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Far-off Arlene brings rain to South Florida
Miami Herald - by Curtis Morgan
June 30, 2011
Far-off Tropical Storm Arlene threw a much-needed wet blanket across large swathes of South Florida on Wednesday and the stormy weather may continue through Thursday and Friday.
It won’t be nearly enough to reverse the damage of a long, deep drought that has dropped water levels in the Everglades, lakes and well fields into danger zones but it is putting a small dent in a big rainfall deficit. Still, gauges are down a foot since January along the urban East Coast and even more across much of the region.
“The rain is very welcome and will provide some short-term relief,’’ said Randy Smith, spokesman for the South Florida Water Management District, which oversees the water supply for 16 counties.
The rain came courtesy of a strengthening Arlene, which was pumping moisture across the region as it swirled hundreds of miles away in the southwestern Gulf of Mexico on track for landfall early Thursday in Mexico.
The National Weather Service in Miami expected more storms over the next few days, with conditions turning drier in time for the July 4 weekend.
For water managers, the rainfall pattern shaped up as particularly beneficial. Radar-generated estimates showed the biggest downpours — from two to four inches — in the Kissimmee River Basin, which drains south into Lake Okeechobee, the heart of the regional water supply. Forecasters expect that the heaviest rains is likely to remain there, as well as east of the lake, over the next few days.
The lake, so low water managers have had to employ pumps to supply nearby farms, has been slowly rising over the last week. The most recent measure put it at 9.71 feet above sea level. The Kissimmee Basin, which had been too dry to help recharge the lake, has been replenished enough over the last few weeks that some water is again flowing south.
“It’s just a trickle,’’ Smith said.
Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties all recorded at least drizzles, with some areas receiving up to an inch of rain. The East Coast could see another half inch in each of the next two days, forecasters said.
After a slow start to the annual wet season, water gauges have begun rising in the last few weeks. Through Wednesday, the district had recorded 5.26 inches in June. That’s only 63 percent of the historic average for the month but a huge gain since a nearly bone-dry first week of June.
Water managers warn it will take an exceptionally wet summer to make up for the driest preceding nine months in 80 years.
The National Hurricane Center, meanwhile, said Arlene was expected to make landfall along the central northeastern coast of Mexico early Thursday — likely as a strong tropical storm but with an outside chance of strengthening into a Category 1 hurricane.
Rain was the most serious threat. Forecasters were predicting Arlene could dump from four to eight inches of rain, with 15 inches possible in spots, and trigger potentially deadly flash floods and mud slides.


Health of world's ocean's critical to people's survival:  Mark Perry – by Mark D. Perry, Executive Director of the Florida Oceanographic Society, Stuart, FL.  Online:
June 30, 2011
Our ocean and coastal ecosystems are of the utmost importance, especially in Florida. The ocean provides 95 percent of the living space here on Earth and holds 98 percent of the water on our planet.
It is our life support system. It feeds billions of people around the world; it drives our climate; it absorbs carbon dioxide, and it produces 80 percent of the oxygen we breathe. Every breath we take and every drop we drink depends on a healthy ocean. Every life on the Earth depends on the ocean and now, the ocean's life depends on us.
More than 80 percent of people live within 60 miles of the coast and 85 percent of all the pollution in the ocean comes from land-based activities. We are causing global changes.
Since 1970, ocean temperatures have increased by 1 degree, causing bleaching of coral reefs. Our excess carbon dioxide has saturated the oceans, forming carbonic acid that dissolves the shells of plankton, corals, clams, shrimp and crabs.
We must take action for the future of Florida's ocean and coastal environments. Here are eight things we can do now:
• Stop discharging of polluted freshwater from Lake Okeechobee into the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers. The discharges have caused lesions on fish, killed oyster reefs and sea grass, sickened sea turtles and bottlenose dolphins and caused harmful algal blooms. Those force health departments to post warnings for "NO HUMAN CONTACT!"
• Florida and federal officials should restore the Everglades' natural flows from Lake Kissimmee to Florida Bay. Currently 1.7 billion gallons per day of freshwater that used to feed the greater Everglades now goes to the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico, polluting our coastal estuaries and ocean reef ecosystems while wasting this valuable freshwater resource and starving the Everglades.
• The Florida Department of Environmental Protection should allow the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to establish and implement strong numeric nutrient standards and criteria to prevent pollution and protect Florida's waters. An enforceable nitrogen and phosphorus standard should be included.
• Florida should require any waste water or reverse osmosis residual water injected underground in Class I injection wells be treated to advanced nutrient-stripping levels. The state should require water re-use instead of allowing more injection wells. The injection water near the coast is coming up on the nearshore reefs in 60 to 90 feet of water and causing harmful algal blooms.
• Clean energy must be required to prohibit venting mercury, toxics and other gas into the air that pollute Florida's surface waters and groundwater.
• Develop a comprehensive program to treat, regulate and eliminate waste from ships that use Florida's ports. Require ballast water treatment as a condition of port entry to prevent biological and chemical pollution of Florida's waters.
• Continue to require utilities to discontinue the six ocean outfalls discharging 394 million gallons per day of secondary treated waste water in to the Atlantic Ocean south of Delray Beach.
• Do not allow offshore oil drilling in the eastern Gulf of Mexico or off of Florida's East Coast. The "undiscovered technically recoverable" oil and gas in these areas is 4.1 billion barrels or one-tenth of the western and central Gulf and amounts to only a year supply of the oil we import. The risk is too high for Florida's coastal tourist industry, which annually contributes more than $56 billion and 900,000 jobs to the economy.
In June, the oceans of our planet are celebrated worldwide and at the Florida Oceanographic Coastal Center. World Oceans Day, established in 1992 at the U.N. Earth Summit is promoted around the world by the Oceans Project, World Ocean Network and the Florida Oceanographic Society.
The youth are our "next wave for change." We must all work to increase awareness and inspire stewardship of our living ocean.


New water district chief asks Treasure Coast environmentalists for patience
TCPalm - by Tyler Treadway
June 30, 2011
STUART — Members of the Rivers Coalition kept wanting to know when shovel-in-the-ground progress would be made on projects to help preserve the St. Lucie Estuary, particularly the flow-way south from Lake Okeechobee to the Everglades.
Melissa Meeker, executive director of the South Florida Water Management District kept replying, "Did I mention that this is day 30?"
Meeker was appointed to head the district June 1; and since then, she admitted, her attention has been focused on slashing the agency's $1.1 billion budget by $128.3 million as mandated by a new state law that reduces the property taxes the district can collect by more than 25 percent.
Despite budget constraints, Meeker said, "we're in the right spot" for progress on the flow-way.
"We have two administrations (in Washington and Tallahassee) focused on what's best for the (Everglades) and a team at the district that knows what to do," she said. "That can only benefit this region. I'm sorry that there won't be any immediate relief to the estuary, but we are headed in the right direction."
She added, knocking on the wood of the chamber's dais, "I'd like to think that by the end of the summer we'll have all the stakeholders heading in the same direction we're going."
Karl Wickstrom, head of the coaltion's legal committee, noted that Meeker voted to spend $1.34 billion to buy 180,000 acres of sugarcane between Lake Okeechobee and the Everglades to restore the "River of Grass" while she was on the district board in 2008, but Gov. Rick Scott opposed even the scaled-down $197 million deal for 26,800 acres.
"You're a nice person," Wickstrom said. "You don't seem to fit with the governor. Why are you here?"
Meeker replied, "The governor, he gets it, and he gets it strong. He's going to back me. He's going to help me sell (the flow-way) to D.C."
Wickstrom didn't seem to buy that, calling Scott a friend of the sugar industry rather than environmentalists.
"We're not going to solve the flow south without all the parties," Meeker said.
When Leon Abood, chairman of the coalition, asked Meeker if she was in favor of acting on the district's option to buy more sugar land south of Lake O for the flow-way, the director again asked for more time.
"We have time before the options run out," she said. "We need to figure out exactly where we need land."
Meeker noted that the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan was developed 12 years ago and "needs updating" because some of the 68 projects it called for have been found to be based on faulty research.
"But we don't need to start over," she said. "We need to determine how to focus on projects that will move the water south."


River in Crisis – by Keri Hendry
June 30, 2011
On Saturday afternoon, some 200+ people gathered at the new Crescent Beach Family Park. As Frankie Thompson softly strummed the notes to 'Mother, Mother, Ocean', folks lined up to sign a petition to place an offshore drilling ban on the Florida state ballot in 2012, then joined hands at the Gulf's edge – drawing a 'line in the sand' for fifteen minutes against those who would befoul our precious water. But with the threat of the Deepwater Horizon spill a memory from last summer, what, exactly, were these people gathered for? The answer is that the purpose of this protest and others held around the state is to protect our water quality - thereby protecting our quality of life, not to mention a $2.5 billion tourism industry – all of which are being threatened not just by the possibility of oil rigs but the very real dealings of our new governor and and an antiquated policy that is allowing for the death of the main artery that feeds our back bay – the Caloosahatchee River.
On Monday morning, the Sand Paper travelled upriver to the cities of LaBelle and Alva to see the creeping explosion of the toxic blue green algae that is silently making its way downstream to us. As the river continues to starve from lack of fresh water, the neon green mess chokes everything in its path. On fishing piers and docks at the 768-acre Caloosahatchee River Regional Park, an eerie silence has descended along the empty paths and campsites. Perhaps it is the signs posted everywhere: 'Warning, algae alert! Stay out of the water, no eating of fish by humans or animals'. The same is true at the bridges – usually crowded with fishermen - all along the river in eastern Lee County and western Hendry. A bridge tender at the State Road 31 bridge near Olga told us that they haven't seen anyone fishing there in weeks.
The algae, called Cyanobacteria, is experiencing a bloom as a result of stagnant water above the Franklin Locks due to little or no water being released from Lake Okeechobee. The lake, at 9.65 feet as of Monday, is nearly 4 feet below average and is at the lowest point in four years. With the rainy season yet to begin, Florida has received less than a third of its normal rainfall since October. The little amount that fell over the weekend did little to alleviate the problem. Fish are dying and the river is being coated with a layer of green slime as the bloom creeps ever closer to our fragile back bay.
According to the World Health Organization, exposure to cyanobacteria isn't only dangerous to fish - humans can be affected with a range of symptoms including skin irritation, stomach cramps, vomiting, nausea, diarrhea, fever, sore throat, headache, muscle and joint pain, blisters of the mouth and liver damage. Swimmers in water containing cyanobacterial toxins may suffer allergic reactions, such as asthma, eye irritation, rashes, and blisters around the mouth and nose. The toxins can also affect the kidneys.
What has gotten Lee County leaders and environmentalists so upset, however, is that while the river suffers, lakewater IS being sent south for agricultural purposes, and the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) is even installing emergency pumps to make sure it gets there. When Lake Okeechobee drops below 10.5 feet, gravity cannot be relied on to consistently move water into the canals that move lake water south – canals that are used by sugar cane growers and other agricultural interests for irrigation - so water managers install emergency pumps at taxpayer's expense.
"They are pumping an inch of water off the lake every week for agriculture,” said Rae Ann Wessel of the Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation (SCCF). "If the SFWMD had released just one inch off the lake every month since November, this toxic algal bloom would have been prevented.”
"The most egregious fact is that the public's estuary resources are completely cut off from public water so it can instead be provided to private enterprises that pay nothing for the use of the water.”
Meanwhile, cane growers claim that they are suffering, too.
"Farmers only get what the water shortage rules allocate to them, whether it flows through these temporary pumps or not,” said John Hundley, Vice President of the Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative. "In recent weeks our allocations have been less than half of what the crop needs. If we don't have occasional rain to supplement our allocation the crops suffer.”
Hundley claims that the entire system is bound by a set of rules set by the District's governing board in 2010, something Lee County Commissioner Ray Judah says is not that simple.
"The SFWMD and the sugar industry would argue that the guidance document known as the Adaptive Protocols – used to manage low water levels in Lake O – authorizes water allocation exclusively to agriculture and utilities while restricting environmental releases to the Caloosahatchee,” he said. "In fact, the Adaptive Protocols provide guidance to water managers for discretionary releases to protect the ecosystem.”
Judah also points to two Florida statutes which require the District to implement water restrictions for all users when our estuaries experience significant harm.
In a letter to the SFWMD governing board in March, Wessel agreed with Judah. Quoting the following sentence directly from the Adaptive Protocols: 'This document is intended to provide operational guidance to SFWMD staff, as local sponsor, when making operational recommendations to the USACE', she demanded that the District explain itself, saying, "In the interest of transparency and public accountability we request that the SFWMD make available the methodology and justification for water release decisions with a demonstration of shared adversity and impacts of water deliveries.”
The District's response ?  That the Adaptive Protocols are working, and that their hands are tied by the the Lake's Water Shortage Management Plan (also created by them).
Part of the problem lies in the fact that there is no program in place to store water during periods of excess rain. Many readers will recall the red tide and dead fish that came as a result of too much nitrogen and phosphorous laced water being released into the river a couple of years ago. In order to provide flood control for farms and communities built on what used to be the Everglades lands, this excess water is drained out to sea instead of stored for future needs.
"The Caloosahatchee and its estuary (Estero Bay) provide critical habitat and environmental resources that support a $3 billion economy and over 124,000 jobs in southwest Florida,” said Wessel. "The estuary suffers from both too much water during the wet season and lack of water during the dry season.”
In fact, last year, lack of storage space and safety concerns about Lake Okeechobee's 70-year-old dike led to more than 300 billion gallons of lake water getting drained into rivers that carry it out to sea.
One possible solution would be to create more storage areas and manage them so that the water doesn't become stagnant and toxic – something even Hundley seems to advocate – but that isn't likely under Governor Scott, whose actions seem to imply that he doesn't understand the state's water issues. Last week, he held a ceremonial resigning of a bill that will cut more than $210 million from the budgets of all five state water management districts (the signing took place at the headquarters of the SFWMD in West Palm Beach, the very site of the historic 2008 purchase of U.S. Sugar land and in front of countless employees who stand to lose their jobs under the cuts). He has also shifted legislative control of the districts – meaning all big water-related decisions will be made in Tallahassee instead of in open public meetings around the state.
Additionally, several of Scott's new appointees to the SFWMD's governing board do not appear to have great environmental track records: James Moran, a Tea Party activist from Palm Beach County who met Scott at a protest against the District's buyout of U.S. Sugar lands; Timothy Sargent, Chief Financial Officer of Huzienga Holdings (a company that once attempted to turn 2,500 acres of land on the edge of the Everglades into a $30 million theme park) and Estero resident Daniel Delisi, who recently caught fire for commenting that 'tourists don't come here to see tapegrass' (tapegrass is one of the first species to be affected by changing salinity levels in the river and serve as a nursery for the fishing industry.)
Meanwhile, the C-43 reservior in eastern Lee County awaits federal authorization as part of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP) – something Scott has publicly objected to.
Scott is also attempting to block pollution control by suing the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in an effort to block new pollution limits set by the federal government – criteria that was part of a lawsuit settlement between environmental groups and the EPA and represent years of work from state scientists to get the right numbers. He is joined on the federal level by Florida Congressman John Mica, whose bill, H.R. 2018, will hamper the EPA's ability to enforce the Clean Water Act in Florida and other states and just passed the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee on July 22.
Currently, the salinity level of the river is at 25.8 parts per thousand at the Caloosahatchee Bridge. Seawater has a salinity of 35 parts per thousand. Dead mollusks float in pea green water behind Lee County Commission Chairman Frank Mann's house, which he says smells like an open sewer. According to statistics from the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, 22 inches of water have been drained from the lake to help agriculture, with none for the river.
"That's why the Caloosahatchee is just like a huge cesspool," said Mann. "It never flows, it's never aerated. There's no tidal action, no flushing.”
At a press conference held last week, District officials read a statement that said: "The district plans to again review the protocols for any possible opportunities to balance the distribution of water during such unprecedented conditions.” When they started talking about how agricultural interests weren't getting enough water, either, however, Mann had had enough.
"I think we're getting lip service out of this shared adversity policy,” he said. "Frankly, I'm sick and tired of hearing it.”
Lee County Visitor and Convention Bureau executive director Tamara Pigott said that she is worried about more job loss in an already suffering economy.
"A $2.5 billion tourism industry and 50,000 tourism-related jobs are at risk as the algae bloom inevitably heads downstream,” she said. "We need to do everything we can to make sure our water quality is as perfect as it can be so those critical jobs are safe.”
Commissioner Judah isn't buying what the District is saying, period.
"Providing minimum flow to the Caloosahatchee during the dry season would amount to about 5 inches from Lake Okeechobee,” he said. "Until the governor and the South Florida Water Management District cut ties with the sugar industry, we'll not see responsible action by the governing board to be able to protect the public interest.”
This week, Tropical Storm Arlene dumped enough water over south Florida to raise the level of Lake O to 9.71 feet, but meteorologists say that far more water is needed to pull the state out of the drought and stop the spread of the algae.
At a meeting held a couple of months ago, Fort Myers Beach Mayor Larry Kiker told the Tourist Development Council, 'it begins with the water and ends with the water'.
Someone should remind Governor Scott and the South Florida Water Management District of that.


Leaders Address South Florida's Water Crisis, Urge Action
June 29, 2011
Environmental groups and community leaders convened on June 23 in Fort Myers at Centennial Park along the Caloosahatchee River urging aggressive action to protect Florida's water supply.
Of particular concern are the toxic and noxious blue-green algal blooms plaguing the river. Kirk Fordham, CEO of the Everglades Foundation explained, "While these algal blooms are a result, in part, of the ongoing drought, the fact is the Caloosahatchee River and Lee County are getting a 'man-made,' unfair disproportionate share of the lack of water. Natural water flows have been disrupted and water managers are holding water back to meet upstream irrigation needs.
Why should anglers, boaters, swimmers, and the residents of Southwest Florida bear the vast majority of the drought burden?" Fordham stated. "Short term, we need immediate and fair allocation of water to the Caloosahatchee River from the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD.)" "Long term," Fordham continued, "the state and the federal government need to work together to provide adequate water storage to supply the needs of businesses, people and nature. Water storage to accommodate Southwest Florida's growing needs is critical. That's why the U.S. Sugar land purchase makes so much sense."
Jennifer Hecker, Conservancy of Southwest Florida director of natural resources policy, stated, "The Caloosahatchee issue involves both the quantity of water and the quality of water from Lake Okeechobee discharges. While draining one inch of water from the lake could temporarily improve the current river conditions, polluted water flows can create other problems." Hecker continued, "The problems of the Caloosahatchee River can be solved if federal, state, and local regulators work together to obtain more surface storage, treat more water, and time releases to mimic natural water flows." Hecker went on to urge the public to work with decision-makers to ensure fertilizer ordinances are adopted to limit the amount of fertilizer, poorly treated sewage and animal waste running off into our area waters. Hecker also encouraged support for the numeric nutrient standards to help alleviate nitrogen and phosphorus pollution that contributes to toxic algal blooms, threaten public health and injure the lifeblood of our local economy – tourism. Back in 2006, American Rivers, the Caloosahatchee River Citizens Association, Caloosahatchee River Watch, Conservancy of Southwest Florida and other local environmental groups successfully lobbied to have the Caloosahatchee designated as an endangered river.


Tropical Storm Arlene brings much-needed rain to South Florida
Miami Herald - by Curtis Morgan
June 29, 2011
Far-off Tropical Storm Arlene threw a much-needed wet blanket across much of South Florida on Wednesday and the stormy weather could continue through Thursday.
It wouldn’t be nearly enough to reverse the damage of a long, deep drought that has dropped water levels in the Everglades, lakes and well fields into danger zones but it will help put a small dent in the rainfall deficit.
The National Weather Service in Miami issued a hazardous weather alert for much of the region, warning that some thunderstorms could produce gusts of up to 50 mph and produce pockets of street flooding. Forecasters put rain chances at 70 percent Wednesday and 50 percent Thursday — all courtesy of a strengthening Arlene, which was pumping moisture across the region as it swirled hundreds of miles away in the southwestern Gulf of Mexico.
Radar-generated estimates produced by the South Florida Water Management District showed mostly light rain overnight and through the early morning hours Wednesday but forecasters were predicting up to 1.5 to 2.5 inches of rain over portions of coastal Miami-Dade and Broward counties.
Rain gauges had been nearly empty after a slow start to the wet season but they’ve begun rising in the last few weeks. Through Tuesday, the district, which oversees the water supply for 16 counties, has recorded 4.71 inches in June. That’s only 63 percent of the historic average for the month but a huge gain since a nearly bone-dry first week of June.
Lake Okeechobee, the heart of the regional water supply, also has begun slowly rising. It rose a little more than a tenth of an inch over the last week and was at 9.71 feet above sea level on Wednesday. More rain is expected over the lake and in the Kissimmee River basin, which drains south into the lake, through Thursday.
Water managers warn it will take an exceptionally wet summer to make up for the driest preceding nine months in 80 years.
The National Hurricane Center, meanwhile, said Arlene was expected to make landfall along the central northeastern coast of Mexico early Thursday — likely as a strong tropical storm but with an outside chance of strengthening into a Category 1 hurricane.
Rain was the most serious threat. Forecasters were predicting Arlene could dump from four to eight inches of rain, with 15 inches possible in spots, and trigger potentially deadly flash floods and mud slides.


Would you trade water for a pizza ? Our governor did. – Guest Essay by Martha Musgrove, West Palm Beach
June 29, 2011
Disregard Gov. Rick Scott’s insensitivity in booking his tax-cut stage show into the headquarters of the South Florida Water Management District where state employees are sweating layoffs. This is a pol who has pined for a month that nobody noticed when he first signed the bill ceding his control of Florida’s five water-management districts to the Legislature and imposing dollar-denominated limits on what each is allowed to collect from property taxes. For the South Florida district and Big Cypress Basin covering Collier and Monroe counties, it was a $114-million whack. For that the governor wants cheers.
Do the math to understand "the deal" the freshman governor struck and the skepticism it provokes. Spreading across 16 South Florida counties, the West Palm Beach-based South Florida Water Management District admittedly has a big tax base. Serving 7.7 million people, it also has big responsibilities. This year it raised $399 million from property taxes.
The levy in Collier and Monroe counties was 0.4814 mills (48.14 cents per $1,000); in the other 14 counties, 0.624 mills (62.4 cents per $1,000 taxable value). On a house with a taxable value of $200,000 the latter amounts to $124.80, or $10.40 per month.
With that "savings" I can buy a monthly pizza in West Palm Beach, but I can’t now get a free glass of water to go with it, ’cause the city’s water reservoir is near dry.
In Naples, Scott’s Florida "hometown," taxpayers don’t freight the cost of operating and maintaining the Orlando to Miami drainage system, so the tax on the same house would be $96.28, or $8 a month. Not enough to buy a pizza, but maybe the governor can buy a glass of cheap Scotch at his club.
Of course by next year, it might rain — hard and several times a day for, oh, say, five or six months. If so, we’ll all be asking why the South Florida Water Management District and Big Cypress Basin Board haven’t refurbished the drainage system and found more and better places to store water than in our driveways, patios, and kitchens.
In fact, before the governor was elected and the Legislature convened, the district had a plan and a mandate to do just that — and more. The plan was adopted unanimously by the 2000 Legislature, with the support of then-Gov. Jeb Bush who put the district in charge of implementing it. The plan calls for reconstructing South Florida’s aging, inadequate drainage system that needlessly dumps 1.7 billion gallons of fresh water a day to sea — even when it’s desperately needed. It proposes reservoirs and vast water-storing marshes that can filter agriculture and urban runoff so it can be returned to the historical Everglades, revitalizing an ecosystem in sharp decline and recharging the region’s aquifers.
The plan is named the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan.
Not everyone believes the Everglades Restoration is a perfect plan, but with its 68 projects, it lays out a vision big enough to capture the public imagination. It’s worth pursuing — in good times and bad times — because it provides water for people, agriculture, commerce and the environment.
Just as floods follow droughts, Florida is, and has always been, a boom-bust economy. It’s imperative to maintain a tax base that allows quick and appropriate responses to each challenge. Water is Florida’s defining natural resource and its most vital. Politically, there’s no defense for any elected official in Florida to be so ignorant about water as to take dead-aim on the response capacity of those agencies charged with allocating, conserving, and protecting water, or to be so guileless as to expect voters and taxpayers to cheer the attack.
Martha Musgrove is a retired journalist, member of the science advisory committee of the Arthur R. Marshall Foundation, a private environmental education organization, and a director of the Florida Wildlife Federation.


Rocket factory
Abandoned rocket
factory in the Everglades

An Abandoned Rocket Factory in the Everglades: Video of the Day
The Atlantic - by Nicholas Jackson
Jun 28 2011
Produced by Coffee and Celluloid Productions with the Borscht Corp., Space Miami is a short documentary about an abandoned rocket factory in the Everglades. Aerojet-General, anticipating that rockets would be needed for NASA's Apollo moon missions, built the factory in 1963. Allowing the structure to spring up in their vicinity was a desperate move on the part of the townspeople, who were "looking for industry because we knew all we had was farming and that was going to be it," as one recalls in the film.
Aerojet-General built and tested its rockets in a silo 150 feet deep. It's the deepest hole ever dug in Florida, according to Space Miami.
In addition to the primary structure and the silo, Aerojet-General had to dig the largest canal found anywhere in the Everglades. The canal, which reaches the Atlantic Ocean, was required to transfer the rockets by barge. Because they were designed as solid-fuel, the rockets were so large that no other method of transportation would suffice.
In the end, the Saturn rockets that NASA used were powered by liquid fuel. Aerojet-General never signed a contract and entire factory was abandoned only six years after it was completed. It's still standing today, more than forty years later.


A real bite: Everyone abuzz about mosquitoes in Southwest Florida - by JENNA BUZZACCO-FOERSTER
June 28, 2011
NAPLES — They’re back, and they’re out for blood.
Mosquitoes swarmed Southwest Florida in recent days, and officials with Collier and Lee counties’ mosquito control districts said there’s no way to tell whether residents will catch a break from bug bites any time soon.
Black salt marsh mosquitoes came out in full force over the weekend primarily because of activity along the coast.
“We had a large outbreak in the middle of May, and this one didn’t start until the middle of June,” said Shelly Redovan, deputy director of Lee County Mosquito Control District. “It coincides with high tides, full moons and the winds.”
Add a drought — which leaves more dry land for mosquitoes to lay eggs — into that equation, and Redovan said you’ve created an environment perfect for a mosquito outbreak.
“It’s extremely challenging in Lee County, right now,” she said.
It’s challenging everywhere, said Frank Van Essen, executive director of the Collier County Mosquito Control District. Collier County, he said, is experiencing high numbers of mosquitoes from Barefoot Beach to the north and Marco Island to the south.
Salt marsh mosquitoes don’t just stick around the coast, though. Van Essen said the mosquitoes have been found in the southern part of Golden Gate Estates.
“They can fly quite a good distance,” he said. “The black salt marsh mosquito … is very aggressive. It will kind of chase you.”
Chasing leads to biting, and Deb Milsap, a spokeswoman for Collier County’s health department, said there are steps residents can take to ensure they aren’t eaten alive by the pesky bugs.
Milsap said people should avoid going out at dawn and dusk, when mosquitoes are at their worst; drain things, like buckets or flower pots, that can hold standing water; wear long sleeves, pants and shoes and socks when out during the buggiest times; and use a insect repellent that contains Deet.
“That’s still the best active ingredient for them and it lasts the longest,” Van Essen said.
Milsap said Deet has been deemed safe as long as it is used the way it is recommended.
Sally Stein, director of public programs at Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, said the nature preserve hasn’t experienced an influx in mosquitoes.
“We haven’t had a huge problem with mosquitoes yet,” Stein said. “It isn’t bad until we get a lot of rain. After the rains the mosquitoes start breeding.”
Kirby Wilson, a spokesman for Collier-Seminole State Park, said the mosquitoes at the park are very active.
“We are very used to mosquito antics this time of year and are prepared to deal with it,” Wilson said in an email. “They are more plentiful this year it seems, but we still manage.”
Wilson said visitors are informed the mosquitoes could impact their visit, and are told to take precautions before heading out on the trails or the river. Wilson said park employees try to explain “mosquitoes are part of the Everglades ecosystem.”
The salt marsh mosquitoes are the first wave of mosquitoes Southwest Floridians are expected to experience this summer. Van Essen said once the summer rains start, the fresh water mosquito season will officially begin.
There are 43 different varieties of fresh water mosquitoes in Collier County. Van Essen said the control district is only concerned about the three or four varieties that carry disease.
Fresh water mosquitoes are known to carry West Nile virus and Dengue fever.
Last year, Collier County had two reported cases of West Nile in humans, and one person died after contracting the disease.
Stein said once the fresh water mosquitoes come out, Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary employees and volunteers warn visitors that the bugs could be biting.
Mosquito control district officials said they’re taking whatever measures necessary to alleviate the pain. Planes were out in Collier County earlier this week spraying the coast and some of inland Collier County, while Lee County Mosquito Control District employees took to the air and the streets to spray.
That isn’t stopping people from calling though. Van Essen said he received about 250 calls Monday from residents complaining about the mosquitoes. The number was closer to 365 in Lee County late Monday afternoon.
“It makes it hard for people to be patient when there are mosquitoes buzzing around,” Redovan said. “Some people are understanding, others are hard to communicate with because (they’re frustrated). Mosquitoes are good about pulling out strong emotions.”


Jones Lang LaSalle Announces Florida's First Dedicated Inland Port / Integrated Logistics Center Development - Jones Lang Lasalle – Press Release
June 28, 2011
Firm to advise on 4,000-acre rail oriented logistics and distribution center in St. Lucie County.
MIAMI, June 28, 2011 /PRNewswire via COMTEX/ -- Jones Lang LaSalle today announced that it will be the exclusive project advisor to Treasure Coast Intermodal Campus (TCIC) on its more than 4,000 acre site in southwest St. Lucie County. The Treasure Coast Intermodal Campus will be developed into a major logistics hub over the next 30 to 35 years, with pre-development efforts now in full swing.
"TCIC will create an entirely new industrial model for Florida, ultimately providing a connection to direct on-dock rail service at Florida's key seaports, along with easy access to all major highways," said John Carver, who heads Jones Lang LaSalle's Ports Airports and Global Infrastructure practice. "TCIC is being designed to help Florida compete more effectively for market share as a leading port destination in the Atlantic region."
"The project will have the scale and vision to create a full service logistics environment and to accommodate a variety of manufacturing uses for which the climate and population of Florida is ideally suited," continued Carver.
This type of development, which is sometimes referred to as an 'inland port', shows a growing trend toward integrating U.S. container seaports with a dedicated distribution cluster where dual rail and roadway access can support a wide range of activities relating to transport, logistics and the distribution of goods within a region of significant consumer demand.
The TCIC inland port is situated in an area of St. Lucie County that has an excellent urban infrastructure and all the support services necessary for a large-scale industrial complex. It is located on Rangeline Road at the Martin County line, and is bounded by agricultural land and Glades Cutoff Road to the west. More importantly, it is served by the Florida East Coast (FEC) Railroad, which is accessed at the northern border of the development.
"This large scale project is being engineered specifically in preparation for the Panama Canal expansion, which also coincides with the emergence of South America as one of the largest exporters in the world," said Steve Medwin, Managing Director of Jones Lang LaSalle in Miami. "The Third Set of Locks project in Panama, set for completion in 2014, will cause a substantial increase in seaborne cargo passing through Florida waters. This will give the Port of Miami, Port Everglades and the Port of Palm Beach the opportunity to capture increased cargo that can then be transported directly to the new TCIC inland site for later distribution throughout Florida and into the southeast U.S."
The TCIC plan has passed preliminary market, regulatory, and construction feasibility tests and over the estimated 30 to 35 year development period, the project is expected to create a significant positive fiscal impact for local government and the region's economy, including thousands of direct and indirect jobs.
"We are proud of the concepts that we have created for the Treasure Coast Intermodal Campus," said Jim Caruso, a representative of the TCIC. "It demonstrates the three basic tenets of sustainable development - providing positive environmental, economic, and societal attributes that will sustain St. Lucie County, the Treasure Coast, and South-Central Florida for generations."
To benefit the community and the environment, plans include vast areas of open space, setbacks and buffers along the campus' boundaries, and significant portions of land and water set aside for sustainably designed land conservation. The campus buildings will incorporate "green" building and design techniques such as LEED standard, and the millions of square feet of roof tops will provide an opportunity for alternative energy sources such as solar power.
About Jones Lang LaSalle
Jones Lang LaSalle /quotes/zigman/162927/quotes/nls/jll JLL +0.41% is a financial and professional services firm specializing in real estate. The firm offers integrated services delivered by expert teams worldwide to clients seeking increased value by owning, occupying or investing in real estate. With 2010 global revenue of more than $2.9 billion, Jones Lang LaSalle serves clients in 60 countries from more than 1,000 locations worldwide, including 185 corporate offices. The firm is an industry leader in property and corporate facility management services, with a portfolio of approximately 1.8 billion square feet worldwide. LaSalle Investment Management, the company's investment management business, is one of the world's largest and most diverse in real estate with more than $43 billion of assets under management. For further information, please visit our website, .
SOURCE Jones Lang LaSalle


Population bomb: 9 billion march to WWIII
MarketWatch - by Paul B. Farrell
June 28, 2011
Commentary: Can anyone halt this economic explosive ?
SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. (MarketWatch) — Sshh. Don’t tell anyone. But “while you are reading these words, four people will have died from starvation. Most of them children.” Seventeen words. Four deaths. That statistic is from a cover of Paul Ehrlich’s 1968 provocative “Population Bomb.”
By the time you finish this column, another five hundred will die. By starvation. Mostly kids. Dead.
But global population will just keep growing, growing, growing. Why? The math is simple: Today there are more than two births for every death worldwide. One death. Two new babies.
Bomb ? Tick-tick-ticking ? Or economic bubble ?  Population growth is a basic assumption hard-wired in traditional economic theory. Unquestioned. Yes, population is our core economic problem. Not a military problem. But the bigger this economic bubble grows, the more we all sink into denial, the closer the point of no return where bubble becomes bomb, where war is the only alternative.
Yes, folks, ultimately population growth is an economic nuclear bomb, tick-tick-ticking a silent countdown to global disaster. In denial, we march a self-destructive path to WWIII.
Simple math: One death + two births = America’s poison pill
Worldwide population doubled to 3.5 billion between the Great Depression and the Great Society. One generation, from the ‘30s to the ‘60s when “The Population Bomb” was published. Since the ‘60s, we’ve doubled again. This year global population shot past seven billion. Two billion living in poverty, surviving on less than two dollars a day. We do live in a globalized economy. And the math is simple: One death, two births.
Warning: This economic bomb will not stop tick-ticking any time soon. Why? Scientific American said population is “the most overlooked and essential strategy for achieving long-term balance with the environment.” No wonder Bill McKibben, author of “The End of Nature,” warns: “Act now, we’re told, if we want to save the planet from a climate catastrophe. Trouble is, it might be too late. The science is settled, and the damage has already begun.”
We’re on suicide watch and yet population control, the world’s No. 1 economic issue in “off the table.” Why? Last year Mother Jones made it abundantly clear why. In “The Last Taboo,” columnist Julia Whitty asked: “What unites the Vatican, lefties, conservatives and scientists in a conspiracy of silence? Population.” That hot-button issue ignites so many powerful reactions. Politicians won’t touch this third rail.
Our denial is a massive “conspiracy of silence.” Yes, we’re all in this global self-destructive conspiracy. Families love making babies. Economists obsess about their population-growth assumption.
Stockholders demand earnings growth. Wall Street is insatiable. Corporate CEOs shoot for quarterly targets to get ever bigger bonuses. The global Super Rich see population growth as opportunities to increase their wealth, widening the wealth gap. We’re all in this rat race together, in a “conspiracy of silence.”
Population is the key economic power driving all economic issues
Yes, you can forget “Peak Oil.” Forget global warming. Forget debt, deficits, defaults. Forget commodities, scarce resource depletion. Forget all other economic, political, military problems. Yes, forget all of them. None of them matter … if our leaders fail to deal with the world’s out-of-control population bomb. Nothing else matters. Nothing.
Still, the silence is defining. We’re trapped in this deafening “conspiracy of silence.” Neutered. Blind to this suicidal path, incapable and unwilling to face the greatest single economic challenge in history. Won’t wake up till it’s too late.
Why? Deep in our hearts we see no acceptable universal solution. So we wait … until this economic bomb stops tick-tick-ticking. Explodes in our faces. Till the wake-up call, a total economic collapse. Till then, the silence is deafening. We stay in denial. Waiting.
The United Nations predicts there will be nine billion or more humans on Earth by 2050. And while demographers want us to believe total population will level off, they’re just guessing. Depending on an unpredictable range of mathematical scenarios, maybe our planet could top 15 billion by 2100, all demanding a better lifestyle, all demanding more natural resources, more commodities, starting revolutions to achieve their economic goals.
But the economic problem isn’t just the simple math of adding more bodies. “What really counts,” says Jared Diamond in “Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed,” “is not the number of people alone, but their impact on the environment,” the “per-capita impact.” First World citizens “consume 32 times more resources such as fossil fuels, and put out 32 times more waste, than do the inhabitants of the Third World.”
So the race to 2050 rages on: “Low impact people are becoming high-impact people” demanding “First World living standards.” But unfortunately, if all nations in the world consumed resources at the same rate as Americans, we’d need six Earths just to survive. Today.
Worse, the competition’s growing and we’re outnumbered. While America grows from 300 million to a 400 million by 2050, the rest of the world explodes into a nine billion bubble, with over 1.4 billion each in China and India. The bomb keeps tick-ticking.
Pentagon warns of ‘desperate all-out wars for food, water, energy’
What a “conspiracy of silence.” Seems everybody’s on the “economic growth” bandwagon. And with population growth comes chaos, anger, war. Remember 2011: Unemployed college kids in the Arab Spring. Higher pay for China’s workers. Wisconsin unions revolt. Warning, by 2100 the science-fiction solutions of “Avatar” and “Wall*E” will be reexamined seriously, perhaps even the unthinkable in the “Boomsday” novel.
WWIII is no fiction. We’re in the buildup now. During the Bush era, Fortune analyzed a classified Pentagon report predicting that “climate could change radically and fast. That would be the mother of all national security issues.” Population unrest would then create “massive droughts, turning farmland into dust bowls and forests to ashes.” Soon “there is little doubt that something drastic is happening ... as the planet’s carrying capacity shrinks, an ancient pattern reemerges: the eruption of desperate all-out wars over food, water, and energy supplies” with “warfare defining human life.”
Forget “Peak Oil.” The real economic force behind “Peak Oil” is “Peak Population.” Fail to defuse the population bomb and experts on sites like make clear the inevitable consequences of our denial, silence and inaction: “Civilization as we know it is coming to an end soon. This is not the wacky proclamation of a doomsday cult … it is the scientific conclusion of the best paid, most widely respected geologists, physicists, bankers and investors in the world.”
We are at the tipping point: Failing to defuse the population bomb guarantees global economic collapse.
Throughout history, myopic leaders never act … till it’s too late
Will our leaders rise to the occasion? History says no. Diamond put all this in perspective in “Collapse”: “One of the disturbing facts of history is that so many civilizations collapse. Few people, however, least of all our politicians, realize that a primary cause of the collapse of those societies has been the destruction of the natural resources on which they depend. Fewer still appreciate that many of those civilizations share a sharp curve of decline. Indeed, a society’s demise may begin only a decade or two after it reaches its peak population, wealth and power.” Tick, tick, tick ….
So what is this one common flaw that drives nations to collapse worldwide and over the centuries? Diamond says leaders “focused only on issues likely to blow up in the next 90 days,” lacking the will “to make bold, courageous, anticipatory decisions.” Their short-term thinking, unfortunately, sets the stage for a rapid “sharp curve of decline.”
And given the myopic mind-set consuming American politicians today, it’s easy to see how the daily trench warfare of the 2012 presidential campaign is connected to the Pentagon’s prediction of WWIII, of “desperate all-out wars” dead ahead.
Unfortunately, that is the end game of our “conspiracy of silence,” our unwillingness to confront the inevitable. Our inaction means war will be the ultimate economic solution: For America, for capitalism, for civilization, for Planet Earth. The bomb just keeps tick-tick-ticking. Nothing can, nothing will, stop this tick-ticking population bomb. Nothing, except a global nuclear economic bomb.
Sshh, quiet, you’ll wake the babies.


The Salting of Florida - by ALAN FARAGO
June 28, 2011
And Not a Drop to Drink.
Drought, wildfires, floods. The first three minutes of network news is like a TV primer from the Book of Revelations. Al Gore, in Rolling Stone, was inventor of that line, but at some point in the not-so-distant future, destroyed drinking water wells in South Florida could be on Nightly News. And if Al Gore is still with us, the shot wells scattering chaos in the nation's presidential bellweather state will not go unremarked. Florida's threatened drinking water supply is a stark reminder of Gore's 2000 loss in Florida. Fearing dissent in his own ranks on policies governing growth and the environment, Gore retreated. Today there is no doubt, none at all, that water management has put South Florida property owners into the path of fresh water at the price of gold or a modern Exodus. This is the dirtiest little secret in Florida and why the dying Everglades are a potent symbol of politics in America today.
For decades in Florida, elected officials supported more growth and development and agriculture than our aquifers could reasonably sustain. It is not conjecture. It is not smarmy, feel-good ethos. Within government agencies, scientists, policy makers and attorneys treaded on the subject like walking on egg shells. Early on, it was established that standing up to the destroyers on water supply or water quality issues was the fastest way to lose one's job. Sugar billionaires, their lobbyists, builders and developers and trade associations like Miami's Latin Builders Association had the inside track in the inside hallways of government: from the White House to the lowliest office of the county commission. It is still going on. Last week, Florida's Jack-Ass-In-Chief Barney Bishop-- the Associated Industries leader, a self-described "life-long Democrat" (who led the successful effort to dismantle Florida's growth management agency), appeared on Fox News, calling out the U.S. EPA for "killing jobs faster than President Obama can create them". Bishop, a carpetbagger if there ever was one, has prevailed on Florida Governor Rick Scott to push back against federal authority to regulate nutrient pollution where the state won't: overwhelming Florida's valuable rivers, estuaries and coastal real estate values. To round up the disaster, after so many decades, in a pithy "killing the goose that lays the golden egg" puts an unforgivable smiley face on abject corruption.
Water managers stuck wells and routed water to serve an unsustainable volume of growth. This secret is at the heart of government in Florida and has been known within government offices in South Florida for at least 40 years.
Once drinking water wells are pumping salt, the facts will emerge. Reporters will scan the blogs, for where to start. One story worth recounting is Gary Pesnell's. Pesnell, a retired District wildlife biologist, worked for the South Florida Water Management District in the early 1970's. He was given a remarkable assignment; to take as much time as necessary to inventory and catalog the natural resources of Lake Okeechobee. In the course of his work, he began to expose how the Everglades would be sacrificed-- willfully-- for the political imperatives for growth. Scientists were fearful for their jobs then, as they are today. Now that he is retired-- watching from a distance the drought disaster unfold in South Florida-- Pesnell spoke out, last week, on a Sierra Club listserve. Perhaps more will speak out, a kind of chorus in a kind of Greek tragedy that is Florida.
Lake Okeechobee, locally referred to as The Lake or The Big O, is the largest freshwater lake in the state of Florida. It is the seventh largest freshwater lake in the United States and the second largest freshwater lake contained entirely within the lower 48 states. Okeechobee covers 730 square miles (1,890 km²), approximately half the size of the state of Rhode Island, and is exceptionally shallow for a lake of its size, with an average depth of only 9 feet. The lake is divided between Glades, Okeechobee, Martin, Palm Beach, and Hendry counties. Maps of Florida show that all five of these counties meet at one point near the center of the lake.
Historically, the entire southern Florida peninsula was influenced by Lake Okeechobee and seasonal flooding. It is still the sick heart of the dying Everglades. To one extent or another, water management uses Lake Okeechobee as a key determinant in canal levels for all the counties south of the lake, comprising millions of water users. Here is what Pesnell has to say:
Pesnell writes:
"I have a degree in Wildlife Management from Louisiana Tech and a masters in fisheries biology from LSU. I was hired by the district right out of graduate school. I was an Environmentalist for the South Florida Water Management District from June 1971 until November 1979. I was the district's biologist for the Lake Okeechobee marshes and later on for various projects in Conservation Area #3 and Conservation Area #2. I covered pretty much everything from the Lake south to Tamiami Trail. For eight years I practically lived on the Lake or in CA3. I worked primarily with the ecology and taxonomy of marsh vegetation.
Shortly after I went to work with the district I landed the Lake Okeechobee project. The district published a vegetation map that Bob Brown and I put together on the marshes of Lake Okeechobee and a small publication that was primarily descriptive that we did regarding the relationship of marsh vegetation and land elevations in Lake Okeechobee. I was promised a Cadillac operation and I pretty much got it. Everyone was aware that the littoral zone of the lake was big and valuable, but it was largely unknown. I was told that Lake Okeechobee was going to have to hold more water and that the proposed increase in the regulation schedule was a foregone conclusion. However, they wanted the littoral zone documented. If it was going to be destroyed they needed to know what was being destroyed. That is why Bob Brown and I prepared the vegetation map of the lake's marshes. Up until the end my position was one of the best research positions in the country.
The district and the corps (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers) knew in the late 1970s the predicament (as in now) south Florida was facing. They were developing a water use plan. Both ran separate routings and tried to calibrate the routings by plugging in historical data to try to duplicate historical records. I do not know how close they came to duplicating what happened in the past. I do know that every biologist, engineer, hydrologist, whatever that reviewed the routings saw what they showed under the proposed higher regulation schedule with projected increases in water use. They showed higher stages during wet periods and lower stages during dry periods, the proverbial yo-yo effect at ranges far beyond anything previously seen.
The effect on the Conservation Areas and water supply in general were quite obvious. Environmentalist, yes me too, were campaigning against the higher schedule. We have no way of knowing what would have happened if the regulation schedule had not been raised in the face of increased demand. I do not recall seeing an alternative routing like that. It did not happen so the point is moot. As I remember it this water use plan was supposed to determine the mode of operation into the foreseeable future until something else was needed..
I had a source at the corps Jacksonville office of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers who would periodically send me copies of the Corps routing attempts so I had been following the situation long before it was made public. This was top secret stuff. This person sent them to me in mailing tubes with the address in box letters cut out of magazines. They were probably even wiped for finger prints. I managed to keep it quiet for a while. Eventually, I had to respond to what I was seeing and did so with a memo to the director of our division at the time. It was Bill Storch. He tried to fire me and would have had not Walt Dineen done some fast talking on my behalf.
The bottom line is that, the water managers knew what demand was going to do many years before it happened, not only to the environment, but to the water supply in general. They actually predicted what is happening right now. And nobody did anything.
I can tell you what happened to me. This is how the water managers thought at the time and just one small indication of why south Florida is in the mess it is in. No one wanted to face the music. I was supposed to have been supplied with a routing from which to work on the data from years of research involving water levels and marsh vegetation. It was to be a treatise for evaluating environmental impact for the water use plan and eventually go to peer review for publication. One day out of the blue I was handed a routing in a meeting of the Environmental Resources division and told I had two weeks to write an entire volume of the water use plan on the environmental impact of the plan on Lake Okeechobee. I stood up in front of 140 people, said a few choice words and walked out.
When I walked down the hall after that, most district employees walked over to the other side. When I sat down in the coffee shop, suddenly everyone had places to go and things to do. I did write the document in two 80 hour weeks. It was not a very scientific work, but I did the best I could. A number of people convinced me if I did not write it, the truth would never come out. I was accused of writing with a negative attitude and the district did not like it.
I can guarantee that same thing that happened to me happened to people all down the line. Just nobody else said anything. Everything went to hell with that water use plan.
I practically lived on the lake for several years, staying at the Clewiston Inn, camping on the islands, sometimes just sleeping on the levees. I would be out for several days at a time. After the Okeechobee project I was looking for another job when the Area 3 projects came up. I could not resist that. Again, I would be out for days at a time. At that time there were no cell phones and we had no radios. I could leave Holiday Park fish camp on Tuesday morning and no one would see or hear from me until Thursday night or Friday. I would not be missed unless I did not show up at the house when I was supposed to. Fortunately, it seldom happened and my wife had little reason to panic. That was one of the most complete, the most satisfying feelings of freedom, heading out on Holiday Park trail for the 30 or so miles to the gap in the levee where the Big Cypress was and where I would stay at a camp when working in the lower part of the pool. 45 gallons of aviation fuel and three days to roam. I think there is not a tree island or a slough or saw grass flat in Area 3, or Area 2 for that matter that I have not seen, air boated or traversed in some form or fashion. When the northern part of Area 3 got really dry and I was tearing up my airboats trying to get around, the district bought a Roll-a-gon. That roll-a-gon could go just about anywhere when there was no water. I often went alone in the airboat to keep weight down. I knew better than to try to manage the Roll-a-gon by myself and usually had a couple of people with me on that.
Needless to say, I had some very interesting experiences. I had a photographic memory for my field trips and wrote trip reports for each trip."

Why would a enduring, severe drought wreck South Florida's drinking water wells ?  It's simple. Once salt water gets into the aquifer surrounding a well, it can't be forced out by fresh water. Four years ago, the drinking water well in Homestead serving the entire Florida Keys came perilously close to being contaminated. Just like you don't always hear the stories about fighter jets scrambling to meet a perceived threat of unidentified, potentially hostile aircraft; most Floridians are oblivious to the scrambling that goes on, through a persistent drought. Water managers measure the threat and meet in war rooms to plot out responses with gates, locks, and canals. They are tracking the rapid march of salt water inward as, year-by-year, the growth and water consumption of South Floridians sucks more and more water out of the aquifer.
Think of Florida's water supply and demand as an elastic band, with the competition for water resources being stretched tighter and tighter by serial assaults on the supply by Big Sugar and developers insisting that the primary purpose of water managers is to deliver as much water as they need, whenever they need it.
These are the politics-- backed by unlimited campaign contributions-- a rain of toxic cash-- that forced environmentalists and civic activists to the fringe over the past 40 years, in no small part because the mainstream media refused-- and still refuses-- to give weight to the ethical lapses that will ultimately determine whether we can afford to live in South Florida.
Alan Farago, conservation chair of Friends of the Everglades, lives in south Florida. He can be reached at:


Environmentalists want FPL out of Everglades National Park
Miami Herald - by Laura Edwins
June 27, 2011
On Wednesday residents and environmental activists encouraged the National Park Service to purchase the tract of land FPL owns in the Everglades, rather than trading for a parcel further east.
The federal government should buy Florida Power and Light’s land in Everglades National Park to protect wood storks and other wading birds, local environmentalists told park officials last week.
Speakers at a public hearing Wednesday at Florida International University strongly preferred that option over an alternative plan to swap FPL land in the park for government land on the park’s edge.
FPL says it wants the swap because it needs to build new power lines to serve customers.
On Wednesday, more than 100 concerned residents and environmental activists attended a public meeting during which park officials asked for input on what topics they should look at in an environmental impact study they plan to complete over the next year.
The meeting and the impact statement are a result of findings by the National Park Service that said the potential land swap with FPL could have a significant environmental impact on the park, especially on endangered wood storks near the planned site.
According to Dave Hallac, chief biologist at the park, there are three productive wading bird colonies near the site FPL would receive in the land exchange.
“These colonies are, in certain years, the most productive wood stork colonies in the central and southern Everglades,” Hallac said. “It’s fairly well-known that transmission lines have the potential to impact birds.”
According to Hallac, in just one colony in 2009 there were well over 7,000 wading bird nests which included great blue herons, egrets and white ibis in addition to the wood storks. The impact study will determine just how harmful the transmission lines might be to the birds’ habit and well-being.
The idea of the land exchange has been in the works since 2009 and has been approved, but not mandated, by Congress. If the park chooses to pursue the swap it would get a 320-acre tract FPL has owned since the ‘70s, which runs through a critical portion of the Everglade’s restoration project.
FPL would give up that tract in exchange for 260 acres on the eastern perimeter of the park. The acreage run up the side of the park, crosses Tamiami Trail and then angles off to the northeast, toward Krome Avenue. But at Wednesday’s meeting, some argued that 140-foot towers and lines buzzing with 500 kilovolts wouldn’t exactly be a desirable welcome matt at the park’s entrance.
“The folks who care about national parks think it’s completely inappropriate to give a utility national park land for a power line corridor,” said Dawn Shirreffs, a Miami resident and Everglades restoration program manager for the National Parks Conservation Association, a private group that advocates for the parks..
“This isn’t just a national park,” she said. “It’s one of the most iconic national parks in the country, and wrapping it up in power lines has gotten people very protective.”
At Wednesday’s meeting Shirreffs brought about 8,000 letters from members of the National Parks Conservation Association, which urged the Park Service to purchase the land outright from FPL, rather than swapping it.
Other organizations in attendance, including local chapters of National Audubon Society and the Sierra Club, echoed Shirreffs’ sentiments, expressing their hope that the park will purchase the land.


EPA to Congress: Clean water helps economic growth
Florida Independent - by Virginia Chamlee
June 27, 2011
In congressional testimony on Friday, the federal Environmental Protection Agency was again criticized for its proposed numeric nutrient criteria, a set of standards to regulate pollution from nitrogen and phosphorus in Florida waterways. But EPA representatives defended the agency’s decision to implement the standards, arguing that they are needed for the health and safety of citizens and businesses struggling to survive in harsh economic times.
The decision to force the state to implement a stringent set of nutrient criteria came as the result of legislation — but both the EPA and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection had for years been attempting to draft something similar. After a host of environmental groups, represented by the law firm Earthjustice, alleged in court that the state was in violation of the Clean Water Act due to its lack of standards, the decision to develop a clear-cut set of pollution rules became legally binding.
Since that decision, the nutrient criteria have been enemy No. 1 for state lawmakers and industry leaders alike. Because Florida’s current standard is narrative, and almost impossible to implement because of how vague it is, the new criteria would likely require a lot of work, and money, on the part of industry.
During a hearing of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure’s subcommittee on water resources and environment, the EPA again came under fire for the standards that have long been accused of being “too costly” for the state to implement. Representatives from state agencies, like the Florida Department of Agriculture’s Rich Budell, argued that the agency needs to do a better job of including “key stakeholders” in drafting the criteria. During his testimony, Budell said that the EPA mandated the “prompt promulgation of numeric nutrient criteria” despite “glowing reviews” of the state’s “demonstrated commitment to water resource protection and restoration.”
Rep. John Mica, R-Winter Park, chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and author of a recent water bill, argued that the standards were “costly” and “burdensome” for Florida citizens, and “will only serve to double struggling families’ water bills.” (Similar statistics have been touted by industry lobbyists. An investigation into internal state emails by The Florida Independent showed that such statements have been disputed behind closed doors, and are likely overblown.).
Nancy Stoner, the EPA’s assistant administrator for water policy, testified (.pdf) that the nutrient criteria would likely be beneficial for many businesses.
“The health and growth of our small and large businesses and the jobs they create rely upon a high-quality and sustainable source of water,” said Stoner. “The range of businesses that we depend on — and who, in turn, depend on a reliable and plentiful supply of clean water – include tourism, farming, fishing, beverage production, manufacturing, transportation and energy generation, just to mention a few.”
Stoner cited a recent EPA survey, which found that no less than 67 percent of the nation’s streams are in poor or fair biological condition. Of the stressors assessed, nitrogen and phosphorus were found to be the most pervasive.
“In many of these bodies of water, not only is it not safe to swim, it’s not even safe to let your dog swim,” Stoner said.
As Stoner pointed out in her testimony, phosphorus and nitrogen lead to the formation of blue-green algal blooms, which choke off oxygen to other forms of marine life, leading to widespread fish (and sometimes mammal) kills. She referenced Ohio’s Grand Lake St. Mary’s, a popular recreational area and water source where algal blooms have led to the death of fish, birds and dogs, and the illnesses of at least seven people.
More than 30 lawsuits attempting to block the criteria from taking effect have been filed in Florida in the past year alone.


Sugar cane, Palm Beach County's top cash crop, parched in drought
Palm Beach Post - by Susan Salisbury
June 27, 2011
June through August is the "grand growth season" for Florida's sugar cane, grown primarily in western Palm Beach County.
Doused with daily rains and lots of sunshine, the tall tropical grass normally grows an inch a day this time of year. But scant rains and tight watering restrictions are creating a situation that's anything but grand.
"Overall, the crop was looking pretty good. Now we are losing ground. We are going backward," said Rick Roth, president of Roth Farms east of Belle Glade.
 If the drought continues, crop losses in the Everglades Agricultural Area could reach $100 million to $200 million, growers said.
The agricultural area's economic output, including sugar cane, vegetables, rice and other crops, is about $2 billion a year, Roth said.
Forecasts are calling for more typical seasonal weather throughout this week, with daily afternoon thunderstorms. But Ron Rice the sugar cane and rice specialist with the University of Florida Cooperative Extension Service in Palm Beach County, said that pattern would need to extend for weeks to replenish the watershed and help growers.
"A slow-moving tropical storm that hung around and drenched us for two or three days would be golden, although it would cause some area flooding," Rice said. While vegetables aren't grown in South Florida during the hot summer, commercial sod and rice farms are suffering as well, he said.
It's the fourth extreme or exceptional drought Palm Beach County has endured in the past decade, according to the National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. The others were in 2001, 2007 and 2009.
Sugar cane, which grows year-round, is Palm Beach County's biggest crop. The county produces 75 percent of the state's sugar cane, which is valued at $800 million a year, including byproducts such as molasses. Sugar cane farmers here, as well as in Martin, Glades and Hendry counties, depend on Lake Okeechobee for their fields' water supply.
The cane needs about 2 inches of rainfall a week, but the South Florida Water Management District is giving growers about 0.4 inches a week, Roth said.
In a report this month , the water management district said the wet season is off to its driest start in more than 20 years, following below-normal rainfall levels that began in October. Persistent rainfall is needed to replenish groundwater, canals and lakes.
Lake Okeechobee's level was 9.64 feet above sea level Friday, compared with 14.35 feet a year ago.
The situation is dire, and the district's 45 percent cutback in water allocations for farms amounts to more like 60 percent to 70 percent because the formula used for June assumes rain occurred, growers said.
Of the 550,000 acres farmed in the Everglades Agricultural Area, only about 20,000 acres are fallow, said Barbara Miedema, spokeswoman for the Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative of Florida.
"Virtually the entire EAA is planted in one crop or another and needs water," Miedema said. "If we don't begin to get summer rains, then we will see the falloff in growth. Our bigger concern is next year's crop. Looking at the current crop, we're beginning to see water stress but are eking by."
The real concern is the way the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the water district are managing Lake Okeechobee, said Charles Shinn, assistant director of government and community affairs for the Florida Farm Bureau Federation.
"We don't have drought problems so much as we have management problems. They are really tied directly to the management of the lake levels," Shinn said.
"The short-term problem right now is we are in the summer rainy season and it is not raining."
Long-term, the Corps of Engineers needs to keep more water in the lake once hurricane season has passed, instead of releasing it to sea, Shinn said. Although he recognizes the corps' concerns about flooding, he said the agency has some discretion within the release schedule.
After Hurricane Katrina's flooding of New Orleans, the water district issued a 2006 report about the 80-year-old Herbert Hoover Dike. It found that the dike's condition poses a "grave and imminent danger to the people and environment of South Florida."
Other than New Orleans, Lake Okeechobee is the U.S. mainland area most vulnerable to hurricanes, according to the International Hurricane Research Center at Florida International University inMiami.
The Corps of Engineers says it seeks to keep the lake between 12.5 and 15.5 feet because lowering the water level is a slow process should a hurricane approach. Engineers worry the aging, leaking dike around Lake Okeechobee will fail if water levels exceed 20 feet above sea level. The overriding concern that leads to periodic releases of fresh water is the stability of the dike at high lake elevations and public safety.
For now, some growers whose land is far from the lake are receiving little or no water. It's gone before it reaches them. Even if there is some water, pumps can't do their job if canals are too low.
"We have some farms that can get no water when the lake drops below 10 feet," said Judy Sanchez, spokeswoman for Clewiston-basedU.S. Sugar Corp.
Agricultural producers agree that a tropical storm or two is needed.
"We are in the midst of a drought that could turn into a crisis if we don't get rain soon," Sanchez said.


Sugar Tariff
The – Letter by OWEN SEAR, M.D., Winter Haven
June 27, 2011
In his reply to your sugar-tariff ­editorial ["Too Sweet To Stomach," May 23], George Wedgeworth, head of the sugar producers, calls your ­conclusion "nonsensical." If there is anything nonsensical, it is his letter contending the tariff costs the taxpayers nothing ["U.S. Sugar Policy," May 31]. That is disingenuous in the extreme.
Almost everyone in America consumes sugar, either in processed food or as a condiment. We all pay taxes when we buy sugar, which costs at least 17 cents a pound more than it would with no tariff. That means everyone in America is paying a hidden tax to profit the sugar growers.
As a group, farmers are doing better in this recession than anyone else; commodity prices are up. You're paying more for bread because wheat prices are up.
Furthermore, if you drive down U.S. 27 to Miami, you will see acres of Everglades converted to sugar plantations. This stuff isn't grown by mom-and-pop farms but by huge corporations that buy the votes of our politicians such as the late Sen. Paula Hawkins [R-Orlando] who aided and abetted this tariff in the 1970s.
We're in a recession. Everyone needs to sacrifice a little. Sen. Dick Lugar [R-Indiana] is from an agricultural state, yet he is doing the right thing in asking farms to get less subsidy.
Winter Haven
Federal Sugar Subsidy: Too Sweet To Stomach
May 23, 2011
U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Indiana, wants to end Uncle Sam's sweet deal with the nation's sugar cane and sugar beet growers. Let's hope he can pull it off, although he and others have been trying for years.
"Cutting sugar subsidies was an early vote I took when I came to the Senate in 1977," Lugar told The National Review this year. "Since that time, I've authored various bills to end the sugar program and reform the entire Farm Bill subsidy system."
What's different now is that Congress, driven by deficit concerns, is taking a whole new, critical look at agricultural subsidies and price supports.
A complex system of federal loans, price guarantees and import barriers makes growing sugar a sweet business in the U.S. But it is the consumers who end up paying the difference, often twice the world market price for sugar.
Moreover, because of the high price of sugar in America, food-processing-related jobs are increasingly being driven offshore.
By one estimate, American consumers pay more than $1 billion a year because of sugar's sweet deal with the feds.
Regarding his earlier efforts, Lugar told the National Review: "Those bills could have saved taxpayers tens of billions of dollars, but usually I found myself nearly alone when push came to shove on voting in favor of reform."
But now that the deficit has pushed Congress into a corner, perhaps Lugar may be able to shove his colleagues in the direction of sugar-subsidy reform. Consumers and taxpayers alike would appreciate it.


Biodiversity: ‘Gators a key link between ecosystems – by Jenney Coberly
June 25, 2011
Nutrient transport connects saltwater, freshwater and estuarine ecosystems.
Alligators get around, scientists have discovered while studying the Shark River estuary in Florida’s Everglades. And as they move between fresh water and saltwater, they may be playing an important role in transporting nutrients between the two ecosystems.
“Nutrient translocation by highly mobile predators like alligators, may be important to the entire coastal Everglades ecosystem,” said scientist Adam Rosenblatt of Florida International University.
Everglades National Park, the largest subtropical wilderness in the United States, has been designated a World Heritage Site, International Biosphere Reserve, and Wetland of International Importance. The Shark River estuary is part of the National Science Foundation’s Florida Coastal Everglades Long-term Ecological Research site, one of 26 sites around the world.
An estuary is a body of water formed where freshwater from rivers and streams flows into the ocean, mixing with the seawater.
Rosenblatt and Michael Heithaus, also of FIU, conducted a study of alligator movements between freshwater and saltwater habitats in South Florida. They published their results in a recent issue of the Journal of Animal Ecology.
The commuter alligators connect very different habitats, creating links between marine, estuarine and freshwater food webs.
Estuaries are critical habitats for many species with recreational, commercial and ecological importance, Rosenblatt and Heithaus wrote in their paper. “They serve as ‘nurseries’ for many fish and invertebrates.
“Alligators need frequent access to freshwater because, unlike crocodiles, they don’t have glands that can excrete salt,” says Rosenblatt.
“Mobile large-bodied species like American alligators are buffered against short-term stress by their size,” he said. “They have the staying power to remain in different habitats for longer periods of time.”


Keys included in Water Management District cuts - by Kevin Wadlow
June 25, 2011
In the face of looming budget cuts at the South Florida Water Management District, the agency's Florida Keys Service Center locks its doors for good Thursday.
Tom Genovese, the district's Keys representative since 2008, confirmed the closing of office at mile marker 102 in Key Largo. "I will be leaving the Water Management District but remaining in the Keys," Genovese said.
He referred other questions about the office closing to officials at the district's West Palm Beach headquarters.
District media relations staff, attending a drought-awareness event on the shores of Lake Okeechobee, could not be reached by press time Friday.
Genovese attended Monroe County and municipal meetings this week to outline the agency's 2012 update of the Lower East Coast Water Supply Plan.
"The Florida Keys Service Center facilitates partnerships with local governments and community groups, provides direct and responsive access to South Florida Water Management District functions and creates a better understanding of local water resource issues," says a district description of the soon-to-close Key Largo office.
Some water-permitting issues were handled by the local office.
A law passed by the Florida Legislature this year mandates reductions in property taxes paid to support the four of the state's five water management districts.
In the 16 counties comprising the South Florida Water Management District -- from Orlando to Key West along Atlantic Coast -- property owners will see a 30 percent reduction.
In Monroe County, a property with a taxable assessed value of $200,000 paid about $50 to the South Florida Water Management District this year. That will be pared to about $35 by the mandated reduction.
The South Florida Water Management District has a $1.1 billion budget and a current staff of about 1,900. With about $130 million to be pared by the new tax-rate reductions, district staff is still working on a new budget to be presented to the agency's governing board in July. Staff layoffs and buyouts are expected.
The district is charged with maintaining water supplies to Florida residents in its area, and flood-control operations. It also is the state's lead agency in Everglades restoration efforts, teaming with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Officials of conservation groups including the Everglades Foundation and Audubon of Florida have expressed concern that budget reductions could hamper Everglades projects and water-conservation efforts.
A June 16 memo to the state water management districts from a Department of Environmental Protection official advised district budget writers to consider salary reductions and cutting unnecessary programs.
"Over the years, salaries and benefit structures at many of the districts have become significantly out of line with the rest of our state's employees," wrote DEP Special Counsel Jon Steverson. "Many of the districts have also become top-heavy in their organization structures."
Steverson urged districts to "eliminate non-core activities" that may include educational outreach programs that "tend to be duplicative with local government and utility efforts."
State Rep. Jeff Clemons, a Lake Worth Democrat, criticized Scott for signing the bill mandating cuts to the water districts. He signed it at the South Florida district's headquarters.
"We can agree to disagree on the merits of the bill the governor signed," Clemons said. "But to come to Palm Beach County and rub salt in the wounds of people who will soon go home to their families unemployed is insulting and unnecessarily cruel."


deep root irrigation
Deep root irrigation
large scale
Large scale drip irrigation

Deep drought draining water supply – by David Hawkins
June 24, 2011
The Keys are parched. Key West, named for bone-white earth, is bone dry, and from Key Largo to the Dry Tortugas, yards are wilted and wetlands are drying up.
The long drought is threatening the water supply for all of south Florida and the Keys, the regions’ water managers say. Lake Okeechobee, the giant reservoir that can recharge underground water sources, is near its all-time lowest level.
“Our groundwater levels are just continuing to decline,” Tom Genovese, director of the South Florida Water Management District service center in the Keys, said this week. “We can’t release any more water from the water conservation areas because it’s too dry. Water conservation is the most important thing we can do right now.”
Ben Nelson, climate program director at the National Weather Service Forecast Office in Key West, said a combination of weather conditions are delaying the start of the rainy season.
February through May this year were the driest in Key West since 1945. In those 120 days the island recorded only 1.22 inches of rain. That’s more than 11 1/2 inches below normal. It was also the driest ever for those months in Marathon, with only 1.80 inches of rain.
Key West rainfall records go back 140 years, to 1871. Marathon’s go back only to 1982.
Nelson said the climate condition known as La Niña, caused by ocean current off Equador in the eastern Pacific Ocean, has contributed to weather patterns that suppress rain across the U.S. southeast, although, he said, La Niña is now diminishing.
A lasting high pressure area off the southeast has also limited rainfall. “In June we should have buoyant, moist air” that leads to showers and thunderstorms, Nelson said. Instead the area has had stable, sinking air that inhibits rain, he said.
The lack of rainfall has led to restrictions on water use throughout South Florida and the Keys. The area relies on natural underground reservoirs for water. Water for the Keys is pumped from mainland wells that tap the Biscayne Aquifer. During the drought, the Florida Keys Aqueduct Authority has also been pumping brackish water from another aquifer and processing it to remove the salt.
In the 16-county region served by the South Florida Water Management District, the drought is defined in various areas as severe, extreme or the worst category, exceptional. The water district has imposed new watering restrictions in Palm Beach County, where Lake Okeechobee is the only drinking-water source.
In the Keys and other areas of South Florida, automatic landscape watering is limited to two days a week. Genovese said the district hasn’t tightened watering restrictions further because the rainy season should be starting now.
“If this were February or March, I would say yes, we would go to one-day-a-week watering. However, the rainy season normally starts mid- to late May. It’s late. We hope it’s imminent. We’re reluctant to tighten the screws even further,” Genovese said.
“I always tell people, when you pray for rain, pray for it to rain on the mainland.”
The normal dry-season rainfall across the entire South Florida region is about 25.5 inches, SFWMD says. But since last October, the area has received just over half that amount, 13.22 inches. This week Lake Okeechobee’s water level was just 9.64 feet, almost 3 1/2 feet below average. The lake could drop below its lowest-ever level, 8.82 feet, which it reached in July 2007, Genovese said.
Last weekend a pulse of tropical moisture brought some rain to the Keys, but not much, Nelson said. The weather service released a statement on the drought on Tuesday, which said, “...Rainfall amounts throughout the Keys continue to run well below average despite the fact that our rainy season should have already begun.”
The drought conditions are officially designated “extreme” in the Upper Keys and “severe to moderate” in the Middle Keys. The latest weather service statement said, “However, objective indicators depict that an exceptional short-term drought is ongoing throughout the island chain.”
The rest of South Florida — all of Florida, in fact, except a wide swath around the Tampa area — is in a drought defined as at least “moderate,” with the worst condition — “exceptional” — in northern Miami-Dade and most of Broward, Palm Beach and Martin counties.

KISSS Offers Solutions for Florida Water Restrictions
June 15, 2011
Subsurface Irrigation System Saves Up To 50 Percent
LONGMONT, Colo., / -- Water restrictions in West Palm Beach, Fla., have pushed several communities into a severe crisis situation and KISSS™ America, manufacturer and distributor of sub-surface, sustainable irrigation systems, offers a viable and cost saving solution with up to 50 percent water savings. Implications of reduced watering cost hundreds of thousands of dollars for repairs or replacement and could impose health and public safety concerns.  
"Conventional irrigation that sprays water in the air to water lawns and landscapes is no longer a viable option given the water crisis Florida faces today," Dave Hunter, President and CEO of KISSS America, said. "Standard drip irrigation saves water however it performs poorly when used subsurface in lawn and turf where distribution is uneven. One of the hardest things for residents to watch will be water flow onto sidewalks or down streets. Now is not the time to be wasteful. KISSS has the solution to the drastic position that Florida faces."
The Kapillary Irrigation Sub-Surface System, or KISSS™, pulses water through subsurface lateral irrigation lines to a geo-textile fabric using capillary action dispersing the water into the soil just below the roots. The geo-textile fabric maintains moisture uniformity along its length allowing soil to absorb water as needed at a slower and more effective rate and mitigating water loss typically found with above ground systems including evaporation, overspray, and runoff.
KISSS versus traditional drip systems:
Tunneling or uneven water distribution is eliminated allowing water to be distributed evenly throughout the soil creating the healthiest plant environment possible.
Dramatically reduces root intrusion, a common problem when traditional drip is deployed subsurface, by using a dispersion layer on top of the tubing directing water flow through an infinite number of emitters rather than a single emitter every 18 inches. Healthy roots grow evenly rather than targeting water sources.
Uses recycled water further reducing the burden on scarce potable water resources. 
Reduces maintenance costs with no exposed hardware to be damaged.
KISSS has been integrated with government buildings, private business campuses, custom projects, and residences providing reduced expenses and decreased water usage.
For more information on KISSS America, visit online or email
The KISSS system utilizes capillary action to deliver water directly to the root zone in turf, gardens, and trees. As a result, the system uses significantly less water than sprinklers and conventional drip irrigation, yet uniformly wets more soil volume. In addition to using less water, the system makes it possible to add chemicals to the root zone only, eliminating run off and pollution. The KISSS system was used in the creation of state-of-the-art living roofs at the Target Center in Minneapolis and the William J. Clinton Presidential Library in Little Rock, Arkansas. The Clinton facility is the first presidential library to earn an award from the U.S. Green Committee for environmental design.


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what is in this bill ?
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EPA Warns House Bill Would 'Overturn' Clean Water Law
New York Times - by PAUL QUINLAN of Greenwire
June 23, 2011
U.S. EPA warned of the potential dire consequences of legislation being fast-tracked through the House that would give states final say on rules concerning water, wetlands and mountaintop-removal mining.
In a four-page legal analysis (pdf), EPA said the measure (HR 2018 (pdf)) sponsored by House Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman John Mica (R-Fla.) and ranking member Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.) "would overturn almost 40 years of federal legislation by preventing EPA from protecting public health and water quality."
GOP House leaders expect to bring the bill to a floor vote this summer.
EPA said the Mica-Rahall bill would "significantly undermine" the agency's role of overseeing states' establishment and enforcement of water pollution limits and permits. It said the measure would hinder EPA's ability to intervene on behalf of downstream states harmed by pollution coming from a state upstream. And it said the bill would prevent EPA from protecting local communities from ill-conceived mountaintop-removal and similar projects allowed to go forward under Army Corps of Engineers-issued permits.
"This would fundamentally disrupt the balance established by the original [Clean Water Act] in 1972 -- a law that carefully constructed complementary roles for EPA, the Corps, and states," the analysis said.
That is the opposite of what proponents argue the bill would do. They say it would shore up what they see as the erosion of state authority under the Clean Water Act and restore a state-federal partnership on enforcement of the law.
At its core, the bill would prevent EPA from reversing or overruling previously issued approval of state water quality limits, permitting authority, or permits to dredge and fill waterways or wetlands.
Defenders of the agency say that power is necessary to keep up with new scientific understanding of pollution and health effects and to ensure that states, seen by many as more vulnerable to local influence and political pressure, are enforcing rules on their books to protect local and interstate waters.
Proponents of the bill counter that the Obama administration's EPA has abused that authority by overruling states, reversing decisions made under previous administrations and creating widespread regulatory uncertainty that has hindered job-creation and economic recovery.
Rahall and Mica have both bristled over EPA's recent actions affecting their home states, including the decision to subject mountaintop-removal mining applications to tougher review and to replace vague, state-established water pollution limits in Florida with tougher, numeric standards.
"Our coal miners are scared about their jobs, and they have received no comforting actions or signals," Rahall said yesterday before the committee approved the bill in a nearly party-line vote. "I hoped under this administration we would reach common ground. Unfortunately, that has not been the case."
In the analysis, EPA defends its power to veto permits issued by the Army Corps of Engineers, calling it "the action of last resort." Under the Mica-Rahall bill, the state would have to concur with the EPA veto.
Supporters rejected EPA's warnings, saying that states have a vested interest in protecting their waters and that EPA's arguments are "insulting to states, governors and state legislatures."
"It's not 1972 anymore -- we've come a long way since then," said Justin Harclerode, spokesman for committee Republicans. "These arguments only work if you believe that the states have no interest in protecting the health and safety of their citizens or the quality of their waters. ... Nothing in the bill overturns, prevents or eliminates any of EPA's traditional authorities or roles -- the bill simply restores the historic balance between the EPA and states under the Clean Water Act."
EPA provided the analysis to Rep. Tim Bishop (D-N.Y.), ranking member of the Transportation and Infrastructure subcommittee with jurisdiction over the Clean Water Act. Bishop railed against committee leaders' efforts to fast-track the bill and offered an amendment yesterday that would preserve EPA's authority over individual states. The amendment failed along party lines.
"This go-it-alone approach flies in the face of science, common sense and decades of experience implementing the Clean Water Act," Bishop said.
Groups weigh in
The bill has prompted an outpouring of support and opposition from various corners of the debate on federal regulatory authority over water.
Environmental groups panned the committee vote to approve the bill.
"This bill is a recipe for increased pollution, dirtier waters and more mountaintop removal mining," said Jon Devine, senior attorney in the water program at the Natural Resources Defense Council. "Its supporters seem intent on taking us back to the 'good old days' when rivers like the Cuyahoga caught fire and Lake Erie was declared dead."
Industry groups, such as the Associated Equipment Distributors, which represents heavy equipment dealers, supported the bill. "EPA is standing in the way of a broad range of economic activity that involves 'turning dirt,'" the group wrote in a letter to Mica and Rahall. "That is hampering job creation and recovery in an industry hit hard by the recession."
The National Water Resources Association (NWRA), which represents many Western agricultural irrigation districts and has advocated for states' rights over water, also applauded the bill. "The current EPA has continued to show little deference to states' rights," Executive Vice President Thomas Donnelly wrote in a letter to Mica.
A group of West Virginia chambers of commerce sent EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson a letter asking for swift consideration of mining permits, an issue the legislation seeks to address. The National Mining Association said the bill would "provide much needed certainty for jobs and the Appalachian economy."


Land Bought By the Gallon ? Today Not So Much
Naples Daily News - Guest Commentary by Glenn Watkins
Posted June 23, 2011
"Nothing anywhere else is like them: their vast glittering openness, wider than the enormous visible round of the horizon, the racing free saltness and sweetness of their massive winds, under the dazzling blue heights of space." Marjory Stoneman Douglas penned this description of the Florida Everglades over 60 years ago, a description that we have since tragically rewritten through underfunded conservation, overdevelopment and poor water quality standards.
After attending Hamilton College in upstate New York, I realized how many things I missed about Southwest Florida — namely the obscure beauty, brilliantly colorful sunsets and uniqueness of the Everglades.
I decided to volunteer at the Everglades Foundation in Miami for a portion of this summer, to learn more about Florida and how to give back to its irreplaceable natural environment.
While New York’s mountains are certainly majestic, they are not nearly so intertwined with the economic, environmental and human health of the area as the Everglades are to Florida. Water is the lifeblood of the Everglades ecosystem, and the unifying element that connects South Florida to the Glades. Over the course of my internship, I learned that the restoration of the Everglades is not just about restoring an ecosystem, but it’s also an economic development and economic security project. South Florida’s ability to foster economic growth and create jobs hinges on the success or failure of protecting and enhancing our water supply.
We have been bleeding the Glades dry by disrupting the slow flow of water that begins at Kissimmee River, progresses to Lake Okeechobee, and spills over nearly two million acres of saw grass, cypress hammocks, farmland, and highways, and ultimately drains into the ocean though the Everglades National Park.
But we can’t protect the park if we can’t protect the water that sustains it.
We divert the water from its natural path to supply our coastal cities’ growing populations; we send billions of gallons of water – worth billions of dollars – into the ocean in the name of draining fertile land for agriculture. All this happens before the water can even reach the protected Everglades National Park or before it reaches the water taps in homes.
The Everglades requires a slow-moving sheet of water to sustain itself as an ecosystem, and Florida requires water reserves in order to survive brutal dry spells, much like the one we are experiencing now. West Palm Beach’s water supplies may tap out in less than 28 days.
What does this mean for Naples? For the Everglades?
This drought affects the public’s health and well-being just as critically as it affects the environment’s.
If we had stored the water released in the 2004-2005 hurricane season, we would not be in so dire a predicament as we are now. Part of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan is to improve ways to store water for both the Everglades ecosystem and South Florida’s water supply in Storm-water Treatment Areas.
One in every three Floridians depends on water from the Everglades, and in order to enhance available supplies, we must create a better way for the Glades to retain water, namely by restoring the slow sheet-flow which reduces the amount of water flushed into the ocean via man-made systems, leaving more for Florida.
We need to build more reservoirs or this drought may simply be the herald of a not-too-distant time when water shortages are the norm, in an area where land was once jokingly "bought by the gallon."
We are experiencing a Category 5 Water Storm, one that is severely depleting our fresh water supply. This storm threatens the welfare of Florida’s families, businesses and environment. The cost of continued inaction will be far greater than the price of doing what needs to be done now. We have virtually engineered this area into existence, draining a region once covered by water through efforts to foster development.
When we began draining the Everglades in the early 19th century, it prompted vast wildfires and left the Everglades a place where "the only living things visible were turkey vultures wheeling low over the blackened ground in search of the carcasses of animals trapped by the fires."
For the sake of Florida, let’s not make this same mistake again.
Watkins is a 2008 graduate of Naples High entering her senior year at Hamilton College, where she is majoring in environmental studies; quotes are from Michael Grunewald’s "The Swamp: The Everglades, Florida, and the Politics of Paradise.’’


Local leaders call for South Florida Water Management to flush Lake Okeechobee water into polluted Caloosahatchee
June 23, 2011
Fla.- Toxic algae growth is plaguing Southwest Florida's scenic Caloosahatchee River, and the only fix is fresh water from Lake Okeechobee.
But getting that water released could turn into a bitter battle with South Florida Water Management.
"We're not being treated right by the water managers. And the result is a very sick and polluted river," Lee County Commissioner Frank Mann said Thursday.
The Caloosahatchee is in it's worst shape in years. Experts say the dilemma isn't just because of the drought.
"The problem is as much man-made if not more than natural. It is a by-product of losing our head water lakes, and the wetlands that used to feed this river historically. Now, it depends on Lake Okeechobee as it's source and it's being cut off entirely from that source," Jennifer Hecker of the Conservancy of Southwest Florida said.
The river depends on Lake Okeechobee's fresh water flow to flush out stagnant bacteria and nutrients. Lee County leaders say Southwest Florida's getting cheated out of it's fair share of that fresh water, citing the river conditions as proof.
"It's as foul as I've ever seen it with pollution. The water's got layers of thick blue green algae on it, almost an inch thick," Mann said.
Now, they're calling on South Florida Water Management to immediately release water from Lake Okeechobee into the Caloosahatchee, in order to avoid devastating economic effects to Southwest Florida's coastal tourism.
"I think they still have water in that lake that they can release. They have been releasing it to other places. I'm saying before one more drop gets released anywhere, they need to turn the water loose on the Caloosahatchee River and flush that. It's like a huge cesspool right now that needs to be flushed," Mann said.
Local leaders are calling for an emergency release of Lake Okeechobee's water into the Caloosahatchee. They say if their request is ignored, they may purse possible ligitigation against the district.


Officials look for Caloosahatchee River fix
June 23, 2011
A call to action was issued this morning by representatives from area environmental organizations, the tourism industry and politicians who slammed the South Florida Water Management for not sending fresh water from Lake Okeechobee into the Caloosahatchee River during a severe drought, opting instead to divert the water to the Big Sugar industry.
"The issue is how do we energize elected officials to realize releasing water down the Caloosahatchee is critical to the ecosystem and the $2.5 billion tourism industry in Lee County," said Tamara Pigott, executive director of the Lee County Visitor & Convention bureau."Attracting people to this destination requires good water quality."
Jennifer Hecker, director of resource policy for the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, raised the specter of possible litigation against the district.
The problem is the toxic blue-green algae that is carpeting the river, due to excess nutrients that in turn is due to the lack of fresh water from Lake Okeechobee.
People can't swim in the river and warnings have been issued not to let pets swim in the river, Mann said. "This is critical and it's getting worse."
Mann said he's lived for the last 15 years in the Alva area and has seen algae before. "I've never seen a situation quite as dire as it is right now," he said.
"It smells like you were standing next to a septic tank with the lid open," he said. "I've seen hundreds of clams floating and my friend, clams don't float."
The river water is also highly saline due to the lack of fresh water releases from the lake. The river has also seen a loss of 600 acres of tape grass, which acts as the bottom of the food chain for aquatic life and a nursery for many fish species.
Bottom line, the algae will end up on the area's beaches, said Mick Denham, vice-mayor of the City of Sanibel. "The city of Sanibel is the catcher's mitt at the end of the Caloosahatchee." He charged that there is "a substantial degree of cronyism" on the management district board and staff.
He and others in the group referred to an opinion piece in today's News-Press written by Melissa L. Meeker, new executive director of the South Florida Water Management District, calling for area residents to share the adversity caused by the water shortage.
"I still see fresh water going south. I see fresh water going east, Mann said. "I think we're getting lip service."
Kirk Fordham, chief executive officer of the Everglades Foundation, said at the press conference that people may think it's an act of God, something that just happens in nature and they have to live with it, he said. But the Caloosahatchee's condition is critical and it's man-made, he said.
It's due to the inequitable allocation of fresh water resources, said Jennifer Hecker, director of natural resource policy for the Conservancy of Southwest Florida. "Our river continues to be cut off from Lake Okeechobee, it's source," she said. Yet no one else is being cut off, she said.
"We are gathering today to say 'Enough is enough’.'


South Florida water users need to work together in drought - Guest opinion
June 23, 2011
I am writing in response to some of the recent articles that fail to provide a fully informed view concerning the Caloosahatchee River and Lake Okeechobee.
As a sugar cane and vegetable farmer, I joined with other farmers more than 50 years ago to build a future in one of the most productive agricultural areas in the country, the Everglades Agricultural Area. This led to the creation of a sugar cane processing and marketing cooperative and vegetable packing house, facilities that continue to generate thousands of well-paid jobs throughout the Everglades region.
Our businesses suffer in every drought, freeze and hurricane, and we have had more than our share of those in the last decade. Farming is an outdoor enterprise and our members, employees, and their families love the Florida environment and are dismayed when we see the Everglades burn, or the lake go dry or the Caloosahatchee River have problems. We have supported and continue to support the implementation of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan, including projects to improve the Caloosahatchee River.
There are a few recurring, but erroneous, themes in The News-Press recently concerning the management of Lake Okeechobee during droughts. One is that farmers are not hurt by drought. That is simply not the case, and there is plenty of evidence to prove this. You cannot deny plants water during the most critical time of the crop cycle without seeing significant impacts to crop production. This is what determines whether a farm can stay in business or not. Every governmental agency that has looked at it knows this fact, and so does every grower.
Another theme is that the Water Management District has somehow "cut off" flow to the river. Since the Franklin Lock was completed in 1964, flow to the river has stopped for long periods virtually every dry season, whether there was a drought or not. That is simply the way the federal water project and state rules worked. The current Lake Regulations, adopted in 2008, are the first time that a Base Flow to the river became part of the approved operations during all but the driest conditions.


Toxic tentacles of mercury
Durango Herald - by Dale Rodebaugh, Staff Writer
Element’s levels monitored at Vallecito, Mesa Verde, Pagosa Springs
Researchers at the Mountain Studies Institute are part of a team taking soil and lake-sediment samples here this summer to better understand the far reach of toxic mercury in our ecosystem.
Wildfire is believed to result in the release of mercury from soil, which makes this – the site of the 2002 Missionary Ridge Fire, which burned 72,000 acres around this mountain community – a logical place to look for it.
The study is an extension of ongoing mercury research in the region, which includes monitoring of airborne mercury at Molas Lake and Mesa Verde National Park, sampling mercury in songbirds and analyzing sediment from high-elevation lakes.
Mercury is a neurotoxin that affects humans and wildlife. The concentration of mercury increases as it passes from plants to herbivores to predators to humans.
Five bodies of water in Southwest Colorado – McPhee, Totten, Vallecito and Narraguinnep reservoirs and Navajo Lake – are under fish-consumption advisories because of unsafe levels of mercury.
Methyl mercury, produced by microorganisms, is the form found in fish. Airborne mercury can arrive from coal-fired power plants in northwest New Mexico or from as far away as China, lead investigator Joe Ryan said.
An early conclusion is that low-intensity prescribed burns have little affect on the amount of mercury in the soil. But high-intensity wildfire decreased mercury in the soil, releasing more of it into the environment.
Ryan is a researcher and professor of environmental engineering at the University of Colorado. He has studied mercury from the Florida Everglades to the mountains of the Yukon.
Collaborating with Ryan are Chris Peltz, research coordinator at the Mountain Studies Institute, and students from Fort Lewis College and the University of Colorado.
No all-encompassing answer about the conduct of mercury in the face of fire is expected from the three-year study, Ryan said by telephone Thursday.
Rather, in the next two years it can provide food for thought for water and land managers, Ryan said.
In soil, mercury deposited naturally or from coal-fired power plants remains fairly stable, bound by organic matter, Ryan said. But fire, particularly high-intensity wildfires, releases mercury into the atmosphere and frees it to wash into waterways.
“We’ve found that fire diminishes the ability of forest soil to bind mercury,” Ryan said. “Fire also tends to make soil water-repellent, allowing erosion to occur more easily.”
Soil samples are being taken at Mesa Verde National Park and in the Piedra River drainage, as well as Vallecito Reservoir. Among the targeted sites are some hit by wildfire and some on which the San Juan Public Lands Center, a partner in the study, plans to do prescribed burns to reduce forest fuel.
Ultimately, the core samples are scheduled to be analyzed by X-ray Absorption Near Edge Spectroscopy at the University of Illinois in Chicago. The analysis looks at oxidation of sulfur in organic matter, a clue for understanding the behavior of mercury.
Ryan said his team’s research is sort of a midpoint between work to reduce pollution at its source and after-the-fact treatment.
“We’re looking at how mercury is transported and changed,” Ryan said.
Ryan said the ways soil holds mercury differ from the Everglades to Colorado to the Yukon. As an analogy, he cited what George Aiken, a colleague at the U.S. Geological Survey, says about tea: It’s all organic, but it comes in different flavors.
The current work started with a $16,000 grant from the University of Colorado Outreach Program in 2008, Ryan said. The grant was instrumental in winning $690,000 from the National Science Foundation for the present research, he said.
Jackson Webster, a doctoral candidate in environmental engineering at the University of Colorado who is working with Ryan this summer, independently won a George Melendez Wright Climate Change Fellowship from the National Park Service to study core samples of mercury at Mesa Verde National Park.
Other members of the team are Eric Falk, a biology major at Fort Lewis College; Crystal Kelly, an environmental studies major at Fort Lewis College; Chelsea Ottenfeld, a geology major at Tennessee Tech University who has a summer internship at the University of Colorado; and Doug Winter who is studying environmental engineering at the University of Colorado.


Water an Old, but Important, Issue
The Ledger - by Tom Palmer
June 23, 2011
I see still another legislative water study is under way in Florida.
I saw a summary of the recommendations recently at an industry-sponsored water forum in Orlando.
The House Select Committee on Water Policy seems poised to find answers to two questions:
How can Florida do a better job of using water?
Can we figure out a way to get out of complying with some of these pesky federal water-pollution regulations?
The committee has the rest of the year to come up with answers.
But if I hear one more person say Florida is at a crossroads on water, I'll run screaming from the room.
Anyone who has been around and willing to stay awake in Florida for the past 50 years knows water is not a new issue and that there have been many forks in the road to get us to where we are today.
Two topics -- water supply and water pollution -- have dominated the discussion during the past half-century.
How we think about water in Florida has evolved, of course.
Early water management consisted of drainage projects designed to provide more productive agricultural land or flood control.
The South Florida Water Management District was originally called the Central and Southern Florida Food Control District. It and the Southwest Florida Water Management District were formed to deal with flooding problems following hurricanes in the 1940s and 1960, respectively.
Then the rain slacked off, the growth boom went into high gear, water became harder to find and government officials pushed to rethink the idea of draining water as fast as we could.
I see still another legislative water study is under way in Florida.
I saw a summary of the recommendations recently at an industry-sponsored water forum in Orlando.
The House Select Committee on Water Policy seems poised to find answers to two questions:
How can Florida do a better job of using water?
Can we figure out a way to get out of complying with some of these pesky federal water-pollution regulations?
The committee has the rest of the year to come up with answers.
But if I hear one more person say Florida is at a crossroads on water, I'll run screaming from the room.
Anyone who has been around and willing to stay awake in Florida for the past 50 years knows water is not a new issue and that there have been many forks in the road to get us to where we are today.
Two topics -- water supply and water pollution -- have dominated the discussion during the past half-century.
How we think about water in Florida has evolved, of course.
Early water management consisted of drainage projects designed to provide more productive agricultural land or flood control.
The South Florida Water Management District was originally called the Central and Southern Florida Food Control District. It and the Southwest Florida Water Management District were formed to deal with flooding problems following hurricanes in the 1940s and 1960, respectively.
Then the rain slacked off, the growth boom went into high gear, water became harder to find and government officials pushed to rethink the idea of draining water as fast as we could.
In the meantime, committees were convened to look at environmental policy in Florida and concluded Florida needed to get serious about protecting water quality, too.
Until the early 1970s, there wasn't much in the way of environmental protection in this state.
I remember watching a short film from the early 1970s titled "Come To Florida Before It's Gone" that chronicled different environmental problems and then introduced the state official in charge of dealing with the problem, only to have the camera show an empty podium.
Since then, Florida has formed water management districts, approved better environmental laws and protected more land that recharges the aquifer and protects lakes and rivers from pollution.
This year, the Florida Legislature repealed or weakened some of that.
It's unclear where things are headed next.
There's a fear, based on what happened during this year's legislative session, that we're headed backward.
The summary of the preliminary recommendations from the House water committee doesn't give much of an indication.
The questions the committee is supposed to explore are pretty open-ended.
For instance, the committee wants to look at the effectiveness of setting minimum flows and levels for rivers "while considering the social and economic consequences of those actions."
I hope I'm wrong, but that seems to open the door for something along the lines of a decision that says:
"Gee, I'd like to keep that river flowing, but, darn it, I've got a bunch of new developments in my district that need water and so I'm sure my colleagues will agree that building a bigger pipeline from the river is in the public interest."
That's not implausible because throughout the draft, I see recurring themes of responding to water demand for economic growth and getting rid of any regulations that anyone thinks stand in the way.
There's also some discussion of how to handle compensating farmers for participating in water storage and water recharge projects.
That would go beyond the tax benefits farm land already enjoys under state law or the additional tax benefits approved in the 1988 Bluebelt Amendment that authorized additional tax breaks for keeping land important to aquifer recharge undeveloped.
Then there's the debate about whether to treat reclaimed water as a natural resource or as a commodity.
The latter option opens up the discussion of the commercialization of water supply and distribution and private ownership of water supplies, which is a major change in the ways things have been done east of the Mississippi.
If it's too early to tell which way the committee is heading and it's way too early to tell how whatever comes out of the committee will be translated into legislation, budget appropriations or changes in environmental regulations.
There are supposed to be meetings scheduled later this year around the state to get more public input on these policy issues.
You should plan to attend.


Barney Bishop on Fox News: EPA administrator Jackson is ‘killing jobs’
Florida Independent - by Virginia Chamlee
June 22, 2011
Speaking on Fox Business’ America’s Nightly Scorecard yesterday, Associated Industries of Florida CEO Barney Bishop lashed out at the Obama administration — arguing that overregulation, specifically on the part of the federal Environmental Protection Agency, is “killing” the economy.
As head of Associated Industries, Bishop has been highly critical of the EPA, specifically for proposing a set of numeric nutrient criteria to stave off nutrient pollution in Florida waterways. The criteria would likely help rid Florida of its fish kills and algal blooms (the result of phosphorus and nitrogen, often present in industry waste), but would also cost agriculture and utility groups millions.
Bishop has never minced words when it comes to criticizing the EPA for its criteria. In May, he was quoted as saying that EPA chief 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.” He also came out hard against environmental law firm Earthjustice (the group largely responsible for the legal decision demanding the implementation of stricter criteria), calling them a “liberal, left-leaning, communist-inspired environmental organization.”
During his interview with Fox, Bishop said that the numeric nutrient criteria would be “punitive” for Florida and will cost the average family of four $700 on its annual water bill. (That statistic has been refuted by the EPA and environmentalists alike, but continues to be thrown around by business interests.)
Bishop, who referred to himself as a “lifelong Democrat,” said that the EPA is killing jobs with regulations that have become “ludicrous.”
“There isn’t anybody up there that understands how to create a job, create the environment,” said Bishop. “The truth of the matter is, Nancy Pelosi was the face of the 2010 election. I think that the face of the 2012 election is going to be EPA administrator Lisa Jackson. She is killing jobs quicker than the president can create them.”


Oceans threatened
United Nations: Secretary General's speach for the World Ocean Day
(June 8, 2011)

Dire forecast of marine life catastrophe
San Francisco Chronicle – by Anna Tomforde, Deutsche Presse-Agentur
June 22, 2011
London -- The world's oceans are degenerating far faster than predicted and marine life is facing extinction due to a range of human impacts - from overfishing to climate change - a report compiled by international scientists warned Tuesday.
The cumulative impact of "severe individual stresses," ranging from climate warming and sea-water acidification to widespread chemical pollution and overfishing, would threaten the marine environment with a catastrophe "unprecedented in human history."
The conclusions were published by a panel of international scientists who reviewed recent research at a workshop at Oxford University in Britain. They will be presented to the United Nations in New York this week for discussions on reforming governance of the oceans.
The report warned that damage to marine life would harm its ability to support humans, and that entire ecosystems, such as coral reefs, could be lost in a generation. Coral deaths alone would be considered a mass extinction, according to study chief author Alex Rogers of Oxford University. A single bleaching event in 1998 killed one-sixth of the world's tropical coral reefs.
Carl Lundin, director of global marine programs at the International Union for Conservation of Nature, which helped produce the report with the International Program on the State of the Ocean, pointed to deaths of 1,000-year-old coral in the Indian Ocean and called the situation "really unprecedented."
Chemicals and plastics from daily life are also causing problems for sea creatures, the report said. Overall, the world's oceans just can't bounce back from problems - such as oil spills - as they used to, scientists said.
"Unless action is taken now, the consequences of our activities are at a high risk of causing, through the combined effects of climate change, overexploitation, pollution and habitat loss, the next globally significant extinction event in the ocean," it said.
The marine scientists called for a range of urgent measures to cut carbon emissions, reduce overfishing, shut unsustainable fisheries, create protected areas in the seas and cut pollution.
"As we considered the cumulative effect of what humankind does to the ocean, the implications became far worse than we had individually realized," Rogers said. "This is a very serious situation demanding unequivocal action at every level."
A separate study released Monday provided the most detailed look yet of sea level rise from global warming. It found the world's oceans have been rising significantly over the past century. The yearly rise is slightly less than one-tenth of an inch, but it adds up over decades. That study was published in this week's Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
REPORT: "State of the Ocean"


Property tax relief coming, but at what cost ?
News Channel 5 WPTV - by Giovanna Dripic
June 22, 2011
Layoffs expected, environmentalists concerned
Governor Rick Scott signed a $210 million tax relief bill into law Wednesday, affecting all 5 water management districts throughout Florida. It means the South Florida Water Management District will give a 30 percent tax bill reduction to the people it serves. But this will force an unknown number of layoffs at the South Florida Water Management District.
Florida's four other water management districts are also having their tax revenue reduced.
The question is, what's the trade-off and is it worth it?
The total tax relief package works out to about $210 million in tax savings throughout the state. For those of you served by the South Florida Water Management District, but environmentalists are up in arms, saying critical restoration projects will suffer.
New father, Chaplin Grant, is looking for any way to save these days. He's working two jobs and clipping coupons. So, to hear that the South Florida Water Management District will reduce the portion of property taxes it collects by 30 percent, is music to his ears.
He says, "It's pretty good. I would say that's a great thing. We need to save". Grant says his home cost him $102,000. So he'd normally pay about $70 a year. Next year's property taxes will drop by 30 percent. So that comes out to about $49 - or $21 in savings.
Governor Rick Scott announced the property tax relief program today, saying "This property tax cut allows more families and more businesses to use more of their hard earned money in a way they see fit".
Grant says, "It can go to my phone bill. It can go to some other bill".
Kirk Fordham, the Founder and CEO of the Everglades Foundation says, not so fast. Besides causing layoffs at the South Florida Water Management District, he believes this will hurt the Everglades restoration projects.
Fordham explains, "I believe it's a slap in the face for the people of this region to cut and essentially get this agency when we're facing one of the worst water crises we've ever seen in the state's history".
Joe Collins is the Chairman of the Board of the South Florida Water Management District. He says, "We are still going to be able to provide all of the necessary flood control and water supply and environmental restoration".
Katherine Aponte isn't so sure quality won't be affected. She believes the savings just don't make the program worth it.
She says, "If we're going to have bad water, it's not worth it".
The South Florida Water Management District is not sure how many will lose their jobs because of this reduction. Grant says he also feels for the employees who will lose their jobs. We expect to to hear later this summer the number of those layoffs.
This tax relief will apply to homeowners' tax bill in 2012.


Touting property tax cuts, Gov. Rick Scott signs changes to water management policies
Herald/Times - Tallahassee Bureau
June 22, 2011
Gov. Rick Scott today signed sweeping changes to Florida's water management districts that he says will amount to a $210.5 million property tax cut for homeowners and businesses in 2012.
“This property tax cut allows families and businesses to use more of their hard-earned money in the way they see best, rather than having to send it to a government agency,” he said in a statement. “In addition, with access to more information about their water management district’s budget, property owners will be able to hold them accountable for how every tax dollar is spent.”
Last month, Everglades Foundation CEO Kirk Fordham asked Scott to veto the proposal, arguing the state's then-policies already created a "depoliticized stage for water policy decisions."
Further, Fordham wrote, one of the changes would rob Scott of some executive power, as it grants both the Legislature and the governor the ability to reject the budgets of Florida's five water management districts. That power used to belong to the governor alone.
Here's Scott's release:
West Palm Beach, Fla. – Keeping his promise to reduce property taxes, Governor Rick Scott today signed legislation that will save homeowners and businesses throughout Florida $210.5 million on property taxes due in 2012. Senate Bill 2142 caps the taxes Florida’s five water management districts can assess on residential and commercial properties.
Across four of the five water management districts, property owners will save an average of 30 percent on their 2011-12 property taxes. Residents will see varying levels of savings, depending on where their property is located. Property owners in the Southwest Florida Water Management District will see the greatest savings. Savings for all five districts are as follows:
Southwest Florida Water Management District 36% reduction South Florida Water Management District 30% reduction St. Johns Water Management District 26% reduction Suwannee River Water Management District 8% reduction Northwest Florida Water Management District No increase
In addition, citizens will have more access to information about each water management district’s budget. Each district is required to provide a monthly financial statement to its governing board and make the information available to the public on the district’s website.
“This property tax cut allows families and businesses to use more of their hard-earned money in the way they see best, rather than having to send it to a government agency,” Governor Scott said. “In addition, with access to more information about their water management district’s budget, property owners will be able to hold them accountable for how every tax dollar is spent.”


Audubon of Florida and state Dept. of Environmental Protection at odds over water funds
American Independent - by Virginia Chamlee
June 21, 2011
In a memo (.pdf) sent to the heads of each of Florida’s five water management districts, a state Department of Environmental Protection special counsel writes that districts need to begin “paring down or eliminating” certain functions — an unsurprising request, given recent budget cuts. But environmental groups are worried about portions of the memo, which expressly indicate that the districts’ responsibilities be limited in several areas — including land acquisition, wetlands mitigation, water conservation and the regulation of water supply and environmental resources.
In one sentence, which Audubon of Florida labeled “disturbing,” district heads are asked to extrapolate on the use of reserve funds and water-supply plans: “Districts will also need to provide a coherent explanation of the relationship between funds held in reserve and their relationship to the districts’ short, intermediate, and long-term water supply plans.”
From the Audubon of Florida blog post:
Hopefully, DEP has not taken the position districts should only invest capital funds in water supply as opposed to restoration and recovery of damaged water resources such as the Everglades. … Water management districts have an equal role of preserving water for the environment – this is done through land conservation and management as well as restoration projects.
One of the primary concerns of groups like Audubon is that Florida is faced with several water-specific issues — many of which aren’t mentioned in the memo. In fact, the memo seems to suggest that districts restrain efforts to protect Florida’s water resources.
With South Florida currently undergoing a drought, a cutback in protecting water resources couldn’t come at a worse time. Water Districts typically play a large role in the permitting process for utilities, and make the ultimate decision on how much water big businesses can use (or, in some cases, use up). One portion of the Environmental Protection memo specifically states that regulatory staff (and, therefore, regulatory efforts) must be decreased, because “taxpayers and the regulatory community become frustrated when government grows in size and scope but does not improve its level of service.”
Whether or not district cuts will greatly affect ongoing restoration efforts remains an unanswered question — but budget cuts don’t bode well for the Florida Everglades.
The Everglades still needs major restorative work, which many believe would be beneficial in the long run: for the environment, and for the economy. A recent study (.pdf) conducted by Mather Economics for the Everglades Foundation found that, for every dollar invested in Everglades restoration efforts, approximately $4 of economic benefits would be generated.
South Florida Water Management District representatives say that its budget is currently being developed, and will be ready by its July Governing Board meeting.


Is Florida too regulated ?
Sun Sentinel - by William Gibson
June 21, 2011
Governor Rick Scott is blaming federal and state regulations for restraining Florida’s attempt to spur business growth and create new jobs.
Scott -- who has angered environmentalists, unions and health-care reformers in Florida – took his anti-regulation theme on the road to Washington this week and found a sympathetic audience among business leaders who chafe at new federal rules.
He told business leaders and fellow governors that government regulations are choking business expansion in Florida and depriving the state of new jobs. He pledged to examine every one of Florida’s 11,000 state regulations with an eye toward eliminating those that stifle growth.
“It is so hard with the regulations in this country – on the local, state or the federal level – just to do anything to get (a business) started,” Scott said at a U.S. Chamber of Commerce forum on state attempts to create jobs. “We make it so difficult for people to go into business.”
Afterwards, Scott said he particularly opposed federal rules to enforce clean water standards in Florida.
Back home in Florida, environmentalists were fuming about Scott’s deregulation pitch and his assertion that environmental rules stifle job growth.
“We’re not enforcing the regulations we have right now for water quality. We have virtually no regulation on agriculture chemicals, or fertilizers,” said Eric Draper, executive director of Audubon of Florida.
“We grew like crazy for 30 years while our existing laws were in place,” Draper said. “When Governor Scott says environmental laws are costing jobs, he’s lying. There is no evidence that our environmental rules are the reason for Florida’s high unemployment rate.”
At the Washington forum, Scott and others lashed out at federal labor regulators who oppose Boeing Company’s relocation from Washington state to the less unionized state of South Carolina. The National Labor Relations Board has filed suit against Boeing, accusing the aeronautics giant of moving a jet assembly line to avoid union workers in Washington.
“One of the advantages we have in Florida is that we are a right-to-work state,” Scott said. “If they won’t allow companies to move to a right-to-work state without worrying about the individual’s right to not be a member of a union, it will have a devastating effect on our country. And all those jobs will go offshore.”
Union leaders say the rules are needed to protect workers’ rights.
“Corporations like this will pit one state against another to ensure that they have cheap labor with no rights,” said Rich Templin, legislative and political director of the Florida AFL-CIO.
“Florida has been pursuing low taxes and deregulation policies for 12 years,” he said. “And all that did was create an artificially inflated economy based on housing. When that bubble burst, we saw the consequences.”


Do you want to know what is in this bill ?
Click here and read more -

Time to Stop Attacks on the Clean Water Act and Protect Americans' Top Environmental Priority
Switchboard-NRDC – by David Backman
June 21, 2011
Time to Stop Attacks on the Clean Water Act and Protect Americans' Top Environmental Priority
To quote Yogi Berra, “It’s déjà vu all over again.”  After spending much of the spring attacking the Clean Air Act, several lawmakers in the House have now set their sights on the Clean Water Act.  This latest onslaught puts lawmakers squarely at odds with the American people, who say in poll after poll that their number one environmental priority is clean water. 
And yet the introduction of HR-2018, slated for mark-up tomorrow in the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, takes direct aim at the Clean Water Act.  The bill, sponsored by Congressman John Mica of Florida, strips EPA of critical oversight authority that for decades has resulted in improved water quality across the country. 
And it’s not just Republicans leading the charge.  Several Democrats, including Representatives Nick Rahall (W.Va.), Jason Altmire (PA) and Tim Holden (PA), have co-sponsored the legislation. 
HR 2018 is dirty water bill that would turn the regulatory clock back to a period where rivers actually caught fire and the federal government couldn’t stop it. 
It would deprive Americans of minimum health and environmental standards that apply no matter where you live or travel in the nation.  While states appropriately have a primary role in implementing clean water protections, the law does not function effectively without a federal floor—a  “safety net”—that ensures that people have a minimum level of clean water and safe drinking water regardless of what state they live in.   HR 2018 shreds the safety net by stopping EPA from ensuring adequate standards to protect health and the environment.
At worse, the bill could unleash a 2011 version of an environmental “race to the bottom” that the modern federal Clean Water Act was designed to stop. The bills also punches through a federal floor—a set of minimum standards that protects people in the US no matter where they live—and opens the door to a downward spiral as states are forced to compete against each other, and their better judgment, to lower standards to attract investment or otherwise. 
HR 2018 is an attack on the basic structure of federal environmental laws that have put the nation on a path to a cleaner environment and stronger economy.
This is why NRDC is fighting to protect America’s water:
According to a 2009 Gallop Poll, water quality is America’s No. 1 environmental concern, eclipsing all others.   In fact the four top spots in the recent poll asking Americans about their environmental concerns were all water-related.  
Clean water promotes a healthy economy.  The nation’s rivers, lakes, bays, wetlands and streams are vital to our health and economy.  For example, in 2004 ocean-related economic activity alone contributed $138 billion dollars to the nation’s economy.  Clean water in general is tied to massive economic output, threatened by HR 2018.   
HR 2018 limits the federal government’s ability to ensure that states effectively implement or make necessary improvements to their water quality standards to deal with modern pollution challenges.  Water quality standards are just what they sound like:  they are limits on pollution necessary to keep people who use, enjoy and contact water healthy and the environment itself strong.  Thus, the bill attacks a critical element of the Clean Water Act.  This bill deprives EPA of the tool it used to restore Lake Erie and is now being used to clean up and protect (1) the Florida Everglades, (2) Chesapeake Bay and (3) other waters, including those impacted by mountain-top coal mining.  The bill would also block EPA from objecting to individual permits that fail to comply with water quality standards.
HR 2018 blocks EPA’s ability to stop dredge and fill projects that have “unacceptable adverse effect[s] on municipal water supplies, shellfish beds and fishery areas…, wildlife or recreational areas.”  Although this “veto” authority has been used only thirteen times in the past 38 years, it is a critical safeguard against the most destructive proposals—like mountain-top coal mining that destroys streams.
HR 2018 prevents the EPA from making scientifically-based upgrades of standards, including for toxic pollutants.  EPA was forced to promulgate water quality standards for a number of states, including California, when those states failed to update their own standards.  Many states have relied on “placeholder” standards that EPA approved pending development of more protective standards; these planned public health upgrades would be threatened.
We tried it the HR 2018 way—it doesn’t work.  The provisions attacked by HR 2018 were put in place in the Clean Water Act specifically to cure a wholesale failure in the national effort to reduce water pollution related to a lack of federal oversight of the nation’s clean water efforts.  Legislative history of the Clean Water Act indicates that without federal backstops, the dog won’t hunt.  A senate committee report from 1971 notes that "the Committee concludes that the national effort to abate and control water pollution has been inadequate in every vital aspect."  The approach referred to in the legislative history of the Act depended on the sort of scheme HR 2018 would resurrect.
I hope that the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee tomorrow soundly rejects this misguided effort.  The bill is not redeemable.  But there will be an opportunity tomorrow to make sure that, at minimum, the bill doesn’t completely gut protections for our waters even if it isn’t killed outright; at a minimum, a positive vote on an amendment to be offered by Representative Tim Bishop would be a step in the right direction.


Water management districts told to curtail land acquisition, ‘reexamine’ priorities
Florida Independent - by Virginia Chamlee
June 21, 2011
In a memo (.pdf) sent to the heads of each of Florida’s five water management districts, a state Department of Environmental Protection special counsel writes that districts need to begin “paring down or eliminating” certain functions — an unsurprising request, given recent budget cuts. But environmental groups are worried about portions of the memo, which expressly indicate that the districts’ responsibilities be limited in several areas — including land acquisition, wetlands mitigation, water conservation and the regulation of water supply and environmental resources.
In one sentence, which Audubon of Florida labeled “disturbing,” district heads are asked to extrapolate on the use of reserve funds and water-supply plans: “Districts will also need to provide a coherent explanation of the relationship between funds held in reserve and their relationship to the districts’ short, intermediate, and long-term water supply plans.”
From the Audubon of Florida blog post:
Hopefully, DEP has not taken the position districts should only invest capital funds in water supply as opposed to restoration and recovery of damaged water resources such as the Everglades. … Water management districts have an equal role of preserving water for the environment – this is done through land conservation and management as well as restoration projects.
One of the primary concerns of groups like Audubon is that Florida is faced with several water-specific issues — many of which aren’t mentioned in the memo. In fact, the memo seems to suggest that districts restrain efforts to protect Florida’s water resources.
With South Florida currently undergoing a drought, a cutback in protecting water resources couldn’t come at a worse time. Water Districts typically play a large role in the permitting process for utilities, and make the ultimate decision on how much water big businesses can use (or, in some cases, use up). One portion of the Environmental Protection memo specifically states that regulatory staff (and, therefore, regulatory efforts) must be decreased, because “taxpayers and the regulatory community become frustrated when government grows in size and scope but does not improve its level of service.”
Whether or not district cuts will greatly affect ongoing restoration efforts remains an unanswered question — but budget cuts don’t bode well for the Florida Everglades.
The Everglades still needs major restorative work, which many believe would be beneficial in the long run: for the environment, and for the economy. A recent study (.pdf) conducted by Mather Economics for the Everglades Foundation found that, for every dollar invested in Everglades restoration efforts, approximately $4 of economic benefits would be generated.
South Florida Water Management District representatives say that its budget is currently being developed, and will be ready by its July Governing Board meeting.


West Palm gets permit to tap reservoir for water, providing it can reduce chlorides
Palm Beach Post - by Christine Stapleton, Staff Writer
June 21, 2011
WEST PALM BEACH — Water managers have received permission to tap a massive reservoir as an emergency water supply for West Palm Beach but that water won't help the city unless it can be diluted enough to bring down unacceptable chloride levels.
Florida Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Herschel Vinyard signed the emergency order Monday, allowing the South Florida Water Management District to draw water from the L-8 Reservoir and send it to West Palm Beach via 20 miles of canals. But by the time the reservoir water reaches the south end of Lake Mangonia, its chloride, or salt, level must not exceed 250 milligrams per liter.
During a six-week pilot project in March that served as a dry run for the current proposal, chloride levels in the reservoir averaged about 354 milligrams/liter. To reduce that level, water from the reservoir was diluted with water from Lake Okeechobee. By the time the diluted reservoir water reached the south end of Lake Mangonia several days later, it was well below the 250 milligram level.
However, with the lake now nearing its record low, there is much less water available to dilute the chlorides in the reservoir's water. In March water flowed from the lake to a mixing zone near the reservoir at a rate of 576 gallons per second. Last week that flow had dropped to 232 gallons per second, raising the question of whether there will be enough water to sufficiently dilute the reservoir water.
"We would not have asked for the emergency permit if we did not think there would be enough water," said Peter Kwiatkowski, the district's incident commander for the drought. "We think this will work."
The city lost its main supply of water, Lake Okeechobee, when water levels in the lake dropped so low that gravity could no longer pull water from lake. Unable to meet its own water needs, the city began buying water from the county and pumping from its own wells. As an additional source of water, the city asked the district for permission to draw water from the L-8 Reservoir.
The emergency permit also allows water from the reservoir to be used for firefighting in Loxahatchee Groves and parts of Royal Palm Beach, where firefighters rely on water from canals to fight blazes.
The city has not yet asked the district to begin drawing water from the reservoir.
The city's utilities director, David Hanks, did not return a phone call Tuesday for comment.


South Florida water district's management staff to be cut by 61 percent
Palm Beach Post - by Christine Stapleton, Staff Writer
June 20, 2011
WEST PALM BEACH — In the midst of a record-breaking drought, the agency responsible for South Florida's water supply also was hit last week by threats of deep cuts to its management force and drastic directives from top environmental officials in Tallahassee.
South Florida Water Management District Executive Director Melissa Meeker sent all district employees an e-mail Friday unveiling the district's new management structure and saying the "goal of streamlining management has been achieved by implementing fewer managerial layers, bringing us from 129 managers to 50 -- a 61 percent reduction in management positions with a savings of approximately $2 million in salaries."
It remained unclear Monday whether district managers are being laid off or demoted. The changes will become effective July 1.
The managers had received an e-mail June 13 from district Assistant Executive Director Robert M. Brown warning them that even if they survive layoffs, "your district position may not be in a management role."
Managers also were warned that if they are laid off after June 30 they will not receive the district's current retirement benefits.
The district is offering employees a buy-out package until July 1, when a new state law goes into effect prohibiting such buy-outs. Employees who take the buy-out can remain in the district's health insurance plan until the end of July and will receive one month's pay. They will also receive all of their accrued annual leave time and a lump-sum payout of at least 25 percent of their accrued sick time.
The district must slash $128.3 million from its $1.1 billion budget under the requirement of a new state law, which reduces the property taxes the district can collect by more than 25 percent.
Meeker started the cutting on her first day on the job, June 1, by dismantling the district's executive management team. She made her salary $165,000, down from the $202,000 her predecessor had earned, and she reduced the number of top management positions from 15 to nine, saving $1.2 million in salaries.
But on Thursday it was Meeker who was being told how to cut the district's budget. A letter from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to the executive directors of the state's five water management districts warned the districts against taking on additional debt or purchasing land.
The districts also were told to limit community outreach and sponsorship programs and to bring their salaries and benefits packages in line with state employees. In addition, the districts need to justify the size of their regulatory staff and the purpose of their reserves.
Among those missing from the district's organizational chart released Friday is Sheryl Wood, the district's general counsel, who will resign after playing a major role in shaping the district's legal strategy in several controversial lawsuits about Everglades restoration.


Sugar cane, Palm Beach County's top cash crop, parched in drought
Palm Beach Post - by Susan Salisbury, Staff Writer
June 20, 2011
 BELLE GLADE — June through August is the "grand growth season" for Florida's sugar cane, grown primarily in western Palm Beach County.
Doused with daily rains and lots of sunshine, the tall tropical grass normally grows an inch a day this time of year.
But scant rains and tight watering restrictions are creating a situation that's anything but grand.
"Overall, the crop was looking pretty good. Now we are losing ground. We are going backward," said Rick Roth, president of Roth Farms east of Belle Glade.
If the drought continues, crop losses in the Everglades Agricultural Area could reach $100 million to $200 million, growers said.
The agricultural area's economic output, including sugar cane, vegetables, rice and other crops, is about $2 billion a year, Roth said.
It's the fourth extreme or exceptional drought Palm Beach County has endured in the past decade, according to the National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. The others were in 2001, 2007 and 2009.
Sugar cane, which grows year-round, is Palm Beach County's biggest crop. The county produces 75 percent of the state's sugar cane, which is valued at $800 million a year, including byproducts such as molasses. Sugar cane farmers here, as well as in Martin, Glades and Hendry counties, depend on Lake Okeechobee for their fields' water supply.
The cane needs about 2 inches of rainfall a week, but the South Florida Water Management District is giving growers about 0.4 inches a week, Roth said.
In a report issued last week, the water management district said the wet season is off to its driest start in more than 20 years, following below-normal rainfall levels that began in October. Persistent rainfall is needed to replenish groundwater, canals and lakes.
Lake Okeechobee's level was 9.64 feet above sea level Friday, compared with 14.35 feet a year ago.
The situation is dire, and the district's 45 percent cutback in water allocations for farms amounts to more like 60 percent to 70 percent because the formula used for June assumes rain occurred, growers said.
Of the 550,000 acres farmed in the Everglades Agricultural Area, only about 20,000 acres are fallow, said Barbara Miedema, spokeswoman for the Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative of Florida.
"Virtually the entire EAA is planted in one crop or another and needs water," Miedema said. "If we don't begin to get summer rains, then we will see the falloff in growth. Our bigger concern is next year's crop. Looking at the current crop, we're beginning to see water stress but are eking by."
The real concern is the way the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the water district are managing Lake Okeechobee, said Charles Shinn, assistant director of government and community affairs for the Florida Farm Bureau Federation.
"We don't have drought problems so much as we have management problems. They are really tied directly to the management of the lake levels," Shinn said.
"The short-term problem right now is we are in the summer rainy season and it is not raining."
Long-term, the Corps of Engineers needs to keep more water in the lake once hurricane season has passed, instead of releasing it to sea, Shinn said. Although he recognizes the corps' concerns about flooding, he said the agency has some discretion within the release schedule.
After Hurricane Katrina's flooding of New Orleans, the water district issued a 2006 report about the 80-year-old Herbert Hoover Dike. It found that the dike's condition poses a "grave and imminent danger to the people and environment of South Florida."
Other than New Orleans, Lake Okeechobee is the U.S. mainland area most vulnerable to hurricanes, according to the International Hurricane Research Center at Florida International University in Miami.
The Corps of Engineers says it seeks to keep the lake between 12.5 and 15.5 feet because lowering the water level is a slow process should a hurricane approach. Engineers worry the aging, leaking dike around Lake Okeechobee will fail if water levels exceed 20 feet above sea level. The overriding concern that leads to periodic releases of fresh water is the stability of the dike at high lake elevations and public safety.
For now, some growers whose land is far from the lake are receiving little or no water. It's gone before it reaches them. Even if there is some water, pumps can't do their job if canals are too low.
"We have some farms that can get no water when the lake drops below 10 feet," said Judy Sanchez, spokeswoman for Clewiston-based U.S. Sugar Corp.
Agricultural producers agree that a tropical storm or two is needed.
"We are in the midst of a drought that could turn into a crisis if we don't get rain soon," Sanchez said.

Sweet business
The Florida sugar industry employs more than 14,000 people. It brings in more than $800 million annually and has a total economic value of more than $2 billion.
About 75 percent of the state's sugar cane is grown in Palm Beach County, which has 400,000 acres of cane fields, mostly in west county.
Source: University of Florida Agricultural Extension Service

Water management agency names interim director
Herald-Tribune - by Dale White
June 20, 2011
The man on whom the Southwest Florida Water Management District has relied for legal advice will take temporary charge of the agency.
The district's board recently named general counsel William S. Bilensky to serve as interim executive director.
He replaces David L. Moore, who recently resigned but will stay on in an advisory capacity until July 15.
The district, commonly called Swiftmud, oversees management of drinking water supplies and protection of water bodies in a 16-county area that includes Sarasota, Manatee and Charlotte counties.


Women In Power: Carol Browner Speaks for First Time Since Leaving Post as White House Energy Czar
Huffington Post - by Matthew Dakotah
June 20, 2011
A special series profiling trailblazers in energy innovation and champions of the environment. See previous stories here.
"In high school I was quite convinced that I would be a civil rights attorney," Carol Browner remembers. "I always wanted to do things to change the world." Growing up with two college-professor parents, who were both active in the 1960's and 70's anti-war and civil rights movements, clearly made its mark on this young, purposeful woman who would one day become the longest-serving Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator in history. Browner "saw their commitment to social change and social justice" and set out to volunteer at the migrant farm worker camps near her family's home in South Miami. "I just thought that the world should be more fair and just," she says.
Ironically, Browner graduated with a law degree from the University of Florida in 1979 without having taken any environmental law courses. "There was only one offered and it wasn't offered every semester," she explains. But through an externship, Carol did discover her passion for public policy early on. "We represented people in civil litigation and I did some work on behalf of battered women. They were desperate to leave their environment and in most instances they ended up going back," she says. "There really weren't any choices for them, and I came away from that experience still wanting to change the world, but thinking, 'client by client maybe isn't the best way to go, maybe I can do it law by law.'" And so a new goal was set: working in the Florida legislature.
"You sort of want any job you can get in the legislature because they are hard to come by," says Browner. "I ultimately got a job working on the Government Reform Committee and the first task I was given happened to be associated with the environment." The challenge: address a scandal in the state's land acquisition program that involved kickbacks and the misuse of funds by creating "a much more rigorous system for how you decided what public lands were acquired by the state." Solution: the Conservation and Recreation Lands Act--a program that Carol helped to establish, and according to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, "persists in concept to this day."
As for being a young woman in the male-dominated political arena, Browner says, "The generation of women right before me are the ones who really fought so hard to open up the doors. It doesn't mean there still weren't--and there still aren't--challenges for women, but I was a great beneficiary of the women's movement."
One groundbreaking woman of a previous generation that Carol developed a special affinity for was Marjory Stoneman Douglas. Marjory was "an environmentalist before the word even existed," Carol says. "She started out working as a society columnist at the Miami Herald because that's what women could do back then." But she went on to write "a very profound book" called The Everglades: River of Grass. "I first met her when I was a very young lawyer," Browner recalls. "But then when I became secretary of the environment in Florida and Governor [Lawton] Chiles and I sought to settle the original Everglades litigation, she was a big supporter, and literally over 100 by this time." It was the early '90s, and it could be argued, the beginning of the hyper-divided political culture of today. And for Carol, there were more battles to come.
As head of the EPA during the entire Clinton presidency, Browner says "One of the most difficult times was also sort of the best." Newt Gingrich's Contract with America was "largely focused" on the EPA. "We were shut down on more than one occasion, but that gave me an opportunity to explain to the American people what it is the EPA really does," she says. "It had gone through some difficult times and was not among the more popular agencies, yet we did such important work for people, whether it was the quality of the air they breathe or the water they drink." Browner went on to help "set the toughest air pollution standards ever" and clean up "600 plus" Superfund sites.
But past environmental threats "were different in a very significant way," says Carol. "When you go back to Teddy Roosevelt, the environmental movement starts as a land movement. It's about national parks and beautiful places. And then as you come into the '60s and '70s, it's about pollution--the Cuyahoga River catches on fire and you've got soot and smog so heavy that in some Northeast cities you can't see across the skyline."
Today we face "really complex environmental issues, but you can't see and touch them," she says. "With climate change, my generation runs the risk of giving to subsequent generations a problem they won't be able to solve. Generations are always passing on problems, but to pass one on that's not solvable... sea level rise is not something the best engineers in the world are going to be able to turn back once it occurs. So we have to convince people that we should take action today because if we wait to see, feel, and touch, it will simply be too late."
Never one to let a daunting conundrum stand in her way, Browner scaled the power zenith once more to take on the inextricably related--and politically precarious--issues of climate change and energy policy as a White House advisor to President Obama. And she got results: a dramatic increase in fuel efficiency for cars and trucks four years earlier than was proposed in congress and billions invested in clean energy and supporting technologies through the Recovery Act. Carol considers the latter to be the most significant accomplishment. "The Recovery Act--and other people have written this--is the largest energy bill in the history of this country. We made a down payment and laid the groundwork. Now what we need is the right policy," she says.
On that score, Carol carried the ball a great distance but didn't make it to the end zone. In June of 2009, the House passed a comprehensive energy and climate bill, but it never cleared the Senate. When asked if anything could have been done differently to push the legislation through, Browner says, "It's a much longer conversation dissecting how things go down on the Hill. But I think generally speaking we may be in an era where large, 2-3,000 page bills are not likely to pass. When we think about creating a different energy future for the United States, we may want to take it in smaller parts: What do we do for renewables? What do we do in the transportation sector? What do we do in the technology sector?"
For the moment, those questions will largely be left to others as Carol relinquished her role at the White House earlier this year. But if the past is any indication, this only marks the beginning of a new chapter. For like the River of Grass, environmental advocacy runs through Browner's veins.


Environmental protection statement 'asinine'
June 19, 2011
Spinning around the news dial ... click.
There's a new leader in the house for the most asinine statement of the year.
Lad Daniels, the president of the First Coast Manufacturers Association and a former Jacksonville City Council member, attended the Jacksonville Waterways Commission meeting last week and defended plans by Georgia-Pacific to dump daily 23 million gallons of polluted wastewater into the middle of the St. Johns River.
With an entirely straight face and without his fingers crossed behind his back, Daniels told the commissioners: "I have never seen a company that had a greater commitment to environmental stewardship."
That company, of course, is Koch Industries, which owns Georgia-Pacific.
Nevermind all of the past lawsuits and indictments involving Koch companies for environmental violations.
Nevermind that last year the University of Massachusetts Political Economy Research Institute ranked Koch Industries among the top 10 air polluters in the United States, with 33.5 million pounds of toxic air releases.
Let's just look at something dead-on relevant to the issue at hand - a Georgia-Pacific paper mill in Arkansas.
Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility filed a complaint last March saying that mill is dumping 45 million gallons of polluted wastewater a day into a creek that crosses the border and flows into the Ouachita River in Louisiana. In that toxic stew that is harming the Ouachita is ammonia, chloride, zinc, copper and mercury.
Koch Industries, well known environmental stewards. And pigs fly.
Here's something else disturbing about Daniels' role of being the mouthpiece for defending polluting industries.
Gov. Rick Scott recently appointed Daniels to serve on the St. Johns River Water Management District's governing board, the agency that is supposed to protect the river's health.
That's the kind of environmental stewardship Scott is providing.
And here's another reason why people who care about Florida's fragile environment had better start paying attention to elections.
U.S. Rep. John Mica, a Republican whose congressional district includes St. Johns and Flagler counties, has introduced legislation that would gut the Clean Water Act, which was passed by Congress in 1972 and which has been a major tool in cleaning up the nation's waterways.
Mica wants to put the individual states in the driver's seat for ensuring clean water within their borders. You can see how well that's working in Florida.
It wasn't all bad news last week.
After a lot of work and some compromises along the way, the City Council approved legislation that will strengthen the Ethics Commission and, in doing so, help restore confidence throughout Duval County's consolidated government.
The ethics legislation wasn't universally loved by some on the council and by some high-powered lobbyists, but in the end, the council got it right.
For that, the council deserves congratulations.


EPA needs to guide water-quality laws - Guest opinion by John Cassani
June 19, 2011
The recent News-Press Guest Opinion by Jose Gonzalez ("EPA rules a crushing burden for Florida," June 15) regarding EPA water quality rules being too burdensome is a familiar tune from individuals representing Associated Industries of Florida (aka the biggest polluters in Florida).
Their lobbying and litigation has opposed or stalled attempts to regulate water pollution in Florida for many years. The excuse has always been that it is just too burdensome. They are now crying foul that EPA is finally stepping in to enforce federal Clean Water Act standards.
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection has studied numeric nutrient pollution criteria for more than a decade and was to have the new criteria adopted by 2004 to replace the vague regulations on nutrient pollution at that time. Bottom line, seven years later and still no criteria. After several years of review, DEP promised a new stormwater rule by 2007 to try and stem the rising tide of nutrient pollution. Still no rule. An attempt to get the South Florida Water Management District to develop a special Southwest Florida basin rule to deal with nutrient pollution in our region five years ago went down in flames and once again, still no rule. During all this deliberation, approximately 375,000 acres of lakes, 1,900 miles of rivers and streams and 550 square miles of estuaries in Florida have become significantly impacted by nutrient pollution, yet Gonzalez says EPA is ignoring the good work done by Florida.
We hear the same thing from our state legislators who, by the way, receive significant donations from the same special interests now crying the blues. It should be obvious that Florida simply does not have the political will to protect the public's water resources. Ironically, the data and science used by EPA was largely the same information Florida uses in determining nutrient impairments.
It's revealing to determine who benefits and who pays when it comes time to clean up public waters. In the case of the Caloosahatchee Estuary cleanup plan all of the costs are on the backs of the public and not a single private enterprise was targeted as a key stakeholder for nutrient load reduction only publicly funded local governments. The upstream watershed cleanup plan, where private enterprise is the source of over 70 percent of the nutrients, is likely to have a similar outcome. It should be obvious why Gonzalez and Associated Industries wants to keep the status quo.
If EPA "caves" to the same political pressure it will be a sad harbinger for Florida's waters. The future trickle-down effect of widespread water pollution to our economy will inevitably be much greater than the current cost to clean up the pollution.
John Cassani is a member of Southwest Florida Watershed Council.


All water users, including agriculture, suffer in drought - Guest Opinion by Ron Hamel
June 18, 2011
Water resources from Lake Okeechobee are the lifeblood of about 45 percent of the citrus and a large percentage of the vegetables and other crops grown in Southwest Florida, in addition to the crops grown in the Everglades Agricultural Area, including vegetables and sugarcane.
The economic impact of the reduced water supplies from the lake is very negative for our Southwest Florida crops, and residential communities - and not just for agricultural production in the Everglades Agricultural Area, near Lake Okeechobee.
In fact, our growers and other producers in Southwest Florida are currently only receiving half of the water they need to produce crops at this time of the year! When the last drought impacted our region, millions upon millions of dollars of economic impact occurred to our citrus industry and other agricultural production, not to mention the impacts to residential communities and water-related activities.
I would also point out that the South Florida Water Management District (staff and board) is not the sole agency to blame, as some commentary in The News-Press has implied. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and federal governmental agencies and leaders need to share the blame, along with "mother nature."
Current Lake Okeechobee regulation schedules, due to the structural pressures on the Hoover Dike protecting lakeside communities, have a great deal to do with the availability of water supplies for all users, urban, agriculture and the environment.
A major problem is the lack of funding from the federal government, which was promised when the taxpayers of Florida put up millions to fund projects such as the C-43 storage reservoir project in Hendry County. For the past several years, that former citrus grove property purchased by the state has sat idle due to the fact that the federal government has not honored its commitment to the 50-50 cost split with our state.
As one who has been engaged in the region's water management issues for over 22 years, I would suggest that the time has come for a positive, cooperative effort to be launched to address the Lake Okeechobee regulation schedule issue(s) in a timely manner.
It is apparent, and was also predicted, that the current Lake O schedule would create "artificial" water shortages during the dry season and in particular in years when the major weather patterns create drier "dry seasons" - such as this year.
I encourage The News-Press to provide the region's public with a more balanced discussion on its pages, as well as a more accurate compilation of the reasons for the situation that we are all facing. A fair share of the blame for the situation is directly tied to a lack of federal initiative and financial support.
The South Florida Water Management District is certainly not the only culprit in the current situation, which is unfortunate for all parties.


People caused the water problems, they can fix it – Guest Opinion, Kirk Fordham, Everglades Foundation
June 18, 2011
Florida is thirsty but don't blame it on the drought. This is not a problem of nature, it is a problem created by generations of special interests.
In Florida's natural state, billions of gallons of water were once stored by Lake Okeechobee which fed the marshes, lakes, rivers and bays of southern Florida. With an average rainfall exceeding 50 inches, Florida's natural environment adapted to its semi-tropical climate.
Even during the worst droughts, Florida's natural reservoirs ensured that there would be adequate water for the Everglades ecosystem to survive. Today, billions of gallons of fresh water are flushed into the ocean because of man-made systems originally designed to drain the Everglades for sugar and other farming. The result, much of the natural water storage disappeared. While previous droughts were an inconvenience for Florida's 5 million residents in the 1960s, today's drought severely affects the homes and businesses of nearly 19 million people - a third of whom live in southern Florida.
In Southwest Florida, where the populations of Charlotte, Collier, Hendry and Lee counties have soared from more than 90,000 in 1960 to more than 1.1 million today, droughts like the current ones have devastating effects: fresh water supplies are imperiled, high salinities from too little fresh water kill sea grass and oyster beds threatening commercial and recreational fisheries, and commercial and residential users are confronted with severe water restrictions.
The way to protect our water supply, our fisheries, our businesses and our homes is to build water storage reservoirs in and around the Everglades Agricultural Area. These reservoirs take the water that comes during wet years, stores it, cleans it, and then releases it when we need it. Dry years and wet years can be a decade apart, so these reservoirs need to be big enough to capture and store enough water so that it's available during droughts.
The St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries generate nearly $3 billion in income to the region from tourism and recreation. It is well worth the investment in these reservoirs to protect our water supply, our tourism industry, our boating industry, and our commercial and recreational fishing industries.
We agree with Gov. Rick Scott and Florida Legislature in their effort to eliminate government waste in the state's water management districts. But dollars spent on water storage and Everglades restoration is not part of that waste. Protecting Florida's water supply must be of paramount concern. If we do not act now, the demand for fresh water will soon outstrip supply and Floridians will confront permanent water shortages that will stifle our economy.
Florida cannot return entirely to nature's original plumbing, but we must make needed improvements that protect our quality of life and ensure a steady and reliable source of water.
Kirk Fordham is CEO of the Everglades Foundation.


River needs help - Editorial
June 18, 2011
River at Risk: An in-depth report on the Caloosahatchee River's health
Lack of money hits big restoration plans
With state and federal governments in budgetary retreat, big public works projects like Everglades restoration look very endangered.
That leaves Southwest Florida with a big question: What, if anything, will be done to smooth out the wild fluctuations of water released from Lake Okeechobee into the Caloosahatchee River?
Savage statewide drought conditions are threatening water users all over Florida.
The lack of freshwater in the Caloosahatchee is blamed for bacteria blooms that are killing fish and making the water unsuitable for swimming. The current drought is exceptional, but several recent years have seen repeated fruitless complaints from Southwest Florida to make more water available for the river - especially since farm interests are getting some water, although their allocation has been sharply reduced, with millions in crop losses in the offing if the drought continues.
A 10,000-acre reservoir east of Fort Myers, envisioned under Everglades restoration, might help by storing wet season water for release during dry months.
But that multi-hundred-million-dollar project may be hard to build, given state budget cuts, and proposed cuts in Congress, which has never upheld its end of the federal-state Everglades restoration partnership.
The current water management system wastes colossal amounts of water.
That water is as important to Southwest Florida's economy as it is to agriculture. We rely on clean water in the right amounts to sustain the $2.5 billion tourism industry that is our lifeblood right now.
Dead fish and swimming alerts damage our reputation, as did the mats of stinking algae in the hurricane years of 2004 and 2005, when massive water releases sent agricultural pollution into the river's estuary.
Big plans
Everglades restoration was going to ensure adequate water for the state's growing cities and thirsty farms, with enough left over to renew the parched Everglades National Park and sustain other parts of the environment.
For Southwest Florida, the big element in the $11.8 billion plan is the reservoir south of the Caloosahatchee in Hendry County. But some say it could cost $500 million to build - more if the South Florida Water Management District develops the 1,700-acre Boma tract as a wetland crucial to cleansing the water before it is stored and later released in the dry season.
The Florida Legislature has already reduced the state's Everglades restoration budget to $30 million from as high as $200 million in past years. Last week the U.S. House Appropriations Committee sliced President Obama's Everglades request by $32.7 million, leaving the Army Corps of Engineers $130 million for next year.
Officials with the South Florida Water Management District insist restoration is still on track.
"There is no decrease in our commitment to Everglades restoration," says Ernie Barnett, director of Everglades Policy for the district. "I would say our resolve is higher."
But he says the district is also considering lower-cost alternatives for water storage in the Caloosahatchee Basin.
Now what?
Some in Southwest Florida think the reservoir is unlikely to be built, and at least one official thinks it's an inferior idea anyway.
Lee County Commissioner Ray Judah, a veteran of decades of water wars, says there's a cheaper and better alternative. He would re-tool Lake Hicpochee and other lakes that used to separate Lake Okeechobee and the Caloosahatchee, before they were connected by a channel that made the river into a canal.
He would restore those areas to their healthy wetland condition, to store and cleanse lake releases during the wet season.
Combined with similar management of the Boma tract and the C-43 reservoir site, this would provide healthy pulses of fresh water in the dry season and help contain excess water in the wet periods, Judah believes. The restored wetlands would be better for recreation than the proposed above-ground reservoir.
This sounds like a good alterative, especially combined with partnerships the water management district is developing with landowners in the Caloosahatchee basin, to rent space on their property to store water.
These less capital-intensive approaches may be better than reservoirs and other expensive engineering in the original restoration plan, which have faltered for legal, technical and financial reasons.
Rae Ann Wessel, natural resource policy director for the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation, says increased storage throughout the river basin is the key to dealing with low-flow conditions. For the high water, the answer remains restoring and reflooding historic wetlands along the Kissimmee north of the lake and creating the historic southern flowway where excess water used to run from the lake into the Everglades.
Again, money is a problem.
We have to fight for it, despite the discouraging economic landscape and the years of frustration with the sometimes downright arrogant treatment of Southwest Florida concerns by water managers.
We cannot be pummeled like this without paying a heavy price in the quality of our environment and our attractiveness to visitors and new residents who have been the backbone of our economy.
Urge our leaders in Florida and Washington to find ways to accomplish the goals of Everglades restoration.


FDEP holds water meetings - by Fred Hiers, Staff writer
June 17, 2011
LEESBURG — The Florida Department of Environmental Protection began public meetings this week as it seeks to establish its own standards for water nutrient pollutants. The agency hopes these standards will be an acceptable alternative to tougher, sweeping rules that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency set for Florida last year.
The FDEP meetings — held Tuesday in Tallahassee and Thursday in Leesburg — were designed to draw public input as the agency determines limits on nutrients, namely nitrogen and phosphorous, for Florida's rivers, lakes and streams.
The nutrients, often from fertilizers and human waste, can cause unwanted algae growth and change water chemistry, thus hurting dependent wildlife and changing vegetation.
These meetings will be followed by more next month. FDEP hopes to hammer out more specific goals and pollutant standards for EPA review later this year.
About 100 people attended the meeting in Leesburg. Most were state water officials, government and utility employees, and environmentalists.
FDEP's move is the latest step in a battle over the protection of Florida waters.
The state has primarily used qualitative standards to decide whether its waters were polluted. So, if the water and its associated wildlife and vegetation appeared healthy, then the water body met Florida's standards, regardless of the level of polluting nutrients.
This system displeased Florida environmental groups, which sued the EPA. The groups said that the absence of measurable, quantitative standards from the state constituted a failure to enforce the Clean Water Act.
In response, the EPA used FDEP water data to create federal standards. The EPA estimates that 60 percent of Florida's waters are impaired.
These new nutrient limits were established in 2010 and slated to take effect in March of this year. But dozens of Florida industries, local and state governments, and the FDEP complained that the standards were too broad and didn't take into account that many of Florida's waters were unique.
They complained that EPA's standards for the two nutrients would leave many of Florida's water bodies designated as polluted and impaired, when in fact their ecosystems were healthy.
More than a dozen lawsuits against EPA followed, and Washington lawmakers twice tried to stop EPA funding that would have gone toward enforcing the nutrient rules in Florida.
EPA said it would consider postponing implementation if FDEP created its own set — subject to EPA approval.
The FDEP is proposing to design standards that would include measurable, numeric nutrient limits for nitrogen and phosphorous — but also include a biological health factor when evaluating water bodies.
In other words, if a river or stream failed its measurable numeric limits, but its ecosystem was still healthy, it would pass FDEP's standards.
The FDEP's numeric limits would be secondary in importance to the water body's ecosystem health. In comparison, under EPA's standards, a water body would fail if its nutrient levels were too high — regardless of whether its wildlife and vegetation were in good shape.
The federal agency did allow for people to petition the EPA and ask for exceptions to the standards if they could show their water body was unique and EPA's standards weren't applicable.
Drew Bartlett, FDEP director of environmental assessment and restoration, said during Thursday's meeting that his agency's two-pronged approach best measured a water body's biological health and diversity.
“It's important to make sure that we invest in nutrient reductions when we know there is an environmental benefit,” he said. But “if [the water body] is healthy, why have a reduction [in nutrients]?”
Although FDEP is now working on standards for rivers and streams, it is proposing the same EPA standards for springs.
Bartlett said it's well established that when a spring's nitrogen level reaches a specific concentration, the water is impaired. That spring standard is a set limit for nitrogen, regardless of the spring's biological health.
That's important for Marion and Alachua counties because, regardless of whether FDEP creates its own standards or EPA's are implemented, area water bodies are struggling.
In Marion County, pollutant levels for the Silver and Rainbow springs are three times higher than EPA's proposed limits. Lake Weir also routinely fails to meet the EPA's proposed total-nitrogen standard, with levels sometimes reaching double what the agency would allow.
The county's rivers don't fare much better: The Ocklawaha, Withlacoochee and Rainbow rivers consistently surpass EPA's proposed river standards.
In Alachua County, Hornsby Springs would fail the EPA's standards, as would Lake Lochloosa and Newnan's Lake.
How those rivers and lakes would fare under FDEP's standards is yet uncertain.
Environmental worries
Charles Lee, director of advocacy for Audubon of Florida, said FDEP’s proposal adds many avenues for polluters to avoid regulation.
He said that adding the additional layer of a water body’s biological health to the mix makes the issue of nutrient pollution more complex. Such a move also could result in unwanted nutrients being added to waters for years before the vegetation and wildlife populations and health show detrimental signs.
By then, it would be too late and the damage would be done.
“In tight regulations (such as those developed by EPA), there’s an immediate response,” he said.
The FDEP proposed standards, which include both measurable nutrient standards and the water’s biological health, “puts the regulatory agency at a distinct disadvantage.”
FDEP’s proposal allows violators “multiple layers of escape. I think it (FDEP’s proposals so far) has to be a lot tougher than it is today.”
“Is there room for FDEP and EPA to work this out ?  Potentially,” he said. “But I would be concerned today.”



Yes, this is to the point ! Cost estimates of introducing the EPA proposed nutrient criteria appearing in the media are all over the map, depending on who writes it, mainly scaremongering. It is about time that some serious, independent and expert technical assessment of these costs is done to know just where we are. Indeed, Florida and its FDEP have been very backwards when it comes to water pollution and an acton for cleaning up is way overdue. The EPA was forced by courts to act. An important issue to be seriously addressed is - "let polluters pay !" Check on the EPA Criteria fight development
click here

Nauseating toxic algae outbreak a grim reminder: Guest Essay by David Guest - by David Guest, Attorney, Earthjustice
June 17, 2011
The nauseating toxic algae outbreak now sliming the Caloosahatchee River is a grim reminder of why we need enforceable water pollution limits in Florida to protect our drinking water and our health.
Department of Health authorities are warning people not to touch the Caloosahatchee, because the toxic algae causes "harm to fish, animals and humans." It is a direct result of sewage, manure and fertilizer pollution.
Repeated toxic outbreaks like the one now on the Calosahatchee are fouling drinking water supplies, killing fish, closing popular tourist beaches, sickening swimmers and devastating the tourism-dependent economy.
As the stink from the Caloosahatchee so vividly illustrates, it is past time to deal with this public health threat. New pollution limits set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will go a long way to preventing these toxic algae outbreaks.
Remember: This pollution is poisoning the rivers, lakes and streams that supply the water from our kitchen taps. Can we all agree that Floridians deserve clean drinking water, not water polluted with sewage, fertilizer and manure runoff?
Sadly, these toxic algae outbreaks are not confined to the Caloosahatchee. The famous St. John’s River was closed to fishermen in the summer of 2009 because of a sickening toxic green slime outbreak that poisoned fish, making them unsafe to catch or eat. As summer temperatures warm, toxic algae outbreaks are starting again on the St. Johns — and on many popular Florida springs and swimming holes where we take our families for a cool dip.
This type of pollution is preventable. We can combat it at its source — by upgrading old sewer plants, using modern manure management on agricultural operations and being smarter about applying fertilizer.
But instead of working to protect public health, Gov. Rick Scott and State Rep. Trudi Williams, R-Fort Myers, are, ridiculously, fighting the new EPA standards to limit this nasty water pollution. Scott is suing the EPA to halt the very pollution limits that Florida’s own environmental agency, the DEP, supported for years.
In fact, DEP first sounded the alarm about the dangers of toxic algae outbreaks in a 2000 scientific report — 11 years ago. The EPA standards Scott is now suing over were developed jointly by EPA and DEP scientists, who reviewed 13,000 water samples at 2,200 sites around Florida to come up with the right numbers.
It is time to get on with it. Floridians support these limits to protect public health. When the EPA asked the public to comment on the new water pollution standards, the agency received 22,000 comments, and 20,000 were in support of the new standards.
We have the science and we have the pollution prevention technology, all readily available.
At this point, the only thing we are lacking is political will. Everyone victimized by the toxic slime on the Caloosahatchee and elsewhere should take the time to contact Williams and Scott and tell them we need these EPA standards, and it is time for them to stop playing politics with our health.


Isn't it about time that some serious, independent, expert technical assessment of these costs is done ?
Those estimates appearing in the media are all over the map, depending on who writes it.
Florida and its FDEP have been very backwards when it comes to water pollution and an acton for cleaning up is way overdue. The EPA was forced by courts to act.
Also - to be considered - "let polluters pay !" (?)
Check on the EPA Criteria fight here.

New EPA water rules would hit Floridians hard
Daytona News Journal – “Our View”
June 17, 2011
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is about to commit an overreach with immense costs attached.
The agency may soon force the state of Florida to abide by a clean-water rule with compliance costs that could top $200 million annually. This is a low-end estimate.
A study from industrial sources raises the specter of a much larger cost impact -- $21 billion, out of the pockets of Florida taxpayers, for new water-and-sewage treatment equipment. For a Florida household, the costs could add up to $700 a year.
The issue is "nutrient pollution," or phosphorus and nitrogen runoff. The EPA is right to be worried that nutrient pollution gets into rivers and lakes in a variety of ways, including discharge from treated wastewater and manufacturing facilities, and rain that washes fertilizers and pesticides off lawns and farms.
When those nutrients get into water, they cause algae growth. That hurts the ecosystem by sucking the oxygen out of the water. Florida environmental activists suspect the St. Johns River was affected by this type of pollution in mid-2010, when hundreds of fish died, algae sprung up regularly and a mysterious foam coated some parts of the water.
It's those problems that motivated activists to sue the EPA over enforcement of the U.S. Clean Water Act. The EPA entered into a consent decree, or legal agreement, with several groups, including the Sierra Club and the St. Johns Riverkeeper. Now the feds want Florida to adopt "numeric nutrient criteria" -- essentially that means Florida officials must keep nitrogen and phosphorus below certain levels, even if a waterway shows no ill signs.
But state officials were left out of the room, so to speak. The state already has some regulations and "best management practices" to control phosphorus and nitrogen, and they even exceed standards of other states, but Florida lacked numeric precision, activists said.
Now many municipal and state officials say the uncertainty of the looming regulations -- and potential costs -- are maddening. Officials in Tallahassee also say little guidance in terms of implementation is being offered from the EPA.
But is that any surprise ?  The federal government, and the EPA in particular, is not exactly known for worrying about unfunded mandates.
In a recent letter to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Nancy K. Stoner, EPA acting assistant administrator, said the agency was not going to withdraw its nutrient criteria rule unless the state adopted its own legal version of nutrient criteria. Stoner said the agency would have to approve any new state rule. Although Stoner offered to give the state more time to come up with the rules, there's no sign the agency intends to accept significant changes.
Republican leaders say the EPA is getting around Congress to impose regulations that Congress would not approve. And that Florida is being targeted with a new test rule with which other states have not been burdened.
"Unfortunately, the EPA is using Florida as a guinea pig with this proposed rule," Michael Mahaffey, a spokesman for U.S. Tom Rooney, R-Fla., told the New York Times earlier this year.
Given the enormity of the regulation -- covering 24,000 miles of rivers and streams, hundreds of springs and 1.47 million acres of lakes -- a decade-long effort to begin building infrastructure to better clean our valuable waterways would not be unreasonable.
Florida leaders have won some extensions, but the state still needs more time. The issue has caught the attention of Florida's congressional delegation, which supports state control and regulation of the waterways. But so far, the EPA is aggressively using the Clean Water Act to rule.
In the meantime, a leviathan of costly regulation approaches Florida's municipal leaders in 2012. City officials in DeLand and DeBary fear the mandate could force construction of new treatment plants, causing water bills to soar.
Dave Denny, DeLand's assistant city manager, said a new facility to deal with the rules would cost between $11 million and $20 million.
"We don't have $11 million in capital laying around," Denny told The News-Journal.
The issue of nutrient runoff certainly deserves attention and action, but the ultimate resolution deserves an implementation plan that is affordable, reasonable and workable for Florida taxpayers.


New water board member defends environmental record
Miami Herald – by Curtis Morgan
June 17, 2011
Gov. Rick Scott’s latest appointment to the South Florida water district board once ran a Miami-Dade incinerator cited for a list of environmental violations
One of Gov. Rick Scott’s new appointees to the South Florida Water Management District board ran a garbage incinerator in Miami-Dade that two decades ago was branded an “environmental nightmare” ago by state regulators and slammed with a then-record fine.
The sooty smudge on the resume of Juan Portuondo — a former president of Montenay Power Corp., which operated the county-owned waste-to-energy plant in Doral for several decades — has drawn criticism from some environmentalists.
“By any yardstick, Portuondo’s qualifications are bizarre for an appointee to a government agency whose major mission is fixing the polluted Everglades,’’ wrote Alan Farago, a long-time activist and president of Friends of the Everglades, on his Eye on Miami blog.
Scientists point to emissions from South Florida’s incinerators in the 1970s and ‘80s as a major source of mercury pollution in the Everglades. After tougher state and federal regulations were imposed in the early 1990s — along with a reduction of its use in household products like batteries — monitoring studies have shown mercury levels dropping.
Portuondo, 67, defended his record, arguing his company was hired by the county to fix a facility in disrepair that already had a long history of water and air pollution violations as well as odor, waste and safety problems.
The water district board’s only Hispanic member, Portuondo was named last week by Scott to replace Eric Buermann, a Miami attorney who had championed Gov. Charlie Crist’s controversial land deal with the U.S. Sugar Corp. Scott criticized the land deal during his campaign.
Lane Wright, Scott’s spokesman, said the governor knew about the circumstances behind the garbage incinerator fine and did not see it a barrier to serving in the unpaid but influential position. The nine-member governing board oversees an agency that manages the water supply and flood protection for 16 counties, along with directing multi-billion-dollar Everglades pollution cleanup and restoration projects.
“The governor felt Mr. Portuondo was the best candidate for the job,’’ Wright said. “He has the experience necessary to be able to succeed in the position.’’
In email responses to written questions, Portuondo, who now runs a small Key Biscayne consulting company, said Montenay was hired after Miami-Dade fired the original builder and operator of the plant, which burns waste and produces electricity as a byproduct. He said the deal called for continued operation while the facility was overhauled to meet tougher emissions standards.
“It was understood by all parties that the plant would NOT be in compliance until it was fully repaired,’’ wrote Portuondo, who worked for Montenay from 1987 until 1998. He called the plant expansion the “the most challenging and complicated project in my career.’’
In 1991, however, Florida’s Department of Environmental Regulation wasn’t satisfied with the progress.
The county and company were fined $640,000 in what Carol Browner, the secretary at the time, said was meant to be a “strong message’’ for years of repeated violations. Among the worst: smoke laced with dangerous levels of heavy metal and rainwater soaking through garbage and toxic ash to taint surrounding groundwater. In addition, the facility failed to report several unexplained explosions, including one that badly burned a worker.
Despite upgrades after the fine , the plant has since been slapped with another major fine — years after Portuondo left to work for an investment firm and as a private consultant. In 2009, Department of Environmental Protection records show Montenay paid another $485,322 for failing to properly operate a system intended to reduce mercury and dioxin emissions.
In February 2010, Covanta Energy acquired Montenay and took over operations.
“Everything is in compliance now,’’ said Bill Meredith, Covanta’s business manager.
Portuondo also popped up in a 2005 Miami-Dade County inspector general’s audit questioning contracts doled out by Brown and Caldwell, a company hired by the county to inspect waste facilities. The audit, according to a Herald story at the time, found a “very troubling” $68,000 contract for Portuondo to inspect the Montenay plant at the same time he was being paid as a company lobbyist.
But solid waste department head Kathleen Woods-Richardson filed a response denying any overlap in time between the two jobs. Portuondo, in his email, also denied any ethics conflict, saying he was hired after leaving Montenay to help the county and the company “streamline the inspection process.’’
Portuondo, an assistant Miami city manager in the 1980s, didn’t campaign for Scott or donate to his race. But he still has solid political connections in Miami. He’s a former president of the Miami Rowing Club, which has included many movers and shakers among its members. Rodney Barreto, a prominent Miami businessman and former lobbyist for Montenay, said he first urged Portuondo to apply for the district post with the Crist administration.
Barreto, who served as chairman of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission under Crist, said Portuondo has a combination of financial and engineering expertise that would help guide a water agency with major budget problems.
“Environmentalists should be embracing him,’’ Barreto said. “He helped clean up that waste plant.’’
Portuondo, in his email, said he would bring a “pragmatic, balanced and problem-solving approach’’ to the job. He called the Everglades “one of this country’s treasures’’ and said the challenge was to restore the system as much as possible “within today’s fiscal realities.’’


Water managers serve big farmers, hurt Caloosahatchee system: Ray Judah – Opinion by Ray Judah
June 17, 2011
The presence of toxic blue-green algae upstream of the Franklin Lock and Dam in the Caloosahatchee River is a vivid reminder of the South Florida Water Management District's failure to properly manage our precious water resources. Beholden to the powerful sugar industry, the SFWMD permits wasteful discharge of millions of gallons of fresh water from Lake Okeechobee to tide during the wet season.
This provides optimum growing conditions for sugar cane, but results in excessive polluted water discharge to the Caloosahatchee and coastal estuaries. Further harm occurs in the dry season when the SFWMD shuts down minimum flow to the Caloosahatchee River needed to prevent harmful concentrations of algae and hypersaline conditions. The SFWMD, in fact, spends millions of taxpayers' dollars to install and operate large pumps during drought conditions to direct water from Lake Okeechobee to the sugar cane fields while suspending any flow to the Caloosahatchee needed to protect habitat critical to the life cycle of our fisheries.
This cycle of destruction and degradation of our environment causes significant harm to our local economy and quality of life. The Lee County Health Department recently issued a health advisory precluding any human or animal contact with the Caloosahatchee due to the harmful blue-green algae blooms and the presence of toxic cyanobacteria. The vast media coverage of the health issues and the graphic images being aired throughout the world on conditions in the Caloosahatchee create a marked impact on our fragile tourism and real estate industries.
The SFWMD and the sugar industry would argue that the guidance document known as Adaptive Protocols, used to manage low water levels in Lake Okeechobee, authorizes water allocation exclusively to agriculture and utilities while restricting environmental releases to the Caloosahatchee. In fact, the Adaptive Protocols provide guidance to water managers for discretionary releases to protect the ecosystem.
Furthermore, Chapter 373.042 and 373.0421 Florida Statutes require the SFWMD to declare and institute Phase III water restrictions (45 percent reductions) for all permitted users when our rivers and coastal estuaries experience significant harm.
It is not as if the dry conditions were unforeseen. As early as the fall of 2010, the SFWMD was forecasting drier than normal conditions and the real potential for water shortages. Rather than implementing common sense cutbacks on agricultural and urban users, the SFWMD's only action was to recommend cutting off environmental releases to the Caloosahatchee. No action was taken until March 2011 when the SFWMD placed a modest 15 percent water reduction on agriculture and utilities. SFWMD did not call for 45 percent reduction to agricultural users until this month, well after the Caloosahatchee had suffered irrefutable harm and loss of all remaining freshwater grasses. It is unacceptable for the SFWMD to unilaterally cut off the Caloosahatchee when other users are not required to institute meaningful water conservation measures.
The Caloosahatchee continues to suffer at the hands of policy decisions by the SFWMD. The Caloosahatchee estuary is suffering at a shockingly regular and continual rate. Providing minimum flow to the Caloosahatchee during the dry season would amount to about 5 inches from Lake Okeechobee.
In contrast, water supply users are provided more than 2 feet of lake water during this time. The Caloosahatchee is in its fourth consecutive year of not receiving minimum fresh water flow and level. The continual failure to meet the MFL for the Caloosahatchee has resulted in significant harm to the health, productivity and function of the Caloosahatchee and coastal estuaries.
Our hope for economic recovery is predicated on a healthy environment.
Gov. Scott and our congressional and state delegations need to be held accountable in working with the SFWMD to protect the public interest and our waterways.
Ray Judah is LeeCounty commissioner for District 3


Water managers should get an earful - Editorial
Jun. 17, 2011
Some officials and environmentalists in Southwest Florida are rightly angered by a dismissive answer from regional water managers about local concerns over the distribution of water in the current drought.
The response was to a memo sent jointly this week by representatives of Lee County, the city of Sanibel, the J.N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge and the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation. A pretty heavy lineup, you'd think.
The memo asked the South Florida Water Management District and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to stop sending water from depleted Lake Okeechobee to agricultural users and re-evaluate its allocation of water - none of which is currently going to the Caloosahatchee River.
The problem with the repeated lack of any water releases to the Caloosahatchee is that salty water creeps upriver from the coast, upsetting salinities. Over the past 10 years, for example, that has killed 600 acres of tape grass, damaging an important part of the aquatic environment. Stagnant water is currently producing blooms of toxic bacteria, killing fish and making the river unsafe for people to swim in.
When The News-Press asked how the district would respond to the memo, they sent a one-sentence email: "As part of the comprehensive response to severe drought conditions and falling water levels in Lake Okeechobee (the district) has installed temporary pumps at the lake as an emergency measure to supply water for the region's economy."
Period. No water for the Caloosahatchee and no reason why.
Lee County Commissioner Ray Judah called the answer "disingenuous, shallow," and termed the district's management of issue a "travesty," benefiting the sugar cane industry over the Southwest Florida economy.
We agree. Let the district's governing board know how you feel


Water woes rampant in South Florida
Florida Independent - by Virginia Chamlee
June 17, 2011
Florida is in the midst of an abnormally difficult drought. With the majority of the problems situated in South Florida, concerns about the water supply, tourism and what less water could mean for the environment are growing rampant there.
The West Palm Beach water supply is drying up. The city is currently unable to supply enough water to meet the needs of all of its 110,000 customers, due to the extremely dry conditions.
According to The Palm Beach Post, city officials have two options to solve their problem: use city wellfield water (a potential permit violation) or obtain an emergency permit to use water from a reservoir (which could contain potentially harmful levels of salt).
The Post reports that the South Florida Water Management District permit requires that “for every gallon the city draws, a gallon in reclaimed water must be put back in.” Unfortunately for residents, Palm Beach’s water reuse facility hasn’t been providing any water as of late, because it is broken.
Plan B, pumping water from a reservoir, is a seemingly simple solution. But elevated levels of salt could be dangerous without proper dilution.
From the Post:
A pilot project this year that mixed water from Lake Okeechobee with the reservoir’s water was heralded by environmentalists and water managers as a solution to some environmental and water shortage problems. However, in the drought, there is little lake water that could be used to dilute the reservoir’s salinity.
The lingering drought in South Florida has also spelled trouble for the Everglades — an area used as a supplemental water supply for South Floridians. Because of the recent drought, however, water levels have dipped so low that additional removal could hinder conservation efforts in the area. According to a recent article in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, water managers so far have no plans to withdraw additional water:
During past droughts, the prospect of moving more water than usually allowed out of the conservation areas drew stiff opposition from environmental groups.
District officials said Wednesday that they don’t plan to pursue temporarily lifting environmental protections to take more water from the Everglades water conservation areas.
The drought has other side effects, as well — including limiting boating and fishing access to lakes and canals, a potential problem for Florida’s summer tourism industry.


Clouding the issue - these advices are the proverbial "drop in a bucket". Although, every drop counts. Home gardening usage of water does not drop down Lake Okeechobee level by 2 feet. The large-scale and awfully inefficient agricultural irrigation does - -

What to do about drought: Carol Cloud Bailey – by Carol Cloud Bailey
June 17, 2011
Most of Florida is in severe to extreme drought. Some areas of the Treasure Coast are now considered to be in exceptional drought. This means the soil is approaching desert conditions and many plants, including lawns, are experiencing no growth, decline and possibly even death.
During a serious drought, decide what to water. Highly visible areas, intensely managed areas and valuable trees and shrubs might take a priority. It is less expensive to replace turf than it is to replace a large, established tree.
When irrigation is applied, water so that evaporation is minimized. Various restrictions require water to be applied at certain times of the day. If you have a choice, choose to irrigate after midnight or just before sunrise. During this time, wind is usually at its lowest, reducing the chance of drift; and it is cooler, reducing evaporation.
Reduce other stresses on plants. Raise mowing height, delay application of fertilizer and prune only if necessary. One exception to the pruning rule is if the plant in question is in permanent wilt, pruning to remove all of the leaves may save the plant. This is a drastic measure and the survival of the plant is not assured.
Mulch everything. Organic mulches placed around the roots of trees, shrubs and plants in beds reduce evaporation, cool the plant roots and reduce water-stealing weeds. Apply mulch to a depth of 3 to 4 inches. Keep the mulch from touching the base of buildings, trees and shrubs.
Install a rain switch or a soil moisture sensor attached to your automatic irrigation system. These devices monitor and help manage how often your system comes on by overriding the clock when there has been enough rain. The low-tech version is to install a rain gauge and turn off irrigation systems manually when there has been enough rain. Consider the use of low-volume irrigation. Drip or micro-irrigation emitters apply water in the root zone of the plant and are very efficient at delivering water to individual plants and plant beds.


Dry conditions fuel Fla. Wildfires
June 16, 2011
MIAMI, June 16 (UPI) -- Forestry officials say they're hoping the rainy season will arrive in Florida soon to douse the tinder-dry conditions that have sparked a string of wildfires.
The string of wildfires sparked by weekend lightning strikes burned nearly 5,000 acres in the Big Cypress National Preserve in Florida, adding to the hundreds of thousands of acres burned since January, The Miami Herald reported Thursday.
With the state fighting some 310 active fires, Gov. Rick Scott this week declared a state of emergency.
Since January, the state's Forestry Division recorded 3,283 fires that burned 188,148 acres of state lands and 210 fires that have burned 56,535 acres of federal lands.
"We're getting as many fires in the last 30-to-45 day period as we will in a typical wildfire year," Forestry Division spokesman Gerry LaCaverra said.
Bob DeGross, spokesman for the Big Cypress National Preserve, said lightning sparked four fires during the weekend. The largest, the Monkey Farm fire, has consumed 2,800 acres, while the Oil Pad fire threatened several back-country camp areas.
Crews were burning backfires and using off-road vehicle trails as fire breaks, but containing the blazes would be difficult after a severe drought that water managers say ranks among the worst in 80 years. Even the deepest parts of the Everglades National Park are dry, DeGross said.
Rick Anderson, Everglades fire management officer, said the park brought in a tanker plane to quickly douse small fires because of the tinder-dry conditions But he told the Herald fire risks will rise until the rainy season starts and thunderstorms drop enough moisture to replenish water levels or douse lightning-ignited fires.
"It's so dry that any fire that escapes the initial attack is going to get large, expensive and do extensive damage," Anderson said. "Until the muck, until the hammocks, until the sloughs start getting wet, we're going to have to be very vigilant."


Lake O policy blasted
June 16, 2011
Area officials mad water not released toward SW Florida
Special report: River at Risk
An email from the South Florida Water Management District about how water is distributed during the ongoing drought has rankled local water watchers.
With Lake Okeechobee water levels less than 1 foot above the record low, and the Caloosahatchee River experiencing algal blooms and fish kills because of a lack of fresh water, water managers are pumping water from the lake into the Everglades Agricultural Area.
A memo this week from Lee County, the city of Sanibel, the J.N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge and the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation asked the water district and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to stop pumping water to agricultural fields and to re-evaluate water-allocation operations.
Asked how the water district would respond to the request, the district on Wednesday sent The News-Press a one-sentence email:
"As part of the comprehensive response to severe drought conditions and falling water levels in Lake Okeechobee, the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) has installed temporary pumps at the lake as an emergency measure to supply water for the region's economy."
Lee County Commissioner Ray Judah called the email "sheer arrogance" and pointed out Lee County has a $2.5 billion tourism industry that is based on good water quality.
"Oh, my God," Judah said. "That is the most disingenuous, shallow response concerning the travesty of the water management district's mismanagement of our precious waterways.
"What the district is currently doing is unconscionable from the standpoint that they're selecting the benefits of one industry, primarily the sugar cane industry, over the entire Southwest Florida economy."
Representatives of the sugar industry could not be reached for comment.
Tommy Strowd, deputy executive director of operations and maintenance resources at the South Florida Water Management District, said the district's water-allocation policy during extreme drought conditions doesn't allow water releases to the Caloosahatchee River.
The Lee County Health Department has expanded its warning beyond just the Caloosahatchee River to advise that all fresh, untreated water where algae is present should be avoided by people, pets and livestock.
“With the continuing drought conditions, it is possible we will see algae blooms in other freshwater bodies within Lee County,” said Charles Walther, director of environmental engineering for the health department. “Many species of algae produce toxins and many do not. Without a detailed analysis of the type of algae present, it is impossible to tell if there are significant health effects from toxins in the water.”
The health department recommends that people avoid eating fish from affected waters, especially if they are caught near floating dead fish. The department also advises against swimming to prevent accidental ingestion of open water, and not allowing pets or livestock to drink from water with algae visible.
Adverse health symptoms reported so far are burning eyes and respiratory conditions.
The health department as well as other state agencies will continue to monitor these outbreaks and release further public notices as needed.
For more information or to report new algae blooms in open bodies of water, contact the Lee County Health Department at 274-2204.


Law Student Has Ideas For Florida Districts
News Service of Florida - by Brandon Larrabee
June 16, 2011
Nicholas Ortiz drew the plan as part of a class at Columbia that allowed students to use redistricting software to craft maps for several states. Ortiz chose his home state of Florida and proceeded to carve the state into 27 districts that he says would honor the Fair Districts standards and federal law.
In the run-up to last year’s vote on the “Fair Districts” amendments -- aimed at limiting gerrymandering in the once-a-decade redistricting process -- and even after the election, lawmakers have complained that the standards will make the process infinitely more complicated and chaotic.
Even as the last legislative session approached its ending, Senate President Mike Haridopolos cited the likely escalation of legal fees to defend the maps as a reason for a boost in the size of the Senate’s budget.
“Reapportionment costs a lot of money,” said Haridopolos, R-Merritt Island, “and it'll cost even more with Amendments 5 and 6.”
But even without millions of dollars at his disposal, a 24-year-old Columbia University law school student from a Jacksonville suburb has crafted a congressional plan he says would likely withstand legal scrutiny -- if lawmakers care to adopt it.
Nicholas Ortiz drew the plan as part of a class at Columbia that allowed students to use redistricting software to craft maps for several states. Ortiz chose his home state of Florida and proceeded to carve the state into 27 districts that he says would honor the Fair Districts standards and federal law.
Ortiz’s plan remains the only statewide proposal submitted by a member of the public to the Legislature’s redistricting committees, which begin public hearings on the redrawing of the state’s political boundaries Monday in Tallahassee.
For example, the map makes districts spanning across the northern part of the state more compact. It narrows the district of U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown, a Democrat whose Jacksonville-area seat represents an area spanning from her home city to Orlando. Brown has bitterly opposed the Fair Districts amendments -- over the objections of normal allies like the NAACP -- on the grounds that they might dilute some minority districts.
It would combine a large part of the Everglades and the Florida Keys into one district meant to combine the state’s “arguably two most marvelous environmental features,” in the words of a memo he wrote defending the plan, into the same seat.
In an email interview, Ortiz said he wasn’t certain how the new districts might affect the partisan make-up of Florida’s Congressional districts, though he suspected it might make far more seats marginal as opposed to increasing or decreasing one party’s share of the delegation.
His map, for example, would move the largely black tip of the St. Petersburg peninsula out of the seat current held by Rep. Kathy Castor, a Democrat, and into the district now represented by Rep. Bill Young, a Republican. Both districts voted heavily in favor of the incumbents in 2010.
“I don't know if switching that population to Young's district would be enough to convert Young's district into one that leans Democrat or Castor's district into one that leans Republican, but the almost certain consequence of that is that both districts would be less ‘safe’ for both Young and Castor,” Ortiz said.
Unlike lawmakers, Ortiz said the standards “did not make drawing a legally defensible plan particularly difficult.” And complying with one of the rules often cited by lawmakers as difficult -- whether a district favors an incumbent or not -- “was easy.”
“I simply did not consider the political impact of what I was doing,” he said.
That might be what lawmakers are worried about, Ortiz suggested.
“I suspect that the complaints about the difficulty of complying with the amendments,” Ortiz wrote, “relate to the practical difficulty of creating a legally defensible plan that is also politically agreeable to a majority of the Legislature.”


Putnam: Crucial Issues Looming
The Ledger - by Kevin Bouffard
June 16, 2011
Policy decisions on immigration, water vital to agriculture industry.
BONITA SPRINGS | As a third-generation citrus grower from Bartow, Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam knew he was speaking to a friendly audience Thursday evening at the Florida Citrus Industry Annual Conference in Bonita Springs.
"When I come here, it always feels like a family reunion," he told about 470 people as the keynote speaker at the conference banquet.
As commissioner, Putnam is the chief executive over the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and a member of the Florida Cabinet. Putnam asked his fellow citrus growers for help in reaching out to the state's far larger urban population, who will play a crucial role in forming policies vital to agriculture, including immigration reform, water policy and pest and disease control.
"Your department has to be aggressive in urban areas, communicating every day, telling them what agriculture means in their daily lives," he said during a 45-minute speech. "The biggest fight next year in Tallahassee and Washington will be the fight over a stable work supply. It is an uphill fight to convince our fellow Floridians that in a 10 to 11 percent unemployment environment, these (harvesting) jobs are still going unfulfilled."
Agriculture in Florida and the U.S. needs a practical, temporary guest worker program, Putnam said, and he blamed his former Washington colleagues for repeatedly failing to enact such a program as part of a national immigration policy. Recent state efforts at immigration policy will result in a "patchwork, piecemeal" system that won't work, Putnam said, and it has contributed to immigration policy paralysis.
"The political atmosphere has become much more problematic in having a rational discussion about immigration policy," he said.
Putnam represented the Polk County-based 12th Congressional District from 2001 to 2010. He rose to the position of chairman of House Republican Conference, the third-ranking party leadership post, but resigned after the 2008 election.
"The biggest issue facing Florida over the long term is water," Putnam said. "All of us are in the same boat when it comes to a meaningful water policy."
But solutions such as desalinization, which might serve urban residents, are not viable for agriculture because of costs, he said.
In a reception before the banquet, Putnam discussed his participation in the controversial Senate Bill 2122, sponsored by state Sen. J.D. Alexander, R-Lake Wales, in the final week of this year's legislative session. Until Thursday, Putnam had turned down interview requests from The Ledger to discuss the SB 2122 controversy.
Putnam said he worked with Alexander regarding several sections of SB 2122 that affect the state Agriculture Department, including a reorganization and transferring the power to enforce price-gouging laws to the Florida Attorney General's Office and local state attorneys. Putnam said he supported those changes.
"We were intensely focused on that part of the bill," he said.
The most controversial aspects of SB 2122, however, were the changes to the Florida Citrus Code, which controls the Florida Department of Citrus and its governing body, the Florida Citrus Commission.
Those changes included tapping state citrus taxes at current rates; redistricting the commission's member districts; shrinking the commission from 12 to nine members; ending the terms of all current commissioners on June 30, thus giving Gov. Rick Scott the authority to appoint all nine members; and limiting the term of the Citrus Department executive director to four years and requiring Senate confirmation for his successor.
Following adjournment of the legislative session on May 7, Alexander encountered an angry reaction from many Florida citrus leaders, who complained Alexander had abused his legislative authority in recrafting the Citrus Code without vetting SB 2122 with them. Citrus Mutual led an unsuccessful campaign to have Scott veto the bill.
Alexander denied he had kept Florida citrus officials in the dark. As The Ledger reported on Wednesday, Alexander told Keck at a Jan. 29 meeting of his plans to redistrict for the Citrus Commission. The senator also shared his plans on redistricting, tax caps and other Citrus Department changes at an April 5 meeting with Mike Sparks, Citrus Mutual's chief executive, and Vic Story Jr., a Babson Park grower and Citrus Mutual president.
All three officials told The Ledger they did not press Alexander on specifics of SB 2122 during the last month of the session, and Sparks said Citrus Mutual did not lobby against the bill in the final week of the session because he believed it would not defeat it.
Putnam said he and Alexander did not discuss the Citrus Code changes, which do not affect the Agriculture Department.
In the brouhaha after the session, Putnam did not ask Scott to veto the bill, he said.
"I did not weigh in" on the veto, Putnam said.
Sparks said he spoke to Putnam after the session about the veto effort, and the commissioner told him he had worked hard during the entire session to enact the SB 2122 changes affecting his department.
"I did not feel I could ask him to support a veto," Sparks said.


We can't squander our water resources – by Aileen Fitzke, Guest Viewpoint
June 16, 2011
In pondering what bringing hydraulic fracturing to New York would mean in a global context, I decided to study the state of the world's water.
I found that 1.1 billion people in the world do not have access to clean water; 2.6 billion people do not have access to adequate sanitation systems; and 1.8 million people in the world die each year from water- related diseases. If things do not change, the United Nations reports that by 2020, nearly 50 nations will experience severe water shortages, and by 2030, several cites that have been around for centuries will dry up.
The history of water management in the 20th century shows us some of the most stunning human accomplishments around the control of water. The creation of mega-dams and the improvement of drilling methods to access underground aquifers have changed the face of agricultural practices internationally. It is only recently that the social, environmental and health consequences of these practices have been examined.
In "The World's Water," a biennial report on global freshwater resources, David Katz reports more than half the world's wetlands have been lost since 1900.
The Colorado River Delta was a verdant patchwork of green and blue, half again as large as Florida's Everglades. A whole variety of life — including water birds, an abundance of aquatic wildlife and mammals — relied on it. It is gone. As a result of several large dams, only 1 percent of the water that used to flow there still does.
The Ogallala Aquifer sits under many High Plains states. It supplies the irrigation for much of the High Plains farming. The aquifer is drying up. It is a body of water that was deposited about 10,000 years ago from glacial runoff and receives very little recharge. Since the 1940s, when the aquifer was first put into use, more than a quarter of the aquifer has dried up in parts of Texas, Kansas and Oklahoma and the water table has fallen more than 100 feet in other areas. Some water experts predict that if its use isn't carefully managed it could dry up in 20 years.
The United Nations, realizing the dire straits of much of the world's water, designated 2005-15 as the "Water for Life" decade and set goals for thinking about how to manage the world's water crisis in terms of human health, sustainable development and environmental restoration of sensitive water areas.
Those of us in central New York are lucky because we have an abundance of fresh water and we sit on some of the world's most pristine fresh- water resources. As we think about introducing hydrofracking to our area, let us remember that central New York does contain one of the most precious natural resources in the world. It is our supply of fresh clean water and there is no alternative. Let us use it wisely. It is far cheaper to protect water resources than to clean them up after pollution.
Fitzke is a resident of Ithaca.


A sinkhole as an
"insurance event".

We are just drawing too much water from the underground aquifers !
(Mouse over picture for enlargement)

An Overview of Florida Sinkholes: Types and Causes
EIN News
June 15, 2011
The size and shape of a sinkhole and how quickly it develops depend on the size of the underground void that develops and the amount of material on the bedrock. According to Earth Tech, there are three types of sinkholes--subsidence, solution and collapse--that correspond to the thickness of sediments that sit on top of the limestone.
June 15, 2011 /24-7PressRelease/ -- Florida has more sinkholes than any other region in the U.S. Sinkholes are caused when the ground beneath the surface is made of certain types of rock, such as limestone, that can be dissolved by water. When water circulates through these rocks under the ground, dissolving them, and washes away the soil, a cavity or space can develop under the ground. With the earth above no longer supported, the surface dissolves into the space, causing a sinkhole.
The size and shape of a sinkhole and how quickly it develops depend on the size of the underground void that develops and the amount of material on the bedrock. According to Earth Tech, there are three types of sinkholes--subsidence, solution and collapse--that correspond to the thickness of sediments that sit on top of the limestone.
Differentiating Subsidence, Solution and Collapse Sinkholes
Subsidence sinkholes occur when the overburden--the sediment that sits on the limestone bedrock--is thin and the limestone dissolves slowly. Rainwater penetrating through overlying sediment slowly dissolves the limestone underneath. Over time, small cracks will increase in size, and the rock will erode as the water moves through the layers. The resulting cavities are filled by sediments, causing the land to depress. If water fills the depression, a new lake is formed. Gradually subsiding sinkholes tend to be unaffected by human activity.
Solution sinkholes occur where the overburden is thin or absent, and the limestone is broken down by wind and water from the surface. The process is slow but continuous as the rock erodes.
Collapse sinkholes are the most common type in Florida and form without warning where the overburden is thick. These occur due to erosion as the water from the surface permeates through the rock below it. This erosion causes small to medium cavities in the limestone, and more water flows through to the rock, causing a thinner, weaker void or cavern. When the groundwater levels drop during the dry season, if the roof of the void or cavern is not strong enough to hold the weight of the sediments, the overburden collapses into it, creating the sinkhole.
Sinkhole activity can be dangerous and can occurring suddenly under houses and roads, causing significant damage to property and injury to people. A Florida sinkhole attorney can help you understand what your insurance policy covers if your property has been damaged by a sinkhole.
Article provided by Corless Associates


Reservoirs drying up
South Florida is facing
a critical water shortage
with reservoirs drying up
(mouse over the picture
for WPB enlarged map).

See the general fresh
water situation in SoFL

Historic drought: West Palm Beach water options drying up
Palm Beach Post - by Christine Stapleton, Staff Writer
June 15, 2011
See “dry” photos :
WEST PALM BEACH — Unable to provide enough water to its 111,000 customers, the city is betting on two water sources to pull it through the drought, but both are dogged with problems from snail habitats to possible permit restrictions.
For now, the city is meeting its daily water needs - as much as 32 million gallons - by buying 10 million gallons from Palm Beach County. The city's water pipes are too small to handle more than that.
As what's left of the West Palm Beach water supply dries up, officials have two options: use water from the city's wellfield, a possible violation of the wellfield's permit; or get an emergency permit to use water from a reservoir with potentially harmful salt levels.
"We're entering into the unknown right now," said Patrick Painter, the city's watershed resource manager. "We've never been in this situation before."
Using water from the wellfield is a seemingly simple solution. However, a permit from the South Florida Water Management District requires that for every gallon the city draws, a gallon in reclaimed water must be put back in.
That would not be a problem if the city's touted water reuse facility worked as planned. But the facility, off Roebuck Road at Florida's Turnpike, has not produced the anticipated levels of reclaimed water. It currently is providing no water.
"The sucker is broke again," David Hanks, the city's water utilities manager, said Tuesday. He said he hopes the facility will be working by Friday.
Even when the facility works, it produces only 2 million to 7 million gallons of reclaimed water a day. On Tuesday, the city drew 20 million gallons of water from its wellfield, even though the plant was inoperable and contributed no reclaimed water .
Hanks said he interprets the one-gallon-in, one-gallon-out requirement to be on an annual basis. In addition, Hanks said, the city should be given credit for all the reclaimed water it put back into the wellfield without making any withdrawals.
"If we put a billion in, we'll pull a billion out," said Hanks. "That's what I told them we were going to do."
However, a water district staff report recommends monthly reviews. In other words, the city should be allowed to draw from its wells only the amount it contributes in reclaimed water that month.
"That said, we are in a drought situation, beyond the 1-in-10-year drought condition that was contemplated in the permit and analyzed by district staff," said Steven Memberg of the district's water use regulatory division. "The city should continue to work with the district on meeting their supply needs, while not causing harm to the water resource or existing legal users."
What is being called the "last resort" option involves pumping water - from a reservoir the district owns - through 30 miles of canal that ends at the water plant on Clear Lake. On Monday, district officials filed an emergency petition with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to provide water from the reservoir to the city. However, that water has not been used for drinking because of elevated salt levels .
A pilot project this year that mixed water from Lake Okeechobee with the reservoir's water was heralded by environmentalists and water managers as a solution to some environmental and water shortage problems. However, in the drought, there is little lake water that could be used to dilute the reservoir's salinity.
If the water is not sufficiently diluted, it could pose problems for plants and animals in the Grassy Waters Preserve, including the endangered snail kite, which feeds on apple snails that live in the preserve. In addition, as much as half the water will be lost to seepage and evaporation as it travels east to the city.
"This is just an extraordinary drought," Painter said. "We need to assume nothing and prepare for the worst."


Port Manatee dredging could start soon
June 15, 2011
A massive water leak at a former Piney Point phosphate plant was staunched Tuesday. Millions of gallons per day had been leaking from the property, owned by HRK Holdings LLC, but its flow off the property was halted at 4:38 a.m. Tuesday, port and county environmental officials told county commissioners during a morning briefing at the Manatee County Administrative Center.
The company found two ruptures in a lining covering the floor of the 70-acre “clarification pond” atop the former phosphate plant gypsum stacks, which have been converted to dispose of dredge material from a Port Manatee construction project, according to David McDonald, the port authority’s executive director.
The company was in the process of making repairs that could take from five to seven days to complete, he said.
Once repairs are complete, dredging at Berth 12, which was halted earlier this month, could re-start within 48 hours, he said.
“It is our top priority to maintain the highest standards of environmental protection and ensure the safety of our Manatee County neighbors,” said Jordan Levy , HRK’s chief executive officer.


Water managers trying to avoid taking more Everglades water to ease drought
Sun-Sentinel – by Andy Reid
June 15, 2011
Water managers so far don’t plan to dip deeper into the Everglades to help ease South Florida’s water supply woes during the lingering drought.
One of the South Florida Water Management District’s last-resort measures during past droughts was to consider lowering the Everglades water conservation areas beyond limits set to protect wildlife and habitat.
The water conservation areas are the northern reaches of the Everglades, stretching across western Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties.
In addition to providing vital wildlife habitat, the water conservation areas supplement community water supplies to the east. That can range from providing more than 300 to nearly 600 million gallons of water a day.
Those water flows stopped this month when the water levels in the conservation areas dropped below thresholds considered a threat to the environment.
Not having that daily infusion of water from the Everglades conservation areas further strains southeast Florida community water supplies suffering from the ongoing drought.
But allowing water levels to go below the usual thresholds for the conservation areas would be a threat to wildlife, particularly the endangered Everglades snail kite and wood stork.
During past droughts, the prospect of moving more water than usually allowed out of the conservation areas drew stiff opposition from environmental groups.
District officials said Wednesday that they don’t plan to pursue temporarily lifting environmental protections to take more water from the Everglades water conservation areas.
Environmental concerns coupled with the expectation that the usually summer rain cycle will soon bring water supply relief were the reasons district officials gave for not dipping deeper into the conservation areas.
The Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge, also known as Water Conservation Area 1, in western Palm Beach County is nearly one foot below its environmental “floor” – the minimum water level considered necessary to support wildlife and protected habitat.
In Broward County, Water Conservation Area 2 was more than a foot below its environmental floor.
"There are no plans at this time to lower the floor because of the proximity to the wet season starting and to avoid ecological impacts," district officials said in a statement released Wednesday.
Lake Okeechobee, South Florida’s primary backup water supply, this month dropped too low to consistently deliver water to the conservation areas.
The water management district is using temporary pumps to deliver about half the usual supply of Lake Okeechobee water that sugarcane growers and other agricultural operations south of the lake rely on for irrigation.
The Sierra Club and Audubon of Florida object to those withdrawals from the lake, where the endangered Everglades snail kite is already suffering from low water levels.
The driest October to June stretch in nearly 80 years leaves South Florida with a growing water supply strain for both the environment and human needs.
Hardest hit has been West Palm Beach, which gets its water from surface water sources such as lakes and wetlands, unlike most South Florida communities that get their water from below ground.
West Palm Beach water customers on Monday switched to once-a-week landscape watering restrictions after computer models showed the city could be three weeks away of being unable to supply the water it needs.
The town of Palm Beach and town of South Palm Beach get their water from West Palm Beach and also switched to once-a-week watering.
Most of the rest of South Florida has remained under emergency twice-a-week watering limits since March.
About half of South Florida’s public water supply ends up getting used for landscape irrigation.
Enforcement of watering rules has been fairly lax during the past year, despite worsening water supply conditions.
This week, West Palm Beach stepped up its enforcement efforts by having police officers and other city employees, in addition to the usual code enforcement offices, start issuing warnings and citations to those watering when they are not allowed.
West Palm Beach also started automated "code red" calls to its water customers, informing them of the water shortage and new watering restrictions, city spokesman Chase Scott said.
he water supply strains of South Florida’s lingering drought are worsened by decades of manmade problems.
Providing flood control for neighborhoods and farms built on wetlands leads to stormwater getting drained out to sea instead of held for times of need.
While West Palm Beach could use an infusion of water from Lake Okeechobee, lake levels have dropped too low in part because more than 300 billion gallons of lake water was drained out to sea during 2010 because of safety concerns about the lake’s dike.


Cypress domes in the
greater Everglades.
(Mouse-over to see
how they grow)

Corkscrew Swamp: Anatomy of a cypress dome
Naples Daily News – by Shawn E. Liston, Citizen Contributor
June 14, 2011
Drivers crossing the western side of Alligator Alley may notice the “rolling hills” of the Big Cypress. Of course we don’t actually have rolling hills here in South Florida, but cypress domes certainly can create this illusion. Unlike hills, however, which result from elevations of the ground level, cypress domes actually form in response to depressions in the ground level.
The limestone bedrock found throughout the Florida peninsula is quite porous, acting like a giant sponge that holds our groundwater. Slightly acidic water dissolves limestone, creating topographic features like the sinkhole lakes characteristic of parts of central Florida, the Rocky Glades region of Everglades National Park, and our cypress dome landscape. Here in Southwest Florida, divots dissolved in the limestone fill with water (like any hole dug in South Florida) and collect sediment. Through time, these depressions build up a deeper soil layer than adjacent areas. The combination of more soil and deeper water is perfect for our bald cypress — allowing tall trees to grow where wetland grasses would otherwise.
The centers of these depressions have the deepest water (and longest duration of standing water) and the most soil and nutrients. These conditions allow cypress trees to take root and grow up to 130 feet tall. The centers of large cypress domes often have water too deep for cypress to grow at all, causing them to take on a “donut” shape with open pond-like centers. As you move toward the edges of the depression the water level and soil depth decrease, prohibiting cypress trees from getting as tall. It is this symmetric decrease in tree height that produces the characteristic “dome” shape. On the very edges of domes, cypress trees grow in very shallow soil which significantly limits their nutrients and only allows them to reach 5-6 feet (often called ‘hat rack’ cypress). While some of the outer edges of cypress domes may only have standing water a few months each year, the centers of cypress domes often remain wet throughout all but the driest years.
Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary offers the unique opportunity to transverse these habitats from the comfort of an elevated boardwalk. What could really be better than seeing these unique cypress forests in person while keeping your feet dry ?
National Audubon Society has a 73-year continuous history of ecological research and recovery efforts in Florida and currently supports an active research program here in Southwest Florida. Audubon of Florida’s Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary boasts a 2.25-mile boardwalk trail open every day of the year. The Sanctuary is located at the end of Sanctuary Road, 15 miles east of Interstate 75 off Immokalee Road (exit 111). For admission fees and hours, call (239) 348-9151 or visit


Dennis Ross: 'We Welcome Anyone from EPA to Florida – as a Tourist'
Sunshine News – by Kevin Derby's blog
June 14, 2011
Florida Republican U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross said on Tuesday that he was pleased that the federal EPA was putting off -- for the moment -- adding new criteria for water in Florida.
“Yesterday’s announcement by EPA is a step in the right direction,” said Ross. “I have requested, and will continue to demand, a face-to-face meeting with Administrator Jackson on this issue. In addition, the Oversight Committee, of which I chair a subcommittee, will continue our investigation into the proposed rule, its economic impact and the radical groups behind it. These regulations are patently unscientific and contrary to the EPAs own Science Advisory Council findings. In addition, Florida consumers and employers cannot afford increased energy, food, and input prices. Water is Florida’s lifeblood and no one knows how to take care of that lifeblood better than Floridians. We welcome anyone from EPA to Florida – as a tourist.”


more tomatoes
more tomatoes

The True Cost of Tomatoes
New York Times - by Mark Bittman
June 14, 2011
Mass-produced tomatoes have become redder, more tender and slightly more flavorful than the crunchy orange “cello-wrapped” specimens of a couple of decades ago, but the lives of the workers who grow and pick them haven’t improved much since Edward R. Murrow’s revealing and deservedly famous Harvest of Shame report of 1960, which contained the infamous quote, “We used to own our slaves; now we just rent them.”
But bit by bit things have improved some, a story that’s told in detail and with insight and compassion by Barry Estabrook in his new book, “Tomatoland.” We can actually help them improve further.
A third of our tomatoes are grown in Florida, and much of that production is concentrated around Immokalee (rhymes with “broccoli”), a town that sits near the edge of the great “river of grass,” or the Everglades, the draining of which began in the late 19th century, thus setting the stage for industrial agriculture. Immokalee is a poor (average annual per-capita income: $8,576), immigrant (70 percent of the population is Latino, mostly Mexican) working town, to the outsider at least a depressing community with few signs of hope.
The tomato fields of Immokalee are vast and surreal. An unplanted field looks like a lousy beach: the “soil,” which is white sand, contains little in the way of nutrients and won’t hold any water. To grow tomatoes there requires mind-boggling amounts of fertilizers, fungicides and pesticides (on roughly the same acreage of tomatoes, Florida uses about eight times as many chemicals as California). The tomatoes are, in effect, grown hydroponically, and the sand seems useful mostly as a medium for holding stakes in place.

Most of the big purchasers, like Wal-Mart and McDonald’s, want firm, “slicing” tomatoes, because their destination is a burger or a sandwich, so the tomatoes are picked at what is called “mature green,” which isn’t mature at all but bordering on it. Tomatoes with any color other than green are too ripe to ship, and left to rot; I’ve posted a couple of pictures I took of those on my blog. The green tomatoes are gassed — “de-greened” is the chosen euphemism — to “ripen” them; the plants themselves are often killed with an herbicide to hasten their demise and get ready for the next crop.
The process, not to put too fine a point on it, is awful, but the demand is there — Florida ships about a billion pounds of tomatoes a year — and the main question has not been quality but fairness to the workers. (Estabrook profiles a successful Florida tomato farmer who’s gone organic, but since it’s inarguable that this is a locale and climate that’s hostile to tomatoes in the first place, that can’t be easy. Here’s the reality: you’re not going to get a billion pounds of good tomatoes out of Florida. Ever.)
Unlike corn and soy, tomatoes’ harvest cannot be automated; it takes workers to pick that fruit. And not only have workers been enslaved, they have been routinely beaten, subject to sexual harassment, exposed to toxic chemicals (Estabrook mercilessly describes the tragic results of this) and forced to wait for hours to find out whether they have work on a given day. Oh, and they’re underpaid.
One of the bright spots, discussed in Estabrook’s book is the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW), founded in 1993. The CIW has two major goals: the first is to put the last nail in the coffin of slavery, a condition that sadly still exists not only among farmworkers but others. “And this,” Laura Germino, who has worked on the campaign since its inception, said to me when I visited last month, “is not ‘slavery-like,’ or ‘exploitation’ — it’s actual slavery, as defined by federal law.” (There are super links around this issue on the anti-slavery campaign’s Web site, and reading them is eye-popping.)
You’ve probably heard of the other goal, which is the CIW’s Campaign for Fair Food; it’s garnered as much attention as any labor struggle in the country in recent years, and more on the farmworker front than anything since the early work of Cesar Chavez and the United Farm Workers.
These outrages have been the CIW’s focus, and the agreement they signed last November with the Florida Tomato Growers Exchange begins to address them: through the core “penny-a-pound” increase in the price wholesale purchasers pay, workers’ incomes could go up thousands of dollars per year. The agreement also provides for a time-clock system in the fields, which has led to a shorter workday and less (unpaid) waiting time; portable shade tents for breaks (unbelievable that this didn’t exist previously — I spent a half-hour in the open fields and began to melt); reduced exposure to pesticides; worker-to-worker education on rights; a new code of conduct for growers with real market consequences if workers’ rights are violated; and more.
The breakthrough for the CIW came in 2005, when after enormous consumer pressure Yum! Brands, which controls Taco Bell, Pizza Hut and KFC, signed the agreement. (And you know what? Good for them.) Since then, Subway, McDonald’s, Burger King, the country’s largest food service operators (Sodexo, Aramark and Compass Group) and Whole Foods have signed as well.
Progress, clearly. What’s missing are traditional supermarket chains, and the CIW has targeted — largely for geographical reasons — Ahold (the parent company of Stop & Shop and Giant); Publix (the dominant chain in Florida); Kroger (next to Wal-Mart the biggest food retailer in the country); and Trader Joe’s, which, in an attempt at “transparency” (odd for a chain known for its secrecy), published a letter explaining why it was refusing to sign the agreement. Really, guys? If McDonald’s and Burger King can sign a labor agreement, it can’t be that onerous; you should do it just for karma’s sake. (The CIW’s response is here.)
Most of us eat or buy industrially produced tomatoes, and it doesn’t seem too much to ask that the people who pick them for us be treated a little more fairly. Speak to your supermarket manager or write to the head of the chain you patronize (the easiest way to do this is to visit this page on the CIW site). Supermarkets, I expect, are as susceptible to public pressure as fast-food chains.
There are few places in the country where migrant and immigrant farmworkers are treated well; in Immokalee, at least, they’re being treated better. Bit by bit.
Note: An earlier version of this column stated that Wal-Mart had signed a labor agreement, when in fact it was Burger King; that has been corrected.


EPA announces hold on nutrient standards if Florida can come up with own criteria
American Independent - by Virginia Chamlee
June 13, 2011
The EPA announced today that it is now prepared to withdraw a portion of its proposed numeric nutrient criteria (a set of standards governing water pollution in inland waters) and delay the portion related to estuarine waters, to allow the state Department of Environmental Protection to develop its own criteria.
From a statement released by the EPA earlier today:
EPA recognizes that states have the primary role in establishing and implementing water quality standards for their waters. Therefore, EPA is prepared to withdraw the federal inland standards and delay the estuarine standards if FDEP adopts, and EPA approves, their own protective and scientifically sound numeric standards. We are in the process of reviewing an initial proposal provided by FDEP.  In the meantime, EPA intends to further delay implementation of the inland waters standards if FDEP continues to develop its own standards.
The state has gone head-to-head with the federal EPA since the proposal of the criteria, which aim to help alleviate some of Florida’s algal and fish kill problems. Legislation and lawsuits against the criteria have been piling up for the past year, and critics of the criteria continue to remain outspoken. In a recent water forum held in Orlando, both state Rep. Trudi Williams, R-Fort Myers, and Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam spoke out against them. Sen. Marco Rubio has also been vocally opposed to the criteria.
Nitrogen and phosphorus pollution comprise one of the largest causes of the water quality problems in the state, and create impediments to recreation, fishing and tourism. The EPA still maintains that limiting nutrient pollution across
the state “will help protect the health of Floridians and also preserve Florida’s greatest asset—clean water– and the prosperity and jobs that go with it,” but now says it supports the state’s efforts to restart its own rulemaking efforts.
In April, Environmental Protection Secretary Herschel Vinyard penned a letter to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, requesting that the agency withdraw the January 2009 determination requiring a set of numeric nutrient criteria. In its initial response to the letter, released today, EPA officials promise to initiate rulemaking to repeal its numeric nutrient criteria so long as the state department adopts a set of “protective nutrient criteria that are sufficient to address the concerns underlying [the initial] determination.”
The letter makes clear that Vinyard’s petition to withdraw the determination requiring the standards has not yet been approved nor denied, but that the EPA will hold the petition “in abeyance” pending the results of the DEP’s rulemaking.
View the EPA’s letter to Secretary Vinyard:
Letter to FDEP 2011_06_13_13_26_53


Florida’s past, Florida’s future
Miami Herald - by Howard Troxler
June 13, 2011
There is no other Florida in the world.
Now, right off the bat, you should know that sentence is stolen. Borrowed, at least.
It comes from Marjory Stoneman Douglas’ 1947 book about the Everglades, River of Grass.
“There are no other Everglades in the world,” she began. It’s one of the most famous sentences ever written about our state.
But surely we can make the same bold claim about the whole shebang from Pensacola to Key West, Jacksonville to Naples, Miami to Yeehaw Junction.
No other Florida in the world. No place nearly like it. Not where you can toast the flash of sunset at Mallory Square, and gawk at the castles along Palm Beach, and feel unstylish on South Beach, and see where Mickey Mouse lives, and visit the Oldest This-and-That in the New World, and follow Ponce de Leon’s quest for the Fountain of Youth, and swim in crystal spring waters with manatees, and stand where humanity first reached to the stars.
Oh, yeah: And wear shorts in winter, and fall in love during an endless spring, and try to catch a fish now and then, and ski, and swim. And cut the engine and the light in the boat so there is nothing but stillness and thick dark air, and mosquitoes and stars, and the glint of eyes looking back at you from the swamp all around.
A more recent book about Florida made a big impression on me. Its title is Land of Sunshine, State of Dreams, and it was written by Gary Mormino, a history professor at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg.
Mormino documents the rise of modern Florida — the megastate Florida, the crushingly developed Florida, the Florida of real-estate booms and quickie subdivisions that simply exploded in the years following World War II.
A generation of Americans was exposed to this paradise during military training; many of them decided to come back as visitors or to seek a new life in a newly mobile postwar nation.
Florida sold itself eagerly, of course. Florida has always sold itself eagerly. And plenty of people made a lot of money doing it; and plenty of people made a living by throwing up the new cities and subdivisions and shopping centers and strip malls that it required.
Only in the last generation did Floridians begin to question the wisdom of this. We saw our lakes and bays choked to death. We saw the highways jammed, the quality of life degrading.
And enough Floridians said, maybe this is not the state we want. So we passed laws that said, yes, we will always grow, but maybe we can grow better. Smarter. Wisely.
We should make sure Florida has the water it needs, and the roads it needs, and the schools it needs. The business of our state should be something besides unrestricted, anything-goes growth. Those people making money off Florida should help pay for the costs of their growth.
That was long-term thinking.
But, you know, we live in the short term. We live in the moment. And in this moment, for various reasons, we have chosen a generation of leaders of Florida who do not believe in these values.
I do not think most Floridians fully realize, and will not for some time, the full damage of what has already happened in Tallahassee. Our state’s governor and the majority of our state’s Legislature believe in exactly one thing: making money off Florida. They have repealed many of the laws that Florida passed trying to make itself a better state. We have, quite literally, propelled this state back into the 1950s, and when the economy explodes again, look out.
It was an earlier generation of Republicans and Democrats working together who tried to save our state. Making Florida better was never about Republican vs. Democrat. Hardly a day passes that I do not hear from anguished, older Florida Republicans who are dismayed at what is happening. They say: This is not what we wanted.
Florida needs a world-class state university system or it will never be a great state. Florida needs to invest in itself. It needs to invest in public — yes, public — education. It needs a diverse, educated, intelligent work force. Florida needs to protect what is left of the physical Florida. In every one of these arenas we are pointed the wrong way.
Yet despite all this . . .
Despite all this, lately I have been feeling more and more optimistic, precisely because more and more Floridians realize what is happening. This state is coming into an interesting and exciting time, a battle afresh for its future, and its soul.
So why am I quitting now, just when it’s getting good ?  For entirely selfish reasons that have nothing to do with any of this, and everything to do with living the one single life we each are given.
But whatever happens, and wherever I go, I will always be for Florida. I hope you will, too.
Howard Troxler recently retired after writing a column for The St. Petersburg Times for 20 years.


State hopes to block new federal water-pollution rules by rewriting its own
Orlando Sentinel - by Kevin Spear
June 13, 2011
The uproar over a federal effort to force Florida to clean up its rivers and lakes kicks up a notch this week as state officials air their strategy to avoid the controversial pollution regulations by writing a new set of their own.
In a groundbreaking dispute between federal and state officials, Florida officials want the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to abandon its pollution-prevention rules and give the state back legal responsibility for cleaning up its waters, even though the state hasn't rewritten its rules yet.
The EPA, which has antagonized many in Florida by not being accessible for discussion and debate, said in a written statement Monday that Florida's latest gambit may succeed — but only if the state actually writes its new rules and they pass muster. If that happens, the federal agency "will promptly initiate rulemaking to repeal" its pollution limits, set to take effect early next year, wrote Nancy Stoner, the EPA's acting assistant administrator.
The state Department of Environmental Protection has scheduled public meetings in Tallahassee today and in the Leesburg Community Center at 9 a.m. Thursday. Public comment at the gatherings will be used to revise the state's pollution-prevention rules in an effort to appease the EPA and persuade it to drop its planned enforcement program.
The federal agency's rules were the result of a lawsuit settlement involving five environmental groups that had sued to make the EPA enforce existing pollution-prevention laws in Florida after the five groups had concluded the state's rules weren't up to the task.
But even before the new federal rules were established late last year, industrial, agricultural and wastewater-treatment representatives, backed by many state and federal lawmakers, had begun an aggressive campaign to counter the EPA's intervention, saying the agency's rules were imprecise and would be too costly for Florida to uphold.
As part of a formal announcement of Florida's intentions, DEP Secretary Herschel Vinyard petitioned the EPA in April, asking the federal agency to acknowledge that Florida already has some of the nation's most progressive water protections.
But David Guest, whose Tallahassee law firm Earthjustice sued the EPA on behalf of the five environmental groups, said he suspects Florida officials will write new rules that, in the end, prove to be cumbersome and difficult to enforce.
"DEP has its work cut out for it," Guest said. "Getting polluters to accept enforceable limits on these contaminants is like trying to dress the cat."
EPA officials have previously lauded and adopted many aspects of Florida's scientific research involving the vulnerabilities of, and threats to, the state's waters. But the EPA's biggest concern about Florida's longstanding approach is that it often required years of expensive studies to protect a single body of water in a state with hundreds of streams, rivers and lakes.
The rules imposed by the EPA set general categories for pollution limits based on types and locations of streams, rivers and lakes, rather than custom-designed limits for each water body, as the state had done.
Linda Young, director of the Clean Water Network of Florida, which was not part of the lawsuit forcing the EPA to act, said the federal rules are riddled with loopholes, while any new state version will be even less likely to reverse Florida's ongoing problem with water pollution.
"This is a very, very huge step backwards, and it is not going to result in any of our waters getting better," Young said of the state's move to short-circuit the EPA rules. "In fact, it's probably going to make things worse."


Big Green lawsuits are obstacle to jobs, economic growth
Washington Examiner - by Examiner Editorial
June 12, 2011
Federal regulators had no sooner completed their review and approval of Royal Dutch Shell's application to resuming drilling for oil and natural gas in the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico before Big Green environmental radicals were in federal court filing suit to stop the project. David Guest, a spokesman for Earthjustice, which filed the suit along with the Sierra Club, the Gulf Restoration Network and the Florida Wildlife Federation, said the litigation was necessary because "before new deep-water Gulf drilling occurs, the government must make a realistic assessment of the risk to the Gulf's ecosystem, its communities, and the many jobs that depend on tourism, fishing and recreation. It has utterly failed to do so here."
Legal experts expect this suit to be the first of many to come as oil companies resume exploration and drilling operations in the Gulf more than a year after the Deepwater Horizon disaster virtually shut down the energy industry along the coasts of Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, at a cost of up to 50,000 jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars of other economic losses to the regional economy. The permits issued to Shell that sparked the suit were issued under the review process employed by the Department of Interior in the wake of Deepwater Horizon, which industry officials said was unnecessarily complicated and gained nothing in the way of additional safety margins in drilling or environmental protection for the Gulf's ecosystems.
But as costly as more government red tape almost always is for industry, it is likely to pale by comparison with the expense of defending against endless lawsuits from Big Green environmentalist activist groups whose sole mission often seems to be to use the federal court system to stop economic activity of which they disapprove. It is no coincidence that the anti-Shell suit was filed just one day after ExxonMobil announced a major discovery in deep Gulf waters that could provide up to 700 million barrels of oil. That's 700 million barrels that won't have to be imported from the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries.
The problem is the ultimate outcome of such litigation is almost less important than the fact that defending against it will cost Shell hundreds of millions of dollars and delay the project by years, possibly long enough even to render it economically unfeasible to continue. Arguing over whether an already complex government regulatory review process was sufficiently comprehensive to provide the "realistic assessment" of environmental risk demanded by Earthjustice can easily take years and might never be completed to the satisfaction of those who are determined to end fossil fuel use. Considering that these Big Green groups receive hundreds of millions of federal tax dollars every year, it is time Congress started asking some tough questions about who has legal standing to bring such litigation.


Extreme Weather Continues; What A Difference A Jet Stream Makes (Ft. Myers, FL) – by Michael Mogil
June 12, 2011
Last week’s attempt at the first named tropical storm of the Atlantic Basin hurricane season fizzled, but a storm did develop in the in the eastern Pacific (Adrian) and briefly reached category 4 status.
However, the big weather news is drought, fire and flood.
In the drought arena, drought conditions reign supreme from parts of the desert southwest to Kansas and then eastward to include all of the Deep South, Florida and Atlantic coastal plain northward to the Delmarva Peninsula.  
Many, places, including parts of south Florida are in exceptional drought. Much of the overall area is in extreme or worse drought. Although I am not a proponent for landfalling tropical cyclones, we need one to help alleviate drought conditions.  Some places in south Florida (e.g., Fort Lauderdale, Clewiston and Naples) have had less than 1/3 of the average rainfall for the period October 1, 2010 to June 9, 2011.  Fort Lauderdale is about 26 inches below average rainfall for the period.  Naples is only 15 inches below average!
And this dry weather has seriously impacted water levels in our area, including the Everglades, well-water levels and more (Fig. 1).
Linked to the dry conditions is a high fire danger risk, especially in parts of the southwest into the southern Plains.  Here, winds and very warm temperatures will also contribute to the danger, as well as exceptionally dry vegetation.
The Wallow, AZ fire (Fig. 2) continues to burn out of control.  Starting almost two weeks ago, this human-caused fire has consumed more than 430,000 square miles of vegetation so far, destroyed 29 homes and threatened more than 5,000 structures.  About 3,000 firefighters are involved in trying to contain this blaze.


The Emotion of Wastewater
Huffington Post – by Jim Lauria
June 12, 2011
I'm at the American Water Works Association conference in Washington, DC, this week, and was asked to nominate a water project for a LinkedIn water professionals' group list of the world's top water projects. As far as I'm concerned, there's one project that leads them all -- the Singapore Public Utilities Board's NEWater, 2007 winner of the prestigious Stockholm Industry Water Award.
In fact, being in our nation's capital naturally has me thinking in terms of lawmakers -- and I sincerely hope our regulators and legislators take a few pages from Singapore's playbook. That tiny city-state has become a global leader in wastewater recycling. It's now a hub for technology leaders like Siemens, Black & Veatch and C2HM Hill. But what's more exciting is that Singapore is a living demonstration of the best in wastewater reuse technology, meeting 30% of the nation's water needs through recycling -- more than 200 million gallons per day.
They're doing so many things right, starting with recognizing that wastewater is a valuable resource and continuing to teach residents that treated wastewater is healthy, useful and good for the environment.
The NEWater project spans five wastewater treatment plants -- and a history dating back to PUB's first wastewater-to-potable-water pilot plant in 1974 -- that harness state-of-the-art technology to replicate Mother Nature's ability to recycle wastewater. Just as dirty water percolates into the soil (a massive filter), is exposed to countless microbes in the earth (extensive bioreaction), rises through streambeds (where it is aerated), evaporates and returns to the earth as clean rain droplets, NEWater undergoes multi-stage treatment on its path back to purity.
Effluent enters a NEWater plant and is progressively stripped of contaminants as it runs a gauntlet from woven mesh screens to microfiltration membranes to reverse osmosis membranes -- whose pores are so tiny that even viruses and metal ions can't pass through. Ultraviolet light and hydrogen peroxide provide disinfection that kills the last of the pathogens, and the water is substantially purer than Singapore's traditional sources of drinking water. Fewer bacteria and organics, better clarity, better color -- improvements all the way around.
In fact, NEWater is so pristine that it's actually preferred by local semiconductor wafer manufacturers, who need water of exceptional purity in their manufacturing process.
But there's more to Singapore's success with NEWater than technology... or even clean water. What's truly remarkable is that Singaporeans are excited about their water recycling. Through loud and clear communications -- the figure "65,000 scientific tests" comes up a lot -- Singapore PUB has eliminated "the yuck factor" that has sunk wastewater recycling proposals in such water-stressed areas as Los Angeles, Calif., and Toowoomba, NSW, where the battle has raged since 2006, and stalled implementation of San Diego's water recycling program, which is now in a demonstration phase.
The "yuck factor" is understandable, especially when people insist on putting the word "toilet" next to the word "tap." The idea of treating wastewater sounds creepy to many folks... especially when they conveniently forget that their municipal water system intakes are more than likely downstream from some other towns' treated sewer outflows.
What Singapore PUB did was demonstrate its technology. It handed out millions of bottles of NEWater. It built a visitors center with hands-on, high-tech displays and invited the public to see what water recycling really is.
A visitors center. Did you ever think 800,000 people would visit a wastewater treatment plant?
In The Big Thirst, author Charles Fishman notes, "When water becomes a crisis, it often ends up being about emotion as much as science or rational policymaking." The folks in Toowoomba and LA got tied up in the negative emotions surrounding phrases like "toilet to tap."
What we need to do is get swept up in the emotions that really ought to spring from realizing that recycling our wastewater multiplies our water supply. What emotions are those? Relief? Liberation? The kind of joy that accompanies the first splashes of rain after a parching drought? Those certainly seem most appropriate.
Wastewater recycling is starting to take hold in the U.S. -- mostly in industrial contexts, though some areas in Florida, California and Nevada are irrigating golf courses and crops with recycled water. Half of the irrigation water that nourishes Israel's lush farms is recycled water. Now, Singapore is pumping recycled water to the next level -- bringing it all the way around to where it started.
I became aware of NEWater when I learned about how Singapore PUB uses my company's filters as part of its multi-stage water purification process. And the emotion I feel is pride -- delighted to be part of a system that is turning what used to be considered waste back into the vital resource it really is.
Jim Lauria is aVice President of Marketing and Business Development for Amiad Filtration Systems


Crews continue battling Everglades fire; damage set at 57,645 acres
Miami Herald - by DAVID OVALLE
June 11, 2011
Fire crews worked to contain a large brush fire in the Everglades as a drop in humidity led to more smoke in the air in West Miami-Dade.
So far on Saturday, the fire had burned 57,645 acres and is 60 percent contained, said Scott Peterich, a spokesman for the Florida Division of Forestry. Krome Avenue, between Tamiami Trail and Okeechobee Road, remained closed as crews set controlled fires along the L-67 canal in an attempt to deny the fire additional fuel.
Peterich said winds had lessened by Saturday and the smoke in the air should diminish as the humidity increases in the later afternoon.
The fire started last Sunday, presumably sparked by ATV or motorbike riders in the area. At mid-week, the blaze threatened homes at the Miccosukee reservation, but crews managed to fight back the flames.
The forestry division is working with crews from Miami-Dade Fire-Rescue, the Everglades National Park and Seminole and Miccosukee tribes.


Environmentalists question South Florida water district cuts
Sun Sentinel – by Andy Reid
June 10, 2011
Environmental groups are raising concerns about looming budget cuts at the South Florida agency that leads Everglades restoration.
Potential cutbacks unveiled Thursday by the South Florida Water Management District include selling off public land, scaling back environmental monitoring and research, and delaying or scrapping construction projects.
The district faces $128 million in cuts – more than 30 percent of its budget – mandated by the Florida Legislature and Gov. Rick Scott.
Reprioritizing pending construction projects could mean more delays for already overdue Everglades restoration.
The district also is considering selling off some of its 1.3 million acres, acquired for conservation or water storage and treatment projects.
Environmental groups have questioned selling parting with land acquired to benefit South Florida’s water supply as well as the environment.
"I just don’t think that’s a good place to find a lot of money," said Drew Martin of the Sierra Club.
Aside from selling off land, the district is considering lessening its efforts to keep exotic plants spreading across public property. Melaleuca, Brazilian pepper and other exotic plants squeeze out native habitat vital to wildlife.
The district is also considering scaling back its security presence on public land, potentially opening the door to poaching, dumping and other unauthorized use.
That raises concerns for those who follow the rules and use district land for hunting, fishing and bird watching.
"You don’t want to lose that," Newton Cook of United Water Fowlers told district board members Thursday. "It gives you the best P.R. that you get."
The district’s budget squeeze raises question about the effects on stormwater storage and treatment facilities long planned for Everglades restoration.
An Everglades restoration plan agreed to between the state and federal government in 2000 identified dozens of construction projects planned to help revive the suffering River of Grass and boost South Florida’s drinking water supply.
Environmental groups that helped craft the plan don’t want to see this round of district budget cuts torpedo restoration projects already behind schedule.
"We can’t finish this one and that one and call it done," said Dawn Shirreffs of the National Parks Conservation Association. "Then the rest of the system fails."
On Thursday, new district Executive Director Melissa Meeker tried to reassure environmentalists worried about budget cuts by outlining a list of Everglades restoration projects that she intended to proceed with during the budget year that begins Oct.1.
Those priority-projects include expanding stormwater treatment areas and striking deals to store more stormwater on agricultural land. Also on the to-do list:  the C-111 spreader canal, to help redirect water to the Everglades; the Biscayne Bay coastal wetlands project; and efforts to return Picayune Strand, a failed development in southwest Florida, to native habitat.
Items left off Meeker’s priority list included what to do with 26,800 acres of U.S. Sugar Corp. land that the district last year bought for $197 million for Everglades restoration.
Also in doubt is the timetable for a proposal to turn an unfinished reservoir in southwestern Palm Beach County, which already cost taxpayers nearly $280 million, into a smaller water storage or treatment area.
The potential budget cuts unveiled Thursday were just proposals that will come back to the district board in July for formal action. The district has to submit a proposed budget to the governor and Legislature by Aug. 1. The district board takes its final vote on its tax rate and budget in September.
The new governor’s leadership shakeup at the district and the Legislature’s forced district budget cuts have agency officials refocusing on “core” functions of flood control, water supply and Everglades restoration, while looking for ways to scale back costs and other activities.
"We are certainly at a point of change and belt-tightening," new district Board Chairman Joe Collins said.


Everglades biologist leaving for Yellowstone post
The Associated Press
June 10, 2011
YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK, Wyo. -- The top biologist at Everglades National Park is leaving to take over the scientific division at Yellowstone National Park.
Yellowstone officials say Dave Hallac will start his new job July 24.
Hallac is the chief biologist at Everglades and Dry Tortugas national parks and helped implement major ecosystem restoration projects in south Florida. Park officials say he also helped minimize the impacts of recreational boating in the Everglades and led the management of exotic species such as the Burmese python and more than a dozen species of fish.
At Yellowstone, Hallac will oversee scientists and researchers who gather and analyze data to manage the park's natural and cultural resources.


The article is an example of either missing a point or, worse, public misleading – maybe both.

While mercury is a documented Everglades problem (fish eating advisories !), its inflow cannot be controlled. However, one of the main agents responsible for the mercury entry into the food chain is excess sulfate. That is at dangerously high levels (30-50 mg/L, 1 mg/L is normal) in the Everglades – and contributed to the largest extent by agricultural soil fertilization and soil oxidation caused by drainage.
CERP Sulfate :
Target = 1 mg/L Reality: 30-50 mg/L !

Fear-mongering about mercury in Everglades is unfair slam of farmers
TCPalm – Letter by George Wedgworth, Belle Glade
June 10, 2011
I feel compelled to correct the record regarding Karl Wickstrom's June 6 column on the purported impacts of farming and mercury-tainted fish in the Everglades. His claims appear to be nothing more than pure hypothesis aimed at maligning farmers.
First, there have been no published reports of human health impacts from consuming fish in the Everglades.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency conducted studies of mercury exposure among members of the Miccosukee Tribe, who live and fish in the Everglades. The results were provided to the tribe but never made public. Surely, we would have heard from the tribe if the results had been of concern.
Second, the 2011 South Florida Water Management District's South Florida Environmental Report, Chapter 3B, stated, "In the WCAs over the past 30 years, there has been a significant decline in annual median total mercury concentration in largemouth bass based on annual monitoring."
Third, EPA has issued mercury in fish advisories throughout the nation, including 100 percent of the Great Lakes.
Obviously farming in South Florida has nothing to do with this phenomenon. The good news for the Everglades is that considerable progress has been made in dealing with mercury reductions attributable to local sources. Most of the mercury deposition is now thought to result from international sources that are clearly beyond our control.
Wickstrom's fear-mongering provides a disservice to readers. Almost all fish have some mercury in their tissue. Yet, overall the health benefits of consuming fish far outweigh the limited risks due to contamination.
There is a need to balance the well-known health benefits of consuming fish against the very slight risk posed by mercury, rather than stoop to fear-mongering the public.
George H. Wedgworth is president and CEO of the Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative of Florida.

Lesser known agriculturally caused poison spawning an enormous mercury problem in our waters
TCPalm – Letter by Karl Wickstrom
June 6, 2011
There's really scary and startling scientific news clouding our day.
Tests now show that a lesser known agriculturally caused poison is spawning an enormous mercury problem. Even in very small quantities, mercury can inhibit cognitive (thinking) ability in children and trigger a host of other problems, not to mention hormone imbalances that lead male ibis birds to mate with other males.
The mercury threats to humans and wildlife are actually astounding, folks, notwithstanding the Pollution Establishment's expensive lobbying to ignore the situation.
But we'd best listen up, and speak up.
Just months ago, the gender preference change among white ibis populations was documented by University of Florida Professor Peter Frederick. Even the birds that retained heterosexual habits had reduced productivity.
"Mercury is rampant," says William Orem, a scientist with the U.S. Geological Survey. Orem noted that toxic levels of phosphorus, mainly from uncontained runoffs from outdated agricultural practices, have attracted more public attention (and lawsuits), though the mercury contamination is just as alarming. He said:
"The phosphorous issue has really taken center stage, and it is a problem. But phosphorus affects 20 percent of an ecosystem. Sulfate (precursor to methyl-mercury) affects 60 percent."
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency states that the primary negative health effect of methyl-mercury in humans is impaired neurological development. The substance can drastically affect the human nervous system and also harm vision and speech and cause muscle weakness.
A sad irony in all this is that Official Florida cares nothing about taking real action.
The South Florida Water Management District and state Department of Environmental Protection prefer to not even think about the toxic pollution levels, even though many steps could be taken.
Scientists say one of the reforms obvious for decades now would be to enlarge and update treatment areas in the Everglades Agricultural Area. These would feature unfertilized uptake plants that could filter out the toxic elements, including the sulfates/mercury. While we can't eliminate all of the disgraceful loadings from past practices, we could make substantial changes for our life quality and the future.
Two years ago, Professor Orem warned of the mercury threat that " there's a certain amount of reluctance from upper-level management to even address the issue."
This year, a new report by Dr. Melodie Naja and associates of the Everglades Foundation pinpoints the Everglades Agricultural Area as the main cause of the deadly sulfate concentration shunted to the coasts.
Check out the Everglades Foundation, other key research and a comprehensive article in the Florida Independent
( --> see the EvergladesHUB news at: ).
Let's consider putting the public good ahead of reckless profiteering.
Karl Wickstrom is founder of Florida Sportsman Magazine and coordinator of the Stuart-based Rivers Coalition Defense Fund.

Rick Scott Appoints Businessman With History of Everglades Pollution to Board That's Supposed to Keep it Safe
BrowardPalmBeach NewTimes Blog - by Eric Barton
June 10 2011
If there was any question whether Florida Gov. Rick Scott favored business over the environment, this week he ended the debate. Scott appointed a businessman with a history of environmental problems to oversee the board that's supposed to protect South Florida's water supply and wetlands from pollution.
Juan Portuondo, if confirmed by the Florida Senate, will be the newest board member to the South Florida Water Management District. He will represent Miami-Dade County, where he once ran a trash incinerator known for its mercury, water, and air pollution.
Just how bad is Portuondo's environmental history? Greenpeace once labeled the incinerator he ran as a "major source of mercury emissions" and was responsible "for much of the contamination in the Everglades."
That's right, a man once allegedly responsible for much of the Everglades contamination is
now serving on a board that's supposed to keep wetlands safe.
Portuondo, a 67-year-old Key Biscayne resident, didn't return phone calls to his home and the water management district office. But his background is spelled out in news stories going back to the early 1990s, when he left a job as technical services administrator for the city of Miami.
The job he took was president of Montenay Power Corp., which ran the county-owned trash incinerator plant at 6990 NW 97th Ave. in Miami. Department of Environmental Regulation inspections back then didn't go well -- one inspector had to flee the plant because the smell was making him sick. Then a tour by a Department of Environmental Regulation top brass was cut short when a fire raged out of control.
Environmental and safety problems at Montenay piled up over the years, according to a series of Miami Herald reports from the time. Smokestacks billowed heavy metal contaminants into the air. Rainwater soaked with trash ran underground. A worker was electrocuted and another burned by a fireball. All that pollution earned Montenay a record $640,000 fine in 1991 from the Department of Environmental Regulation.
In response, Portuondo continued to defend his company, saying it has spent millions to make things better, even though those fixes apparently hadn't quelled the pollution. "We've gone from zero to nine on a scale of ten," Portuondo told the Herald in 1991.
Despite those problems, Portuondo continued to lobby county leaders to expand the plant's capacity by 40 percent. To help the lobbying efforts, Montenay gave tens of thousands of dollars to a foundation run by popular South Florida environmentalist Edmund Benson. In exchange, Benson lobbied the county in 1993 to keep a school off property near the incinerator plant, meaning the plant would be free to expand.
In 2005, the Herald mentioned Portuondo as a former official at Montenay. The article cites a report issued by the county's inspector general about problems with the county's solid waste department. One of those problems included Portuondo receiving a $68,000 contract to inspect the Montenay plant for the county, even while he still collected a paycheck as a lobbyist for his former company.
It's unclear when Portuondo left Montenay. A spokeswoman for Veolia Environmental Services, which now owns Montenay, didn't return a phone call. A South Florida Water Management District spokesman said his office was waiting for the governor to send an official bio of Portuondo. Scott's brief written announcement about the appointment of Portuondo said he was the president of IP Group Inc., which, according to state records, went out of business last year.
Lane Wright, the governor's press secretary, offered up a simple explanation for why Portuondo was picked. "Gov. Scott feels he was the best qualified for the job. That's it. Period," he said. When asked about Portuondo's long history of environmental problems, Wright said he "wanted to emphasize" that Portuondo was picked because he was the most qualified.
With all this mystery about what Portuondo is doing now, perhaps it'd be better to look back to 1991, when Department of Environmental Regulation specialist Carol Meeds spoke to the Herald about the plant Portuondo ran: "People who live near this plant should be concerned."
Now that Portuondo's on the water management board, perhaps anyone who cares about the environment in South Florida should also be concerned


Drought’s environmental toll is broad, deep
Miami Herald – by CURTIS MORGAN
June 9, 2011
Without a big rainy season, the water shortage could continue into next year, adding to the challenges for an agency facing major budget cuts.
At the north end of the sprawling Everglades system, endangered snail kites are abandoning nests from the Kissimmee River basin down to Lake Okeechobee. Marshes in the heart of the Everglades are burning or shriveling into cracked mud.
On the east coast, oysters are dying as sea water pushes deeper into the brackish St. Lucie River estuary. On the west, explosions of toxic algae are killing fish and triggering public health warnings in the Caloosahatchee River. At the south end of the Glades, stretches of coastal Florida Bay mangroves have dipped into unhealthy hyper-salinity.
The ecological damage from one of South Florida’s worst droughts is deepening, water managers said Thursday, and rain is going to have to arrive soon —and in big buckets — to heal it.
“This has essentially overwhelmed and taken a toll on the entire natural system from top to bottom,’’ said Linda Lindstrom, director of restoration sciences for the South Florida Water Management District.
The drought is just one challenge confronting the district, which also began the process Thursday of meeting demands from the Legislature and Gov. Rick Scott to reduce property tax rates and slash $128 million from the budget of an agency that oversees the water supply and flood control for 16 counties.
Melissa Meeker, who took over as executive director last week, laid out a broad series of proposals. Among them: reducing water quality testing and maintenance of an aging network of flood control levees, pumps and gates; cutting helicopter use; selling or leasing surplus lands, and laying off some of the district’s 1,933 employees.
For starters, the district’s governing board agreed to sell the agency plane.
While Meeker called the decisions “very difficult,’’ she said they reflected the tough economic conditions that forced years of cutbacks at other agencies and private businesses.
“This is a trend the district has just been slow to get to,’’ she said.
The district’s governing board took no sweeping steps to address the fast-worsening water shortage – largely because most farmers and cities in the region is already under water restrictions, declining water levels have limited options of replenishing marshes or well fields and the rainy season is expected to kick in soon.
“We are right on the cusp of the wet season,’’ said Terrie Bates, the district’s director of water resources.
The biggest step the board took was ordering once-weekly watering for the cities of Palm Beach, West Palm Beach and South Palm Beach. Lake Okeechobee is now too low for water to flow down the L-8 Canal tapped by the utility that serves the cities.
But barring a tropical storm or hurricane, there is growing concern that the rainy season won’t be enough to end a severe water shortage after the driest dry season in 80 years. Over the first nine days of June, when the cycle of seabreeze-driven afternoon storms typically kicks in, districts gauges have recorded less than an inch of rain — a startling two percent of the average amount.
The drought has dropped ground water levels in parts of the Everglades below “environmental floors’’ intended to protect plants and wildlife. It’s also forced the district to install pumps to keep Lake Okeechobee water flowing to surrounding sugar, sod and vegetable growers.
Agricultural consultant Tom MacVicar said growers are struggling to avert losses until the rains come.
“None of these systems was designed to work with the water levels as low as they are in the canals,’’ he said.
The regional dry-down has wide ripple effects. It’s raised risks of wildfires like the one that has closed Krome Avenue in West Miami-Dade for several days. If it continues, it could damage the vast $1.2 billion network of artificial marshes the state built to reduce the flow of pollution into the Everglades. Marsh plants adsorb the damaging nutrient phosphorus; if they dry and die, water managers say it could take months or years to reestablish them — potentially a major setback for an agency already under fire from federal judges for delays in Everglades cleanup.
Environmentalists complained the agency should have ordered deeper water restrictions months ago.
Rae Ann Wessel, the natural resource policy director for the Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation, said water managers focus more on environmental protection. Some 22 inches of water from Lake Okeechobee went to farmers during the drought, she said, but fresh water flows were cut off to the Caloosahatchee. An inch a month would have been enough to prevent soaring salinity and algae blooms that she said threatened a $3 billion tourism and fishing industry.
“We have dead fish,’’ she said. “The smell I can’t reproduce for you. It’s literally affecting the quality of life.’’
With the budget, the district won’t detail specifics until next month but the board approved an initial approach Meeker said was intended to protect “core missions” of flood control, water supply and Everglades restoration.
Still, Meeker said the agency might “refocus” the Everglades restoration efforts it co-manages with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, returning to an original mission of buying land and operating projects its federal partner would construct.
A proposal to reduce the maintenance budget from $60 million a year to $50 million drew the most questions from board members.
Board member Glen Waldman, a Broward County attorney, said he’d been repeatedly briefed on the need to upgrade aging flood control structures, most notably the East Coast Protective Levee, the 100-mile-long earthen dike that separates the Everglades from the suburbs of Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties. A 38-mile section in Broward does not meet Federal Emergency Management Agency standards upgraded after Hurricane Katrina flooded New Orleans.
“I’m surprised to hear we can now do with $50 million or even less,’’ Waldman said,
Tommy Strowd, the district’s chief of operation and maintenance, said inspections and management oversight will be ramped up to ensure no serious problems are overlooked.
“We believe we can live with a little more uncertainty,’’ he said.


Drought sinks area water table – by Tom Hayden
Jun. 9, 2011
Lehigh monitoring well in red, others low.
The aquifer providing water to wells in north Cape Coral is approaching a record low level.
Although there have been few reports of dry wells, if the water level drops much more, those complaints may increase.
On Thursday, a monitoring well, called 4820, that feeds into the Mid-Hawthorn Aquifer was at 71.34 feet below the water table, just five feet from the record of 76.37 set April 8, 2007. The average is about 55 feet.
According to Randy Smith of the South Water Management District, that well is worth watching, but not at a critical stage.
Only one well in Lee County, located in Lehigh Acres, is in the "red," Smith said, meaning it is approaching or has reached an historic low. All other monitoring wells in Lee County are in good shape.
"We are in much better shape than the east coast," Smith said, noting 75 percent of the monitoring wells in areas such as Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties are approaching or have surpassed record low levels.
The lack of rainfall and residential overuse of irrigation water are reasons for the low levels in the Cape. There are more than 10,000 homes on wells.
Another monitoring well, near College Parkway and U.S. 41 in south Fort Myers, was at 67.61 feet below the table.
Cape Coral city spokeswoman Connie Barron said the city has received a couple of calls about residential wells going dry. Typically, pumps go down 80 to 120 feet in that area with 2-inch pipes running to the surface, as opposed to 200 feet for new wells and 4-inch pipes.
"All we have to do is drop the pump down a little bit farther. Once it rains, the water table is going to come back up," said Mary Ehrenberger of Reliable Well Services.
"The people with the 2-inch wells are having problems. One in North Fort Myers doesn't have any water. We have dropped maybe three, four pumps a little bit lower," Ehrenberger said.
"It's affecting a few people, but we aren't getting inundated with calls."
The city's other two key monitoring wells - 581 in southwest Cape and 2644 - are just 37.37 and 11 feet, respectively, below the normal water table, well into the safe zone.
"The water table has dropped drastically," said Dave Cannestra of Crystal Clear Water Purification Inc. "A lot of phone calls on it.
"Anytime during a drought, we definitely get a lot more people calling," Cannestra said. "Especially the people with the older houses, before the code changed. The older houses are the ones who are having the problems."
The low water table is impacting Loy Tucker's well.
"The quality of the water is affected," the north Cape resident said.
The drought is impacting other areas as well.
Lake Okeechobee is at 9.76 feet as a result of the drought, a little more than a foot from a record low. Throughout the 16-county South Florida Water Management District, rainfall from Oct. 2, 2010, through Monday was 10.54 inches below average.
Rainfall at Lake Okeechobee is 8.28 inches below average, and in Southwest Florida it's more than 7 inches below average.
The good news is that the drought, which was caused by La Nina, cooler-than-normal water in the equatorial Pacific Ocean, will soon end as South Florida returns to its usual summer rain pattern, said meteorologist David Unger of the National Weather Service's Climate Prediction Center.
"You can lay the drought squarely on La Nina, and La Nina has dissolved," Unger said. "Any residual drought effects will be because your soils are dry."
There is a 50 percent chances of storms today and Saturday, with the chance dropping to 30 percent Sunday.


Florida growth-management changes: Much ado about nothing
Palm Beach Post – Commentary by Brian Seymour
June 9, 2011
"Sigh no more, ladies, sigh no more,
Men were deceivers ever"
William Shakespeare, "Much Ado About Nothing," 2.3
On June 2, Gov. Scott signed HB 7207, revising our state's growth-management laws. There has been much teeth-gnashing about the end of growth management and environmental oversight. The Post editorialized "Veto this anti-jobs bill." The Post's John Kennedy reported, "The measure eliminates state oversight of local planning except when proposals with statewide impact are involved." This is not quite accurate.
Sigh no more, people, sigh no more. The revised growth-management regulations are not what some might have you believe. The bill is long and the issue is complex. To try to simplify it is no easy task, and determining its long-term implications is impossible.
There is no question that the revised growth-management laws provide more control to local governments. This is, as the Legislature found, "consistent with the proper role of local government." After all, if the impacts of growth are only to the local government and the citizens it represents, why should people in Tallahassee tell us what we must do?
Even in providing local governments more control over their own jurisdictions, the state has not been left out. As it has been, all amendments to comprehensive plans are subject to review. Where it is clear that state resources are affected - e.g., the Everglades - the process provides for review and comment by state agencies that is almost identical to the current process. Similarly, where regional resources are implicated, the Regional Planning Council must review the proposal.
Even where a local government believes that no state resources are affected, comprehensive plans are subject to review by several state agencies . They can identify where amendments may affect state resources, and in doing so identify which resources and how they are affected. Moreover, the state agencies must provide options for the local government to mitigate those impacts; they cannot merely say "No!"
Another issue raised is that of concurrency, particularly traffic concurrency. Historically, traffic concurrency considerations were based on the concept of providing more trips on the roads, generally meaning creating more pavement. As a traffic engineer once told me: If you build it, they will come.
More pavement means more cars. One unintended consequence has been the proliferation of urban sprawl. We now know that simply providing for more cars is not the answer. Therefore, instead of focusing only on trips, the Legislature focused on mobility - providing for alternative forms of transportation and mass transit. This can help reduce sprawl and emissions resulting from more cars on our roads.
Finally, some discussion surrounding the new growth-management laws has centered on the loss of environmental oversight. Not so fast. Every comprehensive plan is required to contain a Conservation Element to protect air quality and the quality and quantity of water, as well as protect minerals, soils, native vegetation, fisheries, and wildlife and its habitat. It must restrict activities known to adversely affect the survival of endangered and threatened wildlife. It must also protect natural resources, including wetlands, now and in the future. Every plan amendment that impacts the environment must be reviewed by the Department of Environmental Protection.
None of us can know what long-term implications will result from our revised growth-management legislation, but it isn't fair to say the changes will result in mass development, environmental degradation and other such hyperbole. We can be sure that those most directly affected will have the most say, because their local elected officials will be making the decisions. Who is against that?
Brian Seymour is chairman of the environmental and land-use practice at Gunster Law Firm.


Meeting on FPL lines proposed for Everglades National Park
Sun Sentinel – by David Fleshler
June 09, 2011
A controversial proposal for three major power lines along the eastern border of Everglades National Park will be the subject of a public hearing June 22 at Florida International University.
Florida Power & Light Co. wants to construct the lines to carry electricity generated by the proposed expansion of the Turkey Point nuclear plant.
The company already owns a 7.4 mile corridor inside the park, and the proposal calls for transferring that land to the park in exchange for land along the edge of the park. The park says the swap would result in less impact on the park than if the company ran the lines through the corridor it currently owns.
Many environmentalists oppose the land swap because of the impact on the park and the support it would give to the plan for new reactors at Turkey Point.
Debbie Matthews, chair of the Sierra Club Miami Group, wrote in the club’s June newsletter, “We need help with attendance to show we do not want 15-story-high tension lines along the entire eastern border of Everglades National Park, nor do we want two new nuclear reactors at Turkey Point.”


South Florida water managers struggle with $128 million budget gap - by ERIC STAATS
June 9, 2011
The Big Cypress Basin had little more than a bit role Thursday as South Florida water managers began tackling how to bridge a $128 million budget gap.
It remains to be seen, though, how the Collier County arm of the South Florida Water Management District will fare as budget talks heat up this summer.
The district’s governing board is facing a 32 percent cut in property tax revenues after Gov. Rick Scott signed a law capping the district’s levy at $285 million.
Despite the cuts, the West Palm Beach-based district plans to set aside money in next year’s budget to begin manning pump stations the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is building for the Picayune Strand restoration project in rural Collier County, the district’s Executive Director Melissa Meeker said Thursday.
She said the district also will complete the design of a restoration project in part of the Corkscrew Regional Ecosystem Watershed, or CREW, in southern Lee County and evaluate ways to share costs of education programs at CREW.
The Big Cypress Basin faces the same tax cap as the larger district, which would mean a $4 million whack out of its budget for 2011-12.
Southwest Florida’s representative on the district governing board said the Basin will have to focus on its “core missions.”
“There are things that do need to be evaluated,” Lee County-based land planning and engineering consultant Daniel DeLisi said.
DeLisi said he hadn’t had enough time on the job to talk specifics yet. Scott appointed him last month as part of a remaking of the district board.
Carved out of the district in 1977 by the state Legislature, the Basin manages 162 miles of canals and 46 water control structures in Collier County, and spends millions to help local governments pay for water supply and drainage projects.
Naples Councilman John Sorey, a member of the Basin board, said he will resist giving up projects that help the environment and quality of life of local communities.
“We’re going to do what we have to do to comply (with Scott’s tax cap),” Sorey said.


Gov. Rick Scott undermines Florida's water policy – Editorial
June 8, 2011
Piece by piece, Florida's water policy is being dismantled. First, Gov. Rick Scott and the Legislature forced the state's water management districts to slash property tax collections. Then the Scott administration pressured the Southwest Florida Water Management District to eliminate its local basin boards, and its executive director to resign. Now the administration is overturning decisions by water management districts to buy property to protect water supplies. Such political interference by a governor is unprecedented, and it undermines the professional management of the state's water resources.
Last month, Swiftmud's board was poised to approve the purchase of 800 acres in Pasco County to expand the 20,000-acre Starkey Wilderness Preserve. The water management district had studied the purchase for a year and a half, and it wanted to create an additional buffer between planned development and the preserve, a critical watershed. The land, on the north of State Road 54 between Odessa and Trinity in southern Pasco, had a below-appraisal sale price of $7 million that would have come from the Florida Forever Trust Fund.
Then the Department of Environmental Protection, which routinely signs off on such purchases, abruptly signaled it was reconsidering its position. By June 1, just 13 days after approving the transaction, Mike Long, the assistant DEP director for state lands, wrote a second letter rescinding the approval. The DEP contradicted the Swiftmud experts, maintaining the additional acres weren't a critical acquisition after all. A similar series of events also has unfolded in the Suwannee River Water Management District in North Florida, where the DEP approved and then rescinded permission to purchase 30 acres and a conservation easement for another 120 acres.
Environmental advocates cannot recall a previous administration overruling the technical expertise of water management districts in land-buying decisions. Florida's regional water management districts were designed so that scientists most familiar with natural systems could implement sound policy with minimal political tampering. Scott's maneuvers also break from the state's decadeslong, bipartisan commitment to land conservation.
Trey Starkey, grandson of the family patriarch who assembled the ranch and recognized the value in preserving it for future generations, has figured out the state's new policy. "It's, 'Don't buy any more land,' '' Starkey told St. Petersburg Times staff writer Lee Logan.
Scott's emphasis on less regulation and less government spending is not without merit. But his disregard for local control and environmental science has damaging consequences for future generations. His administration should not cancel property purchases and overrule the judgment of the water management districts charged with protecting the state's water supply.


Pollution spill
Toxic water from gypsum stack spilling for a week all the way to Tampa Bay.

High levels of toxic cadmium dumped into Tampa Bay
Herald-Tribune – by Halle Stockton
June 8, 2011
MANATEE COUNTY - High levels of a toxic metallic element were detected in the millions of gallons of seawater that have been gushing into Tampa Bay and Bishop Harbor for more than a week.
The element, cadmium, was the only chemical found at a hazardous level in a test for nearly 40 chemicals in water being drained from the former Piney Point phosphate plant in Manatee County.
The presence of cadmium was above state water quality standards, wrote Dee Ann Miller, spokesperson for the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.
A daily average of 3.8 million gallons of water has been drained from the plant into the bay and harbor since May 29.
The water and slurry from a dredging project at Port Manatee was being stored in reservoirs in the plant's phosphogypsum stacks. A leak in a reservoir was detected on May 11.
Officials determined the leak was caused by a tear in the protective liner, which created pressure in the stacks and could have caused them to collapse.
The DEP then ordered that water in the reservoir be quickly drained to prevent an environmental "catastrophe."
Cadmium is found in rocks mined to produce phosphate fertilizers. The element is used in metal alloys, plating and also in rechargeable batteries.
The DEP released the "expedited" laboratory results Tuesday evening with little explanation.
Miller sent a report showing the levels of nitrogen and phosphorus, feared to trigger an algal bloom, and dozens of other chemicals and metals.
Total nitrogen levels in the saltwater were 9 mg/L and total phosphorus levels were 16 mg/L, Miller noted.
"The loading of nitrogen is similar to the closure water management activities that were conducted in 2003 and 2004," she added.
However, it is unclear at this time what that means for the impact on the water bodies.
All other metals tested came back below the state standards.
The DEP will continue to test the water and will also begin monitoring the water quality in Bishop Harbor "to ensure there are no water quality concerns and that the emergency discharge is discontinued as soon as possible," Miller wrote.


West Volusia cities oppose federal clean-water rules
The Daytona Beach News Journal - by MARK HARPER, Staff writer
June 8, 2011
DELTONA -- If a federal clean-water rule is allowed to remain in place, the city could have to find as much as $20 million to build a new storm water treatment system in the next 15 months.
And the rule, known as the numeric nutrient criteria, is overly stringent, applying only to inland waters in Florida, Assistant City Manager Dave Denny said.
"You take a vacant lot in Deltona that is adjacent to (an inland water body). The runoff from natural rainfall will not even meet this new regulation," he said. "I think it's a bit ridiculous."
The City Commission voted unanimously Monday in favor of a resolution opposing the Environmental Protection Agency's rule.
Several other cities, including neighboring Orange City and DeLand, have passed similar resolutions. DeBary is scheduled to vote on it in July.
But the EPA has, in news statements and on its website, defended the need for the new rule. Two common nutrients -- nitrogen and phosphorus -- run off lawns and farm fields into lakes, rivers and streams, contributing to the state's "severe water quality degradation," according to an EPA statement.
The 2010 Florida Integrated Water Quality Assessment reports that nearly 2,000 miles of rivers and streams, 378,435 acres of lakes and 569 square miles of estuaries are impaired in the state, EPA documents state.
"Anyone who has seen the green sludge coating Florida's waters has experienced the consequences of excess nutrient pollution. This is a serious environmental problem that harms Florida's economy and quality of life," said Gwen Keyes-Fleming, EPA regional administrator.
But studies commissioned by the state show the cost of building storm water and wastewater treatment plants just to meet the new rules could cost more than $21 billion. For Deltona, it would require construction of a plant estimated between $11 million and $20 million, Denny said.
"There's no way," Denny said. "We don't have $11 million in capital laying around."
Deltona City Commissioner Herb Zischkau said the state environmental regulators, not the feds, are better positioned to set rules on water quality.
"The federal regulations are questionable on their face because they apply to one state of 50, and that's us," Zischkau said. "We need to stop this on a discriminatory basis."


3 Palm Beach County cities face tougher landscape watering rules
Sun Sentinel - by Andy Reid,
June 8, 2011
West Palm Beach, Palm Beach and South Palm Beach to switch to once-a-week watering.
West Palm Beach water customers face once-a-week watering limits under tougher irrigation rules proposed to start on Monday due to a worsening drought.
The switch to stricter watering rules for homes and businesses would also apply to the town of Palm Beach and the town of South Palm Beach, which get water from West Palm Beach.
Most of South Florida has been under twice-a-week watering limits since March due to water supply strains.
While most communities pump their water from below ground, West Palm Beach draws its water from Clear Lake, Lake Mangonia and Grassy Waters Preserve. The city relies on Lake Okeechobee to back up its water supplies.
Last weekend, Lake Okeechobee dropped to its lowest point since 2008 and can no longer be counted on for back-up water deliveries.
"They use a surface water system with a direct connection to Lake Okeechobee," South Florida Water management District spokesman Randy Smith said about West Palm Beach. "With no water coming from the lake they have seen their surface water sources drop significantly, prompting the need for a larger demand reduction."
West Palm Beach officials called for the cutbacks on Wednesday. The district's board meets on Thursday and will be asked to approve the new once-a-week watering limits for West Palm Beach, Palm Beach and South Palm Beach.
The rest of South Florida is expected to remain under twice-a-week landscape watering, although the district board can also opt for stricter limits throughout its 16-county region that stretches from Orlando to the Keys.
Since October, South Florida rainfall has been more than 10 inches below normal, straining water supplies and prompting emergency irrigation cutbacks.
The usual summer rainy cycle has yet to materialize to bring relief.
Lake Okeechobee, South Florida's primary backup water supply, has dropped below the point where gravity can consistently move water into canals that send it south.
Temporary pumps are keeping lake water flowing to South Florida agricultural fields for irrigation, but they can only provide about 45 percent of the usual deliveries.
The lingering drought adds to South Florida's manmade water supply problems. Providing flood control for farms and communities built on what used to be the Everglades leads to stormwater getting drained out to sea, instead of stored for future needs.
Last year, lack of storage space and safety concerns about Lake Okeechobee's 70-year-old dike led to more than 300 billion gallons of lake water getting drained into rivers that carry it out to sea.
On Wednesday, Lake Okeechobee was 9.81 feet above sea level — about 2 feet below normal and more than 4 feet below this time last year.
During 2007, Lake Okeechobee dropped to its all-time low of 8.82 feet above sea level and the district temporarily imposed once-a-week watering limits for all of South Florida.
Under the new once-a-week watering rules proposed for West Palm Beach, Palm Beach and South Palm Beach:
Addresses ending in odd numbers would be allowed to water on Wednesdays between 4 and 8 a.m.
Addresses ending in even numbers would be allowed to water on Thursday's between 4 and 8 a.m.
Hand watering would be permitted on allowable watering days for 10 minutes between 5 and 7 p.m.
Like elsewhere in South Florida, the watering rules also include irrigation systems that draw water from wells, neighborhood lakes and canals.


Cerabino: Congressman sees big snakes, not dirty water, as Everglades threat
Palm Beach Post - by Frank Cerabino , Staff Writer
June 7, 2011
Congressman Tom Rooney's got great timing.
He's going to be featured on a TV documentary Wednesday night entitled Man-Eating Super Snake.
A congressman's battles with a dangerous snake has never been more relevant than it is this week, considering the erotic texting travails of Anthony Weiner, one of Rooney's colleagues in the U.S. House of Representatives.
If I were marketing Animal Planet's programming, I'd be playing up Rooney's appearance on the show about Burmese pythons in the Everglades. But in the most vague way possible.
"Another congressman! Another demon snake! Only on Animal Planet at 8 p.m."
The show is a warmed-over version of the 2-year-old story about worries that large snakes have been multiplying in the Everglades.
So far, no humans have been eaten, or even nibbled on, by swamp-roaming pythons. And last year, when the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission sanctioned a monthlong Everglades snake hunt, no snakes were caught.
Our snake-killing congressman
Nevertheless, state wildlife experts say that these unsupervised large reptiles, which may number anywhere from 5,000 to 100,000, need to be addressed.
Rooney, R-Tequesta, displayed the skin of a 14-foot Burmese python at a 2009 hearing of the House Judiciary Subcommittee, where he pushed for a law to restrict the importation of pythons and boa constrictors.
"Banning the importation of these dangerous snakes is critical to the survival of the Everglades and the surrounding ecosystems," Rooney said Tuesday in a press release to announce his appearance on the TV show. "These invasive predators are causing severe damage to our native wildlife and they need to be eradicated."
Judging from this, one might get the impression that Rooney is a man of action when it comes to eradicating things that threaten Florida's ecosystems.
Slow to the rescue
But when it comes to the most pervasive menace in Florida's great outdoors, Rooney's been awfully slow to the rescue.
Snakes can't match the harm that nutrient pollution has brought to the state's once pristine waterways, choking them with algae, killing fish, and making water recreation a hazard to humans. High levels of nitrogen and phosphorus have been flowing from storm-water runoff, crop fertilizer and livestock manure, while state officials, paralyzed by the financial interests of big business, have failed for more than a decade to comply with standards set by the federal Clean Water Act.
So, a coalition of environmental groups sued three years ago, which led to a court settlement mandating that the Environmental Protection Agency enforce the nitrogen and phosphorus limits for the state's lakes, streams, canals and coastal areas.
Those limits are supposed to go into effect next year. But Rooney has led a bi-partisan effort of Florida's elected representatives to question the EPA science, challenge cost estimates and derail enforcement of water standards until another study is completed.
"Now is not the time to punish Florida's small businesses, workers and farmers with increased costs while they struggle to survive," Rooney said last year, in arguing that imposing the established clean water standards was too expensive for Florida.
Now, this would make great documentary. Much better than the snakes:
It could be called Water-Eating Super Pollutant, and feature a congressman's courageous efforts to do the bidding of U.S. Sugar, the Florida Cattlemen's Association, the Florida Fertilizer & Agrichemical Association, the Florida Pulp and Paper Association and the Florida Pest Management Association against the scourge of clean water.


Former refuge biologist returns as deputy refuge manager - by Chelle Koster Watlon
June 7, 2011
She left in March 2009 as Joyce Mazourek, refuge biologist. She returned the end of May 2011 as Joyce Palmer, deputy refuge manager, a post vacated by Patrick Martin in November 2010.
During the intervening months, Mazourek married David Palmer and took on a post as refuge manager of Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge southeast of Naples.
 “It’s exciting!,” says Palmer, who has a wetland ecology background and worked from 2004 to 2007 with the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP), during which time she was also stationed at “Ding.”
 “It’s a promotion, actually, because of ‘Ding’ Darling’s reputation and public use,” she added. Ten Thousand Islands, in contrast to “Ding’s” extensive visitor facilities, has only one trail without facilities, “a secret among birders,” said Joyce.
During her tenure as refuge manager, a parking lot, signage, and an observation tower made the trail more user-friendly and brought seasonal visits to a peak of 100 a day.
Palmer maintained her home in Fort Myers during the transitions, “So I’ve just changed the direction of my commute,” she said with her ready smile.
Returning to “Ding” means she can hone her management aspirations without having to move.
 “Plus, I just wanted to come back!” she said.
Martin now serves as refuge manager for Marais des Cygnes NWR near Pleasanton, Kansas.
The J.N. “Ding” Darling NWR is the second most visited wildlife refuge in the country with more than 800,000 visitors from around the world. With more than 6,000 acres, it is most known for its extensive mangrove ecosystem and topnotch birding.
For more information about the refuge or the “Ding” Darling Wildlife Society-Friends of the Refuge, call 239-472-1100 or visit


Karl Wickstrom: Lesser known agriculturally caused poison spawning an enormous mercury problem in our waters
TCPalm – by Karl Wickstrom, founder of Florida Sportsman Magazine and coordinator of the Stuart-based Rivers Coalition Defense Fund
June 6, 2011
There's really scary and startling scientific news clouding our day.
Tests now show that a lesser known agriculturally caused poison is spawning an enormous mercury problem. Even in very small quantities, mercury can inhibit cognitive (thinking) ability in children and trigger a host of other problems, not to mention hormone imbalances that lead male ibis birds to mate with other males.
The mercury threats to humans and wildlife are actually astounding, folks, notwithstanding the Pollution Establishment's expensive lobbying to ignore the situation.
But we'd best listen up, and speak up.
Just months ago, the gender preference change among white ibis populations was documented by University of Florida Professor Peter Frederick. Even the birds that retained heterosexual habits had reduced productivity.
"Mercury is rampant," says William Orem, a scientist with the U.S. Geological Survey. Orem noted that toxic levels of phosphorous, mainly from uncontained runoffs from outdated agricultural practices, have attracted more public attention (and lawsuits), though the mercury contamination is just as alarming. He said:
"The phosphorous issue has really taken center stage, and it is a problem. But phosphorous affects 20 percent of an ecosystem. Sulfate (precursor to meythlmercury) affects 60 percent."
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency states that the primary negative health effect of methylmercury in humans is impaired neurological development. The substance can drastically affect the human nervous system and also harm vision and speech and cause muscle weakness.
A sad irony in all this is that Official Florida cares nothing about taking real action.
The South Florida Water Management District and state Department of Environmental Protection prefer to not even think about the toxic pollution levels, even though many steps could be taken.
Scientists say one of the reforms obvious for decades now would be to enlarge and update treatment areas in the Everglades Agricultural Area. These would feature unfertilized uptake plants that could filter out the toxic elements, including the sulfates/mercury. While we can't eliminate all of the disgraceful loadings from past practices, we could make substantial changes for our life quality and the future.
Two years ago, Professor Orem warned of the mercury threat that " there's a certain amount of reluctance from upper-level management to even address the issue."
This year, a new report by Dr. Melodie Naja and associates of the Everglades Foundation pinpoints the Everglades Agricultural Area as the main cause of the deadly sulfate concentration shunted to the coasts.
Check out the Everglades Foundation, other key research and a comprehensive article in the Florida Independent.
Let's consider putting the public good ahead of reckless profiteering.


Prague Castle at night
Prague Castle at night (Czech Republic) -
Prague hosts the Internat. Conference of the Society of Wetland Scientists, July 3-8/11

Award sends FSU grad to Prague event - by Monica West, Democrat writer
June 06. 2011 2:00AM
Engineering alum Jasmine Washington will present wetlands research.
Some college students see internships as a necessary evil, in order to build resumes and skills needed for their future careers.
For Florida State graduate Jasmine Washington, internships sparked personal interest and incredible opportunity.
When convinced by Professor Jerry Wekezer to apply for the Society of Wetland Scientists Undergraduate Mentoring Award, she jumped at the opportunity based on previous internship experience.
The award allows students to attend the SWS annual meeting, where wetland professionals such as scientists and management specialists gather to discuss and explore wetland conservation.
"It provided me a chance to showcase the research I had done, and gives a template for other projects," Washington said.
She will join 10 other students from the United States in attending this year's meeting in Prague, Czech Republic, where she will present a poster outlining her research. This is only the second SWS meeting to be held abroad.
Students also will have the opportunity to meet and network with professionals and explore career and postgraduate opportunities in the field.
Washington based her research on her internships with the Department of Environmental Protection.
While pursuing her bachelor's degree in civil engineering, she worked in both the land acquisition and water treatment departments, where she got to see the Kissimmee River Restoration project firsthand.
"I've seen a lot of the processes behind the restoration, so it was a continuation of things that I've already done," she said. "I had dealt with this before, so it gave me a chance to go back and see what happened to it."
Washington outlined the efforts to rebuild the natural wetland habitats in the river basin that were harmed when the river was channelized.
She originally presented the work as part of a class project for Professor Amy Chan Hilton's Introduction to Environmental Engineering course.
"Her work at FDEP gave her a real-life perspective," Chan Hilton said.
"She was in an environment where she got to see things that she would actually do in a professional setting."
Washington adds the award to an impressive list of achievements. She was a part of the Garnet and Gold scholar program at FSU, and was the student senate representative from the College of Engineering.
She is dedicated to continuing with her research in her future career.
Washington currently is interning at MWH Construction, where she is part of the team working on the renovation project underway at the Thomas P. Smith Water Reclamation Facility.
"I try to be involved as much as possible and make an impact wherever I go," she said.



Joint International Conference of the SWS in Prague, Czech Rep.,
July 3-8, 2011

Prague center
Prague center,
Czech Republic:
Tyn Cathedral

Joint meeting of Society of Wetland Scientists, WETPOL and Wetland Biogeochemistry Symposium
June 6, 2011
Join the International Joint Conference of the Society of Wetland Scientists to be held in Prague, Czech Republic, July 5-8, 2011.
The Society of Wetland Scientists has held annual meetings since 1980 when Clearwater, Florida was selected to be the first host city.
The Society of Wetland Scientists has held annual meetings since 1980 when Clearwater, Florida was selected to be the first host city. Since then, 23 of the United States have played host with Louisiana being the only state that has hosted three times.
The first annual SWS meeting outside the United States was held in June 1993 in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. Canada also hosted the second meeting outside the U.S.; in Québec as a joint meeting with INTECOL Wetlands Conference, International Peat Society and International Mire Conservation Group. In 2006, the Australian Chapter hosted the meeting in Cairns, Queensland.
The history of the SWS European Chapter is young as compared to the chapters in the U.S. Despite the fact that serious wetland research has been carried out in Europe for at least five decades, the Chapter was formed only in 2005 with the first meeting held in Bangor, Wales in January 2006.
In 2007, the European Chapter meeting was held in Třeboň, Czech Republic and in 2008, the meeting took place at Kuressaare on the Estonian island of Saaremaa. In 2009, the meeting was organized in Erkner near Berlin, Germany and in 2009, the meeting was held in Tramore, Ireland.
The conference WETPOL (Wetland Pollutant Dynamics and Control) was initiated at the University of Ghent, Belgium where the first meeting was held in 2005. In 2007, the second WETPOL conference was organized in Tartu, Estonia and, in 2009, Barcelona, Spain hosted the third meeting.
The Wetland Biogeochemistry Symposium was first organized at the Louisiana State University at Baton Rouge in February 1991 to promote advanced research and application on biogeochemical processes that regulate elemental cycling in wetlands. During the 10th symposium held in Annapolis, Maryland, in 2007. After this meeting, the participants agreed to develop stronger ties with SWS and in February 2008, Wetland Biogeochemistry became an official section of SWS.
I am very pleased and honored that the SWS-Europe and the Czech Republic have a chance to host the joint conference of SWS, WETPOL and Wetland Biogeochemistry Symposium. I am sure that the joint meeting will bring together many researchers, scientists, regulators, decision-makers and other professionals from around the world who will share their knowledge on a variety of topics pertaining to natural and constructed wetlands. I hope that you will join us in Prague July 3-8, 2011 for what will be a great conference in a beautiful city in the heart of the European continent.
City of Prague
- the capital of the Czech Republic situated on the both banks of Vltava River, is a beautiful city with a rich history. Thanks to its location in the centre of Europe, Prague has been an important crossroad of trade and culture for many centuries.
Prague has 1,200,000 inhabitants and stretches over approximately 500 square kilometres. The dominant feature of the city is Prague Castle, which houses the gothic St. Vitus’s Cathedral. Prague has a designated UNESCO World Cultural and Natural Heritage area of more than 8 sq km, over 100 theatres, concert halls, galleries etc.
During its thousand years history, Prague was always a political, cultural, and business centre of the country. Prague is also called a "Golden City" or a "City of Hundred Towers" and belongs to the group of architecturally unique European towns, attractive for tourists from the whole world. The visitors find themselves enjoying a living museum of European architecture from Romanesque to the present times. Prague is quite a unique city well known not only for the number of its towers. Prague also boasts about a vast number of bridges connecting both banks of the river Vltava with the oldest Charles Bridge being more than 600 years old.
For more information, please see the web sites and
Czech Republic
The number of foreign visitors to the Czech Republic has been increasing sharply over the last several years. Many come back after their first visit, to enjoy together with others all that the Czech Republic has to offer. The main advantage of the Czech Republic is the wealth, diversity and accessibility of cultural, historical and natural places of interest, all concentrated in a relatively small space that boast very serviceable standards of accommodation and dining facilities. Prague is among the most frequently visited cities in the world. Places of interest for tourists are not, however, concentrated just there - every part of Bohemia and Moravia has something to offer to its visitors. For some, it is old cathedrals and picturesque corners of historical towns, others value a silent mountain valley or the mysterious atmosphere of romantic ruins and ancient castles. The social life is rich as well – not just in Prague and other larger cities, but also in Bohemian and Moravian spas.


FDEP Public Meeting on FL Nutrient Criteria
Press Release
June 6, 2011
The Department is holding two public meetings (June 14 and June 16, 2011) for the purpose of exploring options with the public on Florida nutrient standards and other relevant provisions of water quality standards.  These meetings will be used to discuss concepts and gain public input on ideas for a State nutrient rule.  The information gained at the meetings will be used as part of the traditional State process of collaborative rulemaking.  Note that the Department previously opened up Chapters 62-302 and 62-303, F.A.C., for the establishment of nutrient standards, but then suspended that rulemaking.  Both meetings will cover the same material and will address nutrient standards as well as the Department’s analyses of dissolved oxygen conditions in the state relative to the current standard.
LOCATION:  City of Leesburg Community Center, 109 E. Dixie Avenue, Leesburg, FL – 9 am)
CONTACT:  Questions and comments should be directed to Eric Shaw, Standards and Assessments Section, Florida Department of Environmental Protection, 2600 Blair Stone Road, MS 6511, Tallahassee, FL 32399-2400; telephone 850/245-8429, email


Lake Okeechobee hits lowest level since 2008
Sun Sentinel – by Andy Reid
June 6, 2011
Lake Okeechobee, South Florida’s backup water supply, dropped to its lowest level since 2008 when its water level dipped Saturday below 10 feet above sea level.
By Monday the lake hit 9.89 feet – 2 feet below normal and more than 4 feet below this time last year.
The lake’s ongoing decline already triggered irrigation restrictions for yards and crops across South Florida, as well as the instillation of pumps to keep back-up water moving south.
Aside from straining South Florida supplies, declining lake levels are drying out the marshes rimming the lake. That threatens habitat vital to the survival of the endangered Everglades snail kite.
The South Florida Water Management District is moving ahead with plans to install more temporary pumps to keep lake water flowing south, despite the environmental concerns.
"It's really irresponsible, from Audubon's point of view, for there to be more (pumping) out of Lake Okeechobee," said Jane Graham of Audubon of Florida. "We are looking at multi-year harm here. This is an endangered species."
After a drier than normal October-to-May dry season, water managers are counting on the beginning of the summer rainy season to bring water supply relief.
There are no proposals so far to toughen watering restrictions, according to the district. The district’s board meets Thursday.
Landscape watering for homes and businesses across South Florida has been limited to twice a week since March. Golf courses and agriculture have been required to reduce water use 15 percent. Last month, that cutback increased to 45 percent for growers that use Lake Okeechobee water for irrigation.
In July 2007, Lake Okeechobee dropped to its all-time low of 8.82 feet and the district temporarily imposed once-a-week watering restrictions across South Florida.
When Lake Okeechobee drops below 10.5 feet, gravity cannot be relied on to consistently move water into the canals that move lake water south.
Those canals are tapped by sugar cane growers and other agricultural operations for irrigation.
The canals can also move lake water to the Everglades water conservation areas – the northern reaches of the Everglades west of Palm Beach and Broward counties.
The conservation areas provide animal habitat and hold water that can be moved east to beef up community water supplies.
The district last month agreed to install four temporary pumps along the lake’s southern rim to keep water moving south and now plans to add six more.
Audubon of Florida opposes the lake pumping, saying providing water for sugar cane and other crops shouldn’t trump protecting supplies needed for the snail kite.
The endangered birds are already abandoning nests along the receding lake, threatening to further thin a population that dropped from 3,000 to 700 during the past decade.
South Florida’s average of 12.44 inches of rain since October is about 9 inches less than normal. But the effects of the ongoing drought are worsened by manmade factors.
Providing flood control for farms and communities built on what used to be the Everglades leads to stormwater getting drained out to sea, instead of stored for future needs.
Last year, lack of storage space and safety concerns about Lake Okeechobee’s 70-year-old dike led to more than 300 billion gallons of lake water getting drained into rivers that carry it out to sea.


Putnam: Florida has to ‘get out of the litigation business’ when it comes to environmental policy
Florida Independent - by Virginia Chamlee
June 6, 2011
Calling it the “base of a Floridian identity,” Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam said that Florida’s water was a “limited precious resource” that citizens are “burning through at too big a rate” during Friday’s 2011 Water Forum, held in Orlando. But touting the state’s “forward-thinking water policy” didn’t stop Putnam — like state Rep. Trudi Williams, R-Ft. Myers, who also spoke at the event — from knocking a set of water pollution standards proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency.
“There’s not enough money in the state of Florida to comply with both Moreno and Gold,” Putnam said, referring to two Florida judges. “We’re playing four-dimensional chess on this. [The criteria need to be] science-based, peer reviewed, driven by what’s good for Florida … not by something that comes from the back of a judge’s chambers.”
Putnam said that his main concern with implementing the numeric nutrient criteria is that other important projects might fall by the wayside as a result. Consistently starting new projects before others haven’t yet been brought to fruition, he said, could lead to an abandonment of innovative programs. “Don’t eliminate the innovative programs,” he said.
“That leads to … less creative, more regulatory, less innovative programs. … Some of the innovative issues are having to be walked away from in lieu of other things.”
Putnam argued that Florida still needs to work on strengthening water policy efforts — but should use approaches other than simply implementing the stringent nutrient standards: “We expose ourselves to greater federal intervention if there is a greater withdrawal on water policy issues on the state level.”
Another concern for Putnam is the seemingly overwhelming number of lawsuits piling up in Florida — many directed at water policy: “We have to get out of the litigation business in Florida’s water policy. It’s not good for the environment, it’s not good for economic supply.”
Referencing the overwhelming opposition to the criteria on the part of state lawmakers and the agricultural industry, Putnam said the effort to overthrow the criteria in the state was “mom and apple pie-caliber stuff.”
“Make no mistake … it’s not a question of ‘Will there or won’t there be numeric nutrient criteria?’,” Putnam said. “That conversation is over. The conversation is: ‘Will Florida make the right decisions for Florida or will the decision come from the back of a judge’s chamber … while the rest of the 49 states are off scot-free?’”


Environmentalists win some lose some - by Dave Trecker
June 5, 2011
It's been a roller coaster year for Florida ecologists.
Things started well. The U.S. EPA plugged a big hole in Florida water standards by setting limits on dissolved nitrogen and phosphorus -- so-called nutrients that come largely from fertilizer run-off. Those nutrients, if left unchecked, can cause algal growth and fish kill.
The proposed regs caused a furor. The business community claimed the limits were capricious and would harm an economy still recovering from the recession.
The EPA backed off. Bowing to political pressure, it postponed implementing the regs until March 2012.
Then things took a turn for the better. In the recent legislative session, Tallahassee failed to pass a bill directing the Florida DEP to come up with its own set of guidelines. That leaves the EPA rules the only game in town.
Environmentalists got another boost last month when a federal judge ordered the EPA to enforce pollution restrictions in the Everglades. By that ruling, the judge gave de facto approval to the EPA standards.
The good news was short-lived. The recent legislature passed a raft of bills opposed by environmentalists.
Most troublesome was HB 7202. It sharply reduced state oversight on growth planning and handed unprecedented control to local governments. Environmental groups were appalled, claiming this was a recipe for urban sprawl.
Also troublesome was HB 993. This legislation shifted the burden for proving environmental damage in permit challenges to the party making the challenge. The developer no longer has the burden of proof. Supporters say this will expedite permitting. Conservationists see it as the loss of an important safeguard.
Finally, water management took a hit. Budgets for districts throughout the state were cut, and taxing authority was taken over by Tallahassee (SB 2142).
All in all, a legislative rout.
What does the future hold?
Likely more of the same.
Environmental groups will keep up pressure on the EPA and urge that regulations be developed for estuaries and coastal waters.
Florida businesses will push back.
Both sides will prepare for the next legislative session.
And the roller coaster ride will continue.


GOP donors enjoy huge tax breaks under law signed by Scott
Palm Beach Post - by John Kennedy
June 5, 2011
TALLAHASSEE— The biggest tax break created by Gov. Rick Scott and the Republican-led legislature will let the average home­owner in Palm Beach County knock about $28 off his or her property tax bill next year.
But for some of the state's biggest companies, including several that helped power last year's GOP political campaigns, the tax cut will yield tax savings of hundreds of thousands of dollars and maybe even more than $1 million for a few.
Legislative leaders passed a law, signed by Scott on May 26, that cuts the tax revenue collected by the state's five water management districts by $210 million across the state.
Republican leaders say the cut is part of their effort to jump-start Florida's feeble economy, but environmentalists say the declining dollars will erode land, water and flood protection programs.
And like many Democrats, some conservationists see the tax cut in starkly political terms, deriding it as a thank-you from Republicans to some of their powerful contributors.
"It's a flagrant political move and bad public policy," said Kirk Fordham, chief executive officer of the Everglades Foundation. "There's also a huge inequity when you look at its effect on average homeowners in the water districts, compared to what it means to big landowners."
In the South Florida Water Management District, property tax collections must drop by $120 million, or 30 percent, under the new law (SB 2142).
Officials said the district's current tax rate of $0.624 per $1,000 in taxable value probably will shrink by 30 percent to achieve the reduction, but district tax rates won't be finally set until the fall.
For the owner of a median­-priced home in Palm Beach County, now at $198,000, a 30 percent cut would amount to about a $28 savings.
Big donors get big breaks
Florida Power & Light, Walt Disney World, BellSouth and Universal are among the companies that stand to gain the most under the tax cut because they own the highest-valued property in the South Florida district's 16 counties, which range from Monroe in the south to Orange in the north and include Palm Beach, Martin and St. Lucie.
FPL and Disney could save more than $1 million each on their tax bills for the budget year that begins Oct. 1.
They also were among the Florida Republican Party's biggest contributors during the 2010 election campaigns, when Scott defeated Democrat Alex Sink and the GOP grabbed unprecedented two-thirds majorities in the state House and Senate.
FPL donated $1.1 million to the state GOP, while Disney contributed $854,364, according to an analysis of contribution records by the National Institute on Money in State Politics.
Mark Bubriski, an FPL spokesman, said the utility giant pays about $1.1 billion in taxes to Florida governments, so the property tax cut is modest. Utility regulations prohibit the money from going to political purposes, he added.
"It's really a small amount in the overall rate base," he conceded.
Andrea Finger of Walt Disney World said, "We don't yet know the impact" of the tax cut.
Asked if it would have any bearing on the company's political activities, she added, "The two are unrelated."
Progress Energy, a Central Florida utility that contributed $770,000 to the Florida Republican Party for last year's campaigns, stands to save more than $158,000 on its district property tax bill.
The state GOP's largest private contributor, U.S. Sugar Corp., also is a major industry and landholder within the South Florida Water Management District.
It donated $2.2 million to the Florida GOP for last fall's campaigns. But because much of its 187,000 acres of land earns an agricultural tax exemption, U.S. Sugar doesn't appear on the district's list of top property taxpayers.
The companies also gave to the Florida Democratic Party, but in amounts far less than they gave the state GOP, records show.
Republican leaders downplay the symmetry between party donors and those gaining the most in tax breaks.
"It's probably not an earth-shaking revelation that people who own a lot of property could get the best benefit under this," said Sen. Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, in line to become Senate president following next year's elections. "And, similarly, it's maybe not surprising that people who own a lot of property might be Republicans."
But Democrats said the water district tax reductions are part of a disturbing pattern that emerged during the spring legislative session.
House Democratic Leader Ron Saunders of Key West said legislation that hurt members of public employees' unions, reduced environmental oversight and made it tougher for activist organizations to register voters were partisan policy decisions.
"Republicans seemed to find a lot of ways to reward big contributors this session," Saunders said.
Cuts deepest in south
In anticipation of the South Florida district's $120 million decline, the district's new executive director, Melissa Meeker, overhauled the $1.1 billion agency's organizational structure last week, recasting its executive management team and cutting executive salaries.
Meeker also has said the district's budget - which will reflect planned layoffs and other personnel changes, including a possible reduction in staff benefits - will be completed by July.
With the South Florida district absorbing the biggest cash reduction because it collects the most taxes of all the districts, the legislation culminates a year marked by an uneasy relationship among South Florida water managers, Scott and influential Republican lawmakers.
As a candidate last summer, Scott joined tea party supporters outside the district's headquarters in West Palm Beach to criticize water managers' plans to buy 26,800 acres of U.S. Sugar Corp. land for Everglades restoration.
Scott said the plan, led by then-Gov. Charlie Crist, put the "interests of one company above those of the 7.5 million people who will end up being taxed."
'Open for business'
As governor, Scott found a political ally in Senate budget chairman J.D. Alexander, R-Lake Wales, a citrus grower, who pushed the property tax reduction through the legislature. Most of Alexander's home Polk County is in the Southwest Florida Water Management District. The legislation signed by Scott slashes that district's property taxes 36 percent, the largest percentage cut taken by any of the state's five water management districts.
Alexander, a grandson of late citrus baron Ben Hill Griffin Jr., is president and chief executive officer of Alico Inc., a land management company with more than 135,000 acres, mostly in the South Florida district.
The Northwest Florida district, in Gaetz's Panhandle home, is the lone authority not required to reduce property taxes.
The $210 million property tax cut is the crowning piece of a $308 million overall package of tax reductions approved by lawmakers this spring.
Scott had advocated a far more ambitious $1.7 billion package of cuts, which was sharply scaled back by lawmakers. Scott, though, had proposed a similar 25 percent reduction in water management district tax revenues, totaling $178 million.
He has since said the state's spare $69.1 billion budget and new tax breaks show "we are clearly open for business."


Nature puts Florida back in the loop
St. Petersburg Times - by Robert H. Weisberg
June 5, 2011
The Gulf of Mexico Loop Current became a household term last year when people feared that oil gushing from the Deepwater Horizon wellhead would be carried by the Loop Current to the Florida Keys and up the East Coast. Instead, an eddy broke off from the Loop Current, breaking the connection with the Florida Keys and keeping the spill contained to the northern gulf.
In short, much of Florida got lucky. But this luck wouldn't have held out this year. In fact, if the oil was spilling right now, the Loop Current would be doing just what experts feared last year — polluting a long stretch of Florida and the East Coast.
The Gulf of Mexico Loop Current is part of the North Atlantic Ocean's western boundary current system, which connects the Caribbean Sea, the Gulf of Mexico, the Southeastern United States and points farther north. Entering the gulf through the Yucatan Strait, the current loops clockwise, hence its name, before exiting through the Florida Straits, where it is called the Florida Current, and then continuing north as the Gulf Stream.
This massive, ever-present ocean current owes its existence to heating by the sun, plus the rotation and spherical shape of the Earth. These factors result in winds and ocean currents that are nature's way of transporting heat from the tropics to the poles. In combination, this coupled ocean-atmosphere circulation is what determines Earth's climate.
Because the Loop Current contributes to the ocean temperature around Florida, it directly influences Florida's climate. By virtue of the Loop Current's connectivity, it also influences where materials spilled into the ocean may end up, hence the concern last year during the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
The position of the Loop Current within the Gulf of Mexico is highly variable. At times the Loop Current flows directly from the Yucatan Strait to the Florida Straits without penetrating northward. More generally, though, it cycles back and forth from south to north, reaching almost to the Mississippi River Delta, or even as far west as the longitude of Texas, before breaking off a piece — an eddy — and then retreating to the south to start its northern migration and eddy shedding cycle anew. Each cycle generally lasts 8 to 16 months.
Many of the present Gulf of Mexico oil production platforms are located just to the north of the Loop Current's historical pathway axis. New, deeper ocean production platforms will likely be within the historical pathway, and the proposed drill sites north of Cuba are almost always within the Loop Current's path.
Early into the Deepwater Horizon oil spill last year, it was the pinching off of an eddy that broke the connection between the well site and the Florida Keys, thereby sparing South Florida and the East Coast from any significant oil encounters. Each year is subtly different, however. A Loop Current eddy just recently formed and broke off in an almost identical manner as occurred last year; but, instead of remaining separated, the eddy rapidly reconnected with the parent Loop Current. So we may speculate that had the Deepwater Horizon blowout occurred this year, there would now be oil flowing through the Florida Straits and up the East Coast.
Indeed, given the Loop Current speeds, analyses of historical data show that the travel times are quick. From the Yucatan Strait to the Florida Straits the average travel time is 20 days, plus or minus nine days, and from the Florida Straits to Cape Hatteras, 15, plus or minus two days.
Similarly, if the Loop Current were to extend to the vicinity of the Deepwater Horizon wellhead, as it nearly does now, the travel time to the Florida Straits is only about one week. We may conclude that as bad as the oil spill was for northwest Florida last year, much of Florida actually lucked out. That may not have been the case if the Deepwater Horizon blowout occurred at the same time this year.
Such oceanographic discussions for Florida extend far beyond oil spills, hypothetical, or real. As a peninsula nearly surrounded by water, Florida's economy is in every way touched by the ocean. It is vital that we continually advance our understandings on the complex workings of our estuarine, coastal and adjacent deep-ocean regions to better serve the citizens of Florida and the nation.
Much remains to be learned, and strong academic oceanographic research programs in partnerships with our management agencies are essential for doing this. We cannot effectively manage complex systems that we do not adequately understand.
Robert H. Weisberg, distinguished university professor, is a professor of physical oceanography in the College of Marine Science at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg.


110605-d (110531)
The Nature Conservancy names Florida director
Sun Sentinel - by David Fleshler
May 31, 2011
The Nature Conservancy, long one of the most active environmental groups in Florida, has named a new Florida director.
Shelly Lakly, who holds a doctorate in freshwater ecology from the University of Georgia, will move to the Orlando area, where she will continue the group’s focus on protecting the northern Everglades, saving rare longleaf pine forests and restoring coastlines and strengthening habitats in the Gulf of Mexico, according to a news release. 
Lakly, a certified scuba diver, begins as Florida state director July 1 and will begin working from the Conservancy’s Florida headquarters in Altamonte Springs on Aug. 22. She and her husband, Dan, are raising identical twin boys, Jack and Connor, 8.
“Florida is rich with natural beauty and biodiversity, and the ability to protect critical conservation lands and water systems is still very real,” she said in a written statement. “I look forward to moving my family to Florida and rolling up my sleeves and getting to work.”


Adam Putnam Sees Hope For Water Truce With EPA
Sunshine News – by KenricWard
June 4, 2011
Ag commissioner wants to get battle over nutrient standards out of the courts
Saying Florida needs "good science to make good decisions," state Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam suggested Friday that the battle with Washington over water-quality standards might be easing.
"There will be new regulations," Putnam told the Florida Water Forum in Orlando. "The only question is, will Florida make the right decisions for Florida, or will they come from a judge and the EPA while the rest of the states get off scot-free?"
But instead of fighting the federal Environmental Protection Agency's costly and controversial "numeric nutrient criteria," Putnam said the state should develop its own NNC standards.
Arguing that Florida has the most sophisticated and detailed water-quality data in the nation, the commissioner indicated that the EPA may be willing to at least listen.
"We have the data. The EPA just put its spin on it. We have our narrative approach that, I hope, the EPA will decide is acceptable," he said.
Calling protracted litigation and imposed federal mandates a losing proposition, Putnam said, "We have seen some indications that the EPA wants to find another way.
"We have to get out of the litigation business," he said.
Others weren't so optimistic or conciliatory.
In a videotape produced for Friday's forum, Putnam's successor in Congress, Rep. Dennis Ross, R-Lakeland, blistered "EPA bureaucrats who never set foot in Florida."
Florida's water utilities, agricultural and business groups have assailed the EPA's numeric nutrient standards as both ineffective and inappropriate. Last December, the state and other concerned parties sued over the EPA's proposed rules.
A brief from the Associated Industries of Florida declared that the "unprecedented federal standards" would require "extraordinary levels of pre-development purity."
"The extremely restrictive criteria that the EPA has adopted are, in many instances, technologically impossible to meet," AIF stated.
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection estimates that the EPA mandates would impose $21 billion in capital costs on municipal wastewater treatment and stormwater utilities.
Putnam's Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, along with the University of Florida, concluded that the mandates would cost the ag industry $1.148 billion annually and kill up to 14,500 full- and part-time jobs.
The EPA, by contrast, has pegged the costs at $135.5 million to $206 million per year.
But even the EPA's own science advisory board has criticized the agency's method for developing river and stream nutrient standards, giving the state ammunition to fight the mandates.
Putnam, who hails from a longtime agricultural family in Polk County, criticized the EPA for attempting to "hijack Florida's water policies." But he conceded that numeric nutrient criteria will ultimately supplant the state's current "total maximum daily load" measurement, in any event.
"The numeric nutrient standards must be a Florida-focused issue. We expose ourselves to greater federal intervention if there is a perceived withdrawal of interest by the state. We need good science to make good decisions," he said.
State Rep. Trudi Williams, R-Fort Myers, also speaking at the Orlando forum, said Florida must confront the EPA's numeric nutrient criteria because "the federal rules are not based on fact."
"They took pristine water in the Everglades and still wanted it [nutrient content] lower," said Williams, who chairs the Select Committee on Water Policy.
Legislation directing the DEP to develop Florida-based criteria passed the House but failed to get a hearing in the Senate.
Nonetheless, Williams told Sunshine State News that DEP is working to produce new standards, which would then be submitted to the EPA for review.
Adam Putnam, Associated Industries of Florida, Business, Dennis Ross, Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Department of Environmental Protection, EPA, Everglades, Florida Water Forum, News, numeric nutrient criteria, storm water, Trudi Williams, Utilities, wastewater, Politics, Government


New SFWMD Boss Vows 'No-Brainer' Budget Cuts
Sunshine News – by Kedric Ward
June 4, 2011
Melissa Meeker targets agency's high-end salaries and benefits
Florida's water-management districts are facing big revenue cuts, but the new leader of the state's largest system isn't sweating.
"There are a lot of inefficiencies," Melissa Meeker, executive director of the South Florida Water Management District, told the second annual Florida Water Forum in Orlando on Friday. 
Concerned about unbridled taxing authority, lack of oversight and clashes with the state Department of Environmental Protection, the 2011 Legislature, at the urging of Gov. Rick Scott, ordered a 30 percent reduction in ad valorem taxes at the state's five regional water districts.
For SFWMD, that represents a $128 million budget cut, and Meeker said Friday that she will balance the books with actual spending reductions -- not just draining reserves.
Targeting salaries and benefits, Meeker said SFWMD "will set the pace" in trimming personnel costs, especially at the upper-management level.
She called such moves a "no-brainer" at the district that spans 16 counties from Orlando to the Florida Keys.
Meeker assumed her new duties June 1 after a brief stint as DEP's deputy secretary of water policy and ecosystem projects, where she helped develop oversight of water-management districts.
The SFWMD has been under fire for its multibillion-dollar U.S. Sugar land deal engineered by former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist. And Meeker acknowledged that future acquisitions are on hold.
"We already bought phase one. The challenge is what's left in the central Everglades system. But those are years off, and I'm not worried about it," she said.
But Meeker said critical programs, such as work around Lake Okeechobee, remain on track.
"People will be pleasantly surprised by what we can do. And if I can't do that, I'll go back to Tallahassee or back to my company," she vowed.
A trained biologist and a former executive with Tetra Tech, an international environmental consulting firm, Meeker said she is committed to streamlining water-district bureaucracy, including what she termed "death by meetings."
Asked about future cost-saving initiatives, Meeker suggested that more collaboration by the state's water management districts could wring out more savings.
"There's no reason we can't centralize back-office functions like human resources and payroll. I see pilot projects moving forward on this very quickly," she said.


The poster child for government waste gets a makeover - by Eve Samples
June 4, 2011
Whether the reputation is completely deserved or not, the South Florida Water Management District has become the poster child for government waste.
It's not difficult to see why:
The taxpayer-funded agency has its own jet and three helicopters.
Some jobs at the district pay more than comparable positions in the private sector.
Its workforce of more than 1,900 employees includes more managers than critics believe it needs.
Gov. Rick Scott railed against the district on the campaign trail last year, then pushed to slash property tax collections at all five of Florida's water management districts.
He got what we wanted.
Now, as the woman he handpicked to execute $128 million in cuts at the South Florida Water Management District takes the helm, one question looms large:
Will the agency have enough money to ensure the water supply for 16 counties, prevent flooding and work toward restoring the Everglades ?  This is, after all, still a peninsula-state built largely on swampland that sits in a hurricane zone.
I caught up with Melissa Meeker, the new executive director and a longtime Martin County resident, on Thursday (her second day on the job) to pose that question and others.
Me: Environmental advocates including Nathaniel Reed (a former district governing board member) have expressed doubts about whether the district can absorb cuts of 30 percent in property tax revenue while still performing its main functions. Do you think it can?
Meeker: Absolutely ... The agency was very top-heavy. Excellent salary package, better than the private sector. It's still a government agency, and I think the salaries need to be in line with other public agencies. This agency in particular has not been subject to a lot of the cutbacks that local governments have been experiencing for a couple of years now. We laid out a new management structure (last week) that takes the management team and cuts it down.
Me: Do you have any idea how many employees you'll end up with when you're done?
Meeker: Not yet. This is day two. We're just now going through the process.
Me:You will be paid a salary of $165,000, compared with $202,000 earned by your predecessor, (Carol Wehle, who abruptly retired in April). How did you arrive at that amount?
Meeker: That's assuming that board agrees with my contract (up for vote June 9). The chairman and I talked about it. There was no science behind it ... the salary we agreed upon was lower than the assistant executive director.
Me: Did you have misgivings about taking this job, knowing you would have to lay off workers?
Meeker: I knew that it was going to be very difficult ... I've known these people, and I've worked with these people for a long time (as a consultant, a former district governing board member and employee). But we have a very unique opportunity here to really rebuild what the district is.
Me: One of the loudest criticisms of the district has been the cost of its fleet of aircraft. Will you reduce it ?
Meeker: Definitely. The governor set the tone on that one ... We will be looking at selling the King Air (a 9-seat jet that costs $300,000 to $450,000 a year to operate, store and insure). We're looking at probably selling one of the helicopters and evaluating the other two.
Me: You're very familiar with the damage done to the St. Lucie River when large freshwater releases from Lake Okeechobee come our way. Considering the district's budget constraints, are we further from a solution than ever?
Meeker: I don't think so. We're finally getting moving on C-44 (an initiative to store and clean water around the St. Lucie Canal) ... I think that's an awesome project, and it highlights our area, our concerns.
Me: When you were on the district's governing board, you voted in favor of a deal to buy tens of thousands of acres from U.S. Sugar. You were appointed by a governor who strongly opposed that deal. How do you reconcile that conflict?
Meeker: I had very strong concerns about the impacts on the local communities out there as well as the potential debt issue it was creating for the district. The reason I voted for it is because we slipped in the clause that said if they couldn't afford it, they wouldn't do it. If (Gov. Scott) saw it as a conflict, I don't think I'd be here.
Me: The district is being overhauled just as hurricane season starts. Will it serve as a distraction if we get a big storm ?
Meeker: The great thing about the district is that they have their processes for hurricane response down pat, and they know what they're doing. This sits on the shoulders of the executive team to sort of put us in the right direction.


Drought reaches critical stage
News Channel 5 - by Giovanna Dripic
June 3, 2011
"D4," also known as the exceptional drought stage -
South Florida's drought problem has reached a critical stage. The National Weather Service says we are now at drought stage, D4, or the "exceptional drought" stage.
The National Weather Service started tracking this kind of information about 80 years ago. South Florida had never been in this category, until now.
"Other areas of the country have their own disasters and issues to work through," says resident Gary Garrett.
Gary Garrett feels this is serious. Indeed, the D4 category is the National Weather Service's highest category for measuring drought levels. This follows the dry season which lasted from October through May. During that period, West Palm Beach got close to 10.5 inches of rain. That's nearly two feet below normal. West Palm Beach uses surface water as its main water source. The rest of the region that the South Florida Water Management District handles relies on well fields.
"When you don't get rainfall, you don't get re-charged to the well fields," says Randy Smith, the spokesman for the South Florida Water Management District. "So the water that you see from your canals and lakes behind your house starts to go dry."
He says that will require a substantial wet season to replenish what we're lacking in the ground.
"Drinking water is one of the primary reasons you put water restrictions in place is to preserve the water that you do have for drinking water," says Smith.
Even though South Florida had major droughts in 2001 and 2006, Garrett hopes others will pay extra attention to these extraordinary conditions this time around.
"Nothing's certain," says Garrett. "You can't think things are going to go on year after year like they always have. We just have to adjust and hope for the best. Pray for the best."
According to the National Weather Service, the previous record for low rainfall in West Palm Beach was about 13 inches back in 1971.



Relentless urbanization pressures - creeping in
on the Everglades

Hobe Grove application features details on proposed town - by George Andreassi
June 3, 2011
HOBE SOUND — About three-quarters of the 10,500 jobs anticipated to be created by the businesses and educational facilities planned in the proposed Hobe Grove town are expected to pay more than $40,000 per year.
That was among the new details provided in the official plans for the Hobe Grove Development of Regional Impact.
The application for development approval was submitted May 27 to the Martin County Growth Management Department as well as several regional, state and federal agencies.
Government officials and citizens have until June 20 to provide comments about the plans to the Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council, which will identify the regional impacts and issue a set of recommendations.
The plans call for 4.6 million square feet of business and education space, and 4,300 homes on a 2,823-acre agricultural tract west of Florida's Turnpike and south of Bridge Road by the time the project is completed in 2033.
Among the new details in the official Hobe Grove plans are a breakdown of the types of jobs expected to be created in the next 20 years by the businesses and educational facilities the Becker family hopes will buy into the project.
According to the application, the Research and Development industry is anticipated to provide 5,440 jobs, including 4,900 listed as paying more than $40,000 per year. Corporate, professional and medical offices would provide another 2,812 jobs with annual pay exceeding $40,000.
"The company and the marketplace have determined that the property is best used for job creation, water resource remediation, education and housing," the Becker Companies of Vero Beach say in the application.
The Hobe Grove project calls for the creation of an open lake system and wetlands systems that will tie into nearby conservation areas. More than 1,500 acres will be used for watershed enhancement, surface water management, water quality improvement, conservation, open space, recreation and agriculture.
Hobe Grove jobs projections
Research & Development: 5,440
Corporate office: 2,400
Professional office: 480
Medical office: 320
Retail: 900
Hotel: 150
Assisted living: 40
Higher education: 700
Schools: 100
Total: 10,530
Construction jobs: 13,908
Hobe Grove taxes and fees
Non-recurring fees by 2033 based on 2011 dollars and rates
Martin County Commission impact and building fees: $58 million
Martin County School impact fees: $24 million
Total impact and building fees: $82 million
Martin County local property taxes in 2033 based on 2011 dollars and rates without personal property, such as business equipment
Martin County Commission property taxes: $16.7 million
Martin County School District property taxes: $13.5 million
Total Martin County property taxes: $30.2 million
Hobe Grove project approvals
The Hobe Grove Development of Regional Impact faces a long review process with approvals needed by several county, regional, state and federal agencies.
These are some the required approvals:
Martin County:
Development of Regional Impact
Comprehensive Growth Management Plan amendments
Planned Unit Development Master Plan
Final Site Plan
Building permits
Hobe-St. Lucie Conservancy District:
Stormwater Management permit
Water Use permit
South Florida Water Management District:
Environmental Resource permit
Stormwater Management permit
Water Use permit
Florida Department of Transportation:
Access permits
Florida Department of Environmental Protection:
Potable Water permit
Wastewater Treatment permit
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers:
Environmental Resource permit
Hobe Grove housing projections
Single-family detached: 1,450
Villas: 1,200
Townhouses: 900
Condominiums: 100
Rental apartments: 650
Total housing units: 4,300
Hobe Grove business, educational space
Research & development: 2,720,000 square feet
Corporate office: 600,000 square feet
Professional office: 120,000 square feet
Medical office: 80,000 square feet
Retail: 450,000 square feet
Higher education: 500,000 square feet
Schools: 190,000 square feet
Total: 4,660,000 square feet
Hotel rooms: 250
Assisted living rooms: 80


New South Florida Water Management District head seemingly unfazed by budget cuts
Florida Independent - by Virginia Chamlee
June 3, 2011
Having only recently assumed the role of executive director of the South Florida Water Management District, Melissa Meeker is already touting efforts by her agency to streamline regulations and coordinate lobbying efforts.
Only three days after starting her new position (on June 1), Meeker spoke at a Water Forum held at a convention center at Rosen Shingle Creek, a sprawling luxury hotel and golf course in Orlando.
Addressing Gov. Rick Scott’s recently unveiled (and much-maligned) budget, Meeker said she wasn’t all that concerned with a roughly 25 percent cut to Water Management Districts across the state.
“While he was on the campaign trail, Gov. Scott no doubt heard a lot of concern, and, frankly, complaints about state Water Management Districts,” said Meeker. “There were a lot of inefficiencies and a lot of room for improvement.”
Meeker said that the districts would all be reducing and even eliminating non-core-mission duties, and reducing salaries and benefits across the board — but she remained confident her agency will still be able to fund important projects, including Everglades restoration efforts.
“If we can’t , then I’ve failed,” said Meeker. “And I’ll go back to Tallahassee, or back to my own company.”
On specific issues, Meeker said that she hoped to “coordinate lobbying and policy” efforts in the District, and hoped to restructure the state’s consumptive-use permitting process, which she argued should be more incentive-based.
She also said that legislation concerning the wetland permitting process could likely materialize in the next legislative session. Meeker said that the state is often much quicker at granting permits than the feds, who often drag their heels on giving permits. “There’s not a utility director in here that wants to destroy wetlands,” said Meeker. “Rather than this confrontational attitude of ‘You can’t do this,’ we need to build partnerships. We need to have a mutual goal of resource protection.”


Repairing Lake Okeechobee dike needed not only to save lives, but crops, ag commissioner warns
Palm Beach Post - by Christine Stapleton, Staff Writer
June 3, 2011
ORLANDO — With fields dry, plants wilting and stiffer water restrictions looming, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam told a room of growers, water managers and business officials on Friday that Florida's biggest long-term problem is not crime, Medicare or the economy. It's water.
Putnam then offered a solution that has gained little attention during the current crisis: "Nothing is more important than getting the Lake Okeechobee dike fixed. You can't deal with the agricultural, environmental and urban needs if you can't keep the lake at appropriate levels."
Water levels in the lake are artificially maintained because engineers fear the aging, leaking dike around Lake Okeechobee will fail if water levels exceed 20 feet. A 2006 report by the water district found the 80-year-old dike's condition poses "a grave and imminent danger to the people and the environment of South Florida."
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers tries to keep the lake between 12.5 and 15.5 feet because lowering the water level is a slow process - about 0.4 inches a day - in the event of a hurricane. While the artificially low levels protect nearby communities from flooding during a storm, they threaten crops and drinking water supplies during droughts.
"We have to redouble our efforts as a state and press our federal partners to shore up that dike so we can maintain Lake Okeechobee as a reservoir," Putnam said. However, that will not be an easy task.
Relations between the Corps and the South Florida Water Management District, which oversees water supplies from Orlando to Key West, have been seriously strained over Everglades Restoration efforts.
And repairs to a 22-mile section of the dike between Belle Glade and Port Mayaca have since stalled, partially completed. The Corps began installing 2-foot-thick, 70-foot-deep wall in the center of the earthen berm, costing about $10 million a mile; the dike is 143 miles long.
Putnam fears that flooding along the Mississippi River could divert the Corps efforts this year from repairing the dike.
"It's hard to find fault with that," Putnam said. "But this has been an issue here since 2005."
Putnam was one of six speakers at the annual Florida Water Forum in Orlando, sponsored by Associated Industries of Florida and the American Water Works Association.

Other water topics raised at Water Forum 2011:
Rep. Trudi Williams, R-Fort Myers, speaking on allowing reclaimed water, such as water used on golf courses, to be bought and sold would encourage utilities to build water reuse facilities.
"If reclaimed water is a resource, that means it can be considered water of the state and the water management districts and the Florida Dept. of Environmental Protection can dictate how to move it around. As commodity, it's owned by the utilities. I believe it's a commodity."
Melissa Meeker, executive director of the South Florida Water Management District, on consolidating administrative, record keeping and permitting practices among the state's five water management districts.
"Each of the district's have their own benefits packages. There is no reason why we can't centralize those functions. The staff at the district make excellent salaries and benefits. We're going to see some adjustments."
Adam Putnam, Florida Commissioner of Agriculture, on federal standards that will limit the amount of nutrients, such as phosphorus, allowed in Florida's inland waters.
"Make no mistake, there will be numeric nutrient criteria in Florida. That conversation is over. The question is will Florida make the decision or will it come from the Environmental Protection Agency or a federal judge. We need to continue to fight off EPA's attempt to hijack Florida's water policy."

St. Lucie River, Indian River Lagoon both look great - for now
Palm Beach Post – Opinion-Zone by Sally Swartz
June 3, 2011
Lakes and ponds shrink, lawns shrivel, water supplies dwindle. Lake Okeechobee drops to about 10 feet and inches lower. But today, the drought is not a problem for the St. Lucie River and the Indian River Lagoon.
What’s bad for the lake is good for the river and the lagoon. In fact, both look great. The water is clear — so clean that resident dolphins are swimming far up the St. Lucie. Fish and birds are healthy, and even the microscopic critters that live in the mix of fresh and salt water are thriving.
Of course, this can’t last. The first heavy rains wash pollutants off the land and into the estuary. Tropical storms and hurricanes bring dumps of nutrient-polluted fresh water from the lake and from the complex canal system that sends dirty water from as far away as Orlando west to the Gulf and east to the ocean.
Dangerous algae grows in the water; fish sicken and die.
But when Martin County waters are at their best, they are as good as it gets. Now is a great time to rent a kayak, borrow a canoe, beg a ride on a friend’s boat or take a boat tour.
Sunlight sparkles on the turquoise water and a breeze cools the 20 or so tourists aboard Capt. Nancy Beaver’s Sunshine Lady pontoon boat for a wildlife tour of the estuary.
Capt. Nancy is an advocate for the manatees, dolphins, sea grass, mangroves, birds and marine life that make the Indian River Lagoon the most diverse estuary in North America. She is not bashful about defending them all.
She’s particularly angry at boaters who speed in manatee slow zones or slice swaths of damage through seagrass beds. “It took 10 years to get manatee slow zone signs posted,” she said, nodding toward a sign and a boat streaking past it. “Now we need to get someone to enforce the law.”
Manatees don’t see or hear well, she said, particularly in lower ranges such as boat motor sounds, so they’re doomed to frequent and often fatal collisions with boats. Dolphins also often are victims of speeding boats in Martin waters.
The captain adds a little history to the tour, particularly in Port Salerno’s Manatee Pocket, where the Sunshine Lady docks behind Finz Restaurant.
A family of otters that used to knock on fish house doors to get fed, she said, has lived in the Pocket for generations. A “very necessary” 1985 state law banned commercial fishing, aiming to protect waters and sea grass beds that serve as nurseries for juvenile marine life. Now the fish houses are gone or converted to other uses, such as waterfront art galleries decorated with outdoor sculptures of nipply mermaids. In Pocket waters, colorful bobbers signal traps for blue crabs, the only commercial fishing now allowed.
The captain salutes Sewall’s Point, first to pass a law regulating home fertilizers that add to pollution in the estuary. Stuart also approved a fertilizer law and Martin County is next in line.
Tourists use the binoculars provided to check out life on Bird Island, a spoil island that’s one of Florida’s top 10 bird rookeries. As many as 3,000 pelicans, roseate spoonbills, frigate birds, wood storks, vultures and other birds cram onto the one-acre island to nest. This day, pelican babies stand in a crowded nest, their little pouches flapping to keep them cool.
Capt. Nancy doesn’t like a Bird Island “improvement” project that removed non-native Australian pines where birds used to perch and she’s worried about an expensive riprap breakwater the county wants to build just north of the island.
She points out a better idea, a Florida Inland Navigation District project on Jupiter Island’s north end.
Judging from the thick mangrove forest at water’s edge, rocks wrapped in wire mesh provide a perfect place for mangroves to root, grow and thrive. Shorelines protected by mangroves rather than man-made seawalls fare much better in storms.
Hours evaporate on the water and Sunshine Lady returns to the dock.
I won’t live long enough to see an end to the periodic destruction of the St. Lucie River and Indian River Lagoon that is built into South Florida’s water-handling system, unless Mother Nature blows up a super storm to return it to her original design. It’s good to save memories of the drought’s clear waters to last through the dark water days that inevitably lie ahead.


FDEP cuts springs working groups' funding - by Fred Hiers, Staff writer
June 2, 2011
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection announced Thursday that it will not fund springs restoration working groups for the Rainbow, Silver, Ichetucknee and Wakulla springs during the 2011-12 fiscal year.
River restoration
The working groups were established so local residents could play a part in designing restoration goals and standards for the water bodies and making recommendations to FDEP. The working groups, made up mostly of local volunteers, would have given area communities some say as to how the rivers and springs should be used. The projects were slated for three years. They have been under way for one year.
The Rainbow River has suffered a more than 20-fold increase in nitrate levels during the past 40 years, according to a recent Southwest Florida Water Management District report. The nutrient causes algae to grow uncontrollably, changing the chemistry, wildlife and vegetation in and around the water.
The Rainbow Spring is a first-magnitude spring, pumping out nearly 500 million gallons of water per day. It is one of 33 first-magnitude spring systems in Florida.
The Silver River isn't any better off when it comes to pollution. Unwanted nitrate and nitrogen levels in the spring are 25 times higher than they were during the early 1900s. The Rainbow and Silver river restoration groups, made up of about 80 volunteers, have been meeting for the past year during the workshops in collaboration with Gainesville-based Normandeau Associates, formally Pandion.
The company was being paid $67,500 annually by FDEP for its work on each of the Rainbow and Silver rivers. The Wakulla and Ichetucknee working groups were overseen by other firms.
"We were obviously saddened," said Normandeau spokesman and working group organizer Pete Colverson. "But given all the upheaval in the state budgeting … I'm not certain I was at all surprised."
The FDEP blamed budget cuts.
"Due to reductions in the state budget brought on by hard economic times, springs initiative funding was not allocated by the legislature for fiscal year 2011/2012," according to a letter from FDEP.
FDEP said it will continue its efforts toward restoring the water bodies through its Watershed Restoration Program, adding it will incorporate the information and recommendations collected thus far from its working groups.
The FDEP said in its letter that part of its current plan is to develop maximum daily loads of the pollutants allowable in the rivers.
But Colverson said the Silver and Rainbow springs working groups were doing more than simply addressing what the acceptable maximum loads of pollutants should be set.
The springs working groups were addressing issues such as the changing flow levels of the Silver and Rainbow rivers, intended recreational goals of the two springs, and issues of fish species and populations along the Silver River, Colverson said.
Meanwhile, Colverson said he was trying to finish his working group's draft recommendations and will send them to FDEP.
Another problem is that even if funding were restored next year or the following year, it would be difficult, if not nearly impossible, to reassemble the participants who have worked on the project to date, Colverson said.
Colverson said he will begin looking for other potential funding sources, including private ones.
Colverson said the project employed one person in Gainesville to assist Normandeau, and that person would likely not keep the job now that funding is gone.
As for what the cuts would mean for Normandeau and its 20 employees, Colverson said the company was not planning any layoffs as a result of the funding change.
"But when you lose a fairly large contract, it does have an impact," he said.


Florida beach named best in America
June 2, 2011
A seafront destination in Sarasota, Florida has been named the best beach in America for 2011 by Dr Stephen Leatherman, director of Florida International University's Laboratory for Coastal Research.
In his 21st annual list of the country's top ten seaside spots, Dr Leatherman gave first place to Siesta Beach, stating that it has some of the 'finest and whitest' sand in the world.
He also pointed out that the beach is hundreds of yards wide, providing plenty of space for volleyball players and people who just want to relax, while the gentle waves and a gradual slope into the water make it very safe for children.
Facilities in the area include showers, bathrooms, snack bars, grills, picnic tables and trees providing shade.
Second place in Dr Leatherman's list went to Coronado in San Diego, while Main Beach in East Hampton, New York, and Cape Hatteras in North Carolina also featured in the top five.
Florida is well represented, with the St George Island and Cape Florida state parks both making it into the top ten.
(Opodo cheap flights, hotels and car hire - let the journey begin !)


Florida orders cleanup of canals
June 2, 2011
Florida officials say waterways in three counties have excessive levels of fecal coliform bacteria, indicating the presence of human or animal waste.
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection has told officials in Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties the sources must be identified and plans for cleaning up the canals implemented, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reported Wednesday.
Measures to reduce the flow of human and animal waste into the canals could include improving storm water-treatment systems, enforcing dog-cleanup ordinances and converting residences from septic tanks to sewer systems, the newspaper said.
It is yet to be determined who will pay the costs and how much it will cost to clean up the canals after the state finalizes pollution limits this fall.
Most of the responsibility for the cleaning will fall on city and county governments, said Jan Mandrup-Poulsen, head of the Watershed Assessment Section of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.
Florida has different standards for the state's waters, depending on their intended use, from industrial, given the lowest level of protection, to sources of drinking water, assigned the highest.


Lake Okeechobee, Southwest Florida suffer from lack of rain
June 2, 2011
Lake Okeechobee's wet-dry pendulum has swung to the dry extreme, and the impacts are being felt all the way down the Caloosahatchee River.
Last year at this time, lake levels were 14.42 feet; on Thursday, the lake stood at 10.05 feet, and salt water creeping up the Caloosahatchee has created poor conditions for oysters and aquatic vegetation.
Lake and river conditions are the result of an ongoing drought. Throughout the 16-county South Florida Water Management District, rainfall since Oct. 2, 2010 is 9.18 inches below average. Rainfall at Lake Okeechobee is 8.28 inches below average, and in Southwest Florida it's 7 inches below average.
High salinity
During dry periods, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers releases water from the Lake Okeechobee down the Caloosahatchee to keep the river from becoming too saline, but in extremely dry conditions, no water is released.
The last releases ended March 18, and salinity in the river has been as high as 30 parts per thousand at the Caloosahatchee Bridge and 35 parts per thousand at Shell Point. Sea water is typically 35 ppt.
High salinity kills tape grass, a freshwater plant that provides food and habitat to many animal species in the upper Caloosahatchee. Over the past 10 years, high salinity has killed 600 acres of tape grass in the river.
"It's pretty bad now," said Eric Milbrandt, a research scientist at the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation Marine Laboratory. "The system is not managed for optimum salinities for estuary plants and animals. I'm sure we're going to get some rain, but it takes a long time for the grass to recover."
Farther downstream, high salinity is having negative effects on oysters, said Aswani Volety, director of Florida Gulf Coast University's Vester Marine and Environmental Sciences Research Field Station. Oysters prefer salinities of 14 to 28 ppt.
"With 35 parts per thousand, disease in oysters gets a little high," Volety said. "With high salinities, all the predators move into the estuary. We're coming into spawning season: Oysters will spawn in high salinity but won't produce as many larvae. So if you have low larval output and high predation, it's a double whammy."
Blame the drought
At Lake Okeechobee, low water levels affect different organisms in different ways.
"When it's extremely dry, the whole marsh dries, and there are extreme impacts to submerged aquatic vegetation," said Deborah Drum, deputy director of the South Florida Water Management District's Restoration Sciences Department. "That's the base of the food web. It's good for fish nesting."
Endangered Everglades snail kites are particularly sensitive to droughts because dry conditions kill vast numbers of apple snails, which are the kite's main food source.
In 1999, the snail kite population was estimated at 3,500. The drought of 2000-02 cut the population in half, and the 2006-08 drought cut the population to 763 birds. The lake's record low level of 8.82 feet was set July 2, 2007.
"It remains to be seen what will happen after this drought," Drum said. "The indicators are not that great. When lake levels get to 10.5, 80 percent of the foraging habitat for adults is gone. Once it gets to 10 feet, we've lost all foraging habitat. Where are they going to eat now?"
After the 2006-08 drought, apple snail populations didn't come back until this year, but the present drought has caused another population crash.
So, 30 of this year's 33 snail kite nests at the lake have been abandoned.
Drought has little long-term effect on alligators, said Lindsey Hord, head of Florida's Alligator Management Program.
"They're adapted to deal with it," Hord said. "The drought may decrease nesting effort this year: Stress hormones come into play. It's Mother Nature's way of controlling the population."
Good for gators
In some ways, drought is good for alligators because prey becomes concentrated in what water remains.
"If you're a big alligator, it's a time of plenty," Hord said. "If you're a 2-footer, it's a dangerous time. Alligators are cannibals, and when the little ones have to come out of the marsh, they tend to be eaten up pretty bad."
Okeechobee's fish populations are doing well in the drought, said Corey Lee, a Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission fisheries biologist.
"There's still a good bit of vegetation out in deep water," he said. "A lot of fish are moving into deeper water as temperatures go up, and there's a lot of prey fish out in open water.
"A lot of fishermen aren't going into open water because there are a lot of hidden rocks, so we're seeing fishing pressure drop."
The good news is that the drought, which was caused by La Nina, cooler-than-normal water in the equatorial Pacific Ocean, will soon end as South Florida returns to its usual summer rain pattern, said meteorologist David Unger of the National Weather Service's Climate Prediction Center.
Until then, though, the forecast calls for more of the same: mostly sunny days and clear evenings through Monday. The first hint of a possible thunderstorm is forecast for Tuesday and Wednesday.
"You can lay the drought squarely on La Nina, and La Nina has dissolved," Unger said. "Any residual drought effects will be because your soils are dry."


Pomegranates could become new cash crop for Florida, researcher says - by Robert H. Wells
June 2, 2011
Supplies of a nutritious and popular fruit could increase in Florida in the next few years, thanks to the research of a University of Florida professor emeritus.
William Castle, who specializes in horticultural science at UF’s Citrus Research and Education Center in Lake Alfred, is studying the viability of pomegranate production in Florida. The fruit is not currently produced commercially in the state.
Pomegranates are small, shrubby trees native to the Middle East and have apple-sized fruits with a red exterior and numerous juicy, edible arils inside. The aril covers the pomegranate seed and has a sweet, tart taste. The fruit contains healthy compounds such as antioxidants, nutrients and vitamins.
Castle, a member of UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, started the study in 2009. He and Jim Baldwin, a senior biologist at the Citrus REC, are examining nutrition and irrigation requirements, pest, weed and disease threats, maintenance needs, and genetic differences among more than 80 types of pomegranates in two locations in Central Florida — the Citrus REC and a water reuse site called Water Conserv II in Winter Garden.
The researchers enlisted the help of more than 30 growers from around the state to plant pomegranates and gauge their performance.
Castle said the study, which he started to investigate pomegranates as an alternative to citrus for small-scale producers, is showing that pomegranates grow well in Florida and have irrigation and fertilization requirements similar to citrus. Growers are considering alternatives to citrus in light of the emergence of citrus greening, a disease that poses a threat to the citrus industry.
“I personally am convinced that absolutely you can grow the plant,” Castle said. “It certainly can produce flowers, and it can set fruit. The trick now is to learn how to keep the fruit on the plant, and I think we’ll have something good.”
Florida growers’ interest in pomegranates is on the rise, he said, as evidenced by the more than 5,000 plants he’s distributed to commercial producers and home growers.


Summer Fertilizer Ban Is in Effect: Help Support Clean Water for Florida
Old NE-Downtown St. Pete Patch – Opinion by Jamie McWade
June 2, 2011
A new Pinellas County ordinance prohibits people from using or buying fertilizers containing nitrogen and/or phosphorus through Sept. 30.
At last! There is a beautiful and comprehensive plan to address Florida’s high use of fertilizers and pesticides that contain large amounts of nitrogen and phosphorus. The goal is to ban fertilizers during the heavy rain seasons.
All of Pinellas County is restricted from using some fertilizers! The new countywide ordinance prohibits people from using or buying fertilizers containing nitrogen and/or phosphorus from June 1-Sept. 30.
I cannot express to you all just how thoroughly pleased I am to hear about the endeavors of Florida’s Sierra Club chapter to persevere in this fight to prevent toxic algae blooms, also know as Red Tide.
Since I have worked so closely with Florida’s oceans and have grown up along side them, I have witnessed this toxic bloom and have seen the carnage. I tend to cringe at the sight of all the deceased fish along the beaches. Not only would I cringe but I would become overwhelmed with sadness and frustration knowing that the state is aware of what causes it and how to prevent it.
Thankfully, the Sierra Club of Florida has successfully campaigned against the Florida House of Representatives’ attempts to contradict the Florida Red Tide Campaign. They have secured more then 40 cities and counties with strong ordinances banning the use and sale of these fertilizer products.
Last year, although you were not able to use fertilizers containing nitrogen and phosphorus, individuals could still purchase it and behind closed doors could presumably use it without anyone knowing any better. This year, since no one will be selling fertilizers, we hope to see less home owners sprinkling their yards with chemicals containing high nitrates which will bring less toxic storm water runoff to our precious bay, rivers, streams and Gulf of Mexico. (HOORAY!)
To the best of my understanding, there are a variety of ways that red tide can bloom. It is, by definition, a toxic algae bloom that is primarily found in the Gulf of Mexico. It can multiply and therefore create blooms that highly impacts marine animals, such as dolphins and manatees, and is responsible for taking the lives of thousands of fish and other aquatic species.
The blooms are so awfully dangerous to marine life because they essentially attack the nervous system. It is also harmful to humans as well. Humans are impacted once they are exposed and can sometimes suffer from respiratory issues or at least an itchy, scratchy feeling while grasping to take a deep breath.
So, all in all, let us be thankful to the Sierra Club and all who have campaigned for the local governments to be able to build stronger ordinances against our state’s weak laws on nitrogen and phosphate use.
We can also thank Rep. Clay Ingram for sponsoring the bill and proposing the amendment to the bill which will continue to allow counties, such as Pinellas and Manatee, to protect our waters rather than following the state’s “Best Management Practices,” which haven’t been too successful for Florida’s oceans.
The greatest way to get involved and celebrate this change is to continue protecting our precious water resources. You can do so by contacting your state lawmaker. You will find their contact information by following this link:
Be a part of the change, give them a call and let them know that you support the bill that will allow for counties to adopt stronger seasonal ordinances against fertilizer use.
In the famous words of Jacques Cousteau, a dedicated ocean activist, “I said that the oceans were sick but they're not going to die. There is no death possible in the oceans — there will always be life — but they're getting sicker every year.”
Let your voices be heard, protect what you love and be well, my friends!


More pumping planned from Lake Okeechobee despite Audubon report of failing kite nests
Palm Beach Post - by Christine Stapleton, Staff Writer
June 1, 2011
WEST PALM BEACH — Water managers intend to install more pumps on the southern edge of Lake Okeechobee to move more water from the shallow lake to thirsty sugar and vegetable farms.
Four pumps have already begun pumping water from the perilously low lake and six more could begin pumping by late next week. Each pump can deliver as much as 45,000 gallons of water per minute.
When the lake drops to a level of 10.5 feet above sea level, there is too little water for gravity to pull the water south for irrigation or drinking. Pumps are then needed to move water to farms throughout the region.
As of Wednesday, the lake was at 10.09 feet. The lake's lowest level was 9.82 feet in 2008.
Although the rainy season officially began last week, eastern Palm Beach County's rainfall for the year is 18 inches below normal. Water restrictions have been in place since April, limiting yard watering to twice a week.
The decision to add more pumps has angered environmentalists, who claim that draining any more water from the lake could cause catastrophic damage to the endangered Everglades snail kite. 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 and its health predicts the health of the Everglades.
Audubon of Florida reported on Wednesday that six of the remaining nine snail kite nests on Lake Okeechobee have failed, apparently due to parental abandonment related to low water, according to the report. The loss includes nine nestlings and four eggs. Of the three remaining nests, one has young that are starting to fly. Two others have younger nestlings and "due to the shallow water around them, have an ominous future," Audubon reported.
"We're angry," said Eric Draper, executive director of Audubon of Florida. "You've got sugar tall and green and getting the water it needs and an endangered species driven from the lake."


On first day, South Florida water district's new chief remakes management team, slashes salaries
Palm Beach Post - by Christine Stapleton, Staff Writer
June 1, 2011
WEST PALM BEACH — On her first day as the executive director of the South Florida Water Management District, Melissa Meeker dismantled the district's executive management team, slashed salaries and overhauled the organizational structure of the agency.
"We owe it to the taxpayers to limit spending, eliminate unneeded bureaucracy and refocus the agency on its core mission," Meeker wrote in an email to district employees late Wednesday afternoon. "We will no longer take on responsibilities outside of our purview or operate with inflated budgets and salaries."
A new law requires the agency to cut its $1.1 billion budget by $120 million.
The cuts begin with Meeker's own annual salary: $165,000. Meeker's predecessor, Carol Wehle, earned $202,000.
The district's governing board is expected to approve Meeker's compensation package at its next meeting on June 9. Other "financially significant changes" will also be presented at the meeting, Meeker said.
Meeker said she eliminated four positions of deputy executive director, who earned between $150,000 and $160,000, and instead created division directors, who will earn $140,000. Those and other changes reduced the number of top managers from 15 to nine and their total salaries from $2.5 million to $1.3 million.
Still unknown is how many rank and file positions will be cut. Meeker declined to discuss potential layoffs but said all personnel changes will be completed by July. Meeker said she met with the district's top 150 managers today and asked them to meet with their teams on Friday to begin planning cuts.
"My focus is 100 percent on what is the function of the agency," Meeker said. "Don't think about names or who they are or what they know. Focus on what needs to be done."
Among the changes announced Wednesday:
Bob Brown, director of water resource regulation, becomes assistant executive director, overseeing regulation, water resources and administrative services.
Ken Ammon, deputy executive director for Everglades restoration and a 20-year employee, resigned. Ernie Barnett will take on the newly-created role of Everglades policy director.
Doug Bergstrom, currently in charge of Operations and Management, becomes director of administrative services. Tom Oliff, currently the assistant executive director with a salary of $180,000, becomes budget director under Bergstrom.
Deena Reppen, deputy executive director of government and public affairs, becomes chief of staff; Terrie Bates, who has 26 years at the district, becomes director of water resources; and Sharon Trost, with 30 years at the district, becomes director of regulation.
Tommy Strowd will continue to head operations and maintenance, along with construction; Sheryl G. Wood continues as general counsel; and John Williams remains the district's inspector general.


Several South Florida canals will get clean-up programs as part of a lawsuit settlement
Sun Sentinel - by David Fleshler
June 01, 2011
The suspects in a South Florida pollution investigation include dogs, raccoons, boats, septic systems and a West Boca homeless camp.
State environmental officials say 16 waterways in Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties -- from litter-strewn canals to the posh finger isles of Las Olas Boulevard -- display excessive levels of fecal coliform bacteria, an indicator of the presence of human or animal waste.
At meetings last week in Plantation and Miami, representatives of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection told city and county officials that the sources must be investigated and cleanup plans prepared and executed.
The results could cost cities and homeowners significant sums of money for improving storm water-treatment systems, enforcing dog-cleanup ordinances, moving residences from septic tanks to sewer systems, and taking other steps to reduce the flow of human and animal waste into the region's canals.
"We're not asking you to arrest people for failing to clean up after their dogs," Jan Mandrup-Poulsen, who runs the Watershed Assessment Section of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, told a group of about two dozen city and county officials in Plantation.
"But you could have commercials that you air to let people know there's a cause and effect. Look for failing septic systems, failing infrastructure, illegal infrastructure, pet waste. Once you've addressed that, we're not going to ask you to do more," he said.
It's too soon to tell how much it will cost to clean up the canals or who will pay. After the state finalizes the pollution limits this fall, it will work with city and county government to come up with cleanup plans, with the work likely to take years.
South Florida's vast canal system, begun in 1881 when the Philadelphia industrialist Hamilton Disston bought 4 million acres of swamp for development, was engineered for drainage, navigation and water consumption, not environmental protection.
As a result, the region is crisscrossed by murky waterways in which few people would be inclined to swim. But they provide habitat for wading birds, turtles, alligators and other wildlife, and they discharge whatever pollution they're carrying into the ocean.
Waterways on the state's cleanup list range from the E-1 canal, a litter-strewn ditch of black water running along the east side of U.S. 441 in West Boca, to the swank Las Olas Isles finger canal section of Fort Lauderdale, where yachts dock by Mediterranean-style mansions.
The decision to clean up these waterways results from a 1998 lawsuit by the environmental group Earthjustice against the Environmental Protection Agency for failing to establish standards and cleanup plans for polluted Florida water bodies. Under a consent agreement, EPA and DEP agreed to work down a list of nearly 2,000 impaired waters, and now they have reached the ones in South Florida.
David Guest, attorney for Earthjustice, said so far, the process has produced cleaner rivers and lakes. At the same time, he said, the state has compromised standards to cater to the economic interests of polluters.
"In places where there are politically powerful polluters -- and that's a lot of places -- they get the big polluters like agribusiness, fertilizer and phosphate companies to the table and figure out what they're going to do," he said.
They all figure out a reduction percentage they can live with, and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection claims that's exactly what the waterway needs, he said. He calls it a case of scientific reverse-engineering that puts business needs first.
But Mandrup-Poulsen of DEP said that's a misleading description of what happens. In cases where the science may call for a 60 percent reduction in pollution and the plan provides for only 30 percent, he explained, that's the maximum achievable with current technology, and without driving the farm, sewer plant or industrial user out of business.
The state applies different standards to Florida's waters, depending on their expected use. They range from industrial -- the lowest level of protection -- to sources of drinking water, the highest.
South Florida canals fall in the middle: They must be clean enough for fishing and swimming. Fecal coliform bacteria, while not itself considered dangerous, indicates the presence of human or animal waste, which contains various pathogens that could threaten human health, he said.
In South Florida, he said, most of the responsibility for cleaning up the canals will fall on city and county governments. They will be required to do environmental detective work to discover the sources of the pollution in their areas.
Like the plot of Murder on the Orient Express, in which the victim had been despised by everyone, the problem is not a lack of suspects, but an abundance of them.
Among the possible sources common to all the waterways are dog and wildlife waste, leaky sewer systems and illegal sewage discharges.
Other areas may have unique issues. A large homeless camp has been identified in a forested area near the intersection of Glades and 441, according to a DEP report.
The Pompano Harness Track, although it has controls to prevent horse manure from washing away, is a possible source for a nearby canal, according to the DEP. At the Las Olas finger isles, they suspect boats may be a factor.
But Dr. John K. Golia, who owns a home on Hendricks Isle, said he doubts boat discharges are a major factor in the Las Olas area, given the controls imposed by the city over the years. A more likely cause, he said, is the flooding that routinely brings knee-level water to his lawn and swales.
"We have a huge flooding problem," he said. "The water gets into the grass, and people don't clean up after their dogs. And people with pickup trucks drive down the street and create waves and knock over garbage cans, and that washes into the canals."


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