than the corps because the tasks assigned to the district — such as land acquisition — must be completed before the corps can begin its work, Appelbaum said.
That has left the district with credits, meaning the "federal government can move forward and we can put our money against the credits they've generated," Appelbaum said. "They've done the yeoman's work."
In the past two years, the district has broken ground on six key projects, all fully funded. Still, the cuts proposed in the governor's budget plan would cause serious delays in programs. The most drastic options being considered by the district to meet the governor's demand include "recasting" or even "de-authorizing" the entire restoration project.
Complicating such options for the district are court-ordered mandates stemming from lawsuits over Everglades restoration. In 1992, the state entered into a consent decree to settle one lawsuit, which obligates the state to build stormwater treatment areas and reduce phosphorus levels in polluted water headed for the Everglades. The case is ongoing because phosphorus levels still remain over limits set in the consent decree.
"The signals I'm getting from everybody are that they are trying to keep the program moving forward," said Shannon Estenoz, director of Everglades Restoration Initiatives at the Interior Department and a former district board member. "These are tough times."


In new video and letter, Free Market Florida alleges EPA misled reporter
Florida Independent - by Virginia Chamlee
May 4, 2011
In a letter sent out to supporters today, self-described watchdog group Free Market Florida alleges that the EPA is guilty of misleading a reporter about its proposed numeric nutrient criteria, a set of standards that aim to govern nutrient pollution in state waterways.
“In a failed effort to discredit a recent Free Market Florida video, EPA attempted to mislead a reporter with The St. Petersburg Times into believing that the agency’s current ‘numeric nutrient criteria’ rule-making is not tied to a 2008 lawsuit brought by a cabal of environmental interests,” said Ryan Houck, executive director of Free Market Florida, in a press release. “The EPA’s assertions are contradicted by numerous media accounts, published statements by parties that joined the suit, and even the EPA’s own statements regarding the proposed rules.”
Houck claims that EPA Public Affairs Specialist Davina Marraccini made a false assertion when questioned by the reporter about the impetus behind creating the nutrient criteria. In a March 22 email, Marraccini corrected what she said were “erroneous assertions” made by Free Market Florida. Though the email response is quite lengthy, Houck’s main point of contention seems to be one sentence in particular, which he highlights on Free Market’s copy (.pdf) of the email exchange:
Was FL singled-out in response to lawsuit ?
No. The July 2008 lawsuit brought by Florida Wildlife Federation et al. was not the reason that EPA determined that numeric nutrient criteria were necessary in Florida.
Marraccini goes on to say that, while the lawsuit brought to light the frequency of algal blooms in Florida waterways, the EPA’s determination to move forward with its nutrient standards was “a logical and reasonable step” that came as a result of “working with and supporting Florida for a number of years.”
In addition to releasing a video and the purportedly misleading emails, Houck penned a letter (.pdf) to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, whom he called on to “direct EPA staffers – whose salaries are paid by the public – to stick to the facts when confronted with factual criticism.”
In his latest video, Houck claims that the EPA’s “taxpayer-funded spin doctors spent a lot of time trying to discredit” an earlier video, in which Houck claimed that the criteria were written by lawyers and would require that even drainage canals meet impossibly strict standards. Marraccini debunked those claims in an interview with The Florida Independent, in which she said that the criteria were the result of months of consultation with scientific experts, and were independently peer reviewed.


Riverkeeper asks Water Management District to deny utility company’s water-withdrawal permit
Florida Independent -by Virginia Chamlee
May 4, 2011
The St. Johns River Water Management District will soon consider a permit from Jacksonville-based utility company JEA that would allow the company to withdraw groundwater, which environmentalists are saying could negatively impact the area’s ecology.
Though the district has found that JEA’s actions could lead to wetland declines and water decreases in many areas, it has issued a recommendation to approve the permit. In a letter written yesterday to Water Management District officials, the St. Johns Riverkeeper’s Neil Armingeon pleaded with board members to deny the permit that he called “troubling” and “illogical.”
JEA’s application for a consumptive-use permit has so far flown under the radar, likely because it seems to be business as usual. Formerly known as the Jacksonville Electric Authority, JEA has a reputation for being the largest point-source polluter of the St. Johns River, a waterbody inundated with large-scale toxic algal blooms and belly-up fish.
According to the Florida Water Management Districts, a consumptive use permit (or CUP) allows water to be withdrawn “from surface and groundwater supplies for reasonable and beneficial uses such as public supply (drinking water), agricultural and landscape irrigation, and industry and power generation.”
The St. Johns River Water Management District has determined that this sort of groundwater-pumping can be dangerous and, in fact, that JEA practices have damaged waterbodies in the past, yet the district may be on its way to granting the permit anyway. Its status is currently “pending.”
“JEA’s groundwater pumping has damaged lakes to the west of Duval County, and in our opinion, threatens watersheds to the west, including the Suwannee and Santa Fe Rivers,” wrote the Riverkeeper’s Armingeon in a May 3 letter. “Yet, the SJRWMD is granting JEA an increase in their CUP.”
Even in the Water Management District’s Technical Staff Report on the JEA permit, major potential changes to the ecology of the affected area were noted:
The results of the groundwater flow modeling indicate that JEA’s proposed withdrawals would be expected to cause the potentiometric surface of the Upper Floridan Aquifer to decline 4 to 6 feet from 1995 levels in much of Duval County and parts of southern Nassau and northern St. Johns Counties. In addition, as a result of JEA’s proposed withdrawals, decreases of 0.5 foot or more in the Upper Floridan Aquifer would be expected to occur southward into St. Johns, Putnam, and Alachua Counties, westward into Clay, Bradford, Union, Baker, and Columbia Counties, and northward into southeastern Georgia. The large area influenced by JEA’s water withdrawals contains many wetlands and lakes as well as streams, rivers, and springs. [Emphasis added.]
The technical staff report goes on to reveal that modeling also predicts problems in wetlands, where decreases in aquifer levels could reach six inches due to the withdrawals:
There are wetlands, ponds, and lakes in areas where surficial aquifer levels are predicted to decline. The wetlands consist mostly of swamps dominated by cypress and hardwood trees. Staff has observed wetlands and lakes already stressed in southwestern Clay and western Putnam Counties, an area where the model indicates that JEA’s proposed withdrawals would contribute to drawdown in the surficial aquifer.
Nevertheless, the report goes on to recommend an approval of the permit:
Staff has concluded that the applicant’s use, as limited by the attached permit conditions, is reasonable-beneficial, will not cause or contribute to interference with existing legal uses, and is consistent with the public interest. Therefore, staff recommends approval for this application.
Armingeon says that the permit could lead to irreparable harm, and that the St. Johns River Water Management District is knowingly ignoring the facts.
“The Suwannee River Water Management District(SRWMD), and the U.S. Geological Survey have shown pumping in NE Florida by JEA is damaging the Suwannee, Alapaha, and Santa Fe Rivers and White Springs,” wrote Armingeon in his May 3 letter. “Yet, the CUP ignores these data, and allows JEA to increase groundwater consumptive use.”
The District does make some requirements of JEA, such as noting that they must develop and implement a Minimum Flow Level prevention/recovery strategy in certain affected lakes. According to Armingeon, however, this requirement comes with an “out” clause that could seemingly render it ineffective:
The condition states the applicant, JEA, must participate, “[....[U]nless the existing minimum levels for these lakes in rule chapter 40C-8 are revised so that a prevention or recovery strategy is no longer required under section 373.0421 of the Florida Statutes.”
If the District lowers the lake’s [Minimum Flow Levels], as it has threatened in the past, JEA can walk away from its commitment.
If issued, the permit will go into effect for 10 years before any substantial changes can be made. “Rarely, are issues of this importance to the community and to the environment, given this type of longevity, and lack of oversight,” wrote Armingeon. “Thanks to the political climate in Florida, this is where we are now.”
The governing board of the St Johns River Water Management District will next hold a meeting on Tues., May 10 to consider the JEA’s permit application.


Speak out loudly before your state representatives and senators destroy the Florida you cherish
TCPalm – by Nathaniel Pryor Reed of Hobe Sound served as assistant secretary of the interior under presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford and is chairman emeritus of 1,000 Friends of Florida.
May 4, 2011
It is with an incredible sense of dismay that I watch what is unfolding in Florida this legislative session. The governor and Legislature seem bent on destroying our state's landmark process to manage growth and development, essential considering that Florida soon will pass New York as the third-largest state in the nation.
In recent conversations with three former distinguished governors, I found all appalled by the disastrous course the state leadership is setting for us. The looming agenda is unapologetically pro-business and antiregulation. Florida's new leadership is in complete denial that this state's natural areas are both the foundation and economic engine that drive our beautiful state.
To avoid the problems of overcrowded schools, congested roadways and environmental damage that occurred unchecked after World War II, Florida must maintain a workable system to direct growth into suitable places and away from those lands too sensitive for development. This was, and remains, the mission I shared with several other prominent Floridians when in 1986 we founded 1,000 Friends of Florida, the second organization of its kind in the nation. Over the past quarter-century, 1,000 Friends has worked with leaders from both sides of the aisle to shape one of the most successful growth management systems in the nation.
Current efforts will do nothing less than open Florida back up to the ravages of unchecked development experienced in our state in the 1960s and 1970s. The resulting damage to the Everglades, drinking water supplies and public infrastructure is being felt to this day. Floridians simply cannot afford to make these mistakes again.
Residents throughout this state must continue to fight the false premise that Florida can build its way out of the recession by reducing or even eliminating a state oversight role in local development decisions. Such an approach will do untold damage to our environment and create costly future burdens for our children and grandchildren.
My travels throughout the United States and the world convince me that Florida was moving in the right direction to right past wrongs and prevent their recurrence. Sadly, the only kind of legacy we will be leaving to the generations following us is one of missed opportunities that no one can proudly claim.
This is a call to all of those who treasure Florida. The worst thing any of us can do is to go quietly into the night. Our great state is worth fighting for. Stand up and speak out against the outrageous proposals now steamrolling through the Legislature. We implore you to join the fight before it is too late.


War on the environment - Editorial
May 04, 2011
The disdain the Florida Legislature has for the environment was illustrated again last week. The House rammed through House Bill 991 in seven minutes without the slightest consideration of its long-term impact.
Among other things, the bill curtails local regulation of mining, weakens wetlands protections and undermines rules designed to protect groundwater from landfill pollution.
The bill would have been even more egregious if sponsor Rep. Jimmy Patronis, a Panama City Republican, had not agreed to eliminate a prohibition on public challenges. Incredibly, that provision would have forced citizens to prove a project would pollute rather than requiring the developer to show a project would not be harmful.
Such antics are all too characteristic of Tallahassee these days, where the primary concern is pleasing special interests.
State representatives this week also passed the equally lamentable House Bill 239, which would dramatically weaken water quality standards, including for the Everglades.
These changes come at the same time state leaders are contesting tough new federal water quality regulations. Gov. Rick Scott insists the state is doing a good job of protecting its waters. With existing standards, he may have a point. But House Bill 239 makes a joke of that claim. It would allow far more water bodies to be degraded and would diminish the need for the state to clean polluted waters.
The purported goal of such moves is to help the economy by streamlining the permit process and eliminating unnecessary regulations. But the state won't improve its business climate by ruining the natural resources that make it a wonderful place to live and work.
Perhaps some regulatory revision is appropriate, but the safeguards under attack were developed to stop specific abuses, including pollution from runoff, underground tanks and mining operations.
This Legislature, particularly the House, seems to put as little value on history as it does the environment. Lawmakers forget that before Florida adopted rigorous environmental protections, pollution-tainted water supplies, threatened fisheries, turned lakes into cesspools and made coastal waters a health threat.
And citizens end up footing the bill or suffering the consequences when polluters are allowed to foul rivers, lakes and bays and otherwise destroy public resources.
In the past, conservative Florida leaders such as Bob Martinez and Jeb Bush understood it was more expensive to clean up pollution than prevent it in the first place. The Senate should display similar foresight and recognize that becoming polluter-friendly isn't going to help Florida's economic prospects.


EPA Imposes Will on Florida, Costs Estimated to Top $1.5 Billion
White Mountain Independent – by Bill Wilson
May 3, 2011
A federal judge has granted the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) authority over the issuance of water permits in the Everglades, and giving the state of Florida until July 1 to comply with the ruling. By then, Florida is required to show what steps it is taking to reduce phosphorous fertilizer runoff from sugar and other farms into the Everglades.
Florida has promised that it is "vigorously pursuing" its appeal to the case, Jennifer Diaz, a Department of Environment Protection spokesperson said. She said granting the EPA permitting authority is "essentially federalizing Florida's Everglades restoration permitting process".
Prior to the ruling, Florida's Environmental Protect Department was responsible for issuing the permits, a power that by the judge's ruling now resides solely with the EPA.
Judge Alan Gold, a Bill Clinton appointee, has now ruled that Florida must comply with the EPA's edicts regardless of cost, ignoring a plea from the South Florida Water Management District that the EPA's proposed regime would not be financially feasible.
"At an estimated cost of more than $1.5 billion over the next nine years, the projects and schedules put forward by the EPA are, regrettably, not achievable within our existing revenue streams," "District Executive Director Carol Ann Wehle wrote to Judge Gold.
She cited that the District "has a statutorily imposed maximum taxation authority" that because of declining property values has resulted in ad valorem revenue decreasing by over $150 million, and that its discretionary budget has plummeted by $61 billion. Plus, with general revenues for the state plummeting by $5.42 billion since 2007, "appropriations to the District for Everglades restoration have fallen by $224 million".
That means the District has nearly $300 million less than it had a few years ago to meet an additional $1.5 billion financial obligation. Judge Gold ruled, however, that a previous "termination of the [A-1] Reservoir construction will allow for freeing up funds and efforts to be directed elsewhere".
But, the only problem is, funds were never fully dedicated to the project. According to South Florida Water Management District Project Manager Neil VanAmburg, talking to Construction Today magazine while the project was still active, "Once we agree on a price, the project becomes a cost reimbursement situation up to the maximum price agreed upon." Meaning, as the construction firms Barnard Construction and Parsons Corp. worked on the reservoir, they were reimbursed by the District.
When the project was halted in 2008 by the District, $272 million had already been expended, not to mention another $41 million in penalties and fees because of the cancellation, according to the Palm Beach Post. The total cost of the reservoir was said to be $800 million.
That means what Judge Gold is saying is that the $487 million that was not spent on the reservoir will help pay for the $1.5 billion cleanup of the Everglades. Except that $487 million is not sitting in some bank account, nor is the $313 million wasted on the reservoir redeemable by the District.
In fact, the reservoir was cancelled to make room for then-Governor Charlie Crist's $197 million U.S. Sugar deal to purchase 26,800 acres from U.S. Sugar.
That cuts the "savings" of cancelling the reservoir to just $290 million. But again, that money is not sitting in a bank account. And according to Sunshine State News, the deal "took nearly three years to negotiate and close and it left the district broke. Yes, pretty much flat broke."
So, there are no "savings". There is just 26,800 acres of sugar plantations. The Sunshine State News writes that "[n]ot 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."
Why? "No significant work can start without money," the editorial notes. So, what is Florida doing with the land then? The editorial fumes, "the district is leasing 18,000 acres of the land to somebody, anybody, because there's nothing that can be done with it." Good job, Charlie!
The ultimate irony is that the A-1 reservoir was being built to help clean the Everglades. But then it was cancelled to make room for the U.S. Sugar deal, which is supposed to help clean up the Everglades. And now the judge is saying to use the money already spent on the U.S. Sugar deal to pay for the cost of the EPA's edicts, which again, is somehow supposed to clean up the Everglades.
In classic liberal double-counting, the judge is ordering Florida to spend money to clean the Everglades that has already been spent.
Counting the money spent on the reservoir, the U.S. Sugar deal, and now the EPA, the District will have spent $2.01 billion to clean up the Everglades when all is said and done, $510 million of which was wasted and never dedicated to cleaning up anything.
That is why District Executive Director Carol Ann Wehle wrote to the judge, "[I]n the end, it is South Florida's taxpayers who alone are expected to carry the heavy financial load to meet the Court's mandates." She speaks from hard experience.
Bill Wilson is the President of Americans for Limited Government.


A sea change in Florida water regulation - by Craig Pittman, St. Petersburg Times Staff Writer
May 2, 2011
Gov. Rick Scott recently told federal officials they should leave Florida alone and let it set its own water pollution standards. Scott and other state leaders have boasted that Florida's pollution control laws have put it ahead of other states.
But the Legislature is about to change those laws.
A bill that has passed the House calls for relaxing the standards for how much pollution goes into the state's rivers, streams, lakes and bays. The changes called for by HB 239 will be, says Audubon of Florida's Charles Lee, "devastating," particularly in the Everglades.
"This is what all the polluters are fighting for, the complete overthrow of Florida's water quality criteria," agreed Linda Young of the Clean Water Network. Struggling to come up with a term for how odious she considers it, she labeled the bill "the mack daddy of bottom of the barrel."
To the businesses that belong to Associated Industries of Florida however, this is a common-sense move. The current water pollution standards are overly broad, said AIF lobbyist Keyna Cole.
Changing the standards "will really help determine which bodies of water need cleanup first," she said.
• • •
The current state standards were created in 1968. They divide the state's waterways into five categories based on their usage. Class I is for drinking water. Class II means it's clean enough to eat the oysters and other shellfish harvested there. Class III means it's clean enough for someone to swim there or to eat the fish caught there. Class IV means it's only good for irrigating crops, and Class V is primarily for industrial use.
No one is supposed to dump pollution into those waterways in quantities sufficient to change their use — in other words, you're not allowed to degrade a Class III waterway so that it becomes a Class IV or V. To avoid that, the state has been setting limits on how much pollution can be dumped into each waterway per day, something called a total maximum daily load.
In 1998 state officials drew up a list of 1,200 Florida waterways that had trouble meeting their classification because they were impaired by pollution. About 80 percent had problems with high levels of nutrients and low levels of dissolved oxygen — both manifestations of fertilizer-heavy runoff, which is the target of some controversial regulations that federal officials plan to impose in Florida.
In telling the federal government to back off of those new rules, Scott boasted in a news release that Florida continues to "lead the nation in developing innovative tools to ensure the health of our state's waterways."
However, thanks to language inserted in HB 239 by Rep. Trudi Williams, R-Fort Myers, Florida's 43-year-old waterway system would be tossed out. In its place would be a more elaborate one with less stringent standards. Lakes, streams and rivers would be classified according to a pair of scales, one rating the Human Use and the other rating Aquatic Life.
Most of the state's waterways would fall under the category called Human Use 3/Aquatic Life 2. The Human Use 3 category means that "recreational uses may support prolonged and direct contact with the water with minimal risk of water ingestion in quantities sufficient to pose a health hazard."
In other words, Young said, it would be all right to splash around in it as long as you don't swallow it.
Williams, an engineer who works for developers and a former board member of the South Florida Water Management District, did not return calls seeking comment. A legislative staff analysis of the bill says her proposed change in the water pollution standards would "allow appropriate expectations to be set for all water bodies."
Environmental advocates say it's really just a way to avoid cleaning up some of the state's polluted rivers, lakes and streams by downgrading the standards they're supposed to meet.
"It's going to set back water quality standards for a decade or more," predicted Jerry Phillips of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility.
• • •
The state Department of Environmental Protection helped develop these new standards in collaboration with such industries as sewer operators and pulp and paper manufacturers, but then chose not to implement them. DEP officials say they are taking no position on Williams' proposal.
What has environmental advocates particularly concerned is a sentence under the Aquatic Life 2 designation: "May have minimal changes in the biological structure as evidenced by the replacement of sensitive taxa by more tolerant taxa."
In other words, if some flora and fauna find the water becoming too toxic and move out while other species that can put up with pollution move in, that's now all right.
• • •
To Lee, that signals a reversal of the long-standing attempt to clean up pollution in the Everglades. The River of Grass got that name because of its abundant saw grass marshes. But phosphorous pollution flowing off farms and suburban lawns has wiped out saw grass and instead stimulated the growth of cattails. The cattails are choking the life out of parts of the state's most famous swamp, blocking wading birds and altering the flow of water.
To combat and reverse the spread of cattails, the state has set a tough-to-achieve limit for the amount of phosphorus allowed to flow into the Everglades. But the state has done such a poor job of enforcing the limit that last week a federal judge ruled that the federal government should take over the cleanup.
That one line in the Aquatic Life 2 category, said Lee, is "code for 'replacement of saw grass with cattails,' " which means it's aimed at allowing more, not less, phosphorous pollution to flow into the Everglades.
The bill, with Williams' language in it, won House approval last week by a vote of 90-27. It is now headed for a vote in the Senate, but so far it has not been placed on a calendar to be considered.


Earth Justice: FL State Legislature Choking Clean Water Rules
Public News Service – by Les Coleman
May 2, 2011
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Stinking, slimy, poisonous rivers filled with dead fish may sound like a horror movie, but it's a reality story for some citizens of the Sunshine State. Toxic algae fed by nutrient pollution are increasingly plaguing a number of Florida's fresh waterways, while budget cuts and proposed restrictions on the state Department of Environmental Protection could make it harder to keep those state waters clean.
David Guest, the director of Florida Earth Justice, says some state legislators want to solve the problem by simply changing the rules that define what constitutes polluted water.
"One of which is; it's okay to swim but don't get too much in your mouth; don't swim in it, it's too dangerous; and the third one is, don't let your kids wade in it."
The last major algae outbreak in 2005 saw waterfront property values drop by $500 million, according to the Florida Board of Realtors.
Property owners in Southwest Florida, living along the Caloosahatchee River, are watching the green goo completely blanket the waterway and shoreline. Guest points out that some Florida lawmakers are just mucking up the problem by passing measures that play word games.
"A bill that actually passed the House of Representatives aims to legalize the pollution instead of trying to solve the problem."
Guest explains that clean drinking water, jobs, recreation, public health, property values, wildlife, and Florida's entire way of life could all be affected.


Dr. G.M. Naja
The Everglades


Mercury transport and deposition is a global problem that can hardly be locally controlled. However, according to the scientists, the transformation of mercury and its entrance into the food chain (as toxic methyl-mercury) is driven by the presence of SULFUR.
Why is the FDEP mainly concerned with the TMDL of Hg rather than focusing on how to limit excessive sulfate/sulfide levels in the FL environment ?
Unlike mercury, THOSE could be controlled and minimized.
CERP Sulfate :
Target = 1 mg/L Reality: 30-50 mg/L !

Everglades suffering from sulfate runoff, Methylmercury contamination
Florida Independent - by Virginia Chamlee
May 2, 2011
The use of sulfate in agricultural areas near the Florida Everglades is creating an enormous mercury problem — with seemingly no end in sight.
The Florida Everglades are often thought of as the state’s wildest and most untamed area, well-protected and far from the grind of urban civilization, a lush wetland with a folkloric reputation that separates it from the hustle and bustle of nearby Fort Lauderdale and Miami.
Some of the state’s most ubiquitous creatures call the area home: manatees, alligators, wading birds. But lurking below the surface, amid the highly diverse flora and fauna, is a surprisingly large amount of a notoriously toxic substance: Methylmercury.
According to scientists, the Methylmercury issue rivals other better-known ecological issues in the state, like nutrient overload in Florida waterways. Nutrients like phosphorus and nitrogen have long been thought of as villains in Florida waterways, due to their capacity to breed toxic algal blooms that lead to fish and dolphin kills.
Sulfate is often used as a means to kill those noxious algal blooms. In this process, sulfate (sulfur combined with oxygen) is added directly to water, eventually finding its way into Stormwater Treatment Areas, manmade wetlands that are specifically designed to filter pollution before it enters the Everglades.
The problem, according to scientists, is that the Stormwater Treatment Areas (known as “STAs”) only filter so much. “These STAs are not designed to filter sulfate. They’re designed to filter phosphorus,” says Dr. Melodie Naja, a water quality scientist at the Everglades Foundation, a nonprofit that aims to restore and protect the greater Everglades ecosystem.
Naja says that sulfate in South Florida canals can come from several sources, including groundwater, Lake Okeechobee water, soil oxidation and fertilizer. But the main sources of sulfate, according to a study conducted by Naja and her colleagues, are the latter two: soil oxidation and fertilizers.
In a paper published in 2011, Naja and other scientists found that high levels of Methylmercury (MeHg) are a serious problem in many wetland ecosystems worldwide:
In the Florida Everglades, it has been demonstrated that increasing MeHg occurrence is driven by the sulfate contamination problem. A promising strategy of lowering the MeHg occurrence is to reduce the amount of sulfate entering the ecosystem. High surface water sulfate concentrations in the Everglades are mainly due to discharges from the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA) canals. [Emphasis added.]
In addition to using sulfate as a fungicide, farmers in the Everglades Agricultural Area use it as a fertilizer counter-ion, and to increase the acidity of the soil, making fertilizer more readily available to plants, which take in sulfate through their roots.
These practices result in sulfate runoff into canals that eventually makes its way to the marshes of the Everglades. Due to the anaerobic conditions of the sediment in the marshes, sulfate is eventually reduced to sulfide by bacteria. Naturally occurring mercury (often present in rainwater) mixes with the sulfide, creating a dangerous cocktail known to scientists as Methylmercury.
“Methylmercury is a problem,” says Naja. “Methylmercury bioaccumulates in the body of an organism, sticking to the cells of those who ingest it.”
According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, the primary negative health effect of Methylmercury is impaired neurological development, specifically in fetuses. The substance doesn’t always kill directly, but it can drastically affect the human nervous system and also harm vision and speech and cause muscle weakness. In scientific studies, Methylmercury was found to cause kidney tumors in male mice.
Though some forms of sulfur, like hydrogen-sulfide (which is responsible for the rotten-egg smell near a marsh) are regulated by state environmental agencies, there are no limitations on sulfate flowing into wetlands.
Naja and the team at the Everglades Foundation studied the amount of sulfate in the Everglades, comparing actual amounts to the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan target amount. What they found was striking: “The target amount is one milligram per liter. The reality is 30 to 50 milligrams per liter.”
“The phosphorus issue has really taken center stage, and it is a problem. But phosphorus affects 20 percent of an ecosystem. Sulfate affects 60 percent,” says William Orem, a scientist with the United States Geological Survey. “Mercury is rampant.”
According to Orem, the population of wading birds in the Florida Everglades has decreased by 90 percent since 1900, and Methylmercury is a likely culprit. “The decrease isn’t all due to Methylmercury, but it plays a big role over time,” says Orem.
University of Florida Professor Peter Frederick published the results of an in-depth study of one species of wading bird found in the Everglades, the White ibis, in December 2010.
The study found that the ibis population was declining in large part due to altered mating habits, a direct result of mercury consumption. Mercury not only affected the ibis’ courtship habits, but also altered hormones, which led to a high percentage of male birds mating with other males. This particular study was the first that documented mercury’s effects on a bird’s sexual preference.
Frederick’s study followed four different groups of birds, each put on a different diet, with a different level of mercury. Surprisingly, even the group ingesting the lowest levels of mercury (amounts comparable to fish purchased at the grocery store) displayed homosexual behavior and tended to mate earlier in the breeding season.
“The effect was exaggerated the higher the dose, so about 55 percent of those ingesting the highest dosage of mercury had their sexual development affected,” Frederick says. “But even 25-35 percent of those who ingested supermarket-grade levels displayed similar behaviors.”
Even the birds who didn’t display a change in sexual preference showed signs of hormone imbalances. “Even those that did mate male/female didn’t do a good job of parenting,” he says. “They failed to tend eggs or watch their nest. Overall, we found a 35 percent decrease in productivity of the heterosexual nests.” Oftentimes, the males didn’t display good courtship behavior, which led to less female attraction.
Frederick says the ibis case is unlike other homosexual displays between animals, like the famous “gay penguins” of the Central Park Zoo. In some cases, animals mate with their own sex because there are fewer choices of the opposite sex in a captive environment. “That’s not what happened here,” he says. “The ibises had many available females, but the males would court together, build a nest together and stay in the nest for weeks at a time. It was a long-term commitment to the nest.”
Frederick says that mercury is, gram-for-gram, one of the most powerful elements known to man, in how it can alter development.
Mercury is known to cause fetal damage, and pregnant or lactating women are often advised against consuming carriers, such as certain types of fish and shellfish. But it affects more than just fetuses. Frederick says that “even very small amounts of mercury can hinder cognitive development” in “young children.”
The U.S. EPA recommendation’s is to not exceed 0.3 milligrams of Methylmercury per kilogram of fish tissue. Because of the high levels of Methylmercury in fish, the Florida Department of Health regularly issues advisories (.pdf) on consuming fish from the Everglades.
Consumption of Everglades-caught fish by humans isn’t prevalent, but some members of the Haitian community and the Native American Miccosukee tribe are thought to fish in area canals.
But the relevance of Frederick’s study is rooted in wildlife. If mercury leads to hormonal imbalances and a change in sexual preference among birds, it  has the power to drastically reduce reproductive output. In short, it is a very serious problem — one that is not being addressed.
“Birds can’t taste mercury, and they can’t avoid it,” says Frederick. “Twenty-five percent of birds just eating supermarket-level mercury experience a change in sexual preference. The message is a very strong one.”
Anywhere from 90 to 98 percent of mercury found in all fish is methylated and, because it is nearly impossible to take mercury out of the Everglades, the natural solution is to get rid of the sulfate. But, like the issue of removing nutrients from Florida waterways, that is easier said than done.
The majority of sulfate comes from Everglades Agricultural Areas, where farmers harvesting products like sugarcane continue using protocol from the 1960s.
In a February 2009 article published in Earth, Orem opined that the Methylmercury problem in the Everglades is still misunderstood:
At the moment, scientists do not know how much sulfate originates from natural sulfur and how much sulfur is locked in the soil due to past agricultural practices. Soil oxidation may be releasing this sulfur, allowing it to run off into the canals that discharge into the Everglades.
According to Orem, recent studies have shown that elemental sulfur is no longer even effective for agriculture because soil is changing so much over time. Even a slight reduction in the use of sulfate could help lower the amount of Methylmercury contamination in the area.
Another solution, says Orem, would be to redesign the Stormwater Treatment Areas, so that they not only filter out phosphorus, but sulfate as well.
One roadblock is the jurisdiction of the mercury problem: The South Florida Water Management District and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection are at odds over who is responsible for the problem.
“It’s really both of their responsibilites,” says Orem. “I think there’s a certain amount of reluctance from upper-level management to even address the issue. The numeric nutrient criteria have caused such heated arguments, and this is potentially an even bigger issue.”


Lawmakers bypass normal procedures to undo decades of environmental regulations
Florida Independent - by Travis Pillow
May 2, 2011
On Friday, Senate budget negotiators led by Niceville Republican Don Gaetz let a House measure that would undo large swaths of Florida’s growth management laws into a budget conforming bill. The Senate had proposed its own growth management rewrite, but now the changes are part of a bill that can’t be amended and will be debated and voted on with the other bills that implement the state’s budget, not as a separate measure.
St. Petersburg Republican Sen. Jack Latvala objected to the maneuver, and according to the St. Petersburg Times, he took a walk while the rest of the economic development negotiators unanimously approved the deal.
He later said the move was “unbecoming” of the Senate.
Senators sometimes refer to their chamber as “the deliberative body”: a place where the concerns of individual members are expected to be given greater weight than in the 120-member House, and home to veteran lawmakers like Latvala who are sometimes better equipped to understand the historical significance and policy consequences of major legislation.
It will be up to the Senate to debate the consequences of another major environmental bill, which was cleared by the House Friday night without questions or debate near the end of an all-day session.
Panama City Republican Jimmy Patronis, the sponsor of House Bill 991, made some last-minute changes that addressed concerns brought by local governments.
An amendment by Patronis and another offered by Lake Worth Democrat Mark Pafford with Patronis’ blessing struck two of the provisions most decried by environmentalists. One would have limited local governments’ ability to regulate rock mines and the other would have hampered citizens’ ability to challenge decisions made by environmental regulators.
Patronis didn’t have much chance to explain the improvements he made to the bill, because it was rushed to final passage in a matter of minutes.
House members also missed an opportunity to publicly debate the provisions that remained, including one that bars rock mines from being scrutinized as “developments of regional impact” and one that eliminates some requirements for mitigation banking (a complex practice intended to offset the loss of wetlands, examined by the St. Petersburg Times for the bill specifically here and in award-winning detail here), which according to an analysis by House staff will have a “significant negative fiscal impact” on the state.
Friday’s maneuvering may offer a preview of  what lies ahead. Today marks the start of the last week of the legislative session, sometimes called “the most dangerous week in Florida,” because of the major surprise provisions that can get tacked on to other pieces of legislation.


Our aquatic preserves should be preserved – Opinion by Wernicke
May 1, 2011
Most people never wonder, as they pluck a fat speckled trout or redfish off their hook on Pensacola Bay, or dab a shot of hot sauce on a raw East Bay oyster at Nichols or the Oyster Barn, how it got there.
Isn't nature great, they marvel.  It is.
But in a world drenched with polluted stormwater runoff, saturated in industrial, farm and home chemicals, a world where treated pilings and seawalls compete with sawgrass and oyster beds for space in our bays and bayous, nature could use a little help.
And it gets it. Quietly and effectively.
Perhaps too quietly.
Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Legislature are — also quietly — slashing a program under the Department of Environmental Protection that has for years, quietly and effectively, worked to manage, preserve and restore some of our most important waters.
Earlier this year, an outcry caused Scott to dump a proposal to close some state parks, including Perdido Key State Park. The critics included many businesses that prosper from the tourists and locals who flock to Florida's world-class parks.
"We have beautiful parks," Scott said. "We have 20 million-plus visitors, so ... we need to make sure we preserve them and take care of (the parks)."
We have beautiful aquatic preserves, too, but despite their importance, they have few public champions. So while the parks were saved, six aquatic preserve offices were not. That's a mistake.
The Northwest Florida Aquatic Preserve office manages preserves in Escambia, Santa Rosa, Okaloosa and Bay counties from a small building on Garcon Point. For us, the crown jewel is the 16,000-acre Yellow River Marsh Aquatic Preserve on the Yellow River, Blackwater Bay and East Bay, including 3,000 acres of salt and freshwater marshes and 5,000 acres of forested wetlands.
Like so many environmental programs, despite the hyperbole of those who think every government program is a bloated job-protection racket, the aquatic preserve offices are bare-bones outfits run by people passionate about not just preserving, but restoring Florida's waterways and the fish, oysters and other wildlife that depend on them. The Northwest Florida office has three full-time staffers whose work includes restoring oyster beds, stabilizing shorelines with natural grasses instead of seawalls, monitoring water quality, mapping grass beds and, equally important, educating people about their importance.


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